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I've been a Canberran since moving here from Adelaide on the first day of 1980. I now live in suburban Duffy with my partner Louise Maher, ABC 666 radio and on-line journalist. Among my early memories is following Sleepy Lizards (Shinglebacks) around the paddocks north of Adelaide, guarded by the faithful bull terrier. I have always been passionate about the natural world, trying to understand how it works, how the nature of Australia came to be, and sharing those understandings. My especial passions are birds, orchids and mammals. For much of my life I have been a full-time naturalist, running bush tours, writing books etc, doing consultancies, presenting a regular radio slot on local ABC, chairing a government environment advisory committee and running adult education classes. Recently I have eased back somewhat, but am still writing, teaching, doing some radio work and running overseas tours - as part of my fascination with our Gondwanan origins I've been running tours to South America for the past decade. I was awarded the Australian Plants Society Award in 2001 and the Australian Natural History Medallion in 2006, both for services to education and conservation.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Genovesa: Tower of the Galápagos. Part 1.

If I was pushed, I would probably nominate Genovesa (Tower is its English name) as my favourite island in the Galápagos. It is the most remote of the islands that visitors can land on (ie the furthest from any other publicly accessible island) and the only one north of the equator available to tourists. 'Remote' is always attractive to me.
Genovesa is at the pointy end of the red arrow; the other end of the arrow is resting on the ling of the equator.
Genovesa shoreline, north shore of Darwin Bay. (Darwin didn't actually visit here.)
Like many first impressions of the Galápagos islands, Genovesa can seem initially misleadingly bleak.
The remoteness is a key to Genovesa's attractions in a more direct way too. Several of the groups that characterise other islands in the archipelago didn't make it to here, including Giant Tortoises, Land Iguanas, snakes and Lava Lizards. This has had various ramifications. For instance, without the browsing pressures of the tortoises and iguanas, there has been no reason for the Opuntia cactuses (Prickly Pears) to retain their sharp spines, and they have become soft, presumably with an energy-saving benefit.
Soft Opuntia spines - their laxness can be seen here.
More obviously, the lack of Lava Lizards means no Galapagos Hawks - and only where the hawks are absent can the branch-nesting Red-Footed Boobies Sula sula, the smallest of the boobies, successfully raise chicks.
Red-footed Boobies, Genovesa.
Both the brown morph (above), dominant in the Galapagos, and the much rarer white morph (below), breed here.


Red-footed Booby colony, Genovesa.
Below, white morph with egg in nest in mangroves.
 

Young Red-footed Booby chicks (above).
Fledgling (below) practising on the beach for its imminent first flight.
 

Both other Galapagos booby species are also present.
Blue-footed Boobies Sula nebouxii, constantly overhead.
Nazca Booby Sula grantii, with egg (above)
and with week-old chick (below).


Other seabirds also nest here, and are as oblivious to human visitors as are the boobies.
Great Frigatebirds Fregatta minor are very similar to the co-occurring Magnificent Frigatebirds F. magnificens.The green sheen on the shoulders of the male (above) and the rusty head of immatures (below) are distinguishing characters. They constantly harass incoming seabirds trying to feed their own chicks.
 

Particularly constant victims of the Frigates are the beautiful Red-billed Tropicbirds Phaethon aethereus, which on Genovesa often shelter in rock crevices and overhangs.
Red-billed Tropicbirds roosting under shelter, Genovesa.


And one of the loveliest of all gulls, the mostly nocturnal-feeding Galapagos near-endemic, the Swallow-tailed Gull Creagrus furcatus, also breeds among the busyness of Genovesa. It's a special part of the Galapagos experience to look out of the cabin window at night and see, in the glow of the boat's lights, one of these beautiful birds flying alongside.
Swallow-tailed Gull with chick.
But wait, there's more (than just seabirds)... You've probably had enough for now, so I'll conclude this little snapshot of an astonishing island next time with other wildlife highlights.

BACK ON THURSDAY

1 comment:

Flabmeister said...

Why on Earth do you think we have had enough?

Encore, encore, bravo... etc etc.

Martin