Floreana—Punta Cormorant

Route map

map_Day2Floreana

(Click on any photo to see a larger version.)

FloreanaGoogleSunday, May 12, morning

The captain started the engines around 2 a.m. and we arrived at Floreana just at dawn (6 a.m.).  As the sun rose, I spotted 3 other boats in our area:  King of the Sea, Galaven, and Reina Sylvia.  I felt a bit like a celebrity spotter—I’d read so much about so many different boats, I was really excited to see some of them in person.  I was especially interested in the Reina Sylvia, since it is typically chartered by rather wealthy clients.  (For instance, when Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie brought their family to the archipelago recently, they traveled on the Reina Sylvia.  Just sayin…)  No famous faces that I could see this time, though.

FloreanaScheduleFirst thing in the morning, Carolina had the day’s schedule on the white board in the library (above).  We had been to the Floreana landings before, so we knew what to expect.  We spent the early morning on Punta Cormorant. Contrary to what you might think, Punta Cormorant is not named for the endemic Flightless Cormorant.  In fact, you won’t find any cormorants at all on Floreana.  (You need to travel to Isabela or Fernandina to find them.)  Instead, it was named after a U.S. military ship.  Go figure.

Our visit in 2009 had been very (VERY!!) low-key.  It was the last afternoon of that trip and I think our naturalist guide was running out of energy.  Our group wandered around the beach area and just relaxed.  But this time, Carolina spent a lot of time pointing out wildlife as we walked to and from the beach, as well as on the beach itself.

After a wet landing, the olivine beach didn’t seem as green as the last time we had been there.  SLCrabPerhaps it was the difference between morning and afternoon sun.  Made up of magnesium, iron, and silica, the olivine crystals originate deep in a volcano.  They likely traveled on the wind from the nearby tuff cones.  The ubiquitous and beautifully colorful Sally Lightfoot Crabs greeted us, crawling around the rocks by the olivine beach.  This colorful beauty was probably relatively mature, since younger crabs are darker.  In addition to their marked speed and agility (hence the name), they help to clean up the beach areas of all sorts of organic detritus.

We headed to the brackish lagoon that hosts Greater Flamingos—one of the largest populations of GRFL_2these stunning birds in the archipelago.  During the walk, we spotted an insect that would be Zell’s nemesis on the inhabited islands—the Yellow Paper WasGRFL_1p (below).  Across the next 2 days, Zell was stung 3 different times by these wasps.  They seemed especially drawn to the area around his daypack where webbing connected the straps to the packbelt.  If you’re especially sensitive to wasp stings, you might consider putting some insect repellent on that part of your day pack.

YellowPaperWaspFloreana has only one species of Lava Lizard (Microlophus grayi), endemic to this island.  A diminutive member of this species paused on the path, allowing close examination.  Although both males and females have orange-red throats, the females have red on the face as well.  Howdy, little lady.

LavaLizardA young fledgling songbird watched us from the trees.  From this photo, I can’t definitely determine whether it’s YEWAa young Yellow Warbler (which, at least in the U.S. tend to be quite drab) or a young Galápagos Flycatcher (should the beak be two-toned?).  Given how calm it was, I would guess it was a Yellow Warbler; flycatchers tend to be a bit more skittish.  May was a delightful time to be in the archipelago, from a birding point of view.  We saw a number of recent fledglings—both songbirds and shorebirds—still being fed by their parents.  I also heard Yellow Warblers singing on just about every landing we made.  To my ear, the songs seemed a bit different on each island—and all seemed different from the very familiar Yellow Warbler song I know from our Colorado home (“sweet-sweet-sweet-I-am-so-SWEET!”).  But the rhythm and tone were similar enough to let me identify them.  Very different from visiting during September, when we heard no singing at all.

Continued on p. 2; click below.

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4 Responses to Floreana—Punta Cormorant

  1. That’s really helpful. What you can’t picture, makes you anxious. I am going to practice snorkeling this summer and see how it goes. I haven’t done it in over 20 years. BTW, your write ups are amazing. You have a great sense of humor and timing, a real knack for wording and your writing just flows. I could read your “notes” on your trip all day….thanks so much for your hard work on behalf of those who will follow you! I wish others would write more than …”had a great time…would do it again.”

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    • Tina says:

      So glad I could help! Great idea to practice a bit first. I was really rusty on our first trip and it took me a while to be able to relax and just enjoy myself.

      I’m glad you’re enjoying the blog–it’s a real labor of love for me. I envy your having this marvelous adventure in your future!

      Tina

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  2. I am 68 and weigh about 185. How does one “clamor” back into a panga. I am fairly strong and somewhat agile, but bottom heavy. I can’t imagine pulling myself over the large sides of the boat. How bad were the currents at Devil’s Crown? I am skittish in deep water, but better if there’s only a few people nearby.

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    • Tina says:

      Hi, Cheryl–

      I assume you’re talking about getting back into the panga after snorkeling in a deep-water area? If so, the pangas have 3- or 4-step ladders that extend over the side and into the water. (On the pangas we were on, they were metal.) So you swim up the panga, put a leg on the lowest step, grab the handrails, and go up the ladder. The panga operators are also poised to give you a hand up too. So it’s a tad inelegant but my guess is you’ll be fine since you’re moderately strong.

      On our 2 trips, the naturalist guides were very clear than if the currents were too strong, we wouldn’t get in the water at Devil’s Crown. So they do some serious assessments before embarking. On our 2 outings, the currents were present but not at all overwhelming. And you can always test them out; if you get in the water and are uncomfortable, the panga operators are always close at hand and happy to help you out of the water–whenever.

      Also, if you’re nervous about deep water, you can always keep your personal floatation device on in the water. (On both of our trips, several people did that.) They’re pretty flexible and don’t really impede your ability to move around in the water (although you can’t submerge to look at something below the water).

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