A blue-footed booby strikes a proud pose

With an apology to our birder friends who have taken stunning pictures of birds from around the world, we have to be honest: we’ve never quite seen the appeal of birding. In most of our experience, seeing amazing birds means having to stand very, very quietly for long periods and then break out some sort of high-powered viewing equipment, like a scope or long camera lens on a tripod, to get a fleeting glimpse. It just doesn’t seem worth the effort. Kind of reminds me of eating artichokes (but that’s another story).

It’s oh-so-different in the Galapagos. Like most of the other wildlife there, many of the birds do not view humans as predators. Not only are they willing to let you get very close, but they’re carrying on an incredible array of mating, nesting, feeding, and preening behaviors right before your eyes. It’s enough to turn even the most hard-core birding skeptic into a true believer.

On our recent trip to the Galapagos, we were especially taken with three bird species:

The Boobies

Nazca Booby

There are three varieties to be found in the Galapagos, and we saw two of them – the ever popular blue-footed boobies and the tuxedo-striped Nazca boobies. We’ve seen BFBs before, on an island off the Mexican Pacific coast, but these are are subspecies endemic to the Galapagos. The Nazcas are pretty widespread.

The Waved Albatross

Nesting waved albatross

Albatross are the largest of the sea birds, and they’re so heavy and ungainly that getting airborne takes some work. But once they’re in the air, they’re poetry in motion. On Española Island, we watched them get a running start and take off from a 100-foot cliff, and then ride the thermals higher and higher. With wing spans up to eight feet (!) they can just glide, and rarely have to flap their wings. They were a sight to behold.

The Magnificent Frigatebirds

A male magnificent frigatebird in all of his courting glory

Yes, they were magnificent, but that really is the name given to the subspecies that’s endemic to the Galapagos.Not only did the magnificent frigates put on an aerial show when we were underway one late afternoon, dipping and soaring off the bow of our boat, but we were treated to a fantastic display of their nesting and mating behaviors on North Seymour Island.

 

 

With apologies again to true birders who have taken much better pictures, with better equipment – here are our favorite bird shots from the Galapagos.

Galapagos mockingbird
The only Galapagos penguin we saw. They’re quite rare.
A very rare lava gull, on . . . some lava
Wotcha starin’ at? Got water? Mockingbirds
Galapagos dove
Oystercatchers
Swallow-tail gulls
The mockingbirds were so thirsty they’d come right up to our water bottles. We were warned not to give them water.
A friendly yellow warbler on the beach.
A brown pelican
Great Blue Heron
Nazca boobies at the Isla Espanola blow hole
The frigatebirds put on an aerial show off our bow one evening.
So much was going on in this picture. Frigate flirting, preening, nesting, young-tending.
Trying to impress the ladies. My pouch is bigger than your pouch! The gal in the background seems pretty blase about it all.
Frigate moms tending their young.
This baby booby has not strayed far from the nest where he hatched – marked by the “guano ring” left by his parents.
Our naturalist and guide, Etienne De Backer, a renowned bird expert in the Galapagos. He’s got the attention of a young blue-footed booby (they don’t get their blue feet until they reach sexual maturity).

16 Comments

  1. Awesome Susan! I’m looking through these photos thinking, “How did she get my photos?”, lol. Nice job. Just processing my photos this week….lots and lots of good ones!

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Ha – I know, right? We probably all have the same pics, more or less. I’d love to see yours!

  2. Stunning! We agree with you about birding. Birds are awesome and beautiful, but we just never want to carry around all the equipment. But we can’t wait to see them in Galapagos! Great pictures! Thanks for sharing

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      We look forward to seeing your Galapagos posts!

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      You are welcome! There were a couple of times when I cried out for my “big” camera and long lens. But I think we did OK with two iPhones and a point-and-shoot Olympus 🙂

      • Good to know. We will only have our two very old iPhones and a GoPro. I’m most excited about experiencing it. It was great to read you blog posts about it.

  3. Susan Leverton Reply

    But did you see those blue feet dance. That’s when I fell in love.

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Only at a distance, Sue. We were crying out for a long lens!

  4. Your photos are so beautiful! Thank you for sharing your trip with us. What a place! What a couple that John and Susan! What adventurers! What an experience! Viva viva!

  5. I just recently went back to view our own photos of our visit to the Galapagos Islands (which pale in comparison to yours) and had fun walking down memory lane. We were lucky enough to visit while the Magnificent Frigate birds were sitting atop their nests hoping to attract any interested females and we were absolutely blown away. The blue-footed boobies were playing hard-to-get but we did luck out with some sightings of the penguins and many more. Sounds like your trip was pretty amazing and a never-to-be-forgotten adventure. For use, it was a bucket list site that we never thought we’d get a chance to see and we still feel so fortunate to have visited! Anita

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      We feel the same way! But we want to go back 🙂 We have to stop that or we’ll never get to all the places we want to see in this wide, amazing world 🙂 And I’m sure your photos are fantastic – maybe we’ll get to compare notes someday.

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