Route map (click on map for larger version)
Española (click on map for larger version)
(from Google Earth)
Note: To skip the text and just look at the photos from the day, click here. The 1st 11 photos are from the outing at Gardner Bay.
Wednesday, 9/16, morning
As we had anticipated, the overnight ride continued quite rocky until we anchored around 2 a.m. What the heck—sleep can be overrated.
Carlos’s white board drawing said it all: Waved Albatrosses would be the species of the day. But they nest primarily on Punta Suárez, which was the afternoon’s destination. This morning, we began with a leisurely stroll along the beach at Gardner Bay, on the northeast shore of Española. Española is in the far southeastern corner of the archipelago and, therefore, one of the oldest islands. It is also one of the most isolated, so it has a number of species that are endemic to the island. One of the longest in the archipelago (~1.25 miles), the Gardner Bay beach’s white coral sand flecked with bits of color truly dazzled, especially in contrast to the various shades of blue in the water (above left, looking northwest). This is one of the few places in the islands where you can roam freely, without the vigilant oversight of your naturalist. In the photo on the right, looking to the northeast, the eponymous Gardner Island looms off in the distance.
Shortly after the wet landing, I caught a glimpse of dark swallow-like bird slipping over the dunes and out of sight. Just before Carlos turned us loose to explore the beach independently, I asked him if I could have seen a Barn Swallow. He said that Barn Swallows can be found in the islands during the northern winters, but I more likely had spotted one of the furtive Galápagos Martins. Excellent!
Heading along the beach toward the east, Z and I came across a Hood Mockingbird. (The English name for Española is Hood, named after an English Admiral, Viscount Samuel Hood.) We had been warned to be wary of these bold birds; reports say that not only will they approach visitors but they may alight on your shoulder or head; wrestle with and even untie shoelaces; or peck at water bottles, seeking ever-precious fresh water. We experienced no personal perching, untied shoes, or water thievery; but they certainly didn’t shy away from us. Hood Mockingbirds are endemic to this island, although some may be found on nearby Gardner Island. Compared to the more widespread Galápagos Mockingbird, Hood Mockingbirds have longer legs and more down-curved beaks. (I wonder if that guy on the far right was eying our shoelaces…)
Continued on p. 2; click below.