Galapagos 2 (Monday): Booby Booby Do

2nd April 2018

I’ve mentioned before that we got chatting in one of our various check-in queues, to a nice Australian couple. Their Galapagos experience included one lady passenger who steadfastly refused to leave the boat to go to see the wildlife, or swim, or do anything. It’s possible that this might have been a reaction to the slave-driving that goes on on the Galapagos boats – up early, quick breakfast and then off on the day’s activities, which run steadily through the day until dinner. Any illusion that you’re on a holiday can quickly be lost. One chap on Origin declared it to be a “boot camp”, though I suppose “boat camp” might be better.

Actually, of course, one is on holiday, and so you can decide not to join in on things if you don’t want; and on the first full day I decided to pass on the snorkelling excursion that followed the morning hike (Jane had more courage than me, and decided to go for it).

But the morning hike itself, at Punta Pitt on the north side of San Cristobal Island, was an enjoyable excursion, albeit after a night of limited sleep. (If I have one complaint about the Origin it is that the cabins are very noisy, as they are on the level just above the engines, and this made sleeping difficult this first night.) The excursion was described as having a “wet” landing, which means jumping off the RIB near the shore and hoping like hell that the water’s not too deep – particularly if wearing a backpack with expensive camera gear in it. Actually, the Origin crew managed it well; no-one drowned, and, more importantly, my cameras survived the experience. After a few minutes on the beach of desanding feet and putting on walking boots, we were off, in search of the Red-Footed Booby – San Cristobal Island is one of only two open to tourists where these can be seen. There are three sorts of booby in the Galapagos – blue-footed, red-footed and nazca. Red-footed are actually the most numerous, but blue-footed are more commonly seen.

The hike started off with a bit of a scramble up a rocky path

and it soon became apparent that oportunities to photograph blue-footed boobies would be manifold. They were, frankly, everywhere, including in some cases, nesting on the track we were supposed to follow, so we had to detour around them.

This is how difficult it is to photograph blue-footed boobies:

That said, we were lucky because we were there in their mating season and so could see some of the characteristics of that. The males reserve a nest site by basically creating a circle of droppings, inside which they court females.

The courting ritual involves prancing and dancing

and, if a successful match is made, up to three eggs might be laid.

The male and female take turns to keep the eggs at just the right temperature – 39°C. If too hot, they stand and cool down, sometimes doing a particular panting action to cool themselves.

If all goes well, and food is plentiful, then the chicks hatch. This nest was unusual in that all three chicks have survived, indicating pentiful food.

And now the parents have a job to do to get enough food to feed a growing family.

We eventually reached the point of the island where there is a colony of red-footed boobies. These are more difficult to photograph, as they are the only booby species that is able to nest in trees.

but we saw a few, and also some chicks.

We weren’t limited to boobies, though. There was an immature yellow-crowned night heron

several lava lizards

and many, many Frigate birds, cruising around looking for food to steal.

It was a good introduction to the pattern of our excursions’ activities and the wildlife of the islands.

The relentless stream of activities continued for the rest of the day, with opportunities for further snorkelling, and also kayaking, an activity accompanied by a ride in the RIBs, by the cliffs of San Cristobal island at Cerro Brujo (“the witch’s hill”). So there was an opportunity for some nice photos of people kayaking

And a nice view of a rock formation that (from some angles) looks like a boot, so is called Kicker Rock.

I didn’t snorkel – these blogs don’t write themselves, y’know – but Jane did, and reported that the water visibility was better, dammit. After that, we had a chance for a walk on a beach, so took up on that, as it required nothing more complicated then water shoes. And I’m very glad we did, as it got us some more booby action.

Near the shore at Cerro Brujo, the boobies were fishing, which was a wonderful thing to watch. I’m going to create some kind of animation from photos I collected, so watch this space. For now here is a handful of stills to give you an idea.

A heron was quite obviously awestruck by their skill.

Even the sealions took a peek.

All in all, this was an agreeable way to end the day’s activities and it nicely set up the first G&T when back on board. The challenge of the next days is clearly going to be simply that of standing the pace.

Here’s how day 3 went.

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