26-JAN-11: Isla Santiago
The next morning, we were bound for Puerto Egas, an abandoned settlement on Isla Santiago. Katie was wiped out from the first two days—the heat plus pregnancy affected her harder than she thought it would—and she took a pass on the morning hike, choosing to sit in the shade on the sun deck of the boat and read.
So, of course, the first we saw when we landed on the beach were three sea lion pups, including an awkward, stumbling, three-week-old pup with big liquid eyes (below). It was all I could do not to scoop it up in my arms. I debated all morning about whether I should even tell her what we saw.
There was a fourth pup that wandered up the beach to us as well. It was older than the other three, and had been playing in the water. And it had a vicious pair of deep cuts on its right shoulder, the larger about eight inches long and three inches wide. The cuts weren’t bleeding, and the pup wasn’t crying out in pain (I assume it would do this), so it was probably an older wound, maybe from the previous day. Malina, our guide, told us that the pup would survive, no problem, as long as the mother continued to feed it. It still hurt to see the little guy with cuts that big.
Malina managed to tear us away from the pups to begin the hike, but we only managed to move about 30 feet inland before a tiny little yellow-brown bird—a large-billed flycatcher—started circling around us. Well, to be more accurate, around my telephoto lens. The tiny bird would just fly right up to the lens, hover there like a hummingbird for five seconds, and then fly away. Apparently, the flycatcher identifies flies by sunlight reflecting off a fly’s eye. A camera lens looks like one big old fly. One of the other passengers, Joe from Long Island, snapped a fabulous shot of the little bird buzzing my camera. I don’t have it yet, but I will get it.
It took another big effort from Malina to get us moving again. That tiny little bird was magical.
And there wasn’t much to the rest of the walk, honestly. I got some decent shots of a bird called an American Oyster Catcher snatching a Sally Lightfoot Crab and eating it.
When we returned to the beach, we went back to the Flamingo, but only for a 15-minute turnaround to put on snorkeling gear to take a swim along the beach of Isla Santiago. I saw most of the same stuff as before, but the water was a bit clearer.
…There was a big marine turtle munching on the algae growing on the rocks. He wouldn’t let me swim in front of his face to get that perfect “critter looking at you” shot. But otherwise, he didn’t move very much all, just allowed himself to be pulled back and forth with the waves. It was still tough to get good shots with the underwater camera, but he gave me plenty of opportunities.
I accidentally left my wedding ring on while snorkeling, and I had to leave my left hand clenched in a fist to keep it from coming off.
As to my right calf, I barely noticed the pain from the day before at all. I think I was just dehydrated.