You never know what you’ll find just poking along.
The bulk of our morning of Day 5 in the Galapagos was a delightful walk out the lava “bench” inland from Puerto Egas on the island of Santiago. You wouldn’t expect at first that much would be waiting in such a bleak landscape.
But look closely, and there is plenty of stuff to look at. This is a Lava Heron, once thought to be a separate species, or at the very least an endemic subspecies to the Galapagos, occurring alongside typical Striated Herons of exactly the same size and shape. Ha – not quite. It turns out that the Striated Heron is indeed an endemic subspecies (Butorides striata sundevalli), but the Lava Heron is nothing more than a mere dark morph of exactly the same subspecies.
These Marine Iguanas are very common at some of the sites we visit. The subspecies here is average in size. In the colder western waters they are quite big, while in the warmer waters of islands such as Genovesa, they are downright tiny. Notice the young Galapagos Sea Lion. This is a popular beach for swimming, advisable only when there isn’t a territorial male sea lion patrolling with his aggressive barking.
We saw our first Galapagos Fur Seals here. Sea Lions are everywhere, while these are scarcer and rather local. Telling the two apart isn’t instantly obvious – there are differences in the shape of the face and the quality of the fur.
There was a family group of Galapagos Hawks here, and this juvenile and its sibling seemed incapable of acknowledging our presence. Plumage characteristics conform with genetic evidence that shows the closest relative as the Swainson’s Hawk, which makes sense given that species’ migratory behavior, making it the more likely species to colonize a distant island group.
This scorpion is one of two native to the islands and is considered a subspecies of a more widespread mainland species, Hadruroides maculatus galapagoensis. We found this one under a rock just inland from the lava flats.
Photo at top: Short-eared Owl, Asio flammeus galapagoensis on Santiago Island, by Rich Hoyer
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