|19 Feb 02
Our last stop. Alas. Before breakfast, we visited Daphne Major Island, a volcano whose summit still sticks up out of the Pacific, perhaps 500 feet above sea level. A remnant crater, partly collapsed into two levels, graces the top.
Of course, this is the island that is featured in Jonathan Heiner's The Beak of the Finch, and the seasonal home of Drs. John and Rosemarie Grant
It's a tough landing, what Jonathan Heiner calls "The Doormat," with a difficult scramble even to that. We had intermittent light drizzle, making the guano-covered rocks slicker than usual. Then it's a steep walk or scramble past the Grants' camp to the rim of the crater. Part of the crater floor has settled about 150 feet more than the rest, with a flat bottom and some Palo Santo plants around the bottom. Every tree had a frigatebird nest in it; some had two. And everything from courtship to eggs to hatchlings to fledglings.
Nesting on the cone outside the crater was divided into zones: Swallow-tailed Gulls around the rim, Masked Boobies on the outside walls and frigatebirds (both species) on the crater floor. Darwin finches everywhere, every one in sight color-banded, as you would expect. A few special treats: a glimpse of a Short-eared Owl, a confused Great Blue Heron, a seriously confused Cattle Egret and a Yellow-crowned Night Heron taking shelter under the Grants' awning.
We had a brief chance to talk with Rosemarie Grant, who was nearly giddy with delight over the rain, the first of the season. Still a British accent, after all those years in New Jersey. She greeted Desiree in English-accented Spanish.
Not everyone gets to visit Daphne. A rare treat and an excellent last stop for the trip. Evolution in action, indeed.
Great Blue Heron
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