Galapagos - July 2007
 by Henry Detwiler

Suzanne and I spent four awesome days on Santa Cruz Island in the Galapagos--not nearly enough time!
33 species--bird list is at the bottom of the page
Click on thumbnail pictures for full-sized photos. border  

We left Quito at 7:30, and after a short refueling stop in Guayaquil, arrived on the island of Baltros around 9:30. We took a launch from there to Santa Cruz Island, and then loaded up on our tour bus to begin our Galapagos adventure. In the highlands of Santa Cruz, we stopped to tour a pair of giant sinkholes, and got nice looks at several of Darwin's Finches, including our first and only Warbler Finches.

Medium Ground Finch

Smooth-billed Ani

Our next stop was at one of the ranches on the southern end of the island, known for its many Galapagos (Giant) Tortoises. We saw lots of them, and our guide Mario gave us all kinds of stats on their weight, distribution, longevity, and edibility. And among these giant beasts, we watched the anis and finches flitting from branch to branch.

 galapagos tortoise
Galapagos Tortoise

Following the tortoise stop we had a nice sandwich lunch, and then explored one of the many lava tubes in the area. A short drive later we took a launch from Puerto Aroyo to the Finch Bay dock, and hiked the final 1/4 mile to our new island home overlooking Finch Bay. Lots and lots of finches, and also some very tame Galapagos Flycatchers, White-cheeked Pintails, and a host of Great-blue Herons. It was really funny, but the first place that we saw the pintails was in the hotel pool!

galapagos flycatcher
Galapagos Flycatcher

white-cheeked pintail
White-cheeked Pintails

finch bay hotel
Finch Bay Hotel
The Finch Bay Hotel itself was nicely laid out, with open-air dining and a poolside bar. The meals were tasty and the rooms comfortable--all we could ask for.

The next morning we drove to the north end of Santa Cruz and boarded the Finch Bay Yacht for a short trip to Seymour Island. Here was the Galapagos you see on television, with Blue-footed Boobies nesting on the ground next to Land Iguanas, and two kinds of frigatebirds hanging from the low trees

booby family
Blue-footed Booby family

great frigatebird
Great Frigatebird Chick

The male frigatebirds were most distinctive when they inflated their gular pouch. Both Magnificent and Great Frigatebirds were on the island, and we were able to study them at arm's length.

Magnificent Frigatebird

Along the shore and in the intertidal zone the Sally Lightfoot Crabs were most conspicuous in their ruby shells. Most weren't nearly as confiding as the iguanas and seabirds, but I did manage to sneak up a couple of them.

Sally Lightfoot Crab


marine iguana
Marine Iguana


Marine Iguanas were plentiful along the shore here, as in most places with rocks close to the water. At Finch Bay, they especially liked the the low lava fences that the early settlers had built. In a number of places the younger iguanas seemed to pile upon each other--perhaps for extra warmth. I was able to watch some of them swimming off the island of Santa Cruz.

marine iguana
Marine Iguana

From a numbers point of view, the Lava Gull is the rarest gull on earth, with only some 300 individuals. However, it was not difficult to observe at Finch Bay, and we even watched a couple of them drinking out of the hotel pool. Note that this individual is banded on both legs.

lava gull
Lava Gull

noddies and pelican
Noddies and Brown Pelican

Audubon's Shearwaters
Audubon's (Galapagos) Shearwaters


The ocean around the Galapagos Islands has a plethora of food, and both Brown Pelicans and Common Noddies patrolled everywhere. Here, a pelican has just captured some sort of tasty morsel, and the noddies want their share. The one noddy even landed on the pelican's head, waiting for its share. And a little farther offshore were numerous Galapagos (Audubon's) Shearwaters and lesser numbers of Elliot's Storm Petrels.

Elliot's Storm Petre
Elliot's Storm Petrel

Aside from the many Land and Marine Iguanas, the most common and noticeable herp was the Lava Lizard. The females are more showy than the black & white males, with their orange-red throats.

lava lizard
Female Lava Lizard

At the end of the day we walked from the Finch Bay Hotel to "Las Grietas", a lava rift that was filled with water. The trail was adorned with Giant Prickly Pears and other cacti, and lots of ankle-twisting rocks. Along the way we saw the ubiquitous Yellow Warblers and a couple of the friendly Galapagos Mockingbirds

galapagos mockingbird
Galapagos Mockingbird

yellow warbler
Yellow Warbler


Galapagos Bird List, 22-25 July 2007
Audubon's Shearwater Puffinus lherminieri
White-vented Storm-Petrel Oceanites gracilis
Red-billed Tropicbird Phaethon aethereus
Brown Pelican Pelecanus occidentalis
Blue-footed Booby Sula nebouxii
Nazca Booby Sula granti
Magnificent Frigatebird Fregata magnificens
Great Frigatebird Fregata minor
Great Blue Heron Ardea herodias
Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis
Lava Heron Butorides sundevalli
Caribbean Flamingo Phoenicopterus ruber
White-cheeked Pintail Anas bahamensis
Black-necked Stilt Himantopus mexicanus
Semipalmated Plover Charadrius semipalmatus
Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus
Wandering Tattler Tringa incana
Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres
Lava Gull Larus fuliginosus
Swallow-tailed Gull Creagrus furcatus
Brown Noddy Anous stolidus
Galapagos Dove Zenaida galapagoensis
Dark-billed Cuckoo Coccyzus melacoryphus
Smooth-billed Ani Crotophaga ani
Galapagos Flycatcher Myiarchus magnirostris
Galapagos Mockingbird Nesomimus parvulus
Yellow Warbler Dendroica petechia
Large Ground-Finch Geospiza magnirostris
Medium Ground-Finch Geospiza fortis
Small Ground-Finch Geospiza fuliginosa
Common Cactus-Finch Geospiza scandens
Small Tree-Finch Camarhynchus parvulus
Warbler Finch Certhidea olivacea
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