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Field Guides Tour Report
Galapagos: An Intimate Look at Darwin's Islands I 2019
Jun 8, 2019 to Jun 18, 2019
Mitch Lysinger & local guide

Galapagos Penguins were one of the highlights of the tour. This pair greeted us on the beach at Isabela Island. Photograph by participant Barry Tillman.

The Galapagos Islands are without doubt a dream destination for anybody interested in the theory of evolution, and seeing many of the organisms that inspired Charles Darwin is a thrill of a lifetime! Our well-designed itinerary was as complete as it could possibly have been and got us to many of the most interesting visitor points on the islands. This meant that we we had the chance of seeing all of the accessible endemic bird species... and we did! What really makes all of this so magnificent in the end though is the sheer beauty of the islands and how we were able to get to so many fabulous sites - many quite isolated, and all very distinct - on our own private catamaran!

The birding, and other natural history moments, were many, but here a some that I thought deserved special mention: American Flamingos a couple of times, but that close bird on our first day on Santa Cruz was particularly exciting; those Paint-billed Crakes on Floreana, even bathing in the tortoise pond; that cooperative Galapagos Rail that sneaked in on Santa Cruz for full body shots; all of those great seabirds, many on their nesting grounds, right at our feet; a pair of entertaining Galapagos Penguins on Isabela only feet away as we boarded the panga; Flightless Cormorants in full pair-bonding display; a couple of pairs of "Little" Vermilion Flycatcher in the highlands of Isabela for close views; Galapagos Martins zooming around the boat at close range; and all of those diverse finches that somehow find a way to eke out a living under tough conditions. Finally, the Giant Tortoises living wild on Santa Cruz were just amazing!

The Nemo III was a wonderful and comfortable home for our week in the archipelago and our naturalist guide, Jairo, and attentive boat crew treated us like royalty... thanks, guys! But what really sent the trip over the top were the wonderful participants, and sharing the Galapagos with you after all of these years was a genuine treat. Enjoy the triplist that follows, and I hope to see all of you out in the field again in some far-flung location... good birding!

One of the following keys may be shown in brackets for individual species as appropriate: * = heard only, I = introduced, E = endemic, N = nesting, a = austral migrant, b = boreal migrant

This beautiful Galapagos Hawk posed nicely for us. We had great looks at these endemic predators on several islands. Photo by participant Paul Kittle.

Anatidae (Ducks, Geese, and Waterfowl)
WHITE-CHEEKED PINTAIL (GALAPAGOS) (Anas bahamensis galapagensis) – Seen in small numbers on Isabela and Santa Cruz as they fed about in ponds. As with many more wide ranging species that have endemic subspecies in Galapagos, this one is more dingy than mainland birds.
Phoenicopteridae (Flamingos)
AMERICAN FLAMINGO (Phoenicopterus ruber) – We had our first looks on the first afternoon upon our arrival to Galapagos when we landed a close bird feeding at a beach-side pond on the north shore of Santa Cruz Island. Later on in the trip we had the real bomb when we found five colorful birds in a pond on Isabela near the town of Puerto Villamil... nice!
Columbidae (Pigeons and Doves)
GALAPAGOS DOVE (Zenaida galapagoensis) – A stunning little endemic dove that is common throughout the islands, and we enjoyed many fine views at close range.
EARED DOVE (Zenaida auriculata) – Common around the gardens at the San Jose hotel.
Cuculidae (Cuckoos)
SMOOTH-BILLED ANI (Crotophaga ani) – This introduced species is common on inhabited islands, especially in farmed areas. There is evidence that this one predates on the nests of the endemic species, so not a very welcome inhabitant of the islands, to say the least! [I]
DARK-BILLED CUCKOO (Coccyzus melacoryphus) – We ran across this sneaky species a couple of times, but saw it best in the highlands of Isabela when one actually sat out on an open perch right over the road.
Trochilidae (Hummingbirds)
SPARKLING VIOLETEAR (Colibri coruscans) – The chunky hummer that we saw on the grounds of the San Jose during some light birding on our last afternoon.
BLACK-TAILED TRAINBEARER (Lesbia victoriae) – A few folks nailed this long-tailed species on the grounds of the San Jose on our last afternoon.
WESTERN EMERALD (Chlorostilbon melanorhynchus) – A tiny - and beautiful - hummingbird that we tracked down on our last afternoon in the central valley at the San Jose as they fed about at flowers around the parking lot.
Rallidae (Rails, Gallinules, and Coots)
PAINT-BILLED CRAKE (Mustelirallus erythrops) – Tremendous studies at this crake in the highlands of Floreana as they crept about in the understory, and even dipped into the tortoise ponds! While not an endemic, this one is a natural arrival, and the Galapagos Islands is probably the best place to see it.
COMMON GALLINULE (Gallinula galeata) – Seen best crossing the lawn up at in the Santa Cruz highlands as we enjoyed the wild Giant Tortoises.

Woodpecker Finches are found on several islands, including Isabela, where we saw this parent feeding a begging fledgling. Photo by participant Barry Tillman.

AMERICAN COOT (Fulica americana) – This rare visitor to the islands surprised us in a pond on Isabela Island. I have seen this one at this spot in the past and wonder if they might not be taking up residence.
GALAPAGOS RAIL (Laterallus spilonota) – A tiny rail species that we tracked down for sensational views in the highlands of Santa Cruz for our final endemic score of the trip... wow! I think we were all blown away when this one came creeping in along the edge of the trail, offering up full body shots; we were lucky indeed!
Recurvirostridae (Stilts and Avocets)
BLACK-NECKED STILT (Himantopus mexicanus) – Commonly seen in ponds in the archipelago.
Haematopodidae (Oystercatchers)
AMERICAN OYSTERCATCHER (Haematopus palliatus galapagensis) – Wonderful views along the beaches a few times.
Charadriidae (Plovers and Lapwings)
SEMIPALMATED PLOVER (Charadrius semipalmatus) – We found a group of them at Bachas Beach on our first afternoon. [b]
Scolopacidae (Sandpipers and Allies)
WHIMBREL (HUDSONIAN) (Numenius phaeopus hudsonicus) – Usually more common; we only managed to track this one down on the lava rocks at Punta Espinosa on Fernandina Island. [b]
RUDDY TURNSTONE (Arenaria interpres) – Small groups a few times. [b]
WANDERING TATTLER (Tringa incana) – Seen best along the shores of Punta Espinosa of Fernandina Island. [b]
Laridae (Gulls, Terns, and Skimmers)
SWALLOW-TAILED GULL (Creagrus furcatus) – A distinctive and elegant gull species whose nesting range lies almost entirely on the Galapagos Islands. We had our best views of this one at Darwin Bay on Genovesa Island on our first full day in the islands as they perched on the rocks as thousands of seabirds circled about!
LAVA GULL (Leucophaeus fuliginosus) – A strict Galapagos endemic known from only about 300 breeding pairs. Although we saw them on a few occasions, our best views, by far, were on our first afternoon at Bachas Beach when we found a pair at close range as they lounged about along the shore.
BROWN NODDY (Anous stolidus galapagensis) – Seen daily.

Participant Paul Kittle got this nice image of one of the Gray Warbler-Finches we saw.

Phaethontidae (Tropicbirds)
RED-BILLED TROPICBIRD (Phaethon aethereus mesonauta) – How could we ever forget those squadrons of up to 10 birds of this smart species as they screamed by us numerous times? Certainly a quintessential bird of oceanic islands!
Spheniscidae (Penguins)
GALAPAGOS PENGUIN (Spheniscus mendiculus) – The northern-most occurring penguin; that's right, penguins don't occur in the North Pole, and the Galapagos is as north as they get! We enjoyed smashing views at this charismatic little penguin on the shores of Isabela Island as a pair fed and frolicked about at our feet... unforgettable!
Diomedeidae (Albatrosses)
WAVED ALBATROSS (Phoebastria irrorata) – One of the most attractive species of albatross, with those soft yellow tones and crisp wavy plumage. We enjoyed mesmerizing views of them as they drifted about over the cliffs at Espanola Island, as well as pairs as they cuddled and attended eggs. Almost all of the 30,000 birds breed on this island, but a few nest on a small island just off of the coast of Ecuador.
Oceanitidae (Southern Storm-Petrels)
ELLIOT'S STORM-PETREL (Oceanites gracilis galapagoensis) – Also known as the White-vented Storm-Petrel. This is an intriguing species in that its nesting sites are still apparently unknown here in the islands, which seems strange for such a common bird. We enjoyed plenty of memorable encounters with this dainty storm-petrel as they floated about behind the boat on numerous occasions.
Hydrobatidae (Northern Storm-Petrels)
BAND-RUMPED STORM-PETREL (Oceanodroma castro) – More common out on the high seas as they zoom about over the waves; the larger of the common storm-petrels here in Galapagos.
WEDGE-RUMPED STORM-PETREL (Oceanodroma tethys tethys) – The storm-petrel with the large, wedge-shaped, white rump; also known as Galapagos Storm-Petrel, since one of its great breeding strongholds is here in the islands. We learned the shape of this species well during our cruises, and were able to identify them naked-eye by the end of the trip! Seeing this one at its breeding grounds on Genovesa Island was one of the great spectacles of the trip.
Procellariidae (Shearwaters and Petrels)
GALAPAGOS PETREL (Pterodroma phaeopygia) – We had wonderful studies of this pelagic species towering over the seas during our cruises. This one breeds in burrows on the slopes of the taller islands in the archipelago, and is threatened by introduced predators such as the Black Rat, but researchers are working hard to eradicate such scourges and send this elegant species back into the pelagic skies without threat.
GALAPAGOS SHEARWATER (Puffinus subalaris) – Fairly recently split from the Audubon's Shearwater. One of the common pelagic species in the islands that we studied every day out on the seas.
Fregatidae (Frigatebirds)
MAGNIFICENT FRIGATEBIRD (Fregata magnificens) – The common frigatebird out over the seas. Males of this and the following species are nearly impossible to distinguish in the field, but the females and immatures allow id.
GREAT FRIGATEBIRD (Fregata minor ridgwayi) – We had the thrill of strolling through breeding colonies of this frigatebird species on Genovesa Island as males inflated their bright red pouches in an attempt to attract females. The cinnamon-headed young birds and white-throated females make identification possible!
Sulidae (Boobies and Gannets)
NAZCA BOOBY (Sula granti) – Split from the Masked Booby. Seen almost daily in the islands, but we had our first real close encounters with this large booby species on Genovesa Island on our first full day in the islands as they sat about right at our feet!

Visiting the nesting colony of Waved Albatross is always special. We were able to get up close to them as they brooded their eggs and interacted with each other. Photo by participant Paul Kittle.

BLUE-FOOTED BOOBY (Sula nebouxii excisa) – We enjoyed them as they shot into the water during huge dives in classic booby style. I have to admit that I was left scratching my head a bit as to where these guys were on land this trip, especially on Espanola Island where there are usually numerous pairs scattered about, but we only found one pair. Must not have been a good year for breeding.
RED-FOOTED BOOBY (EASTERN PACIFIC) (Sula sula websteri) – This booby species, on the other hand, was found in huge numbers on Genovesa Island and seems to be thriving here at one of its largest breeding colonies in the world. We enjoyed a wonderful morning just strolling through the breeding colony, seeing adults with chicks on nests at very close range... what a thrill! Remember that this one breeds in trees, unlike the other two booby species of the islands which nest on the ground.
Phalacrocoracidae (Cormorants and Shags)
FLIGHTLESS CORMORANT (Phalacrocorax harrisi) – This flightless species is restricted to the colder waters of Fernandina and Isabela Islands where they build their seaweed nests on the rocky shores. We had our best encounters with this endemic, chunky cormorant at Punta Espinosa where we even had the privilege of watching a pair in full courtship display, something I had never witnessed!
Pelecanidae (Pelicans)
BROWN PELICAN (GALAPAGPOS) (Pelecanus occidentalis urinator) – Known to us all, and common in the islands.
Ardeidae (Herons, Egrets, and Bitterns)
GREAT BLUE HERON (BLUE FORM) (Ardea herodias cognata) – The endemic Galapagos race that we saw well on a few islands.
CATTLE EGRET (Bubulcus ibis) – Most common in the highlands.
STRIATED HERON (GALAPAGOS) (Butorides striata sundevalli) – Most of the birds of this genus found on the islands were previously considered to constitute an endemic species called the Lava Heron due to their all dark plumage. This sort of goes "gray" because there are birds on the islands that are clean Striated Heron types as well, and forms in between. The current taxonomic decision has been to lump Lava Heron types into the Striated Heron species, and this seems to make a lot of sense since the two types are interbreeding on the islands. At any rate, we had them numerous times, but best on our day at Bachas Beach.
YELLOW-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON (GALAPAGOS) (Nyctanassa violacea pauper) – Seen best on Genovesa Island where had close adults and young birds at Darwin Beach.
Cathartidae (New World Vultures)
BLACK VULTURE (Coragyps atratus) – Seen by some in the central valley on our last day at the San Jose.
Accipitridae (Hawks, Eagles, and Kites)
GALAPAGOS HAWK (Buteo galapagoensis) – The only hawk on the islands, and an endemic. We enjoyed plenty of fine studies at this elegant hawk, and even had one at a nest on Genovesa Island. This one is apparently closely allied to the Swainson's Hawk, which makes sense since that species is a long distance migrant through South America.
Tytonidae (Barn-Owls)
BARN OWL (GALAPAGOS) (Tyto alba punctatissima) – Jairo led us to a roosting pair in the highlands of Santa Cruz on our last day as they rested in an outhouse!

The Swallow-tailed Gull is one of the prettiest of its family. While they can be found in the waters offshore from Colombia to central Chile, they breed almost exclusively on the Galapagos. Photo by participant Barry Tillman.

Strigidae (Owls)
SHORT-EARED OWL (GALAPAGOS) (Asio flammeus galapagoensis) – Fabulous studies at this Galapagos endemic subspecies out on the lava fields of Genovesa Island as they hunted for Wedge-rumped Storm-Petrels; some folks even witnessed this species grabbing a storm-petrel!
Falconidae (Falcons and Caracaras)
AMERICAN KESTREL (Falco sparverius) – Common around the gardens at the San Jose.
Tyrannidae (Tyrant Flycatchers)
SOUTHERN BEARDLESS-TYRANNULET (Camptostoma obsoletum) [*]
VERMILION FLYCATCHER (OBSCURUS GROUP) (Pyrocephalus rubinus piurae) – The mainland form that some of us saw on the grounds of the San Jose on our last afternoon.
VERMILION FLYCATCHER (GALAPAGOS) (Pyrocephalus rubinus nanus) – This Galapagos form is now considered a distinct species from mainland forms by many taxonomists; its song is very different and it is distinctly smaller. On Isabela Island we headed right up into the highlands and tracked down a couple of pairs as they fed about at close range for excellent studies.
GALAPAGOS FLYCATCHER (Myiarchus magnirostris) – The endemic Myiarchus of the islands, and we had this "cute" flycatcher perched right in front of us numerous times.
Hirundinidae (Swallows)
BLUE-AND-WHITE SWALLOW (Pygochelidon cyanoleuca) – Seen zipping around in the central valley at the San Jose on our last day.
GRAY-BREASTED MARTIN (Progne chalybea) – Seen by some at the Guayaquil airport during our quick stop there.
GALAPAGOS MARTIN (Progne modesta) – Without doubt, this was my best experience with this localized Galapagos endemic, and we enjoyed it to the fullest, as they swooped around us along the cliffs of Isabela Island right at eye level!
Turdidae (Thrushes and Allies)
GREAT THRUSH (Turdus fuscater) – Common on the grounds of the San Jose.
Mimidae (Mockingbirds and Thrashers)
GALAPAGOS MOCKINGBIRD (Mimus parvulus) – The endemic mockingbird of the central, western, and northern islands; birds of the southeastern islands have been isolated for more time and have evolved into several different species. We had this common species on four islands.

The Large Ground-Finch has a massive bill that we saw in action, as this individual was cracking seeds when we found it. Photo by participant Paul Kittle.

FLOREANA MOCKINGBIRD (Mimus trifasciatus) – A critically endangered species that can now only be found on two satellite islands off the coast of Floreana, and whose populations seem to be holding at around 60 pairs. We sidled up to the edges of Champion Island and scored some fine views of this pale mockingbird species as they chirped and perched up on Opuntia cactus a few times.
ESPANOLA MOCKINGBIRD (Mimus macdonaldi) – A chunky mockingbird - almost thrasher-like - endemic to Espanola Island, that greeted us upon arrival. This one always seems to be after something, whether water, or whatever might be in someone's backpack... very curious and confiding!
SAN CRISTOBAL MOCKINGBIRD (Mimus melanotis) – Good looks at this island endemic in the highlands of San Cristobal Island; very similar in appearance to the Galapagos Mockingbird.
Fringillidae (Finches, Euphonias, and Allies)
GOLDEN-RUMPED EUPHONIA (Euphonia cyanocephala) – Heard at the San Jose. [*]
HOODED SISKIN (Spinus magellanicus) – Teri and Barry had looks at a female at the San Jose on our last day.
Passerellidae (New World Sparrows)
RUFOUS-COLLARED SPARROW (Zonotrichia capensis) – Common on the grounds at the San Jose.
Parulidae (New World Warblers)
YELLOW WARBLER (GALAPAGOS) (Setophaga petechia aureola) – Seen everyday of the trip!
Thraupidae (Tanagers and Allies)
BLUE-GRAY TANAGER (Thraupis episcopus) [*]
SCRUB TANAGER (Tangara vitriolina) – A pair flew in for us at the San Jose on our last afternoon, those rufous caps and turquoise wings seen well!
GREEN WARBLER-FINCH (Certhidea olivacea) – The Warbler-Finch complex has been split into two species. This species tends to occur more in the highlands of the larger islands where there is more humid forest. We had excellent views of them on Isabela and Santa Cruz Islands.
GRAY WARBLER-FINCH (Certhidea fusca mentalis) – The Gray Warbler-Finch occurs more on the outlying, older islands, often in the scrubby lowlands. We saw this form at very close range on our first full day on Genovesa Island.

Although the Blue-footed Booby seems to get all the attention, they were scarce as nesters this year. Red-footed Boobies were in abundance, however, and we had some great views of adults at their nests with some pretty large chicks! Photo by participant Barry Tillman.

GRAY WARBLER-FINCH (Certhidea fusca luteola) – The form endemic to San Cristobal Island that we saw a short drive up from the capitol town of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno.
GRAY WARBLER-FINCH (Certhidea fusca cinerascens) – Abundant on Espanola island where they seemed to be in almost every bush!
VEGETARIAN FINCH (Platyspiza crassirostris) – The largest, and one of the most distinctive, of the Darwin's finches. We finally connected with a feeding group of them in the highlands of Santa Cruz on our last full day of birding for wonderful studies as they fed about in some roadside trees.
WOODPECKER FINCH (PALLIDUS/PRODUCTUS) (Camarhynchus pallidus pallidus) – We had one of this San Cristobal endemic (subspecies) as it fed about in the trees of cemetery above town.
WOODPECKER FINCH (PALLIDUS/PRODUCTUS) (Camarhynchus pallidus productus) – We eked out this form in the highlands of Isabela Island in the form of a young bird following and begging from and adult.
WOODPECKER FINCH (STRIATIPECTA) (Camarhynchus pallidus striatipecta) – Wonderful views of this central islands form in the highlands of Santa Cruz as it fed around in a dead tree, very woodpecker-like, pecking almost all the while.
LARGE TREE-FINCH (Camarhynchus psittacula psittacula) – Nice looks at an adult male in the highlands of Santa Cruz as it fed about quietly in Scalesia-dominated forest. That bill really was noticeably larger than other tree-finches.
MEDIUM TREE-FINCH (Camarhynchus pauper) – An endemic species to the highlands of Floreana. Although there is evidence that this and the Small Tree-Finches on Floreana are starting to hybridize, we saw no birds that seemed obviously intermediate, and had some excellent views at clean Medium Tree-Finches a couple of times, even hearing them sing.
SMALL TREE-FINCH (Camarhynchus parvulus parvulus) – We had this subspecies of tree-finch numerous times in the highlands of Isabela, Floreana, and Santa Cruz, where it is quite common.
SMALL TREE-FINCH (Camarhynchus parvulus salvini) – The form from San Cristobal Island that we saw at the cemetery.
SMALL GROUND-FINCH (Geospiza fuliginosa) – The default common finch of the islands, and very useful for comparison to other species.

The Espanola Mockingbird is endemic to that island, and is the curious one that likes to investigate visitors and their possessions. This one seems to be checking out the photographer! Photo by participant Paul Kittle.

LARGE GROUND-FINCH (Geospiza magnirostris) – Fabulous views of this heavy-headed looking bird on Tower and Santa Cruz Islands.
GENOVESA GROUND-FINCH (Geospiza acutirostris) – Long considered conspecific with the Sharp-beaked Ground-Finch, this one is now ranked as a full species island endemic to Genovesa... and we had them right at our feet!
COMMON CACTUS-FINCH (Geospiza scandens intermedia) – Fairly common on many islands, especially where there are blooming and fruiting Opuntia cactus trees. We had them on Isabela and Santa Fe Islands, first tracking them down near Puerto Villamil at the tortoise breeding station.
MEDIUM GROUND-FINCH (Geospiza fortis) – Like the Small Ground-Finch, very common and wide-ranging in the islands, and an excellent reference for comparison to other species.
ESPANOLA GROUND-FINCH (Geospiza conirostris) – This and the following species were long considered to belong to the same species, even if very different morphologically and with distinct habitat preferences. This now endemic species to Espanola Island is called a ground-finch, which makes sense since there is little or no cactus on the island for them to feed on! We had fine studies at this chunky-billed finch on our visit to this southeastern-most island.
GENOVESA CACTUS-FINCH (Geospiza propinqua propinqua) – Endemic to Genovesa Island. After the split from the previous species, this one retained the group name of cactus-finch as it really is like a larger version of the Common Cactus-Finch. We had an easy time finding them this trip as males and females actively fed about on the fruits and flowers of large Opuntia cactus right at eye-level at very close range... nice!

BOTTLENOSE DOLPHIN (Tursiops truncatus) – One came right across the bow of the boat as we cruised from Floreana to San Cristobal.
"GALAPAGOS" SEA LION (Zalophus californianus wollebacki) – We had many fun encounters with these comical creatures throughout the trip, whether watching them go about their raucous antics on shore, or just "flying" through the water with grace!
GALAPAGOS FUR SEAL (Arctocephalus galapagoensis) – Yes, this one is actually a fur sea lion... not a seal! This one is harder to find than the previous species, especially since its nocturnal feeding habits often send them off to find some rocky cliff - not beaches - to lounge on during the day. We turned them up for excellent views during a panga ride along the rocky cliffs of Genovesa Island where we had them at close range.
MARINE IGUANA (Amblyrhynchus cristatus) – These guys line the coasts of all islands, and one even has to step around them during excursions as they lie around lazily, basking in the sun to bring up their body temperatures. It was a special thrill watching them graze on the algae beds at Punta Espinosa!

Marine Iguanas like these big boys tend to be very confident that they rule the beach, making visitors like us step over and around them as they sunbathe. We were excited to see them sunning, but we also got to watch some of them grazing on algae at Punta Espinosa. Photo by participant Barry Tillman.

LAND IGUANA (Conolophus subcristatus) – A few folks caught a glimpse of the re-introduced animals on Baltra Island from the bus as we made our way to the airport on the final day.
SANTA FE LAND IGUANA (Conolophus pallidus) – It was a treat to get back to Santa Fe Island after years of not having it on the itinerary, mainly for the chance at seeing this island endemic reptile. Although pretty low-key beasts - most of the ones that we saw were almost statue-like (!) - we had some great looks at them as they waited for cactus fruits to drop. Note that this one is smaller and paler than the previous species. Also of note were those huge Opuntia cactus trees, that from a distance, looked almost like pine tree forests!
GALAPAGOS LEAF-TOED GECKO (Phyllodactylus galapagoensis) – I'm not sure what gecko species we were seeing, as it could have been one of the non-native species, but we did see geckos at our lunch stop in the highlands of Santa Cruz.
GALAPAGOS LAVA LIZARD (Microlophus albemarlensis) – Common on the more central and western islands.
ESPANOLA LAVA LIZARD (Microlophus delanonis) – The largest of the lava lizards.
FLOREANA LAVA LIZARD (Microlophus grayi) – Seen right at the dock before heading to the highlands on Floreana.
SAN CRISTOBAL LAVA LIZARD (Microlophus bivattatus) – This is to me one of the more distinctive species of the lava lizards, with its bold stripes along the body.
GALAPAGOS RACER (Alsophis biseralis) – Well, we never saw a live one, but did see a desiccated individual on Santa Fe!
GALAPAGOS (GIANT) TORTOISE (Geochelone elephantopus) – It was fascinating to visit the tortoise breeding stations on Isabela and Santa Cruz Islands to witness the successful conservation efforts going on to rescue the different species. The real bomb though were the really large, and totally wild animals in the highlands of Santa Cruz Island as they wallowed in the muddy ponds and plodded about in complete freedom, thanks to conservation efforts of the local farmers and the national park. The idea of seeing such remarkable beasts on such remote islands was nothing less than surreal!

Participant Paul Kittle got this video of a Galapagos Tortoise lumbering along. These amazing creatures are being brought back from extinction through a breeding program, but we also saw some of the last truly wild tortoises on Santa Cruz Island.
GREEN SEA TURTLE (Chelonia mydas) – How can you beat having these magnificent turtles swimming around us as if we were part of their natural habitat?!


It wasn't just about the birds and mammals, so here are some of the other fascinating creatures that we saw over the course of our week cruising the islands:

Spotted Eagle Ray

Galapagos Shark

Hammerhead Shark

Golden Ray

Modula Ray

Mexican Hogfish

Blue-chin Parrotfish

Black-striped Salema

Chocolate-chip Starfish

Green Sea Urchin

Sea Cucumber

Manta Ray

White-tipped Reef-Shark

Moorish Idol

Surgeon Fish

King Angelfish

Tiger Snake Eel

Diamond Stingray

Sergeant Major Fish

Guineafowl Puffer

Giant Damselfish

Hermit Crab

Ghost Crab

Sally Lightfoot Crab

Thanks to Paul, we have a very strong, likely identification of our sea skaters on Fernandina Island with the name "Halobates robustus".

Totals for the tour: 83 bird taxa and 3 mammal taxa