Isla San Cristóbal Favorites

  • Blue-footed Boobies
    Blue-footed Boobies
    by MalenaN
  • Yellow-crowned Night-heron
    Yellow-crowned Night-heron
    by MalenaN
  • Yellow-crowned Night-heron
    Yellow-crowned Night-heron
    by MalenaN

Most Recent Favorites in Isla San Cristóbal

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    Ruddy Turnstone

    by MalenaN Written Mar 29, 2014

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    Favorite thing: The Ruddy Turnstone (Arenaria interpres) is a migrant bird and it is quite common to see it throughout the year in Galapagos Islands. You will most likely see it by rocky shores and tidal pools or running around on a beach.

    The Ruddy Turnstone is a small wader with a length of 21 – 26 cm. It has short orange legs and a dark pointed bill. Adults in breeding plumage have rufous (brownish red) back and wings and white and black patterns in the face. They have a black breastband and white underparts and throat. Juveniles and non-breeding adults have less distinct colours.

    The name Ruddy Turnstone comes from the fact that they sometimes turn over stones with their bill to see if they can find something to eat under it. They eat lots of different things like fish and crustaceans, insects and eggs of other birds.

    The Ruddy Turnstone in the pictures was running around on the beach at Playa Punta Carola.

    Ruddy Turnstone and Sea Lion Ruddy Turnstone and Sea Lion Ruddy Turnstone, Galapagos Islands
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    Snowy Egret

    by MalenaN Written Mar 28, 2014

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    Favorite thing: The Snowy Egret (Egrette thula) is considered to be a vagrant bird to Galapagos Islands. It is seen most years, but in small numbers, so I was very lucky to see it here.

    The Snowy Egret is a medium-sized egret with a length of 60cm and a wingspan of 100cm. As the name indicates the plumage is all white. The neck is long and thin. The bill is black and at its base there is a patch of yellow. The Cattle Egrets are also white, but they have a yellow bill. Mature Snowy Egrets have black legs with yellow feet. The juveniles have more greenish legs, so it must have been a juvenile that I saw.

    They are usually seen in shallow water where they look for small fish and other small animals living in the water. The Snowy Egret that I saw was standing in a small pool at the end of Av Charles Darwin in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, and it had just catching a fish.

    Snowy Egret, Galapagos Islands Snowy Egret, Galapagos Islands
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    Common Noddy

    by MalenaN Written Feb 24, 2014

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    Favorite thing: The Common Noddy belongs to the tern family and it can be found in a large part of the tropics. In Galapagos Islands there is a subspecies (Anous stolidus galapagensis).

    The Common Noddy is a medium sized seabird with a length of 38-45cm and a wingspan of 75-86cm. The plumage is dark brow except the forehead and crown that is greyish-white (juveniles don’t have this cap). The bill is narrow and straight and the eyelids are white. As other terns it has pointed wings and a wedge-shaped tail. When it flies you can see that it has a pale wing-bar on the upperwing.

    There are a few thousand pairs of Common Noddys in Galapagos Islands and they breed in small colonies throughout the archipelago. They build their nest on cliffs or in shrubs. Each breeding season only one egg is laid. As part of the courtship ritual they nod at each other, and I guess that is from where they have got their name.

    You can often see the Common Noddy fly low over the sea, alone or in larger groups. They don’t plunge dive, but pick up food from the surface. Sometimes they can be seen together with pelicans when they try to capture fish that the pelicans drop.

    Common Noddy, Playa Punta Carola Common Noddy, Playa Punta Carola Common Noddy, Kicker's Rock
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    Marine Iguanas

    by MalenaN Written Feb 20, 2014

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    Favorite thing: One of the highlights of Galapagos Islands is to see the amazing Marine Iguanas (Amblyrhynchus cristatus). They are endemic to the islands and they are also the only lizards in the word that swim in the sea. The Marine Iguanas spend most of their time on land, but they feed on algae and seaweed. There are seven subspecies of Marine Iguanas in the archipelago and they can be found on all islands, often in the shore zone, on the lava rocks.

    During millions of years the Marine Iguana has evolved to be well adapted to its environment. With a flattened snout and sharp teeth they can effectively feed on the algae on the rocks. Their tail helps them swim under water and with their long claws they can stand firmly on the rocks. Sometimes you can see the Marine Iguanas snort, that is when they get rid of excess sea salt with help from salt-eliminating glands in their nostrils. Most Marine Iguanas are black or dark grey in colour but on some islands the male can have a red or green colouring, a colouring that becomes brighter during the mating season.

    Males become around 1m long, but some subspecies become longer and others shorter. The females are shorter than the males, and the spines along their back are not as large as on the male.

    Females and young iguanas feed along the shore when it is low tide. It is mostly the males that feed in the sea and they can stay up to an hour under water. As the water is cold the iguanas must get warm when they come up on land, and then you can often see them basking in the sun with their face to the sun and their body raised from the ground (they must get warm, but not too warm so by raising the body they will allow the air to circulate under the body).

    The Marine Iguanas are funny to see in the water. Three times when I snorkelled I saw them swimming (but not on Isla San Cristobal). At Sullivan Bay I saw a Marin Iguana just as it took off from the bottom and swam up to the surface. As it reached the surface a sea lion got hold of the tail and played with it. Great for me to see, but I don’t think the iguana appreciated it that much. Snorkelling off Isla Fernandina we saw several Marin Iguanas feeding and swimming under the water, and while snorkelling near Puerto Villamil I saw a whole group of iguanas swimming at the surface and just past me. It was wonderful.

    The breeding season is from November - March. The females will then lay the eggs in an underground nest where they are incubated for three months. The baby iguanas are small and are therefore vulnerable to predators. They risk getting eaten by owls, hawks herons or mocking birds.

    The Marine Iguanas blend in very well with the lava rocks and you often have to be careful were you put your feet. While walking between La Lobería and Barranco I saw some Marine Iguanas along the path, and I almost stepped on one lying in the middle of the rocky path.

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    Frigatebirds

    by MalenaN Written Feb 20, 2014

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    Favorite thing: There are two species of frigatebirds in the Galapagos Islands, the Magnificent Frigatebird (Fregata magnificens) and the Great Frigatebird (Fregata minor). There are about 1000 pairs of the Magnificent Frigatebird spread in 12 colonies, and a few thousand pairs of the Great Frigatebird, also in 12 colonies.

    The frigatebirds are large seabirds with a black plumage and long, pointed wings. The tail is deeply forked and the bill long with a hook in the end. When flying it is difficult to tell the different species apart, but the Magnificent Frigatebirds are slightly larger and the males have a purple shine on their backs, while the Great Frigatebird males have a green shine on their backs. Female Magnificent Frigatebirds have a white breast and a blue eye-ring while the female Great Frigatebirds have a white throat and breast and a red/pink eye-ring.

    The males have a very characteristic red chest pouch which they inflate like a balloon to attract females. They build a nest, blow up the pouch and call out to attract a female. The males also flap the wings during the courtship.

    Even though the frigatebirds are considered to be seabirds they can’t dive or swim. They don’t have enough oil gland to make their feathers waterproof. They can pick up food from the surface, but very often they steal food from other birds, mostly boobies.

    The frigatebirds are beautiful to see either when they fly above the boat or when they are in their nest, maybe with a downy little with chick next to it. And the males with their inflated chest pouch are impressive to see. On Isla San Cristobal I didn’t see any males with red chest pouches, but I have seen that on other islands. On San Cristóbal I saw frigatebirds on Frigatebird Hill and at Barranco/La Lobería.

    Frigatebird
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    Yellow-crowned Night-heron

    by MalenaN Written Feb 19, 2014

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    Favorite thing: The Yellow-crowned Night-heron in the Galapagos Islands is an endemic subspecies, Nycticorax violaceus pauper.

    The juvenile Yellow-crowned Night-herons have a dark brown plumage with white or buff spots and streaks . As it becomes older the spots and streaks becomes fewer. The black bill is long and sharp and the unwebbed and long legs are yellow green. The adult Yellow-crowned Night-herons have a dark grey plumage with paler colour on the edge of the wings and feathers on the back. They have a black head , white cheeks and, as the name indicates, a yellow crown. They become around 60cm long.

    It is often around rocky shores in coastal areas that you find the Yellow-crowned Night-heron. They are a quite common resident but as they are mainly nocturnal they are not so easy to see. They feed especially on crabs and crayfish, but also eat fish, mussels and small reptiles.

    The Yellow-crowned Night-herons breed all year round and they often build the nest in mangrove branches above water, but also among rocks. The eggs are pale blue-green.

    I saw the Yellow-crowned Night-heron in the photos in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno.

    Yellow-crowned Night-heron Yellow-crowned Night-heron Yellow-crowned Night-heron
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    Red-billed Tropicbirds

    by MalenaN Written Feb 19, 2014

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    Favorite thing: The Red-billed Tropicbirds (Phaethon aethereus) are beautiful seabirds with a long narrow tail. They are around 50cm long plus another 50 cm with the tail feathers. Their plumage is white with some grey barring on the back. The primary feathers are black, which can be seen when they fly. Over the eyes there is a black mask. They have a bright red bill and yellow short legs with webbed feet. The male and female look alike, but the males have longer tails.

    The Red -billed Tropicbirds plunge-dive to catch their food, which consists mainly of squid and fish. They are not good swimmers though.

    The Red-billed Tropicbirds breed throughout the year and nest in crevices on cliffs, but also on bare ground. The female lay one egg which is incubated by both parents. There are around 30 colonies of Tropicbirds in the Galapagos Islands and altogether a few thousand pairs.

    They fly gracefully and are not easy to photograph when they fly back and forth along the cliffs. The Red-billed Tropicbird in the photo was fly along the cliffs at Barranco/La Lobería.

    Red-billed Tropicbird

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    Blue-footed Boobies

    by MalenaN Updated Feb 19, 2014

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    Favorite thing: The Blue-footed Boobies are funny looking birds, but also amazing with their bright blue feet and their special mating ritual. The Blue-footed Booby on Galapagos Islands is an endemic subspecies (Sula nebouxii excisa) and it is a common, with around 10 000 pairs.

    As the name indicate the Blue-footed Boobies have bright blue webbed feet. The bill is greyish blue and the head brown and white. The under parts are white and the wings and upper parts are brown.

    Males and females look alike, but males are slightly smaller than the females and the pupil of the females looks larger than the pupil of the males.

    The Blue-footed Boobies feed on fish which they plunge dive into the Ocean for. When I snorkelled at Sullivan Bay (Santiago) one dived into the water just in front of me. They are really quick!

    The Blue-footed Boobies have a very interesting mating ritual. The male make a dance in front of the female, where he raises one blue foot at a time. He then points the bill to the sky and spread out his wings. The male makes a whistle sound, and the female who has joined in with the movements answers with a more guttural honk. They than offer each another sticks and twigs, for a future nest. I was very happy to see this courtship ritual on Isla Española and I have a video of it both on my Isla Española page and on my Galapagos Islands page.

    The Blue-footed Boobies form monogamous pairs and make their nest on the ground. The female lay 2-3 eggs, which both parents help to incubate. To keep the eggs warm they use their feet. After about 45 days the eggs hatch. If food supply is scarce the youngest and smallest chicks will be kicked out of the nest and only the biggest chick will be fed and survive.

    The name Booby is believed to come from the Spanish word bobo, which means stupid.

    The Blue-footed Boobies in photo 1-3 are standing on a cliff above Puerto Chino. Photo 4 is from Barranco/La Lobería and photo 5 from Kicker’s Rock.

    Blue-footed Booby Blue-footed Boobies
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    Lava Gull

    by MalenaN Written Feb 19, 2014

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    Favorite thing: The Lava Gull (Larus fuliginous) is endemic to the Galapagos Islands and it is considered to be one of the rarest gulls in the word as there are only about 400 pairs of them. In the Galapagos Islands they are widely distributed and can be seen on many islands.

    The Lava Gulls have a dark grey plumage, with a paler belly. The head, bill and legs are black. The upper and lower eye-lids are white.

    The Lava Gulls are omnivores and scavengers. They can feed on seabird eggs, newly hatched turtles and lizards, but sometimes they also catch fish.

    Lava Gulls nest in the shore zone on sheltered beaches and they are solitary nesters. They female lay two olive-coloured eggs which are incubated for 30 days.

    In the photo a Lava Gull is standing on the beach at Playa Puerto Grande.

    A Lava Gull on the beach
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    Swallow-tailed Gull

    by MalenaN Written Feb 19, 2014

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    Favorite thing: The Swallow-tailed Gull (Creagrus furcatus) is endemic to Galapagos Islands, well almost endemic, as there is a small colony on the Colombian island Malpelo too. The population of Swallow-tailed Gull in the Galapagos Islands consists of 10000 - 15000 pairs, spread in 50 breeding colonies throughout the islands (but not on Fernandina and the west side of Isla Isabela).

    The breeding adults have a black head and a red ring around the eyes, whereas the non breeding adults have a white head and are dark around the eyes. The Swallow-tailed Gulls have white underparts and grey neck and upperparts. Their bill is black with a grey tip. The legs and webbed feet are red. The tail is forked and white. Sometimes you can see Swallow-tailed Gulls with white patches on their back. The white patches will help them camouflage in their environment.

    The Swallow-tailed Gull is the only nocturnal gull in the world. They feed mostly at night and can then fly several miles from land to catch fish and squid from the surface of the sea, as fish and squid come to the surface to feed on plankton. Sometimes the Swallow-tailed Gulls follow boats at night-time.

    The Swallow-tailed Gulls nest in small colonies and they make their nest next to the shore, usually on a small platform on a cliff above sea. They lay only one egg which is incubated for 31-34 days. They breed all year round.

    The Swallow-tailed Gulls in the photos were all seen at El Barranco, the cliffs beyond La Lobería. They were standing on the cliff or flying back and forth above the sea, along the cliff.

    Swallow-tailed Gull Swallow-tailed Gull Swallow-tailed Gull Swallow-tailed Gull Swallow-tailed Gull
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    Cattle Egrets

    by MalenaN Written Feb 19, 2014

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    Favorite thing: The Cattle Egret (Bulbulcus ibis) is now resident on Galapagos Islands, but it was first recorded as late as 1964. It is often seen in the highlands around agricultural areas, where it feeds on invertebrates stirred up by livestock or tortoises.

    The Cattle Egret is a medium sized heron which is around 50cm long. It is quite compact with a short neck. The bill is yellow and the legs and feet are dark green. When breeding the plumage changes and orange-buff plumes are developed on the crown, back and upper breast. For a short while the legs become red.

    The Cattle Egrets nest in colonies and build their nest in mangrove bushes or trees near the coast. The first time I was in Galapagos Islands I saw lots, and lots of Cattle Egrets in the mangroves at Black Turtle Cove (Isla Santa Cruz) early one morning and that was a lovely sight.

    The Cattle Egret in the pictures I saw close to La Lobería.

    Cattle Egret
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    Smooth-billed Ani

    by MalenaN Written Feb 19, 2014

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    Favorite thing: The Smooth-billed Ani (Crotophaga ani) is an introduced bird to the Galapagos Islands. It can often be seen in the highlands and in open and semi-open landscapes.

    The Smooth-billed Ani belongs to the cuckoo family. It is around 35cm long and it has a black plumage and a big black bill. The tail is long and gets broader towards the end.

    It was not until the 1960s that the Smooth-billed Ani was introduced to Galapagos Islands. As they are not very good flyers of long distances over water they were probably introduced by humans. It is believed the Smooth-billed Anis were brought to the islands because they remove parasites and ticks from livestock. As they are introduced birds they compete for resources with the endemic and native birds.

    The Smooth-billed Ani also feed on larger insects and Lava Lizards.

    The same nest is used by several pairs and they share incubation and feeding. The nest is built in trees.

    The Smooth-billed Anis in the photos were seen near La Lobería and Cerro de las Tijeretas.

    Smooth-billed Ani Smooth-billed Ani Smooth-billed Ani
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    Nazca Boobies

    by MalenaN Written Feb 18, 2014

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    Favorite thing: The Nazca Booby (Sula granti) used to be seen as a subspecies of the Masked Booby, but it is now known that it is a species of its own. In Galapagos Islands the Nazca Boobies are quite common with a population of between 25 000 - 50 000 pairs, spread out in different colonies.

    With a length of 81-92cm the Nazca Boobies are the largest of the three species of boobies presented in the Galapagos. They have a white plumage with a black tail, black ends on the primary feathers and a black band at the base of the bill, which looks like a mask over the eyes. The large bill is orange.

    Like other boobies the Nazca Boobies feed at sea and catch fish by plunge-diving from high up in the air. They often feed long distances from land.

    The Nazca Boobies build their nest on the ground. They lay two eggs, several days apart, but even if both eggs hatch only one chick will survive. When the second egg hatch the older chick will push the newly born out of the nest. There it will be left to die, because the parents will not pay any attention to it. This might seem to be cruel, but by laying two eggs the chance to get a chick to raise will increase, in case the first egg doesn’t hatch or the chick die very young.

    Pushing out the second hatchling of the nest is not the only cruel behaviour of the Nazca Boobies. When parents go away to find food chicks left alone can be harassed by boobies without children. I recently read in a science magazine that scientists who had studied ringed boobies in the Galapagos found out that the ones who had become most picked on as young also became the worst bullies when they grew up.

    The only Nazca Boobies I saw on Isla San Cristobal was at Kicker’s Rock where a few sat quite high up on the rock wall.

    Nazca Booby, Kicker's Rock Nazca Booby and Blue-footed Boobies
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    Galapagos Fur Seal

    by MalenaN Written Feb 18, 2014

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    Favorite thing: The Galapagos Fur Seal (Arctocephalus galapagoensis) is much smaller then the Galapagos Sea Lion. The male is significantly larger than the female. They can be up to 160cm long and weigh up to 75kg, while the females only weigh up to 35kg. The Galapagos Fur Seal have a broad head with a pointed nose. They have a much thicker fur than the Sea Lions. With a thicker fur they prefer cool water and shade on rocky shores.

    The Galapagos Fur Seal is quite common and the population consists of around 40 000 fur seals. They are not seen as often as the Sea Lions though and when you see them it is usually along rocky shores where they rest in crevices, away from the sun. As they feed during night they are not seen so often at sea.

    The Galapagos Fur Seal feed mainly on fish and squid. During El Niño years when the water around the Galapagos Islands become warmer and the fish migrate to cooler water the food supply decreases, which causes the death of many Fur Seals, especially the young ones.

    During the 19th century the Galapagos Fur Seal became almost extinct as it was hunted for its fur.

    The males are very territorial, especially during the mating season, and many males are killed in fights while protecting their territory. Most of the pups are born in October.

    The Galapagos Fur Seal in the photos was lying on one of the sides of Kicker’s Rock.

    Galapagos Fur Seal Galapagos Fur Seal
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    Yellow Warbler

    by MalenaN Written Feb 18, 2014

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    Favorite thing: If you see a small bright yellow bird on the Galápagos Islands it will be a Yellow Warbler (Dendroica petechia). The Yellow Warbler can be found all over Galápagos Islands and in all habitats.

    The male has a bright yellow breast with reddish streaks, and the upper part is more yellow-green. On top of the head there is a reddish patch. The females are usually paler than the males and they don’t have the reddish patch on the head. Juveniles are greyer and only have a little yellow in their plumage.

    The Yellow Warbler feeds on insects which it finds in vegetation or on ground. It is nesting between December - May.

    The Yellow Warbler in picture one and two was hoping around on the ground at El Junco, and the one in picture three and four was hopping around in the bushes at Playa Punta Carola. They move very quickly and it is not easy to get a good photo.

    Yellow Warbler Yellow Warbler Yellow Warbler Yellow Warbler
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Isla San Cristóbal Favorites

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