Saturday, November 29, 2008

Mexico, Day 5 - 12 Nov 2008

Puerto Vallarte! We put into port this morning around 7am. Since we were tendering ashore we’d have a good hour and a half before we’d leave the boat. As the ship put into port the churning waters stirred lots of sediment, and as a result, brought in the Magnificent Frigatebirds, Blue-footed Boobies, and Brown Boobies.

I had great lighting for photographing the half-dozen Frigatebirds that soared and fished next to the ship. When I wasn’t photographing the Frigatebirds, I was watching the immature Brown Boobies that were flying and fishing in the shallow waters. Across the bay and along the shoreline I was scoping a flock of Semipalmated Plovers and Willets roosting in the sand. The mountains in the distance were providing thermals for soaring Black and Turkey Vultures and Brown Pelicans. A military post was below us to our right, and the woodlands beyond the fences hosted hundreds of roosting vultures, White Ibis and Cattle Egrets. I also scoped several Tropical Kingbirds and Great Kiskadees that roosted along the pier.

We boarded our tender and took it to shore, where we waited for our tour to begin. We’d be taking a boat ride to a conservation area where we’d get to swim with Sea Lions. As we waited I spotted a Tropical Kingbird roosting on one of the light towers and managed a few photos from below. A Great-tailed Grackle was singing in the tree where our tour gathered, and as we walked to the boat I spotted several White-collared Seedeaters feeding in the lawn.

As the boat headed along the shoreline we watched dozens of Blue-footed Boobies soaring and diving several hundred yards out from shore. I managed a couple of dive sequences, but at a great distance. Still, the photos were good enough for me to positively ID the birds.

We made another boat transfer and took a short ride to the conservation center, which housed dolphins and sea lions. Part of our group went to swim with dolphins, while six of us got to swim with Mahina, the South American Sea Lion. It was real treat getting to jump into the pool with the 300 kg animal that made faces on command, did somersaults over us, and puts its flipper around us while we posed for pictures.

After a buffet lunch we had about an hour before our boat would return, so I ran out back to bird the fields. One large tree held roosting Yellow-winged Caciques, several Audubon’s Yellow-rumped Warblers, a Great Kiskadee, and a Gila Woodpecker that gave me fits trying to get a photo. Returning to restaurant area I spotted a female Seedeater sp. and took several pics as it fed just a few feet away. Unless the males are around its almost impossible to identify what kind of seedeater it is. Overhead a small flock of Gray-breasted Martins were chasing each other and feeding on insects. I also took the opportunity to photograph a Mexican House Sparrow and several Great-tailed Grackles.

While we boarded the boat to, leave the conservation center I spotted a Gray Hawk flying across the lagoon and landing in the mangroves. Several Brown Pelicans and Yellow-crowned Night Herons were also roosting in the trees. A Belted Kingfisher was roosting on a nearby pier, and as I photographed it a Whimbrel flew by. When the boat dropped us off at our first stop I spotted a Yellow-crowned Night Heron feeding in the shadows. Out in the thick vegetation along the lagoon I spotted a giant Iguana slowly making its way into the open. We watched one of the conservation boats transporting a sea lion head out into the lagoon and let it out of its cage for a short swim.

As we returned to the ship I had a Blue-footed Booby come out of nowhere and dive right next to the boat. I had to settle for a few pics as it flew away.

Once back on the ship I put the camera equipment away for the rest of the trip and settled for watching birds from the balcony. We would be shortly leaving port and heading back toward Los Angeles.

Day 6 would be spent at sea, and the only highlight was a small pod of dolphins and a single Humpback Whale. No birds were seen, so it was time pack and get ready for the flight home. We put into port in LA early Saturday morning and flew home just in time for snow and rain!
Great trip. The end.

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