Monday, May 4, 2009

Galapagos, Day 6: Espanola and South Plaza

We disembarked at yet another beautiful white sand beach on Espanola Island. 

The white sand beaches were known as "organic beaches" because they were made from the finely crushed remains of shells. They differ from the darker sand of "mineral beaches," which consist of, well, minerals.

And what did we find waiting for us on the beach? Surprise, surprise, more sea lions.

This little one decided to take a nap on some seaweed. Too cute.

Espanola was also home to the Hood Mockingbird. We were warned the day before to keep our water bottles out of sight during the hike, because the mockingbirds recognize and flock to them. Mrs. B. forgot this rule when she got thirsty, and this is what happened:

These birds seriously have no fear when it comes to humans. But unlike the other animals, who were mostly indifferent to us, the mockingbirds were quite aggresive. Mrs. W. had birds landing on her water bottle laden backpack.

Espanola's lava lizards have beautiful red faces, as can be seen here.

I did quite a bit of bird-watching, since Espanola is the perfect place to see a large variety of the famous Darwin finches. I saw many, but was unable to catch a picture of any of them. They were just too fast.

After an amazing snorkel, which included sightings of two, count 'em, two sea turtles, as well as a nice swim with the sea lions, we found ourselves on the shores of South Plaza, a veritable bird's paradise. The first avian sighting was of yet another pelican. I was able to get much closer to this one.

Used to being the only mammals in the area, the sea lions were as agressive here as the mockingbirds were on Espanola. This one was gunning for Isaac.

We saw the lovely Galapagos dove

and made our way to the top of a cliff, which offered a striking ocean view.

At the top of the cliff, we saw the last of South Plaza's most famous resident, the albatross.

This albatross was just a baby, still losing its fluffy feathers. While not a native species, the albatross is a yearly visitor to South Plaza for mating purposes. Since the mating and nesting seasons were pretty much over, our guide was unsure whether this late nestling would survive.

The cliff-top spot also offered us a view of this blowhole, a unique volcanic formation which would periodically spurt ocean water much like a mini Old Faithful.

Our bird sightings continued with yet another Galapagos hawk and another booby. This booby, however was different.

Known as either the Nasca booby or the masked booby, this sea bird gets its name not from its colorful feet but from the black band across its eyes, which looks exactly like a Zorro mask. The masked boobies also took advantage of the protective cliffs of South Plaza to mate and nest.

And finally, because our avian adventure wouldn't be complete without one, we saw this blue-footed booby and her two little nestlings.

South Plaza was also home to this species of colorful marine iguana.

We ended up calling them Christmas iguanas because of their distinctive red and green coloring.

I know they're reptiles and they form harems and none of that is particularly romantic, but this was just too freaking cute:

And that was the end of yet another day in paradise. To close, I'll leave you with another shot of some Sally Golightly crabs.

Tomorrow, I will be posting pictures of Floreana and our triumphant return to Santa Cruz, so stay tuned.

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