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Friday, January 28, 2011

Galapagos Islands: Dragon Hill & Lagoon Birds

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DRAGON HILL ON SANTA CRUZ ISLAND

Before we left the boat the crew warned us AGAIN to bring a ton of water… thankfully we did because this hike was HOTER THAN HOT!

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DRAGON HILL BEACH WHERE WE LANDED

With no shade, random burst of clouds and the blazing equator sun we were dripping with sweat after the first 10 minutes on the trail.

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DRAGON HILL TRAIL

Mr. Rogue was so hot he would constantly look at his arms in disgust. It was hilarious so I made him pose for a photo.

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MR. ROGUE WAS GLISTENING

Thankfully the incredible landscape and the wildlife made me forget mostly how hot I really was. We made sure to drink plenty of water to keep hydrated, dehydration is a very big possibility when you are not used to this heat.

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GORGEOUS DRAMATIC LANDSCAPES

The hike we were on, called Dragon Hill, is named after the land iguanas which are locally known as the Galapagos dragons.

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THE PATH THROUGH THE HOTTEST HIKE EVER

There were plenty of gigantic prickly pear cactus, the main source of the Galapagos Land Iguana’s diet which were perfectly suited to live in the harsh climate of the Galapagos.

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A GIGANTIC PRICKLY PEAR CACTUS

The national park has been working to restore the population here after it was devastated years ago by feral domesticated animals but we didn’t see very many and the few we did see were hiding from the heat of the day.

The show stealer today was the Lagoon Birds. On this hike was a brackish pond, part salt water and part fresh water. Brackish ponds are an important part of the ecosystems of the islands and we found many birds in them. I was so excited to see my first flamingo in the wild.

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A BRACKISH POND AT DRAGON HILL

The flamingo is a filter feeder. Using its webbed feet to stir up mud it sucks in mud through its bill and its lamellae (small comb like bristles on its tongue) the flamingo filters out small shrimps, seed, algae and microscopic organisms.

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GREATER FLAMINGO FORAGING FOR FOOD

The flamingos color is partially determined by its diet. Some of the food the flamingo eats contains carotenoid pigments. This pigment tints the feathers and skin.

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SUCH A BEAUTIFUL COLOR

I love when a flamingo sleeps; standing on one leg it tucks the other leg up and under its wing and then twisting their neck around so they can lay their heads on their backs. I pulled the light in the camera way back to give a different mood to this shot.

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NIGHTY NIGHT

Although I have seen the Great Blue Heron a million times near Los Angeles where I live I still couldn’t help sharing this shot. Although not razor sharp, I was trying to take this photo from the bouncing zodiac boat, I adore the colors and composition too much not to share.

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GREAT BLUE HERON

I also saw the Common Moorhen. Their long sea weed looking feet always make me smile.

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COMMON MOORHEN

Finally, I was super ecstatic, we got to see the Flightless Cormorant which is also known as the Galapagos Cormorant and endemic to the Galapagos Islands. It is unique because it is the only species of cormorant that has lost its ability to fly. With only 1500 individuals it is one of the world’s rarest birds! SOOOO COOL!

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FLIGHTLESS CORMORANT DRYING ITS FLIGHTLESS WINGS IN THE SUN

Since the bird evolved on the islands where there were no predators and since it feeds mainly in the sea the bird evolved to be flightless.

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FLIGHTLESS CORMORAT OPENED HIS MOUTH AND BELLOWED

The eye of the cormorant family is gorgeous, like a turquoise jewel. Aside from how beautiful their eyes are the cormorant’s eyes are interesting to scientists for other reasons. The cormorant is said to have similar eyesight to hawks and owls, which are known for their razor sharp vision, the key difference about the cormorants is that their vision is just as sharp out of water as it is in water. They are thought to be able to shift their vision quickly from air to water. Now that’s a cool eye.

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FLIGHTLESS CORMORAT A UNIQUE EYE

The White Checked Pintail Duck has a wide range from the Caribbean to the Galapagos Islands. This duck loves water with some salt like brackish ponds and mangrove swamps.

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WHITE CHECKED PINTAIL DUCK

I particularly liked how the red beak and white check really popped in these photos against the backdrop of the green grass.

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WHAT A PRETTY BIRD

I have been carrying the big lens (20 pounds) now for 5 days straight hiking every day for miles. Today I was REALLY feeling the weight but with all the amazing birds I couldn’t stop shooting. Mr. Rogue shot this candid photo of me and I really think it shows the pain I felt.

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NO MY STOMACH DOES NOT HURT – I THINK I WAS JUST HOLDING IT AS A REFLEX, I REMEMBER DISTINTLY WANTING MY MOMMY

When I finally limped back to the boat and got on the deck for my after day drink we all found out that the locals nicknamed the Dragon Hill hike DRAGON HELL. Why they didn’t tell us this before we left is beyond me but I thought that going through hell deserved another drink. So I had seconds, yummm Apple Martini!

1 comment:

paul peggy zeus said...

Oh baby, I so should have come with you! No, not to lug that heavy camera around, but I would definitely have given you a shoulder or two to cry on,

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