Friday, March 25, 2011

Bustamante one year later.

After almost exactly a year, I returned to Bustamante. I found last year that this location is a staggering point for shore birds starting in their migration to the northen hemisphere. Sure enough, sandpipers and others were congregated in great numbers feeding and resting waiting for the night to fly out.

Bustamante remains a quiet place, ideal for doing nothing. It used to be a busy hacienda back in the XX century when kelp was gathered from the bay and processed to obtain algin, a product used in the cosmetic and food industry. This suddenly ceased in the early 1980's due to an oil spill in the bay. When I returned this year, the kelp has recovered and the operations resumed in a small scale with workers returning to the previous empty apartments.

Although this may be my wrong perception, the fauna seems to be more acclimatized to humans and not as weary as they used to be. For the first time I was able to approach the martinetas without them running away; not only that but they appeared to be more numerous.

The wildlife photo opportunities this year were limited this year due to the high winds; as high as 120 Km/hr for a couple of days. I spent most of the time in the cabin but one day I ventured out. I went to the "Playa de las Roquitas" (little rocks) and did some HDR photography; I just kept myself low among the rocks avoid the wind gusts.

One day while waiting in the cabin for better weather, I heard a noise coming from a nearby trash can and went to investigate. The noise maker was a young skunk that could not climb out of the metal can and was trapped inside. I decided to be his freedom fighter and tipped the can over to allow for his escape. The skunk walked out and to show his gratitude, turned his rear towards me and raised the tail to spray me aromatic perfumes...I ran in time. No good deed goes unpunished!

One day I went to the "Isleta de los Pinguinos" to visit the nesting colony,it was as I saw it last year. I stayed a short time and mostly observed their behavior; how many pictures of a penguin can one have? But there was a family of caracaras with young ones learning to fly that offered me a great opportunity for doing fly photography

Matias, one of the owners of the estancia, is not only interested in the local wildlife but has intimidate knowledge of their activities. He directed me to a peregrine falcons nesting area in the walls of a canyon. I went and proceed to walk in the ridge of canyon looking at the opposite wall for the raptors. I was in the wrong ridge, as I paused and glanced down, and there it was, so close that I my lens could not focus on it. An opportunity of a lifetime just flew way. Instead I got a consolation image, that of a fabulous sunset like no other.

In the way back to civilization, my photo mentor, Mariano, took me to one of his secret places. A canyon with sandy and gypsum walls where the barranqueros or burrowing parrots nest. They are very leery of people since they are captured for the illegal animal trade that is adversely affecting their populations; you can read more about this at Wish I could have spend more time with them.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Puerto Deseado

Named because of the beauty around it, and the fisheries wealth arriving at the Port via the Deseado River estuary; it is the second largest fishing port in Argentina. The town itself looks as it has seen better times in the past as reflected by the now abandoned Railroad Station. Wool exports from the various haciendas in Patagonia were the major source of jobs back in the early XX century.

The area has a long history of visits by explorers and english pirates. Chrales Darwin arrived in December 23, 1833 and navigated up the river where he set up camp. He described the topography, geology, flora and fauna; in particular. He extensively elaborated about the behavior of the guanaco which was very abundant in those days. About 20 miles up the river, there is a promontory known as "Miradores de Darwin" that offers stunning views as seen above. Neaby by there are caves with ancient indian paintings of hands all over the walls.

The island of the Pinguinos, currently a protected national park with an abandoned lighthouse, is the home of Magellan penguins (above), rockhopper penguins, skuas, cormorants, sea lions, and elephant seals and many more.

The island is home to the only colony of rockhopper penguins in coastal Patagonia. They are smaller than the other species of penguins I have seen. The adults have yellow feathers resembly eyebrows that make them very attractive.

When I visited in early February, most of the chicks were fully grown and showing almost full adult plumage. They were still been fed by the adults and are not afraid of humans and easily approached.

For the first time I had a close encounter with skuas. They are very aggresive and will dive bomb those approaching their nest of chicks. I was subjected to their repeated attacks and my hat what hit on occasions. Nevertheless, I managed to get a photo of one of the chicks; imagine such a bellicose attitute to keep me away from such an ugly thing.

In the way back to Puerto Deseado, I was rewarded by a visit from a family of dolphins that for some unknown reason, are attracted to boats and performs aerobatict shows...and it is free!!!

I also visited the national park that follows the Deseado River upstream. Soon after driving into the park late in the afternoon, I encountered a small farm house selling "range eggs." Following the road to the right I ended in a canyon; it is very narrow with high rocky walls full of small cavities and caves. It was obvious that this formation was under water eons ago. I soon was rewarded by an owl family who granted me the opportunity to observe their hunting behavior.

Farther up the park, there is a gray cormorants colony nesting in the cliffs that offered me an opportunity to photograph their nesting behavior under challenging photo conditions due to their flying speed and poor lighting. They are the most beautiful cormorants I have seen so far.

After spending a 3 afternoons in the park, it was time to depart in my way north to Bustamante, an unknown paradise that I found the previous year.