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A Booby in Orange County!

Word spread quickly that a MASKED BOOBY was found on the Dana Point breakwater in Orange County. In true rarity chasing fashion, I loaded my gear in the car and we were on our way. Normally it would be a 1 hour drive but an accident on the 405 made it more like a 2 hour drive. Rain and a waning sun in the horizon didn’t keep my hopes high for a decent photo. That combined with the fact the bird was being observed on a jetty 200 yards from shore…

Upon arriving, we bumped into Steve and Becky Turley and Jim Pike who were looking for the bird in their scopes. Being a photographer, I never carry a scope. If I can’t get decent photos with a 500mm lens then I’d rather not have any at all! I researched a few boat rental places before I left so I headed over to Embarcadero Marina to see if I could rent a small skiff at the rate of $50/hr. I figured that was well worth the investment to get close enough to the bird. Much to my chagrin, the boat rentals were closed due to a red flag advisory for small craft. I begged them but their insurance policy wouldn’t allow it.

So…being in a boat marina, I figured I’d ask the locals if they’d take me out to the bird for $50. I was in luck. I found Georgie and John Moore from Fallbrook that had a small dingy attached to their yacht. They were more than happy to take us close to the bird and refused any payment! It’s truly rewarding when you encounter such gracious people like that in this world.

Oh, and yes. I did get some amazing photos of the Booby.

Masked Booby
Masked Booby

There are only 15 or so previous records of Masked Boobies in California. This sub-adult bird was a bit far from his normal breeding range in the central and western Pacific, around Australia, as well as off Mexico and on Clipperton Island.


Posted by on December 17, 2011 in Photography Adventures

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Galapagos: How Darwin’s Finches Keep Their Species Separate

More from the Galapagos. It seems further DNA analysis (and song analysis) is being done on Darwin’s Finches and it’s led to some very fascinating discoveries.

Darwin's Finches of the Galapagos Islands
Darwin’s Finches of the Galapagos Islands

When they arrived in 1978, G. fortis and G. scandens were Daphne Major’s sole finch inhabitants. Five years later, G. magnirostris, arrived on the island. After several decades, a few of the original finches interbred, producing a hybrid that appears destined to become its own species. Yet neither bred with with G. magnirostris. According to the Grants, G. fortis and G. scandens maintained separation through song.

For the finches, as for so many birds, songs — sung by males, learned from their fathers — are a central form of communication. They enable individuals to recognize others of their species, advertising the possibility of reproduction. Each species’ song is distinctive.

As it happened, the song of G. magnirostris originally overlapped with the tunes of G. fortis and G. scandens. That’s no longer true. Since 1983, their trill rates, frequency and bandwidth have all changed drastically.

More info from the Wired article here.


Posted by on November 4, 2010 in Photography Adventures

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Galapagos Frigatebird?

In a recent paper, it was found that the Long-term isolation of the highly mobile Magnificent Frigatebird on the Galapagos Islands has led to genetically different race than that of the Pacific and Caribbean populations.

The article does not say whether they will be considered a separate species of sub-species but it is an interesting read none-the-less. As if ID’ing Frigatebird species wasn’t difficult enough! I still have hundereds of images of Frigatebirds from the Galapagos that are not yet labelled Great or Magnificent. Now they could potentially be Galapagos Magnificent Frigatebirds!


Posted by on November 4, 2010 in Photography Adventures

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Volcano erupts in Galapagos Islands

Volcano erupts in Galapagos Islands
13 hours ago

QUITO, Ecuador (AP) — A volcano on the largest of the Galapagos Islands has begun erupting and authorities are evaluating possible dangers to the island’s famed plant and animal life, officials said Friday.

Rangers and tour guides spotted lava flowing down the northeastern flank of the Cerro Azul volcano on the seahorse-shaped island of Isabela late Thursday, the Galapagos National Park said in a statement.

Ecuador’s Geophysics Institute said that satellite data and a flyover of the island by park officials showed a “small amount of ash” coming out of the volcano, located on the southwestern edge of the island.

Park official Oscar Carvajal told Radio Quito that as many as four lava flows “have consumed a lot of vegetation,” but do not pose a threat to the famed Galapagos tortoises.

Neither was the eruption endangering people on the island, park official Vinicio Pauta said.

The 5,600-foot (1,690-meter) Cerro Azul — one of five active volcanoes on the island — last erupted in September 1998, causing minor damage to plant life. Cerro Azul is located in the unpopulated southwestern corner of the island.

The Galapagos Islands, 625 miles (1,000 kilometers) off of Ecuador’s Pacific coast, are known for unique plant and animal life, including giant tortoises, marine iguanas and seabirds known as blue-footed boobies. Charles Darwin’s observations of the islands’ finches helped inspire his theory of evolution.


Posted by on May 31, 2008 in Photography Adventures

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Action Shots!

I’ve been going through all of our images and found some pretty funny “action shot” images Sara took of me while were in the Galapagos. The pictures do a good job illustrating how close one can approach all of the wildlife on the Galapagos Islands. It made me wonder what the birds think…do they think we’re other birds as well? One juvenile Nazca Booby seemed to think so as he kept following me around thinking I was his mother! To see them all, click here:

Nazca Booby attacking me!

Photographing Swallow-tailed Gulls

Nazca Booby at my feet

Smiling for the camera

Photographing Nazca Booby


Posted by on May 30, 2008 in Photography Adventures

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