Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Scenic Beauty – Darwin Bay – Genovesa Island – Galapagos

I do love landscape and scenic images, and was lucky enough to capture some, both intimate landscapes and those of a broader nature…..
Lava Rock & Coral
This is definitely an intimate landscape.  The beach was covered in two different types of coral – the smaller pieces of what I consider regular coral, and the large white “rocks” which are a coral called Brain Coral, since it sort of resembles a brain.  The dark rocks are called lava rocks.
Into the Light
There were lots and lots of female frigatebirds flying in the sky.  I had to wait patiently (not my strong suit) to be able to catch a single one in the sky.  Its location was an added bonus!
I love the simplicity and peacefulness of this image.  The wave softly lapping against the beach, with some rocks previously placed there by the same waves.  Makes me want to just sit down, relax, and let the waves tickle my toes!
Days End
It was the end of our time here at Darwin Bay, and the sun was beginning its exit.  Again, the frigatebirds add just the right touch to the image.
Gull on Shore
This image seems to capture the solitary nature of much of the Galapagos – a nice quiet home to the animals living there.

Plants on Shore – Darwin Bay – Genovesa Island – Galapagos

We saw a few flowers on this hike as well.  The prickly pear cacti were beginning to show their spring blooms.  I still found it amazing to find cactus in such a tropical environment…..
Cactus Blossom
This bloom is just opening.  I like this shot, tho, because of the contrast between the delicate bloom and the scruffy cactus with its very sharp barbs.
Full Bloom
And, here’s a bloom, fully opened in all its glory!  I felt so lucky to be able to capture it in profile.  You can really see the flower’s detail from this angle.
Mangrove Buds
I have to admit, I never really thought of mangrove trees blooming, but here is one tiny little bud nestled in the leaves of the tree.  The other buds aren’t yet open, but I’m guessing they would be soon!

Birds on Shore – Darwin Bay – Genovesa Island – Galapagos

We did see a number of other birds, too, a bit further inland.  We actually were right on the shore for our entire hike, so it’s not like they were that much more inland than the gulls!
Frigatebird Colors
There was another collection of frigatebirds at this location.  I really liked this image of one of the males – check out the cool colors of his “black” feathers – actually, there are a few colors in there – not just black!
Female Frigatebird
In a previous post, I told you I’d show you a female frigatebird.  Not nearly as impressive as the males, with their white breast instead of the red.  Oh, well!
Galapagos Dove
Isn’t this a cool little bird – it’s a Galapagos Dove.  Altho I find its wing coloration really cool, I have to admit, my eye is really drawn to the blue circle around its eyes.
Red-Footed Boobie in Mangrove
Here’s another image of a red-footed boobie, this time nestled in a mangrove tree.  I really like this image because of the saturation of the colors in it.  The leaves of the mangrove look so lush!
Direct Stare
This little one is a red-footed boobie, very young, not having lost its baby down.  But, again, that very direct stare, demonstrating no fear of people.  Love it.
Yellow Crowned Night Heron
I walked right by this guy without seeing him at first.  Isn’t he cool?  I’m used to seeing the blue heron, but I had never seen this type of heron before.  He is actually quite a small bird, maybe about 2 feet tall.  And, I love how perfectly balanced he was on one foot.  Don’t worry – he has two, one was just tucked up.
Yellow Crowned Night Heron Head Shot
Here’s a closer view of him, so you can really see that yellow crown.  Altho his eyes were open, he seemed oblivious to us standing around photographing him.  As if he was thinking some very deep, philosophical heron thoughts!

Darwin Bay’s Sea Gulls – Genovesa Island - Galapagos

Along the shore, there were lots of seagulls, primarily swallow-tailed gulls, but we also caught sight of a lava gull. 
Gull Wingspan
I loved this shot of this swallow-tailed gull’s wingspan.  It seems so large for his body.  And, just in case you’re wondering, it’s the nesting and breeding time of the year, so this shot was right before some bird porn was about to happen.
And, because it’s that time of the year, it seems that the gulls get a bit territorial……with each other.  They left us alone and weren’t bothered by our presence at all.
Nesting Gull
In fact, I practically stumbled over this gull, getting situated in her nest (I’m assuming it’s a her!).  She got it all nicely fixed up, and then settled in.  I’m guessing the actual laying of the egg(s) happened after we were gone.
Lava Gull Bathing
I didn’t see many Lava Gulls, but did manage to capture a shot of this one catching a bath!

In the Surf – Darwin Bay – Genovesa Island – Galapagos

This hike was in the late afternoon at a place called Darwin Bay.  We had snorkeled here earlier in the day, but came back to check out the wildlife.
Sea Lion on the Shore
Well, this little guy was certainly enjoying the last rays of the day…..
Sleepy Sea Lion
And, this guy just couldn’t seem to keep his eyes open.  I guess he had a busy day of playing in the surf!
Small Manta Ray
So, isn’t this cool?  The water was so clear, it was easy to see this small mantra ray.  Most rays do not have poisonous stingers, so there’s no need to be concerned about snorkeling in the same area where this guy lives – whew!
Hermit Crab
Technically, this guy’s name is a Semi-Terrestrial Hermit Crab, and technically we didn’t see him in the surf, but…..oh, well!  These guys take over the shells of other creatures as their home, and discard the shells when they grow out of them.  Jeff thought it reminded him of us in our RV – not that we have displaced any folks when we get our RV’s, of course!  Just that he travels with his home with him, like we do in our RV!

Monday, April 27, 2015

Plant Life – Prince Philip’s Steps – Genovesa Island, Galapagos

In addition to the very cool birds on Genovesa Island, there were some really pretty flowers and interesting cactus.
Lava Cactus
It seemed odd to me that we’d see cactus while visiting these islands on the equator.  After all, I’ve always thought of cactus as being products of the desert climates.  Well, I guess one learns something new every day!  This is lava cactus, and it was growing right up out of the lava field we hiked next to.  I loved the way the morning light played over the cactus.
Goat’s Head
These little blooms could be found along the ground on and around the path we hiked along.  They reminded me of some woodland wildflowers I might have seen in the Midwest……altho we were about as far from the Midwest as we could possibly be!
White Hared Tournefortia
These are really tiny little blooms that I saw in a few different places on our hike.  I knew I’d have a hard time getting close enough to take a close-up of just one bloom, so I settled for capturing the bunch of them!  I really like the way the green leaves offset the blooms.
Arrow Leaf Morning Glory
We were up really early for this hike, and were rewarded by getting to see this version of a Morning Glory!  I love the fluted petals, and the way it looks so delicate in contrast with the lava rock beneath it.
Scorpion Weed
The flowers on this weed are really, really tiny.  I wondered where the name came from, and then I realized that the shape that the blooms formed looked sort of like the pinchers of a scorpion – ugh.  Oh, well, the flower is really pretty, even if I can’t say the same for its namesake!

Frigatebirds – Prince Philip’s Steps – Genovesa Island, Galapagos

I had only seen frigatebirds from the sky when we took an afternoon hike the day before, and one of the guides commented that she found these birds to be one of her favorites.  Looking at them from the sky, I didn’t really understand her fascination with them.  However, that was all to change when I saw them on our hike on the cliffs around Prince Philip’s Steps on Genovesa Island.
Ok, so when the male frigatebird’s throat pouch, he’s not really all that impressive, altho I did like the coloring of his feathers.  The female birds (you’ll see one in later blogs, I promise) aren’t impressive at all, as their throats are just a bit white.  But, the males have these red pouches that are used during the mating season to attract the females to the small nest the male has started.
Frigatebird Big Bib
Wow!  This sure does attract attention, and I can now see the guide’s fascination with the frigatebird!  I did call it a bib, but it’s really not – technically, it’s a throat pouch.  And, he sits in his nest all puffed out, hoping a female will look his way.  The females are generally flying around all the males, deciding who to share a nest with!
And, the puffed throat alone won’t generally get the girl, so to speak.  So, the males also do a lot of wing flapping to draw the attention of the females to their humble abode!  As you can see, these are some pretty big birds!

Meet the Boobies - Prine Philip's Steps - Genovesa Island, Galapagos

In order to reach the Nazca and Red-Footed Boobies, we first had to climb Prince Philip’s steps, a rather steep climb up lava steps to a cliff top.  Thank goodness for the handrails, albeit old and rather haphazard!  In any event once we reached the top of the cliff where we first spotted the Nazca boobies. 
Nazca Boobie Walking
The coloring on these boobies is just so perfect!  And, you can see they really aren’t afraid of us as this little one comes strolling practically right up to me.  We aren’t to approach them, but sometimes they approach us.  Nazca boobies tend to nest close to the ground, so we did walk around them rather carefully, as it was nest building time while we were there.
Young Nazca Boobie
During our hike, we came across this very young Nazca boobie.  As you can see, his coloring hasn’t yet fully developed, so he appears a bit ragamuffin.  Still, his very frank appraisal of our presence there was almost a bit unnerving.  I don’t know that I’ve had birds meet my gaze quite so directly before!  I was to learn this is something that can often be expected with the boobies!
Red-Footed Boobie in Tree
The other type of boobie that we found on this island was the Red-Footed Boobie.  This was my first sighting of one.  Their beak looks a bit bluish, doesn’t it?  Well, at times it can be almost vivid, in the right light!
Red-Footed Boobie Head Shot
See what I mean?  These boobies tend to nest and hang out in the trees, as you can see.  And, they fly much better than their cousins, the Nazca boobies, at least based upon what I saw.
Red-Footed Boobie in flight
I really like this shot, even if it’s technically not the greatest. He’s just taking off, but I love the feeling of him getting ready to glide thru the air.
Red-Footed Boobie in flight (2)
Here’s another fun shot of a boobie flying.  It looks like he was gathering twigs, etc., for the nest.
Here’s another of those frank stares – I really love the lack of fear around people.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Views from the Shore – Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos Island

In addition to the birds and iguana, the views from the shore were very lovely.  Take a look…..
Late Afternoon at the Equator
As we walked along the shore, we came across this view of a small island off in the distance, and the remains of an old ship right on the shore.
Shoreline View
A bit further down the shore, with the island in a bit of closer view, I captured this shot.  I liked the reflection of the sunlight in this image.
Site of First Landing
When we returned to our landing site, I thought it looked like a true paradise, and captured it before the panga came back to pick us up. 

Las Baches, Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos

Our first landing was what was called a “wet” landing – basically, expect to get at least your feet wet!!  We got from the Beagle to the landing site via panga.  That’s the name that folks on the Galapagos use for what I know as a zodiac.  Anyway, we hit the treasure trove in terms of animals on our first landing!
First Iguana
As we walked out of the surf and onto shore, we got our first taste of wildlife, this little iguana.  I know, he kind of looks scary and creepy, but really, he was more leery of us than we were of him!  He kind of reminded me of the monsters in the old black and white “B” horror movies I watched when I was younger – with monsters attacking some poor folks in Japan, usually!
A Gathering of Sally Lightfoot Crabs
As we walked along a trail on the shore, we came across these really bright colored, almost pretty crabs.  They are commonly called Red Crabs, but their formal name is Sally Lightfoot Crabs.  The bright blue color is actually the color of their tummies.
Sally Lightfoots in the Surf
Here’s another view of the Sally Lightfoots.  I loved the way the surf just sort of swirled around these bright little guys.
Great Blue Heron – Tree Sitting
Great Blue Herons are birds that I’ve seen around the Midwest where I lived for many years.  But, here, they seem to know this is their place and we are the interlopers, and they do not display any fear.  They just go about their business of looking for food (in this case, baby sea turtles) and calmly keep us at a distance they feel comfortable with.
Heron Stroll Before Dinner
Later in our hike, I came across this other heron.  He seemed to be taking a stroll before dinner.  He walked fairly close to me, as I just stood there and watched him.
Pretty in Pink
Just after we saw our first heron, in a small little pond just over the sandy bluff separating the sea from this pond, we saw some flamingos in the wild.  It was such a calm, serene sight, and I love the reflection that can be seen in the still water.
Sooty Tern
I heard this little guy way before I saw him.  He may be small, but his voice is huge!  He was so loud!  He’s actually not known for being on this island, but I guess he didn’t get the memo!
First Frigatebird in Silhouette
We’ll see more of these birds over the next few days, but this was our first sighting of a Frigatebird.  I really like the silhouette against the late afternoon sky.  A very different bird, but then, that is more of a promise of the Galapagos than anything else.

Meet the Beagle !

Here’s the boat that was our “home away from home” for 8 days.  It’s the Beagle, named after the boat that Charles Darwin was aboard on his historic visit to the Galapagos in the 1830’s.  Based on that trip, he developed his theory of evolution which was published in his book “On the Origin of Species”. Many of the animals that we were to see would have been the same type of animals that he saw, observed and used to develop his theory.  Of course, we weren’t here for such lofty scientific purposes – we were here to have fun!
Beagle Deck
Here’s where we spent most of the time when we were on board the boat.  We ate all our meals at the big table, with the other 14 passengers!  The doorway on the right led down to the captain’s station, small “library”, and then down to our very small staterooms.
Captain’s Wheel

Here’s the captain’s wheel, purely decorative today.  There was plenty of seating around, and we often sat and visited with the other passengers, chatting about things we’d seen and done, and what was in store for the next day!
View from the Bow

And, here’s the view as we motored along to our first island to explore!  Isn’t this great?  Our boat had sails, but we mainly just used the motors to get from one island to the next.
Beagle from Shore

Altho not the best image of our boat, this is the first view of it from our first landing.  Fun times to come!