Blue Feet

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This week’s photo, taken October 8, 2017 on San Cristobal Island, Galapagos, Ecuador, features a BLUE-FOOTED BOOBY and its chick, which hopes to grow up some day to also have blue feet.

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Patience

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This week’s photo, taken October 5, 2017 at the Puerto Ayora fish market on Santa Cruz Island in the Galapagos, Ecuador, features 4 BROWN PELICANS patiently waiting for some scraps of fish to be tossed their way. They didn’t have to wait long.

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Chestnut Crown

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This week’s photo, taken October 8, 2017 on San Cristobal Island in the Galapagos, Ecuador, features a MANGROVE YELLOW WARBLER, a common bird in the Galapagos that is a subspecies of Yellow Warbler, a common warbler of the United States and Canada. The “Mangrove” subspecies that resides year-round in the Caribbean and Central and South America often has a chestnut-colored crown (as in this photo), and sometimes the entire head is dipped in chestnut.

In 2009 a Mangrove Yellow Warbler with an entirely chestnut-colored head was discovered next to a freeway in an industrial area of San Diego, California. On the day that I showed up to see this extremely rare visitor, it was causing so much excitement in the San Diego birding community that the police showed up to determine why so many people were gathering in that area.

Bird cards, phone cases and prints: http://joe-sweeney.fineartamerica.com

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Catching a Wave

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This week’s photo, taken October 4, 2017 on Espanola Island in the Galapagos, Ecuador, features a WAVED ALBATROSS. Nearly the entire world population of this species breeds on this one island in the Galapagos.

Naturally, if you travel all the way to Peru to visit Machu Picchu, you might as well spend an additional week on a boat cruising a few islands in the Galapagos in the neighboring country of Ecuador. We spent 8 days on the Majestic yacht, bird-watching, snorkeling, hiking and eating on a daily basis. A tough assignment, but someone had to do it.

The wildlife of the Galapagos is famous for having little or no fear of humans. Therefore, I left my telephoto lens at home and took all photos on this trip with a tiny Canon Powershot SX620 camera.

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Blue Eye Rings

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This week’s photo, taken September 29, 2017 in Aguas Calientes, Peru, features a BLUE-NAPED CHLOROPHONIA.

If you are bird-watching for the first time in a far away country, you are bound to see birds you’ve never seen before, and you might also encounter some you’ve never heard of – like a Chlorophonia. What the heck is that? It sounds like a condition.

“Doctor, what do I have?”

“You have Chlorophonia.”

“Oh no, that sounds really bad.”

“Don’t worry, it’s not serious; however, eventually you will develop blue rings around your eyes.”

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National Bird of Peru

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This week’s photo, taken September 29, 2017 near Machu Picchu in Aguas Calientes, Peru, features a female ANDEAN COCK-OF-THE-ROCK, the national bird of Peru. Considering there are over 1800 bird species in Peru, that’s quite a noteworthy distinction.

My most wanted bird during my recent trip to Peru was the uniquely stunning Andean Cock-of-the-Rock. During our last morning in Aguas Calientes, I stood in a forested area where – according to the locals – a Cock-of-the-Rock shows up about every other day. At one point, I got glimpses of one, and I frantically tried to follow it on foot as it moved about in the tree tops.

Although I got in a decent workout trying to keep up with my target bird, I failed to capture even a lousy out-of-focus or blurry image of Peru’s national avian treasure. I had mixed feeling about the sighting, since my attitude while birding is usually: if I don’t get a photo, then I haven’t seen the bird.

I returned to my post and glanced at my watch. We had a train to catch soon, so I would need to return to the hotel in about 15 minutes. The Cock-of-the-Rock re-appeared 10 minutes later, flew towards me and landed on a branch 20 feet away – in plain view AND at eye level! I got some photos, and I got to the train on time.

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The Eyes Have It

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Let’s take one more look at the ultra-rare SWALLOW-TAILED GULL that showed up near Seattle, Washington 3 weeks ago, far from where it’s usually found in the Galapagos in Ecuador.

This week’s photo, taken September 4, 2017 at Point Wells, near Edmonds, WA, shows the nocturnal gull with its eyes closed. As the photo above indicates, when it closes its eyes, a “false eye” appears below each actual eye. Does that false eye fool potential predators into thinking that this gull actually has its eyes opened and therefore, is not an easy target? Although I haven’t been able to verify that this theory is correct, it makes sense to me. If it is true, what an amazing adaptation utilized by this remarkable bird!

The gull hasn’t been seen in over a week, but people are still looking for it. Stay tuned.

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