Sunday, July 24, 2011: When I woke, we were rounding the north end of Isabela (Albemarle) Island, heading for the Bolivar Channel between Isabela and Fernandina (Narborough). I went up to look for seabirds and whales around 6am. We didn't have any luck with the whales, but the seabirding was good. I got decent looks at Galapagos Petrel. I was also able to see some of the Galapagos Shearwaters with dark underwings. These birds apparently breed at a different time of the year from the Galapagos Shearwaters with light underwings, and may be a different species.
After breakfast, we got into pangas for a cruise around Tagus Cove. Highlights included good looks at Galapagos Penguins and our first Flightless Cormorants. We also saw the usual Sally Lightfoot Crabs, Marine Iguanas, and Sea Lions. We continued outside the cove and poked into a couple of partially submerged lava tubes.
We returned to the cove and headed for a landing. From here, we climbed up some steps to Darwin Lake. This is a hypersaline lake near the Darwin volcano. (Isabela is basically 6 volcanos jammed together: the collapsed Ecuador, Wolf, Darwin, Alcedo, Sierra Negra, and Cerro Azul.) Due to time constraints, we couldn't go much further, but we did walk to the other end of the lake.
After that, I went kayaking around the cove. I got close looks at the penguins and cormorants. Pretty soon, it was time for lunch. Then we crossed the Bolivar Channel to Fernindina (Narborough) Island.
Fernindina is the youngest of the Galápagos islands. It consists of a single volcano, La Cumbre. This volcano is quite active and erupted again earlier this year. We landed at Punta Espinoza. I quickly found some American Oystercatchers. In fact, I had seen one of them from the boat, but was not entirely sure it was an oystercatcher. About this time we noticed that one of the pangas was racing away from the island. It turned out that a whale had been spotted, and they were chasing it.
We spent some time walking across the volcanic rocks and exploring the point. The Marine Iguanas here are especially large. We found a number of Pacific Green Sea Turtles and an octopus in a tidal pool. A couple of Whimbrels were new for the trip. At some point we watched for whales offshore. There was much speculation about which they were. We gradually got better looks and realized that some of them were big. In fact, some of the whales were Bryde's (Tropical) Whales and the really big ones were Blue Whales!
We used the rest of our time to go out in our panga to try for a better look. We got closer, but had to go back to the ship before getting really close. It was an exciting end to the day!
After dinner, we gathered at the bridge for the equator crossing. We didn't celebrate the first two, but this time there was champagne. We'll cross it again early next morning on our way to San Salvador (James) Island.
My bird total for the day was 21 species, including 2 lifers. My trip total increased by 4 to 50 species, with 30 lifers.
Aboard the Isabela II, Galápagos