Friday, May 14, 2010

A Full Morning at Puerto Egas, Santiago

April 14, 2010 A.M.
This morning was a “wet” morning, meaning we put on our swimsuits, our wet landing shoes, grabbed our snorkeling gear (everyone chose fins and masks/snorkels at the beginning of the trip and had their own, numbered mesh bag on the middle deck), and rode the pangas out to Puerto Egas on Santiago Island.

After landing, consisting of swinging your legs around to the outside of the panga and jumping into shallow water, we walked up a volcanic beach and then along intricate lava formations following the shoreline.


Our first wildlife encounter involved watching a Galapagos Sea Lion eating a large fish while a Pelican stole pieces of it. Then a Frigatebird would harass the Pelican, trying to steal the stolen bounty.
Santiago gave me my first encounter with the important, but confounding Darwin’s Finches. As excellent as Fitter, Fitter and Hosking’s guide Wildlife of Galapagos is, I think one needs something much more detailed when trying to differentiate these closely related species. I have yet to find it.

Fatima would help us, though I don’t think she was an expert in the field. Our naturalists, though excellent generalists full of information, admitted the Finches were difficult, even for them. Nevertheless, we worked out most of them as Medium Ground Finches (even though they were in trees) with one, though possibly more, Small Ground Finch.

The Finches were a lot more skittish than I had expected so, even though we were able to see them well through binoculars, we weren’t able to approach them the way we’d been approaching birds such as the Galapagos Hawk.

This was another opportunity to see Lava Herons and appreciate how they’ve developed incredible cryptic coloration on their way to becoming a full-fledged endemic species. The Islands have both Lava and Striated Herons. If you are lucky enough to see both you can begin to appreciate the concept of adaptive radiation.


Some of the lava formations during this walk were spectacular, as was the trail.

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To see more (and there is much more), visit our online Galapagos photo album.

After finishing the trail we were given time to snorkel. As usual, Avie and I simply walked along the shallows near rocks with our camera in its underwater case. We didn’t see the variety of life others saw, though we wouldn’t have anyway since we can’t see without our glasses, we got a few good photos.

This is a Bulleseye Puffer:


And this is a species of Hogfish, note the shovel-shaped nose:


After an extremely full morning we rode the pangas back to the Flamingo I, more than ready for lunch. Upon arriving I realized my newish water shoes, which had been great on dry land, had given me a few blisters. Unfortunately, these would be there for the rest of the trip. So always be sure to bring your first aid kit along!

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