Galapagos - Genovesa Island, June 8th


Magnificent Frigate Bird

Animal of the Day: Magnificent Frigate Bird

Magnificent Frigate Birds (Fregata magnificens) and Great Frigate Birds (Fregata minor): The male birds have huge red air balloons under their beaks in order to attract the females. We observed their mating dance during which the male shakes his wings violently. After a male finds a female for mating, the air balloon deflates for the season. Males which do not get a mate must fly around with the big red balloon until next year.

 

At midnight, we weigh anchor and sailed to Genovesa Island. After breakfast, we disembarked for a small coral beach which is part of Darwin Bay. Here we had a complete new sea bird experience with mating and nesting Magnificent Frigate Birds (Fregata magnificens) and Great Frigate Birds (Fregata minor).

We also saw Red-footed Boobies (Sula sula) which can sit on a branch unlike their Blue-footed cousins which need a flat surface to rest.

Our walk over clinkery lava ("clinkery" because the loose lava boulders make a clink sound when they move because one steps on them) brought us through brushy vegetation up to the edge of the cliff. Along the trail, we saw hundreds of birds nesting, with eggs or young chicks or still busy with their nest building efforts. The Frigate Birds with their approximately eight feet wing span are quite a sight when landing a few feet away from you. None of the birds seem to be bothered by us in any way. We approached nesting birds up to two feet distance and they only looked at us curiously.

Magnificent Frigate Birds (Fregata magnificens)
Magnificent Frigate Birds (Fregata magnificens)

Magnificent Frigate Birds (Fregata magnificens)

Magnificent Frigate Birds (Fregata magnificens)

Magnificent Frigate Birds (Fregata magnificens)

Magnificent Frigate Birds (Fregata magnificens)

Magnificent Frigate Birds (Fregata magnificens)

Magnificent Frigate Birds (Fregata magnificens)

Magnificent Frigate Birds (Fregata magnificens)

Magnificent Frigate Birds (Fregata magnificens)

Magnificent Frigate Birds (Fregata magnificens)

Magnificent Frigate Birds (Fregata magnificens)

Magnificent Frigate Birds (Fregata magnificens)

Magnificent Frigate Birds (Fregata magnificens)

Magnificent Frigate Birds (Fregata magnificens)

Nazca Booby and Young Red-footed Booby
Nazca Booby (Sula grantii) Red-footed Booby (Sula sula)


Red-footed Boobies (Sula sula)
Red-footed Booby (Sula sula)

Red-footed Booby (Sula sula)

Red-footed Booby (Sula sula)

Red-footed Booby (Sula sula)

For our next outing, we had our swimsuits underneath our regular clothes so that we could change into snorkeling gear at the end of the walk which brought us back to the coral beach. From here we could either return to the Polaris which was what Gisela and Sophia did or we could go deep-water snorkeling at the base of the cliffs of Tower Island which was what Heiko and Alexandra preferred. During the 40-minute snorkeling experience, we saw many tropical fish and also our first lobster, normally a nocturnal animal. Alexandra snorkeled for about 20 minutes until the cold water (70 F) let her return to the zodiac.

Snorkeling
Snorkeling

Snorkeling

Snorkeling

Snorkeling

However, Alexandra had still energy left for a kayak ride with Joe before lunch. Our kids all liked Rafael, the senior naturalist on board, who was a father of a two year-old son and a five year-old daughter himself. For this lunch he had promised to eat with Alexandra and Sophia and their two little friends, Amanda and Julia. The kids had a lot of fun at their table while the adults enjoyed a quite meal which included a delicious carrot-ginger soup. Paula made an announcement about the various afternoon activities.

Kayak Ride
kayak ride

kayak ride

At three in the afternoon, Alexandra and most of the other kids on board left for their zodiac training session. They learned how to drive a zodiac with an outboard motor under the guidance of one of the naturalists and an experienced zodiac driver.

Gisela, Heiko and Sophia choose a zodiac ride along the cliff observing many boobies and Red-billed Tropic Birds (Phaethon aethereus), but also Sea Lions (Zalophus galapagensis) resting on the black lava rock. The boat was surrounded by Frigate Birds which dominated the sky here in any direction.

Red-billed Tropic Birds (Phaethon aethereus)
Red-billed Tropic Birds (Phaethon aethereus)

Red-billed Tropic Birds (Phaethon aethereus)

Red-billed Tropic Birds (Phaethon aethereus)

Red-billed Tropic Birds (Phaethon aethereus)

Green Sea Turtles Gasping for Air
Green Sea Turtles Gasping for Air

Suddenly, there was big shouting going on via the walkie-talkies carried by each zodiac driver. One of the boats had spotted dolphins. So we stopped bird watching and went out onto the open sea towards the dolphin spotting site. We immediately were surrounded by False Killer Whales (Pseudorca crassidens) which breached the water surface with their backs. The Bottle-nose Dolphins (Tusiops truncates) which were also present, jumped several times high up leaving the water behind. Heiko tried to make nice pictures which was hard because the jumping marine mammals were everywhere, but in the direction where the camera pointed at. Finally, after 150 shots, some of them turned out quite nice and made it into our daily expedition report as well as into the video chronicle. The kids' training zodiac chased the dolphins as well. Some of the dolphins come so close to the boats, that the blowhole output sprayed us wetówe could have touched their skin.

False Killer Whales (Pseudorca crassidens)
False Killer Whales (Pseudorca crassidens)

False Killer Whales (Pseudorca crassidens)

Bottle-nose Dolphins (Tusiops truncates)
Bottle-nose Dolphins (Tusiops truncates)

Bottle-nose Dolphins (Tusiops truncates)

Bottle-nose Dolphins (Tusiops truncates)

Bottle-nose Dolphins (Tusiops truncates)

False Killer Whales (Pseudorca crassidens)

Shoreline at Sunset
Shoreline at Sunset

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