Saturday, 25 April 2015

Galápagos Day 9 (evening) - South Plaza

The Plazas are two small, narrow islands separated by a shallow channel, lying just off the east coast of Isla Santa Cruz.



Galápagos Land Iguana, Tip Top III and North Plaza from South Plaza, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 70mm, ISO 800, f/22, 1/100

Landings are not permitted on North Plaza but South Plaza offers a spectacular short walk along the south coast clifftop, providing views of seabirds flying past in the wind and coming and going from roosting and nesting sites along the cliffs.

Our visit was timed to see:
  • courtship flights of Red-tailed Tropicbirds
  • Galápagos Land Iguanas feeding on the yellow Portulaca flowers
both of which occur in the late afternoon at South Plaza at this time of year.

On the passage from Santa Fé, we were accompanied by more frigatebirds. This time, in addition to flying overhead and beside the boat, a few hitched a ride on the awning over the lounge deck.

Magnificent Frigatebird, Tip Top III
Photograph courtesy of Joanne Smissen
Magnificent Frigatebird, Tip Top III
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 400, f/5.6, 1/1600

Galápagos Shearwaters were flying around the boat in the channel between The Plazas and I managed to get this one as soon as we set foot on the landing site on South Plaza.

Galápagos Shearwater, South Plaza, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 400, f/5.6, 1/1250

Galápagos Land Iguanas greeted us as soon as we hit the trail.

Galápagos Land Iguana, South Plaza, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 180mm, ISO 400, f/11, 1/200

We saw these signs all over the islands, where the limits of the trail were not obvious. This one seemed a little redundant,

South coast of South Plaza, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 70mm, ISO 800, f/5.6, 1/1250

perched on the brink of a 25 metre high cliff.

South coast of South Plaza, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Pentax 16-50mm f/2.8 @ 24mm, ISO 400, f/5.6, 1/640

Every evening at this time of the year, Red-billed Tropicbirds take flight off these cliffs in a courtship ritual with pairs flying in unison.

Red-billed Tropicbird, South Plaza, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 800, f/5.6, 1/2500
Red-billed Tropicbird, South Plaza, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 800, f/5.6, 1/1600

Many single birds were flying along the cliff, apparently trying to attract a mate to join them in their aerial ballet, providing one of the easier birds-in-flight photographic opportunities I've had. With a strong wind coming from the south-west, providing an updraft off the cliffs, the tropicbirds were consistently flying at a predictable speed, just above head height. I set the exposure to ISO 800 and aperture to f/5.6, which, with aperture priority, gave me the highest shutter speed I could get without it jumping under my camera's minimum speed of 1/8000. Then it was 'just' pan and fire at 8 frames a second! Well, not quite that easy...I got about 20 keepers from over 500 shots in an hour but it was great fun. Here's a few of them.

Red-billed Tropicbird, South Plaza, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 800, f/5.6, 1/2000
Red-billed Tropicbird, South Plaza, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 800, f/5.6, 1/1000
Red-billed Tropicbird, South Plaza, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 800, f/5.6, 1/2500
Red-billed Tropicbird, South Plaza, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 800, f/5.6, 1/2000
Red-billed Tropicbird, South Plaza, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 800, f/5.6, 1/2000
Red-billed Tropicbird, South Plaza, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 800, f/5.6, 1/4000
Red-billed Tropicbird, South Plaza, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 800, f/5.6, 1/5000

Tropicbirds were not the only attraction. Swallow-tailed Gulls were nesting along the cliffs, some so close that you could get wide-angle shots,

Swallow-tailed Gull, South Plaza, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Sigma 10-20mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 20mm, ISO 400, f/11, 1/320

some with chicks,

Swallow-tailed Gull, South Plaza, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 400, f/5.6, 1/400

others 'making out'

Swallow-tailed Gull, South Plaza, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 400, f/5.6, 1/1000

and plenty in flight.

Swallow-tailed Gull, South Plaza, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 800, f/5.6, 1/500
Swallow-tailed Gull, South Plaza, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 800, f/5.6, 1/2500
Swallow-tailed Gull, South Plaza, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 800, f/5.6, 1/8000
Swallow-tailed Gull, South Plaza, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 800, f/5.6, 1/3200
Swallow-tailed Gull, South Plaza, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 800, f/5.6, 1/1600
Swallow-tailed Gull, South Plaza, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 800, f/5.6, 1/1000
Swallow-tailed Gull, South Plaza, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 400, f/5.6, 1/640

Blue-footed and Nazca Boobies roosted on the cliff

Blue-footed Booby, South Plaza, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 400, f/8, 1/4000
Blue-footed Booby, South Plaza, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 400, f/5, 1/200
Nazca Booby, South Plaza, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 400, f/5.6, 1/800
Nazca Booby, South Plaza, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 400, f/5.6, 1/1600

along with Brown Noddies

Brown Noddy, South Plaza, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 400, f/8, 1/100

and Brown Pelicans,

Brown Pelican, South Plaza, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 400, f/5, 1/1600

which were glorious to photograph in flight in the late afternoon golden light.

Brown Pelican, South Plaza, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 400, f/5, 1/640

A large school of mullet, surfaced just offshore. We were not sure what had prompted this but it is likely they were feeding on smaller fish near the surface.

Galápagos Mullet, South Plaza, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 400, f/10, 1/125

As the Portulaca flowers began to open (they only do this in the late afternoon),

Portulaca flowers, South Plaza, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Sigma 10-20mm f/2.8 @ 15mm, ISO 400, f/8, 1/500

we turned our attention 'inland' to look for Galápagos Land Iguanas feeding on the flowers

Galápagos Land Iguana, South Plaza, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 400, f/8, 1/800

but some were content to just catch the last rays of sun.

Galápagos Land Iguana, South Plaza, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 400, f/16, 1/400
Galápagos Land Iguana, South Plaza, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 400, f/10, 1/500

Cactus Ground Finches were perching on Prickly Pear

Cactus Ground Finch (male) on Prickly Pear, South Plaza, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 400, f/5, 1/1250

and others were otherwise engaged at ground level

Cactus Ground Finch, South Plaza, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 400, f/8, 1/50

and a male Yellow Warbler perched nearby, singing.

Yellow Warbler (male), South Plaza, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 400, f/5, 1/200

As with all the other sites, you're not allowed on shore after sunset but I managed a few shots as we headed back to the pangas.

Prickly Pear, South Plaza, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Pentax 16-50mm f/2.8 @ 28mm, ISO 400, f/8, 1/200
Sunset, South Plaza, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 400, f/8, 1/800
Sunset, South Plaza, Galápagos
Pentax K-3, Sigma 300mm f/2.8, ISO 400, f/8, 1/500


1 comment:

  1. Another outstanding post. ALL of the shots are fabulous so I cannot even think of picking a favourite.

    ReplyDelete

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