|09 Feb 02
Disembarked at a lazy 8:00 AM at the western tip of the southernmost island in the Galapagos. We were greeted by boisterous Galapagos Sea Lions, marine iguanas, a Galapagos Hawk and many, many other birds. Very good viewing and birding on a one-half mile loop trail, but a series of short showers and a genuine tropical deluge hampered photography the last third of the way.
The cove was crowded with other ships - I counted eight at one point - by far the most we have seen at one place so far. There weren't quite that many people on shore, but there were certainly other groups moving on both directions on the trail. The rain thinned them out in a hurry. Luckily, the birds and marine iguanas are so habituated to people that the larger numbers of visitors didn't seem to disturb them at all. The Masked Booby that had nested right in the trail didn't seem concerned at all, but then with boobies it can be hard to tell.
The walk started with a stretch along a coarse sand and coral beach, where we watched a Galapagos Hawk with blood on its beak. The blood appeared to have come from the afterbirth of a newly born Galapagos Sea Lion. Mother and pup were nuzzling each other, and the pup nursed as we watched. The birth had to have been that morning; the blood was still fresh. We watched the mother move the pup, carrying it by the neck exactly as a momma cat would carry a kitten.
The Espanola Mockingbirds were particularly fearless. Desiree Cruz says they have been conditioned by tourists offering them water. They do certainly approach tourists. I nearly tripped over one bird on the beach stretch.
The trail does a loop across the point of Punta Suarez. We walked the trail "backwards," across the crest of the ridge first to the south cliff. There were Masked and Blue-footed Boobies at the cliff, including birds on eggs, and Great Frigatebirds nesting in the brush north of the cliff. A lot birds were nesting or resting under the edge of the cliff, visible flying around but hidden while roosting.
After a couple of light showers, the rain came down in buckets for 15-20 minutes. Puddles formed, and soon there were birds and lava lizards drinking from the puddles. A vivid demonstration of the importance of water in the Islands. The rain and the low light were a shame, in a way, because they really hampered photography in what was an incredible place.
Galapagos Hawk with bloody beak
Punta Suarez, Espanola Island
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