Boobies, boobies everywhere

Trip Start Mar 02, 2011
Trip End Nov 20, 2011

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Flag of Ecuador  ,
Saturday, September 17, 2011

With memories of the previous morning's disaster fresh in our minds, we carefully stepped out onto a beautiful beach on Espanola Island that was lined with around a hundred sea lions and patrolled by a very large bull lion. We had a couple of hours strolling around the sea lions, some of which were pretty fresh cubs. I cracked into a new trashy novel that I’d picked up on the boat and instantly felt brain cells withering. Can’t wait to treat myself to a Kindle! Alberto, the guide got very excited about the three types of finches we saw. The 7 varieties of finches on the archipelago all have differently shaped beaks in order to feed on their specific prey. Some use twigs to help dig for grubs that they are unable to reach purely with their beaks. Apparently Darwin was not all that interested in the finches he was so well known for. It was actually his study of the islands mockingbirds that made him twig onto his theory of evolution. Not a lot of people know that.

Afterwards we went for our pre-lunch snorkel where I saw a scorpionfish, moray eel, Galapagos lobster and some rare yellow coral. There really is not a lot of coral on these islands but there are a great number of fish to make up for the lack. I swam with another giant turtle who turned out to be far speddier than I assumed. I also spent quite some time trying to photograph one of the Dutch guys with a very playful sea lion but there was a bit too much pressure using his underwater film camera. Every shot counts at $1.20 a pop!

Our afternoon stroll was almost entirely bird orientated and I was secretly quite excited to see the waved albatross. They perform a really lovely sounding courting dance with their life-long mates of 50 years as they crack beaks, preen their beautiful waved feathers and swoon over each other. Their chicks grow ridiculously large as they live off oily fish for the fish 6 months of their lives.

Next up were the boobies. We were lucky enough to see a lost red footed booby fly by. These are only usually seen on another island so we don’t know what it was doing here. But the real show stealers were the famous blue footed boobies that were at the height of their courting season. This is broken down into three phases: the stick offering from bygone days when they used to roast in nests, the foot stamping with sky facing and finally the shy look away where they pretend they don’t know each other. It was quite fascinating and we watched for quite some time in their awkward ritual. Just around the turn there was a breeding ground for the nazca booby which was previously called the masked booby. These were handsome fellows but I think that’s enough talk about boobies.

On the way back to the landing place we saw two pods of dolphins swim past all jumping in the waves and having a lovely time. There were a few endemic species to Espanola Island of iguanas, snakes and lizards. These were a lot more coloured than the others we had seen because they like to blend in with the more established shrubbery.
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