Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Galápagos Day 5 (morning) - Punta Vicente Roca, Isla Isabela

We crossed the equator twice during our overnight cruise from Isla Santiago to Punta Vicente Roca on Isla Isabela. Isabela, the largest of the Galápagos Islands, resembles a seahorse in shape and Punta Vicente Roca is a small cove sitting at the bottom lip of the seahorse.



Isabela and nearby Isla Fernandina are the most volcanically active of the islands and many of us half-joked about how good it would be if one of the volcanoes started erupting while we were there. Ironically, Volcan Wolf on Isla Isabela (marked on the Google map above) did start erupting for the first time in 33 years (see this BBC report) on 25 May, only 5 weeks after we were there.

We were in the pangas by 6:00am for a tour of the cove,

Panga ride, Punta Vicente Roca, Isla Isabela, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 140mm, ISO 800, f/5, 1/2000

getting up-close to the cliffs.

Panga ride, Punta Vicente Roca, Isla Isabela, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 115mm, ISO 800, f/5.6, 1/4000

The rock platforms at the base of the cliffs provided some great views of small waterfalls of receding waves. The black rocks and white water were ideally suited to making some black and white photographs. Photographing from a rocking panga meant there was no chance to use slow shutter speeds to get smooth flowing water so I opted to shoot with fast shutter speeds to freeze the white water.

Punta Vicente Roca, Isla Isabela, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 200mm, ISO 800, f/5.6, 1/1250
Punta Vicente Roca, Isla Isabela, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 70mm, ISO 800, f/5.6, 1/1000

The huge cliffs of the cove are the outer wall of a collapsed volcanic caldera and they dwarfed our boat.

Tip Top III, Punta Vicente Roca, Isla Isabela, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 70mm, ISO 800, f/5.6, 1/500

The first birds we spotted on the cliffs were Blue-footed Boobies,

Blue-footed Booby, Punta Vicente Roca, Isla Isabela, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 82.5mm, ISO 800, f/5.6, 1/160

which allowed us to get very close...

Panga ride, Punta Vicente Roca, Isla Isabela, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 77.5mm, ISO 800, f/5.6, 1/5000

...close enough to detect the different eyes of males and females. Females have a black ring around their iris giving them the appearance of having much larger irises than males.

Blue-footed Booby (male), Punta Vicente Roca, Isla Isabela, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 200mm, ISO 800, f/5.6, 1/3200
Blue-footed Booby (female), Punta Vicente Roca, Isla Isabela, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 200mm, ISO 800, f/5.6, 1/60

Two female Magnificent Frigatebirds, a Brown Pelican and an immature Galápagos Penguin (it does not have the characteristic white facial markings of an adult) were perched join the rocks at the bottom of the cliffs

Magnificent Frigatebird (female), Punta Vicente Roca, Isla Isabela, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 200mm, ISO 800, f/5.6, 1/8000
Magnificent Frigatebird (female), Punta Vicente Roca, Isla Isabela, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 150mm, ISO 800, f/5.6, 1/6400
Brown Pelican, Punta Vicente Roca, Isla Isabela, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 200mm, ISO 400, f/4, 1/6400
Galápagos Penguin (immature), Punta Vicente Roca, Isla Isabela, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 200mm, ISO 400, f/5.6, 1/1600
Galápagos Penguin (immature), Punta Vicente Roca, Isla Isabela, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 200mm, ISO 400, f/5.6, 1/2000

Brown Noddies clung perilously to small rocks embedded in the tuff cliff.

Brown Noddy, Punta Vicente Roca, Isla Isabela, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 200mm, ISO 800, f/5.6, 1/1600

and Marine Iguanas were everywhere there was a flat(ish) bit of rock for basking.

Marine Iguana, Punta Vicente Roca, Isla Isabela, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 150mm, ISO 800, f/5.6, 1/250
Marine Iguana, Punta Vicente Roca, Isla Isabela, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 200mm, ISO 400, f/5.6, 1/1600
Marine Iguana, Punta Vicente Roca, Isla Isabela, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 130mm, ISO 400, f/3.5, 1/2000
Marine Iguana, Punta Vicente Roca, Isla Isabela, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 200mm, ISO 400, f/3.5, 1/6400

The highlight of the morning was a small colony of Flightless Cormorants on a pile of boulders at the base of the cliff.

Flightless Cormorant, Punta Vicente Roca, Isla Isabela, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 200mm, ISO 400, f/4, 1/4000

These birds have evolved in an environment without terrestrial predators so, with no need for flight, their redundant wings have regressed to the point of being useless. Nevertheless, they still hang them out to dry, in the manner of other cormorants 

Flightless Cormorant, Punta Vicente Roca, Isla Isabela, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 200mm, ISO 400, f/5.6, 1/1000

and use them for balance when jumping from rock to rock.

Flightless Cormorant, Punta Vicente Roca, Isla Isabela, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 200mm, ISO 400, f/5.6, 1/1600
Flightless Cormorant, Punta Vicente Roca, Isla Isabela, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 122.5mm, ISO 400, f/5.6, 1/1000

or doing their best impersonation of a Booby dance.

Flightless Cormorant, Punta Vicente Roca, Isla Isabela, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 122.5mm, ISO 400, f/5.6, 1/1000

Flightless Cormorants are incredible swimmers (as we were to find out later today when snorkelling off Isla Fernandina) and seem to have no problem approaching very close to the pangas.

Flightless Cormorant, Punta Vicente Roca, Isla Isabela, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 160mm, ISO 400, f/3.5, 1/1600

As we headed back to the boat

Tip Top III, Punta Vicente Roca, Isla Isabela, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 140mm, ISO 400, f/5.6, 1/4000

a solo White-vented Storm-petrel flew close enough to us for a reasonable shot

White-vented Storm-petrel, Punta Vicente Roca, Isla Isabela, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 200mm, ISO 400, f/5.6, 1/1000

Several of us were to spend a lot of time and a lot more frames trying to get shots of these tiny birds over the next 10 days.

This afternoon - Punta Espinoza on Isla Fernandina.

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