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Saturday, June 26, 2010

Abandon ship! Pinzones!

Or not. It was just the lifeboat drill. We had it on our fifth day out. Thank goodness nothing happened before that! I wondered why we weren't having one but convinced myself it was because the water out there is so shallow, they didn't need to. I didn't want to say anything lest it force us into the pangas for no good reason.

In fact, they did want us to abandon ship to refuel at Baltra. Apparently having passengers aboard during refueling ops is a no-no. My retired fuels officer spouse says so. But there was no place for us to go, so we had to hide and be quiet. We were supposed to have been taken off to a mangrove swamp during this, but because of the blown engine, it would have taken too long for Millenium to backtrack for us, to say nothing of the hit-or-miss motor on the one panga. So we agreed to nap and shut up about it.

We did go to the mangrove swamp eventually, though, and we got to see marine tortoises because they hang around the surface there. I'll save the photos for that post. In this post I'm putting all my pinzones, which are finches, Read on for details.

Right after Santa Cruz we went to Rabida, a tiny island just due north of Perto Ayora, whose distinctive feature is red sand. It's also a good place to see finches. Before I post finch pictures, some information is helpful. You will not see finches unless you are QUIET. Well, 16 people and a guide can't be quiet. So the thing to do is let everyone else get away, way away, from you, and then stand in a thicket and make bird noises. Seriously. Just stand still and they'll come out. So I saw more finches than anyone else. Finches, however, are not "pretty," but they are important because they were Darwin's key to natural selection. Here are several kinds. They are very hard to see, so click the pics and scroll around.

First, the red sand beach.

Before I show the finches, check out this bird. Be sure to enlarge the photo. It's some sort of a frigate bird, which you can tell from the body and the white wing stripe. The red head indicates it's a juvenile. Since it takes over a year to raise one, they grow as big as their parents before leaving the nest. This one is quite large, and is probably waiting on the nest to be fed.

Now, the finches. These are from around all the islands, not just Rabida.

In the photo below is a ground finch. You have to click and look carefully. They're not supposed to be easy to see. If you don't like finch pictures, that's fine. Skip them. You have no idea how many I had to take to get these. They are so fast and jump around so much, it's nearly impossible. It was like trying to photograph the Least Chipmunk last year in South Dakota. I had to take 20 to get one.

There are two in this next one.

Here, at the end, is a juvenile Oyster Catcher, also on Rabida. Franklin said this was rare.

Sombrero Chino, our second stop of the day, had a lot of animals. too, kind of like Espanola. Coming up you'll see the Ruddy Turnstone Crab, a hawk, and a crazed sea lion mother calling her pup. The hawk was one of my finds from standing around alone, quietly, like the finches. This was why I never cared if I didn't finish a hike. I saw a lot just by being patient. I was the only one who saw this sea lion drama, and one other on our last day there.

Here, you can see where the island got its name. It's just off the southeastern tip of Santiago and doesn't appear on most maps.

Zoom in to see the crabs.

And the hawk. See how effective protective coloration is!

And here's mom.

Note there is another seal in the photo, but that is not HER baby. He or she arrives a split second later and they settled down to nurse right there on the rocks.

Finally, we took a little panga ride to go penguin spotting. Remember, penguins are black with little streak of white, and they hang out on black lava rocks streaked with white guano. So this, believe me, is an excellent picture of a Galapagos penguin, which, by the way, are the third smallest in the world.

As always, enlarge for detail. The little head and face are pointing left.

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