Tuesday, May 26, 2009

James Bay and "Chinese Hat" - April 29
Wake-up this morning found us making way between Isabella to the west and Santiago to the east. As we arrived at James Bay, both sister ships were already at anchor and preparing to head for shore. We followed shortly after and made the hike over to the "grottoes" where we enjoyed our best views of Galapagos Fur Seal.

A couple of new birds for the trip were here including Galapagos Flycatcher and Striated Heron. Both offered great photo ops, the former yielding my best results. We had time to do some swimming or snorkeling with a noisy sea lion before returning to Letty for lunch and a motor south.

We traveled through a series of islands known as the "Bainbridge Islands" to one that was clearly the bowl of an ancient volcano. Letty pulled up to a spot where we could just see over the rim and into the lagoon enclosed inside. About 20 Greater Flamingos foraged along the shores and six White-cheeked Pintail floated further out.

Over the lagoon, I spotted two Galapagos Hawks, on eventually leading me to find a nest and single young bird (offspring) about half way up the steep side. The nest appeared substantial and perhaps four feet high and two and a half feet wide. I had never seen a buteo nest so large, resembling something more like an eagle's nest that had been built upon for many seasons. At a distance the nest appeared to have been made from many sticks, dead vegetation, and perhaps mud. Our local guides vowed to name the bird nest after me, "Andy's Nest;" forever to be known as such.

Not far from here is the island known as "Chinese Hat," an unusually shaped smaller island where the snorkeling is stupendous. This was by far the best collection of tropical fish, variety and volume of each species unequalled in my experience.

On return to the boat, a sea lion had taken up residence on the aft platform and had little thought of leaving. Sam thought this great!

As I sat and wrote, I watched a small group of Galapagos Shearwater as they enter an overhang perhaps their nest site or a roost for the night. Should have asked the panga driver to take me over to see. Next time I will not hesitate.

Forgot to mention that when at the grottoes, Sam was the first to spot a White-tipped Reef Shark as it slowly cruised close to the surface. He was pleased and anxious to get a picture. He was successful!

Galapagos Dove

Small Ground Finches

Medium Ground Finch

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