"" Writer's Wanderings: Reminiscing: The Galapagos--Lizards And Albatross!

Tuesday, September 08, 2020

Reminiscing: The Galapagos--Lizards And Albatross!

 [Seeing the albatross always brings to mind "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner." Wouldn't want one of these around my neck.]

The Celebrity Xpedition positioned itself for our afternoon excursion at Punta Suarez on Espanola Island. The trail we were to follow for our afternoon excursion was 1.5 miles long over a lot of rough terrain. As we were briefed the night before, the trail would take us to a dramatic blow hole and for a view of spectacular cliffs. Along the way, the naturalists expected that we might be able to see the albatross who were due to arrive this time of year.

Guests were given the option of a long walk (2.5 hours) or a short one (2 hours), the difference being in the loop that would take you past the albatross if they were there. We opted for the long walk and were well rewarded for it. 

Along the way, we came across lizards and iguana and a mockingbird. It was always imperative to watch your step not only because of the boulders but because often there was an iguana tail or a small lizard darting by.

About a third of the way into our walk, we came across the albatross. The first sighting was in the sky and it was followed by two birds right in the middle of our trail.

The waved albatross is the largest bird in the Galapagos. While they are good sized, they are not as large as the royal albatross we saw in New Zealand whose wing span reaches 9 feet. The flying birds we saw here had a wing span of around 6 feet. Their bodies are about three feet in length.

The albatross live on Espanola (Hood) Island from late March through December and their return each year is only to breed. We saw several mating behaviors and quite a few nests already built. The male/female pairs are monogamous and they are usually together until death. They produce one egg and it is incubated for two months. One of the nesting females was kind enough to shift just a bit so that we could observe the reddish colored egg beneath her.

The Albatross will raise their young chicks here teaching them to fly for their migration back to cooler waters in January when temperatures warm in the Galapagos and food becomes more scarce.

Like the other animals we had observed so far, the albatross were unconcerned with us and let us pass quite close by them--even the ones nesting. That gave opportunity to admire their intricate markings and take some good close up shots.

Reaching the southern end of our journey, we stood in awe of a shoreline of green cliffs pounded by the surf. We rested a few moments and just drank in the scenery as well as the sea birds flying through the air.

A little further down the trail, we could tell we were near the blowhole. Thunderous rhythmic noise grew louder and louder. We came up a slight rise and found the sea powerfully spitting up through a hole in the rocky shoreline below. The water spouted up to 50 feet in the air misting everything around it and downwind from it.

Along a section where we climbed down closer to the shoreline, we found a flock of Nazca Boobies. They were nesting in the rocky area near the shoreline. Unlike the other species of Boobies, they have a set mating period and a unique complication called sibilicide or sibling murder. The female Boobie lays a couple of eggs but about five days apart therefore they hatch about five days apart. If the first one survives, it is of course at an advantage in size and strength to the new born and can overpower it to get to the food it needs for survival. Often this is accomplished by pushing the younger one out of the nest. It adds a whole new meaning to sibling rivalry, doesn't it?

Our path became very grassy after we turned away from the rocky beach and the Boobies. It made walking an adventure with the boulders and the ever present worry of stepping on wildlife. Little did I know, thank goodness, that some of that wild life might be a snake or two.

By the time we got back on board the Celebrity Xpedition, we had little time to do more than shower and dress for our briefing which preceded dinner. The nightly briefing at 7 told us of the next day’s excursions and allowed time for us to sign on for what we wanted to do.

In the dining room, the menu spread before me was swimming before my eyes. I was so tired I’m not sure of what I ate. I barely made it to our stateroom, brushed my teeth, and crawled into bed before my eyes closed for the night. The rocking of the ship woke me several times during the night but I was so exhausted, I went right back to sleep. I needed the rest. The next day would be another great adventure.

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