Galápagos: Fernandina

August 15, 2023 • 9:30 am

Yesterday morning we made a trip to Fernandina Island, the youngest in the archipelago, and home of a still-active volcano

First, though, I’ll show you the breakfast buffet.  There are several stations, and a fair amount of Ecuadorian food:

The omelet station:

Pancakes and, at upper right, green banana balls, which I couldn’t resist:

A great breakfast: mango juice, Ecuadorian latkes, a cheese and ham tortilla, a sausage, a green banana ball, fresh fruit (the pinapple is terrific), and I had a cappuccino on the side. I try not to eat too much at breakfast, as I never have it at home.

On to a 2.5-hour walk on Fernandina Island:

Fernandina Island (SpanishIsla Fernandina) is the youngest and third largest island in the Galapagos, as well as the furthest west. It has an area of 642 km2 (248 sq mi) and a height of 1,476 m (4,843 ft), with a summit caldera about 6.5 km (4.0 mi) wide. Like the other islands, it was formed by the Galápagos hotspot. The island is an active shield volcano that has most recently erupted in January 2020.

Here it is, with the top shrouded in clouds. Even the ship’s naturalists cannot access most of the large island. Like us, the naturalists must stay to the paths, which are only along the shore. Clearly there are undescribed species on this island, though it’s regularly accessed by scientists who are allowed to climb to the top.

Here’s where it’s located (arrow):

And the view from the landing site:

Some flightless cormorants, a famous endemic bird species that’s hard to find and photograph. It is the world’s only flightless cormorant, and of course is found on an island with almost no predators.

My one shot of this bird in which you can see the rudimentary (or vestigial) wings.  They do help the bird to balance, showing that a vestigial trait need not be a useless trait.

Two love-cormorants courting. Females are larger, so she’s probably on the right.

And of course the marine iguanas, the world’s only marine lizard, are ubiquitous.

And when I say “ubiquitous”, I mean ubiquitous. You have to watch your step lest you tread on one

Face on shot:

Head shot. Darwin found this lizards odious and ugly, but I think they’re lovely and marvelous:

Our naturalist guide displaying the skeleton of a marine iguana:

A lava lizard. There are seven species in the archipelago, and I don’t know which this is:

The Galápagos mockingbird, one of four endemic species in the islands. The mockingbirds were found one species per island, which helped give Darwin the idea that the species descended from a common ancestor and formed in geographic isolation. This notion, however, didn’t come to him until several years after he returned to England. Mockingbirds are mentioned in The Origin, but you won’t find any word about finches in that book.

Another lava lizard; it may be the same species as above:

The endemic lava cactus. Imagine: a cactus that can grow on lava! It helps create soil that eventually allows other plants to grow.

These markers are set in the ground by the National Park and are used by satellites to measure the movement of the tectonic plates on which the islands lie.

An endemic Galápagos sea lion:

And her baby nearby. Babies suckle until they’re nearly three years old, though they also learn to hunt a bit during that time.

A contented mom.

A Sally Lightfoot crab, quite colorful.

Another herd of marine iguanas. They need a name for a group of these animals. Can you suggest one?

A lava heron hunting crabs. This species is also endemic to the archipelago.

The Galápagos brown pelican, an endemic subspecies though some sites call it an endemic species. Since it’s geographically isolated from other pelicans, this is a judgement call.

Sea lion with her pup, which, we were told, was about a year old.

She had another pup nearby, only a couple of months old. They can nurse several pups of different age at once as they have delayed implantation.

While going back to the ship, a young pup climbed up on the dock and made friends with a traveler.

Finally, I didn’t know there were endemic snakes in the archipelago; I thought the only endemic reptiles were the iguanas and lava lizards. I was wrong; behold the Galápagos racer!

A lot of life to see in only a couple of hours!

34 thoughts on “Galápagos: Fernandina

  1. Wow! It’s hard to decide whether to linger at breakfast (awesome) or to venture out to see the animals and plants. How ‘bout both?!

  2. If those marine iguanas are the ones that get rid of salt from their bodies through their nose then I suggest that what you’ve got there is an Exsufflation of marine iguanas.

  3. I’d call your group of iguanas a horde, or perhaps a lounge. A horde when hunting and a lounge when, well, lounging?

    1. Yes, thanks Mark. I immediately thought of that sequence, which is brilliantly edited into a real drama, though I’m sure for the iguanas it is quite a trial.

  4. A symposium of marine iguanas?

    Thanks for the pics, Jerry. You have a lot of self-control when it comes to moderating your breakfast. I couldn’t do it! I’ve been known to eat a whole plate of fried plantain. I’m good at skipping the overly sweet baked goods.

  5. Love the pictures! How about a “lava” of iguanas … like in the game The Floor is Lava and the object is not to step on them. Also, the islands are volcanic … so it kind of fits.

  6. Looks like you are seeing so much in such a short time. I’m fascinated by the flightless cormorants. I did not know that vestigial structures could also be useful.

  7. A wave of sea iguanas?

    Also, have some fun and eat as much as you want! Maybe you’ll gain a few pounds, tops (though you seem to have a much healthier metabolism than mine considering your other travelogues). Not like you can’t lose that when you get home and go back to your normal routine. You seem to take “when in Rome” to heart when in France, so why not in Ecuador?

  8. I was going to suggest a “skein” of sea iguana, but then I remembered that that term is already used for a flock of geese in flight. Shucks!🫰

  9. A “mess” of iguanas is already a term for a group of iguanas. My favorite is for lizard: A lounge of lizards… Lounge Lizards is a great band to boot- the Lurie brothers!

    That tectonic plate marker is fascinating. I wonder if there are a lot of those markers spotting the globe.

    Thanks for another terrific island post, what fantastic wildlife. Still waiting for the tortoise! 🙂

    Green banana balls? I don’t understand the concept.

  10. My favorite word for a group of iguanas suggested here so far is a ‘tangle’ which aptly describes the group and has faint echoes of Darwin’s ‘tangled bank’. I’m not loving ‘lounge’ or ‘mess’ (Google’s suggestions) which both seem slightly derogatory. If not ‘tangle’ then I might suggest a ‘bask of iguanas’ since this behavior is essential to warm them up to digest and recover from their excursions into the cold Galapagos water (but is lacking in implying the large numbers).

  11. There is a thrilling Galapagos Racer v Galapagos Iguana chase on a BBC Wild Life Attenborough clip available on YouTube. Memorable.
    I would choose a gang of iguanas.

  12. How about a laze of iguana (though I also like lounge and layabout above). I guess these marine ones have to do lots of basking to recover heat.

  13. I’d propose a ‘lavalot’ of iguanas, they lie on lava and look like lava from a distance, and they are ubiquitous. And ‘lavalot’ has somehow a nice sound to it.

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