TRAVELLING NATURALIST TRIP REPORT

Ecuador and Galapagos

30th October to 12th November 2000


Leaders:
Mike Read

Diary

Tuesday 31st October

Most peoples' journeys to Heathrow went smoothly (with one exception) which was a relief after the previous day's severe storms. A fire alarm sounded without reason near the departure gate and delayed departure by about 30 minutes. The flight to Miami was completed in fairly quick time and we saw a few Grackles and an American Kestrel as we taxied to the terminal.

Time at Miami was 'lost' by heading through customs and perusing the airport shop windows! Our flight to Quito departed on time and landed early at 11.00 pm local time. Clearing immigration took an age and we then met Joep, our local guide, dashed to the hotel and immediately headed for well-earned sleep.

Wednesday 1st November

Most took breakfast at 8 am as suggested after the long hours of travelling the previous day. Our 9.15 departure in the bus was to eventually take us to La Cienega. As the weather seemed to be improving, we decided to head for Cotopaxi. While still within Quito City limits, we began to see Black & Turkey Vultures and there were a few American Kestrels perched on power cables, as was a Black Phoebe. In Cotopaxi National Park we drove to an area of paramo grassland at 3,800m (over 11,500') and began to see a quantity of high Andes species. A couple of Andean Lapwings were close to the track we were driving along, as were 4 Baird's Sandpipers. A walk to a small gorge produced a number of new species including 3 Carunculated Caracaras, sometimes mobbed by Andean Lapwings, plus Stout-billed and Bar-winged Concludes. Within the gorge, 2 Andean Hillstars, an endemic species of hummingbird, Tawny Antpitta and a Great-horned Owl were the highlights. The lowlight was the rain which gradually became heavier during the walk back to the bus; many got a lot wetter than they intended! We lunched in a rapidly steaming-up bus, took a quick look at the nearby lake to add Andean Gulls, Andean Coots and Andean Teal to the list before heading for La Cienega so that we could all dry off. The rain continued almost until nightfall.

Thursday 2nd November

The weather had cleared to reveal a fine morning, which was ideal for a walk in the gardens. Numerous birds were well seen including Giant Hummingbird, Black-backed Grosbeak, Subtropical Doradito and stunningly coloured Vermilion Flycatchers. After breakfast, the weather encouraged further garden exploration and photography. Another species of hummingbird was found (White-bellied Woodstar) and we also saw Blue-gray and Blue and Yellow Tanagers. By 9 am we were heading for Saquisili to visit the market there. This is a large local market and not of the typical 'tourist' type and consequently, many genuine bargains could be found........ providing you were prepared to haggle over the price! At 11 o'clock we drove south to an area where Burrowing Owls were numerous (we saw at least a dozen) and our next destination was a hacienda. The well-tended gardens proved very attractive to a number of new species including Ashy-breasted Sierra Finch, Plain-coloured Seed Eater and Sparkling Violetear. Lunch now seemed to be a good idea and so we headed towards the 'Cow Restaurant' nearer to Quito. Unfortunately, despite having a booked table, the restaurant decided not to hold the space for us! Rapid phone calls followed and a new booking placed with a fine establishment in Quito itself. Our late lunch was truly appreciated. We then went to the Alameda Hotel to begin packing for Galapagos the following day.

Friday 3rd November

Following an early breakfast, we were in the bus and heading for the airport by

6.30 am. The flight went smoothly and included a one-hour stop over in Guayaquil for refuelling and a change of some of the passengers. During this pause we saw 3 or 4 Great Egrets alongside the runway; they were totally unconcerned as the aircraft passed just a few feet away.

On Rabida, we were met by our Galapagos guide, Juan-Carlos and taken to the Beluga. Following a briefing and a slight detour, we went to North Seymour for our first experience of the tameness of the wildlife. The boat journey gave opportunities to identify various Petrels, Shearwaters and Boobies but soon we were walking within feet of Blue-footed Boobies and Galapagos Sea Lions. This was just the beginning. Frigatebirds flew around, collected nest material, displayed and caused general mayhem; Lava Herons and Red-billed Tropicbirds were along the rocky shore while the sandy areas held a good variety of waders. After watching the sun set over Daphne Major, we returned to Beluga to relax (have a few drinks!) and have a fine meal before a briefing about the following day's excursions.

Saturday 4th November

Most people were up early and keen for the day's first views of wildlife....... and a coffee. Feeding fish and rays drove smaller fish to the surface, which in turn attracted concentrations of Brown Noddies plus a few Shearwaters and Petrels and the usual gathering of Frigatebirds. After a sumptuous breakfast, we boarded the pangas and motored along the rocky shore of Rabida Island. Brown Noddies, Yellow-crowned Night Heron, Marine Iguanas, Fur Sea Lions and nesting Brown Pelicans all came under close scrutiny before we headed along the shore for our first wet landing of the trip. A walk along the shore of red sand enabled very close views of Galapagos Sea Lions and one group member briefly saw a Galapagos Snake. We also began to unravel the identification factors of the various Darwin's Finches with Common Cactus-finch and Medium Tree-finch both present........or was it Medium Ground-finch?!! On the trail loop, a couple of Galapagos Flycatchers kept us entertained, as did the huge feeding flock of Brown Noddies some distance off shore. While many of the group ended the morning activities with a swim in the refreshing and clear sea, others spent time photographing Brown Noddies and a very approachable Lava Heron.

Before and during lunch, we moved to James Bay on Santiago. The sea journey was good for birds with plenty of Audubon's Shearwaters; a couple of Dark-Rumped Petrels, many Elliot's Petrels and a flock of over 250 Red-necked Phalaropes. After lunch, the crew disappeared off to the island for a game of football while the rest of us took a siesta in preparation for the afternoon outing. The grey-ash beach held many Galapagos Sea Lions and a Great Blue Heron flew in and began hunting for a meal. Along the trail, a Dark-billed Cuckoo was well seen though not as approachable as the group of 15 or so Galapagos Doves we saw a little further on. A Galapagos Hawk remained somewhat aloof as it perched on a distant tree. Along the rocky shore lots of Sally Lightfoot Crabs and Marine Iguanas added interest as did the constant stream of Shearwaters, Boobies and Petrels passing just off shore. Along the dark lava rocks, a variety of waders were feeding including Sanderling, Whimbrel and (Ruddy) Turnstones. However, pride of place went to an American Oystercatcher which was observed (and photographed) at very close quarters as it fed on a Pencil-spined Sea Urchin. This brought to a fitting conclusion another splendid and sunny day.

Sunday 5th November

The day dawned much duller than previous ones as we looked out on Genovesa (Tower). After breakfast, we board the pangas and motored slowly towards Prince Philip's Steps. Many Red-footed Boobies, Red-billed Tropicbirds and Swallow-tailed Gulls flew overhead but it was the quantity and bright colouring of the fish which really caught our attention. Fur Sea Lions rested in shady crevices and one looked for all the world like it had drunk too much Tequila the previous night! As we topped the 'Steps', Masked Boobies were spread out before us while the bushes held nesting Red-footed Boobies and feeding Warbler Finches. Further along the trail, Sharp-beaked and Large Ground Finches were added to the day's tally but as we left the bushy area there were 'swarms' of Wedge-rumped Petrels which seemed to almost dance in the breeze above their nesting colony. A Short-eared Owl was perched on the rocky ground perhaps hopeful of a 'four star' petrel lunch! After returning to the Beluga, some of the group went snorkelling while the rest relaxed. By the time of our afternoon excursion, the weather was improving and as we landed at Darwin Bay beach, the sun shone through. For an hour or so, there was the opportunity for more swimming or just watching and photographing the local gulls, boobies and frigatebirds. The walk among Black Mangroves revealed a large colony of nesting Red-footed Boobies and Great Frigatebirds. On along at the small cliffs, Frigatebirds were chasing and bullying gulls and boobies into providing them with an easy meal. As the sun set on yet another fabulous day's wildlife watching, we returned to the Beluga.

Monday 6th November

Pinnacle Rock on Bartolomé towered above us as we woke from our slumbers. Our first outing of the day was to search along the rocky parts of the shore. Here we found a group of 5 Galapagos Penguins on a rock, preening, they were soon joined by another and across the bay were 3 more. A Great Blue Heron walked along scaring Sally Lightfoot Crabs as it went. A Galapagos Sea Lion greeted our arrival at the landing point but we were soon enjoying (or should that be 'enduring'?) the walk to the top of Dragon Hill (114m in height) to view the rugged scenery of this volcanic island. Later, the landing in the shell-sand bay went smoothly and before swimming, we went across to the far side of the island to search for wildlife. Two more Galapagos Penguins were fishing close inshore but to our surprise they were diving near to 3 White-tipped Reef Sharks. Thankfully, the same species did not disturb our hour's swim! During and after lunch, we moved to the northwest corner of Santa Cruz Island to walk a trail there. A couple of young Spotted Eagle Rays swam in the shallows of the sandy bay and further on, a lagoon held Black-necked Stilt and half a dozen Western Sandpipers. As we moved on through the forest, goats could be heard calling; soon 6 came into view. A ginger cat was stalking some Darwin's Finches but thankfully our presence deterred it. Galapagos Mockingbirds and a Galapagos Flycatcher were seen at close quarters before we had an even closer encounter with our first Land Iguana. In the end, we saw 7 of these large reptiles. As we returned towards the shore, the lagoon held some extra birds; White-cheeked Pintail and a Whimbrel. Soon we were back on board Beluga and heading for Puerto Ayora. Despite considerable searching, little wildlife was seen during this voyage except a few shearwaters and petrels.

Tuesday 7th November

Being moored throughout the night was conducive to most peoples' best night's sleep. The Charles Darwin Research Station showed what can be done to rescue near-extinct species. The Galapagos Giant Tortoise breeding and release programme has now returned over 1000 individuals to one particular island. This particular population had dropped to just 14some years earlier!! A couple of hours of free time in Puerto Ayora enabled people to do some souvenir and other shopping and at noon we set off for the 'highlands'. Lunch was our first stop at a restaurant with fabulous views over wooded slopes to the sea and Puerto Ayora; we could even see the Beluga anchored in the harbour. Soon we were heading for Los Gemelos (the Twins), double craters formed when the crust above huge chambers of volcanic gasses collapsed. A walk produced Galapagos Doves, Warbler Finch and, for most of the group, a pair of Vermilion Flycatchers. A bumpy track led us to a private farm where Cattle Egrets were numerous. However, Galapagos Giant Tortoises were our main target and we were soon looking at the first of the 7 or 8 that we saw. A small lake held numerous White-cheeked Pintails and Common Moorhens plus a couple of Paint-billed Crakes. Punctured twin rear tyres during the return to Puerto Ayora provided entertainment but unfortunately we had to call off our final short excursion of a sunset visit to some mangroves where the Cattle Egrets fly in to roost. We returned to Beluga as the skies darkened. The weather for the day had been dull to begin with but by mid afternoon, the skies had cleared and it was hot and sunny ...........again!

Wednesday 8th November

We awoke to a new location yet again, this time overlooking Floreana and two smaller islands, Champion and Enderby. After breakfast we took to the pangas and completed a leisurely circuit of Champion. The main effort was put into finding the endemic Charles Mockingbird. This was soon accomplished but there was plenty more of interest including lots of Brown Noddies, Blue-footed Boobies, Audubon's Shearwaters and Swallow-tailed gulls. Before setting off for Punta Cormorant, we also made a couple of circuits of Enderby when the offered fish scraps attracted a huge flock of Frigatebirds. We anchored in the bay by Punta Cormorant and soon landed on a fine sandy shore. The lagoon situated just behind the foreshore held about 10 Greater Flamingos and 3 Black-necked Stilts. The temperature was rising quite considerably as we walked through the scrub to the beautiful, long white sandy beach beyond the small headland. Sting Rays were something of a danger in the shallows as we tried to photograph the nearby Pacific Green Turtles. Back on the original landing beach there was plenty of opportunity for snorkelling or swimming before we returned to the Beluga for lunch. Later, a brief visit to the Post Office Barrel resulted in a few posted cards and 3 or 4 collected items. A trip to the Floreana highlands was next on our schedule. The transport to the hills consisted of an open-backed lorry with a few seats between the drivers' cab and the open back. The dirt roads combined with the state of the lorry-bus meant that progress was made at a rather 'leisurely' pace......amid a cloud of dust! Vermilion and Galapagos Flycatchers punctuated the journey and soon after reaching our destination, we were viewing a Medium Tree-Finch in an orange tree. A walk took us through forest and up to the area of caves used in the 1930s by settlers to the island. One has to wonder why they chose to live in such primitive conditions! The return towards Beluga was similar to the outward journey except that as the sun was now beginning to set, the street lights were on..........all three of them! After dinner, Val and Mike organised a quiz. We were in teams of three and the teams were named after birds we had seen; penguins, frigates, boobies and noddies. The penguins (Liz, Don and Tom) were the winners of a most enjoyable event and the frigates got the booby prize so to speak!

Thursday 9th November

By special request, we did not approach Española (Hood) until after sunrise. To our surprise, the captain took us a couple of miles along the southern side of the island where we were able to see perhaps 200 Waved Albatrosses plus many other seabirds. By 7am we were moored back at Punta Suarez and eating breakfast (our usual time). By 8am we were landing on the island itself and being greeted by Galapagos Sea Lions, colourful Marine Iguanas and our third species of mockingbird, the Hood Mockingbird. The walk around the trail was at our usual leisurely pace and we paused for quite a while at any cliff or sea viewpoint to marvel at the flying skills of the various birds, especially the albatrosses. Unfortunately, none of the albatrosses seemed to be breeding and we only saw 4 on the ground, three some distance from the trail and one sleepy individual which only raised its head for a few seconds! Back on board Beluga we were treated to yet another super lunch before most took a well-earned rest. At 3pm we boarded the pangas and headed for the beach in Gardener Bay. The next two hours were spent fending off the attentions of Hood Mockingbirds, wandering the beach, photographing, swimming or snorkelling; an enjoyable and relaxing end to the day. We even managed to add 2 new bird species to the list. A Franklin's Gull landed briefly on the shore and a couple of Barn Swallows flew around searching for insects. At one stage, a Galapagos Dove seemed intent on pursuing one of the swallows for no visible reasons at all. On board Beluga, we were treated to pre dinner cocktails to celebrate our visit to the Enchanted Isles and also as a farewell to the crew.

Friday 10th November

Following the overnight voyage, an early morning call ensured we were boarding the pangas by 06.10 for one final look for wildlife. The mangroves around Turtle Cove provided yet one more new habitat to enjoy. A school of Golden Cow Rays were 'flying' in the shallow, clear water and then we saw the first of about 20 Pacific Green Turtles including a mating pair (which turned into a trio at one stage!) A Spotted Sandpiper and a couple of Galapagos Martins were new species. As we headed back towards the Beluga, a Great Blue Heron and a couple of Lava Herons completed our watching. After breakfast we were taken to shore and then to the airport for our 10.45 flight back to the mainland. The flight went smoothly with much less time spent on the ground at Guayaquil than on the outward journey. Unfortunately, there were no Great White Egrets to be seen on this occasion.

Back in Quito we were taken to the hotel and most of the group decided to purchase a few last minute bargains from the local shops before we went for dinner at La Ronda, a fine Ecuadorian restaurant.

Saturday 11th November

Only 6 of the group were beginning the journey home to the U.K. today. Some were off to Tandayapa Bird Lodge for a few extra days birding, some to Otovalo Market while others were taking a different route home. Quito International Airport was full of people and the check-ins were working at their usual leisurely pace. We were pleasantly surprised to find that we could pay the departure tax at the check-in desk and thus avoid one of the slow, long queues. We made the departure lounge in rather quick time and realised that we could have had an extra hour in bed especially as the flight was delayed by an hour and ten minutes!

On arrival at Miami, we decided to pass through immigration and perhaps go out birding somewhere. In the event, 'getting somewhere' would have taken far too long and we just spent time on the top floor of the building. This was an open area where we could have a drink and watch a Northern Mockingbird, which fed itself on berries from the surrounding plants or from dropped scraps. Soon we were checking in again and setting off on the final flight for Heathrow where we arrived the following morning.

BIRDS
Galapagos Penguin: An amazing 11 on Bartolomé on 6th with 5 together on a single rock! Also, one fishing off Punta Cormorant on 8th.

Waved Albatross: As expected, only seen in the area of Española (Hood) on 9th. The estimated number seen varies from person to person but according to the leader as many as 200 may have occurred, mostly in flight over the sea or the island.

Dark-rumped (Galapagos) Petrel: On 3rd, one between Baltra and North Seymour and 2 between Rabida and James Bay the following day.

Audubon's Shearwater: Regular at sea

Elliott's Storm-Petrel: Regular at sea

Wedge-rumped Petrel: Many birds at the usual colony on Genovesa on 5th.

Red-billed Tropicbird: Quite a few on North Seymour on 3rd, Genovesa on 5th, Bartolome on 6th, Champion and Enderby on 8th and Española on 9th.

Blue-footed Booby: Common and very tame where nesting. Spectacular dives seen as they fished close inshore. Seen every day from 3rd to 10th.

Masked Booby: Just a few during the first 2 days then lots of very close encounters on Genovesa (on 5th) where they were nesting. Also many nesting on Enderby, which we circuited twice on 8th and large quantities on Española on 9th

Red-footed Booby: Only seen on Genovesa on 5th where they were numerous and very approachable.

Brown Pelican: Regular throughout the Galapagos. Seen every day from 3rd to 10th.

Magnificent Frigatebird: Regular throughout the Galapagos.

Great Frigatebird: Regular throughout the Galapagos.

Great Blue Heron: 2 at James bay on 4th, 2 on Bartolome and Santa Cruz on 6th, plus single birds at Puerto Ayora on 7th and Turtle Cove on 10th.

Cattle Egret: Well over 100 in the highland farming district on Santa Cruz on 7th plus a few on Floreana the following day.

American Great White Egret: 3 or 4 alongside Guayaquil airport runway on 3rd.

Lava (Galapagos) Heron: Seen every day in Galapagos except 9th with a very approachable individual on Rabida on 4th

Yellow-crowned Night Heron: 4 at James Bay on 4th were our first; also seen on 5th, 8th and 9th.

Greater Flamingo: At least 10 on Floreana on 8th plus a single bird flying over Turtle Cove on 10th.

Speckled (Andean) Teal: Perhaps half a dozen or so in the lake high on Cotopaxi on 1st.

White-cheeked Pintail: A single bird on a pool at the north-west corner of Santa Cruz on 6th with perhaps a dozen or more on a pond in the highlands of the same island the following day.

Turkey Vulture: 4 during the journey to La Cienega on 1st.

American Black Vulture: A couple of groups totalling 16 individuals during the journey to La Cienega on 1st.

Galapagos Hawk: 2 at James Bay, Santiago on 4th and then none until we saw 6 at Punta Suarez and 2 at Gardener Bay, Española on 9th.

Puna (Variable) Hawk: 1 on the way to La Cienega and 1 on the slopes of Cotopaxi, both on 1st.

Carunculated Caracara: 3 together on Cotopaxi on 1st.

American Kestrel: The first one of the tour was seen as we arrived at Miami airport on 31st. In Ecuador,we saw at least 6 on 1st and a similar number on 2nd on the way back to Quito.

Paint-billed Crake: 2 seen across a pond in the highlands of Santa Cruz on 7th.

Common Moorhen: About 12 on a pond in the Santa Cruz highlands on 7th.

Slate-coloured (Andean) Coot: At least 15 on a lake high on Cotopaxi on 1st.

American Oystercatcher: 2 on rocks at James Bay, Santiago included one that allowed very close viewing and photography as it fed on a Pencil-spined Sea Urchin. We also saw a single bird on Bartolome on 6th and 2 on Española on 9th.

Black-necked Stilt: Our first was on Santa Cruz on 6th followed by 3 on Floreana on 8th and finally at least 5 at Turtle Cove on 10th.

Andean Lapwing: A dozen or more on Cotopaxi on 1st.

Semipalmated Plover: Our first was on North Seymour on 3rd and the species was also noted on 4th, 6th and 8th.

Whimbrel: Noted on 4 days with the highest total being on Floreana on 8th when at least 4 were seen.

Spotted Sandpiper: Just a single bird seen at Turtle Cove on 10th.

Wandering Tattler: Seen on 7 consecutive days in Galapagos from 3rd.

Willet: Just a single bird seen on Genovesa on 5th.

(Ruddy) Turnstone: Seen every day in Galapagos except 6th.

Red-necked Phalarope: Good quantities on the sea between Rabida and Santiago on 4th and a few 2 days later as we journeyed from Bartolome to northern Santa Cruz.

Sanderling: Seen on 3rd, 4th, 6th and 9th at various locations.

Least Sandpiper: Only seen on North Seymour on 3rd.

Western Sandpiper: 6 on a pool set back from the shore on north west Santa Cruz on 6th.

Baird's Sandpiper: A group of 4 on grassland high on Cotopaxi on 1st.

Lava Gull: The first were 2 on Santiago on 4th and they were also noted on the next two days.

Franklin's Gull: A single bird alighted briefly on the sandy beach on Española on 9th.

Andean Gull: Approximately 20 seen during heavy rain on the lake on Cotopaxi on 1st.

Swallow-tailed Gull: This nocturnal feeder was first encountered on North Seymour on 3rd, it was seen and photographed at close quarters on Genovesa on 5th and noted on 3 other days in Galapagos. During one night-time sea voyage, a few were visible in the Beluga's lights as they flew alongside.

Brown (Common) Noddy: Seen well on some cliffs in various parts of Galapagos and also at sea, sometimes in fairly large gatherings, as they fed on small fish scared to the surface by larger feeding fish or rays.

Rock Dove (Feral Pigeon): Seen within Quito on 2nd and 3rd.

Eared Dove: Seen on 1st and 2nd at La Cienega.

Galapagos Dove: Seen every day from 3rd to 9th with the largest count being at least 15 individuals at James Bay, Santiago on 4th.

Common Ground Dove: Seen in the Quito area on 2nd, 3rd and 11th.

Black-winged Ground-Dove: At least 8 seen high on Cotopaxi on 1st.

Smooth-billed Ani: Seen on 4th, 7th, 8th and 10th on Galapagos.

Dark-billed Cuckoo: Singles seen on Santiago on 4th, Santa Cruz on 7th and Floreana on 8th.

Short-eared Owl: A single bird seen in the Petrel colony on Genovesa on 5th.

Great Horned Owl: Just a single bird in a gully on Cotopaxi on 1st.......just before the rain started!

Burrowing Owl: At least 15 seen south of Saquisili on 2nd.

Sparkling Violetear: On 2nd, a single bird sheltering from the midday sun deep in a bush was well seen by everyone. This was at the hacienda south of Saquisili.

Ecuadorian Hillstar: 2 high on Cotopaxi on 1st.

Giant Hummingbird: 1 at La Cienega was well seen by everyone and 1 very briefly and only seen by a few of the group at the hacienda south of Saquisili, both on 2nd.

Black-tailed Trainbearer: Good, though slightly distant views were obtained of a very long-tailed male at La Cienega on 2nd and later the same day, a female was seen at the hacienda south of Saquisili.

White-bellied Woodstar: One seen very briefly at La Cienega on 2nd.

Bar-winged Cinclodes: Just a couple seen on Cotopaxi on 1st.

Stout-billed Cinclodes: A few seen at the start of our walk on Cotopaxi on 1st.

Azara's Spinetail: Heard at La Cienega on 2nd.

Tawny Antpitta: This normally elusive species was well seen just after the rain began on Cotopaxi on 1st. Quite a few more were heard at the same location but remained hidden.

Vermilion Flycatcher: This brilliantly coloured species was well seen at La Cienega and at the hacienda close to Saquisili both on 2nd. On Galapagos, we saw them in the Santa Cruz highlands on 7th and on Floreana on 8th.

Black Phoebe: 1 seen from the bus on 1st on the way to Cotopaxi.

Black-billed Shrike-Tyrant: 2 in the gully on Cotopaxi on 1st.

Brown-backed Chat-Tyrant: Just a single bird seen at the same location as the previous species.

Sub-tropical Doradito: One seen in the marshy area behind La Cienega on 2nd.

Plain-capped Ground-Tyrant: Seen on Cotopaxi on 1st.

Galapagos Flycatcher: At least 3 at James Bay on Santiago on 4th then also seen on Santa Cruz on 6th and 7th and finally Floreana on 8th.

Southern (Galapagos) Martin: 2 seen feeding over the mangroves of Turtle Cove on 10th.

Brown-bellied Swallow: At least 4 on Cotopaxi on 1st.

Blue-and-white Swallow: Seen on the way to Cotopaxi on 1st and also during the coach journeys the following day.

Barn Swallow: 2 feeding over the beach at Gardner Bay on Española on 9th.

Galapagos Mockingbird: Seen on 4 consecutive days from 4th on various islands.

Charles Mockingbird: Seen somewhat distantly from the pangas as we 'chugged' around Champion on 8th. Champion is one of the small islands off Floreana/Charles.

Hood Mockingbird: We almost had to fight them off (!) as we walked around Española (Hood) on 9th.

Northern Mockingbird: One at Miami International Airport on the way home on 11th.

Chiguanco Thrush: Seen at La Cienega on 2nd.

Great Thrush: Seen at various locations on 1st and 2nd.

Rufous-collared Sparrow: Seen at various locations on 1st and 2nd and also seen from the gents loo at Quito Airport on 11th. Needless to say that only some of the group saw the latter bird!!

Plumbeous Sierra-Finch: A few seen on Cotopaxi on 1st.

Ash-breasted Sierra-Finch: Seen at the hacienda south of Saquisili on 2nd.

Plain-coloured Seedeater: A pair seen at the hacienda south of Saquisili on 2nd.

Large Ground-Finch: Seen on 5th on Genovesa.

Medium Ground-Finch: Seen on 3rd, 4th and 7th on the islands of North Seymour, Santiago and Santa Cruz respectively.

Small Ground-Finch: Seen on Santiago (4th), Genovesa (5th), Santa Cruz (7th) and Española (9th).

Sharp-beaked Ground-Finch: Only seen on 3rd on Genovesa.

Small Cactus-Finch (Cactus Ground-Finch): Seen at James Bay on Santiago on 4th and possibly seen on Santa Cruz on 6th.

Large Tree-Finch: Seen in the highlands of Floreana on 8th.

Medium Tree-Finch: Seen in the highlands of Floreana on 8th.

Small Tree-Finch: Seen on Santa Cruz on 7th and Floreana the following day.

Woodpecker Finch: Seen in the highlands of Santa Cruz on 7th.

Warbler Finch: Perhaps the most frequently identified (because it is the most easily identified?) of the Darwin's Finches. Seen at various locations on 4th, 5th, 7th and 9th.

Black-backed Grosbeak: A fine male at la Cienega on 2nd.

Blue-grey Tanager: Seen at La Cienega on 2nd.

Blue-and-yellow Tanager: 2 or 3 at La Cienega on 2nd proved somewhat elusive but as we boarded the bus after the visit to Saquisili market later the same day, a group of these gorgeous tanagers were well seen by everyone.

Black Flowerpiercer: At least 4 at La Cienega on 1st were followed by perhaps as many as 20 there the following morning when the weather was much better.

Yellow Warbler: Seen every day in the Galapagos Islands sometimes at very close range.

Cinereous Conebill: Quite a few at La Cienega on 2nd.

Hooded Siskin: A couple seen briefly at La Cienega on 2nd.

MAMMALS

Galapagos Sea Lion: Seen every day in Galapagos.

Galapagos Fur Sea Lion: Seen on 4th at James Bay and on Genovesa the following day.

REPTILES

Lava Lizard: Seen on 3rd, 4th, 6th and 9th on North Seymour, Santiago, Bartolome and Española respectively.

Marine Iguana: Seen every day in Galapagos except 10th.

Galapagos Land Iguana: Only on 7th at the north west corner of Santa Cruz when 7 were seen including one at very close range.

Galapagos Giant Tortoise: Seen on 7th at the Charles Darwin Research Station, where they have a captive breeding programme, then later the same day in the highlands of Santa Cruz.

Pacific Green Turtle: Seen on 5th from the Beluga at Genovesa, on 8th from the beach at Punta Cormorant, in Gardner Bay on 9th but then about 20 in Turtle Cove on 10th.

Galapagos Snake: Rather a poor trip for this species with just a single individual seen by one member of the group but it dashed off before anyone else could see it. Part of a young one was seen by a few of the group on Española on 9th but only half of it could be seen as the 'front' half was inside a Hood Mockingbird which was struggling to swallow it at the time. We did not really know if we could 'tick' half of a snake!

OTHER TAXA

Hermit Crab

Ghost Crab

Sally Lightfoot Crab

Galapagos Shark

White-tipped Shark

Golden Cow Ray

Spotted Eagle Ray

Diamond Stingray

Manta Ray

Azure Parrotfish

Blue-chinned Parrotfish

King Angelfish

Indo-pacific Bonito

Yellow-finned Tuna

Black-striped Salema

Rainbow Wrasse

Black-tipped Cardinal Fish

Pink Cardinal Fish

Sardine

Flying Fish

Laser Fish

Yellow-tailed Surgeon Fish

Moorish Idol

Yellow-tailed Damsel Fish

Bump-head Parrotfish

Yellow Puffer Fish

Convict Tang

Cortez Chub

Panamic Graysby

Yellow-tailed Mullet

Giant Damsel Fish

Panamic Sergeant Major

White-tailed Damsel Fish

Red-spotted Barnacle Blenny

Trumpet Fish

Ocean Whitefish

Galapagos Drum

Golden-phase Smooth Puffer

Hieroglyphic Smoothfish

Creole Fish

Five-spot Antheus

Bacalao

Bump-head Damsel Fish

Blue Stripe Snapper

Sythe Butterfly Fish

Streamer Hogfish

Golden-spot Sheepshead

Large Banded Blenny

Belted Blenny

Yellow-bellied Triggerfish

Reef Cornetfish

Mullet Snapper

.................................................................

Except for the rain on Cotopaxi on 1st November, our first full day in Ecuador, the weather was either good or excellent; some may say that it was just too hot on some occasions! However, on the Beluga, the 'mid-day siestas' helped us to pass the hottest part of the day relaxing and/or just taking on 'liquid refreshment'! With 106 species of birds recorded plus the expected sea lions and reptiles, this was a fabulous tour. Add on the crabs, sharks and lots of other fish species and you can see just how magical a trip to Ecuador and its Galapagos Islands can be.

Thanks must be expressed to our mainland guide, Joep Hendricks and his expertise at finding and identifying various birds and to our Galapagos guide, Juan-Carlos who was most thoughtful and enthusiastic. Thanks must also go to the entire group for making this such an enjoyable tour to lead (but don't tell Jamie or he will want to lead it in future!). Finally, I must single out Valerie and Mike Walker and express everyone's thanks to them for organising a super quiz one evening (though some of the questions were a bit on the difficult side!..........) and our congratulations to the winning team. Personally, I look forward to leading a 'mainland only' Ecuador tour next July when the birding will be even more fabulous with visits to rain forest, cloud forest and a number of other locations; does anyone fancy joining me again? We could always tag on an extension to the enchanting Galapagos Islands.............

Mike Read.


© The Travelling Naturalist 2000