Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Galapagos Islands day 2 - Santa Fe and Islas Plaza

The first dawn on the Galapagos Islands broke, and we were anchored in turquoise water overlooking a white sand beach - full of Galapagos Sea Lions of course. This was Santa Fe, the only place in the world where the Santa Fe Land Iguana - similar to the common or garden Land Iguana, but paler with more obvious dorsal spines. They were still just as confiding though!
Santa Fe Land Iguana
Bird wise, there weren't any real colonies of seabirds but star of the show was a ridiculously confiding Galapagos Hawk. There's showing well and showing very well...

Galapagos Hawk
The landing at Santa Fe was a small circular route, taking us up from the beach and around a rocky yet vegetated landscape. Galapagos Doves flew about, there were several Lava Herons and Galapagos Mockingbirds while Darwin's finch of choice here were Small Ground Finches. A nice Wandering Tattler on the beach was a bit skittish but showed fine in the end.
Galapagos Sea Lion
After a bit of pretty good snorkeling, we headed off early afternoon back west to the east coast of Santa Cruz and Islas Plaza. The journey took no more than a couple of hours, but enough time to see two fantastic Galapagos Petrels - the endemic pterodroma of the islands. And a few frigatebirds decided to land on the boat and suss things out.
Magnificent Frigatebird
Once we'd got our panga onto Islas Plaza, as a gull lover, I was in for a real treat. Perhaps the most beautiful gull in the world - Swallow-tailed Gull - was waiting for me in spades. They were as good as I'd expected, possibly better, and with displaying, juveniles of all ages and birds to within a metre or so the camera was hit hard.

Swallow-tailed Gulls (adults (top two) and juveniles (bottom two)
These quality birds weren't all though - hundreds of Galapagos Shearwaters coming in to land, my first Nazca Boobies, a small colony of Red-billed Tropicbirds, my first Cactus Finches plus some of the already usual suspects - Lava Heron, Blue-footed Boobies, Yellow Warbler and Brown Noddies. I also found a bonus Kelp Gull too, though it didn't linger as it flew over.
Blue-footed Booby
And there were also some pretty showy Land Iguanas too!
Land Iguana
The light again was stunning, and once again it had been a fantastic day. One thing I was happy with was having a 300mm lens; even this was too close at times, but anything bigger than this on the Galapagos and you'd be potentially taking steps back on too many occasions.

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