Sunday, January 30, 2011

Poor Man's Galapagos (Islas Ballestas, Peru)

Okay so this isn't in the garden but there are birds!  Here are some pictures that I took on my visit to Islas Ballestas, Peru also known as the Poor Man's Galapagos.  This was a day excursion on a 15 day South American Cruise aboard the Star Princess.  We boarded the ship in Valparaiso Chile, and sailed up the Pacific coast stopping in Chile, Peru, Ecuador, Panama, Costa Rica and Mexico.
The Islas Ballestas are in Southern Peru a few miles off the coast near the town of Paracas Peru.  The coast line is desert that receives almost no rainfall.  You will notice that there isn't any vegetation.  The marine bird and marine mammal populations are fed by the Humboldt Current which is abundant with fish except during El Nino conditions.
 Here are the small boats we took out to the islands.  

On the way to the islands we saw thousands of Peruvian Pelicans.  They are bigger than the Brown Pelicans of Southern California.
Peruvian Pelicans
Peruvian Pelicans
Peruvian Pelicans

Also on our way to the islands we could see Candelabra the geoglyph carved into the hillside, like the Nazca lines.

The boats go around the islands and get close to shore but don't dock as you are not allowed onto the island.

Peruvian Boobies
Here are some Peruvian Boobies, they do not have the blue feet found on the Boobies of the Galapagos Islands.
Peruvian Booby

The Ballestas Islands were once the source of great wealth for the national economy, due to the vast quantities (literally several yards deep) of bird droppings. Built up over centuries, this nutrient-rich substance, used as excellent fertilizer and a key ingredient in the manufacture of explosives, was collected with fervor and exported throughout the world during the early nineteenth century. 
The development of artificial fertilizers at the end of the 19th century ultimately led to a sharp fall in the worth of this unexpected gift from nature, and today the islands’ treasure is harvested on a much smaller scale, primarily for national agricultural use, and confined to defined periods of the year.

Here are some local fisherman.

Humboldt Penguins, Guanay Cormorants and Gulls.
Humboldt Penguins

Guanay Cormorant
Inca Terns
Inca Tern
Inca Tern
Inca Terns and Peruvian Boobies

Humboldt Penguin
Humboldt Penguins
The rough looking penguin (third from the right) is a young adult loosing its juvenile feathers.

Sea Lion

Sea Lions

Sea Lions

Sea Lion

It's a Sea Lion hot tub!

Sea Lion Coloney

A sea lion pup swims up to check us out.     

Here is a panoramic of a Sea Lion Colony.  Click on it for a larger view.

 One last view of Candelabra on our way back to shore.

We saw clouds of gulls on our way back to land.

Monday, January 24, 2011

But I want that one!

At first I wondered why this Lesser Goldfinch didn't go to a lower perch on the feeder.
It saw the seed it wanted and stuck its head into the feeder to get it.  If you look close you can see its head inside the feeder getting some seed.  That is some determination.  Good thing it held on tight with its feet, or it could have ended up inside thefeeder.

I wonder what seed was worth the extra effort?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Hummer eats gnats!

Today I went down by the eucalyptus trees to look around the garden and check on my new suet feeder.  I'm trying to attract some woodpeckers.  I've seen them in the garden before but it has been a long time.  So far nothing has nibbled on the suet.  As I sat on the steps and played some bird calls on my iPhone, I noticed a small cloud of gnats in the air.  I thought now is a good time for some gnat-catchers to come by.  Then all of a sudden a humming bird flew through the gnats eating one and back again into the gnats again to eat another.  This happened about five times.  I saw this behavior in a PBS special on Hummingbirds, maybe you have seen it too.  It was pretty amazing, I could actually see the hummingbird eat a gnat, then fly back around and do it again.  I see hummingbirds eat nectar all the time but I have never actually seen one eat a bug.  So I ran up to the house to get my camera and when I returned, the gnats where still there but not a hummingbird in sight.  I played some hummingbird calls on my iPhone, but nothing showed up.  After waiting 20 minutes a humming bird flew in, ate a gnat and then flew away.  I was able to get this one picture.
If you haven't seen the PBS documentary click on this link Hummingbirds: Magic in the Air and you can watch it on line.  Now when I see a bunch of gnats in the garden I'll sit down and wait for the show.

Critters on the garden path

One day in July of 2010, I discovered a hole that was being dug on the lower garden path.  So I decided to set up the BirdCam and point the it towards the hole to see who was digging.
Turns out that some skunks were the culprits. 
Then there was another visitor on the garden path, a Coyote.  I wasn't too surprised as we sometimes hear them howling during the summer nights.
  A month later I placed the camera in a different location on the lower garden path and here is a Coyote going up the steps.

I don't think this is the same coyote in all the pictures as this next one looks a little smaller than the last.
I like having the date and time on these pictures.  The real surprise came a month later with this next picture, as it was the middle of the day when the coyote was on the path.  You can see the backside as its walking away from the camera.

This could be one of the reasons that we had very few, if any gophers in the garden.

Friday, January 21, 2011

How the lens got dirty

Now I know how the camera lens got dirty!
I'm surprised I didn't find more videos and pictures of this happening.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A day at the Ellwood Grove with the Monarch Butterflys

I had the day off from work and I went to the Ellwood Eucalyptus Grove in the Coronado Butterfly Preserve.  It's located in Goleta above the cliffs at Ellwood Beach.  It's one of 200 over-wintering sights in coastal California for the Monarch Butterfly.  As I entered the grove I found several butterfly's in the blossoming Eucalyptus.

As I moved into the center of the grove I saw more and more butterfly's.  Click on the pictures for a larger view.

The open orange wings really stand out in the sunshine.  click on the picture to see a larger view and notice the thousand of butterflies that have their wings closed, they look like brown leaves.

This log is lying in a low flowing creek bed.  The Monarchs are getting a drink and warming themselves in the sun.

A Monarch with mustard

View from the meadow of the Ellwood Eucalyptus Grove.  The Mountains above Santa Barbara are in the background.

Black Phoebe

Savannah Sparrow

Ellwood Beach

Brown Pelican

Devereux point

This sure beats hanging out at the office.  I'm ready for another day off.