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Most Viewed Favorites in Galápagos Islands

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    Land iguanas

    by toonsarah Updated Dec 6, 2012

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    Favorite thing: One of the largest animals you will see in the Galápagos are the Land iguanas, which on some islands can reach over a metre in length. There are actually two species to be found here – Conolophus subcristatus on six of the islands, and Conolophus pallidus only on Santa Fe. The latter can be a paler yellow than the main species (hence the name, “pallidus”), and has more spines on its back. Charles Darwin described the Land iguanas as “ugly animals, of a yellowish orange beneath, and of a brownish-red colour above: from their low facial angle they have a singularly stupid appearance.” however I have to say that I disagree with the famous naturalist, as I found them sort of cute, although probably only their mothers would find them beautiful!

    All the marine and land iguana species in the Galápagos are thought to be descendants of a single species, the Green Iguana, which is native on the South American continent. Arriving probably on vegetation rafts to the isles, the green iguana in order to survive had to adapt to a new and different environment by evolving into two very distinct new species. The Land iguana adapted to feed on the vegetation of the islands. Surprisingly perhaps, they prefer the prickly pear cactus or Opuntia . This in turn has evolved, growing much taller than elsewhere in the world in order to be out of reach of the iguanas, but the latter simply stand on their hind legs to reach the pads and fruit. They have a leathery, tough tongue and don't need to remove the spines from the cactus before eating. The cactus forms about 80% of their diet and ensures that they get plenty of water even in the arid dry season such as when we visited.

    We saw these ultra-photogenic guys on:
    North Seymour
    Española
    South Plaza
    Santa Fe [although relatively few of this endemic species here were to be seen on the day we were there]

    Next tip: ”Marine iguanas"

    N Seymour Endemic Santa Fe Land Iguana Land iguana eating Opuntia, North Seymour On South Plaza
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    Marine iguanas

    by toonsarah Updated Dec 6, 2012

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    Favorite thing: The other main species of iguana that you will see on many of the islands are the marine iguanas, of which there are in fact seven sub-species, varying in size and colour. Most are black or dark grey but some have red colouring too, most notably on Española where the males have not only red but often green colouring too, which becomes brighter during the mating season – giving them the nickname of Christmas iguana!

    All marine and land iguana species in the Galápagos are thought to be descendants of a single species, the Green Iguana, which is native on the South American continent. Arriving probably on vegetation rafts to the isles, the green iguana in order to survive had to adapt to a new and different environment by evolving into two very distinct new species.

    The marine iguana found himself on islands where vegetation was sparse, and turned, through necessity, to the plant-life beneath the sea. He thus became the world's only sea-going lizard. They have developed a flattened snout and sharp teeth in order to feed on the algae on the underwater rocks. Their tail is flattened vertically like a rudder to help them swim and they have long claws to grip the rocks while feeding so that they don’t drift away.

    We saw these fascinating animals almost everywhere we went:
    North Seymour
    Santiago [including one feeding underwater while snorkelling as well as lots on the lava outcrops on shore]
    Genovesa
    Santa Cruz
    Española [the colourful sub-species endemic to the island]
    South Plaza

    Fondest memory: Marine iguanas can stay submerged for up to ten minutes, before having to come up for air. When not feeding they are usually found sunning themselves on lava rocks, often in large groups and, as we saw in several places, even piled up on top of one another! Sometimes you will see them appear to sneeze, but in fact they are snorting to get rid of any excess sea salt with the help of special glands in their nostrils. I was fortunate to be able to catch such a snort on this video on the rocks of Santiago. I also made a short video the distinctive walk of the marine iguana on Española – you can see the shallow groove his tail creates in the sand. And look how his back feet almost touch his front ones – one day I watched and laughed as one nearly fell over his own feet when his claws became tangled as he walked!

    Next tip: ”Lava lizards”

    Christmas On Espa��ola On North Seymour On Santiago We lost count! On Santiago
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    Lava lizards

    by toonsarah Written Dec 6, 2012

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    Favorite thing: The smallest of the reptiles we saw regularly on the islands were the lava lizards. There are seven species:
    Galápagos Lava Lizard: Microlophus albermarlensis
    Española Lava Lizard: Microlophus delanonis
    Floreana Lava Lizard: Microlophus gray
    Marchena Lava Lizard: Microlophus habellii
    Pinta Lava Lizard: Microlophus pacificus
    Pinzon Lava Lizard: Microlophus duncanensis
    San Cristobal Lava Lizard: Microlophus bivattatus

    There is only ever one species on each island. All but the Galápagos Lava Lizard is found only on the island whose name they bear, whereas the former is found on many islands: Baltra, Bartolomé, Daphne Major, Fernandina, Isabela, North Seymour, South Plaza, Rabida, Santa Cruz, Santa Fe and Santiago.

    We just saw the first two of these as we didn’t visit the islands where the others are to be found.

    Lava lizards are smaller than the iguanas but nevertheless can grow to up to 30 cm in length (males – females are shorter). They are found on all the major islands apart from Genovesa. The one in my main photo is a female on Española, as is the second photo, while the others are Galápagos lava lizards on North Seymour and Santa Cruz. In all the species the females tend to be more colourful, with a red throat, but on Española, as you can see, the whole head is often bright red. The colouring and patterns of the males vary quite a bit between species, according to the landscape and environment of the islands, as they have evolved to blend in with their surroundings. They don’t blend in that well however! We saw lava lizards on most of the islands, including:
    Española
    North Seymour
    Sombrero Chino
    Bartolomé
    Santa Cruz

    Next tip: ”Giant tortoises”

    Lava lizard, Espa��ola Lava lizard, Espa��ola Lava lizard, Santa Cruz Lava lizard, North Seymour
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    Giant tortoises

    by toonsarah Updated Dec 6, 2012

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    Favorite thing: Giant tortoises are endemic to the Galápagos, with 15 subspecies having been recorded around the archipelago. Not only do we find a different subspecies on each island where the tortoises live, but on Isabella there is a different subspecies for each of the four volcanoes. To a tortoise these volcanoes might just as well be islands, as they are unable to travel the distances between them, being too slow to cross large areas devoid of suitable vegetation for their diet. Although all the subspecies are distinct to scientists, to the lay person appear two main types, according to the shape of the shell: dome-shaped or saddleback. In the latter the front part of the shell seems cut away (see photo two), allowing the tortoise to lift his head higher and to reach taller plants. These live in the more arid places, where vegetation is relatively scarce and they can’t rely on finding it at ground level.

    These are the animal that perhaps most symbolises these islands, and indeed gave them their name – Galápagos is derived from the Spanish for saddle, referring to the shape of the tortoise’s shell. And their huge size (they can weigh over 250 kilos, and their shells measure up to 150 cm) makes them the dominant species on the islands – dominant that is until man arrived.

    These lumbering but strangely mesmerising beasts have captured people’s imagination through the centuries. They played a part in developing Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, when he heard the vice-governor of the Islands’ assertion that he could identify what island a tortoise was from simply by looking at him:
    “The inhabitants...state that they can distinguish the tortoise from different islands; and that they differ not only in size, but in other characters. Captain Porter has described those from Charles and from the nearest island to it, namely Hood Island, as having their shells in front thick and turned up like a Spanish saddle, whilst the tortoises from James Island are rounder, blacker, and have a better taste when cooked.”
    And more recently Steven Spielberg was inspired after a visit here to create ET – look, you can surely see the resemblance!

    But man very nearly wiped these animals from existence. When he arrived in the Galápagos there were hundreds of thousands of giant tortoises. But as the quote from Darwin above indicates, the tortoises were found to be a valuable source of meat for sailors who had been long at sea, and were hunted accordingly. They were also threatened by the arrival of alien animals introduced by man: pigs, goats, horses and cows whose existence in the islands threatened young tortoises. These ate the little vegetation that was available in the islands, and their hooves crushed tortoise eggs and the soft shells of the young ones.

    Fortunately the danger was recognised, although not before several of the subspecies had been wiped out. In the 1970s the Charles Darwin Research Station on Santa Cruz established a tortoise- rearing project, collecting eggs from islands where the species had become endangered, and bringing them to the station where they are incubated and hatched. The young tortoises are raised until their shells become strong and they can withstand the threat of the introduced predators, and are then released back into the wild. Most cruises, ours included, have a visit here as part of their itinerary. Some, again like ours, will also take you to the Santa Cruz highlands to see the giant tortoises in a more natural environment on one of several reserves where they are protected but otherwise live in the wild. It’s quite a sight to watch these hulking beasts on the move, wherever you see them – check out my short video to see what I mean.

    Next tip: ”Sally Lightfoot crabs”

    At the Charles Darwin Research Station Saddleback tortoise Inside a giant tortoise shell In the wild Giant tortoise foot
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    Sally Lightfoot crabs

    by toonsarah Updated Dec 6, 2012

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    Favorite thing: These distinctive crabs can be seen all over the Galápagos, especially on the dark lava rocks, and they really catch the eye with their vivid orange and blue colouring. They are not endemic to the islands, being also found all along the Pacific coast of South and Central America. Nevertheless they seem to be one of the animals most associated with the Galápagos.

    They are quite large (adults can grow to about 20 cm) and really stand out against those dark rocks, so you will spot them easily. They are harder to photograph than some of the other animals though, as they can move quite quickly at times. If you spot one that appears to be blowing bubbles from under the shell, as in my third photo, it’s an indication that it will soon be discarding its shell. The crabs have to do this periodically as they grow, because the shell doesn’t grow with them and becomes too small. So they shed the old shell and then have to stay in a sheltered, hidden spot such as a crevice in the rocks until the soft new one beneath it, now exposed, can harden. During this time they are very vulnerable and would make a tasty meal for a sea bird, hence the need to hide.

    Also known more prosaically as red rock crabs, these are among the most beautiful of crabs. The colour can vary but is always bright, although the young are dark brown (for camouflage on the rocks). John Steinbeck, one of my favourite authors, wrote about them:
    “everyone who has seen them has been delighted with them. The very name they are called by reflects the delight of the name. These little crabs, with brilliant cloisonné carapaces, walk on their tiptoes. ... They seem to be able to run in any of four directions; but more than this, perhaps because of their rapid reaction time, they appear to read the mind of their hunter. They escape the long-handled net, anticipating from what direction it is coming. If you walk slowly, they move slowly ahead of you in droves. If you hurry, they hurry. When you plunge at them, they seem to disappear in a puff of blue smoke—at any rate, they disappear. It is impossible to creep up on them. They are very beautiful, with clear brilliant colours, red and blues and warm browns.”

    We saw Sally Lightfoot crabs in lots of places, most notably:

    Sombrero Chino
    Santiago
    South Plaza

    We also saw hermit crabs on a few of the islands, including Sombrero Chino.

    Next tip: ”Blue-footed Boobies”

    Sally Lightfoot crabs, Santiago Sally Lightfoot crab, Santiago Sally Lightfoot crab, Sombrero Chino
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    Blue-footed Boobies

    by toonsarah Written Dec 6, 2012

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    Favorite thing: There are several species indelibly linked in the mind with the Galápagos Islands, and one of these is certainly the blue-footed booby. The distinctive feet that give it its name, almost turquoise in colour, really are as bright and bizarre-looking as they seem in the photos! These feet are used during courtship, the birds deliberately lifting their feet and showing them to their mates. The rest of the bird though is somewhat drab: a mix of brown and white with a large greyish-blue bill. This bill is used very effectively in feeding – the booby plunges downwards into the sea at speeds of nearly 100 kph, using the bill like an arrow to pierce the water.

    Male and female Blue-footed Boobies look alike, though the females tend to be a little larger, and their eyes have a little more pigmentation around them. The males have slightly lighter feet, and I think that in my photo of a pair on Española, the male may be the one on the right, for this reason. They also sound different – males give a plaintive whistle whereas females and immature juveniles give a hoarse “quack”.

    Blue-footed Boobies are not endemic to the Galápagos, despite being so intrinsically linked to them in numerous images, but over half of all breeding pairs nest here. They lay between one and three eggs, though two is usual. The eggs hatch a few days apart, and in seasons when food is scarce it is not uncommon for the older chick to kill its smaller and weaker sibling.

    By the way, the odd (and in English rather suggestive) name is thought to have derived from the Spanish slang term bobo, meaning "stupid" – perhaps because of their clumsiness on land, or because these almost-tame birds had an unfortunate habit of landing on sailing ships and were easily captured and eaten.

    The islands where we saw Blue-footed Boobies in significant numbers were North Seymour (where there were adults, juveniles, downy chicks and eggs) and Española where there were several nesting pairs near the Punta Suarez landing site.

    Next tip: ”Red-footed Boobies”

    On Espa��ola Blue-footed Booby, Espa��ola Blue-footed Booby & chick, North Seymour Blue-footed Booby and chick, North Seymour
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    Red-footed Boobies

    by toonsarah Written Dec 6, 2012

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    Favorite thing: Before coming to the Galápagos I had seen numerous photos of Blue-footed Boobies and was looking forward to meeting them “in person”, but I had seen and read relatively little about their red-footed cousins and consequently was surprised and delighted to find them even more appealing! The combination of bright blue bill, pretty pink and turquoise colouring around the eye, soft brown (usually) plumage and red feet is a winning one. I say “usually” soft brown, because you will also see white Red-footed Boobies, although only 5% fall into this category, and both are the same species.

    Unlike other boobies, the red-footed ones nest in trees, and on Genovesa we saw loads of them in the red mangrove trees that lined the trail at Darwin Bay, as well as on the other side of the island near Prince Philip Steps (El Barranco). Many of them had soft fluffy white chicks, and they seemed to be among the least fearful of all the birds we saw in the Galápagos, and as gently curious about us as we were about them. I took so many photos as it seemed that in every tree there was a red-footed booby more engaging and even closer to me than in the previous one!

    These boobies are the smallest of the three species found in the Galápagos, at about 70 cm. They raise just one chick at a time, and about 15 months apart. Because mating isn’t seasonal, there is always a good chance you will see young chicks, whatever time of year you visit the islands.

    Next tip: ”Nazca Boobies”

    Red-footed Booby, Genovesa Red-footed Booby, Genovesa Red-footed Booby, Genovesa Red-footed Booby chick, Genovesa
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    Nazca Boobies

    by toonsarah Written Dec 6, 2012

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    Favorite thing: The third of the booby species to be seen in the Galápagos are the Nazca Boobies. Once thought to be a sub-species of masked booby, these are now recognised as a species in their own right, endemic to these islands. They are mostly white, with an orange bill and the mask-like black markings around it.

    Nazca Boobies lay two eggs, several days apart. If they both hatch, the older chick will push its sibling out of the nest area. The parent booby will not intervene and the younger chick will certainly die of thirst, hunger or cold. Scientists believe that the two eggs are laid so that one acts as a sort of insurance in case the other gets destroyed or eaten, or the first chick dies soon after hatching. They nest at different times on different islands, for instance you will see eggs laid on Genovesa
    between August and November and on Española between November and February. This meant that visiting in November we were able to see all the different stages of their life-cycle, especially on Genovesa where we saw lots of them, in particular along the path near Prince Philip Steps (El Barranco) – some had eggs, some a little or not so little chick, and a few pairs were in the early stages of courtship and building their nests. I have a short video taken there. We also saw Nazca Boobies on the cliffs of South Plaza.

    Next tip: ”Frigatebirds”

    Nazca Booby, Genovesa Nazca Booby and eggs, Genovesa Nazca Booby chick, Genovesa
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    Frigatebirds

    by toonsarah Written Dec 6, 2012

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    Favorite thing: Frigatebirds are large mainly black birds, related to pelicans. There are two species found in the Galápagos Islands – the magnificent frigatebird (fregata magnificens) and the great frigatebird (fregata minor), and we were able to see both during our week’s cruising. Both are fantastic flyers, able to spend up to a week in the air without landing, but they are clumsy on land and unable to swim. They feed by snatching prey from the ocean surface or beach (or sometimes from other birds) using their long, hooked bills.

    The males of both species are black, with iridescent feathers that have a purple sheen on the Magnificent Frigatebirds and greenish on the Great Frigatebirds. The females lack this sheen and have pale breasts. The eyes of the female magnificent frigatebird have a blue ring and those of a great frigatebird a red or pink one. Juvenile Magnificent Frigatebirds have pale heads, while the juvenile Great Frigatebirds have a ginger-coloured head that made me smile each time I saw one!

    We saw Magnificent Frigatebirds, the larger of the two species, on our first landing, on North Seymour. There were lots of them sitting in the bushes, and many of the males were inflating their scarlet throat pouches, known as "gular pouches", to attract females to mate with them. We saw several groups each vying for the attention of a single female who happened to land in their tree.

    On Genovesa we saw lots of Great Frigatebirds, mainly juveniles with those comical ginger hair-dos, and fluffy chicks. I imagine that the adults were at sea looking for food for the young – Great Frigatebirds care for and feed their young for up to two years.

    We also saw frigatebirds on Española, flying off the cliffs, and they were regularly to be seen accompanying the Angelito as we sailed from island to island, including a memorable occasion when one left a sizeable “deposit” on my head, much to the amusement of others in our group!

    Next tip: ”Waved albatross”, the most awesome of birds!

    Magnificent Frigatebirds, North Seymour Female Magnificent Frigatebird, North Seymour Juvenile Great Frigatebird, Genovesa Great Frigatebird, Genovesa Frigatebirds in flight above the Angelito
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    Waved albatross

    by toonsarah Written Dec 6, 2012

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    Favorite thing: To see waved albatross in the Galápagos you will have to include Española in your itinerary and visit between late March and late December, as the birds are only on the island to breed and at sea for the rest of the year. If you can possibly plan your trip to include them, do – seeing these awe-inspiring birds was definitely one of the highlights of our trip! My first sight of this five month old chick, already huge, will stay with me for a long time, and he seemed equally taken by the sight of us – happy to sit and pose on his nest for as long as we wanted to sit and watch him, which as you can imagine was quite a while!

    Waved albatross are considered endemic not only the Galápagos, but to Española, where they are nest in just two locations, Punta Cevallos (which can’t be visited), and Punta Suarez, where we saw them. There is a large colony here at the top of a sea cliff, to which the birds can walk and take flight simply by jumping off.

    Waved albatrosses, like other albatrosses, spend part of the year at sea. They begin to return to Española in March, the males arriving first. They mate for life, so the male returns to the previous year's breeding territory to await his partner.

    Waved albatrosses, like other albatrosses, engage in a very lengthy, noisy, and complex courtship ritual, even if they are an established pair (although new pairs perform for longer). The dance involves bill-fencing, in which the partners bend, face each other, and rapidly slap their bills back and forth. In another step each faces the other in an upright posture, sometimes poising with bill wide open. The bills are then shut with a loud clap. Sometimes the birds will clatter their bills rapidly. The dance also involves bowing, and parading around one another with the head swaying side to side in an exaggerated sway, accompanied by a nasal "anh-a-annhh" sound. Although we visited towards the end of the breeding season, when pairs were already established and chicks hatched, we were fortunate enough to see a few of these displays as couples reinforced their bonds – or in one instance, it seemed, flirted with others. Do have a look at my short video of this ritual.

    Between mid-April and July the pair produces a single egg. They don’t build a nest, so the egg simply lies on the ground. The egg is incubated by both parents for about two months. Early in incubation, each parent takes long stints, as much as three weeks, but as hatching nears, the stints become shorter. For the first few weeks after hatching, one parent guards the chick while the other forages for food, but after that, the chicks are left unguarded, in nursery groups, while both parents spend longer times at sea looking for food – it was in one of these groups that we found our young friends.

    By the end of December, the chicks have fledged, and they leave their nurseries with their parents and head for the western Pacific. Although their parents return to Española the following year, the fledglings remain away for five to six years, at which time they also return to the island to begin breeding for the first time.

    As well as seeing the chicks, and the comical courtship ritual, we also sat for some time near the edge of the rocky clearing that is home to the colony. Here we could observe lots of waved albatross action, including birds in flight (graceful) and landing (rather less so. From the nearby cliffs we saw many more, wheeling in the sky above our heads. The trail at Punta Suarez was the longest and hardest of all that we did on the islands, testing my dodgy knee to the full, but I wouldn’t have missed it for anything!

    Next tip: ”Galápagos penguins”

    Waved albatross chick, Espa��ola Waved albatross, Espa��ola Waved albatross chick, Espa��ola Waved albatross, Espa��ola Waved albatross, Espa��ola
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    Galápagos penguins

    by toonsarah Updated Dec 6, 2012

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    Favorite thing: The Galápagos penguin is the second smallest penguin in the world and the only one to live north of the equator. It is mostly seen on the western islands, Isabella and Fernandina, neither of which were on our itinerary, but fortunately we saw some on the rocky black lava shoreline of Santiago when we took a short panga ride there before landing on Sombrero Chino opposite. The group here consisted of a couple of pairs and one juvenile. A couple of days later we spotted another, swimming just off the beach of Bartolomé.

    Galápagos penguins nest in loose colonies in burrows or crevices close to the shore, breeding throughout the year depending on food availability, so you might be lucky enough to see a chick or juvenile at any time. They are considered a vulnerable species, and their numbers fluctuate between a few thousand and a few hundred, declining significantly after El Niño years when there is little or no upwelling of the Humboldt Current. Males and females are almost identical, although males are slightly larger than females. Their upper parts, flippers and face are black), with a white line running through the eyes, down the cheeks and across the throat. Their under parts are white with a black line across the breast and down the flanks. Juveniles are grey and lack the patterning of the adults. My photos were taken from a rocking boat so could be clearer, but you can see that in the main one the juvenile is on the left.

    Next tip: "Galápagos Hawks”

    Adult and juvenile penguins, Santiago Gal��pagos penguin, Santiago Chris with the penguins
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    Galápagos hawk

    by toonsarah Updated Dec 6, 2012

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    Favorite thing: We were pretty excited when we first saw a Galápagos hawk, on Santiago, and tried (and failed) to get some photos of it. We had more success on Española, where a pair were nesting (and mating) at one end of the beach at Gardner Bay. But it was on Santa Fe that we were to have one of our most memorable encounters with them, and indeed with any species in the islands.

    The Galápagos hawk is the only hawk to be found here and is endemic. It is found throughout the archipelago but not in great numbers, and is considered under threat. One estimate puts the current population of mating pairs as low as 150. The adults are a dark brownish black, with darker heads and paler tails and under-wings. They have brown eyes, grey beaks, and yellow legs and feet. The juveniles are a mottled brown, which becomes darker as they grow older. This mottled effect gives them excellent camouflage when small and vulnerable.

    Fondest memory: But back to that encounter on Santa Fe. Landing early here we were met by the sight of a newborn sea lion pup, the mother still blooded and the placenta lying on the sand nearby. As we watched, we spotted a couple of juvenile Galápagos hawks circling the area and landing in the nearby trees. They were all eyeing up this “treat” and eventually one dived in to snatch it. They were soon all fighting over it and devouring it with great relish. I made a short video of them and for a minute or two felt just like David Attenborough! Once satisfied they remained in the trees nearby and seemed totally unfazed by their human audience, even seeming to pose for photos with us (see photo four). What an experience!

    Next tip: ”Gulls”

    Juvenile, Santa Fe Juvenile, Santa Fe Snatching the placenta On Santa Fe Adult pair, Espanola
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    Gulls

    by toonsarah Updated Dec 6, 2012

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    Favorite thing: There are five species of gull that you might see on the Galápagos Islands, of which two are endemic – the swallow-tailed and lava gulls. We saw both of these, but far more of the former. As the name suggests, it has a forked tail and is an attractive bird, I thought, with its silver-grey plumage (white on the under parts), dark head and red eye-ring. Among the islands where we saw the most swallow-tailed gulls were:
    North Seymour
    Genovesa
    South Plaza

    I especially enjoyed watching them on Genovesa where I sat for some time by a rocky pool right next to a very affectionate nesting pair!

    Next tip: "Galápagos doves”

    Swallow-tailed gulls, Genovesa Swallow-tailed gull, Genovesa Swallow-tailed gull and chick, Genovesa
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    Galápagos dove

    by toonsarah Written Dec 6, 2012

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    Favorite thing: The Galápagos dove was another of the birds that we saw on many of the islands, on beaches and on the low scrubby ground that often lies behind the foreshore. It is quite small (between 18 and 23 cm long) and rather attractive, with a vivid blue eye ring and red legs and feet “topping and tailing” a soft brown mottled body, its wing feather flecked with white and with a rose-pink breast.

    The Galápagos dove has a curved beak and feeds largely on seeds picked from the ground, mainly from the Opuntia cactus. It also eats the pulp of the cactus, which is probably their main source of water. On Genovesa, Fabian showed us how the spines of the Opuntia cactus have softened through evolution, thus allowing the Galápagos dove to reach the pads more easily and to pollinate the flowers. This is a result of the lack of bees on this remote island that would normally perform this function.

    As well as Genovesa, we saw Galápagos doves on North Seymour, and on most of the other islands too.

    Next tip: ”Herons”

    Gal��pagos dove, North Seymour
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    • Birdwatching
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  • toonsarah's Profile Photo

    Herons

    by toonsarah Written Dec 6, 2012

    4.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Favorite thing: There are several species of heron on the Galápagos, including Great Blue Herons, Yellow-crowned Night Herons and Lava Herons, all of which we saw in our time here. I have seen Great Blue Herons elsewhere, but those seen here belong to an endemic subspecies, cognata. They are as the name suggests the largest of the herons, and are found in fairly small numbers on several islands. We saw one fishing from the beach on Bartolomé.

    We saw the small Lava Herons on a couple of islands, including on the black lava shore of Santiago (opposite Sombrero Chino) and on Genovesa. These are fairly drab grey birds, with a hunched posture, but with bright orange-yellow legs when breeding (grey at other times). They feed on small fish and crabs. Unfortunately one of the only two photos I managed to get was from a panga, so it could be sharper!

    We saw several Yellow-crowned Night Herons on Genovesa, both adults and juveniles. Only the adults have the distinctive yellow crown that gives them the first part of their name. The second part drives from their habit of feeding mainly at night, when they hunt for crabs in coastal lagoons. Despite this nocturnal habit, we saw quite a few here in broad daylight.

    Next tip: ”Mockingbirds”

    Yellow-crowned Night Heron, Genovesa Juvenile Yellow-crowned Night Heron, Genovesa Juvenile Yellow-crowned Night Heron, Genovesa Lava Heron, Espanola Lava Heron, Santiago (from panga)
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    • Cruise
    • Birdwatching
    • National/State Park

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