April 13, 2010 (p.m.)
I decided to take a break and spend some quality time with my binoculars and book on the top deck of the yacht while Avie joined the group to visit Isabela Island.
Of course there are regrets for some decisions made and my staying on board caused me to miss up close and personal Flightless Cormorant behavior. Happily, Avie is a great documentarian and he captured the sequence wonderfully.
The action occurred at the very base of the hiking trail. The female was on the nest and sitting on her single egg. She was “panting” from the heat, her throat moving quickly and rhythmically.
The male came to the nest with a gift “offering” – a fresh piece of seaweed. Would she or would she not accept the gift?
Avie saw two instances of this while they watched. In one, the female rejected the offering. In the other, the seaweed was accepted, followed by bonding sex. In the grand scheme of things, how different are we, really, from other animals?
In the water a few Galapagos Penguins floated by, totally unaware of the pairing behavior going on nearby.
As the group went up the trail there was lots of old graffiti dating back to 1846, both etched into the rock and painted on it. Avie suspected much of the older graffiti was from pirates with big egos. He claims there wasn’t any reading “Charlie wuz here”, though.
This island was the first opportunity for a good look at some of Darwin’s Finches. We had seen them flitting around on San Cristobal’s Playa Ochoa, but never got a good look at them there. We’re guessing (sigh) this on is a Medium Ground Finch.
Avie described the birds as “small, nondescript black males with an unimpressive single to two-note call and lighter gray females.”
The Islands have thirteen species of Finches, all resulting from adaptive radiation from ancestors of a single species. Current theory says the ancestral species is from the Fringillid family.
At the top of the hike Avie looked back into Darwin Lake. It was quite picturesque, looking like a filled in volcano crater with aqua blue waters and lush green surroundings.
The story is Darwin was happy to arrive here, expecting a fresh source of water, only to find out the water had higher salinity than the ocean.
I joined the group for a pre-dinner panga excursion around the bay. This gave us our first decent look at the Galapagos Penguin, a small bird, just about fourteen inches tall when standing (35 cm). In fact, other than snorkeling, this would be our group’s only good look at these, the northernmost Penguins in the world.
We also had a great look at a nesting area for Brown Noddies. It was quite well camouflaged at the rock edges, with the birds sitting around and on the nests.
List of Birds Seen (in no particular order):
Great Blue Heron
Band-rumped Storm Petrel
Medium Ground Finch