Friday, May 30, 2008


As I supposedly started this blog in order to showcase some of my husbands wonderful photographs from our recent Galapagos trip, I figured it was about time I did another posting about these amazing islands. I am sure when people think of the Galapagos, one of the first animals that springs to mind is the Giant Land Tortoise. In fact the word Galapagos comes from an old Spanish word which refers to the saddle like shape of their shell. These magnificent creatures were once found on most of the islands in the archipelago but now they are much less common. There were fourteen different subspecies divided amongst the islands. When sailors first discovered the area they found the tortoises to be a very convenient food supply. They discovered that these huge creatures would stay alive for up to a year upside down, with no food or water, in the hold of a ship and their meat didn't taste bad either! Unfortunately for the tortoise!
About 100,000 tortoises became food for sailors. As if that wasn't problem enough, the influx of people bought with them many new invasive species such as goats, pigs, donkeys, dogs and rats. All these animals either competed directly with the tortoises for vegetation or feasted on the eggs and hatchlings. Today there are few places to view these gentle giants in their natural environment, one of the best places being in the highlands of Santa Cruz. Unfortunately Santa Cruz is one of the most densely populated islands and it was very apparent as we drove up into the highlands that development was encroaching at an alarmingly fast speed. Even after we had supposedly entered the national park there were new buildings being constructed everywhere and lots of cattle grazing too! That being said, nothing quite prepared me for my first encounter with one of these behemoths. It is impossible to describe just how imposing they are when finally encountered. Also, without getting too graphic, their feces were super huge! It took me a while to realise that they actually came from the tortoise and not from a camel or something! The one in this picture was another character who seemingly couldn't get enough of being a star and posing for pictures. He also obliged by munching up some fruits for us too.
I could have spent hours just following these beautiful animals around the woodland, there was an amazing feeling of age and wisdom about them as if they had seen so much in their quiet, unimposing way. Occasionally I wish I could be a real life Doctor Doolittle and communicate with animals on their terms. This was most definitely one of those occasions. I do feel hugely privileged to have seen the Giant Tortoise in its natural environment and although I have not painted a very rosy picture of their status on earth there is hope for them.
Our next stop was the Charles Darwin Research Center, home of the most famous Galapagos Tortoise, Lonesome George. Lonesome George is the last of his particular subspecies Geochelone abingdoni who lives with two female tortoises whom he refuses to have anything to do with at all! Apparently this was a common theme as he avoided us pretty well too and stayed in the farthest corner of his enclosure! The second most famous (or perhaps in this case, most infamous) tortoise at the center is Diego (so named because he came from San Diego Zoo!) He lives with eleven females and he mates with all of them as and when........ (Does this sound similar to my posting about Harrison?) Diego is a Saddleback Tortoise Geochelone hoodensis a subspecies that was in serious jeopardy at one time. Thanks to an extremely successful breeding programme carried out at the center, over a thousand of this subspecies have been bred and returned to their original island, Espanola. I am sure Diego contributed greatly to this particular breeding program! As you can see from this picture the saddleback has quite a unique look. The shell shape developed because these individuals needed to be able to reach up to higher vegetation and obviously the shell restricted this movement.
As you will have seen from a previous posting, I am involved with a turtle headstarting program at work so imagine my delight when I was able to see a headstarting program on a huge scale with several of the eleven remaining subspecies of Galapagos Tortoises. There were numerous pens with dozens and dozens of mini tortoises, divided up by subspecies. They were quite irresistible and the urge to take one home was very strong! Luckily I resisted the temptation and so did not end up in an Ecuadorian jail! The hatchlings are kept for the first five years and then released. The headstarting programme has been hugely successful and several hundred individuals of various subspecies have been reintroduced to their respective islands in recent years. So hopefully in future years there will be healthy populations of Galapagos Tortoises on many of the islands.

Photo Credits - Dominick V


For those of you that enjoy watching native wildlife from the comfort of your own home, try this link:
This camera is located in the roof of Evanston Library and shows resident Peregrine Falcons Falco peregrinus nesting. What makes it even better is the fact that this once seriously endangered species is now doing so well, right here in Chicago.

Sunday, May 25, 2008


Before moving to Chicago I lived in Africa for nine years in the Luangwa Valley in the Eastern Province of Zambia. Zambia is a country that often slips under the radar when people think of Africa. In fact, if I had a dollar for every person who has asked me if Zambia is in South Africa....... The Luangwa River meanders through the Luangwa Valley before eventually emptying into the Zambezi River. The Luangwa River floods its sandy banks regularly with each rainy season, forming oxbow lagoons all along its course. These regular water sources, combined with the rich silt that allows a good diversity of plant life to grow, means that there is a spectacular diversity of bird and animal life all year round. I was first talked into visiting Zambia by an old family friend who worked out there for many years. My 'vacation' ended up being a life changing event and something I will treasure for as long as I live. Once I realised that this was no ordinary vacation and that I actually wanted to stay and spend an extended period of time in the valley I had to find some form of employment. There were numerous safari camps situated around the South Luangwa National Park but the only females they employed were either caterers or in some kind of administrative position - just not my scene! So I decided to break the mold and try to become a licensed safari guide. As with so many male dominated occupations I found myself having to be better than, to be as good as! But after working hard, studying hard, passing the necessary exams and being fortunate enough to come to the attention of a very career driven lady who owned the most successful safari company in the country, I realised my dream and became the first fully employed female safari guide in Zambia.
The company that I ended up working for was Robin Pope Safaris, here is the link.
The company has its main camp just outside the main national park as well as two amazing houses built overlooking a lagoon and the river. During the rainy season I worked at the main camp - Nkwali. The rainy season runs from November to May. During the dry season I moved up to one of my most favorite places on the planet, Tena Tena, a tented camp which is inside the national park, on the banks of the Luangwa and, corny though it sounds, truly paradise on earth. The reason it is only open during the dry season is that it is so remote that it is inaccessible during the rains. This photo shows the dining tables at Tena being set for lunch. It gives a whole new meaning to dining 'al fresco'! Because the camp was inside the national park we had animals around us at all times. It was not uncommon for elephants to stroll into camp if a particular tree they liked was fruiting. A male leopard lived just behind camp and it was not unusual to find him lying quietly in the shadows in the late evening. Because the animals were such a constant presence it was always important to keep reminding yourself that they were all perfectly capable of killing you if you didn't abide by their rules. But I must admit, their rules are pretty easy to follow, don't get too close, don't get between them and their offspring, or them and their food and don't threaten them or make them feel cornered. I had many amazingly close encounters with animals over the years and I always felt far safer there than I ever do alone in a city. I sometimes feel as if I now live on a different planet, the way of life was so different there. You had to be incredibly self sufficient because obviously there was no outside forms of entertainment and you couldn't just go out for a walk (unless you had a vehicle that you could jump into at a moments notice!) One interesting, and slightly sad reflection on our destructive reputation - animals are quite comfortable to be approached by a vehicle because it stands on four wheels and smells of diesel whereas the same animals will do everything to avoid being approached by a human because they know that if something stands up on two legs it is very likely going to be lethal to get too close to it. We drove stripped down Land Cruiser pick-ups on safari, like the one in this picture. As you can see the doors are removed and so as the guide, driving the vehicle, animals often walked right next to us as they passed by the vehicle. We also had a pontoon that we drove onto to get across the river. I suspect that pontoon may be rather a generous description, more like a few planks of wood with oil drums tied underneath them! But hey it worked OK as long as you were careful driving onto it! People often ask me now if I miss my life in the bush and sometimes when it is minus far too many degrees outside and I feel like I haven't seen the sun for six months I feel like shouting ' HELL YES!!' but it is always easy to remember life with rather rather a favorable bias. Sure it was mind blowing to wake up every morning in the middle of the African wilderness and the sense of peace and oneness with the natural world is almost impossible to replicate but on the flip side, I have had malaria more times than I care to mention and there is still something amazingly luxurious about being able to switch on an electric kettle to make a cup of tea, rather than have to build a fire and then wait for the water to boil and hope it doesn't have too many bits of soot or grass floating in it! I treasure the time that I had there and some times I wish I was there again but it is a tough way of life and I did it for longer than most people do. I have an amazing catalogue of memories to enjoy and I also feel incredibly privileged to have had the opportunity to live somewhere so amazing.

All the photos on this posting remain the property of Robin Pope Safaris.

Friday, May 23, 2008


About a year and a half ago I put together a proposal for us to become involved in a local project which works towards the conservation and restoration of Blandings Turtles.
The Blandings Turtle Emydoidea blandingii is a semi-aquatic turtle that is found throughout much of the great lakes region. It is a gentle, shy creature with a characteristic yellow lower jaw and an apparent permanent smile. (As I hope you can see in the photo above.) It is now listed as threatened in Illinois, Wisconsin and Michigan and endangered in Indiana. As is so often the case, humans are the root cause of its problems. Raccoons, skunks and coyotes are their natural predators and with the increased human population, because of all the delicious garbage we produce, the raccoon, skunk and coyote populations have ballooned. This is bad news for the Blandings because all three of these predators feast on turtle eggs and hatchlings. The Blandings, like many turtle species, are long-lived and do not become reproductively active until they are in their middle teens. When the female has mated she will wander several miles in search of a suitable nesting site, many females are now getting killed on roads as a result of this. Several years ago Du Page County began a Blandings headstarting project. This involves collecting eggs from both captive and wild females, hand rearing the hatchlings for two years and then releasing them into suitable, restored habitat and monitoring them via radio transmitters.
Two months ago we took delivery of two seven year old females (one of which is in the top picture) and three one year old hatchlings (one seen on my hand above). We had a custom built tank made for them, thanks to an extremely generous donation to the Museum, with 'land' areas and plenty of water for the turtles to swim around in. The tank also has one-way glass so that we can see the turtles but they can't see us. This is particularly important for the hatchlings because they are going to be re-released so they must not become too used to humans.

This picture shows Jamie introducing one of the females to its new abode!

The reason the scheme is called headstarting is that with the correct nutrition and care, a two year old captive raised turtle can be between two and three times the size of a wild one of the same age. When the captive raised turtle is then released into the wild, it is bigger and stronger and so more likely to survive - so we are giving it a headstart!

We have to monitor the growth rates of the turtles to ensure they are getting the correct variety of nutrients (just like any baby!) They have a varied menu which includes earthworms, crickets, fish, mealworms, greens and pelleted turtle food (YUM!)

Each month we have to weigh and measure each turtle to ensure that they are not growing too fast or too slowly. It is just as easy for a turtle in captivity to become obese as it is for your pet dog!
Weight watchers for turtles! Here is one of the hatchlings being weighed.
And then carefully measured.
Finally, each hatchling has a number, in order to track which clutch of eggs it came from. These numbers wear off over time so when we weigh and measure them, we re-apply their number too. (Some people think that the numbers are for turtle races, rather like Nascar!)

This is the beginning of an exciting new project for us. If all goes as planned, our three hatchlings will be released later this year, equipped with tiny radio transmitters, and we will then be given several newly hatched babies to raise. The two, larger, females will stay with us until they are old enough to reproduce when they will be taken to an outside enclosure with good sandy areas for them to dig and lay their eggs. These are very endearing creatures and it is a great thrill to be actively involved in doing something to redress the balance and give their species a better chance of surviving.
This is a link to a piece I did for local TV about the Blandings Turtles.

Photo Credits - CJT and Jamie Stubis.

Saturday, May 17, 2008


I suspect working with animals is rather like working with children in that one should really try to avoid favorites. However it is almost inevitable that certain characters are just more appealing than others. This would certainly be the case with me and Harrison. Harrison is a male Eastern Box Turtle Terrapene carolina carolina and he first came to my attention when I was a volunteer at the nature museum. He was kept in a very small tank and really was pretty inert. A number of years later I started working at the museum and Harrison was still in his little tank and still rather a non-entity. Eventually I was promoted to a position where I made the decisions about how and where the animals were housed and one of my first priorities was to get Harrison an 'upgrade.'
Harrison now resides in a much larger enclosure with his own 'bath', hide box and log tunnel and boy what a change in personality! When I talk about a turtle with character people tend to look at me as if I am somewhat crazy, that is until they meet Harrison. Harrison is an incorrigible flirt and loves visitors. If a new person comes in to the lab I will walk up to Harrisons cage and say 'hey you have got visitors' he will immediately rush up to the front of the cage and demand that it be opened by banging against it. He especially likes lady visitors and will gaze deeply into their eyes!
Now it is slightly disconcerting when he gazes into your eyes because his eyes are a very bright orange which none of these photos really do justice to! He also has a passion for the ladies of his own species too. We have four female box turtles at the museum and although none of them share Harrisons 'enthusiasm' they do get to take it in turns to do their tour of duty with Harrison! If ever there was a turtle porn star then Harrison is it! Any one who tries to tell you that animals do not mate for pleasure and only do it to reproduce have not seen Harrison in action! He really is a shocking exhibitionist and I swear all he needs is a cigarette in the corner of his mouth to complete the entire decadent picture!! Because he is so keen, none of the females have to stay with him for more than one night at a time and invariably when we come into the lab in the morning Harrison will be sleeping blissfully and whichever of the females is in there will be in the furthest corner away from him, firmly locked up inside their shell! (The reason box turtles are so named is because they have a hinged plastron which means they are able to close their shell up so tightly that you can't even get a knife blade between the two halves.) The female turtle is rescued and returned to the 'girls cage' and Harrison goes back to a celebate life for another week or two. If you leave him too long without a visit from the ladies he gets very fractious and bashes at the front of his cage and tries to climb out and find one for himself!
When we are cleaning the turtles cages we let them have a free run of the lab and in order to ensure that no one trips over them we have a custom sign. Although as far as Harrison is concerned it is not entirely accurate as he is surprisingly fast for a turtle! (Of course Harrisons time for roaming around the lab is not the same time as when the females are out!) They are fed as varied a diet as we can get for them, with a full range of fresh fruit and vegetables that changes depending on what is in season. At present we are getting blackberries which are a particular favorite and they all end up with purple smeared all over their faces from the juice. They also get mealworms, waxworms, earthworms and crickets. Harrison, being a true red blooded male finds all the fruit and veg vastly overrated and much prefers to eat just the meat!!
Harrison is also an outrageous media whore. One of his favorite members of the museum staff is a very attractive young blond lady who works in the marketing department. She is responsible for booking any media events for us. A while back we were promoting a reptiles exhibit that we had at the museum and we were going down to one of the local TV studios with some live animals to do a piece. The young lady came in to the lab to tell Harrison that he was going to be on TV (Yes Harrison has that kind of standing within the museum!) Needless to say he seemed to respond in a way that would suggest that he thought this was a good thing. Anyway as it turned out the piece was changed slightly and Harrison was no longer required. I went off to the studio with the requested animals, did the piece and came back to the museum. Harrison was in the back corner of his cage (which he never does) with his back towards us (which he also never does) and his head pulled into his shell (totally unheard of for him!) And before you say anything - I KNOW - I am not supposed to anthropomorphosise! But, Harrison was sulking. I called the girl from marketing and she came over to try and apologize and very slowly Harrison forgave her and after talking to him for about fifteen minutes he eventually turned round, came to the front of the cage and had his customary head scratch! Something that would usually takes about fifteen seconds!
A couple of weeks later we had another media request which was going to take place on site and I suggested that it might be a good thing to include Harrison this time. It was an early morning call but Harrison was more than ready for his close up! When we arrived one of the camera men had put his camera down on the ground and the first thing Harrison did when I put him on the floor was rush straight up to it and start posing in front of it! He was kept busy with that for quite some time but none of us really had the heart to tell him that it wasn't switched on! After the filming was finished and we returned to the lab, Harrison climbed up on to the top of his log tunnel (his favorite vantage point) and gazed out on the world contentedly for the rest of the day! Only I could end up with a star struck turtle!!
All that being said, in spite of, or maybe because of being an outrageous flirt, having a gargantuan sexual appetite, refusing to eat his greens and being media hungry he is a truly delightful character who invariably brings a smile to my face and makes each day just that little bit better.
Thanks Harrison.

Photo Credits - CJT

Friday, May 16, 2008


Having said in my previous posting that we try not to accept waifs and strays at work, it seems I am 0 for 2 this week. This little sweetie was found wandering around the streets of down town Chicago, dodging cars, by a young lady on a bicycle who almost ran over him.
For what ever reason the rest of his family were no where to be found so she scooped him up from under a parked car and bought him to the museum. All things vertebrate come under my care so I was the one called to pick him up. He was perfectly healthy and in fine voice (!) so we called our friends at the Chicago Bird Monitoring Network and they are taking him to one of their re-hab centers. In case you were wondering, - its a mallard duckling.
Just another day at the office...........................

Photo Credits - CJT

Thursday, May 15, 2008


One of the great things about my job is you never quite know what each day is going to bring. I always try to stress to people we interview for Animal Care positions that they must be adaptable and able to deal with whatever comes along, whether it is a member of the public phoning to tell us that a seagull is stuck in the ice on the pond (what am I supposed to do with that one?!), a man turning up at the door with a bag full of bed bugs that he had been handed by the people renting his apartment! And he wants identified. Or even just the plaintive phone call from a member of our external affairs office who has a bug in their office and they are scared! There is never a dull moment. Yesterday I was walking past the front desk when a member of the visitor services staff handed me a large 'Slurpee' cup - some one left this! Well I think thank you is somewhat inadequate in this situation! Apparently some one had been gardening and found this little guy in the undergrowth! So they bought it to us. Normally we do not accept waifs and strays but they had basically just left it so we didn't really have an option. So my Slurpee Surprise was a severely dehydrated and rather malnourished, newborn Ball Python!
He is a delightful little creature, believe it or not, the skin of a newborn snake feels incredibly soft and silky rather like a human baby (I know, for you non-snake people, you are not convinced but it is true!). The first thing he did when I set up a tank for him was take a huge drink of water. With a bit of TLC he is now eating, has shed all the bits of skin that were stuck to him and looks much healthier. I have found a new home for him with an experienced Herp person and in the mean time he is sleeping and eating and getting his strength up.
(Sorry for the sub standard photos!)

Photo Credits - CJT

Friday, May 9, 2008

BOOBIES! (and other birds)

A recent holiday in the Galapagos was a long time personal dream, fulfilled. It is a truly remarkable place, especially for those of us who still believe in the theory of evolution! And for anyone else out there who does, I highly recommend a book called 'The Beak of The Finch' by Jonathan Weiner, if you haven't already read it. The wildlife on these tiny islands is a living lesson in evolution and quite spectacular. There are numerous species of birds and reptiles that are found nowhere else on earth. For this posting I am going to focus on a few of the birds we saw.

The iconic bird that is always associated with the Galapagos Islands is the Blue-footed Booby Sula nebouxii excisa. In fact this is one of the species of bird found on the Islands that does occur else where, although the ones found on the Islands are a separate sub-species. They are the least common of the three Boobies on Galapagos and nothing can quite prepare you for just how vivid the blue of their feet really is. The Blue-footed Booby fishes close to shore and we saw them a number of times diving into the water, around the boats in harbour. They nest on the ground and we were fortunate enough to see numerous chicks.

Why are they called Boobies? They have forward pointing eyes which provides them with stereoscopic vision, necessary to spot their prey with accuracy. The positioning of their eyes does give them a rather comical appearance, Booby comes from the Spanish word 'Bobo' which means clown or stupid! Not very nice! The courtship routines are also rather clownish with lots of waving of feet and odd dance manoeuvres.
The second species of Booby is the Red-footed Booby Sula sula websteri, I think this one was probably my favorite and one that we got some of the best views of. The Red-footed nests in the mangroves, not on the ground like the other species. It is a deep sea fishing bird and is found on the outer islands where the water is deepest. This is the smallest of the three species and as a result it is harassed the most by the Frigatebirds on its long journey back to shore to feed its young. This was the first Booby species we saw when we landed on Tower Island which was the first island on our trip.

The funniest thing is how they sleep, with their heads hanging down way below their feet, they look as though they should loose their balance and fall head first out of the bush, but they never do! There is a less common color morph of Red-footed which has a predominantly white body, these make up about 5% of the population, this, oddly, is the reverse of anywhere else in the world that these birds are found.

The third species of Booby is the largest, the Nazca Booby.The Nazca Booby Sula granti is striking because of its incredibly white plumage. It nests on the ground, laying two eggs, the first one to hatch will push its younger and weaker sibling out of the nest (obligate sibling murder) so the parents will only ever raise one chick per brood. This species too was not adverse to putting on a comic act for the cameras as you can see from the one perching on the sign in the picture. We also saw a courting pair delightfully collecting stones and giving them to each other during a rather elaborate, high-stepping dance.

The Nazca Booby fishes in deeper water than the Blue-footed but shallower than the Red-footed. OK, OK that is quite enough Boobies for now. (FYI one of the hottest selling tourist items on the Islands was a hat with 'I Love Boobies' emblazoned across the front of it!)

One bird that I was particularly keen to see was the Galapagos Flightless Cormorant Phalacrocorax harrisi. Of all the species of Cormorants in the world (depending on which books you read that ranges from fourteen to twenty-nine!) this is the only one to have evolved to the point of being totally flightless. Amazingly, when Darwin made his famous visit to the Galapagos he did not see one of them, one has to wonder how much more quickly he would have come up with his theory of evolution if he had! We had some excellent viewing of these intriguing birds on their nests which are large mounds built mainly of seaweed. Each time the male approaches the nest when the female is sitting on eggs he will bring a gift of another piece of seaweed which is added to the nest! We also saw an amazing interaction between between two Cormorants and a Sea lion where they were all in the water together and when ever the Sea lion disturbed small fish, the Cormorants would dive and grab them. After a few minutes of this they climbed out to dry their wings in the sun, giving us the opportunity to get a picture which clearly shows their stumpy little wings.

One of the most dramatic birds seen in the Galapagos is the Frigatebird, of the five species found worldwide, there are two species that occur on the Islands, the Magnificent and the Great. The Great Frigatebird Fregata minor male puffs out his vivid scarlet throat pouch and utters a delightful warbling call whilst spreading his enormous wings and swaying back and forth.

The demure female seems almost embarrassed by such a show of opulence and lowers her eyes and flutters her bright red eyelids - well look at him, how could she resist?!

As you can see, they also take up the same bizarre sleeping posture as the Red-footed Booby! Nesting Frigatebirds produce one egg but their nests are notoriously flimsy and often the egg, and sometimes the young chick fall out and perish.

A darker side of the the Frigatebird is its reputation as the pirate of the air. It is often referred to as the 'man-o-war bird' for its ruthless way of capturing boobies or tropicbirds as they are returning to land with a full crop of food
and hanging them by the tail until they regurgitate the meal which the Frigatebird then consumes! But ugly reputation apart, they are truly awesome when seen in flight. They have the largest wingspan to bodyweight ratio of any bird and make a truly dramatic sight in the air. We very often had one of them flying with the boat when we were underway, they would hang effortlessly over the boat, rarely flapping their wings at all.

Another fascinating bird is the Swallow-tailed Gull Larus fureatus, having grown up near the sea, it is hard to imagine that I would be talking about a beautiful seagull! But this one is spectacular and very unusual. It is the only gull in the world that hunts at night, its eyes are adapted for night vision with more rods than cones. The structure of its eye also enables it to pick up the bioluminessence of its food of choice - squid.

Another unique thing about this gull is the fact that when it is returning to its cliff nesting site at night it utters a type of clicking vocalisation which it is thought to be a primitive form of echo-location, similar to that of bats! Often after sunset as we were sitting up on the top deck of our boat we would see a ghostly shape gliding along in front of the bow, it was a swallow-tailed gull, looking for food.

Some other birds that deserve an 'honorable mention' include, the Short-eared Owl Asio flammeus, on the Galapagos a sub-species of this owl has evolved to hunt a small bird called a Storm Petrel by ambushing it as it enters its nesting site which is hidden in cracks in the lava, this is the only known example of this type of owl hunting on the ground, even more unusual, it hunts during the day.

When it comes to the fun factor, it is hard to beat snorkeling with the Galapagos Penguins Spheniscus mendiculus. It seems rather odd to find penguins on the equator, this species is related to the more commonly known Jackass Penguin. The Galapagos Penguin is small, about 30cm's tall.

Another notable species is the Hood Mockingbird Nesomimus macdonaldi. These birds are very gregarious and will apparently often land on visitors to the Islands, although we never saw them do it. There are four species of Mockingbirds on Galapagos and the Hood is the largest and the most carnivorous. They will often dispatch the previously mentioned weaker sibling of the Nazca Booby.

The Lava Heron Butorides sundevalli is found skulking on old lava flows along the shore. It is a small, grey heron that blends with the colour of the lava almost perfectly. One of them flew right up to me and stood less then six inches in front of me with no apparent fear at all. We also saw one working the edges of a small pond where a Sea lion was splashing around, every time the Sea lion disturbed something small in the water, the Heron would rush in and grab it. Great team work!

I could not possibly do a bird blog and not mention my all time favorite, the pelican. Where ever I go in the world, when I see a species of this delightful bird I can't help but smile. They are amazingly graceful in the air and very much at home on the water but ponderous and slow on land. The sub-species of Brown Pelican Pelecanus occidentalis urinator which occurs in the Galapagos is often seen fishing offshore with Brown Noddy Terns flying around it often the Terns will land on it to steal a small fish from the Pelicans prodigious beak when the opportunity arises.

Of course this does not anywhere near cover all the fabulous species of birds that can be seen on these amazing Islands. The most important being the Galapagos Finches. This was a lesson in frustration for me because none of the guides on the trip were able to identify the finches and so I cannot say for sure how many of them I saw! They were also virtually impossible to photograph as they were in constant motion. But as many birders would say 'oh well that is just an LBJ!' (A little brown job!)

Photo Credits - Dominick V