Category Archives: Travel Journal

CBC The Homestretch: Brian Keating on Trumpeter Swans

This week on the CBC The Homestretch Brian talks about trumpeter swans and a satellite-tracked hawk.

http://www.cbc.ca/homestretch/columnists/wildlife/2015/05/04/brian-keating-on-trumpeter-swans/

Mike Russell & Mike Bloom Photo by Sylvain Bourdages April 2015-thumb-550x365-399440

Photo by Sylvan Bourdages

 

 

 

 

 

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Join Brian in the Galapagos Islands in 2016

Brian is back from his latest adventure in the Galapagos. Here’s a happy photo of his group in one of the most picturesque locations there, photographed with his iPad just two weeks ago. He has already organized the ship and guide for his return in 2016 to the “Enchanted Islands”, so if you want to join him, check out: http://www.civilizedadv.com/index.php/search/search-2/item/214-ecuador-quito-galapagos-brian-keating-2016
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Galapagos Journal: Our Final Day

Continued excerpts from Brian’s Galapagos journal: our final day
We welcomed our last sunrise from Mosquera Islet, a small spit of sand populated with sea lions. During breakfast back on the ship, our artistically creative guide, Carlos, added his final colourful touches to our species poster. Soon after, we were on our flight to the mainland. Back in Quito, we had day rooms to rest and relax at the Hosteria Rincon de Puemba, near the airport. That night we caught our flight back to Canada via Houston.  What an excellent trip it has been!
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Galapagos journal: North Seymore Island

Continued excerpts from Brian’s Galapagos journal: North Seymore Island
“The rains had not arrived until a month ago, being at least two months late, and many of the iguanas were then in dire condition. But now they were fat and active, feasting on the new green growth. We witnessed flower and leaf consumption, but the winning behaviour was a huge land iguana up on top of a cactus, over a meter high! The chance encounter allowed us to see him dislodge a cactus pad, which he followed with a remarkable exit from the cactus top, hitting the ground with a thud!  He pulled off a cactus bud, ate it with gusto, and then proceeded to paw off the spines so he could consume the entire pad!  In the 1920′s there were no land iguanas on Seymore.  Scientists took some from nearby Baltra Island at that time and released them here.  Later, in the 1940′s the US military moved to Baltra.  The boys with their toys killed all the land iguanas there, but the Seymore iguanas thrived.  After the US left the Galapagos, the iguanas were repatriated to Baltra, and now both islands have thriving land iguanas! Meanwhile, the cactus on Seymore had evolved in an iguana-free environment, and hence the cactus there has no evolutionary spine defence mechanism!  Hence, our fascinating feeding observation this morning!  After lunch, we took a chartered bus to the highlands.  14 giant tortoise were seen on the way, and many more once we began walking. To see these prehistoric relics in their natural habitat is a remarkable experience.”
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Galapagos journal: Santiago Island

Continued excerpts from Brian’s Galapagos journal: Santiago Island
“We were in the zodiacs at sunrise catch the coolest part of the day. Walking first to the end point of the loop trail at Egas Port, we then meandered slowly back along the beach. Collapsed lava tubes with natural rock bridges contained quiet sea water with several fur seals lolling in the water. We saw many healthy marine iguanas, but some were showing serious signs of starvation. Several had the spiny scales on their backs flopping over, ribs showing and heads resting on the rock.  Still others had succumbed, with mummified carcasses eerily perched in mid stride, some overlooking the ocean where they appeared to have given up and died.  It’s an El Niño year, and this is the first real signs we have witnessed of the effects.  The lack of the usual cold currents limits the growth of the iguanas food: the aquatic salt water algae. American oystercatchers patrolled the beach, the odd Great blue heron stood guard, and several endemic Lava herons fished successfully in the tidal pools.  After lunch we hiked in a forest of large incense trees at Espumilla Beach with its seasonal fresh water lagoon full.  The forest was rich and green, and the ground cover was thick and luxuriant, and the air rang with the songs of finches, mockingbirds and Yellow warblers. This extra rain is a positive spinoff of El Niño.”
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Galapagos journal: Genovesa Island

Continued excerpts from Brian’s Galapagos journal:  Genovesa Island
“We landed on the beach to a primordial scene of dozens of flying frigate birds and displaying males with their wings extended, pouches fully inflated and extraterrestrial-like vocalizations. We concluded the hike with a walk up a shallow flooding inlet watching several small stingrays working their way up with the rising tide. A Darwin Vampire finch landed on a cactus, only to be chased off by a Large ground finch.  Swallow-tailed gulls called and bowed to each other with their half grown chicks watching on.  Red-footed boobies mated. A baby sea lion swam up the inlet past the rays and puffers, eyeing us with some curiosity. It was naturalist’s playground indeed. We then ascended the 15 meters to the crater rim, and walked through a thick incense tree forest.  We found a Short-eared owl who had made a kill of a storm petrel. We watched as he swallowed one of the wings! A bonus was a waved albatross flying overhead!”
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Galapagos Journal: Bartolome Island

Continued excerpts from Brian’s Galapagos journal: Bartolome Island
“At noon we upped anchor and were off to Pinnacle Rock on Bartolome Island for our afternoon snorkel before ascending to the summit of the peak itself.  The snorkelling began with a sighting of penguins on the rocks! These are the most northern penguins in the world! They arrived sometime in the past via the Humbolt Current from the deep south.  The current brings in cold Antarctic nutrient rich waters, making this archipelago such a biological hotspot!   The fish and visibility were excellent, with a personal highlight of an excellent sighting of a tiger snake eel. In the evening, we witnessed a brand new hatching of baby sea turtles swimming by our ship one by one!  Using flashlights, we watched as the tiny optimistic little turtles swam!”  Note: Brian indicates that his penguin sighting and the snake eel will be featured in his upcoming City TV Breakfast video segment, to air in late May.
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Galapagos Journal: Floriana Island

Continued excerpts from Brian’s Galapagos journal: Floriana Island
“39 flamingos were counted on the lagoon, and a Yellow-crowned night heron was seen on the beach, patiently waiting for a ghost crab to appear out of his sand-hole hideaway! The beach had evidence of recent turtle activity and at least one was observed in the surf, no doubt approaching the beach to lay eggs tonight.  After dinner, in our quiet anchor in our own cove, no less than 12 large sharks and an equal number of sea lions were observed beside our boat!  And we actually witnessed several kills! The first was very dramatic with a flying fish attempting several aerial getaways! Finally a sea lion won out over the frenzy of shark and sea lion pursuits! When the ship began to move, the sea lions used the slipstream of the bow wave to keep with the moving boat with very little effort.  As each sea lion was successful with the catching of another flying fish, it dropped off until the only thing accompanying us was the Swallow-tailed gull, the world’s only Nocturnal gull!”

NOTE: Brian has been editing a City TV Breakfast Television segment that will include some of his shark encounters on this trip, (including a hammerhead), to air in late May. Stay tuned for the date & time, and the link to his segment!

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Galapagos Journal: Kicker Rock

Continued excerpts from Brian’s Galapagos journal: “Carlos’s wife, Australian-born Daniela Matheus-Holland, is a biologist who studies sea turtles. She joined our group for the first full day of expedition travel, snorkelling with us through the crack of ‘Kicker Rock’, a famous turtle watching site. Sure enough, at least a dozen Green sea turtles were encountered in the clear, warm water.  That evening, Daniela filled us in on her work, highlighting some of the successes and challenges. Using my iPad, I photographed Carlos, our guide, and Daniela, on the perfect beach, under an equally perfect equatorial sunset.”

 

NOTE: To hear details about Daniela’s turtle research, have a listen to Brian’s CBC report he did via satellite phone from the ship two weeks ago.

http://www.cbc.ca/homestretch/columnists/wildlife/2015/04/13/-listen-el-charrito-review-51/

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Galapagos Journal: Pureto Moreno

As promised, during the following days Brian will publish excerpts from his journal, written in the ‘internet free’ seascapes of the Galápagos Islands: Day 1: “Where else can you find the beach of a small island village filled with sea lions? So many, in fact, that the local community of Pureto Moreno had to build a fence to keep them out of the children’s playground!  This little town, located on San Cristobal Island, is the home base for Carlos Mosquera, my good friend and hired guide for the next 8 days. Our group arrived to a welcoming crew of the ‘Ocean Spray’, our catamaran home for the expedition. That first afternoon, Carlos took us for our first Zodiac landing and evening walk, with two sea lions on the dock to greet us! The expedition has begun!”
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