Sunday, February 18, 2018

Another trip to Isla Isabelz

I just got back from another trip out to Isla Isabel, and it was probably the best trip I've done out there. To start, we took off from Punta Mita in the afternoon, with little wind and smooth seas, and suddenly there were tons of whales all over, and a bunch of dolphins, so I stopped the boat and went for a swim. They didn't show themselves to me, but I could hear the dolphins clicking at me, checking me out. I got back aboard and soon after we saw a marlin jumping, followed by a school of something big (maybe Tuna) and a flock of the same Black Noddy that I saw one before of at Roca Corbetena. They flew around and tried to snatch the fish the tuna (suspected tunas) were eating. I couldn't manage to convince the big fish to bite a lure of mine, however. Sunset followed shortly, and I missed my chance to get more photos of the Noddies, and we headed north into the darkness. It was a pleasant night with lots of stars and pretty smooth, and we got in the next morning without any fuss, to Isla Isabel. First off we jumped in and swam over to a group of Bigeye Jacks that lives in an archway underwater, and there is more to that family than I've ever seen before. They swarmed around me and it was very cool. Some of them are quite big. We did tons of snorkeling but the visibilty was never better than about 40 ft, mostly around 20.

 The Blue-footed Boobies were nesting and mating and we got lots of looks at them. I learned that the male birds whistle and the females honk. I also have been trying to figure out why some have dark around their eyes and others do not. Other than that, they look very similar. In the lower photo, however, look at the pupil of the two boobies and see if you can see one is smaller than the other. In fact, they are both about the same, but one has more black on the inside of the iris, and the pupil is circular, just hidden by the black iris.

We found a few nesting Tropic Birds and looked carefully at them, one was out hunting still and we found the baby "fluff nuggett" waiting for mama to come back.

 Probably the cutest bird on the island, and shortly afterward we saw the most ugly of all birds on the islands. Pelican Babies. They are like little house-elves, all wrinkled and nasty and wierd. 

 I got maybe the most unflattering shot of one with zits on its neck and wrinkles and an eyelid half closed. Or a nictitating membrane. 
 The adults are quite handsome however.
 I got a few nice shots from aloft with the kite of the southern cove and the west side of the island. Its hard to get the kite high enough to cover the whole island.

Also we were diving on the west side, where its a big drop off, and suddenly there were some Giant Manta Rays flying under us! I dove down and got some video, and here are some stills. This one was about 15 ft across I think, it was the biggest one I've seen close up. It waited for me to ride it, but I didn't have the guts.

 After 5 days out at Isla Isabel we sailed down to San Blas, and I managed to scrape through the channel and get in to the estuary at a -0.6 tide, though I touched the bottom a little. The bugs weren't too bad, but we went up to the fort to look around and got attacked by a lot of mosquitoes, and I don't know why they are only up there, but they are quick and the bites don't go away quickly. Still, I found a Russet Crowned Motmot up there and I got a nice shot of the old church.
Here is the Motmot, look carefully in the middle.

 As we returned to Bandaras Bay we saw a dead Dolphin wrapped in fishing gear. I can never really support commercial fishing because of sights like this. Also I prefer to eat my own fish I catch.
And lot of whales the whole trip. This one is a nice little breacher we sailed by.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Monkey Mountain, and the Vallarta Botanical Gardens

 I hiked up Monkey Mountain the other day, with my friend Jonny leading the way (pictured in the right) and his two friends from Vallarta.  Its a great view around the bay, and I've seen it for years and years but never gone up, but now I know the way.  It was a clear day with good visibility and the evening slant on the sun warmed our hearts and eyes with glory of the coming evening.
 Here is a view looking into the sun of the point of Punta Mita, where the surf break El Faro is.  I really like surfing this break, and you can see the wave sliding along the side of the point.  Sometimes I've surfed from the point all the way to the pier.
 A few days later, my dad arrived, and we did a trip all around Bandaras Bay, from La Cruz to Quimixto, then to Yelapa, then to Corrales.  Here is a map:
You can see some of the places on the south side of the bay, but not the north side, sorry.  This whole area is mountainous and full of rivers and green.   I didn't take my camera ashore because it is not protected from the waves (and there were many waves) but it was very nice.  At Quimixto there is a very steep surfing wave, a tube that barrels left and is shallow and fast.  I surfed a little bit there before going to sleep that evening we got in.
Corrales is a small town that is near an open anchorage that offers little protection from the wind and waves, but there was no other white tourists there.  It was just my father and I.  They had a little carpenter shop on the beach and he was cutting up some nice wood he'd got from up in the mountains and so my dad wanted to take a closer look.   He offered a piece of scrap for us to take home and my dad was delighted.

Then we sailed back.  It was a long and arduous journey, because the wind was against us and strong, and there were sizable waves that hindered our progress, but after a long day we got into La Cruz again, and then spent the next few days driving around looking at things.
We went to San Pancho, a town to the north, with a river and estuary, and found some nice looking birds:
 Here is a Northern Jacana, and a plover of some kind, it might be a killdeer.
 And then further up the mountains we found this Lineated Woodpecker.
 And at the botanical gardens we found lots of colorful characters, including this one, a Yellow winged Cacique
 and this robin, a Rufous Backed Robin perhaps?
 Then there were a lot of cool plants that I'll leave for Abe to identify for y'all.

 And a Chachala, which I really like these ones, since they look like little dinosaurs.

 And I like these ones, a Purplish Backed Jay.

 The robin again...
 And a grosbeak of some kind...?
 And this little woodpecker was always a delight to see winging around, its a Golden Fronted Woodpecker, I think.
And then on our last full day we went to a Cocodrillario, or a crocodile viewing area.  At this one, they have several kinds of animals there and they only do tours, so you can't just wander around.  Our tour guide brought us into the cage with the beast!  In fact, she was very adamant about how peaceful and safe crocodiles are, and that we shouldn't be afraid of them, but respect certain rules about how close to come.  First of all, don't get in the water.  Then stay about 30 ft away from wild crocs while on land and with these ones, which are used to people, about 10 ft.  The crocs are not very fast on land (she said) and I think that she was also careful to keep us away from the front of the croc, because I think they can't turn very quick. 

 I asked about if my wearing of my plastic shoes (crocs) would disturb the animals, but she assured me that they wouldn't be bothered.  In fact, most of the crocodiles we saw were unable to be released to the wild.  A few were captured by firemen and were blind or partially blind, so they took them in.  I believe they rehabilitate some and release them back into the wild as well.
 They had these little turtles, but they are an invasive species.  I've seen a lot of them in La Paz, at the Serpentarium there.  People tend to buy this kind in the pet store, then release it and they ruin the wild populations of a different turtle, so the folks here (and in La Paz) capture them and/or take them in from people who don't want them, and keep them out of the wild. 
 Our second Croc that managed to escape the Crock-Pot (our guide didn't really fully appreciate this kind of humor, since she wasn't a native english speaker) was fully blind and we got a look at the front of this one, with the mouth that has a fully sealed back to it.  They have to lift their heads out of the water to swallow as a result of this feature, but they can stay under for a long time without drinking any water.  I think this results in better flow through the mouth and less bacteria in the mouth.  I didn't find any cavities when I looked (carefully) at two skulls they had on display.  Its surprising, because on pretty much any other skull I've looked at, I've found dental decay.
 They had a Macaw, but I'm not sure if its a green or which kind.  I saw two large Macaw kind of birds in Yelapa as last week.
 The lurking eye.  This was the biggest croc they had and they dropped in a piece of chicken for him to eat, and it was impressive. 
 Here is a native turtle.  They look very similar to me, but the invasive have red cheeks and this kind does not.  Look at the eyes, and look again at the pupil from the crocodile.  I think its really interesting that you have a horizontal slit in the turtle (which I've never seen elsewhere) and a vertical slit in a fellow reptile.  And in Cats, which are totally different, being mammals.  So independently evolved.  I think Tigers have round pupils too, so that adds to the mystery.
So what good is a vertical pupil?  It has great resolution on the horizontal plane, so being close to the ground or being just barely above the water, being next to a flat surface means you mostly care about looking side to side, not up.  If that matters, then having a vertical slit means you can have a easily dilated pupil (less complex than a round one) and get good resolution sideways, and have gigantic aperture range (the size of the hole light goes through)  So this guy probably has great night vision and decent day vision and can't tell very easily if something is tall and skinny what it is, or what the difference between top and bottom is. 
Looking at this guy again, he doesn't actually have a horizontal slit, but just a dark part of the iris and a round pupil.  I think I'm going to investigate this a little more.