Musings

North and west

We traveled overnight, and boarded pangas starting at 6am to walk on North Seymour Island. The park regulations say that no one can be on land between 8pm and 8am. They require overnight ship passengers are only on land until 10am and after 3pm. The day-trippers get the hot, bright hours in between when many of the animals are far less active. I checked and this photo was at 6:07am, just after we started walking. Pretty sure these are frigate birds.

Sofia is discussing rat problems. The trap has low-level sulfur in it, enough to kill the rat after a time, and not enough that a hawk will sicken from eating it. Rats are of course introduced, and a problem along with goats, dogs, cats, and at least one insect, all causing significant problems.

Call this a frigate bird condo. Frigate birds don’t need much personal space, as you can tell, so the gents try to build their nests in the best trees, to catch a lady frigate bird. The red sacs take perhaps twenty minutes to inflate or deflate. They attract lady frigates to check out nest quality. If the latter meets spec, they will stay and mate.

Frigates pairing up.

Beautiful morning rainbow omen.

If I have it right, the Galápagos islands were stripped of this lichen at one time, to sell for making a purple dye. Lichens are of course slow-growing, so it has taken many decades for them to return.

Land iguana.

Posing bird. I’m anthropomorphizing.

See the two islands? Those are the Daphnes, with Daphne Major to the left, and Daphne Minor to the right. The famous forty-year study of finches by the Grants was on Daphne Major. Others have continued studies. Check out “The Beak of the Finch: A Story of Evolution in Our Time” by Jonathan Weiner if you’re interested.

On land you can see pairs of white stakes. We only walk between them.

When the booby parent comes back from fishing, the booby baby (technical naturalist term), bangs beaks with the parent. This eventually stimulates the parental bird to regurgitate. The chick sticks its head down the parental throat to get the food.

Aren’t you glad this isn’t the human style.

Back aboard, the Grace got underway and we had breakfast, then most of us watched two very well-made videos, one on Darwin and Wallace, and one on von Humboldt. The latter was a contemporary of Thomas Jefferson, and probably the first person you could consider a modern naturalist, at least in the Western world. I’m going to hunt up a copy of Wulf’s “The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt’s New World” to read up on this fascinating man and how he laid the groundwork for his successors.

Next, we had a lovely snorkel followed by a late lunch, if I have it right. Or perhaps the snorkel was after lunch? I forgot to record some details.

Our late-day panga trip located, tada!, penguins. The only tropical penguins. Soooo wonderful.

This is a dry landing on Bartolomé. Many other ships in this area.

Bartolomé has a boardwalk, only it’s mostly steps. It goes to the top. We made many photos in the late-day sun.

Note the many cinder cones. Sooooo different from every other island we’ve visited.

When we return after our afternoon excursions, we are greeted by a critter. I think this is a towel owl, a short-eared owl, yet, oddly wearing (my) spectacles. Teehee. John says its a baby Yoda.

Española

We began our days adventures on and around Española by landing on a small cement jetty and walking past dozens of marine iguanas just waking up…

…as well as these bright sally lightfoot crabs who were already very active.

Our first obstacle was a crowd of marine iguanas and a mother sea lion and her wee pup (black triangle behind mom). The iguanas weren’t warm yet, and so still congregated as they had been through the night to share warmth. In truth, they are not social creatures.

Our walk took us to a cliff-side overlook with wheeling birds of several species, and crashing waves.

Blue-footed boobies on the ground and a tropicbird showing off its long tail in the air.

Our guide, Sofia, stopped us frequently to point out something or to discuss evolution, vegetation, geology, inter-island variation, and the like.

I particularly enjoyed the plumes of water of the breaking waves.

Blue-footed booby parent with two chicks.

Here, a pair of Galapagos albatrosses (Phoebastria irrorata) are desultorily attempting courting. They split up soon after.

Some places the vegetation was very dense. This is not dead, merely leafless in the dry season.

The marine iguanas festooned the rocks and sand above the water line…only a few were warm enough to be down in the water or by it feeding. The red patches remain on the females, but are fading as the mating season has ended.

Returning to the jetty, we watched this sea lion mom, the one we saw by the path earlier, moving the pup up from the water line, as the tide was coming in. It was squeaking some from being grabbed and dropped, although the mom was careful enough.

For lunch we were honored to have ceviche of pez brujo, or scorpionfish. It was the appetizer of an Ecuadorian meal that was spectacularly yummy. We had timbalitos for breakfast, a sweetened maize dough wrapped in banana leaves and steamed as you would tamales. The main protein dish was a choice of a roasted pork or a cazuela (bowl) of mixed seafood in a mashed green plantain soup to make a stew.

Here’s the ceviche. Phenomenal depth of flavor in the broth. Oh, and dessert was a scoop of blackberry ice cream, and a scoop of subtle mint ice cream, with a little hard sweet biscuit. Yummy, that Ecuadoran food!

After lunch, we had a bit of unstructured time, then met at three ready to load the pangas for another snorkeling expedition along a rocky cliff, so we could look down and at the wall, or cliff face below water. I saw many kinds of fish, one turtle on the bottom, and several sea lions came and played with us and around us: incredible. No photos. The we rebounded and changed into dry clothing to stroll this beach on our own. It’s supposed to be one of the most beautiful in the Galápagos. It certainly was beautiful.

That’s the Grace offshore. This sea lion was playing in the water when we spotted it, then we followed it as it carefully moved along the beach, on and on until I lost sight of it. I think it had been sleeping and its group had moved on, leaving him/her alone. It stayed among the breaking waves, scooting along in the surf over the sand and sometimes going far enough out to swim a short distance, then returning to the surf-breaking area. My theory is that out farther was too dangerous, a lone sea lion would be quite the mean for a roaming shark. I silently wished her/him luck in finding safety.

One more food shot. The extremely talented chef, Alejandro, and I have had several chats about my low-glycemic index diet, and he has been kind enough to make small alterations in the servings/dishes for me. He’s a young guy and oh so creative. This is a salmon taco appetizer, which he put on a lettuce leaf for me, rather than a traditional tortilla. He also put the red bean paste on the side as an option. It had the creamiest guacamole I’ve ever had.

No2 or No4

Depending on how you count we received shot number 4 (of all covid shots) or shot number 2 (of booster shots) today.

I understand the labs are reformulating the shots that will be available this autumn to take into account recent variants. That means I’ll have a shot number 5, probably before the end of the year.

Also, today was chili day! Actually chili day number 2, as we had the first round yesterday. But with guac not avocado chunks. Variation is the spice of chili, you know.

Busy day, in a good way

This morning’s walk became a walk to the sea…which was really this fine overlook, and not an actual walk to the water. And perfect, actually.

Then there was prolonged party prep, well, truly only a regular amount, and not taxing at all.

The most golden decorations were brought by dear friends of the guest of honor. We figure Seattle shops are out of 2s at this point, there are so many graduations this weekend.

Tasty and temperate

We had our first hyper-local produce today, as in, food from plants from the property. We added our mint and our chives to the (supermarket) salad.

Interesting striated cloud at the top of the photo. Plenty of sun despite the partial cloud cover; our sun porch reached a pleasant low 70s in the afternoon. Rain and mid-40s expected overnight, which is warmer than last night, which was clear and down in the low 30s. Well into the 90s down south, so we’re Very Happy to be here.

Habits

Humidity and impending rain created an atmosphere such that I couldn’t face pulling ivy and the mattock work I’ve been doing for two weeks, so I opted to walk. Still humid. Still rain pending (in 49 minutes, professed my watch—and it was right). I’ve been sparing my ever-so-sensitive knees by not pounding the pavement with a daily walk, so I turned tables and headed out for haunts I haven’t checked up on lately. Mucho progresso at the neighborhood firehouse, and I’m sure the fire-folk will love the upgrades.

And our new favorite summer evening menu: salmon salad. Like this. With lettuce and tomatoes and a drizzle of “balsamic glaze,” a TJ’s prep that is made with grape must, and is yummy (thank you, Cuz, for introducing me to it!), although it may not sound yummy.

In short, a day of changed habits.

No repeat

Trying to cut back on meat. This tofu baked with BBQ sauce was ho-hum, but passable.

Looking forward

Basil growing

Since we heard fireworks last night, and not at midnight, I suspect there’ll be a concert of them tonight. I already hear distant, strange pops, which I’m crediting to a build-up to the expensive midnight ones. These are “neighborhood” noises, and not sanctioned events.

I’ll be trimming this basil for our New Year’s casserole, which is a non-traditional black-eyed pea and greens dish that I’m making up. I’m hoping that because I’m using the “regular” New Year’s Day ingredients, it won’t diminish their good vibes for the coming year. The casserole will have many veggies with cream, cheese, and a dusting of bread crumbs.

New recipe

Grape layers

This was the easy one: no typical recipe details (e.g., teaspoons and whatnot) needed. Just halve grape tomatoes, skewer half, then skewer a piece of buffala mozzarella and a basil leaf, then add the other tomato half. Just before serving, drizzle with balsamic glaze (e.g., Trader Giotto’s).

Thanks to Cousin M for this….

Thirty-two

Goodies…from the closest we have in our neighborhood to a French bakery.