Monday, November 17, 2008

THAT'S MY WORLD - More Birds

Firstly I want to apologise to everyone who has visited my blog in the last couple of weeks and left comments - I will respond and reciprocate soon, I promise. I am just very behind with everything right now, but I am working on it!
As promised last week, we return to the Galapagos and its endless array of avian residents.

This is the Swallow-tailed Gull Creagrus furcatus. I know what you are thinking - its a Seagull! Yes it is but it is actually a pretty neat one. The Swallow-tailed Gull is the only Gull in the world that hunts at night, it has an exceptionally large eye, sorry it is not easy to see in this shot. When we were traveling on the boat at night between islands, from time to time a ghostly white shape would appear behind the boat, gliding along and it was the Swallow-tailed Gull hunting for squid. It is also thought that this bird uses a primitive form of echo location, similar to that used by bats, to locate its roosting spot on the cliff-side when it returns in the dark.

There are so many species that are endemic to these islands, it almost becomes a bit of a joke after a while, the Galapagos Sea lion, the Galapagos Hawk, The Galapagos Tortoise and also this delightful little character - no prizes for guessing - The Galapagos Dove! Zenaida galapagoensis A process of evolution on Genovesa Island has softened the spines of cactus plants and thereby allowed the Galapagos Dove access to pollinate the flowers. This has occurred due to the lack of bees that would normally perform this function. These beautiful little birds are very tame and would fly down very close if you stood still. Their markings are quite stunning, complemented by their bright red legs and feet! I was fortunate enough to watch a pair of them carrying out a whole courtship routine in front of my feet. Lots of picking up of leaves and bits of grass and running round in circles was involved!

The Lava Heron Butorides sundevalli was another regular sighting. I was sitting on a rock one morning watching some Marine Iguanas and the Lava Heron flew in so close that I thought he was going to land on me. He landed about six inches in front of me, so close that I couldn't actually get a photo of him. He didn't seem to be the slightest bit bothered by me and just carried on about his heron business.
And this is what heron business involves! This is an immature bird and as you can see, high on the menu is crab!

Not to be out done, this Yellow-crowned Night Heron Nycticorax violaceus put on quite the show with his bizarre posing! Again this bird was only a couple of feet away from us. Apparently this pose is a means of lowering the body temperature in the heat of the day.

I could not do a bird post without mention of my all time favorite type of bird, the Pelican. The Brown Pelican Pelecanus occidentalis found on the Galapagos is considered to be an endemic subspecies. We would always have at least one Pelican bobbing around behind our boat whenever we were at anchor. There is one bird that has managed to cash in on the Pelican when it is fishing.

The Brown Noddy Anous stolidus waits for the Pelican to begin fishing, as the Pelican surfaces with a beak full of water and fish, the Brown Noddy flies down and lands on the Pelicans head and grabs any small fish that happen to escape from the Pelicans prodigious beak! When the guide first told me about this, I thought she was joking until I saw it for myself! Needless to say the Pelican is not too impressed with the process.
The Pelican has found somewhere were it can feed in peace though, the local fish market on Santa Cruz Island

These birds were hilarious, running around amongst the fish mongers feet like a pack of dogs and if they didn't get the scraps fast enough they would fly up onto the counter where the fish were being gutted and help themselves! I had never seen anything quite like it.

Finally I have to mention what is arguably the most famous of all the Galapagos birds, the group that comes under the umbrella of Darwins Finches. There are thirteen species of finch endemic to the islands. As a birder I found it very frustrating because no one, not even the guides can tell them apart so no matter which one it is you see, it is just referred to as a Darwins Finch! It is because of this group of birds that Darwin became captivated by the whole idea of evolution, and the rest, as they say, is history. If you want a really good, modern day perspective on this fascinating subject, I would highly recommend The Beak of the Finch by Jonathan Weiner.

To see many more wonderful places around the world check out That's My World.

Photo Credits - Dominick V


soulbrush said...

it looks as if they are posing for the snaps.

Louise said...

Terrific post--both photos and commentary. I love the pelicans with the fish mongers!

Jedediah said...

I very much enjoyed this virtual trip, thank you for sharing

fishing guy said...

Celeste: That was a really neat post and the results of you bird hunt is amazing. There were certainly a lot of really neat photos.

Rambling Woods said...

Fantastic and I will never tire of your posts Celeste. I thought it was interesting that the great blue herons here do the same pose on a hot day and I assumed it was to cool off....

New Rambling Woods Site

Jeanne said...

Those are amazing shots. Love that first guy the most I think. They're all so cool just like they're posing.

Maria said...

Beautiful, amazing, Celeste!
So funny that these anymals are not shy at all!

Maria said...

animals... I'm already half asleep because I just had lunch ...

Leedra said...

This is a great series. I especially like the Lava Heron, it is one I have not seen.

Bird said...

Ok, so I come here for Skywatch and now I see that you've been to the Galapagos... you are seriously killing me with envy. That gull in the first picture is exquisite! I was just about to turn off my computer and you've sucked me back in... guess I'll just have to bookmark you and come back later! :)