April 15, 2010 p.m.
North Seymour was a dry landing and a short climb up rock/concrete steps. There are two parts to the trail here. Some parts are flat but rocky and others are sandy.
Our first “new species” encounter was with a Land Iguana. These cousins of the Marine Iguanas have wonderful yellow coloring. The one we saw had made itself quite comfortable on a rock, where it appeared to be warming itself up in the sun.
Land Iguanas feed on Opuntia cactus. As a result of this relationship, the Opuntia on North Seymour have developed sharper, harder spines than the ones we had seen on San Cristobal, where far fewer creatures insist on eating them.
Our trail was full of courtship and breeding activity in all its stages. Both Great and Magnificent Frigatebirds were displaying, incubating eggs, or tending to young. There were also large numbers of Blue-footed Boobies doing the same.
Yep, that’s a very young chick under Mama with another nest just behind.
Among all the new life, we were still reminded of how harsh conditions on these islands can be. While hiking we came across the carcass of a dead Booby. Ivan (one of our naturalists) thought the body had been there about three months.
Amazingly, it had hardly decomposed. The Galapagos lack most scavengers as well as the bacteria that aid in the process. As a result, bodies are slow to break down. I guess the measures that are taken on the plane and at the airport to prevent contamination has been working, in spite of the numbers that come to visit the Galapagos every year.
This was also the first island where we saw any snakes. In fact, we saw about four of them, all of the same species. They are Western Galapagos Racers, slim reddish-brown creatures with a greenish tail. They’re related to our familiar Garter Snakes and the mainstay of their diet are the small Lava Lizards on the islands.
On our way back to the pangas, there were quite a few mother/child pairs of Galapagos Sea Lions, several actively nursing. We passed so close you could actually hear the suckling sounds.
One of the young (but not as young as the one in the photo above) Sea Lions decided to play with Grant, the 15 year-old in our group. It chased him; Grant ran from it; it stopped and looked a few seconds; then the sequence repeated. The “game” went on about 5 minutes before we had gone enough of a distance the young Sea Lion gave up.
North Seymour was also the first island where we saw Blue-footed Boobies “dancing”. We stopped for a while and watched while two males competed for a female’s attention. She attended to one, then the other, finally flying off without choosing either of them.
I’ll post a great video of the “dance” from Espanola – something for y’all to look forward to. But, for now, I’ll just post a photo of what I think is one nice looking Blue-footed Booby.
Though I’m not sure why it’s illustrating the expression, “open mouth, insert foot”.
The list of birds (in no particular order):
Small Ground Finch