Photos of this trip can be viewed at www.flickr.com/photos/neiljulianthomas/sets
1st August. Our journey to Ecuador was uneventful until Madrid, where the flight information screens indicated the flight was cancelled. Panic was averted when we established it wasn’t , but for some reason best known to Iberia the flight had simply been renumbered, so we boarded the aircraft on time. Unfortunately a failure of the emergency lighting system meant a two hour delay before engineers fixed the problem. The knock on effect of this was we flew straight to Guayaquil, then had to crowd onto another flight to Quito, so we arrived seven hours late. Jane grumbled about the lack of individual TV screens in economy, while the airline food was memorably the worst I have ever encountered – normally I enjoy the arrival of the plastic tray. However I suppose the journey was still safer, more comfortable and rapid than that experienced by Darwin on his journey to the Galapagos 178 years previously. We arrived at Hotel Patio Andaluz at 2.00am. It was a welcome respite; spotlessly clean, and quite luxurious in a characterful restored colonial building.
2nd August. After a leisurely buffet breakfast we were taken on a tour of the old centre of Quito with the charming Cecilia. The cathedral, Jesuit church and other buildings were enormously impressive – they must have appeared as an overwhelming display of power to the original inhabitants. We then went to the equator, where we climbed a tower with stunning views, then descended the stairs to view an ethnography museum. I failed to get my ancient GPS to pick up a strong enough signal to check we really were on the equator. It was quite enjoyable, once in a while, to do the real tourist thing. In a country with the fourth highest bird diversity in the world (after Columbia, Peru and Brazil), we managed five species – Eared Dove, Vermilion Flycatcher, American Kestrel, Blue and White Swallow and Rufous-collared Sparrow.
3rd August. We left Quito at 10.00am for the 40 minute flight over the Andes to Coca, from where we were met by our guide from Napo Wildlife Centre, Juan Carlos, and taken first on a 70km down river journey along the Napo River, away from the sprawling oil city. Even thousands of miles inland this tributary of the Amazon is still about 800m wide, fast flowing and full of sediment. At Coca an Amazon River Dolphin sported around the jetty. Having found one so easily it seemed surprising we didn’t encounter any others on the journey.
Very little was seen in the journey along the Napo, although things changed as we slipped into the narrow tree lined channel of black water (the Anangu Creek) that led to Napo WC.
There were hundreds of American Black Vultures over Coca, a species that still seems to benefit from human activity, as well as some Turkey Vultures, but most of the vultures soaring over the forest were the Greater Yellow-headed Vulture. A few Yellow-spotted River Turtles sat on logs or sandbanks, while birds included Great Egrets, Great Kiskadee, Oriole Blackbird, White-winged Swallow and Grey-breasted Martins. As we travelled up the creek the first bird of interest was a Slate-coloured Hawk feeding on prey, and calling, mantling its kill at intervals. Kingfishers were seen regularly, and with the huge Ringed and the Pygmy were the Green and rufous, to complete the list of New World Kingfishers. The channel ran through Varzea (flooded) forest, and it bears a certain similarity to mangrove forest so it was interesting to see Silvered Antbird, a species I had previously seen in mangrove habitat.
Other birds seen were Laughing Falcon, Cobalt-winged Parakeet, Mealy Amazons, Greater Anis, Black-capped Donacobius, Short-tailed Swifts, Scarlet-crowned Barbets, Lesser Kiskadee, Boat-billed Flycatcher, Social Flycatcher, Crested and Russet-backed Oropendulas, Yellow-rumped Caciques and finally numbers of that extraordinary bird, the Hoatzin.
Our guide’s eyes penetrated the camouflage of a splendid Boa Constrictor, and an Amazon Tree Boa in overhanging trees. In the forest gloom Morpho butterflies appeared almost luminous as they danced over the water.
At the lodge, perfectly sited by the large Anangu lake, we went up the observation tower until dusk, seeing noisy Speckled Chacalacas, Palm and Blue-grey Tanagers. After dark calling Pauraques were easy to spotlight, but too skittish to photograph.
4th August. At 4.00am it was totally clear as I tried to spotlight calling Tropical Screech Owls, but by the time we travelled down the Anangu Creek it was raining steadily, and in the gloom Rufescent Tiger Herons, Cuvier’s Toucans dueting in the canopy, Anhinga, Blue-throated Piping Guan, Black-tailed Tityra and Fork-tailed palm Swifts were seen mostly as black silhouettes.
The intention for the morning was to view parrot clay licks, the first being sited at a landslip along the Napo River, and as we arrived at 7.30 numbers of Mealy Parrots could be seen sitting around in trees, with Dusky-headed Parakeets arriving and Chestnut-fronted Macaws flying over. It had stopped raining at this point and the scene seemed primed for action, but it started raining again before any birds came to the lick and so we withdrew to the ‘cultural centre’.
Here, as well as learning about Anangu culture I viewed the near threatened Napo Sabrewing visiting heliconia flowers, and a troop of Squirrel Monkeys moved through the understory.
We returned to the clay lick with the sun now out and viewed numbers of Dusky-headed parakeets on the cliff.
Over the river and sand bars we saw Yellow-headed Caracaras, Collared Plover, and Yellow-billed Tern, and from this vantage point we viewed American Swallow-tailed Kite soaring over the forest. On the far bank of the river with the aid of the scope we picked out several Red-bellied macaws and 2 Crimson-crested Woodpeckers in the same dead tree.
At the second clay lick hundreds (or thousands) of Cobalt-winged Parakeets screeched from the trees above, but once again we were thwarted by the weather as torrential rain brought proceedings to a close.
We returned slowly to the lodge along Anangu creek, by which time the sun had deigned to appear, and there were great photo opportunities for Hoatzin, and very confiding Rufescent Tiger Herons. At the edge of the lake a Brown-throated Three-toed Sloth gave terrific views as it moved slowly (obviously!) through fringing vegetation, and behind it skulked the elusive Agami Heron. Other birds seen were Pale-vented Pigeon, Scarlet Macaws, Little Cuckoo, White-tailed Trogon, White-chinned Jacamar, Black-fronted Nunbird, Chestnut Woodpecker, Buff-throated Woodcreeper, Dot-backed Antbird, and Orange-crested Manakin (Varzea specialities).
On our return to the lodge I went up the observation tower, only to dash down again as a family of Giant Otters swam across the lake – the five animals presented a purposeful and efficient fishing unit, although when one caught a large fish it was clearly reluctant to share the catch. Although the dark waters do not provide easy fish spotting I did see a very large fish, with large scaled flanks roll at the surface, which I assume was an Arapaima.
Our final excursion at night on the lake with the spotlight revealed several small Black caiman, Variable Clown Tree-Frogs, and the margins of the lake were illuminated by thousands of Glow-worms lurking in the Pistia.
5th August. The day dawned clear and in the early morning Black-billed Thrushes and Black-throated Mango were seen around the lodge, and at 7.00am we were out on Anangu Lake, viewing a fight between Giant Otters and a Black Caiman. There were huge splashes as the otters acting in concert attacked and drove off the caiman, before they slipped away into the dense vegetation fringing the lake.
We then ventured up another narrow channel feeding into the lake, and three species of primate were found here, with a troop of White-fronted Capuchins actively searching the mid-story, Red Howler Monkeys far less active, although some did obligingly move past us, and Noisy Night Monkeys, looking very lemuroid as they viewed the world from their sleep site in a hollow tree. The habitat here was a rather primeval Moriche Palm swamp forest.
Along the creek we had superb views of a Limpkin on a fallen log, as well as Striated Heron, Laughing Falcon and Rufescent Tiger Heron, Rufous-breasted Hermit, Amazon Kingfisher, and Many-banded Aracari. A walk along a forest trail gave very few birds, but an unexpected Red-brocket Deer slipped through the undergrowth towards us before realising its mistake and smartly disappearing. We also saw two species of the tiny Poison Frogs active on the forest floor.
At lunchtime a large Tegu wandered through the lodge grounds, but a walk along trails gave little except a smart Cream-coloured Woodpecker, that flew into a close dead tree, then immediately disappeared.
At 4.00pm we departed for the canopy tower, where a climb (considerably less terrifying than the Diamond Tree in WA) takes one up to a 35m platform in the canopy of a large Silk Cotton tree. On the way, in the swamp, the stunning Masked Crimson Tanagers were seen.
The tower was a highlight of the visit to Napo, with fabulous views of the surrounding forest. Blue and yellow Macaws, Black Caracaras, White-collared Swifts graced the airspace over the forest, while Blue-headed and Black-headed Parrots sat around in the canopy of tall trees. The Silk-cotton itself attracted birds, with close views of Black-tailed Tityras, and Ivory-billed Aracaris. Tanagers were a feature, with the fabulous Paradise Tanagers eclipsing Turquoise, Green Honeycreeper, Purple Honeycreeper and Saffron-crowned Tanagers.
Unfortunately a thunderstorm then put paid to any further activity, so we fled the scene, but as the rain then quickly stopped we did a brief exploration with the spotlight. I failed to track down a calling Ferruginous Pygmy Owl, but we did see a collection of invertebrates, including the Whip Scorpion, a Cat Snake, and Bullet Ants, one of which had been invaded by a specialised fungus, the fruiting bodies emerging from its body.
6th August. The day dawned clear, but it was also time for us to depart from Napo WC. Both the lake and Anangu Creek had risen by perhaps two feet, and the current in the creek was powerful enough to carry us along at a rate of knots. Sadly nothing of interest was seen on the way down, but at the visitor centre a trio a Lettered Aracaris played follow my leader from tree to tree, and other birds included Magpie Tanager. From the motorised canoe on the River Napo a variety of birds were glimpsed, including a stylish Cocoi Heron, Great and Snowy Egrets, Black Caracaras, and Oriole Blackbirds. We hit a few submerged trees, although boat and boatman seemed to take this in their stride.
Returning to Quito, we discovered Monday afternoon was not the best time to spend an afternoon, as all museums happen to be closed on that day, although we enjoyed an excellent lunch in a quirky restaurant.
7th August. The day in Quito dawned perfectly clear with snow-capped volcanoes etched against the blue sky, making it the ideal day to visit Cotopaxi NP. Unfortunately the lower slopes of the mountain are despoiled by Monterey Pine, but eventually we climbed into paramo vegetation and made our way to Laguna Limpiopanga. Andean Coots, Andean Gulls, and Andean Teal swam on its waters, and Andean lapwings and Baird’s Sandpipers frequented the short grass areas around the lake. I then started exploring the very marshy grassland, having very close views of Cinereous Harrier as well as Sedge Wren. I was searching for Noble Snipe, and after an hour of yomping had given up when a large dark winged snipe flushed at close range to fly and pitch in reeds; I had finally tracked down my quarry!
Carunculated Caracaras and Variable hawks soared over the paramo, some of the former species giving very good views along the road. Other high altitude species were Plumbeous Sierra-finch, Bar-winged Cinclodes, White-browed Shrike-tyrant, Brown-backed Chat-Tyrant, and Ecuadorian Hillstars.
The upland heaths were a veritable flower garden, with gentians and orchids among others. On the way down we stopped by a ravine just above the pine plantations, where we found a variety of small birds – Cinereous Conebill, White-throated Tyrannulet, Black Flowerpiercer, Rufous-naped Brush-finch, and a Tawny Antpitta to end the day with. It was something of a relief to have no ill effects from wandering around at an altitude of 3,800m.
8th August. We left Quito at 10.35 for the 1h 50m flight to Isla Baltra on the Galapagos archipelago. We landed under overcast skies and quickly realised there were no other wildlife enthusiasts on the cruise, which seems extraordinary, given the expense and effort needed to get here.
No-one else noticed the Darwin’s finches in the airport terminal, which were identified as Medium and Small Ground Finches. From the airport it was a short bus ride to the jetty for transport to the MV Santa Cruz, the country looking rather like African savannah, but dotted with Opuntias.
At the jetty the first marine life was seen, with Noddy Terns just offshore, Galapagos Sealions lazing on the structure, and Frigate Birds and Blue-footed Boobies drifting overhead. Around the anchorage Elliot’s Storm Petrels were swarming, looking very similar to Wilson’s, even down to using their long legs with yellow webs as sea anchors.
We then set sail for the short journey to North Seymour Island, and while we attended the reception and safety briefing there were tantalising glimpses of birds such as Red-billed Tropic-birds, Wedge-rumped Storm-petrels, and Galapagos Shearwaters. North Seymour was a low lying expanse of volcanic rock with boulder and sandy beaches, or low cliffs, and the interior a kind of savannah with Opuntia and mesquite. There were spectacular numbers of nesting seabirds here, most of which could be viewed at ridiculously short range.
Frigates were the most obvious with both Magnificent and Greats. Many Magnificents were displaying their grotesquely swollen red throat pouches, and we could also see chicks being brooded by their parents on flimsy stick nests. At such close range the purplish sheen on the males, and the blue eye rings of the females allowed separation from the Great Frigates. The Greats, nesting alongside the Magnificents (hybridisation has not been recorded), and distinguished by the red eye ring in females, and the greenish sheen on the mantle feathers.
Blue-footed Boobies were nesting in scattered colonies, quite different to the Northern Gannet. Birds were sitting next to well grown chicks, and unattached birds were seen performing to each other, lifting their blue feet alternately. Brown Pelicans and smart Nazca Boobies flew past, as did the gorgeous Swallow-tailed Gulls, which were also nesting on ledges of volcanic rock. Arguably the world’s most beautiful gull, with its Sabine’s like wing pattern.
Land birds were predictably few in number, with Yellow Warblers, Medium and Small Ground Finches, but also the neatly marked Galapagos Dove, with its vivid blue eye ring. As expected this species showed a remarkable tameness. Two wader species were seen, which were the resident American Oystercatchers, and the Wandering Tattlers, that in contrast had crossed most of the pacific.
Many Galapagos Sealions were seen offshore in the surf, or hauled up on the beach, but it was perhaps the reptiles that most clearly indicated we were in the Galapagos, with many Marine Iguanas seen along the boulder beach, this variety being small and black, perfectly matching the volcanic rock. The brilliantly coloured Sally Lightfoot Crabs were rather more conspicuous. There were also several (c10) of the large Land Iguanas, seen eating yellow flowers, or resting on their ground. Perhaps less obviously spectacular, but equally interesting in evolutionary terms were the Lava Lizards, this species being Microlophus albemarlensis. All in all 3 hours passed very quickly in a splendid introduction to the wonders of Galapagos.
9th August. I was out at first light on the deck of MV Santa Cruz, an overcast dawn, and this set the pattern for the day, although it cleared before evening. The sea was alive with Elliot’s and Wedge-rumped Storm Petrels, Common Noddies, Blue-footed Boobies and Galapagos Shearwaters, and in the hour I spent watching before we anchored at Punta Vicente on Isabela Island we also saw a large pod of Common Dolphins and a colossal Sunfish, finning gently at the surface.
From an inflatable we explored the rocky shoreline of Ecuador Volcano, with towering cliffs, basaltic dykes and a plethora of volcanic deposits. There was also a sea cave where a natural arch in the rock strata obviously prevented collapse as the sea eroded the rocks below. At the base of the cliffs the boulder beaches were pounded by impressive swells, although the sea was calm. We then snorkelled along the cliffs. Finally at this anchorage we sneaked aboard the final inflatable excursion for non-snorkellers, thus making the most of our opportunities. Wildlife seen at this site included the Galapagos Penguin, with one found preening on a rock, before it slipped into the swells, and another sped past us during the snorkel dive. The other iconic species seen here was the Flightless Cormorant, with some 8 birds seen on the shoreline, with some holding out their apologies for wings in traditional cormorant style, with others fishing out in the bay. Seabirds seen on the cliffs were Brown Pelicans, Blue-footed Boobies, Nazca Boobies, Common Noddies and 5 pairs of Swallow-tailed Gulls. Frigate Birds drifted overhead, and a Great Blue Heron and Wandering Tattler frequented the boulder beaches.
Galapagos Sealions were present with several examples along the beach, but the most memorable encounters were with animals underwater, including one that spent many minutes playing with a fragment of seaweed, dropping it, then turning on a sixpence to catch it again.
This was also a site for the Galapagos Fur-seal, and some pups and a large bull, with his distinctive bear-like profile were seen on rocky ledges.
Green Turtles were seen in astonishing numbers, either on the surface, or when snorkelling while fish included Yellow-tailed Surgeons, King Angels, Peruvian Grunt and Streamer Hogfish.
We then up-anchored and travelled to a mooring just off Fernandina Island, dominated by a massive volcanic dome, with extensive lava fields reaching down to the sea, where a few mangrove stands have being precariously established. With little other than Lava Cacti colonising the twists of ‘ropy’ lava, it might have been such a scene that Darwin had in mind when he compared Galapagos to ‘ the cultivated parts of the infernal regions’. It seemed incredible that only Jane and myself were on deck in this passage, because the marine life was fabulous.
We had 3 definite sightings of Bryde’s Whale, with reasonable photos of one animal, and we saw 4 other blowing rorquals. Unfortunately the massive sabre like fin of a bull Orca, that drew attention to a pod on the move was not picked out until they were well astern of us, but always a thrill to see these ultimate marine predators. Common Dolphins were by far the most numerous cetacean, with 3 pods, each of hundreds of individuals seen, one of which put on a fantastic, if distant, display of aquatic gymnastics.
Two hoped for seabirds were seen, with a huge Waved Albatross, and 5 examples of that elegant Pterodroma, the Galapagos Petrel came by in arcing flight, quite distinct from the more hurried flight of the Shearwaters. Wedge-rumped and Elliot’s Storm Petrels, Brown Noddies, and Boobies were seen in hundreds or thousands, and another feature were the flocks of hundreds of Red-necked Phalaropes in flight over, or feeding on the sea.
Another impressive sight was offered by several Manta Rays swimming past, usually picked out by the edges of their pectorals breaking the calm surface of the sea, although one came out in a spectacular and un-miss able breach.
In the afternoon we visited Fernandina. The lava flows were festooned with clusters of sun-bathing Marine Iguanas, each occasionally expelling salt solution from their nostrils, and thousands were certainly present. A potential predator, the Galapagos Hawk was seen soaring over the area, or perched on convenient trees, but a Striated Heron seen on lava flows was probably in pursuit of crabs. Other birds seen along the shore were Wandering Tattler, Grey Plover, Hudsonian Whimbrel, Cattle Egret and Yellow Warbler. One of this species was pursued by a Galapagos mockingbird with such persistence I thought it might have intended to predate it. Another endemic found here was the Lava Gull, earlier one had given very close views as it landed next to us on the ship railings. This was one of the most important sites for the Flightless Cormorant and we would see several birds engaged in the lengthy courtship, nest building or swimming offshore.
Sealions were found in numbers, with females seen meeting, checking and in some cases rejecting pups. A bull occupied a sheltered cove, barking loudly to proclaim possession, as the sun set over this unique but rather intimidating landscape.
10th August. The day dawned clear, and remained that way all day, with just drifts of cloud from the top of some of the volcanoes on Isabella and Fernandina. As we moved to a mooring off Tagus Cove, White rumped and Elliot’s Storm Petrels, Blue-footed Boobies, Shearwaters and several Frigate birds, that landed on the ships superstructure were seen before breakfast.
We then walked through the arid landscape, with apparently lifeless Palo Santo trees, Opuntia and Radiate-headed Scalesia to volcanic tuff cones overlooking the almost circular Darwin Lake. The rocks in the cove were decorated with 19th and 20th century graffiti, and I found myself wondering at what point does vandalism turn into historical interest?
As we arrived two Galapagos Hawks were seen in switchback display over the area, while Galapagos Mockingbirds, Yellow Warblers and Medium and Small Ground Finches were the only other birds seen . Otherwise we encountered Lava Lizards, Sulphur and Queen Butterflies and a number of dragonflies, which seems surprising, given the apparent absence of fresh water. The lake itself was not completely lifeless, with White-cheeked Pintail on the water.
We then made a short boat-ride along the rocky coast-line, seeing nesting and sun-bathing Flightless Cormorants and Galapagos Penguins, Pelicans, Blue-footed Boobies, Southern (Galapagos) Martin, and a Galapagos Hawk hanging in the wind.
We then slipped below the waves with snorkel gear. As yesterday visibility was not particularly good, due to the abundance of plankton (c7m), but we were still able to observe an impressive numbers of Green Turtles, Marine Iguanas grazing on algae on the submerged rocks and a truly enormous stingray (that had lost its tail). Fish included King Angelfish, Yellow-tail Surgeons, Peruvian Grunt, Yellow-tail Mullet, White-tail Damsels, Panamic Sergeant Majors, Bluechin Parrotfish, Rainbow Wrasse, Streamer Hogfish, and Harlequin Wrasse, that resembled Koi Carp, in their varied orange, black and white colours.
As we headed to our next mooring, off Urvina Bay, we viewed a Band-rumped Storm Petrel close to the boat, as well as shearwaters and large flocks of Red-necked Phalaropes. At Urvina bay we landed on a volcanic sand beach, and did a snorkel along the rocky coastline, before a leisurely stroll through the scrub woodland of Poison Apple, Palo Santo and Galapagos Cotton.
This vegetation was established since 1954, as prior to this time the area was under the sea, having being up-lifted 10.9m – evidence for this being provided by the remains of tube worms and marine molluscs, that suddenly found themselves several hundred metres inland.
The water was even more turbid here, but did view a large Green Turtle, who seemed to be having as much problem maintaining station as I did in the strong swells. The seabed was littered with Sea Cucumbers.
I finally managed to get reasonable photos of two Galapagos hawks soaring overhead. On the walk birds seen were the Small and Medium Ground Finches, and the dark headed Small Tree Finch, Yellow Warblers and Mockingbirds, but the obvious highlights were the large and spectacularly orange Land Iguanas, and the Giant Tortoise. We found 6 examples, five of which were juveniles, but one (sadly inactive) was a mature and massive example of some 350lb.
11th August. At 6.00am we were approaching our anchorage off Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz, after an overnight sailing. The weather had reverted to type from the previous day and was overcast with drizzle. The most noteworthy sighting before breakfast was of numbers of Galapagos Petrels obviously heading out to sea from their breeding grounds on Santa Cruz. They appeared at a height before dropping over the sea and careering off in erratic wide arcs characteristic of Pterodroma sp. I saw at least 35, a significant part of the world population.
Other birds seen here were Galapagos Shearwaters, Elliot’s and wedge-rumped Storm Petrels, Blue-footed and Nazca Boobies, Brown Pelicans, Red-billed Tropic-birds and Noddy terns.
It had brightened a little and Santa Fe Island was visible in the distance as we went to the Charles Darwin Research Station, to view various species of Giant Tortoise in their breeding and holding pens. The vegetation was of interest, with mangroves giving way to arid zone plants, dominated by the Giant Pricky Pear (Opuntia echina var gigantea). A variety of landbirds were seen in the coastal scrub, with the endemic Large-billed Flycatcher and Cactus ground Finch, being new, as well as Mockingbirds, Yellow Warblers, Small tree Finch, and Medium and Small Ground Finches.
The fishing dock was well worth a stop for astonishingly close views of Pelicans, Magnificent Frigates, Blue-footed Boobies, Elliot’s Storm Petrels, and Yellow-crowned Night-Herons, not forgetting a large Spotted Eagle Ray.
We then went for lunch in the highlands, where the lush forested vegetation was at variance with the parts of Galapagos normally depicted on wildlife documentaries. Much of the natural vegetation had been cleared for farming, although we still saw stands of endemic plants such as the Tree Scalesia. From the restaurant veranda, which overlooked a pastoral landscape, I could see four large oval shapes perambulating about, so I wandered down to enjoy my very own Giant Tortoise experience as it munched grass and herbs. I also saw the elusive Dark-billed Cuckoo here, and well as Great and Cattle Egrets, as well as Ground Finches.
We then went to a ranch adjacent to the NP, where Tortoises must be a lucrative money spinner for the land owner. We saw 16 Giant Tortoises among the drizzle, the most entertaining being two lying in a lagoon, who appeared to have less than amicable relations.
New birds here were Common Moorhen and at least two Paint-billed Crakes, scuttling around in the damp vegetation, but frequently coming onto paths.
The day finished with a visit to a lava tube, now half filled with sediment, but otherwise so perfect a tunnel it was hard to believe it was not man-made. Back on ship I saw 5 Galapagos Petrels, but none came close.
12th August. The first bird of the day was a Swallowtail Gull, seen when I popped out on deck at 2.30 am, this nocturnal species flying just feet from me and parallel to the ship. We stopped at dawn at Floreana, and at our anchorage I could view Boobies, Storm Petrels and Shearwaters, and two Waved Albatrosses heading east in the distance. We then landed at Post Office Bay, where I helped send some of the unstamped post on its way, to Singapore and Bogota!
A small tidal lagoon held a Semi-palmated Plover, as well as turnstones, while when we went for a short boat ride among lava reefs and mangroves a Surfbird was seen. The wildlife guidebook suggested this species is present from December to March, so this was unexpected. Another new and possibly overdue bird was the Lava Heron flying past, and we also saw many adult sealions hauled out on rocks, while juveniles played around the boat with effortless twists and turns. The marine Iguanas here are some of the largest and most brightly coloured, being stippled red and black. Other wildlife seen in the area were Great Blue Heron, Boobies , Frigates and Pelicans.
Returning to the ship we motored to just offshore of Champion Island, on the way seeing (for that species) a very large pod of c50 Bottle-nosed Dolphins, 5 Waved Albatrosses (sadly all distant), Red-billed Tropic-birds, Shearwaters, Nazca and Blue-footed Boobies and Storm Petrels, as well as many leaping Tuna.
We went snorkelling along the coast of Champion, following a drop off. I had great hopes of encountering a shark, but we had to content ourselves with fish, and an inquisitive Sealion, that actually put non-serious, but still startling bites at other divers arms! I hadn’t realised from the ship just how many seabirds were using Champion as a nesting site, and while snorkelling there were fleets of Red-billed Tropic-birds and Noddies overhead, and we were circled by carousels of Shearwaters, which called as they flew. There were also many Swallow-tailed Gulls, Frigates and Nazca and Blue-footed Boobies. The Charles’ Mockingbird, that was once found on Floreana, but now survives as a tiny relict population was also seen. It was a pity I didn’t bring the camera, but I resumed operations back on ship and discovered one picture that I thought was of a Nazca Booby was in fact a white phase Red-footed Booby. Presumably the same large pod of Bottle-nosed Dolphins came in to ride the bow wave of the ship, their powerful bodies twisting and turning as they held station in front of the ships pressure wave.
The final excursion was at Punto Cormoran, where we walked past a large saline lagoon, which held 13 Greater Flamingoes, but with only one close enough for photos – it kept its head underwater for a surprising length of time when feeding. Some 3 Lava herons were seen before we reached another sandy bay, with Noddies flying over, and extraordinary numbers of Sting Rays lurking in the shallows, some in water so shallow it was a wonder they did not strand themselves. On the walk back another Dark-billed Cuckoo was seen.
13th August. At dawn we were anchored off Baltra, with the last chance to view and photograph Galapagos wildlife. There were flocks of Common Noddies over schools of small tuna – curiously enough this apparent feeding opportunity was ignored by the many Frigates and Blue-footed and Nazca Boobies flying past, but they were joined by Galapagos Shearwaters. What did excite the Frigates was a Mahe mahe (Dolphin fish) chasing a Needle fish. Both fish leapt clear of the water, the mahe mahe a kaleidoscope of brilliant yellow, green and vivid blue, at which point the Frigates swept down to try to catch the Needle fish.
Galapagos Sealions swam past, and there were again several by the boat dock. Having failed to see a shark while snorkelling a fairly large one swam past the boat (species indeterminate). The final birds seen on Galapagos were Small and medium Ground finches, and the Dove, which although surprisingly widespread we only saw here and on North Seymour.
Arriving in Guayaquil we were put up in the Oro Verde Hotel, for us the last word in luxury, and we then went for a walk along the river. A surprising number of birds were seen in this urban setting – Great, Snowy and cattle Egrets, Tricolored Heron, Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, Neotropical Cormorant, White Ibis, Tropical Kingbirds, Great-tailed Grackle, and Scrub Blackbird, that was actually a lifer.
On discovering that no restaurant would accept our $50 bill we returned to the hotel to eat in the excellent deli there.
14th August. We were picked up at 8.00am and taken to the Mangalares de Churute Ecological Reserve, one of Ecuador’s least visited protected areas. The main road from Guayaquil went through rice fields, that held quite impressive (1,000s) of Egrets, as well as 50 Roseate Spoonbills, 10 Snail Kites and a host of Black-necked Stilts and Wattled Jacanas.
Along the dirt track to the site we found Pacific Hornero, Ecuadorian Ground Dove and Scrub Blackbirds, with the diminutive Pacific Parrotlets in flight or seen in the tops of trees. Arriving at the reserve we first went for a walk through dry deciduous forest with many palms and strangler figs, and the aptly named Garlic Tree. The area was infested with mosquitoes, and although we had earlier slapped on the DEET some managed to penetrate our defences.
We only had time to spend an hour here, and ignorant of what to expect I only identified birds I saw well, or indeed photographed. Juveniles and an adult male Ecuadorian Trogons provided a splash of colour as they sat quietly on branches in the mid-story. Low amongst saplings we could see Blue Ground Dove, White-tipped Dove, Western Slaty Antshrike, Plain Ant Vireo, Blue-black Grosbeak and the rather stylish Grey and gold Warbler. The forest echoed to the roar of Mantled Howler Monkeys, and we duly found a group of c8, typically as hunched shapes resting in the canopy.
We then boarded a canoe piloted by one of the cangrejeros who showed his fishing expertise by showing us his blue and mud crabs, as well as some modest sized Snook. Judging by the number of gill nets the population of large estuary fish must be under considerable pressure. We set off down the main channel of the estuary, fringed by very tall red mangroves, and also explored some more secluded side channels. Ironically bird life was less prolific here than in the rice fields we had passed earlier, but there was more variety with 3 Osprey, several White Ibis, Little Blue Herons, Yellow and Black-crowned Night Herons, Muscovy Duck, Spotted Sandpipers, Cocoi Heron, Limpkin, Striated Heron, Tricoloured Heron, Green, Ringed and American Pygmy Kingfishers, Greater Ani , and a very large and noisy nesting colony of Neotropical Cormorants.
We had a lunch of salad and crab pasties in what was basically a private house by the reserve, which was delicious, but might well have been responsible for a subsequent few days of abdominal distress.
The trip’s wildlife viewing was not quite over when we reached the airport, with the only Green Iguana of the trip- and a very large specimen at that, was seen crossing a runway, which also hosted Cattle Egrets and Collared Plover!
Undulated Tinamou. Heard daily around Napo Wildlife centre, but typically proved elusive.
Galapagos Penguin. The first example of this endangered species was seen preening on a rock along the coast of Isabella at Punta Vincente, and it was a real thrill to see the penguin scoot past underwater while we were snorkelling. A few other birds were seen from the ship, and three more were found on rocks at Tagus Cove.
Waved Albatross. As we were not scheduled to visit the breeding colony on Espanola, the hope was to encounter this species at sea. The first bird was seen between Fernandina and Isabella, with another seven seen off the coast of Floreana. Unfortunately none came close, although we could still appreciate their effortless sailing flight.
Galapagos Petrel. This distinctive seabird was first seen from the ship between Fernandina and Isabella. The arcing erratic flight was very different from the far more numerous Galapagos Shearwaters. As we arrived at dawn off Santa Cruz some 35 birds were seen arriving from inland, presumably from their breeding grounds high in the miconia zone. Three more birds were seen in the evening, but did not head inland.
Galapagos Shearwater. This species that has been split from Audobon’s Shearwater in Wildlife of Galapagos was seen in large numbers around all the islands we visited, with hundreds or thousands seen daily. It was often seen in feeding flocks with Brown Noddies. Birds were obviously nesting on Champion , flying around our head in a carousel of calling birds.
Elliot’s Storm Petrel. The most common storm petrel, and frequently seen around the ship at anchorages, with lines of birds seen feeding in slicks, their feet with yellow webs acting as sea anchors. Some were very close inshore, such as around the fish dock on Santa Cruz. Apart from the variable white vent this species seemed very similar to Wilson’s.
Galapagos (Wedge-rumped) Storm Petrel. This species resembled Leach’s in flight action with tern like wing beats and some shearing. Rather less numerous than Elliot’s, but numbers still seen every day.
Madeiran Storm Petrel. This species seemed far less numerous than the other two species, although I got stunning pictures of one bird. Only a handful were positively identified.
Red-billed Tropicbird. This most elegant of seabirds was nesting on North Seymour, although not close to the areas we visited. There were also several (perhaps 30 pairs) on Champion, flying low overhead as we snorkelled. Fortunately I had photographed this species on Tobago, otherwise I would have been gutted at this missed photo opportunity.
Brown Pelican. Seen in small numbers around the coastlines of all the islands we visited in Galapagos, with the most easy and close viewing of birds around the fish dock on Santa Cruz. Always amazing how such a large bird can glide just inches above the sea in such effortless style.
Blue-footed Booby. This charismatic bird is almost the emblem of Galapagos, and as it fishes inshore it was seen daily, often plunge diving into very shallow water. There were nesting colonies on North Seymour and adults could be viewed with chicks, that were almost as large as their parents, but covered in white down. Unattached birds were seen displaying by alternately raising their vivid blue feet.
Nazca Booby. This species, now split from Masked Booby to form an endemic species, was less common than the Blue-footed Booby, and tends to fish more offshore, but it was still regularly seen, at North Seymour, Isabella , Floreana and Champion.
Red-footed Booby. Although this species has a population of 140,000 pairs in Galapagos it forages out in the open ocean, so it was not expected to be seen, but when I looked at a picture of a supposed Nazca Booby off Floreana, it was obvious it was a light phase Red-footed Booby.
American Darter. One flew over the Anangu Creek, and another was seen soaring over mangroves at Mangalares de Churute.
Neotropical Cormorant. There was a large and noisy nesting colony, totalling several hundred pairs in tall mangroves in Mangalares de Churute.
Flightless Cormorant. This endangered species was found nesting at Punta Vicente and Tagus Cove on Isabella and on Punta Espinosa on Fernandina. It was encouraging to see birds at Tagus Cove, as I had heard this colony had been extirpated by feral cat predation. Birds were seen in courtship routines, fishing offshore and of course in classic cormorant pose, holding out their stubby vestigial wings. The blue eye was an astonishing contrast to their sombre plumage.
Magnificent Frigatebird. We had stunning views of nesting birds on North Seymour, with male birds sitting in their flimsy nests and holding their wings open with their grotesque throat pouches inflated to bursting point. Obviously very difficult to separate at any distance from the Great Frigate, but at such close range the oily purplish sheen on the males and the red eye ring of the females was clearly visible. Otherwise soaring frigates were rarely out of view. Occasionally seen chasing Blue-footed Boobies.
Great Frigatebird. This species was nesting alongside Magnificents on North Seymour, at close range the greenish sheen of the males and the blue eye ring of the females allowing separation. The fractional size difference is certainly not apparent in the field.
Great Blue Heron. This species is resident on Galapagos, and birds were seen along shorelines of Isabella and Floreana.
Cocoi Heron. One was seen along the Napo River, with several more birds at Mangalares de Churute, where small numbers were nesting alongside Neotropical Cormorants.
Great Egret. A few examples were seen along the Napo River, with occasional birds in Galapagos, but spectacular numbers in rice fields between Guayaquil and Mangalares de Churute.
Snowy Egret. Small numbers were seen along the Napo River, with hundreds, or possibly thousands in rice fields between Guayaquil and Mangalares de Churute.
Little Blue Heron. Small numbers were seen on the mudflats and mangroves at Mangalares de Churute.
Tricoloured Heron. Just one was seen by the river walk in Guayaquil, and another in Mangalares de Churute.
Cattle Egret. This cosmopolitan species was common on Galapagos, where it is a recent colonist, particularly on Santa Cruz, large numbers were also seen in rice fields between Guayaquil and Mangalares de Churute.
Lava Heron. This endemic species of Galapagos is said to be quite widespread, but it was only seen on our final full day on Floreana, where three birds were seen on lava reefs, with another at the flamingo lagoon. Very similar to the Striated Heron, apart from lacking yellow lores.
Striated Heron. A few examples were seen around the lake at Napo WC, at Mangalares de Churute, and in the very different environment of the lava shores of Fernandina and the mangroves on Santa Cruz.
Rufescent Tiger-Heron. This stylish species was seen in small numbers along Anangu Creek in Napo WC, with one very confiding bird giving amazing views at c5m.
Agami Heron. As we watched a sloth along the margins of Anangu Lake, we became aware of a furtive Agami Heron resting in the fringing vegetation, giving good views of this unusual and beautiful species.
Black-crowned Night-Heron. One seen below the Cormorant colony at Mangalares de Churute.
Yellow-crowned Night Heron. Some amazingly tame juveniles could be viewed roosting in mangroves at Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz – less than 1m from the boardwalk! A few others were seen in Guayaquil and Mangalares de Churute.
Roseate Spoonbill. Two examples seen roosting at Mangalares de Churute, with c50 actively fishing in a flooded field between Guayaquil and the reserve as we returned.
Greater Flamingo. Some examples of the small and isolated Galapagos population were seen on the saline lagoon at Punto Cormoran on Floreana. A dozen of the birds were on the far side, but one was close enough for good views and some photos.
Masked Duck. Two were seen on a roadside pool between Guayaquil and Mangalares de Churute.
Muscovy Duck. Two seen in flight over the mangroves at Mangalares de Churute.
White-cheeked Pintail. A handful of birds were seen on Darwin lake, at the Flamingo Lagoon on Floreana, and at the tortoise reserve.
Andean Teal. Some 20 examples of this soberly plumaged duck were seen on Laguna Limpiopanga at Cotopaxi NP.
Turkey Vulture. A few examples seen around Coca, generally with American Black Vultures. Otherwise seen in Guayaquil.
Greater Yellow-headed Vulture. Most, if not all the vultures seen drifting over the rain forest around Napo WC appeared to be of this species, with darker primaries than Turkey Vulture.
American Black Vulture. Hundreds were seen around Coca, spiralling up in thermals, and it was also very common around Mangalares de Churute.
Osprey. Some three examples seen flying over the estuary channels in Mangalares de Churute.
American Swallow-tailed Kite. Two could be seen soaring and catching insects over the rain forest near the parrot clay licks along the Napo River.
Snail Kite. This species was quite common around rice fields between Guayaquil and Mangalares de Churute, with possibly 10 birds seen.
Plumbeous Kite. Two birds gave very good views as they flew into to the giant Kapok tree and we could view them at a few metres from the canopy tower at Napo WC.
Slate-coloured Hawk. A very vocal bird was found perched over the Anangu Creek, with a kill, which it alternately mantled or fed on.
Variable (Red-backed) Hawk. A few examples of this Buteo seen soaring over paramo at Cotopaxi NP.
Cinereous Harrier. A juvenile hunting around the marshes and wet grasslands at Laguna Limpiopanga gave great views both in flight and resting on the ground- it did not fly even though I was scarcely 20m form the bird.
Galapagos Hawk. Easy to identify as the only resident raptor on the islands! Birds were seen soaring and displaying over Fernandina and at Tagus Cove, while I was able to photograph birds over the beach at Urvina Bay, even if I did not have birds actually landing on me – as they are reputed to do on occasion.
Carunculated Caracara. A few examples were seen at high altitude in Cotopaxi NP, with one bird foraging in the road giving very close views.
Black Caracara. Four were seen flying past the canopy tower at Napo WC, with another three seen along the Napo River on our return to Coca.
Yellow-headed Caracara. A few examples of this scavenging species were seen perched on flood borne trees along the Napo River.
Laughing Falcon. Birds were seen along the Anangu Creek, and perched along side the lake.
American Kestrel. One seen at the Midat del Mundo near Quito.
Speckled Chacalaca. In the evening several noisy birds of this species were calling from the tree tops around the observation tower at Napo WC. Although it was clearly very common not one was seen during the day, which only goes to show how much is missed in rainforest.
Blue-throated Piping-Guan. One was seen perched in a tree from the interpretation centre at the entrance to the Anangu Creek.
Paint-billed Crake. Two examples were seen in marshy woodland at the tortoise reserve on Santa Cruz. Although they spent much time on cover, they did obligingly forage along paths, and were relatively confiding.
Common Moorhen. Three examples were seen around pools at the tortoise reserve on Santa Cruz.
Andean Coot. Some 20 examples swam on, or foraged around Laguna Limpiopanga at Cotopaxi.
Limpkin. We had fabulous views of one perched on a fallen log over a creek at Napo WC, with others calling at Mangalares de Churute.
Wattled Jacana. Common on overgrown marshy pools between Guayaquil and Mangalares de Churute.
American Oystercatcher. A very tame example of this resident wader on Galapagos was seen on the beach on North Seymour.
Black-necked Stilt. Some hundreds were seen in flooded rice fields between Guayaquil and Mangalares de Churute.
Andean Lapwing. Several examples seen foraging in the tundra like short grasslands around Laguna Limpiopanga at Cotopaxi.
Grey Plover. One seen in flight at Fernandina.
Noble Snipe. After an hour of trudging through rushes and swampy wet grassland around Laguna Limpiopanga at Cotopaxi I had given up hope when I flushed a snipe at my feet, with almost blackish wings and a rufous tail, that flew just a short distance before landing, so final success with this species.
Collared Plover. Two examples of this small neat plover were seen on sandbanks along the Napo River, with another on the runway at Guayaquil Airport.
Semi-palmated Plover. One was seen by a small pool on the beach at Post Office bay on Floreana, and with care I was able to approach it very closely.
Hudsonian Whimbrel. One seen foraging along the rocky shore of Fernandina.
Wandering Tattler. This was a hoped for wader species and one example was seen on North Seymour, and two on Isabella, all the birds inhabiting rocky coastlines.
Baird’s Sandpiper. The short turf around Laguna Limpiopanga at Cotopaxi must be similar to tundra, and certainly must be to the liking of this species with c50 individuals foraging actively in the grassland.
Surfbird. I did not really expect to see this species as the Wildlife Guide says it appears on the islands from December to March, but one accompanied Turnstones on Floreana.
Ruddy Turnstone. Small numbers seen along shorelines on several islands in Galapagos.
Spotted Sandpiper. Fairly numerous along the channels and creeks at Mangalares de Churute.
Red-necked Phalarope. Large flocks, totalling hundreds or even thousands were seen in the upwelling areas around Isabella and Fernandina, either in flight or pirouetting on the sea (often in slicks)
Swallow-tailed Gull. Arguably the most beautiful gull in the world (not that anthropocentric value judgements have any validity), and certainly one of the most unusual, small numbers were nesting on North Seymour, on Isabella at Punta Vicente and on Champion. They were seen with well grown young, that are white, unlike most other gulls. One was seen alongside the ship at night, demonstrating that this species is a nocturnal forager.
Lava Gull. Although this is a rare species it would seem relatively easy to see, with birds landing on the boat off Fernandina, and others seen scavenging around the fish dock at Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz.
Brown Noddy. A widespread species throughout the islands we visited, and many nesting colonies were seen, as well as large flocks working over tuna and other shoaling fish, often accompanied by Galapagos Shearwaters.
Yellow-billed Tern. A few birds were seen along the Napo River, near the parrot clay lick. They were possibly breeding as birds were seen carrying fish.
Galapagos Dove. A nicely marked dove with a vivid blue eye ring, this species was seen on Baltra and on North Seymour, and nowhere else, although it is supposed to be widespread around the islands.
Eared Dove. A common urban bird in Quito.
Ecuadorian Ground Dove. Small numbers seen along tracks and forest edge in Mangalares de Churute.
Blue Ground Dove. A male was seen in dry deciduous forest at Mangalares de Churute.
White-tipped Dove. One was seen on the forest floor at Mangalares de Churute.
Pale-vented Pigeon. Small numbers seen regularly around Lake Anangu at Napo WC.
Blue-and-yellow Macaw. In a classic image of Amazonian rain forest, a pair and a trio were seen flying over the canopy from the tower, calling raucously.
Scarlet Macaw. Three birds were seen in flight over Anangu Creek as we drifted down in the boat.
Chestnut-fronted Macaw. Four birds were seen in flight near the parrot clay lick along the Napo River.
Red-bellied Macaw. We missed this species in Trinidad, so it was pleasing to see record 7-10 birds daily around Napo WC, the first birds active in a dead tree across the river from the parrot clay lick. The extensive areas of moriche palm swamp forest must provide ideal habitat.
Dusky-headed Parakeet. About 50 birds came down to the parrot clay lick on the Napo River, once the sun had dried the surface. Typically appearing nervous on the lick, they suddenly departed as a single flock.
Cobalt-winged Parakeet. Small parties were regularly seen speeding over the canopy around Napo WC. There were hundreds or thousands gathering at the second clay lick in the late morning, but heavy rain meant none actually came down to the clay.
Black-headed Parrot. Two birds were seen perched in the canopy of a tree from the tower.
Blue-headed Parrot. Five were seen perched in the canopy from the tower. Apart from viewing parrots at a clay lick, this is clearly the best way of getting decent views of parrots, and properly appreciating their colours.
Mealy Amazon Parrot. Some 30 examples were seen perched in trees above the parrot clay lick, but they dispersed without coming down to the cliffs as it was raining. Several other pairs seen flying over the canopy.
Pacific Parrotlet. A few examples of this tiny parrot obliged by perching above us in a tree, although the majority were seen zipping overhead, calling constantly.
Little Cuckoo. Two examples of this rather secretive species seen in tangles of dense vegetation fringing Anangu Lake at Napo WC.
Black-billed Cuckoo. Two were seen in Galapagos. One seen in flight settled in a bush to sun itself, giving good views of what is otherwise a retiring species.
Greater Ani. Quite commonly seen in the dense vegetation fringing the lake at Napo WC.
Smooth-billed Ani. A few seen in scrub around Coca, and introduced birds were common on the Galapagos Islands we visited, seeing them on Isabella, Santa Cruz and Floreana.
Hoatzin. This bizarre and charismatic bird was impossible to miss along Anangu Creek, and around the lake, as they flopped clumsily in fringing vegetation, or came out and sun-bathed with outstretched wings when the weather improved. Even when the birds remained in cover their raucous calls and a strong smell of bovine manure gave them away!
Ferruginous Pygmy Owl. A calling bird at Napo wc.
Tropical Screech Owl. A calling bird at Napo WC.
Pauraque. At least one bird was regularly calling from the paths around the cabins at Napo WC, but although it was easy to spotlight, it never allowed the close approach this species often permits.
White-collared Swift. At least 10 of these ace fliers were seen from the canopy tower at Napo WC.
Short-tailed Swift. Regularly seen over the forest around Napo WC.
Neotropical Palm-Swift. Rather less numerous than the preceding species, but still seen daily in small numbers around Napo WC.
Rufous-breasted Hermit. We saw rather fewer hummingbirds than on our previous visit to Ecuador! A bird of this species was seen around the margins of Anangu Lake.
Napo Sabrewing. An example of this near-threatened species was seen visiting Heliconia flowers at the cultural centre, a metallic green hummingbird, with a blue rump and tail.
Black-throated Mango. One was seen around the lodge at Napo WC.
Green Violetear. One was seen around flowering shrubs in the city square in Quito.
Ecuadorian Hillstar. This was easy to locate, as there was a feeder at the restaurant in Cotopaxi NP, while another two birds were seen aggressively inter-acting with each other on a short walk we made from this site.
Amazonian White-tailed Trogon. One was seen along the Anangu Creek. Other than by range this does not look an easy species to separate from Western White-tailed.
Ecuadorian Trogon. Some juveniles and an adult male of this species were seen in dry deciduous forest and mangroves at Mangalares de Churute, and I was able to get frame filling pictures of this species.
Ringed Kingfisher. This largest New World Kingfisher was quite common along the Anangu Creek, and also at Mangalares de Churute.
Amazon Kingfisher. Three birds were seen around Anangu Lake, this species being less typical of secluded and overgrown streams.
Green Kingfisher. Five birds gave good views along estuary channels in Mangalares de Churute, with one very confiding bird giving even better photo opportunities than in T & T.
Green-and-rufous Kingfisher. Very similar in plumage to American Pygmy, three examples of this species were seen along the Anangu Creek, typically in secluded shady places.
American Pygmy Kingfisher. Two birds were seen along the Anangu Creek.
White-chinned Jacamar. There was a family of this varzea specialist around the margins of Anangu Lake, where they were catching dragonflies in agile, bee-eater like sorties from perches.
Black-fronted Nunbird. One was seen sitting quietly on a branch overhanging Anangu Creek. One suspects the Nunbirds and Puffbirds are often overlooked.
Scarlet-crowned Barbet. A pair of this forest species was seen along the Anangu Creek.
Many-banded Aracari. A pair was seen foraging in the tree tops, from the canopy tower at Napo WC.
Lettered Aracari. Three birds were seen around the interpretation centre at the Napo River on the morning of our departure, as they played ‘follow my leader’ from tree to tree.
Ivory-billed Aracari. From the canopy tower we had very good views of two foraging in a cecropia, but they then came even close, settling for a preening session in the Kapok tree, and we could view them from a few metres.
White-throated (Cuvier’s) Toucan. Two were seen dueting in the canopy as we sailed down the Anangu Creek. Unfortunately as it was raining and excessively gloomy we couldn’t really appreciate the splendid colours of these birds. Several others were heard, but not seen.
Chestnut Woodpecker. One was seen along the Anangu Creek.
Cream-coloured Woodpecker. Along Lodge Loop Trail at Napo WC, one flew in and landed on a dead tree just feet from me, but flew before I could even raise the camera.
Yellow-tufted Woodpecker. This distinctive species seems fairly easy to see as they regularly work dead branches above the canopy, 2 pairs seen at Napo WC.
Crimson-crested Woodpecker. Two birds were seen in a dead tree along the Napo River, that also held several Red-bellied Macaws.
Lineated Woodpecker. One example seen in dry deciduous woodland at Mangalares de Churute. This was of the race fuscipennis, that has a brown back.
Buff-throated Woodcreeper. Only one woodcreeper was seen during the trip; this species was seen along the Anangu Creek.
Pacific Hornero. One bird was seen along a track leading to Mangalares de Churute.
Bar-winged Cinclodes. This confiding species was common on short turf and stony areas around Lake Limpiopanga at Cotopaxi NP.
Western Slaty Antshrike. A bird was seen well and photographed in the under-story of dry deciduous forest at Mangalares de Churute.
Plain Antvireo. A pair of this species was seen in dry deciduous forest at Mangalares de Churute. The race here is viridis.
Dot-backed Antbird. There are 51 antbird species listed for Napo WC, of which we managed to see precisely two! This noisy species was seen twice along the Anangu Creek.
Silvered Antbird. One example of this species foraged around the prop roots of varzea trees along th Anangu Creek.
Tawny Antpitta. A calling bird at Cotopaxi was seen inflight across a track, and then as it hopped around the base of a bush.
Brown-backed Chat-Tyrant. One seen in alpine scrub at Cotopaxi.
White-browed Ground Tyrant. Two birds were seen in a barren stony area close to the restaurant on Cotopaxi.
White-throated Tyrannulet. This species was seen in a ravine we explored on the slopes of Cotopaxi – I had to identify it with the aid of photographs.
Galapagos (Large-billed) Flycatcher. Two examples seen around the tortoise enclosures in the Charles Darwin RC.
Great Kiskadee. Several seen along the Napo River at Coaca.
Lesser Kiskadee. This species was fairly frequently seen along the Anangu Creek.
Boat-billed Flycatcher. A pair frequented trees around the interpretation centre at Napo WC.
Social Flycatcher. Fairly common around the margins of Anangu Lake.
Tropical Kingbird. Commonly seen on wires around Coca, or Mangalares de Churute.
Black-tailed Tityra. A distant bird seen perched on a dead tree at Napo WC, and two birds gave very close views as they flew into the crown of the Kapok tree, as we stood in the canopy tower.
Orange-crested Manakin. One example of this varzea specialist appeared in vegetation fringing Anangu Creek, as we viewed a Rufescent Tiger-Heron.
White-winged Swallow. This attractive swallow was frequently seen over lakes and rivers around Napo WC.
Blue-and –white swallow . A few examples seen in and around Quito.
Southern Rough-winged Swallow. Several hawking insects over channels amongst the mangroves in Mangalares de Churute.
Brown-chested Martin. Three examples were seen around Anangu lake.
Gray-breasted martin. This was much more common than the preceding species, with large numbers seen around Coca.
Galapagos Martin. This is giventhe status of an endemic species in Wildlife of Galapagos (Progne modesta modesta). One was seen hawking over the sea, just off the coast of Isabella.
Black-capped Donacobius. A few birds were seen in dense lacustrine vegetation around Anangu Lake.
Southern Nightingale-Wren. Heard only at Napo WC.
Sedge Wren. One seen in the sedges and rushes around Laguna Limpiopanga.
Black-billed Thrush. One was seen around the cabins at Napo WC.
Hauxwell’s and Lawrence’s Thrushes were frequently heard singing but refused to show.
Great Thrush. About 10 birds were seen at Cotopaxi.
Galapagos Mockingbird. A common and fairly obvious species on those areas of Isabella and Santa Cruz that we visited.
Charles’s Mockingbird. It would seem surprising that this species has disappeared from Floreana, considering that Galapagos Mockingbird is a successful species, although it has to contend with the same predation pressures. A tiny relict population exists on two offshore islands, and we saw birds on Champion.
Yellow Warbler. Common on all islands visited in Galapagos, and quite often seen foraging on sandy beaches or coastal lava formations.
Grey-and-gold Warbler. A very stylish warbler, this was seen working the understory of dry deciduous forest at Mangalares de Churute.
Cinereous Conebill. Adults feeding young were seen in a ravine on the lower slopes of Cotopaxi.
Black Flowerpiercer. Two birds were seen in bushes in a ravine we explored at Cotopaxi.
Purple Honeycreeper. Most of our tanager viewing took place during the short time we spent in the canopy tower, and one of this species came into the Kapok Tree.
Green Honeycreeper. One flew in to the Kapok Tree as we waited in the canopy tower.
Opal-crowned Tanager. Two were seen from the canopy tower at Napo WC.
Paradise Tanager. Arguably the most showy of all the tanagers, four were seen distantly from the canopy tower at Napo WC.
Turquoise Tanager. Two flew into the Kapok Tree as we waited in the canopy tower.
Blue-gray Tanager. Several were seen around the cabins at Napo WC.
Palm Tanager. Several seen around the lodge at Napo WC.
Masked Crimson Tanager. A spectacular species, two were seen in dense swampy vegetation around Anangu Lake.
Rufous-collared Sparrow. A few birds were seen in Quito.
Plumbeous Sierra-Finch. Several birds were seen in stony areas and high altitude grassland on Cotopaxi.
Rufous-naped Brush-Finch. One example of this attractive but rather skulking species was seen in a ravine we explored on Cotopaxi.
Blue-black Grosbeak. A female of the race cyanoides was seen in dry deciduous forest at Mangalares de Churute.
Medium Ground Finch. I have to admit that one feels one must show a dutiful interest in the finches, as an example of adaptive radiation, but they are not the most immediately arresting birds. This species was common in the arid and transitional zones, often in flocks, and was even seen in the airport terminal.
Large Ground Finch. This species, with its parrot like beak was seen on North Seymour and Santa Crruz, but was far more scarce than the other Ground Finches.
Small Ground Finch. About as common as Medium Ground Finch, and often mixing with that species.
Cactus Ground Finch. Two birds were seen in Charles Darwin RC, it was fairly easy to pick out with its long pointed bill.
Small Tree Finch. A few examples were seen on Isabella at Urvina Bay, with others on Santa Cruz.
Scrub Blackbird. This is indeed a black bird, and it frequents scrub, from where it gives noisy calls, so clearly an appropriate name. Several were seen around Guayaquil.
Oriole Blackbird. Three examples of this showy black and yellow species were seen during our boat journeys also the River Napo.
Great-tailed Grackle. One seen along the river walk in Guayaquil.
Shiny Cowbird. Two birds were seen lurking around the Cacique colony at Napo WC.
Giant Cowbird. Three birds were seen around the Oropendula colony at Napo WC.
Crested Oropendula. Just one bird seen along the Anangu River, although others might have being over-looked.
Russet-backed Oropendula. There were large nesting colonies around Napo Lodge, and at the interpretation centre.
Yellow-rumped Cacique. There were nesting colonies around Napo WC, with birds often seen displaying, holding their head down and expanding their vivid yellow rumps.
Night Monkey Aotus vociferous. We were shown a sleep site for this species in a hollow tree at Napo WC, and one to two individuals were looking out from the hollow. These engaging animals strongly reminded me of lemurs.
Common Squirrel Monkey Saimiri sciureus. We had good views of these very active monkeys moving through the mid story of the forest close to the cultural centre at Napo WC.
Red Howler Monkey Alouatta seniculus. A troop was found in palm swamp forest along a creek running into Anangu lake. Although most were typically sitting around digesting, others were seen carrying infants or moving through the forest.
Mantled Howler Monkey Alouatta palliata. The dry deciduous forest at Managalare de Churute echoed with the roaring calls of this species, and we duly found a troop, sitting rather inactively in the canopy.
White-fronted Capuchin Cebus albifrons. A troop of these active and opportunistic monkeys were seen in a creek running into Anangu Lake. About 15 were seen, but there were probably many more.
Giant Otter Pteronura brasiliensis. Anangu Lake was in the territory of a family of five giant otters. In the evening of the first day they were fishing across the lake, seemingly as a cooperative team, but when a fish was caught there was no question of sharing. The next morning there was a great commotion as the family acted in concert to chase away a Black Caiman in spectacular style. Later that morning one emerged close to the boat for a brief perusal and then vanished. Always a most impressive, active and purposeful animal.
Brown-throated Three-toed Sloth. We had superb views of one moving and feeding on cecropia, but also on other leaves along the shoreline of Anangu Lake. Another was seen in a tree top from the canopy tower. I studied it in the hope a Harpy Eagle might strike at it but sadly this hope was not realised.
Red-brocket Deer Mazama americana. One slipped through the forest towards us as we walked along a trail, to quickly disappear as it realised its mistake.
Pink Dolphin Inia geofrensis. We saw one as soon as we arrived at the boat jetty on the Napo River, but did not find another in a total of 140km of river travel!
Bulldog (Fishing) Bat (Noctilia sp). A few examples (c5) of these large and dramatic bats were seen flying close to the surface of Anangu Lake.
Galapagos Sea Lion Zalophus wollebacki. Seen on all islands we visited, and sometimes far out at sea. Typically hauled out on low flat rocks or sandy beaches, we saw females nursing young, bulls defending beaches with deep barks, and frequently they would perform aquatic gymnastics around the inflatables – it was even more fascinating to watch them while snorkelling.
Galapagos Fur Seal Arctocephalus galapogoensis. This species was far less obvious than the Sea Lion, perhaps in part because they haul out on inaccessible steep rocky shores, but a few examples were seen at Punta Vincente on Isabella, including a pup and a large bull.
Bryde’s Whale Balaenoptera edeni. . Several cetaceans were seen in the channel between Isabella and Fernandina. Three were definitely identified, as we had views of the high, sickle shaped fin as the whale surfaced, and in one photo the three rostral ridges are just visible. Another 4 rorqual blows were seen in the distance.
Orca Orcinus orca. A pod of orcas, easily identified with the massive dorsal of the bull clearly visible, cruised past in the distance as we passed through the channel between Isabella and Fernandina.
Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis. Three very large pods of hundreds of individuals were seen off Isabella, some of which performed impressive leaps, even though all the pods were viewed at a distance. Distribution maps suggest these would be Short-beaked.
Bottlenosed Dolphin Tursiops truncatus. A large pod, for this species, was encountered between Champion and Floreana. As we approached the pod several dolphins came into the ship to ride the bow wave, giving fantastic views as we looked down on them from the bows.