Day 2 (Monday, May 21): Genovesa Island (Prince Phillip's Steps, Darwin Bay)
After a night's sail we reached Genovesa Island, the farthest northern reach of our itinerary. Our landing spot was Prince Phillip's Steps, a path leading to the cliff where we were treated with nesting Nazca and Red-footed Boobies, and Great Frigatebirds. With their famour Galapagos tameness, these birds were totally unconcerned of the visitors and some rest near or even on the trail.
(Click on each image to see the high-resolution version)
I also saw my first Galapagos Mockingbird of the trip here, a bird I would see over and over again in almost all the islands I visited on this trip. Unlike Darwin's Finches, the mockingbirds of the Galapagos did not split into many species (there are just 4 compared with the 17 or 18 finches), but some major island has its distinct subspecies (this one, needless to say, is the Genovesa subspecies). I made a note to always take a few pictures of them on each island to compare their subtle differences and in case they get elevated to a species later.
We followed the trail to reach a ledge overlookin the cliff where Galapagos Storm-petrels nest and where Short-eared Owls hunt them. We saw both birds, but only from a distance, so I will not post those pictures here.
We returned to the yacht for lunch and to rest. While on the ship, I tried to photograph the fast-flying Red-billed Tropicalbirds. This one lost its long tail, probably due to harrassment from the frigatebirds.
In the afternoon we reached Darwin Bay, a cove and a more accessible beach.
The prickly pear cacti were blooming on the sandy beach.
Here, Swallow-tailed Gulls, another Galapagos native and perhaps one of the most handsome gulls I have seen, were nesting and gave us great close views. These are the only nocturnal gulls in the world, feeding on squid and small fish at night to avoid the harrasment of frigatebirds. They are equipped with the largest eyes of any gull for this habit.
But the stars of Genovesa Island are the nest Great Frigatebirds. Here they nest in the bushes on the beach and some males fully inflated their gular sac ("throat pouch"), giving us excellent views.
While looking at the Great Frigatebirds, I briefly saw and photographed a Darwin's Finch in a low bush. This turned out to be a Sharp-billed Ground Finch, the first and only one I saw on this trip.
Sharp-billed Ground Finch
Here I also saw my first Galapagos Dove.
Galapagos Sea Lions were playing in the water, or, when tired, resting on the beach.
While waiting for the panga ride back to our yacht, I took some pictures of the Nazca Boobies flying to and from the island.
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