Danny Catt's blog http://blogs.bcit.ca/catttrax2/blog/danny_catt en Colombia - And So the Journey Ends http://blogs.bcit.ca/catttrax2/node/537 <p align="center"><img class="image preview" src="/catttrax2/sites/blogs.bcit.ca.catttrax2/files/images/DSC_8673.JPG" alt="Cartagena, Colombia (Old City) - A UNESCO World Heritage Site" title="Cartagena, Colombia (Old City) - A UNESCO World Heritage Site" width="336" height="500" /><span style="width: 334px" class="caption"><strong>Cartagena, Colombia (Old City) - A UNESCO World Heritage Site</strong></span></p><p>From Quito I flew north to Colombia which was to be the last stop on my journey through South America. When I left Vancouver on the 1st of January I was excited about what lay ahead… countries and regions of the world I had not visited, wildlife species that I had only read out in books or had seen on television and people, parks and ecosystems that would be brand new to me. Since leaving Vancouver on a cold January day, I have visited regions of seven countries, stepped on the Antarctic continent and I have spent time on the waters of the Atlantic, Pacific and Antarctic Oceans. In northern Colombia, in the city of Cartagena I set foot in the Caribbean Sea. </p><p align="center"><img class="image preview" src="/catttrax2/sites/blogs.bcit.ca.catttrax2/files/images/P4240049.JPG" alt="On the Shores of the Caribbean Sea, Cartagena, Colombia" title="On the Shores of the Caribbean Sea, Cartagena, Colombia" width="375" height="500" /><span style="width: 373px" class="caption"><strong>On the Shores of the Caribbean Sea, Cartagena, Colombia</strong></span></p><p>My trip has been an amazing learning experience. Throughout my travels I have met so many wonderful people and I want to thank all of them for the generosity and kindness shown to me during my visit. There are so many of you that I don’t dare try to list all of your names… as I would hate to leave anyone out! </p><p>Soon I will be back home … and I look forward to spending time with family and friends (as well as my cat Phantom) and digesting the experiences and learning from the journey. I am new to the blogging world and have enjoyed sharing my adventures with all of you. I have received so many wonderful emails and notes (posts) on the blog as I have traveled. I want to thank all of you who took the time to send a hello or a comment or a question. If you have posted a question on the blog that I have not yet answered… I will do so soon! </p><p>I also want to thank the students as well as my colleagues in the Fish, Wildlife and Recreation program at BCIT. The students put a lot of effort into researching sections of the website which I think many of you have had a chance to peruse. I am also indebted to Terry and the TEK (Technology Enabled Knowledge) folks back at BCIT for the amazing job with the Catt-Trax 2 website. I have learned a lot about blogging but I am still far from an expert. All of the fancy stuff (adding the video clips and the photo galleries for example) was done by the team back at BCIT. Thanks again to all of you! At last count we have had over 6000 hits to the Catt-Trax 2 site from over 70 countries. I am really pleased with that!</p><p>I will keep this short as I need to go finish packing my bags and getting things organized for my return home. Thanks again to all of you who have followed along… it has been a pleasure to have you join me on the journey. </p><p>Cheerios,<br />Danny<br /></p> http://blogs.bcit.ca/catttrax2/node/537#comment Colombia Colombia Thu, 10 May 2007 23:22:57 -0700 Danny Catt 537 at http://blogs.bcit.ca/catttrax2 Ecuador - Adios Galapagos http://blogs.bcit.ca/catttrax2/node/528 <p align="center"><img class="image preview" src="/catttrax2/sites/blogs.bcit.ca.catttrax2/files/images/DSC_5924.JPG" alt="Galapagos Tortoise Shell" title="Galapagos Tortoise Shell" width="480" height="322" /><span style="width: 478px" class="caption"><strong>Galapagos Tortoise Shell</strong></span></p><p>On a week long trip to the Galapagos you can’t see all of the wildlife species that are there … but you can certainly see a large percentage. I was thrilled with the diversity of wildlife that I was able to observe and photograph but there were some species (like the Red-footed Booby) that I will have to come back to see another time. The Red-footed Booby is found only on islands which unfortunately were not included in the itinerary of The Samba. </p><p align="center"><img class="image preview" src="/catttrax2/sites/blogs.bcit.ca.catttrax2/files/images/DSC_5209.JPG" alt="Galapagos Sea Lions" title="Galapagos Sea Lions" width="480" height="364" /><span style="width: 478px" class="caption"><strong>Galapagos Sea Lions</strong></span></p><p>When you visit the Galapagos you need to keep your eyes open scanning the sky above you, the land below your feet and also the waters around you. The species you can see while on land are fabulous and it was a treat to see the great range of sea creatures as well. Dolphins, whales, sea lions, fur seals, turtles and an incredible array of reef fish are all possible. </p><p align="center"><img class="image preview" src="/catttrax2/sites/blogs.bcit.ca.catttrax2/files/images/P4150008.preview.JPG" alt="Green Sea Turtle Feeding on Algae" title="Green Sea Turtle Feeding on Algae" width="375" height="500" /><span style="width: 373px" class="caption"><strong>Green Sea Turtle Feeding on Algae</strong></span> </p><p>I am not much of a swimmer but I did find myself jumping in the water with snorkel and mask (and my point and shoot waterproof camera) as often as I could. One of the highlights of the snorkelling was swimming with Green Sea Turtles and Galapagos Sea Lions. The adult turtles are primarily vegetarians and I had opportunities to watch them feeding on the algae on the sea bottom (in shallow water of course). They are fabulous swimmers and would use their front legs, modified into flippers, in a powerful yet graceful breaststroke. I also had young sea lions come check me out as I swam nearby.</p><p align="center"><img class="image preview" src="/catttrax2/sites/blogs.bcit.ca.catttrax2/files/images/DSC_5685.JPG" alt="Galapagos Tortoise" title="Galapagos Tortoise" width="322" height="480" /><span style="width: 320px" class="caption"><strong>Galapagos Tortoise</strong></span></p><p>Of the terrestrial species, the Galapagos Tortoise is one of my favourites. (If you are not familiar with the difference between turtles and tortoises, turtles are typically found near or in water, whereas tortoises are more terrestrial often found far from water). Galapagos Tortoises can be massive! And some are incredibly old (some individuals have been roaming their respective island for close to 150 years). In fact… it is even possible that one of the oldest individuals on the Galapagos was around close to the time when Darwin visited the islands in 1835.</p><p align="center"><img class="image preview" src="/catttrax2/sites/blogs.bcit.ca.catttrax2/files/images/DSC_6359.JPG" alt="Blue-footed Booby Displaying on the Breeding Grounds, Galapagos Islands" title="Blue-footed Booby Displaying on the Breeding Grounds, Galapagos Islands" width="480" height="322" /><span style="width: 478px" class="caption"><strong>Blue-footed Booby Displaying on the Breeding Grounds, Galapagos Islands</strong></span></p><p>We were up very early (5am) on our last morning in the islands to get in our last shore visit before catching flights back to the continent. We were treated to a gorgeous Galapagos sunrise as well as an opportunity to watch a Blue-footed Booby feeding frenzy. All of the booby species in the Galapagos (Red-footed, Nazca and Blue-footed) feed on small fish and they use an impressive hunting strategy.</p><p align="center"><img class="image preview" src="/catttrax2/sites/blogs.bcit.ca.catttrax2/files/images/DSC_8507.JPG" alt="Blue-footed Booby in a Hunting Dive" title="Blue-footed Booby in a Hunting Dive" width="336" height="500" /><span style="width: 334px" class="caption"><strong>Blue-footed Booby in a Hunting Dive</strong></span> </p><p>They, like their northern relatives the gannets, fly above the water surface scanning the water for their small fish prey. Once the prey is located they tuck their wings and plunge like winged torpedoes into the water. From what I could gather from observation, more often than not they are successful. It is amazing to watch.</p><p align="center"><img class="image preview" src="/catttrax2/sites/blogs.bcit.ca.catttrax2/files/images/DSC_8518.JPG" alt="Blue-footed Booby Torpedoes" title="Blue-footed Booby Torpedoes" width="500" height="319" /><span style="width: 498px" class="caption"><strong>Blue-footed Booby Torpedoes</strong></span></p><p>The morning passed by quickly and before I knew it we were packing our bags and getting set for the trip back to the mainland. My flight was back to Quito, which is where I was to leave from for the next and final stop on my journey in South America, Cartagena, Colombia.<br /></p> http://blogs.bcit.ca/catttrax2/node/528#comment Ecuador Galapagos Islands Galapagos Islands Mon, 07 May 2007 15:03:26 -0700 Danny Catt 528 at http://blogs.bcit.ca/catttrax2 Ecuador - Galapagos Islands - Where are the tropics anyway? http://blogs.bcit.ca/catttrax2/node/526 <p align="center"><img class="image preview" src="/catttrax2/sites/blogs.bcit.ca.catttrax2/files/images/P4150089.JPG" alt="GPS showing latitude 0 degrees, 0 minutes, 0 seconds (the equator)" title="GPS showing latitude 0 degrees, 0 minutes, 0 seconds (the equator)" width="375" height="500" /><span style="width: 373px" class="caption"><strong>GPS showing latitude 0 degrees, 0 minutes, 0 seconds (the equator)</strong></span></p><p>The Galapagos Islands are a part of the country of Ecuador so it made sense to learn that the equator crosses right through Ecuador on the mainland of South America. It just so happens that the equator also passes through the Galapagos Islands as well, way out in the Pacific Ocean (about 1000 kilometres west of the continent). </p><p>On our trip through the islands we crossed the equator twice (once going up the west coast of Isabela Island, and the other as we made our way down the east coast of Isabela) and there was a small ceremony on the bridge of our small ship to celebrate the ‘Crossing of the Line’. It is an age old tradition to celebrate the crossing of the equator for those travellers who have never done it before and in some cases crew members have to follow an elaborate initiation ceremony. For us though… we simply raised a glass to the crossing from one hemisphere to the next. I snapped a photo of my GPS (Global Positioning System) just as we crossed the equator (from the Southern Hemisphere into the Northern Hemisphere) at latitude 0 degrees, 0 minutes and 0 seconds. </p><p>The equator is the middle of the planet (by definition it is latitude 0 degrees) and is equidistant to both of the poles (the North and South Poles). There are other lines of latitude that you may be familiar with such as the Tropic of Cancer, the Tropic of Capricorn, the Arctic Circle and the Antarctic Circle.</p><p>You have likely heard the words tropical, temperate, Arctic and Antarctic but do you know what they refer to? These are all climatic regions of the planet that are determined by lines of latitude. </p><p>The tropics are regions of the world, on either side of the equator, that fall between the Tropic of Cancer (23.5 degrees north latitude) and the Tropic of Capricorn (23.5 degrees south latitude).</p><p>The world’s temperate regions fall between 23.5 degrees North and South latitudes to the Arctic circle in the northern hemisphere and the Antarctic circle in the southern hemisphere. To make the story complete, the Arctic extends northward from 66.5 degrees N latitude to the North Pole and the Antarctic extends southward from 66.5 degrees S latitude to the South Pole (the Arctic &amp; Antarctic Circles though are not really the best ways to define the Arctic and Antarctic regions … but that is another story).</p><p>Some things are different on the equator than in other parts of the world. One thing that takes a bit of time getting used to is day length. On the equator there is no such thing as the long days of summer… or short days of winter… day length is the same year round… 12 hours of daylight… and 12 hours of night. Another difference is how fast the sun rises and sets. The sun rises and sets faster on the equator than anywhere else so you don’t get the long slow sunsets we are used to (at least that I am used to) being at the 49th parallel (49 degrees north latitude) in Vancouver. As someone who enjoys photography I can remember the first time that I spent time near the equator. I started watching a sunset and thought… hmmm… I should go get my camera, but by the time I came back it was pitch black! No dawn and dusk in the tropics!</p><p>And there is even a difference in how the water drains. If you go to the Mitad del Mundo (Centre of the Earth) near Quito, Ecuador you can see a fascinating demonstration where they show you how water drains clockwise north of the equator line … and counter-clockwise south of the equator line. They only move the wash basin a few metres… but you see the difference right before your eyes! And what happens to the water when the drain is put exactly on the equator? The water goes straight down the drain without any spinning at all! Pretty nifty I must say!</p><p align="center"><img class="image preview" src="/catttrax2/sites/blogs.bcit.ca.catttrax2/files/images/DSC_8228.JPG" alt="En Route to the Top of Bartolome Island, Galapagos" title="En Route to the Top of Bartolome Island, Galapagos" width="336" height="500" /><span style="width: 334px" class="caption"><strong>En Route to the Top of Bartolome Island, Galapagos</strong></span></p><p>Our stay in the northern hemisphere was brief… only a matter of hours. From Isabela Island we made our way over to James and Bartolome Islands (where many of the scenes of the movie ‘Master and Commander’ were filmed). On Bartolome there are steps that lead you up to a fabulous viewpoint over the islands (well worth the effort) and you can get a real feel for the volcanic origins of the islands.</p><p align="center"><img class="image preview" src="/catttrax2/sites/blogs.bcit.ca.catttrax2/files/images/DSC_8265.JPG" alt="Volcanic Landscape, Bartolome Island, Galapagos" title="Volcanic Landscape, Bartolome Island, Galapagos" width="500" height="336" /><span style="width: 498px" class="caption"><strong>Volcanic Landscape, Bartolome Island, Galapagos</strong></span></p><p>&nbsp;</p> http://blogs.bcit.ca/catttrax2/node/526#comment Ecuador Equator Galapagos Galapagos Islands Mon, 07 May 2007 09:10:17 -0700 Danny Catt 526 at http://blogs.bcit.ca/catttrax2 Ecuador - Galapagos Islands - The Gordon Lightfoot Crab http://blogs.bcit.ca/catttrax2/node/522 <p align="center"><img class="image preview" src="/catttrax2/sites/blogs.bcit.ca.catttrax2/files/images/DSC_7847.jpg" alt="Sally Lightfoot Crab, Galapagos Islands" title="Sally Lightfoot Crab, Galapagos Islands" width="480" height="322" /><span style="width: 478px" class="caption"><strong>Sally Lightfoot Crab, Galapagos Islands</strong></span></p><p>One of the wildlife species in the Galapagos Island that I found particularly fascinating was the Sally Lightfoot Crab (no relation to Gordon Lightfoot apparently). They are very common and when you are walking along the lava close to shore you need to be careful not to step on them. </p><p align="center"><img class="image preview" src="/catttrax2/sites/blogs.bcit.ca.catttrax2/files/images/DSC_8181.jpg" alt="Sally Lightfoot Crab, Galapagos Islands" title="Sally Lightfoot Crab, Galapagos Islands" width="480" height="322" /><span style="width: 478px" class="caption"><strong>Sally Lightfoot Crab, Galapagos Islands</strong></span></p><p>I was fascinated by their colours and found myself taking dozens of photographs of them as every time I saw them they appeared to give me a different pose highlighting different colours and patterns. I am a bit of a snap-happy photographer to begin with... but these crabs just kept me snapping more and more!</p><p align="center"><img class="image preview" src="/catttrax2/sites/blogs.bcit.ca.catttrax2/files/images/DSC_8063.jpg" alt="Sally Lightfoot Crab, Galapagos Islands" title="Sally Lightfoot Crab, Galapagos Islands" width="480" height="322" /><span style="width: 478px" class="caption"><strong>Sally Lightfoot Crab, Galapagos Islands</strong></span></p><p>The Sally Lightfoot Crab not only has to be on the lookout for the feet of curious human visitors but also for predators such as the various heron species that like to prey on them (Great Blue Heron, Lava Heron, Yellow-crowned Night Heron). I observed and photographed one successful heron ... and one unsuccessful Sally Lightfoot Crab.</p><p align="center"><img class="image preview" src="/catttrax2/sites/blogs.bcit.ca.catttrax2/files/images/DSC_8095.jpg" alt="Lava Heron Preying on Sally Lightfoot Crab" title="Lava Heron Preying on Sally Lightfoot Crab" width="480" height="322" /><span style="width: 478px" class="caption"><strong>Heron Preying on Sally Lightfoot Crab</strong></span></p> http://blogs.bcit.ca/catttrax2/node/522#comment Ecuador Galapagos Islands Galapagos Islands Photography Wildlife Sat, 05 May 2007 17:41:26 -0700 Danny Catt 522 at http://blogs.bcit.ca/catttrax2 Ecuador - Galapagos Islands - The Weird & the Wonderful http://blogs.bcit.ca/catttrax2/node/512 <p align="center"><img class="image preview" src="/catttrax2/sites/blogs.bcit.ca.catttrax2/files/images/DSC_6301.JPG" alt="Blue-footed Booby, Galapagos Islands" title="Blue-footed Booby, Galapagos Islands" width="480" height="322" /><span style="width: 478px" class="caption"><strong>Blue-footed Booby, Galapagos Islands</strong></span></p><p align="left">If I had to come up with a single word to describe the Galapagos Islands it would be difficult if not impossible to do. ‘Amazing’ is an overused word… as is ‘fantastic’, and ‘wonderful’ just doesn’t do the islands justice. Some might even choose ‘weird’ to describe some of the very unique species that make the Galapagos their home. Perhaps the French word ‘incroyable’ might fit the bill. What would you choose?</p><p style="text-align: center"><img class="image preview" src="/catttrax2/sites/blogs.bcit.ca.catttrax2/files/images/DSC_6018.JPG" alt="Wildlife Viewing in the Galapagos Islands" title="Wildlife Viewing in the Galapagos Islands" width="480" height="322" /></p><p align="center"><span style="width: 478px" class="caption"><div align="left"><strong>Wildlife Viewing in the Galapagos Islands</strong></div></span></p><p align="left">The islands and the flora and fauna that inhabit them truly are incredible. I cannot think of anywhere else on Earth (except perhaps Antarctica) that you can watch wild animals in their natural habitat go about their daily business (nesting, feeding, playing) at such close range, where the animals don’t seem to be bothered by your presence. There are limits of course and that is why there are strict national park rules about not getting too close to the animals as well as rules ensuring that visitors don’t collect plants or rocks while on shore. In a nutshell the regulations are in place to make sure that all park resources (both living and non-living) are left as we find them.</p><p align="left">Our itinerary aboard the Samba had us visiting 6 or so of the thirteen larger islands that make up the Galapagos archipelago. The Galapagos Islands are all volcanic in origin, and they are quite isolated – they are located about 1000 kilometres west of the South American continent. The first islands to emerge from the ocean did so between 5 and 10 million years ago while some of the other islands broke the surface much more recently (the eastern islands are reported to be the oldest… the western the youngest). The islands are still volcanically active and in fact the most recent eruption was just last year!</p><p align="center"><img class="image preview" src="/catttrax2/sites/blogs.bcit.ca.catttrax2/files/images/DSC_6882.JPG" alt="Landing ashore onto lava, Galapagos Islands" title="Landing ashore onto lava, Galapagos Islands" width="480" height="322" /><span style="width: 478px" class="caption"><strong>Landing ashore onto lava, Galapagos Islands</strong></span> </p><p align="left">When oceanic volcanic islands are created they are devoid of life… they start with no living things on them at all. So how did all of the plants and interesting creatures that we see on the islands today get there?</p><p align="left">The answer is fairly straightforward. Any plant of animal now native to the Galapagos must have dispersed to the islands by some means or another. Other than via the hand of humans (in boats or planes) there are two natural ways for organisms to travel to the islands – by sea or air.</p><p align="center"><img class="image preview" src="/catttrax2/sites/blogs.bcit.ca.catttrax2/files/images/DSC_7057.JPG" alt="Green Sea Turtle, Galapagos Islands" title="Green Sea Turtle, Galapagos Islands" width="480" height="325" /><span style="width: 478px" class="caption"><strong>Green Sea Turtle, Galapagos Islands</strong></span> </p><p align="left">Some animals arrived by swimming or flying under their own steam while others may have been blown by strong winds. Sea lions, fur seals, sea turtles and penguins are all great swimmers and could easily have found their way to the Galapagos under their own steam. The Yellow Warblers and Vermilion Flycatchers that are now resident on the islands may have been blown off course many moons ago on their migration from North America to South America and successfully established populations on the islands. Some plants, their seeds and spores were carried by air currents, others by ocean currents but many (if not most) were likely transported by birds. Some bird species are seed and/or fruit eaters and in many cases the seeds are not damaged when they go through the bird’s digestive system. So, these birds can transport seeds in their stomachs, which they can expel complete with fertilizer in a new place (like an island!).</p><p align="center"><img class="image preview" src="/catttrax2/sites/blogs.bcit.ca.catttrax2/files/images/DSC_7280.JPG" alt="Galapagos Penguin" title="Galapagos Penguin" width="480" height="303" /><span style="width: 478px" class="caption"><strong>Galapagos Penguin</strong></span></p><p align="left">The Galapagos are in a great location to receive immigrants by both air and ocean currents. Trade winds blow toward the Galapagos from the South American mainland, and similarly ocean currents wash out from the coast of South America in a way that increases the chances of organisms reaching their shores. Some of the ocean currents around the islands are cold water currents while others are warm. It is thought that the ancestors of the Galapagos Penguin likely originated from a penguin population in southern South America that made its way to the Galapagos by following the Humboldt Current (a cold water current) that comes up from Antarctica.</p><p align="left">Islands because of their isolation (away from the mainland or continent) typically have fewer species of both plants and animals (compared with the mainland) and often times the species found on islands are endemic… which means they are unique and are not found anywhere else. The Galapagos has a fairly low diversity of wildlife species, but a very high percentage of these species are endemic.</p><p align="center"><img class="image preview" src="/catttrax2/sites/blogs.bcit.ca.catttrax2/files/images/DSC_7759.jpg" alt="Flightless Cormorant, Galapagos Islands" title="Flightless Cormorant, Galapagos Islands" width="322" height="480" /><span style="width: 320px" class="caption"><strong>Flightless Cormorant, Galapagos Islands</strong></span></p><p align="left">Some of my favourite creatures on the Galapagos include the Marine Iguana (a sea-going iguana), the Flightless Cormorant (the only cormorant in the world that has lost its ability to fly), the Galapagos Penguin (the most northerly penguin in the world) and the beautiful Blue-footed Booby! The Marine Iguana, the Flightless Cormorant and the Galapagos Penguin are all examples of endemic species.<br /></p> http://blogs.bcit.ca/catttrax2/node/512#comment Ecuador Galapagos Islands Galapagos Islands Wildlife Fri, 04 May 2007 17:16:38 -0700 Danny Catt 512 at http://blogs.bcit.ca/catttrax2 Ecuador - Galapagos Islands - "The most barren and desolate place I have ever visited" http://blogs.bcit.ca/catttrax2/node/502 <p align="center"><img class="image preview" src="/catttrax2/sites/blogs.bcit.ca.catttrax2/files/images/DSC_7671.jpg" alt="Marine Iguanas, Galapapagos Islands" title="Marine Iguanas, Galapapagos Islands" width="322" height="480" /><br /><span class="caption"><strong>Marine Iguanas, Galapapagos Islands</strong></span> </p><p>When Captain George Vancouver visited the Galapagos Islands in 1795 with the HMS Discovery and HMS Chatham he described the Galapagos Islands as follows: </p><blockquote><blockquote><p align="left"><em>&quot;The most dreary barren and desolate country I have ever beheld... and nothing but large cinder without any sign of verdure or vegetation&quot;.</em> </p></blockquote></blockquote><p>That though was not my experience, nor was it the experience of likely the most important person to ever have visited the Galapagos Islands, the British Naturalist, Charles Darwin. </p><div style="text-align: center"><img class="image preview" src="/catttrax2/sites/blogs.bcit.ca.catttrax2/files/images/DSC_6926.JPG" alt="Lava Beds, Galapagos Islands" title="Lava Beds, Galapagos Islands" width="322" height="480" /> <br /><span class="caption"><strong>Lava Beds, Galapagos Islands</strong></span> </div><p>I can’t recall when it was that I first heard or read about the Galapagos Islands. It may have been on one of the many documentary nature shows that I watched as a kid. Perhaps it was on “The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau”, or perhaps “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom” with Marlon Perkins. Although I may not remember exactly when or where it was that I first heard about the islands I certainly remember reading a lot more about them in my ecology and evolution courses as a biology student at Simon Fraser University. </p><p>From Quito, the capital of Ecuador, I took a flight out to the islands to board a very small vessel, “The Samba”, where I joined a dozen or so other natural history buffs for a week long visit to some of the archipelago’s 13 islands. If you want to visit the Galapagos there are dozens of boats to choose from. You can spend many thousands of dollars for a five star experience or a fraction of that on one of the many ‘budget’ style boats (which are still not cheap). Another option is to stay on land in a hotel and do a series of day trips to some of the islands. I originally planned on doing a land-based trip but plans changed suddenly and so I ended up joining the Samba for my visit.</p><p style="text-align: center"><img class="image preview" src="/catttrax2/sites/blogs.bcit.ca.catttrax2/files/images/DSC_5408.JPG" alt="The Samba at Anchor" title="The Samba at Anchor" width="480" height="322" /></p><p align="center"><span style="width: 478px" class="caption"><div align="left"><strong>The Samba at Anchor</strong></div></span></p><p>The Galapagos Islands were first visited by pirates and buccaneers in the 1500s and 1600s but they were made famous by the Darwin, who visited the islands in 1835, on his famous world voyage aboard the HMS Beagle. Darwin’s voyage was a long one (5 years) during which he visited regions of Africa, the South Pacific and South America collecting thousands of geological samples and fossils as well as plant and animal specimens en route. Luckily for Darwin the majority of his time was spent on land (about two thirds or so) as he was one of the unlucky ones who suffered horribly from seasickness. </p><p>The time Darwin actually spent on the Galapagos was just a very small part of his expedition around the world. But what Darwin saw on the islands, approximately 1000 kilometres (600 miles) off the west coast of South America, triggered and inspired one of the most controversial, and important, books to science, “The Origin of Species”. It is in this book that Darwin proposes the theory of evolution by natural selection. For a number of reasons Darwin did not publish this book until 24 years after visiting the Galapagos Islands.<br /></p><p>I can’t imagine what must have first gone through Darwin’s mind when he visited the islands in 1835. George Vancouver saw barren desolation and yet the islands would have been virtually the same in 1835 as they were for Vancouver in the late 1700s. I think what impresses me the most about Darwin were his amazing skills or powers of observation. He certainly saw the black, volcanic landscape that Vancouver saw, but he also observed and noted that the species of wildlife on the islands were somehow different, somewhat unique. </p><p>It was the wildlife on the Galapagos Islands, those same unique species of birds, reptiles and mammals that inspired Darwin so many years ago that I was in the Galapagos to see.<br /></p><p style="text-align: center"><img class="image preview" src="/catttrax2/sites/blogs.bcit.ca.catttrax2/files/images/DSC_5377.JPG" alt="Land Iguana, Galapagos Islands" title="Land Iguana, Galapagos Islands" width="480" height="341" /></p><p align="center"><span style="width: 414px; height: 12px" class="caption"><div align="left"><strong>Land Iguana, Galapagos Islands</strong></div></span></p> http://blogs.bcit.ca/catttrax2/node/502#comment Ecuador Galapagos Islands Galapagos Islands Sun, 22 Apr 2007 11:37:26 -0700 Danny Catt 502 at http://blogs.bcit.ca/catttrax2 Ecuador - the Oriente (aka Ecuadorian Amazon) http://blogs.bcit.ca/catttrax2/node/496 <p align="center"> <img class="image preview" src="/catttrax2/sites/blogs.bcit.ca.catttrax2/files/images/DSC_4330.JPG" alt="Tree Frog, Amazon Rainforest in Ecuador" title="Tree Frog, Amazon Rainforest in Ecuador" width="322" height="480" /> <br /><strong>Tree Frog, Amazon Rainforest in Ecuador</strong> </p> <p>It is early afternoon and I am on a private nature reserve adjacent to the Rio Napo in the Ecuadorian Amazon (in Ecuador this region is called the Oriente). It rained much of this morning and so it is cool, fresh and comfortable. It is still cloudy but the clouds are patchy and much higher than they were just a few minutes ago and it is getting brighter.</p> <p style="text-align: center"> <img class="image preview" src="/catttrax2/sites/blogs.bcit.ca.catttrax2/files/images/DSC_4795.JPG" alt="Squirrel Monkey" title="Squirrel Monkey" width="480" height="343" /> <br /><strong>Squirrel Monkey</strong> </p> <p>There are Squirrel Monkeys bouncing their way through the trees, some chasing each other and others just moving about lazily through the canopy. There are other primates here as well and in the past couple of days I have had a chance to see (or hear) a few of them. Early in the morning you can hear the Red Howler Monkeys ‘howling’ from far off in the forest and while on a walk through the forest yesterday we saw a troop of Brown Capuchins and the tiny Pygmy Marmosets, one of the smallest, if not THE smallest, species of primate in the world.</p> <p style="text-align: center"> <img class="image preview" src="/catttrax2/sites/blogs.bcit.ca.catttrax2/files/images/DSC_4710.JPG" alt="Poison Dart Frog" title="Poison Dart Frog" width="480" height="338" /> <br /><strong>Poison Dart Frog</strong> </p> <p>There are frogs croaking and calling from the forest and the birdlife is both abundant and diverse. Just a few metres along any of the trails here you can find tree frogs and the small &amp; beautiful, yet toxic, poison dart frogs. Above the forest canopy I can see a dozen or so Yellow-headed Vultures soaring. In a tree to my left half a dozen Toucans were sitting not long ago, and every few minutes it seems a flock of chattering parrots (and/or parakeets) flies overhead. It is truly an amazing place. Every now and then the adult cicadas begin their almost deafening buzzing roar (I don’t how else to describe the sound)… then for some unknown reason they go silent. A large gecko is clicking above my head, virtually hanging upside down from the underside of the thatched palm roof, in about the same spot I saw a large black, fuzzy Tarantula last night.</p> <p style="text-align: center"> <img class="image preview" src="/catttrax2/sites/blogs.bcit.ca.catttrax2/files/images/DSC_4647.JPG" alt="Tarantula" title="Tarantula" width="480" height="322" /> <br /><strong>Tarantula</strong> </p> <p>A beautiful Blue Morphos butterfly just floated by and I have seen dozens of other species of insects, spiders and creepy crawlies on my walks in the forest. There are snakes here too including the world’s largest, the Anaconda! There are other reptiles including tortoises and lizards as well as the Spectacled Caiman, a close relative of crocodiles and alligators!</p> <p style="text-align: center"> <img class="image preview" src="/catttrax2/sites/blogs.bcit.ca.catttrax2/files/images/DSC_4415.JPG" alt="South American Yellow-footed Tortoise" title="South American Yellow-footed Tortoise" width="480" height="322" /> <br /><strong>South American Yellow-footed Tortoise</strong> </p> <p>These creatures, great and small, are just a small sample of the incredible diversity of life found in this part of Ecuador. Yet, in the distance I hear the roar of a chainsaw. I don’t know what trees are being felled or exactly where (it is most likely outside of this private nature reserve - I hope so anyway) yet its echoes through the forest are a reminder of the significant pressures that this rich ecosystem of Ecuador, and the Amazon Basin in general, is facing. As described in earlier blog posts, large expanses of forest are being harvested in the Amazon daily to clear land for the production of crops (primarily soybeans) and for cattle ranching and mining (amongst other economic endeavours). Spending time in these amazing tropical forests increases my resolve to do what I can to ensure their health now and in the future.</p> http://blogs.bcit.ca/catttrax2/node/496#comment Amazon Amazon Basin Amazon Basin Ecuador Oriente Fri, 20 Apr 2007 23:25:04 -0700 Danny Catt 496 at http://blogs.bcit.ca/catttrax2 Ecuador - Cloud Forest - Hummingbird Capital of South America http://blogs.bcit.ca/catttrax2/node/484 <div style="text-align: center"><img class="image preview" src="/catttrax2/sites/blogs.bcit.ca.catttrax2/files/images/DSC_4059.preview.JPG" alt="Purple-throated Woodstar" title="Purple-throated Woodstar" width="500" height="327" /></div><p align="center"><span style="width: 498px" class="caption"><div align="left"><strong>Purple-throated Woodstar</strong></div></span></p><p>If you like hummingbirds then you absolutely must visit the cloud forest of Ecuador. There are over three hundred species of hummingbird in the world and almost half of them are found with the boundaries of the little country on the Equator, Ecuador. In all of Canada there are only about ten species!!</p><p style="text-align: center"><img class="image preview" src="/catttrax2/sites/blogs.bcit.ca.catttrax2/files/images/DSC_4293.preview.JPG" alt="Collared Inca" title="Collared Inca" width="500" height="380" /></p><p align="center"><span style="width: 498px" class="caption"><div align="left"><strong>Collared Inca</strong></div></span></p><p>Not all hummingbirds are called hummingbirds though. They in fact have a great variety of names such as emeralds, woodstars, mangos, woodnymphs and fairies. They are a unique group of birds with some amazing characteristics. Did you know that hummingbirds are the only birds in the world that can fly backwards? Or that hummingbirds have the fastest wing beats of any bird? (they can flap their wings at almost 80 beats per second!).</p><p style="text-align: center"><img class="image preview" src="/catttrax2/sites/blogs.bcit.ca.catttrax2/files/images/DSC_3892.preview.JPG" alt="Buff-tailed Coronet" title="Buff-tailed Coronet" width="500" height="334" /></p><p align="center"><span style="width: 498px" class="caption"><div align="left"><strong>Buff-tailed Coronet</strong></div></span></p><p>Many eco-lodges in the cloud forests of Ecuador set up hummingbird feeders to attract the different species and I spent hours watching and photographing as many species as I could. It is easier said than done though (they fly so fast!) and I unfortunately didn&#39;t capture as many species as I would have liked. I did get some nice photos and I have included a few for your perusal.</p><p style="text-align: center"><img class="image preview" src="/catttrax2/sites/blogs.bcit.ca.catttrax2/files/images/DSC_4129.preview.JPG" alt="Purple Violetear" title="Purple Violetear" width="500" height="344" /></p><p align="center"><span style="width: 498px" class="caption"><div align="left"><strong>Green Violetear (Hummingbird)</strong></div></span></p> http://blogs.bcit.ca/catttrax2/node/484#comment Cloud Forest Ecuador Galapagos Galapagos Islands Hummingbirds Mon, 09 Apr 2007 15:51:13 -0700 Danny Catt 484 at http://blogs.bcit.ca/catttrax2 Ecuador - Cloud Forest http://blogs.bcit.ca/catttrax2/node/482 <p align="center"><img class="image preview" src="/catttrax2/sites/blogs.bcit.ca.catttrax2/files/images/DSC_3919.preview.JPG" alt="Ecuador - Cloud Forest" title="Ecuador - Cloud Forest" width="500" height="336" /><span style="width: 498px" class="caption"><strong>Ecuador - Cloud Forest</strong></span></p><p>From Argentina I hopped skipped and jumped my way up to Quito, Ecuador. I was met by a fabulous naturalist who works in the Galapagos Islands and on occasion in the Amazon region of Ecuador.</p><p>Why is Ecuador so special? Ecuador, per unit area, is the most biologically rich country in South America. Other countries have more species in total (Colombia has more bird species for example) but Ecuador is a small nation and within its boundaries are an incredibly diverse range of plants and animals. In fact Ecuador has over 1600 species of birds (compare that to the less than 700 species that you will find in North America (north of Mexico!).</p><p style="text-align: center"><img class="image preview" src="/catttrax2/sites/blogs.bcit.ca.catttrax2/files/images/DSC_4247.preview.JPG" alt="Andean Toucan, Ecuador Cloud Forest" title="Andean Toucan, Ecuador Cloud Forest" width="500" height="336" /></p><p align="center"><span style="width: 498px" class="caption"><div align="left"><strong>Andean Toucan, Ecuador Cloud Forest</strong></div></span></p><p>My first stop in Ecuador was the Cloud Forest not far from the capital city of Quito. In fact, in about an hour or two you can be out of the city and into a rich tropical forest filled with hundreds of bird species ranging from resident toucans and hummingbirds to warblers that migrate all the way from North America. I had the opportunity to see and photograph a Blackburnian Warbler, a species of songbird that you can see in eastern North America during the summer. It is a long flight from its breeding grounds to Ecuador but the Blackburnian Warbler makes this long distance flight twice each year.</p><p style="text-align: center"><img class="image preview" src="/catttrax2/sites/blogs.bcit.ca.catttrax2/files/images/DSC_3868.preview.JPG" alt="Blackburnian Warbler, migrant from North America" title="Blackburnian Warbler, migrant from North America" width="500" height="362" /></p><p align="center"><span style="width: 498px" class="caption"><div align="left"><strong>Blackburnian Warbler, migrant from North America</strong></div></span></p><p>Clouds forests are not unique to Ecuador. In fact there are cloud forests in many parts of the world (Asia, South America, Central America) including both temperate and tropical regions. They are typically found at higher elevations in areas with extensive cloud cover. The mountains around Quito certainly have a lot of moisture so there are pockets of rich cloud forest within easy reach of hte nation&#39;s capital.</p><p>The trees in cloud forest are often covered in epiphytes - lichens, mosses, orchids and bromeliads. Epiphytes are simply plants that live on other plants. They are not parasites and they don&#39;t have roots that reach the soil... instead, epiphytes get their water from the moist air (provided by both the rain and the clouds) and they gain their energy through the process of photosynthesis. There are thousands of species of orchids in tropical forests of South American and a large percentage of them are epiphytes. </p><p style="text-align: center"><img class="image preview" src="/catttrax2/sites/blogs.bcit.ca.catttrax2/files/images/DSC_4176.preview.JPG" alt="Orchid in the Ecuadorian Cloud Forest" title="Orchid in the Ecuadorian Cloud Forest" width="500" height="336" /></p><p align="center"><span style="width: 498px" class="caption"><div align="left"><strong>Orchid in the Ecuadorian Cloud Forest</strong></div></span></p><p>Bromeliads are also common in the cloud forest. If you don&#39;t know what a bromeliad is you may be surprised to know that you have likely eaten one on many occasions. The pineapple is a bromeliad but is one that grows on the ground. The bromeliads of the cloud forest grow on the outstretched branches of the trees and they benefit by being higher in the canopy and getting more light (which of course is needed for photosynthesis).</p><p style="text-align: center"><img class="image preview" src="/catttrax2/sites/blogs.bcit.ca.catttrax2/files/images/DSC_3991.preview.JPG" alt="Bromeliad on a branch in the Ecuadorian Cloud Forest" title="Bromeliad on a branch in the Ecuadorian Cloud Forest" width="500" height="336" /></p><p align="center"><span style="width: 498px" class="caption"><div align="left"><strong>Bromeliad on a branch in the Ecuadorian Cloud Forest</strong></div></span></p><p>Although my time in the cloud forest of Ecuador was short I learned a lot simply by walking about on the trails with a knowledgeable local guide. Good local guides can be such an important and valuable part of your experience in a new environment. </p><p>If you get to Ecuador... make sure you give yourself a day or two in the cloud forest! It is an amazing environment very worthwhile exploring.</p> http://blogs.bcit.ca/catttrax2/node/482#comment Biodiversity Cloud Forest Ecuador Ecuador Hummingbirds Mon, 09 Apr 2007 09:50:29 -0700 Danny Catt 482 at http://blogs.bcit.ca/catttrax2 Argentina - Gorge of the Condors National Park http://blogs.bcit.ca/catttrax2/node/475 <p style="text-align: center" align="center"><img class="image preview" src="/catttrax2/sites/blogs.bcit.ca.catttrax2/files/images/DSC_3806.preview.JPG" alt="Gorge of the Condors National Park, Argentina" title="Gorge of the Condors National Park, Argentina" width="500" height="342" /></p><span style="width: 498px" class="caption"><p align="left"><strong>Gorge of the Condors National Park, Argentina</strong></p></span><p>High up on the hills about a 2 hour drive from the city of Cordoba is Quebrada del Condorito National Park (Gorge of the Condors National Park). The park was created in 1996 to protect the breeding cliffs of the Andean Condor and the associated ecosystems of the sierra.</p><p style="text-align: center"><img class="image preview" src="/catttrax2/sites/blogs.bcit.ca.catttrax2/files/images/DSC_3808.preview.JPG" alt="Pampa Landscape in the Gorge of the Condors National Park, Argentina" title="Pampa Landscape in the Gorge of the Condors National Park, Argentina" width="500" height="316" /></p><p align="center"><span style="width: 498px" class="caption"><div align="left"><strong>Pampa Landscape in the Gorge of the Condors National Park, Argentina</strong></div></span></p><p>On one of my last days in Argentina I had a chance to explore the park and walk to the famous gorge in search of condors. The landscape was unique… high elevation grassy pampa mixed with open rocky slopes similar to parts of California or perhaps the Okanagan region of British Columbia. The difference of course is that here in Argentina I did not see Rattlesnakes or Red-tailed Hawks. Instead I was on the lookout for Yarara (pitvipers) and Andean Condors. </p><p style="text-align: center"><img class="image preview" src="/catttrax2/sites/blogs.bcit.ca.catttrax2/files/images/DSC_3704.preview.JPG" alt="Park Sign Warning Visitors to be on the Lookout for Puma and Vipers" title="Park Sign Warning Visitors to be on the Lookout for Puma and Vipers" width="500" height="336" /></p><p align="center"><span style="width: 498px" class="caption"><div align="left"><strong>Park Sign Warning Visitors to be on the Lookout for Puma and Vipers</strong></div></span></p><p>One wildlife species that is common to both British Columbia and this region of Argentina (as they were in the Patagonia region of Chile and Argentina) is the Puma (Mountain Lion) and in fact they had signs warning hikers and campers to be on the lookout.</p><p style="text-align: center"><img class="image preview" src="/catttrax2/sites/blogs.bcit.ca.catttrax2/files/images/DSC_3708.preview.JPG" alt="Gorge of the Condors National Park, Argentina" title="Gorge of the Condors National Park, Argentina" width="500" height="336" /></p><p align="center"><span style="width: 498px" class="caption"><div align="left"><strong>Gorge of the Condors National Park, Argentina</strong></div></span></p><p>&#160;</p><p>We trekked across the dry rocky ridge tops from the park visitor centre, through the scattered pampa, to the steep gorge, where you will find the cliffs where the condors nest. As we approached the cliffs, a park visitor looked up at us and pointed over to a large black bird perched on a rock, and said with a large grin, ‘condor’! I lifted my binoculars for a closer look and noted the pure black featherless head but saw no white markings on the back of the neck (the nape). “I think that is a Black Vulture,” I said. Condors are actually very large vultures and because the two species at times share similar habitats (like the cliffs of Condorito National Park) the Black Vulture is sometimes mistaken for a condor.</p><p style="text-align: center"><img class="image preview" src="/catttrax2/sites/blogs.bcit.ca.catttrax2/files/images/DSC_3763.preview.JPG" alt="Andean Condor, Gorge of the Condors National Park, Argentina" title="Andean Condor, Gorge of the Condors National Park, Argentina" width="500" height="344" /></p><p align="center"><span style="width: 498px" class="caption"><div align="left"><strong>Andean Condor, Gorge of the Condors National Park, Argentina</strong></div></span></p><p>We sat on a large rock overlooking the gorge and scanned the cliffs. After only a few minutes, way down the steep slope a huge black bird with flat horizontally positioned wings, with white patches on top of the wings, came into view. We could see the white nape and its long finger-like primary feathers on the tips of its wings. Just the sheer huge size of the bird told us that this was an Andean Condor!</p><p>Weighing up to 15kg (32 pounds) and with a wingspan of over 3 metres (up to 10.5 feet) this is the largest flying landbird in the world. Because of their enormous size and weight they prefer to live in windy places where they can glide effortlessly on the wind currents. They also typically choose to nest on steep cliffs where to get airborne they can simply jump off, open their wings and glide away! </p><p>The Andean Condor is an Endangered Species with an estimated two to three thousand individuals left in the world. They are mountain birds and their range includes mountainous regions of Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador. The Andes Mountains, South America’s longest mountain range, stretch for 7000 kilometres through all of these countries. In fact the Andean Condor is the national bird of a number of South American countries.</p><p>If you are interested in winning a prize, do a bit of research and find out which South American countries have the Andean Condor as their national bird. The first person to respond (to my email at <a href="mailto:dcatt@bcit.ca">dcatt@bcit.ca</a>) with the correct answer will win a prize (which I will send when I return)!<br /></p> http://blogs.bcit.ca/catttrax2/node/475#comment Andean Condor Argentina Argentina National Park Mon, 09 Apr 2007 08:46:17 -0700 Danny Catt 475 at http://blogs.bcit.ca/catttrax2