Tag Archives: Heron

Bears repeating

Wednesday 24 August 2022 – I am sitting in the middle of a rowdy quiz, and, remarkably, no-one has objected to the fact that I’m clearly sitting with an internet-connected computer. That I have not been mobbed or ejected is testament to the generally good nature of what is normally a very divisive entertainment. Would that the UK, or even world, politics were so genial.

We didn’t cheat, by the way.  If we had, we’d have won, and we didn’t.

Rather than cheating, I have been using my computer to process the photos Jane and I took today.  We took a lot of photos, mainly because the day was a belter.  Lots of the photos were rubbish, many of them were duplicates, but some of them were worth showing you, so please read on to see what we saw.

The plan for the day was to see grizzly bears.  To be honest, at first, I was worried that the visibility might restrict what we could see;

it’s easy to understand, looking at this, why float plane pilots are reluctant to fly in under these conditions.

We needed to leave promptly because, under the regulations governing the area, we had a two-hour slot at Knight Inlet when we were allowed to “go huntin’ bear”; but that time slot started at 9am, and we had a 55km journey to get there.  We had two guides with us – Darryl, who also drove the boat(s), and Ria, who passed the two-hour journey by giving us some interesting nuggets about the bears as we made our way. We took a fast boat for the first part of the journey and the plan was to transfer to a RIB for a more discreet and flexible approach to stalking the bears.

The journey was leavened by spotting some Orcas, so we paused a bit to watch them and to try to take some photos.  It’s lovely to see these beasts, but let me show you what it’s like to photograph them.  Those of you who have bothered to read my angst-ridden post about photography choices – I hope that’s everybody? – will know that I purchased a longish telephoto lens for the purpose of capturing wildlife images on this trip.  Here is an example of what I could see through my nice, newly-purchased lens.

We could hear the Orca and we could see it; but respect for the species says we didn’t try to approach it, so this demonstrates that getting dramatic images of whales relies hugely on luck.  We did OK in Victoria, when the whales approached us; today, less so.

Our journey took us past the Knight Inlet Lodge, one of only four places with a licence to go blundering about looking for wildlife in these parts.

and shortly after, we got to see Our First Bear. This is a photo that Jane took and, again, it gives a good idea about the protocol of approaching wild grizzlies.

The next couple of hours were spent very carefully and quietly following this bear as it worked its way along the inlet, eating the sedge grass which grows in profusion here and is an important part of the bears’ diet.  We were not alone.

Eventually with Ria and Darryl jumping into the water and pulling our RIB along, we got a really close view of this bear.

(the above, by the way, taken on my mobile phone, which, though not perfect, shows how good they are these days).

There’s a good information-sharing ethos among the various lodges that work these waters, and so we got an alert that a female was visible a little further back in the inlet, with one of her young – not a cub, but, in bear terms, a teenager.  So we gently retraced our steps and saw the two of them apparently companionably wandering along munching sedge,

Elated with a very successful morning of bear spotting, we left the inlet and a lunch break, when it became clear that the weather was improving.

We had another allocated slot so headed back into the inlet, when a higher tide made it possible to seek out a female and two cubs which we heard over the radio were around.  And they were there, but it was difficult to catch sight of them

so I passed the time taking photos of the increasingly lovely view back the way we’d come.

Eventually, common sense prevailed and we decided to head homewards and got back to the Big Boat for the journey home.  The clear conditions made it easy to see where we made the transition from river water to glacial meltwater.

(the above included simply because of the single puff in an otherwise cloudless sky).

We (well, they; my eyesight isn’t up to this, these days) spotted more Orcas; there were several active, and some even breached, apparently; sadly, I didn’t see this and, once again they were largely distant.

We stopped for a tea break near one of the other lodges that operate hereabouts. The weather by the stage was lovely, so I insisted on a team photo.

(Darryl is in the ln light green top; Ria is on the right.)

We had the excitement of a float plane arrival at the lodge

and we discovered that the disused site nearby was once (in the good ol’ logging days) a pub and brothel.

We then headed back to Farewell Harbour Lodge, past a couple of white sand beaches created from the crushed remains of shellfish and the site of a couple of First Nation homesteads

and some pictograms which date from the mid 18th century, as First Nation Indians made drawings of their first encounters with European culture, using salmon egg oil and red ochre for the red colouring in painting galleons and horse carts.

Shortly thereafter, we were back and it was Time For The Bar, I Think, but not before I’d whizzed up my drone to take another shot or two of the lodge.


We had another delicious evening meal and were joined by a delightful Danish couple, Philina and Søren. who, like us, had had a great day watching the local wildlife .  Then it was time for The Quiz, which was riotous fun even though we didn’t win, and now I sit alone in the lounge writing about the great day we’ve had because every other bugger has gone to bed in preparation for another adventure tomorrow.  The plan as it stands is for us to take a short hike to a waterfall, where we should see salmon and we might see bear.  We’re hoping for another exciting day; come back and find out how it went, won’t you?

Galapagos 2 (Monday): Booby Booby Do

2nd April 2018

I’ve mentioned before that we got chatting in one of our various check-in queues, to a nice Australian couple. Their Galapagos experience included one lady passenger who steadfastly refused to leave the boat to go to see the wildlife, or swim, or do anything. It’s possible that this might have been a reaction to the slave-driving that goes on on the Galapagos boats – up early, quick breakfast and then off on the day’s activities, which run steadily through the day until dinner. Any illusion that you’re on a holiday can quickly be lost. One chap on Origin declared it to be a “boot camp”, though I suppose “boat camp” might be better.

Actually, of course, one is on holiday, and so you can decide not to join in on things if you don’t want; and on the first full day I decided to pass on the snorkelling excursion that followed the morning hike (Jane had more courage than me, and decided to go for it).

But the morning hike itself, at Punta Pitt on the north side of San Cristobal Island, was an enjoyable excursion, albeit after a night of limited sleep. (If I have one complaint about the Origin it is that the cabins are very noisy, as they are on the level just above the engines, and this made sleeping difficult this first night.) The excursion was described as having a “wet” landing, which means jumping off the RIB near the shore and hoping like hell that the water’s not too deep – particularly if wearing a backpack with expensive camera gear in it. Actually, the Origin crew managed it well; no-one drowned, and, more importantly, my cameras survived the experience. After a few minutes on the beach of desanding feet and putting on walking boots, we were off, in search of the Red-Footed Booby – San Cristobal Island is one of only two open to tourists where these can be seen. There are three sorts of booby in the Galapagos – blue-footed, red-footed and nazca. Red-footed are actually the most numerous, but blue-footed are more commonly seen.

The hike started off with a bit of a scramble up a rocky path

and it soon became apparent that oportunities to photograph blue-footed boobies would be manifold. They were, frankly, everywhere, including in some cases, nesting on the track we were supposed to follow, so we had to detour around them.

This is how difficult it is to photograph blue-footed boobies:

That said, we were lucky because we were there in their mating season and so could see some of the characteristics of that. The males reserve a nest site by basically creating a circle of droppings, inside which they court females.

The courting ritual involves prancing and dancing

and, if a successful match is made, up to three eggs might be laid.

The male and female take turns to keep the eggs at just the right temperature – 39°C. If too hot, they stand and cool down, sometimes doing a particular panting action to cool themselves.

If all goes well, and food is plentiful, then the chicks hatch. This nest was unusual in that all three chicks have survived, indicating pentiful food.

And now the parents have a job to do to get enough food to feed a growing family.

We eventually reached the point of the island where there is a colony of red-footed boobies. These are more difficult to photograph, as they are the only booby species that is able to nest in trees.

but we saw a few, and also some chicks.

We weren’t limited to boobies, though. There was an immature yellow-crowned night heron

several lava lizards

and many, many Frigate birds, cruising around looking for food to steal.

It was a good introduction to the pattern of our excursions’ activities and the wildlife of the islands.

The relentless stream of activities continued for the rest of the day, with opportunities for further snorkelling, and also kayaking, an activity accompanied by a ride in the RIBs, by the cliffs of San Cristobal island at Cerro Brujo (“the witch’s hill”). So there was an opportunity for some nice photos of people kayaking

And a nice view of a rock formation that (from some angles) looks like a boot, so is called Kicker Rock.

I didn’t snorkel – these blogs don’t write themselves, y’know – but Jane did, and reported that the water visibility was better, dammit. After that, we had a chance for a walk on a beach, so took up on that, as it required nothing more complicated then water shoes. And I’m very glad we did, as it got us some more booby action.

Near the shore at Cerro Brujo, the boobies were fishing, which was a wonderful thing to watch. I’m going to create some kind of animation from photos I collected, so watch this space. For now here is a handful of stills to give you an idea.

A heron was quite obviously awestruck by their skill.

Even the sealions took a peek.

All in all, this was an agreeable way to end the day’s activities and it nicely set up the first G&T when back on board. The challenge of the next days is clearly going to be simply that of standing the pace.

Here’s how day 3 went.