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Saturday, August 3, 2019

Galapagos Animal Photos, Part 1

We had a great trip to the Galapagos Islands in July 2019.  We stayed on a boat for eight whole days, while they took us from one island to the next.  We had two or three hiking, kayaking, or snorkeling excursions every day.

Before we even got on the boat, we had to walk out the pier to get on the zodiacs that would ferry us to our home on the water for the next seven nights.  We passed this mother and child on the pier.

Our very first night on the boat, before we even left harbor, we were treated to the best sunset of the whole trip.  This is my favorite kind of sunset, where there are plenty of nicely shaped clouds, and the sun gets under them and lights them up from below at a low angle that only catches the edges, leaving the rest blue.  If you're thinking these colors are too enhanced, take a look at the pale blue between the oranges and the lower right corner, where everything's still in shadow.  Yes, it was even more impressive in real life.  And it lasted a good while.

By the way, if you're looking at this on your phones, as many of you do, these pictures are almost all in landscape format, so turning your phone sideways will really help you see them better.

For our first hike, we stopped on Seymore Norte, a tiny island packed with most of the really famous types of birds the Galapagos Islands are known for.  We passed frigate birds, their nests, and their babies every fifty feet on the trail.  They paid us no attention.

Our fantastic guide, James, told us it takes the males multiple days to get their throats this puffed up.  The females are looking for the sexiest puffed up throats they can find.  This sure seems like a case of sexual selection working against natural selection!  But, at least they don't have to worry about predators attacking them while they're in this state, since there are no frigate bird predators in the Galapagos Islands.  

Amidst all the hubbub about the frigate birds, our group walked right past this nest without even seeing this cute little Galapagos dove nesting in her cactus.  Jennifer happened to notice the nest just as the group had moved on to see a huge land iguana another fifty feet down the trail.

Minutes later, we came across this guy, about two and half feet long, hanging out under his cactus.  On this island, each big male land iguana sort of "owns" a cactus, which is the home base of his territory.  Just as James said, there would only ever be one of these guys at any given cactus we passed. 

Love the colors and textures on this guy.

Only meters away from our land iguana pal, we came upon this cactus finch, flitting around, and munching on the insides of this prickly pear.  This type of finch evolved to be able to get past the cactus' defenses.

I tell you, I think they choose this island to go to first because it really wows you right off the bat.  I don't think we ever saw this many types of animals in one place again for the rest of the trip, unless you count underwater, where we saw a great variety several times snorkeling.  This is a yellow warbler.  This is really the only bird in the islands with spectacularly-colored feathers.  He came and landed on this bush while we were right there, and hopped back and forth on the branches. He moved so quickly, I ended up with a bunch of blurry shots and a few sharp ones. 

And now we come to the famous blue-footed boobies.  Of course, they sell all sorts of T-shirts with sayings like "I saw boobies" and "I love boobies" in the few towns in the Galapagos.  We saw lots of them, on multiple islands. Having a group of 16 people traipse past wasn't enough to get this one to move.

This juvenile is halfway between down and feathers. I guess that's the mother in back.

The Galapagos certainly didn't disappoint.  This is a great example, where just a bit further down the trail, we ran into these two blue-footed boobies right when the male was doing his mating dance to impress the female.  

Here she's warming up to his proposal.

Mutual appreciation society, as they mirror each other's dramatic poses.  We'd seen documentaries with this exact dance in them, and here it was right in front of us.

On our way back, we passed a bunch of sea lions resting on the beach. I think that's a frigate bird chick in the rear.

We think that might be Daphne Major island in the background, the one whose finch population has been the studied for the last thirty years.  This study is discussed in great detail in the book The Beak of the Finch, A Story of Evolution in Our Time.  We'd been reading that book in preparation for the trip, on the recommendation of our friend Julie.

We saw lots of pairs of sea lions in this affectionate napping arrangement during the trip.  Often one would rest a flipper on the side of the other.

A frigate bird female in her nest.

Goodbye North Seymour.  This sea lion was pretty close to the spot where the Zodiac boats dropped off visitors, but the sound of the outboard motor didn't disturb him.  We were the only group on the island the whole time we were there.  The Ecuadorans are managing the Galapagos beautifully. In almost all cases, we were the only group in the area wherever we went.  Other groups might be departing just as we arrived, or they might arrive just as we departed, but rarely were two groups on land at the same time.  We really had the place to ourselves.  No big crowds or competition for a view anywhere the whole trip.  That was great.

This is the first of a few posts on our trip.  Hope you enjoy!

Click this sentence to see my second post of mostly underwater shots.

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