The wildlife – what will you see on the Galapagos?

This is my photo-indulgent post. I have been pretty restrained up until now, but one of the main reasons I went to the Galapagos was for the wildlife, and the photo-opportunities for this. As a garden photographer it’s not what I’m used to at all, and I missed a lot as I learnt new ways of using my camera. Burst mode – what’s that?! But I also caught some pretty special moments.

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Marine iguana (Amblyrhynchus cristatus) lying on a bleached tree trunk, catching the last of the sun’s rays at Punta Espinosa, Fernandina island.

So can you get up close and personal like all the websites say you can? Well the short answer is yes, because the animals and birds don’t fear humans; they are protected by a strict code and regulated by the National Parks Service. (This may be as a result of the historical fate of the tortoises, which were severely depleted by pirates and whalers, and even by Darwin’s expedition in the Beagle. Tortoises can live for months without food and water and the seamen used to stack them on deck in piles for a supply of fresh meat during their time at sea.) But I digress.

But should you get as close as you can? I watched one young couple from a different boat walk right up to within touching distance of a pair of blue-footed boobies for their obligatory selfie. Silvia, our guide, remonstrated with them in no uncertain terms. ‘If you do this, do you think the birds will continue to be comfortable around humans? Have some respect and move away!’

Respect is key, I think, and a long lens very helpful. I used a 70-200mm zoom for almost all my wildlife captures. It has a stabiliser which meant I could handhold down to around 1/80sec on a good day. Tripods and boats definitely don’t mix, and neither do tripods and moving tour groups. Apart from in Puerta Ayora in Santa Cruz, landings on the islands are strictly timed, and you must be accompanied by a guide, always. There are pathways or areas of permitted walking which are marked out, and you must stay within these, and keep together as a group.

Annie shooting crabs.  Punta Espinosa, Fernandina island.
Shooting crabs (not craps). Punta Espinosa, Fernandina island. Pic: Silvia Vargas

This was a real challenge for a photographer used to spending unlimited (well it often seems that way) time parked behind a tripod with a macro lens and cable release, waiting for the millisecond when a miscanthus grass or an angel’s fishing rod is perfectly still. All of my captures were handheld, apart from a few before and after the boat trip. Another completely new experience for me.

Enough words; here are a few of my favourite animals and birds. You can see more on my website at www.anniegaphotography.co.uk/galapagos.

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Sally lightfoot crabs (Grapsus grapsus), gathered on the wall of the jetty at Puerto Velasco Ibarra, Floreana island.
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Blue-footed booby (Sula nebouxii excisa), perching on a guano-painted ledge in the volcanic cliff at Punta Vicente Roca, Isabela island. This was shot from a rocking panga/dinghy.
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A brown pelican, Pelicanus occidentalis urinator, is circled by brown noddy terns, Anous stolidus galapagensis, as it dives for food at Espumilla, Santiago. 
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When a pelican makes its dive, it then sieves out the water along with the smaller fish and crustaceans. The noddy terns wait for this moment: they are able scavengers and mob the pelican as it does this, sometimes even sitting on its head, as shown here, in readiness to pick up a food morsel.
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Master of all he surveys: a brown pelican, Pelicanus occidentalis urinator, at rest in a black mangrove (Avicennia germinans) on the edge of the beach at Espumilla, Santiago.
Land iguana, Conolophus subcristatus. Urbina Bay, Isabela.
What’re you looking at? Land iguana, Conolophus subcristatus. Urbina Bay, Isabela.
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Marine iguanas (Amblyrhynchus cristatus) huddling together as the sun goes down at Punta Espinosa, Fernandina island. They are ectothermic (they don’t regulate their own body temperature), so this behaviour may be about keeping warm. Or they might just like each other. If you know, leave a comment.
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Marine iguanas (Amblyrhynchus cristatus) hunkering down on the lava rock next to the sea, Punta Espinosa, Fernandina island.
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Galapagos fly-catcher, Myriarchus magnirostris, perched on lava rock above Darwin Lake, Isabela.
Female lava lizard, Microlophus albemarlensis. Puerto Egas, Santiago.
Female lava lizard, Microlophus albemarlensis. Puerto Egas, Santiago.
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Blowing bubbles: Galapagos fur seal, Arctocephalus galapagoensis, sliding underwater as it sleeps. It would actually startle and wake each time it did this, settle back and then gradually slither down, submerging its nose into the tide-pool until its next breath. This species is actually a sea-lion – it has ears. Among the lava rock grottoes of Puerto Egas, Santiago.
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A pair of magnificent frigate birds, Fregata magnificens, engaged in courtship ritual, North Seymour island. The male inflates his scarlet gular pouch and trills.
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Galapagos sea-lion, Zalophus wollebacki, playing in the waves with lava rock behind, as the sun goes down. Punta Espinosa, Fernandina island.
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Blue-footed boobies (Sula nebouxii excisa), North Seymour. They nest on open ground, and, according to our guide, come ashore to breed only when the sea currents are cold. The female is slightly larger than the male.

 

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Blue-footed boobies (Sula nebouxii excisa), skypointing with twigs for nesting in mating ritual.  The female apparently chooses her mate based on the blueness of his feet. I guess blueness is in the eyes of the beholder. 
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Galapagos sea-lion, Zalophus wollebacki, relaxing on the steps of the jetty at Puerto Velasco Ibarra, Floreana.
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Colourful Galapagos Green Turtle (Chelonia agassizii, Chelonia mydas agassisi) under a red mangrove in the shallows of the saltwater lagoon at Elizabeth Bay, Isabela.
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Wildlife on a rock. Galapagos sea-lion (Zalophus wollebacki) enjoys the evening sun. Elizabeth Bay, Isabela.
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Stop!! Hybrid tortoise in the highlands of Floreana. The sturdy back legs and tail announce a male of some stature.
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Sally lightfoot crab (Grapsus grapsus), perched on the lava rock in Punta Cormorant Bay, Floreana island.
See my website www.anniegaphotography.co.uk/galapagos for more Galapagos images or contact me for licensing. All words and images ©Annie Green-Armytage. Re-blogging and link-sharing on social media is permitted with full accreditation; no other reproduction of any kind permitted without written permission.

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