"" Writer's Wanderings: Reminiscing: A Red Eyed Gull and More!

Friday, September 18, 2020

Reminiscing: A Red Eyed Gull and More!

 [Nothing I love more than watching nature and the interaction of God's creatures.]

Friday morning of our week long cruise through the Galapagos Islands on the Celebrity Xpedition found us at South Plaza, a small uplifted island just off the northeast corner of Santa Cruz. The landscape was lush in comparison to some of the places we visited. A carpet of portulaca covered much of the rocky area away from the beach. The plant had cycled past its bloom time although as Monica told us, the iguana tend to eat the blooms as fast as they appear. The reddish colored stems that prevailed as the leaves faded made me think of the beautiful colors of the Alaskan tundra in the fall.

At our landing point, we noticed several Swallow Tailed Gulls that were nesting. Like the penguins of Antarctica, they made their nests with pebbles. Once again we were amazed that they were not flustered by our presence. As we wondered if there were any eggs in the nest, one female shifted slightly as if to answer our question and someone spotted an egg beneath her.

The Swallow Tailed Gull in addition to being a handsome bird with a bright red rimmed eye, is unusual in that it feeds at night. It is the only nocturnal gull in the world and feeds off of fish and squid near the surface of the water. 

Standing tall as if in an orchard were prickly pear cactus. Not too far from where we landed we stopped for a time to watch an iguana who had managed to claim one of the pears from a nearby cactus and was rolling it around to knock off the spines. Eventually she was able to get it into her mouth and just in time as another iguana discovered her and her prize and began to chase her. She managed to keep the pear and eventually the other retreated. We went on and left her to her breakfast treat.

The land iguana we found here were slightly different from those on the other islands. They were shedding their skins. Unlike a snake, the iguana shed in bits and pieces so a few of them looked a bit ragged. Monica mentioned an interesting phenomena that the naturalists and biologists have discovered. Some of the marine iguanas have mated on occasion (raped as Monica put it) with the land iguanas producing a type of hybrid. The hybrid never lives longer than four or five years so there are few to see.

As usual, we met up with several sea lions along the way We stopped to watch as one little guy came up from the water calling for his mother. He was hungry and wanted to nurse. Mom lifted her head a couple of times and uttered a sound. When the little one found her, she smelled him all over before she rolled to her side to let him nurse. No way was she going to do it for one who was not her own.

In the cliffs on one side of the island, we found a bachelor colony. We were all amazed that these creatures were able to climb up so high. There was a bit of a path but it was still quite steep and definitely slippery with the waves washing on shore.

On one of the rocks, the exoskeleton of a Sally Light Foot crab was left for us to examine. As the crabs grow, they need to shed their covering. They completely back out of the shell leaving it intact and moving on for a few days, vulnerable because the new shell is soft.

In the clefts of the high cliffs to the south side of the island we found scores of gulls and other sea birds. It was mesmerizing to see them in a flock skimming the ocean surface and rising up into the sky and back down again.

More of the Swallow Tail Gulls were nesting here and one had a young chick. The gulls only lay one egg when they mate. The young one we saw had a beautiful pattern of black and white feathers. It appeared that the mother might be showing it how to fly. She would spread her wings and then the little one would do the same. I don’t think he was quite big enough yet to go out on his own in the currents of wind that whipped up the cliff side.

Monica also pointed out to us a plant that had a wicked seed pod on it. The pod had several thorns growing out of it that she said could puncture a bicycle tire. One of the types of finches on the island though had a beak strong enough to break open the pod and retrieve the seed inside to eat.

Little land lizards scurried across the trail in front of us like little hyperactive puppy dogs. They would bounce up on a rock, look us over and then cross back to the other side and disappear. I guess this was a big day for them. The tourists were here! It only happens every couple of weeks or so. The government regulates visitors to the Galapagos park area so that no island is overrun with too many visitors and has time to recuperate between the visits of the small groups that are allowed the privilege to see this wonderful natural area.

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