Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Galapagos Islands day 5 - Santa Cruz

We awoke in the harbour at Puerto Ayora, and after a pretty smooth sailing, it was miserable weather wise this morning. Grey skies, continual rain were what we got as we walked the short distance from the harbour to the Charles Darwin Research Centre. A fairly interesting place that does great things to combat animal extinctions, and educate tourists, but when you're faced with imbeciles in your group that pose questions such as 'is there a difference between a tortoise and a turtle?' - it was time for me to seek solitude with the local (wild) birdlife.

The real highlight of the morning walk around the research centre were three Woodpecker Finches, new birds for me but views of one using a small tool (piece of wood) was special. The area was birdy, mainly Medium Ground Finches and smaller numbers of Small Ground Finches, but also Yellow Warblers, Galapagos Mockingbirds and smaller numbers of Smooth-billed Anis and Galapagos Flycatchers.
Woodpecker Finch Santa Cruz, Galapagos
Walking back to the harbour, and what was to become one of my favoured haunts when we stayed in Puerto Ayora later on in the trip, was the fish market. This small kiosk adjacent to where catch is landed is always a hive of activity - sea lions, pelicans, Lava Gulls - pecking away at the scraps and begging the workers for 'free food'.
Medium Ground Finch Santa Cruz, Galapagos
Back on the boat at lunch, the first Hudsonian Whimbrel of the trip flew through whilst Elliot's Storm-petrels, Brown Noddies, Magnificent Frigatebirds and Blue-footed Boobies were common. And then the afternoon was spent with these iconic characters at El Manzanillo Ranch - the photographs can do the talking.

Giant Tortoise Santa Cruz, Galapagos
All in all, we saw about 25 Giant Tortoises and despite my initial 'Jurassic Park' first impressions of the site, it was possible to get away from the minions and enjoy these spectacular animals without the inanity that comes from many of the Galapagos' tourists. This was also the only place on the trip where I saw Small Tree Finch and Vegetarian Finch. A couple of White-cheeked Pintails and a Warbler Finch rounded things off for the day.

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