Maybe I should have titled this, “Birder True Confessions,” because I’m going to admit to some embarrassing things that happened on this trip. The first is that I sometimes get excited about birds that other people don’t. I wrote about one such occasion from my trip to Texas last winter, when my friend Rick was trying to show me a ringed kingfisher and I was more excited about a bunch of pelicans.
When I learned that I would have a chance to see flamingos in the Galápagos, I was really stoked. I bet most of my Ohio birder friends have seen flamingos already, but I hadn’t. This is because I’ve never been to Florida, believe it or not. Well, okay, I went to Ft. Lauderdale on spring break during college, but birds weren’t on my radar back then. And I’ve not been back to the Sunshine State since then, mostly because I’m afraid of birding where there are alligators. I know it’s an irrational fear, but what can I say? I imagine myself being distracted looking up at birds, and walking right into an alligator lurking in the vegetation along a trail. Don’t laugh, it could happen. But I hope to overcome that fear at some point and go birding down south.
So anyway, when the day finally came that we would have a chance to see flamingos, I was ready. I wore my flamingo t-shirt, the one I rarely wear at home because it seems so tacky. I don’t even know why I bought this shirt in the first place because it seems like something you’d get in a souvenir shop at the beach. But I had it, and I packed it for this trip, just for this day. And I’m so glad I did, because that’s the reason I can show you this picture:
It seems I have no shame, sigh. But boy, oh boy, was I happy to see those statuesque pink birds! I was soaked in sweat and physically quite uncomfortable, but you can’t tell that from this photo.
It would have been awesome to find a huge flock of these elegant-yet-comical birds, but I was still thrilled about finding eight of them in a small pond. It was tempting to play with the color saturation when I edited these photos, so I made this collage with the original photo in the middle, bookended between lower-saturation and higher-saturation versions. I like it.
Another funny story involved my first attempt at snorkeling. If you’ll recall from my pre-trip post, I was so excited about it — I was going to swim with sea lions and iguanas, right? Well, as it turned out…not so much. I went through the cumbersome and chaotic every-woman-for-herself process of getting fitted for all the snorkel gear on the first day we were on the ship: fins, wetsuit, and mask. On the second day, we were given our first opportunity to go snorkeling. We loaded all the gear into zodiacs and were dropped off on a beautiful red-sand beach. I asked the guide if he would be able to help me get started since it was going to be my first time. He said, “Of course!”
Well, he may have had every intention of helping me, but what actually happened was that people spread out all across the beach and the guides weren’t really anywhere near me when I went in the water. I managed to get my flippers on, and then put my mask on, and then turn myself over and put my face in the water. But within two seconds a wave hit me and my mask filled with water and I was up again. And I found out just then that I probably should have realized that I needed to make sure my mask was a tight fit on my face — which it clearly wasn’t.
I stood in the shallow water contemplating my next move: would I try to get the attention of one of the guides, or would I try again on my own? Just then I noticed an American oystercatcher running along the beach, and I knew what I was going to do. I was going to throw off those stupid flippers and take photos of this awesome bird! I had only seen my first oystercatcher the day before — life bird! — so I was still pretty geeked at seeing another one, especially at such close range.
This one was first racing the waves in and out of a small cave, but it eventually came out and walked up on the rocks, where it found a dried-up sea urchin to investigate. I watched it poking into the sea urchin, apparently finding some tasty morsels still tucked inside.
Check out this video of him:
So even though my attempt at snorkeling was an epic fail, all was not lost because I got to spend some quality time with a very special bird!
I think this may be my last post in the Galápagos series, at least for a while. Spring has sprung in Ohio, and I’ll be busy exploring the natural world closer to home for a few months. It’s finally dragonfly season! The first migratory green darners showed up here in Toledo a few days ago, and other non-migratory species will be crawling out of various bodies of water to emerge as winged insects in the coming weeks. I can’t wait!
I am a nerd, too, Kim. Several years ago my husband and I made a plan and booked a tour over a thousand miles south of the desert where we live, to the west coast of South Australia. I had always wanted to swim with wild dolphins. We had our wetsuits on, and masks and climbed down the ladder of the boat and into the water with the dolphins and some sea lions. Well, my mask was either defective or wrongly fitted or I was a totally hopeless snorkeler, a bit of all three I think. I just nearly choked to death the entire time. And then I needed to pee because the water was so cold. The guide said to just pee in the water but I couldn’t because I was so cold. Honestly I vacillated between misery and exuberance the entire time. We were so close to the dolphins, and one baby sea lion followed me along for a while and came right up and stared me in the eyes! Magic. But I will not do it again!!
Oh my gosh, I feel better knowing that sort of thing happens to other people. It all seems so easy when you watch experienced people doing it though, LOL.
I’ve really enjoyed your Galapagos stories and pictures! It’s very interesting to hear the viewpoint of another person on the same trip so I look forward to more stories. By the way, I spent the last few days birding in Myaka River State Park in Florida where there are 4500 alligators!!
Thanks, Daryl, glad you’ve enjoyed my version of the trip. I was going to write one more post summarizing my thoughts on the cruise ship experience, but it would have been mostly negative, so I probably won’t do that. I just wasn’t a fan of being in such a regimented environment. I will say, though, that I’ve developed a hankering for Grand Marnier margaritas since the trip…I wonder if you have any idea how that happened? 😉
I’ve just checked recent bird reports from Myakka River State Park and it looks like there are some pretty cool species there. Two that I really like are the roseate spoonbills and crested caracara, both of which I’ve only seen briefly and distantly before. I suppose I really need to get over my alligator phobia and head to Florida for some birding! Spring migration is really starting to kick into high gear here at Lake Erie…warblers are trickling in and the big waves of birds will arrive in the next couple of weeks. It’s my favorite time of year!
So you did not snorkel but got to see different birds that made you happy. I have been told that snorkeling is tricky to do anyway for some people. enjoyed your write up!
When life gives you lemons, make lemonade! Can’t snorkel? Go birding instead. 🙂
I think my favorite bloggers/friends are the ones who tell it all, and own their faux pas, which of course makes for the best storytelling! Kim, like you, I get sidetracked, and I’m lousy on planned trips or outings where one must be part of a group endeavor. I often see something way more appealing, and the next thing I know, I’m off on my own adventure, irritated that I can’t really stray from the group. This trip of yours is fascinating! And by the way… I LOVE DORKS!! 😀
Haha, Lori, we would have SO much fun together! I’m glad you like hearing stories about my screwups; I feel like those stories help other people realize that everybody does “stupid” things occasionally, and there’s no shame in talking about it. After all, we’re only human. 🙂
Love your Galapagos blogs
Ahhhh. It has been so much fun to relive this trip from a different perceptive. Thank you!
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Glad you enjoyed it…again. 🙂