Thursday, February 24, 2011

Galapagos Reptiles and Crustaceans

During the visit I saw land and marine iguanas, sea turtles and land tortoises, and wonderfully colored Sally Lightfoot Crabs. Here are some samples of the special creatures of the Galapagos.

The final photo is of Lonesome George who now resides at the Charles Darwin Center. George is the last of his species. The tortoises of the Galapagos evolved over time until theywere quite distinct from island to island. During the couple hundred years humans have visited and inhabited the islands the tortoise population dropped dramatically. Animals were introduced that competed for food and ate eggs, and sailors caught the giant land tortoises and put them on their backs in the holds of the ships for future meat. A tortoise can last for months without food or water, and placed on their backs they could not escape. It meant fresh meat after months at sea.
On some islands the tortoises have short necks, on others their necks can stretch well above them to brouse on leaves of shrubs and trees. The shells, likewise, are adapted to the terrain, the need to stretch necks etc. In the case of George, he was the very last tortoise on his island when they decided to move him. Using DNA testing a couple of females from another island but with close DNA were placed in his pen. However, non of the eggs laid were fertile. Attempts continue but he isn't showing much interest.

marine iguanas above and Sally Lightfoot crabs moving across the rocks.

land iguana

marine iguana

The Galapagos Islands are part of a volcanic chain. Here is an example of rope lava which has split.

Lonesome George

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Otavalo Market Day

I've devoted two blog postings to the market in Otavalo. I could add another one of streets scenes, but I think the two entries will suffice. Saturday is the big day and the blog of Feb 22, labelled Market covers the livestock market and produce market. These scenes of the Plaza de Poncho were taken on both Saturday and Sunday. There is always some activity in this plaza, which highlights some of the crafts of the region. Textiles are especially important.

And between markets, we enjoyed meandering about town. AnaMaria and Ted spent a couple days in Otavalo and then returned home while I stayed on for a bit.

Each town has its own distinctive dress. If you are knowledgeable you can tell where people come from at a glance. There is considerable pride in dress, arts, and beautiful, clean towns.

Traditional dress is more common with women than men however. Some men continue to wear the long hair, poncho and hat. Otavalan women wear blouses with lacy sleeves and colorful embroidery. Initially I didn't see the woman working on the other side of the hanging rugs, but she waved and smiled to catch my attention. Note the embroidery on her bodice. I have zoomed in a bit in this version and she is more noticeable.

At first I stayed in a small hostal overlooking Plaza de Ponchos. AnaMaria and Ted opted for one a bit more upscale and further from downtown. My room was clean and basic, but I ended up moving as it was probably the noisest place I have ever stayed. The first night wasn't bad, but the third night I was ready to kill the owners dog who cried for long periods of time in a high pitched squeal. People running up and down the stairs wasn't much better.
But the dining room pictured here was part of the delightful new accomodations, three times the price but still, at under $40.00 a night, a bargain by US prices. It is called La Posada del Quinde, or Inn of the Hummingbirds. Quinde is a Quechan word. Meals here were excellent.

Galapagos Birds

Charles Darwin spent a mere five weeks in the Galapagos and during that time was more interested in the volcanic nature of the islands than its wildlife. But one of his assistants gathered specimen birds. Only later, as Darwin looked at these, did he realize that there were 14-15 different species of finches (actually today they are classified as tanagers, but the ones in the Galapagos are still called finches). Each island, with differing rain fall, vegetation, insects, seeds, etc had evolved a different "finch." The notable difference in these birds is the beak, each different to handle the different diet.

A number of sub-species of birds are found only in the Galapagos Islands. Some of the birds are slight variations on birds we know in North America, others from the southern hemisphere. A few take on characteristics which make them markedly different from the rest of their species.

The cormorants of the Galapagos are flightless. They feed in the waters bordering their islands and have no need to fly. Here one preens its feathers.

Below are photos of Galapagos Brown Pelicans. Although avid birders will note the differences from other Brown Pelicans, the bird is easily recognizeable as a pelican like the ones I knew growing up along the west coast. These days I am more accustomed to Yellowstone's White Pelicans.

We usually associate penquins with Antartica and very southern South America. The Galapagos Penquin, one of the smaller penquins, is the most northerly of all penquins. Like their cousins to the south, they do not fly, except that their speed underwater resembles flying. The cold Humboldt Current which reaches the Galapagos is the reason they can survive so close to the equator.

I loved watching Frigate above on the rocks and another in the air. The forked tail is an easy way to identify them in the air.

Blue-footed Boobies are one of the favorites of the Galapagos. I am not sure how the blue feet and bill figure into the natural selection scenario and how it helps the bird in its adaptation, but the feet are a blue color seldom seen in the animal kingdom

Below are a couple of examples of the volcanic nature of the islands.

A lava tube leads under this area forming a blow hole.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Market Day

Saturday is market day in Otavalo, a largely indigenous city north of Quito. Every day there is activity in the Plaza de Ponchos, but on Saturdays it spills onto neighboring streets. Likewise the produce market, several blocks away has some activity each day with Saturday being the big day. But only on Saturdays does the large open area across the highway fill with livestock.

It was a grey, often drizzly day the Saturday I attended. It was hard to photograph in the poor lighting and with issues of keeping water spots off the lens, but here are a handful of photos to give you an idea of the activity.

Pigs, chickens, llamas, ducks, cows, rabbits and guinea pigs are part of the array. Yes, guinea pigs are eaten in this part of the world, no they don't taste like chicken, and yes, I ate guinea pig. The name is apt as I would describe the meat as more pork like than any other meat I can think of.

The scene immediately above,left, is the lovely road and bridge leading into town from the livestock market and the photo at the far right, bottom is from the produce market which is in another location but going on at the same time.