Thursday, 30 April 2015

Galápagos Day 14 (afternoon) - Kicker Rock and Cerro Brujo, Isla San Cristóbal

Kicker Rock is an uplifted rock towering more than 150 metres out of the sea, approximately 5 kilometres off the central north coast of Isla San Cristóbal. Nearby Cerro Brujo is an eroded tuff cone with a small golden sand beach to its south. These were our destinations for the afternoon and evening.

The first activity was snorkelling around Kicker Rock. I declined to go on this expedition but stayed on board the boat to try and photograph the dolphins that were spotted nearby (they never came close enough to be photographed) and the rock.

Panga heading for Kicker Rock, Isla San Cristóbal, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Sigma 10-20mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 10mm, ISO 400, f/5.6, 1/4000

I took several shots of the rock but the most satisfying was this one looking into the sun, which, to my eye, works better in black and white than colour.

Kicker Rock, Isla San Cristóbal, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Sigma 10-20mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 13mm, ISO 400, f/29, 1/160

Once the snorkelers had returned, showered and changed, we headed for the beach at Cerro Brujo. As soon as we landed, I spotted some small wading birds on the rocks a few hundred metres down the beach so I put the 300mm lens on the camera and wandered down the beach for a closer look. However, I quickly got distracted by a Magnificent Frigatebird harassing a Blue-footed Booby that was fishing just off the beach.

Magnificent Frigatebird + Blue-footed Booby, Cerro Brujo, Isla San Cristóbal, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 400, f/4, 1/4000
Magnificent Frigatebird + Blue-footed Booby, Cerro Brujo, Isla San Cristóbal, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 400, f/4, 1/4000

The booby did a good job of fighting back.

Magnificent Frigatebird + Blue-footed Booby, Cerro Brujo, Isla San Cristóbal, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 400, f/4, 1/4000
Magnificent Frigatebird + Blue-footed Booby, Cerro Brujo, Isla San Cristóbal, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 400, f/4, 1/4000

The next bird I came across was this Lava Gull - a backlit grey bird on grey rock. These are such rare birds that I wanted to grab a shot before I looked for a better angle. 

Magnificent Frigatebird + Blue-footed Booby, Cerro Brujo, Isla San Cristóbal, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 400, f/4, 1/4000

Unfortunately, the gull flew away before I could try so to avoid the same problem with the waders, still about a hundred metres away, I took to wading myself, walking out into thigh deep water to go around the sea-side of the rocks so I would have the sun at my back. Well, mostly...this Least Sandpiper snuck in behind me so the light wasn't perfect but it was too close to not photograph.

Least Sandpiper, Cerro Brujo, Isla San Cristóbal, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 400, f/4, 1/1000

A Sanderling ran along the beach and across the rocks, 

Sanderling, Cerro Brujo, Isla San Cristóbal, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 400, f/4, 1/3200

stopping just in front of me.

Sanderling, Cerro Brujo, Isla San Cristóbal, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 400, f/5.6 1/800

Meanwhile, the small flock of birds I'd initially spotted on these rocks turned out to be Semi-palmated Plovers and they cooperated nicely for some close-ups.

Semi-palmated Plover, Cerro Brujo, Isla San Cristóbal, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 400, f/4, 1/1000
Semi-palmated Plover, Cerro Brujo, Isla San Cristóbal, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 400, f/5.6, 1/1600
Semi-palmated Plover, Cerro Brujo, Isla San Cristóbal, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 400, f/5.6, 1/1000

Marine Iguanas provided a foreground for a shot back along the beach to Cerro Brujo.

Marine Iguana, Cerro Brujo, Isla San Cristóbal, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Sigma 10-20mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 13mm, ISO 400, f/29, 1/160

As I walked back along the beach, Ghost Crabs scuttled back into their holes but I managed to get this one before it disappeared completely.

Ghost Crab, Cerro Brujo, Isla San Cristóbal, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 400, f/6.3, 1/400

Blue-footed Boobies were fishing offshore. One dived right in front of me before I had a chance to change the camera settings so I ended up with this silhouette.

Blue-footed Booby, Cerro Brujo, Isla San Cristóbal, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 400, f/6.3, 1/8000

When I looked back down the beach, more boobies were diving closer to shore, much to the delight of the watching paparazzi.

Photographing diving boobies, Cerro Brujo, Isla San Cristóbal, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 400, f/6.3, 1/800

As I was debating with myself whether to walk back down the beach to join the throng or stay and hope 'my bird' continued to fish nearer to my present location, a frigatebird made up my mind for me by repeating the performance we'd witnessed on arrival.

Magnificent Frigatebird + Blue-footed Booby, Cerro Brujo, Isla San Cristóbal, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 400, f/6.3, 1/200
Magnificent Frigatebird + Blue-footed Booby, Cerro Brujo, Isla San Cristóbal, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 400, f/6.3, 1/250

The final activity of the day was to photograph Kicker Rock at sunset and, as the sun was closing on the western horizon,  we were rounded up to leave. I squeezed out one more shot of a distant booby perched on rocks and backlit by a sparkling ocean (which ended up better in black and white)

Blue-footed Booby, Cerro Brujo, Isla San Cristóbal, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 400, f/6.3, 1/8000

before clambering aboard the panga 

Boarding the pangas, Cerro Brujo, Isla San Cristóbal, Galápagos
Photograph courtesy of Joanne Smissen

and heading for the boat, which was anchored just offshore.

Tip Top III, Cerro Brujo, Isla San Cristóbal, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 400, f/6.3, 1/3200

As I looked back at Cerro Brujo, I couldn't help but think of Charles Darwin climbing to the top of this hill to enjoy the view.

Cerro Brujo, Isla San Cristóbal, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 400, f/6.3, 1/3200

The Captain took us back to Kicker Rock and circumnavigated the rock several times as the sun set giving us some spectacular views from the top deck of the boat.

Kicker Rock, Isla San Cristóbal, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Sigma 10-20mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 20mm, ISO 400, f/6.3, 1/640
Sunset from Kicker Rock, Isla San Cristóbal, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Sigma 10-20mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 14mm, ISO 400, f/6.3, 1/500

Luckily, the boat was still enough about 20 minutes later for this blue-light shot looking back at Kicker Rock with the rising moon.

Kicker Rock, Isla San Cristóbal, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Sigma 10-20mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 16mm, ISO 400, f/4.5, 1/15

Tomorrow - our last day


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