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Stephen Ingraham
Christian, birder, photographer, blogger...
Christian, birder, photographer, blogger...

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April 24
We have had a couple of unseasonably warm
weeks here in Southern Maine already this
spring...but you would never know it from
the woods. The Hobble-bush, always first
to bloom, is barely in bud, and the only sign
of returning life is a single Spring Azure,
flitting bright and blue against the browns
of fallen oak leaves. It just goes to show,
it is still all about the length of days and
the angle of the sun. Kind of the half
opposite of Plancks Constant...some things
change to little and too slow for us to know. 

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Classic Galápagos Islands scene. Espanola Island, Ecuador. In-camera HDR. Sony Rx10iii. Processed in Polarr on my iPad Pro.

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Swallow-tailed Gull
The Swallow-tailed Gull is the most common gull on the Galápagos Islands, or at least was the one we saw most often on our Wildside Nature Tours Galapagos Adventure, and it is also, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful of gulls. So, okay, if you are familiar with gulls at all, you may not think that is a high most people think of gulls as being more annoying than beautiful, but none the less, I think the Swallow-tailed Gull is a beautiful bird. It has the accents, red and white, in all the right places and a pleasing range of gray tones. And it is, as gulls go, an elegantly shaped bird, not hulking like Great Black-backed or Herring, or squat like a Ring-billed...but, well, well proportioned and elegant. On the Galapagos it is also completely unafraid of mankind. You have to walk around them on the lava trails of the islands, and on any dock.

The panel above illustrates several features. You have the mated pair, the sleeping bird showing its "false eye" which gives preditors the impression that the bird never sleeps, its minimal nest, and its habit of posing on top of rocks.

Sony Rx10iii at mostly 600mm equivalent (the mated pair is a wilde angle shot, as I did have to walk around them in the trail). Program Mode. Processed in Polarr and assembled in FrameMagic on my iPad Pro. 

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April 23
I stood in the quiet wood and watched
as a murder of crows gathered above me,
2 dozen or more in the end, coming in mostly
silent to sit high in the trees without apparent
motive. I looked for any potential predator...
hawk or owl, or even fox, but came slowly
to the reluctant realization that it must be me,
standing silent in the silent wood looking at
nothing in particular, that had attracted their
attention. I moved on, and left the crows
to draw their own muderous conclusions. 

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"If your eye is generous, your whole being is full of light!" Jesus

Wherever we went ashore along the Amazon there were children. At one village, the Wildside Nature Tours Amazon River Boat Adventure had pre-arranged a meal for us: native foods cooked and served native style in a native home...and a visit to the school. School was not in session when we visited (it was school vacation), but the teacher gathered the children of the village to sing for us. They were proud to be able to sing in their native language (or at least the teachers and our native guides were proud for them). A great effort is underway to teach the children of the Amazon their ancestral languages before they are completely replaced by Spanish. They don't have, or they did not know, any native songs. They sang Ferajaka in translation and a happy Spanish greeting song that involved a lot of clapping and jumping (and our help on the refrain). We had come prepared with soccer balls and frisbees, crayons and colored pencils, pens and notebooks as gifts to the school and the children, and we passed them out as the visit went on. I am not sure if any of the other eco-tours in the Amazon do this kind of thing, but it is something Wildside always does. It is in the itinerary, along with advice on what to bring, and we made a special stop at a variety store once we landed in Iquitos for those who did not, or were not able to, pack supplies in their luggage.

It was a touching experience...for me, a bit bittersweet. The children were the same as children anywhere, though they were remarkably well behaved for their visitors, compared to my experience (I was a teacher for 20 years) of children in a similar situations in the US. Bittersweet, because, of course, we were just there one day. The school supplies might last them well into the new school year (I suspect the teachers gathered them from the individual children we gave them too as soon as we left...I certainly would have), but other than giving them a chance to perform their songs, and spending some money with the Amazon craft vendors that were gathered (they were everywhere we went ashore), and paying for the meal and its preparation...all of which undoubtedly benefited the village...we had no real impact on their lives.

Bittersweet because many of the children we saw along the river will flee to the city as soon as they can...going from healthy poverty along the river, to a scratch and sniff, catch as catch can, and decidedly unhealthy poverty in the floating city in Iquitos. A few will make it from the floating city to the city proper, and a few of those, like our guides, will get an education that allows them a more affluent life. But even our guides had a deep nostalgia for the old life along the Amazon. And, of course, they had returned to river as much as is possible for an educated Peruvian.

Still, I truly appreciate the opportunity to meet the children of the Amazon. It would not have been the same trip without our time in the village. And I admire Wildside for including it in the itinerary and preparing us for it.

It is totally possible to over-think and over-moralize an experience like that...and I am in danger of doing so. Such experiences challenge the self that still is wrapped around the generous eye of Christ, and makes me aware of how far I have to go toward true generosity...toward being totally full of light. That is not a bad thing, but is certainly bittersweet.

My your eye be generous in all you see today...and may life always be more sweet than bitter. Happy Sunday!


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Galapagos sunrise. Our second day in the Galapagos. Anchored off Floreana Island. Sony in-camera HDR. Processed in Polarr on my iPad Pro. 

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Marine Iguanas, Espanola Island, Galapagos
All the wildlife I saw on the Galapagos in my Wildside Nature Tours Wildlife and Photo Adventure was completely unafraid of humans. On our first full day, we visited Espanola, a low, slanting, lava table with a large nesting colony of Nacza Boobies and other sea birds. And Marine Iguanas. Lots of Marine Iguanas. Often Marine Iguanas in the trail, where we had to climb around them. Always Marine Iguanas beside the trail. In breeding season, the males develop some interesting colors, though they mostly back or dark grey, which helps these cold-blooded animals to warm themselves in the sun when they are out of the water. They spend most of the day warming themselves. The waters around the Galapagos are cold, and Iguanas feed on algae beds deep under water. A single dive can require several hours of recovery in the sun. Of course...they may just enjoy baking in the hot equatorial sun.

They sneeze a lot...and their heads are often encrusted with salt from the glands there that excrete the salt from the sea water they drink while feeding. They are big, they grow as big as the food supply allows...and Espanola has some really big Marine Iguanas.

Sony Rx10iii, mostly at various focal lengths. Program Mode. Processed in Polarr and assembled in FrameMagic on my iPad Pro.


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April 22
Earth Day. Sometimes I think of this
earth we live on as a tiny egg suspended
in the womb of the universe...fertilized
and growing, developing life, somewhere
in gestation, moving toward birth. I
am not certain what will born, but I
suspect, as many of our wisest and
most surrendered have always said,
that it is devine...a child of the very
creative life that forms, informs, lives
and breathes the universe as a whole...
of the spirit that is the motive, the
living love, that moves all that is into being.
And I, just a cell, but a cell, containing,
as all cells do, the complete pattern, the
blueprint, the code of it out
my little span of the total term until
the day of birth, the birthday. And so
we celebrate this Earth Day, more
or less aware of the wonder we are anticipation, in hope. 

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Galapagos Mockingbirds. I missed two. 1 and 2 are San Cristobal or Chatham Mockingbirds from San Cristobal Island. 3, 4, and 5 are Hood or Espanola Mockingbirds from Espanola. 6, 7, and 8 are Galapagos Mockingbirds from South Plaza...Galapagos Mockingbird is found on most of the central islands. I would have trouble distinguishing San Cristobal and Galapagos if they occurred on the same island. The Hood is stand-out bird: look at that bill! I was indisposed when the pandas went out to cruise around Champion Island to find the Charles Mockingbird. It would have been a from the boat shot only researchers are allowed on Champion. 

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The harbor at San Cristobal Island, the Galapagos, Ecuador at after sunset. In-camera HDR. Sony Rx10iii. Processed in Polarr on my iPad Pro. 
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