Albatross, fresh albatross!

Trip Start Jun 15, 2009
Trip End Jun 14, 2010

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Flag of Ecuador  , Galapagos Islands,
Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Espanola Island has a number of unique wildlife opportunities. One that we were unable to see was the repopulated land tortoise area, following the successful reintroduction after nearly being wiped out by the 1970s. This area is out of bounds to visitors, even with a guide.

As soon as we landed we made our first sighting of the marine iguanas, who here have developed brighter colourings than those on other islands. Their basic habits are still the same; plunging into the cold water to eat and then hanging about trying to bring their body temperature back up again. We understand that their stronger colouring comes from the higher proportion of red algae in their diet (but we could be wrong, we have been given so much information that we are beginning to feel a bit numb!).

However, the main attraction for our visit here was the opportunity to get close to waved albatrosses. These huge seabirds are very good at flying but their combination of large size and weak legs makes it very difficult for them to land. This island offers just the right amount of flat space for them to perform the difficult landing and to establish their rudimentary nests. So almost all of the world's population of these birds return to this island to breed at this time of the year. It was great to see them overhead in effortless flight and a real contrast to see how inelegantly they waddle around on land.

Like so many of the Galapagos creatures, they show little concern about people passing quite close. In fact one was looking after her egg right on the pathway and didn’t move when we came. Without any proper nest, they protect the eggs by rolling them around from place to place until hatched. The chief disadvantage of this system of egg care is that a high proportion of eggs get broken on the rocky ground.

We also visited the Nazca Booby breeding area. These boobies are similar to the blue-footed kind but have less elaborate courting rituals (and no blue feet of course). Breeding couples covered all the rocks and there were a good many of the fluffy chicks, keen to be fed by the attentive parents.

From the cliffs we could look down onto the shore and see some spectacular 'blow holes’. As the waves come in, water is forced down channels in the rocks and the pressure forces the water up in great spouts. Although this looks similar to a geyser, it is purely the force of the tide and waves.

Later we snorkelled along a part of the rocky coast of the island, exploring some of the caves. This was great snorkelling as a combination of clear water and lots of good places for marine animals meant there was plenty to see. It was certainly good enough to convince Jesse that she wants to learn to dive. Best spot of the day to Jen, who found an octopus in one of the caves!
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