Thursday, June 30, 2022

Small Ground Finch

My last post gave a short description of Charles Darwin in the Galapagos Islands and the medium ground finch. 
The Highlands on Santa Cruz Island. 

This post is on the small ground finch, another of Darwin's finches. The small ground finch is found on every island in the Galapagos except for Genovesa, Wolf and Darwin islands. It is abundant and widespread and most common in arid coastal and transitional areas, but moves into the highlands following the breeding season. 
Urbino Bay on Isabela Island. 

Its beaks is short and pointed, with a slightly curved culmen (the upper ridge of the bill). Its beaks is smaller than that of the medium ground finch, but there is overlap in size between them, particularly on islands where only one of the two species exists. Where both species compete directly, the difference between their beaks is greater. The male is black with white-tipped undertail coverts and the females and young are brown with streaked underparts. Those found in the highlands have larger and more pointed beaks, smaller feet and smaller claws, compared to the lowlands.

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Medium Ground Finch

Charles Darwin visited the Galapagos Islands in 1835. The Beagle first arrived at San Cristobal Island on September 16 and anchored in a bay near present-day Puerto Moreno on the south side. The Beagle spent eight days surveying the coast and Darwin landed on San Cristobal five times from September 17 to 22. The Beagle then visited Floreana Island from September 24 to 27. Isabela was the third island visited by the Beagle from September 29 to October 2. They traveled around Isabela, including the channel between Isabela and Fernandina and anchored in Tagus Cove (where we spent a night and did some hiking and snorkeling when we visited). Darwin spent time on the ground there and noted marine and land iguanas. From there the Beagle sailed around Pinta, Genovesa and Marchena Islands. Finally, Santiago was the last Galapagos island visited by Darwin, from October 8 to 17. Darwin walked the whole island with crew members and had them carry specimens for him back to the Beagle. There he noticed the difference in tortoise shells between the islands and tried tortoise meat in soup.

Darwin paid little attention to the finches (now classified as tanagers but still called finches). On the Beagles return he presented his finches to the Zoological Society of London on January 4, 1837 and the finch specimens were given to John Gould. Darwin thought he had collected blackbirds, gross-beaks and finches, but Gould determined that they were a series of 12 species of ground finches. The males were black and the females were brown and there were six species of graduated beaks. 

Now the various Darwin finches are known as (and vary greatly as to the islands they are found on): Genovesa ground finch; Espanola cactus finch; sharp-beaked ground finch; vampire finch; medium ground finch; Genovesa cactus finch; small ground finch; large ground finch; large tree finch; medium tree finch; small tree finch; woodpecker finch; mangrove finch; green warbler finch; gray warbler finch; Cocos finch and vegetarian finch. 
The Highlands of Santa Cruz Island.

The medium ground finch is found on Baltra, Floreana, Isabela, Fernandina, Seymour, Pinzon, San Cristobal, Santa Cruz, Santa Fe and Santiago Islands. 
Urbino Bay on Isabela Island.

The male is black with white tips on the undertail coverts. The female is a streaky brown. The size of the bill is quite variable, but the upper mandible is always greater than the depth of the bill at its base.
Tagus Cove on Isabela Island. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Boat-Billed Flycatcher

We visited Churute Mangroves Ecological Reserve, with a hope of seeing some new birds, but I saw more new species of birds at the nearby cocoa farm we visited. 

On our drive to the cocoa farm our guide stopped the car and pointed to a telephone wire and said "kingfisher." It didn't look like any kingfisher I'd ever seen but I wasn't going to complain about the stop. The bird looked like a number of other birds I've seen, yellow lower parts, a black eye stripe and darker upperparts. 

The distribution of the boat-billed flycatcher is fairly similar to that of the roadside hawk in my last post: most of the upper two-thirds of South America, Central America and up into Mexico, although this bird is also found along much of the Pacific coast of Mexico as well. 

It gets its name from its large bill

Monday, June 27, 2022

Roadside Hawk

Another bird I'd never heard of before. As in my last post, we were at a cocoa plantation near Churute Mangroves Ecological Reserve southeast of Guayaquil, Ecuador. This hawk was across a river standing in a tall dead tree.
The roadside hawk is found in about the upper two-thirds of South America, up through most of Central America and up much of the Gulf Coast of Mexico, including the Yucatan Peninsula. 

It is common throughout its range, perhaps the most common hawk in urban areas and has 12 subspecies. It is mostly brown or gray, often has rufous on the wings, a streaked breast and a barred belly. My photo isn't great, but catches much of the essence. 

Sunday, June 26, 2022

Pacific Hornero

The pale-legged hornero has two subspecies, the Pacific hornero and the Caribbean hornero, which are sometimes considered separate species. 
The Pacific hornero is found in wooded habitats near water. It has reddish brown wings and tail, light tan underparts, light pink legs and a white eyebrow. 

We visited a cocoa farm southeast of Guayaquil, Ecuador near Churute Mangrove Ecological Preserve. It was situated near a river and during lunch I watched a pair of nesting horneros coming back and forth. The nest was in a tree and the other adult would wait on a long branch that reached out over the river. 

Saturday, June 25, 2022

Wandering Tattler

I saw a wandering tattler, a bird I'd never heard of before, on Bachas Beach, Santa Cruz Island. They are wading birds that breed in the Russian Far East, Alaska and western Yukon and British Columbia, then disperse widely to the Pacific coasts of California, Mexico, Central America and northern South America, northeastern Australia and New Guinea and many of the Pacific islands.

They are gray-brown above, lighter gray-brown below and when breeding the underparts are heavily barred. They have short yellow legs,  a relatively long straight bill and a white line in front of the bill. 

Friday, June 24, 2022

American Crocodile

Years ago as Judy and I drove from Everglades NP to the Florida Keys we passed several "Crocodile Crossing" signs. I was intrigued to know that there were crocodiles in the U.S., I'd never heard of that before. I eagerly scanned the road without success. I've been intrigued to see an American crocodile ever since. 

A few years ago we visited some friends in Villahermosa, Mexico and encountered a crocodile in a lagoon there, the Morelet's crocodile, which I'd never heard of before.  

I now learn that there are four species of crocodiles in the Americas: (a) the Morelet's, found around the western rim of the Gulf of Mexico in Mexico; (b) the Orinoco found in Colombia and Venezuela; (c) the Cuban found in Cuba; and (d) the American found from northern South America up through Central America, much of the Pacific Coast of Mexico, southern Florida, and many of the Caribbean islands. 
Recently we visited the Panama Canal in a motor boat and the guide spotted an American crocodile on the bank which plopped into the lake and started to swim. My photo captures just the top of the head. 

Thursday, June 23, 2022

Slaty-Tailed Trogon

I got a glimpse of a slaty-tailed trogon in Panama, near the western end of the canal. Our guide saw a toucan fly into the trees and stopped the van so I could photograph it. The toucan flew without my getting a photo, but then the guide spotted the trogon. 
I've seen a trogon once before, a black-tailed trogon, in the Amazon Basin of Peru near Puerto Maldonado. It is one of the prettiest birds I've ever seen. This one looked very similar. One of the big differences is the slaty-tailed trogon has a reddish-orange bill as opposed to a bone-colored bill. This one also had what looks like pollen all over its bill and the front portion of its face. 
It is found in portions of southern Mexico, down through portions of Central America into the coastal area of Colombia of western Colombia. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Ecuadorian Mantled Howler (Monkey)

On our recent trip to Ecuador we had a layover in Panama and took a motor boat ride out into the Panama Canal to what is called "Monkey Island," which is an area flooded by the canal which has turned hills into islands. I was kind of surprised, later, when Judy expressed that she really disliked that excursion - it was boring and way too long and you couldn't even see the monkeys. 

As I've thought about the few times we've tried to see Central or South American monkeys, I think of abject failure. When we were in the Amazon Basin of Peru we caught a glimpse of a monkey flying through the trees in the evening, probably some sort of capuchin. In Villahermosa, Mexico we were at an archeological site and heard a howler monkey in the nearby trees about blow us over, it was so loud, but we never saw it. 

In the Panama Canal we saw a number of mantled howler monkeys, at least three if not more. They were difficult to see, obscured by lots of greenery, and they did not move around much, but they they did not move around much so we could look at them, albeit imperfectly. Yes, I see them much, much better, home with cropped photos, but I'm seeing them and love them. 
This is the first mantled howler we saw. Very high up in a tree. Note the white scrotum. 

The mantled howler eats a huge quantity of leaves that are difficult to digest and do not provide much energy. So it spends most of the day resting and sleeping.  
This is the last mantled howler we saw, hanging upside down, holding on by his tail and two back feet, while eating leaves. 

Here are the golden brown hairs that give it its name. 
It is mostly black except for a fringe of golden brown hairs on the flanks of the body which give it the name "mantled." Also, when the male reaches maturity, its scrotum turns white. Males also have an enlarged hyoid bone near the vocal chords that allows them to amplify their voices and give the species the name "howler." Click the voice recording in the upper right hand corner here

The mantled howler has three subspecies. We saw the Ecuadorian mantled howler, found in Panama, Costa Rica, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. The Mexican howler, which may have been the monkey we heard in Villahermosa, is found in Mexico and Guatemala. The third subspecies, the golden-mantled howler, is found in Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. 

I would love to go back and take the same tour again. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Galapagos Mockingbird

The Galapagos mockingbird is endemic to the Galapagos Islands. There are six subspecies, but I saw only one of them, on Santa Cruz, in the highlands, and on Isabela at Urbina Bay. 
At Urbina Bay. 

In the Santa Cruz highlands.

Monday, June 20, 2022

Galapagos Land Iguana

There are three species of land iguana in the Galapagos Islands: (a) the Galapagos land iguana, subject of this post; (b) the Santa Fe land iguana found on the Island of Santa Fe; and (c) the pink Galapagos land iguana found only in the vicinity of the Wolf Volcano on northern Isabela Island. 
This is the first beauty we saw.

The Galapagos land iguana is found on Baltra, North Seymour, South Plaza, Isabela, Fernandina and Santa Cruz Islands. We saw one on Baltra as we left the airport on a bus for the ferry to Santa Cruz Island, some friends with us saw one at a distance near Tagus Cove on Isabela Island, and we had some wonderful sightings near Moreno Point on Isabela Island. 
The second one. 

There skin is primarily yellow with blotches of white, black and brown. 80% of its diet is prickly pear cactus, including the fruit, flowers, pads and spines. It gets most of its moisture from the cactus, but does drink from pools of water in the rainy season. 
The third, with a very cool head. 

The fourth.

They were extinct on Santiago Island by 2019, but 1,000 of them were transplanted there that year. They were also extinct on Santa Cruz Island in 1976, killed by feral dogs. The last 60 survivor's were captured by the Charles Darwin Research Station and their progeny were presumably the source  of iguanas for Santiago, and I assume they have also been reintroduced onto Santa Cruz Island. 
The fifth.
They are amazingly large and tame. 
The sixth and most colorful.