April 12, 2010
At seven a.m. the sound of Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony started playing over the speaker in our room followed by Ivan’s voice, waking us up for our 7:30 breakfast and 8:15 departure for our wet landing and hike at Genovesa Island’s Darwin Bay Beach.
I must say, for me, the best thing about breakfast each day was the strength of Ecuadorian coffee. They’re quite serious about their coffee and it’s usually brewed quite strongly – something I approve of wholeheartedly. Each morning we also had a wonderful choice of proteins, cereal, and tropical fruits.
From our breakfast table we saw Galapagos Shearwaters flying over the water catching their breakfast.
After breakfast we had a short while to pull what we needed for the morning together (hat, water, camera, etc.), get our life jackets on, and climb into the pangas for the ride to the beach.
I’ll repeat this in my final post about the particulars of traveling to Ecuador and the Galapagos. As a slightly older, slightly less fit person, I wondered how difficult I would find it to get in and out of the pangas. At all times there are two people to help you, one on the yacht and the other in the panga, while the panga driver revs the engine to keep the panga tight up against the boat. I found the transfer much easier than I expected.
Ecoventura has two naturalists on board to lead a (maximum-sized) group of 20. We were 17, so we never had more than 9 people in our group at any given time. Our two naturalists were Ivan, whom you’ve already met in my previous ramblings, and Fatima.
We arrived at Darwin Bay, swung our legs over the sides of the panga and walked through the shallow water to the beach. We immediately began to realize how full of life and variety our trip would be, seeing Great Frigatebirds, Red-footed Boobies (both brown and white morphs), a few Nazca Boobies, and Swallow-tailed Gulls. Many of these birds were busy nesting and paid not even the smallest attention to us as we ogled them and took their pictures.
We saw Galapagos Mockingbirds, one of four distinct species that evolved from a single accidental species that arrived on the islands, with even more subspecies from place to place.
We found ourselves virtually stepping over our first Marine Iguanas. Genovesa offered a fairly small species of that interesting creature that has evolved to return to the ocean so it can feed on the algae there.
All over the area were Frigatebirds, males displaying madly, females sitting on nests, chicks of all ages begging for food or sitting quietly while we watched, commented, and snapped more pictures.
In addition to “sex” there was also drama of the pirate sort – a reputation well-deserved by the Frigatebirds. When Boobies would bring in sticks for their nests, Frigatebirds would chase them, trying to steal the sticks for their own. They do the same thing for food, harassing other birds to steal what they’ve caught, though we saw many instances of Frigatebirds catching their own food directly from the water.
When a Frigatebird was successful in stealing a stick from another bird, it would go over to its nest and present it to the female. Once the gift was accepted, the male would mount the female and have sex.
Some of the Frigatebird males were most impressive, with pouches that expanded up to the tips of their bills and back feathers puffed out to show their iridescent glory.
Upon our return to the beach, we had our first close encounter with a group of Galapagos Sea Lions with a pup Fatima estimated to be about 2-3 months old. As was true with most of the creatures we came across, they had no fear of us. In fact, we were the ones told to keep a reasonable distance from them.
Our walk at Darwin Bay Beach ended with the realization the Galapagos Islands are, indeed las Islas Encantadas (the Enchanted Islands). They had begun to weave their spell over us and we climbed back into the pangas (short-legged me with some help from my friends) for the short trip back to the yacht and lunch.
The morning bird list in no particular order: