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Galapagos is famous for its "finches" (now known to be tanagers); they helped to inspire Darwin's theory of evolution. This one is the endemic Small Ground-Finch. Photo by participant Sid England.
Whilst writing this trip list, a lot of stunning memories came to mind. I remember as a young person wondering what the Galapagos Islands were going to be like. After reading books, watching videos, and so forth, you feel like you'll go there once and that's it. Many years and many visits later, I still think that these islands are stuck in time. It's still true that this place is magic, weird, and bizarre -- as you can see when you're there, watching the incredible landscape and animals. Some places are covered with black lava, other places have giant daisies, or many different cacti; even the introduced species look strange there.
But when you see the combination of animals adapted to this environment, it's a bit crazy: giant tortoises that have different shells depending on which island they inhabit, iguanas that survive in salty water and dive several meters deep to eat, penguins in the Northern hemisphere, nocturnal gulls, cormorants that can't fly, and Darwin's "finches", with bills that are constantly evolving... All of this sounds like a fantasy, but the reality is that you were there and you witnessed it -- saw and visited one of the most spectacular places on the planet! As we whizzed around the islands, we saw an incredible number of the places and wildlife that the books and videos tell you about. Our group's list of favorites included Paint-billed Crake, Yellow Warbler, Nazca and Blue-footed boobies, Red-billed Tropicbirds, even a Brown Pelican. Finches were popular, with the Mangrove Finch providing a nice surprise. Swallow-tailed Gulls showed what they are capable of; the ones feeding their chicks with squid on Genovesa were admired by many of us. Inquisitive mockingbirds were incredible, especially the Espanola Mockingbirds that came to catch flies and check our group for water sources (with no luck). Many of you decided that the Waved Albatrosses were most impressive, simply because of their looks and behavior. For me, the biggest surprise was how calm the Pacific Ocean was. The Nemo III was comfortable, but even more importantly, it took us to the places to make our adventure a success. So thank you to our captain (Henry) and the crew, who all did a great job. Thanks also to William, our local guide, who helped us with a lot of information about the Galapagos.
And as you know, without you, this adventure would not have happened at all, so the biggest thank you goes to all of you for deciding to visit the Islas Encantadas (Enchanted Islands) and for joining us on this trip. I had a great time and hope that you did too. I am sure that you will remember those Darwin's "finches" for a long time!
A big hug,
KEYS FOR THIS LIST
One of the following keys may be shown in brackets for individual species as appropriate: * = heard only, I = introduced, E = endemic, N = nesting, a = austral migrant, b = boreal migrant
Anatidae (Ducks, Geese, and Waterfowl)
WHITE-CHEEKED PINTAIL (GALAPAGOS) (Anas bahamensis galapagensis)
Nearly every pair of Waved Albatrosses on earth breeds on the island of Espanola -- which makes it a very important spot! Photo by participant Randy Beaton.
PIED-BILLED GREBE (Podilymbus podiceps)
AMERICAN FLAMINGO (Phoenicopterus ruber)
GALAPAGOS PENGUIN (Spheniscus mendiculus) [E]
WAVED ALBATROSS (Phoebastria irrorata)
Procellariidae (Shearwaters and Petrels)
GALAPAGOS PETREL (Pterodroma phaeopygia)
The Galapagos Tortoise ranks among the world's largest tortoises, which is why the species was targeted by whalers in past centuries -- plenty of fresh meat for hungry sailors. Photo by participant Randy Beaton.
GALAPAGOS SHEARWATER (Puffinus subalaris)
ELLIOT'S STORM-PETREL (Oceanites gracilis galapagoensis)
WEDGE-RUMPED STORM-PETREL (Oceanodroma tethys tethys)
RED-BILLED TROPICBIRD (Phaethon aethereus mesonauta)
MAGNIFICENT FRIGATEBIRD (Fregata magnificens)
GREAT FRIGATEBIRD (Fregata minor ridgwayi)
Sulidae (Boobies and Gannets)
NAZCA BOOBY (Sula granti)
There's no better place to get up-close and personal with seabirds, like these Nazca Boobies. Talk about an optimistically large breakfast! Photo by participant Sid England.
BLUE-FOOTED BOOBY (Sula nebouxii excisa)
RED-FOOTED BOOBY (EASTERN PACIFIC) (Sula sula websteri)
Phalacrocoracidae (Cormorants and Shags)
FLIGHTLESS CORMORANT (Phalacrocorax harrisi) [E]
BROWN PELICAN (SOUTHERN) (Pelecanus occidentalis urinator)
Ardeidae (Herons, Egrets, and Bitterns)
GREAT BLUE HERON (BLUE FORM) (Ardea herodias cognata)
GREAT EGRET (Ardea alba)
The deck of the Nemo III -- a great place for a laugh. Photo by participant Linde Eyster.
CATTLE EGRET (Bubulcus ibis)
STRIATED HERON (GALAPAGOS) (Butorides striata sundevalli) [E]
YELLOW-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON (GALAPAGOS) (Nyctanassa violacea pauper)
Cathartidae (New World Vultures)
BLACK VULTURE (Coragyps atratus)
TURKEY VULTURE (Cathartes aura)
Accipitridae (Hawks, Eagles, and Kites)
GALAPAGOS HAWK (Buteo galapagoensis) [E]
Rallidae (Rails, Gallinules, and Coots)
GALAPAGOS RAIL (Laterallus spilonota) [E]
PAINT-BILLED CRAKE (Mustelirallus erythrops)
It's not hard to see how the Paint-billed Crake got its name. Photo by participant Randy Beaton.
PURPLE GALLINULE (Porphyrio martinicus)
COMMON GALLINULE (Gallinula galeata)
Recurvirostridae (Stilts and Avocets)
BLACK-NECKED STILT (Himantopus mexicanus)
AMERICAN OYSTERCATCHER (Haematopus palliatus galapagensis)
Scolopacidae (Sandpipers and Allies)
WANDERING TATTLER (Tringa incana)
WHIMBREL (AMERICAN) (Numenius phaeopus hudsonicus)
RUDDY TURNSTONE (Arenaria interpres)
SANDERLING (Calidris alba)
We had fantastic views of the endemic Galapagos Hawk, particularly on Espanola. Photo by participant Sid England.
Laridae (Gulls, Terns, and Skimmers)
SWALLOW-TAILED GULL (Creagrus furcatus)
LAVA GULL (Leucophaeus fuliginosus) [E]
BROWN NODDY (Anous stolidus galapagensis)
ROYAL TERN (Thalasseus maximus)
Columbidae (Pigeons and Doves)
GALAPAGOS DOVE (Zenaida galapagoensis) [E]
EARED DOVE (Zenaida auriculata)
DARK-BILLED CUCKOO (Coccyzus melacoryphus)
SMOOTH-BILLED ANI (Crotophaga ani) [I]
Sally Lightfoot Crabs must surely rank among the world's prettiest crustaceans. Photo by participant Randy Beaton.
BARN OWL (GALAPAGOS) (Tyto alba punctatissima)
SHORT-EARED OWL (GALAPAGOS) (Asio flammeus galapagoensis)
SPARKLING VIOLETEAR (Colibri coruscans)
BLACK-TAILED TRAINBEARER (Lesbia victoriae)
WESTERN EMERALD (Chlorostilbon melanorhynchus)
Falconidae (Falcons and Caracaras)
AMERICAN KESTREL (Falco sparverius)
Now THAT'S how to impress the ladies! A Blue-footed Booby does his very best courtship display -- and he appears to have that female mesmerized. Photo by participant Randy Beaton.
Tyrannidae (Tyrant Flycatchers)
SOUTHERN BEARDLESS-TYRANNULET (Camptostoma obsoletum) [*]
VERMILION FLYCATCHER (OBSCURUS GROUP) (Pyrocephalus rubinus piurae)
VERMILION FLYCATCHER (GALAPAGOS) (Pyrocephalus rubinus nanus)
GALAPAGOS FLYCATCHER (Myiarchus magnirostris) [E]
TROPICAL KINGBIRD (Tyrannus melancholicus)
BLUE-AND-WHITE SWALLOW (Pygochelidon cyanoleuca)
GRAY-BREASTED MARTIN (Progne chalybea)
GALAPAGOS MARTIN (Progne modesta) [E]
An Elliott's Storm-Petrel dances across the water near Floreana. Photo by participant Sid England.
Turdidae (Thrushes and Allies)
GREAT THRUSH (Turdus fuscater)
Mimidae (Mockingbirds and Thrashers)
GALAPAGOS MOCKINGBIRD (Mimus parvulus) [E]
FLOREANA MOCKINGBIRD (Mimus trifasciatus) [E]
ESPANOLA MOCKINGBIRD (Mimus macdonaldi) [E]
SAN CRISTOBAL MOCKINGBIRD (Mimus melanotis) [E]
Parulidae (New World Warblers)
YELLOW WARBLER (GALAPAGOS) (Setophaga petechia aureola)
Thraupidae (Tanagers and Allies)
BLUE-AND-YELLOW TANAGER (Pipraeidea bonariensis)
SCRUB TANAGER (Tangara vitriolina)
RUSTY FLOWERPIERCER (Diglossa sittoides)
An endemic, insect-eating Gray Warbler-Finch shows the tiny beak which gives it its name -- quite different than the stout, stubby beaks which characterize the seed-eating "finches". Photo by participant Sid England.
SAFFRON FINCH (SAFFRON) (Sicalis flaveola valida)
GREEN WARBLER-FINCH (Certhidea olivacea) [E]
GRAY WARBLER-FINCH (Certhidea fusca mentalis) [E]
GRAY WARBLER-FINCH (Certhidea fusca luteola) [E]
GRAY WARBLER-FINCH (Certhidea fusca cinerascens) [E]
VEGETARIAN FINCH (Platyspiza crassirostris) [E]
WOODPECKER FINCH (Camarhynchus pallidus pallidus) [E]
WOODPECKER FINCH (Camarhynchus pallidus productus) [E]
The Floreana Mockingbird is among the world's most crtically endangered birds, with less than 150 remaining, restricted to one tiny islet. Photo by participant Sid England.
WOODPECKER FINCH (Camarhynchus pallidus striatipectus) [E]
LARGE TREE-FINCH (Camarhynchus psittacula psittacula) [E]
MEDIUM TREE-FINCH (Camarhynchus pauper) [E]
SMALL TREE-FINCH (Camarhynchus parvulus parvulus) [E]
SMALL TREE-FINCH (Camarhynchus parvulus salvini) [E]
MANGROVE FINCH (Camarhynchus heliobates)
SMALL GROUND-FINCH (Geospiza fuliginosa) [E]
LARGE GROUND-FINCH (Geospiza magnirostris) [E]
SHARP-BEAKED GROUND-FINCH (Geospiza difficilis difficilis) [E]
COMMON CACTUS-FINCH (Geospiza scandens intermedia) [E]
MEDIUM GROUND-FINCH (Geospiza fortis) [E]
The Woodpecker Finch is one of the larger-billed "finches". It's also one of the few tool-using bird species in the world. Photo by participant Sid England.
LARGE CACTUS-FINCH (Geospiza conirostris conirostris) [E]
LARGE CACTUS-FINCH (Geospiza conirostris propinqua) [E]
Emberizidae (Buntings and New World Sparrows)
RUFOUS-COLLARED SPARROW (Zonotrichia capensis)
Icteridae (Troupials and Allies)
SCRUB BLACKBIRD (Dives warszewiczi warszewiczi)
GREAT-TAILED GRACKLE (Quiscalus mexicanus)
Fringillidae (Finches, Euphonias, and Allies)
GOLDEN-RUMPED EUPHONIA (Euphonia cyanocephala) [*]
HOODED SISKIN (Spinus magellanicus)
Two endemics: a Galapagos Mockingbird, which is the most widespread of the archipelago's mockingbirds, checks out a Lava Cactus. Photo by participant Randy Beaton.
HUMPBACK WHALE (Megaptera novaeangliae)
"GALAPAGOS" SEA LION (Zalophus californianus wollebacki)
GALAPAGOS FUR SEAL (Arctocephalus galapagoensis) [E]
MARINE IGUANA (Amblyrhynchus cristatus) [E]
LAND IGUANA (Conolophus subcristatus) [E]
GALAPAGOS LAVA LIZARD (Microlophus albemarlensis) [E]
ESPANOLA LAVA LIZARD (Microlophus delanonis) [E]
SAN CRISTOBAL LAVA LIZARD (Microlophus bivattatus) [E]
GALAPAGOS (GIANT) TORTOISE (Geochelone elephantopus) [E]
GREEN SEA TURTLE (Chelonia mydas)
The diminutive Galapagos Flycatcher is widespread across the islands. Photo by participant Sid England.
The birds were not the only amazing things that we saw. The water gave us the opportunity to see other stunning creatures to. Here are some that deserve to be mentioned and I'm sure you will remember:
Panamic sergeant major
Yellow-tailed damsel fish
Finally a fantastic group of Spotted eagle ray
Totals for the tour: 92 bird taxa and 3 mammal taxa