So, where is top of my dream travel list?
The Galapagos Islands.
There is nowhere I would like to go more than the Galapagos Islands. If I won the lottery, I’d be straight onto Google to check for no El Niño in the area and get out there on the next wildlife trip I could. My incessant desire to visit these islands came from a talk I went to at last year’s Birdfair* by the wildlife tour operator Naturetrek. If you’ve not heard of these Islands before, they are a volcanic archipelago which sits around the equator off the coast of Ecuador. The islands are of varying ages, and different stages of the volcanic islands’ lifecycle can be seen across the different islands- some islands are relatively new and others are coming to the end of life as an island as they gradually become submerged. I really feel like they are a totally unique place and somewhere I would be really privileged to get a chance to visit. There is a David Attenborough 3 part series on the islands which is an excellent introduction if you want to know more about the islands’ history, geology and natural wonders.
Why do I want to visit the Galapagos?
Blue footed boobies. These have THE best mating ritual of any animal I’ve ever seen. Imagine you have blue feet. Really blue feet. And that blue feet are super sexy and impressive to other blue-footed boobies. So your mating dance is a bit of a prance about in a ‘look how blue my feet are’ kind of a way. Check it out on film here, its 1:31 you won’t want to miss out on. Oh, and they do some funky wing posing too:
The end result of all the wing stretching and foot admiration? These little bundles of fluff:
Oh, and I don’t want you to think it’s all about the blue feet. There are red-footed boobies too:
Completing the booby bird trilogy is the Nazca Booby. No fantastical feet, but what a looker:
Other avian treats include the swallow-tailed gull:
And finally, the Magnificent Frigate Bird:
There are of course countless other bird species I would love to see, but I don’t want to bombard you. The Galapagos does have its own Penguins though- that’s all I need to say about that!
Aside from the birds, there are an amazing array of land-based, often endemic species, such as Marine Iguanas. My favourite thing about these scaly beasts? The fact that they squirt each other with sea water, shot out of their nostrils. Seriously- have a little look here for more about Marine Iguanas from the BBC, or for a peek at the sneezing, try here the sneezing is at 0:28.
These guys also have land-based cousins, the imaginatively named Land Iguanas. These are all from the same family but are a different colour on each Island- isn’t evolution amazing?
And of course, the famous Giant Tortoises, whose shells vary across the islands as the different groups evolved to adapt to their own environments. The most famous of the Galapagon (if that isn’t a word, it should be) residents, Lonesome George Solitario Jorge passed away in June 2012 -find out more of his story here.
One thing that is truly amazing, and I can’t imagine how it would be like in the flesh, is just how approachable the wildlife is. The islands have no natural predators, so don’t feel threatened by the presence of humans- hence why the endemic cormorant species has become flightless over time- it doesn’t need to fly away from anything. This is really what caused the downfall of the giant tortoises, not only are they a little on the sloowwww side, but they were happily approached by human visitors who happily stocked up on tortoises to enjoy for dinner on their long sails home. I don’t know about you, but I find that really hard to imagine- both the tortoise slaughtering and the idea of being so close to animals that really don’t give two hoots whether you’re there or not!
And the last reason the Galapagos are a place I’d love to go? This is the place that famously inspired Darwin’s theories of Evolution and Natural Selection after his visit to the islands on The Beagle in 1835. In particular, Darwin’s finches are widely referred to- 14 very closely related species that reside on the Galapagos Islands and whose adaptations to their environments were noticed by Darwin on his return to England. In examining the specimens he had collected on his voyage around the islands, he noticed that all the finches on these islands had evolved from one ancestral species which had changed over time to suit the different food types available- leaves, insects, grubs etc. Truly fascinating stuff- a true Tale of The Finch’s Beak:
*When I tried to explain what Birdfair was to an non-birding ex-colleague, he came back with ‘So, kind of like Glastonbury for birders?’. Yep. But imagine that visitors to Glastonbury like to wear a lot of camo gear. And binoculars, lots of binoculars. Stands full of optics you can only afford if you win the lottery, even more stands full of dreamy travel brochures, and raffles- lots of raffles. Its a 3 day mecca for birdwatchers held on an annual basis in Rutland, and is most definitely NOT cool.
This post represents day ten of Blog Every Day in May #BEDM with Rosalilium
I also need to put a big thank you to Pam, the lovely lady and fellow birder whose photos these all are. She was lucky enough to visit the islands in 2001 and lent me her (non digital- I’ve done a lot of scanning!) photographs so I could daydream a while. Thanks a lot, Pam.