Feb 02

Galapagos – Frigates, land iguanas, swallow tailed gulls and penguins

by in Galapagos

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Beautiful St Batholome

So in the last few days in the Galapagos we were to visit some of the smaller islands and remote habitats. The chance to see land iguanas (as opposed to a lot of marine iguanas we had seen), frigate birds with their amazing red sacs, and the amazing little blue penguins. Combined with the beautiful vistas of islands like St Bartolome which rose up front he volcanic activity millions of years ago.

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Frigate males showing off..

Along with the giant tortoises the frigate birds are probably the next most photographed animal in the Galapagos. There are five species in the world and 2 of those are exclusive to the Galapagos – the great and the magnificent. Yes, what amazingly descriptive name. These birds truly live up to their names. We landed on South Seymour and walked around the island, looking at the young frigate chicks, determining which were magnificent and which were great. You can tell by their feathers on the back of their head.

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If they are slightly green the frigate is great. That is the only way of telling.
We also observed the behaviour of the male trying to attract the female.
It is this behaviour that they are famous for…During the courtship display, the male forces air into the red sac, causing it to inflate over a period of 20 – 30 minutes into a startling red balloon. As males tend to display in groups, the effect is magnified.

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Then the males sit quietly in the low shrubs watching for a female to fly overhead. The males also waggle their heads from side to side, shake their wings and call. If the display is attractive enough, then the female will land and sit beside her new suitor.

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The land iguana and colourful sesuvium

From there we visited South Plazas island where we would see our first land iguanas in the wild. These were fascinating creatures and so was the habitat on the island. Nothing but cacti and sesuvium, a red carpet plant that looks very colourful next to the yellow land iguanas. Now these land iguanas lives are very simple.

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Land iguanas…sitting…watching…waiting

They sit under the cactus plant waiting…and waiting and waiting… until either a yellow flower or a leaf falls from the plant. Then the fun starts. Iguanas come in from all directions to either grab or wrestle with another iguana for the prize. Something they may have been waiting a whole day for. It is a remarkable existence.

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Iguana WWF smackdown….

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And to the winner goes the spoils and contentment..

The big bad ass iguanas stake claim to their own cactus and then fight others for the right to hang out under them.
We saw several fighting for them while we were there.

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Flowers are much more easier…apparently

Bright yellow colour, regal crowns running along their necks and heads…these iguanas are far more impressive then their marine iguana cousins..

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Their less impressive marine cousins

We also saw shearing birds, flying at ridiculous speeds and swallow tailed gulls. Very defined red circles around their eyes and they also fish at night, something unique to the galapagos.

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Shearings..

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Swallow tailed gulls

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And their chick..

Then there was the species that started it all off, the Galapagos finches. They were one of the key species Darwin studied when he visited the Galapagos and have been the guiding species of how animals and plants can evolve to their environment. Fifteen finches have been identified here and in one case a couple called Rosemary and Peter Grant have studied them for over 40 years (yes 40 years!!). They have come to these islands for 6 months every year…true dedication..

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Galapagos Cactus Finch

We also saw Galapagos penguins, oyster catchers and many other animals in our last few days as well as the most amazing views from on top of St Batholome Island. Having the penguins swim around you was a rare treat.

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One of the Little Blue Penguins

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Oystercatchers..

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Pelican

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Sally Lightfoot Crab..

At one point I had a seal lion, penguin, black tip shark and an eagle ray all swimming within 10 metres of me…of course they wouldn’t line up for a photo but something I will remember till my dying day…

A truly unique and remarkable place…

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Ad finally St Bartholome with some of our fellow travellers…

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