The Galapagos Sea Lion (Zalophus californianus wollebaeki) is an endemic subspecies. It is common, and there is a population of about 50 000 Sea Lions in the Galapagos Islands. They can be seen in many places near the shores, on beaches, on the rocks or even in the towns (for example on a porch in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno and at the Fish Market in Puerto Ayora). Don’t be surprised if you get surrounded by playful sea lions while snorkelling. It is absolutely fantastic!
The male Sea Lion becomes very large, up to 230cm in length, with a weigh up to 250kg. They have a dark brown fur, which almost looks black when wet and they have a thick neck.
The females are smaller and weigh up to 120kg. They have lighter brown fur, which looks dark brown when wet. There are many more females as only one tenth of the Sea Lion pups are males.
The Galapagos Sea Lions feed during the day and they mostly eat Sardines. They can be away at sea for days to hunt for fish. Sharks are natural predators of the Sea Lions.
The Galapagos Sea Lions form colonies which consist of a dominant male (bull) and up to 30 females (cows) with their pups. The bull protects its territory against other males and sometimes there are fights. As it is difficult for a male to be away feeding while protecting his territory he becomes weaker and he will then be replaced by a stronger male after a while. Males without a territory form bachelor colonies.
The females give birth to one pup each year, which they nurse for up to three years. Sometimes you can see two pups of different age suckling milk from their mother. When they are around five months the pups can start fishing for themselves though. The mother and child can recognise each other’s bark and thus find each other among the other Sea Lions in the colony.
The Sea Lions in the first two photos are on the beach at Gardner Bay, and the Sea Lions in the 3rd, 4th and 5th photos all lie on a small beach near the landing point at Punta Suárez.
The beautiful Sally Lightfoot crabs (Grapsus grapsus) can be seen all over the shores of the Galapagos Islands. With its bright orange colour it stands out from the black lava rocks where you often see them. The young ones are dark in colour though, and this make them well camouflaged on the rocks. The adult crabs can be as big as 20cm. Sally Lightfoot crabs eat algae and small animals. Like other crabs they are moving fast and will run away if you come too close.
The Sally Lightfoot crabs are not only found on Galapagos Islands, but can be found along the American Pacific coast from Peru in the south to Mexico in the north.
The Sally Lightfoot Crab in the photo is walking on the rocks at Gardner Bay on Isla Española.
When Charles Darwin visited Galapagos Islands in 1835 he noticed that the Mockingbirds looked a bit different on different islands, and that is something that influenced his thoughts of evolution.
There are four different species of Mockingbirds and they are all endemic. One is the Charles (Floreana) Mockingbird an endangered species that can only be found on the two small islands Champion and Gardner just off Floreana. Then there is the Chatham (San Cristóbal) Mockingbird that lives on Isla San Cristóbal and it is quite uncommon. On Isla Española the Hood Mockingbird is common, and common on the other islands is the Galapagos Mockingbird.
The mockingbirds have a grey and brown plumage with a white belly, and their length is 25-28cm. The bill is long, thin and black.
Mockingbirds can be found in dry forests- and shrubland areas. They are omnivours and often prey on seabird eggs, insects, young finches or small Lava Lizards.
The Mockingbirds in the photos are Hood Mockingbirds having a feast on turtle eggs on the beach at Gardner Bay, Isla Española. The Hood Mockingbird is the largest of the Mockingbird species on Galapagos Islands and it also has a longer, more curved bill than the other Mockingbirds. That is very useful when eating eggs of sea birds or turtles. The Hood Mockingbird is known to be unafraid of humans and it can often get quite aggressive.
The Galapagos Hawk (Buteo galapagoensis) is endemic to Galapagos Islands. There it can be seen on most island but mostly on Isla Española, Isla Santa Fe, Santiago and Isla Fernandina, and it can be found both in the lowlands and in the highlands.
Adult females and males look the same, but the females are larger than the males. The plumage is dark brown with patches of lighter brown. The broad tail is grey with black bands. The legs and feet are yellow and the beak is greyish with yellow cere. The Galapagos Hawk will be around 55cm long with a wingspan of 120cm.
The Galapagos Hawk is a predator and scavenger. They prey on Painted Locusts, Lava Lizards, baby iguanas, snakes, rodents and more. They can scavenge on larger dead animals like sea lions and goats. There are no natural enemies of the Galapagos Hawk on the islands.
The Galapagos Hawk breeds throughout the year. The female mates with several males and they than take turns looking after the eggs and nest and later the chick. Even if 1-3 eggs is laid only one young is usually reared. The nest is often built in trees or on rocks and the same nest can be used for several years.
The Galapagos Hawk in the photo was sitting on a rock, not too far from the path we walked, at Punta Suarez, Isla Española.
Lava Lizards are endemic to the Galapagos Islands and there are seven different species. The Galapagos Lava Lizard (Microlophus Albemarlensis) can be seen on several islands, and then there are the Española Lava Lizard, Floreana Lava Lizard, Marchena Lava Lizard, Pinta Lava Lizard, Pinzón Lava Lizard and the San Cristóbal Lava Lizard. There is never more than one species on each island. The Lava Lizards are common in the dry areas near the coasts.
Lava Lizards are between 15 - 30 centimetres long, and it is the Floreana Lava Lizard that is the smallest and the Española Lava Lizard that is the longest. Colour and marking varies between species and the habitat they are living in. And like other lizards they change colour because of temperature or if they feel threatened. But in general one can say that the males are larger than the females, and often have a brighter colour with a distinct pattern. When the males are mature they are brown/black under the throat, while mature females have an orange throat.
Lava Lizards are active during the day. They are omnivores and feed on plants, but mostly eat insects. They can even eat baby lava lizards.
The Lava Lizards in the photos are Española Lava Lizards seen by the small beach near the landing point at Punta Suarez. As you can see in the first photo the Española females are often not only orange under the throat but on the head as well.
Loooking back on my visit through these Islands I sometimes find it hard to remember when writing what animals and birds wrer located where!!! The Islands here are so diversdified with birds and wildlife. I found the majority of these Island have very little vegitation or shade so to be out in the sun all day can be aproblem.
But one thing that I always I made sure of was that I had with me was a tube of good strong sunscreen. The sun can be extremely strong some days and is imperative to use a good realiable strong sunscreen as Sunburn can really ruin your holiday. I always carry a tube of sunscreen 15+
A packet of wet ones ..not only for the heat but are good for wiping off small injuries.
A small tube of moisturiser
A small tube of lip balm
A small packet of tissues (in case you have to go )
A couple of band aid strips.
A good Insect repellant.
These items are small and don't take up any room at all but I find are neccesities and very handy to carry.