Sunday, May 6, 2012

Bird Island

For years I have been going to Rocky Point. And for years I have always wanted to see the infamous "Bird Island" 28 miles away.  Today I take you all there with a little info that might help you out if you decide to visit...or not:) But before I begin, I should tell you that it was worth it.
Double Crested Cormorant
A week before going, I sent out several emails requesting information on prices, times, etc to head out.  I was able to charter a boat with 6 people at 75 dollars a person which included a small lunch and drinks like beer, water, and Coke light.  The person of the company called me right back and we were all set to go....or so I had thought.
We arrived at 9 AM like we were supposed to and waited....and waited.  Not for the people of the company.  But for the other half of the passengers.  When they finally arrived, they cancelled.  We were left without a boat, but being a dedicated wildlife enthusiast and activity coordinator, I wasn't willing to give up and the company was able to get us out on a small scuba diving boat....3 hours later!!  It was typical Mexican time:)  If you are unaware of the "Mexican time", it usually means you leave 2 or 3 hours after a scheduled time has been set.  For many Americans, this can be frustrating but I have gotten used to it over the years.  But we almost didn't make it on this day.  As you see in the photos, it was quite spectacular.  So the effort paid off and I thank the crew that helped us find a company to get us out there.
Of course, like any good birder, I did my research and discovered a lot of bird species were out on the islands and not found on the mainland.  Tomorrow I take you close and personal with the Blue Footed and Brown Boobies.  From this photo shoot alone, I took around 700 pictures!!
Essentially the "Bird Islands" or Isla San Jorge known by the locals are great rocks in the middle of the Sea Of Cortez.  It is also the beginning of islands that create a chain from the northern part of Mexico all the way down to South America.  The islands are all protected as a Marine Corridor with several of the islands containing untouched rain forest and many protected endemic creatures living on or around them.  These islands are nesting homes to many rare and beautiful seabirds.  Depending on what time of year you go, you may find whales in the area.  So you can see why this was a big thing for me to see:)
And Bird Island really lived up to the name.  Thousands of birds flew around these magnificent islands.  But what I write now is about the ride there:)  It was quite a memorable experience.  If you watched a "Big Year" with Steve Martin and Jack Black,  you may appreciate this experience even more.  I laughed the entire way there.  Should I have?  No.  It was a bit scary.  The waves were choppy and half the crew threw up.  It was pretty bad.  In the movie, Steve Martin is trying to do his "Big Year" but doesn't like getting on rocking boats as he gets seasick.  Well his character would have hated this little trip which lasted 6 hours!  We were the only boat heading toward the islands and people were on the floor crouched in the fetal position.  One young man ran to throw up over the side of the boat and was knocked over by a huge wave where he hit his head hard on the side of the vessel.  We helped him out and he was able to throw up properly while nursing his wound. 
Here are some tips that I've learned from growing up on Lake Michigan and trips to islands on Lake Titicaca in Peru etc.  Don't stay in the small enclosed cabins. Fresh air is better. I know you may get wet or sunburn by sitting on deck but it's much better than breathing in the fumes and getting really sick on board.  To avoid that, bring plenty of sunscreen and a hat that will provide shade to your head and neck. You can kind of see my hat below.  People laugh at me but I didn't get sick nor did I get sunburn:)  Going to areas not populated by humans has a cost......but it's worth it. Every single moment.
The incident even spread to my own group of friends.  It was hard to watch my friend turn green fighting off an anxiety attack.  So the best way to combat this?  Humor.  I asked if I could take a picture of her throwing up taking out my camera pointing it at her and she gave me a fist. Some words may have come out of her mouth, but the birds, boat motor, and waves were so loud that I may not have heard her correctly:)  That's when I knew she was going to be okay:)  But wouldn't that have been fun.  Pretend to catch a gull in the background while really taking a shot of the guy throwing up overboard.  That would have really added to this story:)!!  Okay...maybe not.
On approach to the island, this is what we saw.  As an amateur photographer, the tricky part about this shoot was protecting my lens from the saltwater.  I wore a special vest to put my camera inside while the waves were crashing about us.  We were soaked by the time we arrived.  The other part that was difficult was maneuvering around people on this small boat while confronting the large and rocky waves.  I have shaky hands already....so the stabilizer went on.  The sun was intense and washed out pictures so things had to be adjusted.  Many of my pictures turned out slanted because of the boat, but I was able to straighten them out:)
But all of this means nothing.  Truly.  We arrived at our destination.  Anchored.  You can't go on the islands but we watched all the life around us.  The sounds were incredible. During times of chaos with the public in and out of the classroom, I go to these moments in my mind and am able to block out the most stressful scenarios.  Call it a coping strategy:) Thousands of seabirds flying around you at all times.  Seals swimming up in groups to the boat....curious about snack eating humans on board.   Attention scuba divers, I'm not sure how you could safely scuba dive here BECAUSE the bull sea lions have been charging people from on shore.  Most of the sea lions are friendly, but the bulls are the largest and most aggressive.  He's protecting his family.  There have been reports that several divers were charged recently.  I heard the Mexican crew talking and it sounded like there were a few close calls. Yet they are still telling everyone it's okay.  That's why you learn a second or third language.  And the best part?  They don't expect white Americans to speak the language.  It's my secret weapon:)   Be careful.  
We turned a corner and this is something out of a fantastical story. The sea lion on the rock "oof oofed" us into the cove.  Warning!  People are here.  The above pic captures the magic of these islands.  I wish we had a naturalist on board to give us a little history on birds and other marine life.  I only knew any information from my research before the trip and was able to put things together.  Tomorrow we get up close and personal with the bird  species known as Boobies.  I hope you enjoy this series of shots.  I captured the nesting habits and I'll share with you some more interesting info.  Having a telephoto lens really makes the difference....:)




25 comments:

  1. Wow, what a vividly told story! I was there with you Chris, every choppy inch of the way! The boat journey did sound challenging but the place itself sounds just wonderful. The name alone is full of promise and you clearly weren't disappointed. What you have already shown us looks amazing and I am already looking forward to the next episode.

    And yes, I have the Big Year on DVD, great fun!

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    1. Gracias amiga.....love Big Year....I get excited everytime I watch it....because it makes me relive all my birding experiences out in the field. Pretty exciting stuff!

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  2. What a wonderful adventure. I am so glad you were able to get a boat out there and eventually made it to Bird Island. It looks a superb place to visit with all that wildlife. Lovely photos and thanks so much for sharing - I look forward to seeing more of your trip.

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    1. It was definitely the highlight of the trip. The night before I checked my gear several times to make sure I had everything packed. It's not often you get to see wildlife concentrated out in the middle of the ocean:)

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  3. Cool post, I love sea lion shots. And wonderful sightings of the both of the boobies. They are neat looking birds. I am sorry so many people were sea sick, I would probably have been one of them. I have to take the medicine before going out on boats. I enjoyed this post sounds like an awesome experience.

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    1. This definitely would have been the day to take the medicine. It was funny at first but towards the end, it was hard to watch the people on the deck of the boat curled up....I felt bad for them and tried to help but the waves were rough!

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  4. the sea sickness would get to me. just having others around me tossing their cookies would get to me. i'd have had a tough time enjoying the destination, afraid to say.

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    1. It wasn't for everyone...that's for sure!

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  5. Neat Chris! I've heard of that island and it does looks fabulous. Thanks for taking us along for the ride with that great narrative. As a puerile birder, I eagerly await your Boobie pictures.

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    1. I'm hoping the title tomorrow doesn't get me in trouble:) Seriously, saying the word, "Boobie" awkward. Whomever named these birds, had a sick sense of humor....it is actually kind of funny:)

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  6. Wow, what an amazing adventure. Thanks for taking me there through your wonderful photos and story. I look forward too, to seeing more of your trip.
    Have a great day.
    Mette

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  7. So glad you got on a boat in mannana land. Although rather rude of the Americans to cancel late like that. And very good advice about not getting sick on a rolling boat. Don't understand why folks go into the cabin where they can't see the horizon.

    Great captures of the birds and seals. Really look forward to seeing the boobies.

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    1. Oh you'll see plenty of them tomorrow:)

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  8. The boat sounds daunting, but the pictures make it worthwhile. For us ;~) Has your friend forgiven you, now time has passed?

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  9. These were all fun to see, and I didn't have to suffer the waves. Thanks for the ride!
    #9 of 12 brings to mind Romulan Warbirds.

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    1. Star Trek for LIFE!!! I can't tell you how happy you made me by making a Star Trek reference. At the end of the month I have something very very special planned around Star Trek....:)

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  10. That is an island which is a good thing for a visit. Beautiful photos as well.

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  11. Amazing! I saw 'The Big Year' on the plane returning from Phoenix. It was hilarious, I loved it! With all of the sea lions around there, are there also sharks?

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    1. There are sharks but not many. And I'm not sure why, but they are out there.

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  12. Oh Dear Kreesh, you've been to the most scary but awesome places! But this one i really can't join you. We are an archipelagic country composed of >1,700 islands but i've not been to many of the smaller ones, which are supposed to be the best. I am scared of deep waters, much more of big waves, and 6h is too much, OMG. There are some famous waters here too, these destinations are loved by tourists and i've sampled two of them. To Siquijor we are in a fast craft hydrofoil and waves seem like rolling us off and will wreck our boat to pieces. The 40min normal route become a very scary 1hr. But i went back though already in the not so rough sea season!

    That island looks enchanting and those birds look really big. It looks like the other side of Avatar movie!

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  13. I am always sea-sick, i love boat expedition but have to take dramamine before hand otherwise i feel so bad that i don't enjoy anything! But you wavy trip was worse it as the photos are magnificent and was wildlife!

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  14. Beautiful photos, Chris! I'm not sure I would have gotten seasick, but I am sure I would have gotten sick watching others get sick!

    Also, please warn before posting in rattler photos. :-)

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  15. You have done some very interesting things!

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Thanks for stopping by!