December 26, 2011: We began our first full day in Leon, Nicaragua with a visit to the Isla Juan Venado Wildlife Reserve, a fine combination of mangrove swamp and Pacific Ocean beach.
(Click photos to enlarge them.)
While waiting in Las Peñitas for our boat to pull up, we watched a black vulture getting a snack.
Our captain and his young helper.
In the mangrove swamp, egrets and herons were as plentiful as robins in spring. Also ibises, a pygmy kingfisher (not like the one we saw in Madagascar), a roseate spoonbill, and several other species. We hoped to see a crocodile, but were disappointed.
As our boat approached an egret in a tree, it would leave its perch and the often fly low downriver ahead of the boat. I wanted to get a photo of the bird with its reflection in the water: this was the best of many tries.
We stopped halfway to spend some time on a lovely beach, with some very interesting layered and eroded rock formations.
On the way back, we visited a turtle nursery, where turtle eggs are gathered, incubated under guard to protect them from predators and poachers, then released into the ocean when they are a few hours old. These little guys are waiting to go. Notice that they're almost all pointed in the same direction, which must reflect their mysterious homing instinct.
Back in Las Peñitas, we stopped for a beer at an oceanside bar, where we had to step over (and sympathized with) this dog taking a nap in the noonday sun.
We had lunch in a supermarket in Leon, since all the comedores our guide had in mind were closed for the "day after Christmas holiday". On the way out, we passed some bins full of local vegetables, and I assempled this composite.
Walking back to our hotel after lunch, we passed the brightly-painted telephone company building, with the brightly-painted motorcycles in front. I thought the guard's bright white shirt added just the right extra touch, motioned with my camera to ask if I could take his picture, and he said yes.
In mid-afternoon we drove to the small village of San Jacinto, which features "hervideros", pools of boiling mud and steam associated with two nearby volcanoes, one of which (Telica) is seen here.
The graceful flank of Volcano Telica, adorned with silvery clouds.
Two girls from the village who tried to "give" us a little clay pot. We eventually accepted and gave them a dollar in return.
Two kids at the entrance booth to the hervideros, engaged in their separate, mysterious but colorful, games.
Back in our hotel, we found this extremely friendly and charming white poodle, a favorite of all the guests, enjoying the pool while his family watched.