Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Starry Grouper

The starry grouper was an interesting green fish we saw in the Galapagos Islands of Port Egas, Santiago Island. I saw just one.

It is found in the eastern Pacific from Mexico to Peru and around the Galapagos Islands. 

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Whitetip Reef Shark

Judy and I encountered a whitetip reef shark while snorkeling off Egas Port, Santiago Island, in the Galapagos Islands, and it was quite exciting for me. I've seen sharks before, but not this close and not this big. It has a white tipped dorsal (back) and caudal (tail) fins which identified it right away. 
It is "small," usually does not exceed 5.2 feet (I would have guessed this one was 6 feet) and is usually found on or near the bottom, which was our experience. Unlike many sharks that must move in order to flush water through their gills to breathe, this share can stay still and pump water over its gills to the same effect. They usually hunt at night for octopus, bony fishes and crustaceans. 
They are usually not aggressive toward humans.
This range map from Wikipedia shows a relatively limited area around Central America that does not even appear to cover the Galapagos Island. 

Monday, August 29, 2022

Galapagos Green Turtle

In 2017 we took a Caribbean cruise and stopped at the Island of Barbados and took a catamaran on a snorkeling trip. The water was amazingly clear and I got some great photos of green sea turtles. Forward five years, using the same underwater camera I had in the Caribbean, which had not been used since then, Judy and I had opportunities to see more green sea turtles in the Galapagos Islands. We saw them multiple times. In Elizabeth Bay we got lots of views from them in our panga. 

Snorkeling off Moreno Point I followed one for quite a while. My photos weren't anywhere as good as in the Bahamas, but I had much longer visual contact. 

At Urbino Point on Isabela, we snorkeled and followed one green turtle for quite awhile. 

On Santiago Island, at Egas Port, we did more snorkeling and saw more turtles, but I can't find the photos. We also saw them at Tagus Cove, while snorkeling, but didn't get any good photos.  

At one time the Galapagos green turtle was considered a separate species. However, mitochondrial and nuclear DNA testing showed that there is not a significant distinction from other Pacific ocean green sea turtles. 

Sunday, August 28, 2022

Elliot's Storm Petrel

Elliot's storm petrel is also known as the white-vented storm petrel and is found off the coasts of Ecuador, including the Galapagos Islands, Peru and Chile. Not much is known about it. In fact, for many years their breeding grounds could not be found. Eventually a few nests were found on islets off of Chile. There are two subspecies, one only found off the Galapagos Islands, which I saw. It presumably breeds in the Galapagos Islands, but no nests for it have ever been found. 
I found it flying near Baltra Island (where the airport is located) on our last day as we were getting ready to leave. It was flying around and near Galapagos shearwaters. I may have seen it in other places, but it was very difficult to photograph because it is small and was always flying and flying quickly.  

It is dark brown or black with a white rump, has a square tail and a broad pale patch on the underwing. Little is known about its diet, migration patterns, if any. It is kind of a fun mystery bird. 

Saturday, August 27, 2022

Galapagos Shearwater

The Galapagos shearwater is an endemic breeder in the Galapagos Islands. It breeds on Wolf, Champion, Espanola and Santa Cruz Islands and islets off Santa Cruz Island. I saw them on two occasions, once off Moreno Point, which is on Isabela and once of Baltra Island which is right off Santa Cruz. The best view I had was off Baltra while we were anchored and waiting to go to shore to leave. They were in a large flock on the water. 
Range map for the Galapagos shearwater from Wikipedia. 
It used to be considered an isolated subspecies of the Audubon's shearwater, but is now considered its own species. When not breeding it ranges mainly north and can be seen as far north as the Oaxacan coast of Mexico. 
Off Moreno Point.
It has dark brown upperparts, undertail and underwing flight feathers. The rest of the underparts are white. It feeds at sea, flying low over the water, eating squid, fish and offal. 
Off Baltra Island.

I've previously seen the great shearwater and sooty shearwater off New Brunswick, Canada, in the Bay of Fundy. 

Thursday, August 25, 2022

Las Terrazas de Dana - Mindo, Ecuador

Our hotel on the outskirts of Mindo, Ecuador, Las Terrzas de Dana, had several bird feeders in front. One morning when we missed a connection for a birding tour I watched the bird feeders and found a surprising number of beautiful birds.
Blue-Gray tanager

Thick-billed euphonia

Scrub blackbird

Orange-billed sparrow

Tropical kingbird

White-lined tanager

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Milpe Bird Sanctuary - Ecuador

The afternoons of March 18 and 19, 2022, I visited the Milpe Bird Sanctuary outside of Mindo, Ecuador, at an elevation of about 3,772 feet. They have a covered area where they serve lunch with close observation of several different hummingbird feeders and a large branch to which halved bananas are impaled to attract birds. I did not see the number or variety of birds that I saw at the Mashpi Amagusa Reserve, but saw some spectacular birds there that I did not see in Mashpi.
I saw 20 species of birds, including 6 species of hummingbird (the green-crowned brilliant, velvet-purple coronet, white-necked Jacobin, rufous-tailed hummingbird, crowned woodnymph and green thorntail); 3 species of toucan (Choco toucan, collared aracari and chestnut-madibled toucan), blue-gray tanagers, palm tanagers, a green honeycreeper, bananaquit, and a crested guan.

Blue-Gray Tanager

Chestnut-mandibled toucan

Choco toucan

Collared or pale-mandibled toucan

Crested guan

Crowned woodnymph

Flame-rumped tanager

Golden-naped tanager

Golden tanager

Green honeycreeper

Green thorntail

Green-crowned brilliant

Palm tanager

Red-tailed squirrel

Velvet purple coronet

White-necked Jacobin