The spectacle of spring and the arrival of the migratory birds make for a miraculous time in Iceland, where I was born and raised. Here in the Florida Panhandle there is really no winter, comparatively. However, there is a distinct spring. It is spring when the migratory birds travel through to destinations further north (robins, orioles, etc.), and the ruby throated hummers arrive and make their presence known. Most are migrating through, but some take up residence in my yard. Then in the fall the hummers migrate south to Central America. Their migratory routes can be along the coast west to Texas and then south through Mexico to reach Central America. They can also cross the Gulf of Mexico, and that is quite a feat because these small birds cannot land on water. They can travel via the Florida peninsula to Cuba, and then use the Caribbean islands to reach South America.

So, what is so special about these birds? First off they are so tiny – 3.75” long and weigh in at 0.11oz (9.5cm – 3.2g). Then there is the physiology. Their resting heart rate is 500 bpm, increasing to a whopping 1200 bpm when flying. Then there is the wing speed – the hummer can beat the wings 50-200times per second! The birds can hover in the air, ascend or descend straight up and down from that position, and fly backwards. To be able to accomplish that their brain has grown to about 4% of their weight, the largest of the bird brains, based on percent of body weight (human brains are a paltry 2%). For this rapid metabolism they need lots of energy. I take advantage of that and have feeders with a sugar solution ready, hung from the pergola from late March onward.

Ruby throated hummingbird (male)
Ruby throated hummingbird (male) – approaching feeder

Then I can sit back and enjoy the birds and sometimes I manage to take a photo of them that is in focus. To freeze them in the picture you need insanely fast shutter speeds, for instance, the featured image was shot at 1/3200 of a second and still one wing is blurry. They also can slow down their metabolism at night and enter into a state of torpor just to awaken the next morning for another day, like waking up from the dead. These pictures are of a male (the females are very similar without the red patch). When a male has found the feeders, he tries to defend them from all other males. Females get to drink, and I smell an ulterior motive.

Here I managed to get a picture of the bird with the tongue sticking out. Their tongue is very long, and they use it as a micro-pump to get the nectar.

The coloring of their feathers and the red throat are based on the iridescence of the feathers. Depending on the sunlight the color can be striking. And generally, the hummingbirds have an absolutely breathtaking display of colors, depending on the angle of light and the iridescence of the feathers. The bird seen perched on my fly rod has a commanding view of “his” feeders which he will defend from other males.

In these times of the plague I find it reassuring that there is a lot to cherish and be in awe of in nature around us that goes about its business, regardless of our worries. The hummers are certainly a booster to the daily dose of antidepressants. I certainly love those wonderful birds.

English consultant: My good retired neighbor Joe

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hummingbird

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Ruby-throated_Hummingbird

https://www.sibleyguides.com/2011/09/the-basics-of-iridescence-in-hummingbirds/

I enjoy observing various forms of wildlife where I live. I have touched upon some of the aquatic species in Pensacola Bay and in the Gulf. Now I want to do the avian part some justice. I recently took my dogs on our daily one-hour walk, starting from my house, and saw the birds I cover here. To spot all these birds during an hour’s walk within a small town is amazing. The spotting part is easy – these are big birds (except for the Kestrel), but if you don’t pay attention you will not see them.

The first bird is the great blue heron, and it’s ubiquitous around here. The heron and I have at least one thing in common, and that is fishing. However, the heron does not cast any fly, instead stalks the shoreline, and uses its sharp beak to spear its prey. The stunned prey is then just summarily swallowed.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_blue_heron

The transparent nictitating membrane
The transparent nictitating membrane

The heron’s nictitating membrane (third eyelid) is transparent, advantageous if you stick your eyes under water and get your food there. I settle for polarizing sunglasses.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nictitating_membrane

Red tailed hawk
Red tailed hawk

The red-tailed hawk lives and hunts around our recreational center – in the middle of town. There are several wide open fields, and it can view the menu from various vantage points. I absolutely wouldn’t want to be a rabbit crossing those fields. This hawk is quite the poseur, and is not nervous around people at all. I encounter him on my walks at least once a week.

For the Icelandic readers, our language has two words for its falconsfálki and haukur (fálki i.e. gyrfalcon). Haukur is the same word as hawk. In USA there are numerous hawks, but they are not in the falcon family. The red-tailed hawks are quite a bit bigger and chunkier than the Icelandic gyrfalcons. I must say that I find the table manners of the gyrfalcon more refined, than those of the red-tailed hawks. The gyrfalcon will sever the spine of its prey before dining, but the hawk does not observe such niceties, and just starts eating its prey. The prey might be dead from the impaling talons, but often it’s not.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red-tailed_hawk

Bald eagle
Bald eagle

Then I noticed two bald eagles soaring – too far up to photograph (I use an old photo for this blog). They are unmistakable with their white heads and tails. Their number seems to be growing, but that might just as well be due to my powers of observation. The fishing prowess of the bald eagles is legendary and known to all. Their table manners, however, are appalling.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bald_eagle

The eyesight of these raptors is much, much sharper than ours (6-8 times better).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bird_vision

Osprey
Osprey

The ospreys are everywhere here in the coastal areas. They are superb hunters and eat preferably live fish. They cruise over the water and then dive down, hitting the water with their talons first. They can become totally submerged, then pop up again and take flight with a fish in their talons. I have noticed when they fly off with their fish, the fish’s head always faces forward. Whether it has to do with aerodynamics, or the osprey is just being nice with a scenic flight is unknown. Then the osprey tears the fish apart and that is that.

I think they have a sense of humor, or at least one of them has. One day I went fishing and was catching Spanish mackerel left and right, and releasing all the fish I caught. When I came home an osprey flew over and dropped a mackerel on my driveway!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Osprey

American kestrel
American kestrel

The kestrel is North America’s smallest falcon [weighs ca 4.1oz (120g)] and is similar in size to a mourning dove. I once noticed a smallish bird sitting on top of the uprights of an American football goal at the recreational center’s grounds. Those uprights are really high. By sneaking in and using my longest tele (approx. 640mm – handheld – sometimes you just get lucky), I got this shot of the kestrel surveying its hunting fields. The big hawk and the small kestrel can coexist because the kestrel goes for insects, invertebrates, and the small fare. So each bird occupies a different niche. Judging by the droppings (the white stuff) on the pole, it is clear that this is a well-used vantage point for the kestrel. I find the kestrel to be a beautiful bird.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_kestrel

Great horned owl
Great horned owl

Now for my biggest surprise of the dog walk. I noticed some movement in an abandoned eagle nest. This huge nest sits very high from the ground in a dead tree. In order to be able to see over the top of the edge you need to be far away. First I spot the “horns” and then I see the unmistakable owl face. Then I spot the owl chick. I had never seen this owl before. The great horned owl is a huge bird (22” or 55cm high) and an apex predator. Only the great gray owl is bigger here in USA, but the gray owl is a resident of the north part of the US. The great horned owl is found all over Canada and the States. The owl kills its prey by squeezing it if it survives the initial impact. Those talons are able to exert 500 pounds of pressure per square inch (30psi is your car tire pressure)!

After I posted this I got this e-mail and correction from Lucy Duncan.

Hello Jonas,

Your blog was certainly interesting. I would make only one correction, and that is of the nest in which the Great Horned Owl nests. It is not an abandoned eagle’s nest. The trail is called the Eagle’s Nest Trail because there used to an eagle’s nest there 70 years ago when my husband was a boy here. That tree and nest had long been forgotten by any eagles by the time I moved here in 1966, but in the 1970s or early ‘80s, a tornado took that tree down and the nest with it. The nest you now see is an Osprey’s nest. Or, I should say it was an osprey’s nest! The owl nests much earlier than the osprey, and when the owls leave that nest, an osprey could move in. If there were a competition for the nest, the owl would certainly win.

So, Every Jonah has a Whale…..  and you have woven quite a delightful tale of your own.

Thank you for sharing.

Lucy

Thanks Lucy – I opted to place the whole e-mail here to prove that someone does indeed read my blog!

Also please have a look at Capt. Baz’s comment after the blog entry.

https://greathornedowl.net/great-horned-owl-talons-diameter-size-color-force/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_horned_owl

To see all these birds in the span of an hour is incredible but true.

Pictures: Jonas and Drifa Freysdottir (Bald eagle and osprey)

English consultant; My good retired neighbor Joe.

One person in my stable of blog characters is Capt. Baz. No, don’t worry, this one isn’t about him. However, it started with him.

Hi Jonas – my little brother Dave is in town, and he really would like to learn to fly cast, was the gist of our phone conversation, followed by and it is on the house too!” I am fine with the work is your rewardphilosophy if I am teaching something. However, Baz, manual labour is a straight no no no.

Capt. Dave
Dave – you see what I am up against!

Dave showed up, and he was an exceptional student from the outset. When I am teaching raw beginners I find one issue in them all. It doesn’t have to do with the movement, but rather lack of it, i.e. they just can’t stop the hand/wrist and rod when they make the backcast. So, their backcast will look like the picture below.

Poor stop and/or too much wrist bend.

The motion we are trying to teach starts with our upper arm vertical, and under arm horizontal (90 degrees). Then the hand is moved up and back with constant acceleration to an abrupt stop until the underarm has reached the vertical position with the wrist firm. This movement should be smooth, and the acceleration constant, but the stop must be abrupt. There are some issues with the constant smooth acceleration, but that can be ironed out rather quickly. However, the abrupt stop on the back cast is very hard to accomplish in the beginning. The drawing below shows a good backcast.

A good stop.

This near universal inability to stop the hand/wrist and rod is a bit baffling when you come across this first when teaching (conveniently forgetting how I myself struggled). We use our arms and hands all the time to do all kinds of complicated tasks. We certainly can stop a forward moving hand hard (think fly swatterhammer). But, when you think about that particular backward motion, we do not use that often in our daily lives, if at all. When we gain the ability to stop our hand on the back cast – the backcast will be straight without slack – setting up a good forward cast. My task as a teacher is pretty much wrapped up when my students understand the importance of the abrupt stop and straight backcast. All the rest is tweaking this or that.

But returning back to Dave, it turned out that he could absolutely stop his hand wherever I wanted him to stop it, while keeping the wrist firm. On top of that, the constant acceleration part was there, too. This piqued my interest, so I asked him what his work was. Oh – this and that in business was the answer ” and I am a drummer (i.e. sort of a musician).” Now this was very interesting to me, and sure enough the musculature of his underarm was exceptionally well developed, and precisely those puppies control the wrist movement. Biceps and triceps have to do with flexion and extension of the elbow.

Underarm of a drummer
Underarm of a certain drummer – or Popeye?

We had two short sessions, and at the end he was double hauling, and shooting line with ease. A week later he calls “How long are these fly lines?” It turned out that he was casting into the backing (fly lines are around 100′, some shorter some longer). That is a very long cast for even excellent casters.

Since then, drummer Dave has shed his skin, and found Capt. Dave within – and is running a guide service. https://gulfbreezefishing.com

——————————

Last January Capt. Baz, Odell Mullis and I went to the Bahamas to escape the Florida winter, that is, what there is of a winter. This was Dave’s first encounter with bonefish and he had been told that they would be very hard to catch. We don’t go to a bonefish lodge, so it is low key and self guided. The Bahamian flats are just stunning. Vast flats become dry on low tide and then the tide comes in, and the bonefish follow to get to the smorgasbord of the inundated flat.

The flat at low tide

Yup, you guessed it, Dave with a bent rod became a recurring theme. Bent rod when I only almost had a strike!

Same flat with the tide in – Dave with bonefish

The bonefish subsequently released. Needless to say, Dave caught numerous bonefish on his first trip with us.

Release of a bonefish

I gotta go now – the UPS guy is at my door delivering my set of drums.

Pictures; Jonas and Odell

English consultant; My good retired neighbor Joe.

Below the Réttarfoss

Réttarfoss

In a previous post I covered this river – see below. The current post deals exclusively with the two uppermost fishing spots – i.e. the Réttarfoss pool and the Réttarstrengur run.

The crew for this trip was my fishing partner and friend Sibbihttps://everyjonahhasawhale.com/?p=1783 – and Hilmar Konráðsson, with whom I had not fished before – but I will gladly fish with again. Then there was my American friend and traveling companion Odell Mullis in the role of photographer. His job was the hardest – fingers freezing – electronics sluggish, and rain constantly splattering the lens.

The salmon in Hrútafjarðará can get up to Réttarfoss, but can’t jump that waterfall. Therefore, the pool below the waterfall invariably holds numerous fish at the tail end of the season. However, it is awkward to fish, and casting in the canyon can be problematic. The position taken by most anglers is close to the middle of the outflow from the pool. That is not an ideal position. You get too close to the fish to my liking, and you are practically on top of some of them. This violates two of my fly fishing tenets: no unnecessary wading and don’t get too close to the fish.

We were fishing there in late August ’19, and the conditions were challenging. Just a few degrees above freezing, and wind was barreling up the canyons from the north, and the blessed rain was there too, and there was a lot of both. The amount of water flowing was quite a bit over the average. No fun wading in those conditions.

Pool below Réttarfoss
Pool below Réttarfoss
Below the Réttarfoss
Below the Réttarfoss

By tiptoeing close to the black basaltic rocks to the position you see on the photograph above, we were in a relatively concealed position to cast over the outflow tract of the pool. However, the fly was not going to move across the water in a way we like it to do. After some rumination Sibbi says “let’s try a hitching tube here, and just strip it across the outflow.” This is why I love this guy – he is always ready to try something unconventional. The salmon loved this, too, and we had great fun for a while with multiple salmon striking the flies, and there were some takes and then some salmon landed. (It is called hitching when the fly is riding the surface and a V shaped disturbance on the surface forms – see video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A0TYgn_oO2Q )

The current is usually sufficient to make this happen, but by stripping the fly we made it go faster than the current, thus making the V on the surface. This strategy saved the day for us and will certainly be tried again. This is a very good reminder not to get stuck in some routine. If your approach does not work, try something else. It really does not matter how you don’t catch fish – does it?

Réttarstrengur

After leaving the Réttarfoss pool the river flows over some rocks, and is shallow and spread out with no channel. At the rock formation – seen clearly in the third picture below – the river forms a channel, Réttarstrengur, that is pushed up against the west canyon wall. The salmon will be there from the run’s beginning, and can be found for 100 meters (more or less depending on the amount of water). There are always salmon there – you may not catch them, but they are there. We take great care not to get too close (no wading there), instead we use longer casts, and the fly must be delivered on the opposite side of the current for best results. Then you pull it into the current and now you mend. Small flies are our choice there. Take care to cast with quite a sharp angle not more than 45 degrees to insure the fly swings first over the fish – not the line then the fly. To do that you need longer casts as you do not want to wade or get close to the channel. Make an effort to keep the line and leader straight, that way the fly is fishing from the get-go. For the Icelandic crowd – see the excellent book Af Flugum, Löxum og Mönnum by Sigurður Héðinn a.k.a. Haugurinn page 72 on Smáflugur. Réttarstrengur is without doubt one of the premium runs in Icelandic salmon rivers.

Correct casting angle
Correct casting angle

You really should practice before your fishing trips, preferably with a casting instructor. I have witnessed multiple times anglers in expensive rivers with no cast at all. It is a mystery to me why anyone buys those costly permits, and shows up with no cast. Most anglers I come across in salmon rivers would do well to take some lessons. When you are riverside it is too late to learn how to cast.

You have expensive gear – why not spend on learning how to use it?
Fishing the Réttarstrengur
Fishing the Réttarstrengur

This is how far away from the river’s edge we like to be. There is no sense in getting closer if we can cast over the run with a sharp angle from where we are at. By and large anglers wade too close and also too deep. If you get too close – the fish see you, and it is game over. If you wade too deep you lose height and your cast suffers.

Fishing the Réttarstrengur
Fishing the Réttarstrengur

Sibbi keeps his distance and is rewarded with a beautiful salmon.

Sibbi has a salmon on in Réttarstrengur
Sibbi has a salmon on in Réttarstrengur

Subsequently released into the river.

Salmon released by Sibbi
Salmon released by Sibbi

Odell and Hilmar seeking shelter from the wind, cold and rain.

Shelter from the rain and wind
Shelter from the rain and wind

Here is a short video from Réttarstrengur.

Land Iguana

Photos Drífa Freysdóttir

Fifth day.

Isla Seymour Norte is just north of Isla Baltra where we will be leaving from tomorrow. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_Seymour_Island

The frigate birds nest on Seymour, both the great frigate bird and the magnificent one. The magnificent frigate is a bit larger, but they look very much alike. The way to tell the males apart is by the color sheen of the feathers on the back of the birds. The magnificent has a purple sheen – the great has a greenish sheen. The female great frigate has a red eye ring and the female magnificent frigate sports a blue eye ring. The frigates have the largest wingspan compared to body size of all birds. They spend most of their time soaring effortlessly over the oceans months on end. They can even sleep when they are airborne and seem to have the ability to rest one brain hemisphere at the time. However, they can’t land on water – feathers get wet and heavy. Previously I have seen them several times but never up close. The frigates like to follow ships on their journeys. The males have a scarlet throat pouch which they inflate to impress the females. The female birds have a white throat.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frigatebird

https://www.birdnote.org/show/sleeping-wing

Great frigate
Great frigate (green sheen)
Magnificent frigate
Magnificent frigate (purple sheen)
Great frigate chick
Great frigate chick (rusty on top of head)

Waking around the path we came upon a booby in love. The series of pictures are priceless where he dances around – picks up his stick – shows it to the love of his life – more dancing – alas she was not interested and scorned him while we were there. Let’s hope he can win her over someday.

Diving at Seymour Norte was great and I managed to snap a picture of a parrot fish that is more or less focused – getting better at that. During the snorkeling I saw a Galapagos shark glide by – a turtle – and a whole host of colorful fish.

Parrotfish

That concludes this Galapagos series.

Santa Fe

Photos Drífa Freysdóttir

Fourth day.

Santa Fe – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Santa_Fe_Island

We started the day on Isla Santa Fe. A modest climb up the lava edges led us to a plateau. The soil was bone dry and cacti littered the landscape. No leaves yet on the palo santo trees, but soon it will start to rain. We did not spot any porpoises but they have been reintroduced to the island.

Land iguanas were cooperative and we spotted several of those guys. One of them even smiled to us. Could have been gas though. However, this is a smile only a mother would love – sorry iguana.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galapagos_land_iguana —

I must post some more iguana photos – they are just so cool.

On returning to our boat in the dinghy we saw a sea lion that had just given birth. The hawks were monitoring the situation and momma sea lion was nervous. She decided to head for the beach with the pup in her mouth. Immediately the hawks swooped down on the afterbirth, and then it was total mayhem. The “Nature red in tooth and claw” comes to mind. Usually attributed to Tennyson’s In Memoriam.

Next stop was the tiny Isla Plaza Sur – just east of of the much bigger Isla Santa Cruz. The scenery there was just stunning as you can see in the picture below. This is one of the most amazing places I have been to. We witnessed restoration project i.e. the small cacti have to be protected until they reach a certain hight. The iguanas are vegetarian. The lava rocks someplace were turning white – called Galapagos marble the guide joked. The bird droppings will have their effect.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/South_Plaza_Island

Isla Cruz Sur
Isla Plaza Sur

The red billed tropicbird was there in force showing of its aerial prowess. It’s a stunningly beautiful bird.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red-billed_tropicbird

Next on the menu for us was to observe the swallow tailed gull. Note how big those eyes are – it’s a night-feeder and the end of its bill is florescent. For Icelandic readers – lundi (Puffin) also has a florescent beak.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swallow-tailed_gull

Next stop Seymour Norte.

Black rock crab (will turn red when bigger)

Photos Drífa Freysdóttir

Third day

Isla Floreana

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Floreana_Island

Despite the population size the early thirties in Floreana was a place for a mystery drama. https://www.thoughtco.com/unsolved-murder-mystery-the-galapagos-affair-2136125

Punta Cormorant was our first destination. There is a brackish lagoon there with a Flamengo sighting possibility. Two coves are accessible on each side of the Punta with a short hike through the Palo Santo forest. The Palo Santo trees were bare, waiting for the rainy season. We were lucky with our sightings – flamingos – green turtle – nursing sea lion – penguin – plus the usual suspects! We sure ticked all the boxes for that location.

Nursing sea lion
Nursing sea lion

We spotted a Green turtle ambling up onto the beach. The turtle will crawl above the high-water mark and dig a hole there whereupon the eggs are deposited. The eggs are covered with sand and the turtle makes its way to the ocean again. Curiously the sex of the turtle is temperature dependent – over 31 centigrade in the nest will produce femalesunder 28 Centigrade males and in between a mix. I have seen news that there are now more female turtles hatched. https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/temperature-dependent.html

Green turtle
Green turtlehttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green_sea_turtle

On the brackish lake there were indeed flamingos snacking with their heads upside down finding their food in the mud. The Palo Santo trees are waiting for the rains to start. The hillside will turn green and conditions will become more tropical. https://animalcorner.co.uk/animals/galapagos-flamingo/

On our way to the ship we had a stroke of luck and spotted a Galapagos penguin. This little guy was cleaning up on a lava outcropping and our guide spotted him. The Galapagos Penguin is of the banded variety (relatives in Patagonia and South Africa), and the only penguin to venture north of the equator.

Galapagos penguin
Galapagos penguin – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galapagos_penguin

From Punta Cormorant we sailed to Corona Diablo, that is a volcanic crater half submerged. This turned out to be a fantastic snorkeling experience. However, my skills at shooting underwater photos is limited, but the wet suit sure is dressy.

On to Post Office Bay. Whalers started the tradition of leaving letters in a barrel in Post Office Bay. When it was time to return home they stopped by the collective post office and took letters heading for the same destination and hand delivered them to the addressees. – https://www.galapagosislands.com/blog/post-office-bay/

The usual suspects.

The Mangroves are vital for coastline ecology. This tree has adapted to saline environment and excretes salt on the underside of their leaves. If you do not believe me lick a mangrove leaf. Their importance will increase with rising sea levels. Let’s hope this shoot will make it. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mangrove

Mangrove shoot
Mangrove shoot

Next stop Isla Santa Fe.

Galapagos Albatross

Photos Drífa Freysdóttir

Second day

Isla Espanola is a volcanic island, as are the other Galapagos islands. The islands sit on the so-called Galapagos microplate, which in its turn sits at the junction of the CocosPacificNazca tectonic plates.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galápagos_Microplate

At tectonic plate junctions there will be volcanic activity. I am used to lavas coming from Iceland. The lavas and the craters are familiar, but decidedly not the flora and fauna. The igneous rock is softer than the metamorphic one. The Pacific ocean pounds away relentlessly, thus the Galapagos have been formed and eroded in cycles over the eons.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Española_Island

These photos are from Punta Suarez. The hawk and the sea lion from Bahia Gardner.

This is the island to visit to see the waved (Galapagos) albatross and the only island they nest on. When an albatross pairs up for egg discussion and nest building, they dance. They extend their necks then lower their beaks. Then there will some beak “fencing”. The following video show some great moves. Now if the dance is accepted, they pair and nest and raise their chick. After that they leave the island and each other and stay away and apart for 2 years flying wast distances over open seas. When it is time again for nesting the male birds will arrive first. Then female birds come back one after the other and the only way the pair can find each other is to do their signature dance.

The signature dance. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=90MfHbdfzAM&feature=youtu.be

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waved_albatross

Here is a gallery of the smaller birds. I can’t identify the finches, so I lump them into “Darwin’s finches.” These finches are famous for the work Darwin did when he visited the islands, and led him to the theory of evolution

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darwin%27s_finches

Now for the lizards. Lava is porous and water just seeps through the top layer and disappears, that fact has important repercussions for all life on the islands. We can imagine a long drought – land iguanas going hungry – an enterprising individual starts foraging in the wrack on the beach, and little by little over a long time we have marine iguanas

The lava lizard https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microlophus_delanonis

The Marine Iguana https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marine_iguana

The boobies are are in the same family (Sulidaehttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sulidae -) as the northern gannet (ísl. súla) which Icelanders know from their shores. These birds are magnificent and their dives into the sea are spectacular. At Punta Suarez there are breeding colonies of both species.

The Nazca boobieshttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nazca_booby

The Blue footed boobieshttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue-footed_booby

The Galapagos hawk and the sea lion standoff at Bahia Gardner. The hawk is the apex predator in the Galapago. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galapagos_hawk

Galapagos hawk and a sea lion.

Next stop Isla Floreana.

San Cristobal harbor

Photos Drífa Freysdóttir

First day

The Galapagos archipelago is a fantastic place to visit. The trip generated many good and some great photos. I have chosen to simplify the presentation by recounting each day with the corresponding pictures as we sail along.

We arrived in Isla San Cristobal in the afternoon for our Galapagos adventure. We flew in from Quito with a stopover in Guayaquil. Isla San Cristobal has a small town, and where there are people there will be cats and rats. After arrival the group was promptly rounded up by our crew and our guide. Tourists live aboard boats during their visit, and some boats are bigger than others. We were quartered on a boat for 16 tourists. The boat then sails between the various islands. Inflatable dinghies are used to get ashore. The boat is anchored further out. The small islands we visited were all regulated in number of visitors each day. There were marked paths we were allowed to take, and the guide was vigilant in herding us and making sure we were not transgressing. You can’t come closer to an animal than six feet, but generally they show no fear of humans.

Gran Natalia
Gran Natalia – our boat

The guide system.

No one is allowed to visit the islands without a guide. After meeting the guide, he was with us at all times. Our guide was a fantastically knowledgeable naturalist Fabian Sanchez. His website is http://galapagossealife.com He has profound respect for the fauna and flora, and was able to convey the facts, but also able to convey his respect and love for life forms in the Galapagos. All the guides working with tourists are employed by the national park. The park collects 100$ from each tourist visiting. https://www.galapagos.org

Wellcome
Wellcome

I am older than 18 “anos” for sure (but for some reason I am getting ads for hearing aids – shame Google. Unripe fruit is still ok – I think).

The giant tortoises of the Galapagos

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galápagos_tortoise

For my Icelandic readers – Icelandic has only one word “skjaldbaka” but English has two words, one for the land animal i.e. tortoise, and one for sea animal i.e. turtle. In San Cristobal we had some time to visit a tortoise hatchery where work is being done to conserve and reintroduce the Galapagos giant tortoise. https://www.galapagos.org/conservation/our-work/tortoise-restoration/ for instance on Isla Santa Fe. Small tortoises can’t make it where there are rats. Now they are nursed until they become four years old and then they are released into the wild. Efforts are also being made to rid some of the islands of vermin and cats. The afternoon we were visiting it was rather cold. Consequently, the tortoises were seeking shelters and burrowing, thus it was difficult to get a good picture of them. You can believe me when I tell you “they are big.” Notice how the carapace has an upward notch – the tortoise munches on plants and this way can reach higher. Their necks are long (see below). The Galapagos islands sit on the equator but are colder than you would expect. The culprit is the cold Humboldt currenthttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Humboldt_Current – that sweeps up alongside South America’s coast.

Giant tortoise
Giant tortoise

The islands and ocean around are a national park. The waters around the islands are protected from fishing, and visible in the harbor the Coastguard had rounded up some sinners and confiscated the boats – then they will be auctioned off I was told.

Next stop will be Isla Espanola.

Santa Rosa Island Bayside

I moved to the Florida Panhandle ten years ago, and when it was time to go fishing I found Baz’s website, and off we went. I was into fish on my second cast, so all the jitters were settled quickly. After the trip I paid my bill, but I was unaware of the tipping culture. Sorry Baz, you are never getting that money. Baz and I were on insulting terms from the get-go and have since made countless fishing trips together and have since become friends. Baz has a keen sense of humor which is required when dealing with me.

Baz’s website: http://gulfbreezeguideservice.com

I had learned a little bit about fishing in the salt living in Corpus Christi for two years. Since I moved here, Baz has taught me all I know about fly fishing the salt. Which rod to use – fly lines – leaders – knots – flies – the whole shebang. And how to catch the different species of fish found here, etc. The tidal movement is an issue too. It has been a tremendously rewarding apprenticeship for which I am grateful. I can now do most of what is required, except I don’t see the fish in the water as well as he does. Sometimes he sees fish that don’t know they are there. He is like a pointer, I swear, but curiously sticks his rear end out a bit when he spots a fish. When beginners look for fish in the water, they have a mental image of a fish and expect to see something like that in the water. Forget that and look for a dark moving spot, sometimes you only see the shadow of the fish. Dark spots that do not move alas will be stones or vegetation.

I can emphatically say that Baz is my saltwater muse. At first I was not able to deal with the conditions here casting wise. The wind was an issue and the boat movement was troublesome when casting. So, I had to go and learn how to cast properly. That done, Baz was pleased with the outcome and now prodded me to become a casting instructor – so I did. I have derived a great deal of pleasure from teaching fly casting. There is some truth in “if you want to learn something – teach it.”

Becoming a certified instructor: https://everyjonahhasawhale.com/?p=611

We have fished from boats out in the Gulf and in Pensacola Bay. We have fished the flats from the boat where poling is required. Baz has even started teaching me how to pole a skiff. That is not a task to be undertaken lightly. On top of that he has introduced me to bonefish in the Bahamas. I am not sure I should thank him for that because it is going to be a seriously costly addiction for sure.

Out in the Gulf: https://everyjonahhasawhale.com/?p=251

Bonefishing: https://everyjonahhasawhale.com/?p=1896

Our latest endeavor is to wade the flats around here and then cast to the fish we spot. We go minimalistic – light tackle – couple of flies – skinny wading (water still is 75-80F). Most commonly we are after redfish and to have a chance of catching them you must move very slowly. Just creep along the flat and be on the lookout for dark spots that move. Baz has taught me to pay attention to the position of the sun. Mostly have it behind you – sometimes it works sideways but never into the sun. The glare from the surface just makes it impossible to spot fish.

10/21/19 we went wadefishing for a couple of hours. When we had covered some 200 yards of flat and seen some reds, but mostly too late, they were already wise to our presence. Having gotten a few hits but no serious takes and we called it a day. I was ready to go but Baz was in the process of winding up his line when we see a black drum come cruising in 2′ of water about 3′ from the water’s edge. Even I saw it clearly. The fish was just in front of us, and Baz lobs out the small Clouser just for fun. The drum just ate the fly and off it went. Black Drum are very difficult to catch on the fly. The fly needs to be put just in front of their noses, and then they might take it, but mostly don’t. They are bottom feeders.

Black Drum: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_drum

The cast Baz made is not going to win any awards but who cares? However, to subdue a big black drum on a 6# fly rod and a ten pound tippet takes some serious skills.

Capt. Baz does it again
Capt. Baz does it again

The proof – the fly was securely lodged in the corner of the drum’s mouth and did not come loose – fish brought to hand.

The Black Drum is revived
The black drum is revived

The fish needs a little bit to recover.

The Drum is released
The drum is released

It is seriously bad karma to harm a fish like that. This is the largest black drum Captain Baz has caught on a fly rod. Probably around 34 pound is our guesstimate.