Route map (click on map for a larger version)
Genovesa (click on map for a larger version)
(from junglephotos.com—image not available from Google Earth)
(Note: To skip the text, you can see photos, with brief descriptions, of the wildlife on Genovesa here; the first 12 photos are from the Prince Philip’s Steps area. Click on any photo to see a larger version.)
Sunday, 9/13, morning
The overnight ride wasn’t nearly as choppy as it might have been. Whew! (Of course, it was still livelier than any night we’d had before.) Genovesa (pronounced “hen-oh-VAY-suh”) is an inactive volcano; Darwin Bay was formed when its large crater collapsed below sea level. Genovesa is the only island of the 5 northernmost islands that is open to visitors. Named after Genoa, the birthplace of Christopher Columbus, it is also called “Tower.” But since Carlos primarily used the Ecuadorean names of the islands, so did we. We started the morning with a dry landing at Prince Philip’s Steps (named after the Duke of Edinburgh, who visited in the 1960s), a natural dock with a steep rock staircase leading to the flat top of the island. We were greeted by a Yellow-crowned Night Heron as we climbed the steps.
The wonders began at the top of the rather steep and tall steps, where we found ourselves plunged immediately into the midst of nesting frigatebirds and boobies. Frigatebirds nest in trees or tall bushes; the nests are a jumble of twigs providing a platform for the growing nestling (left photo). The islands have 2 species of frigatebirds. The ones we saw here were Great Frigatebirds (GRFR) rather than Magnificent Frigatebirds (MAFR), since MAFRs feed in shallow water and Genovesa is surrounded by deep water. GRFRs, on the other hand, are deep-sea feeders, so Genovesa is their cup of tea. The adult males of the 2 species can be difficult to differentiate; books talk about the MAFR as slightly bigger and having a purplish sheen on the back feathers while the GRFR has a more greenish sheen. (Yeah, well—good luck with that! Unless you’re looking closely at 1 of each, side by side, that would be a tough call.) But the adult females are relatively easy to separate. Female GRFRs have solid white on their chests that stretches all the way up their throats; in female MAFRs, the white is more of a V shape cut into their otherwise dark chests, with black from their throats to their beaks. (It sounds subtle, but it’s really not that challenging. In the right photo, you can see the full white chest and throat of the female GRFR.) If you’re up close and personal, as is so often the case in the Galápagos, you can also see that the GRFR females have red eye rings, while the MAFRs have blue eye rings. (The eye rings are visible in the right photo if you click on it to get the larger version; click on your browser’s “back” button to return to this page.)
And speaking of up close and personal—I don’t think it gets more so than this big GRFR nestling. Nestling frigatebirds can be differentiated as well: Both have white heads but GRFRs also have brown on their heads while MAFRs have all-white heads. GRFR nestlings are dependent on their parents for as long as 18 months, because the feeding techniques of the deep waters are difficult to learn and perfect.
Continued on p. 2; click below.