Galapagos Islands Cruise Day 8: Birds, Birds, Birds

Our final stop was at North Seymour which is a small islet north of Baltra with typical arid vegetation including prickly pear cactus, palo santos trees and salt bushes. The visitor trail on North Seymour is approximately 2 km in length crossing the inland of the island and exploring the rocky coast. Along the way the trail passes colonies of blue-footed boobies and magnificent frigate birds.

We landed for our walk very early (6:00 am) because we had to be back in Baltra and off the boat before 9:00 am.  By now I think we were all a little bit tired as the schedule each of the past 7 days has been packed full of activities.  Regardless, this stop was well worthwhile as we were able to see so many birds up close.

In spite of the early start, there were groups already on the trail – ahead and behind us.  Our guide kept us moving at a good pace so as not to collide with the other groups.

We had the opportunity to see the inflated red pouch of the magnificent frigate bird, a large black bird with a long wingspan, and a hooked beak; it is extremely fast and has excellent vision.  We had seen these birds throughout our voyage but this was the first time we saw them with thier large red pouches on their necks fully inflated. During mating season the males throw back their heads, inflate the pouch (sometimes to the size of a soccer ball), and shake trying to capture the attention of female frigates.

Boobies and frigates have an interesting relationship. Sharing the same nesting area on North Seymour, blue-footed boobies nest on the ground making their nests from the twigs of the palo santos trees, while the magnificent frigate bird nests just above them in the salt bushes.  We saw several baby blue-footed boobies which are fluffy, white puffs of feathers – absolutely adorable.  Sadly, we saw a few dead ones as well, victims of nature – the mother sometimes lays two eggs but only nurtures one baby leaving the other one to die.

Blue-footed boobies are great at fishing. Hunting off-shore, the boobies dive from mid air into the sea in order to catch fish. Successful, they return to the island with their prize to feed their young. Frigate birds named for the warships once used by pirates are the pirates of Galapagos birds. In contrast to the booby, frigates are poor fishers.  Their bodies produce very little oil for their wings and they are not waterproof. Unable to spend time in the water fishing they must rely on food stolen from other birds to feed themselves and their young.

Unable to spend time in the water fishing they must rely on food stolen from other birds to feed themselves and their young. When a booby or red-billed tropicbird returns from a successful fishing trip the frigatebird will swoop down and molest the bird until it drops its catch. The frigate then plucks the food from the air, feeding itself and its young from the stolen loot. Frigatebirds on North Seymour rely on the fishing success of the blue-footed booby for their survival.

Of course, any walk on an island in the Galapagos would not be complete without sea lions, and North Seymour was no exception.  To our left, the sea lions basked on the lava rocks along the ocean edge, and to our right, the birds were nesting in the low lying vegetation.

Once we were back on board, we enjoyed our final breakfast as the boat travelled to our final destination, Baltra. We were dropped off on Baltra Island which is where the airport is located.  It is typical for people to fly into the Galapagos Islands, board their cruise ship, and then head home directly after their cruise.  Only four in our group were flying out this morning; the rest of us made our way back together to Puerto Ayora where we were all spending a few more days.  We would bump into each other many times over the following days.  In fact, it became a joke between us and Dafne and Jasper as we kept running into them, eating most meals together, and after each one, saying good-bye as if it would be the last.  It was the longest good bye ever.  We even travelled to the airport on Tuesday with them and then said a final good-bye.  We hope they will visit us in Canada one day as we really had a lot of fun with them.

And so came to an end our wonderful 8 day cruise in the Galapagos Islands.  Hope you enjoyed the trip!


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6 Responses
  1. Angus says:

    Wow, what an adventure! Thanks for taking so many spectacular pictures, especially the ones under water. The voyage by itself seems like an amazing experience. Hard to believe you’ve only scratched the surface of your travels. I hope the rest of the trip is filled with equally amazing experiences.

    The two of you are looking healthy and happy. Obviously not missing work 🙂

    • christina says:

      Hi Angus, nice to hear from you. The underwater pics during the cruise were taken by another passenger, Dafne, who was the only one in our group to have an underwater camera. I agree, she took some pretty amazing shots. And no, I’m not missing work at all which has actually surprised me being the Type A personality that I am. I can’t believe how easily I’ve slipped into this nomadic lifestyle. We really are having the time of our lives. Christina

  2. Jurgen says:

    Thanks for the detailed updates. What an adventure! And as Angus points out, this is just the beginning…..

    • christina says:

      Hi Jurgen, Yes, this really is an adventure of epic proportions. Our trip to the Galapagos Islands was so remarkable. I really felt fortunate to be there to witness the wonders of nature. Take care, Christina

  3. Marc says:

    I feel like I was on a National Gepgraphic trip! I had a great time following you guys on that cruise I can just bearly imagine the experience for you! I love reading you, I’m hooked now, have been for a while! Keep it up, it’s a wonderful world and you’re doing a great job at taking us along for the ride!

    Take care

    • christina says:

      Hi Marc, Glad you enjoyed our trip. It was such an amazing experience I wanted to share it with all our friends and family, so I’m glad you liked it. Chris was in heaven with all the photographic opportunities – he took 2,113 photos in the Galapagos Islands which is about half of all the photos taken thus far on our trip! It was hard to choose which ones to include in the blog because he had so many great photos. If we ever slow down a bit, he’s going to put together some slide shows of his best pics and we’ll put them on the website too. Christina