Birds were everywhere on the Islands, but one place was amazing: Genovesa Island.
The eroded old volcano is a tower on the seabed, with very deep water all around. Darwin Bay is the old caldera in the center. The bay is quite deep, up to 300 meters, and Catcho said that there's a spot in the center where they can't find the bottom.
Genovesa has 14 square kilometers of land, but no fresh water and no people. There were never any goats, and few other species were introduced so the native wildlife has been relatively undisturbed.
We made two excursions on the island, one walk among the nesting boobies, pelicans and frigates on the West side in the morning. One climb up the cliff on the East side in the afternoon to find short-eared owls, and more frigates and boobies.
Most of these pictures were taken on these walks, but we saw many other kinds of birds on this island too. In fact, we thought it was pretty funny how the boobies congregated on the bow of our boat the whole time we were in the bay.
At right is Christina at the bottom of the cliff staircase, with sea lions playing in the water behind her.
Boobies are the iconic birds of the Galápagos Islands. We found red-footed boobies, blue-footed boobies and Nazca boobies. I thought that these below were masked boobies, but Wikipedia says that masked and Nazca are two different species.
The boobies dance in mating season, but they were nesting when we visited. Nests were everywhere, most with eggs or chicks. We were surrounded by them, and we could get very close without disturbing the birds.
Among the boobies on Genovesa Island, we came upon this pelican nest. One bird had been alone on the nest when its mate arrived. The two switched places and the chick piped up. The nest was on some large rocks, just above our heads. When the chick was lying down, we couldn't see him.
We assumed that mom had been watching the baby while dad was out fishing. Dad's catch looked like large sardines. The chick reached into his pouch many times trying to eat them, but the fish seemed a bit too large for him. They worked on the exchange for quite some time while we watched. Mom also stood by, silently watching. We expected her to scold her mate for his poor technique, but she just watched closely.
The frigate birds were mating. This male has inflated his sac, and periodically spreads his wings and gives the mating call. It takes about half an hour to inflate, and he kept up the calls every few minutes while we watched. No female came to visit while we were there, but he was trying to attract one.
I'll bring a video camera if I ever go again. Here's the mating call on YouTube.
We followed a path through the South-East corner of Genovesa Island, looking for short-eared owls. They eat the tiny petrel birds that were flying overhead as we walked. Catcho found one in the distance, then Christina found one a little closer. We continued looking for one that was really close. I leaned over a crevice in the lava to take a picture, and there was the owl!
I moved to within a few feet of it. It stretched, and then closed its eyes like it was sleepy. Christina and some of the others came over to take pictures of it too. It was completely unconcerned.
Below are some swallow-tailed gulls on the Western beach of Genovesa Island. Sea lions are basking in the sun behind the gulls, and our boat is just out sight to the right.
We found this great blue heron in the fish market at Puerto Ayora. We saw others on the islands, but this one was king of the beggars when there were fish scraps to be had. We were amazed that, skinny as he is, he would scare off the much larger pelicans. They were very wary, and gave him plenty of space.
I kept seeing yellow warblers throughout our trip. They flit from place to place very quickly, so I had a hard time getting a pic. I think this is a female, because the males are much more colorful!