Magnificent frigate birds are a special feature of Santiago Island

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Tuesday, April 5 — During the night, while we slept, our ship has made its way to Santiago Island.

On our morning walk we see the endemic Galapagos flycatcher, a famously sociable bird.  In fact, as we hold out our hands, he hops closer and closer until he is sitting on our finger, totally unafraid, constantly curious.  He even pecks at one of our camera lenses, supposedly seeing his reflection in the lens, and liking the sight. (Earlier in the week a pretty yellow warbler landed on my pen and lost her balance, falling onto my breakfast table before righting herself and flying away.)

M/V Evolution

As we walk over the tide pools we’re careful not to step over the hundreds of marine iguanas, the same color of the lava floor: black. Here we see our first Galapagos fur sea lions, furry cousins of the black sea lion.  The endemic Galapagos hawk poses proudly on a rock outcropping inches away from our cameras, a special treat for the Audubon members in the group. In these islands where the birds seem to know they are protected photographers have the unique experience of taking their time to set up shots of birds they can practically touch, who pose patiently for minutes at a time.

Santiago was Darwin’s favorite island.  He climbed to the top of a lava mountain here, as we do, for the most beautiful and most photographed scene in the Galapagos, of Bartolome Island.

We also go down under the sea to snorkel here, marveling at the schools of  colorful barber fish, angel fish and yellow tailed surgeon. We also share the waters with red sea stars, golden rays, hammerhead sharks and the occasional octopus.
Boli, our naturalist guide, assures us that the sharks we see are harmless, as are the sea lions and the Galapagos penguins that check us out underwater
As always, when we come back to the boat from swimming or snorkeling, the IE staff greets us with fresh towels, fresh fruit juice and a snack before our lunch taken out on deck.

This afternoon, the panga takes us to Darwin’s Bay Beach, where we are surrounded by one of the Galapagos’ most extraordinary birds – the Magnificent frigate bird. These enormous oceangoers, which have wing spans over six feet, have an amazing mating ritual. Like the teenage boy with the red Mustang convertible, the male frigate bird puffs out a large red balloon-like pouch on his chest to attract the girls. These red balloons are everywhere – up in the trees and on the beach.

A famous Galapagos view

Our naturalist guide, Alex Cox, mimics the jazzy dance that the two frigates do when she finally chooses her man, strutting around and waving his arms.

After she lays her eggs it is the male who sits on them while Mom takes off and plays around with other men who  catch her eye. Hooray for equality!

We walk on Darwin´´s Bay Beach, pose with the sea lions there, and take a beautiful swim in the turquoise waters of the bay, enhanced by just enough of a light shower to create a rainbow as the sun goes down.

Photos by Timothy Leland

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