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..........My Adventures, My Philosophies and My Perspective

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Waved Albatross (Phoebastria irrorata) snapping the Beak, Española Island
Waved Albatross (Phoebastria irrorata)
Snapping the Beak

Española Island, Galápagos Islands, Ecuador
May 18, 2007

Yellow Warbler (Dendroica petechia), Española Island
Yellow Warbler (Dendroica petechia)
Española Island, Galápagos Islands, Ecuador
May 18, 2007

Red-footed Booby (Sula sula) Perched on Tree, Genovesa Island
Red-footed Booby (Sula sula)
Perched on Tree

Genovesa Island, Galápagos Islands, Ecuador
May 14, 2007

Nazca Booby (Sula granti) on Cliff with Cactus, Genovesa Island
Nazca Booby (Sula granti)
On a Cliff with Cactus

Genovesa Island, Galápagos Islands, Ecuador
May 14, 2007

Male Great Frigatebird (Fregata minor) Performing Mating Ritual, Genovesa Island
Male Great Frigatebird (Fregata minor)
Performing Mating Ritual

Genovesa Island, Galápagos Islands, Ecuador
May 14, 2007

Question #6
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In the biological sense, what was the most surprising discovery of your trip to the Galápagos? What was the most disappointing? Based on your experience in the Galápagos, describe any story or message you'll feel compelled to share with others who haven't been.

The most surprising discovery of the trip was the huge diversity and population of birds on the islands. Going into the trip I had read our classroom text, "Galápagos: A Natural History Guide" by Pierre Constant, that there were many different species of birds on the islands. But I did not realize there would be hundreds of thousands, probably even millions, of individual birds living on the islands. When reading the text I did not get my head around the sheer size of the bird population in the Galápagos.

The number of individuals was not the only impressive fact about the bird populations. The fact that they live side by side throughout the islands was much more surprising. To visit Española Island and see the large waved albatross (Phoebastria irrorata) nesting next to blue-footed boobies (Sula nebouxii) without conflict was an amazing site to see. And then to see so many other birds such as Hood mockingbirds (Nesomimus macdonaldi) , Galápagos doves (Zenaida galapagoensis) , yellow warblers (Dendroica petechia) , Galápagos hawks (Buteo galapagoensis) , Darwin's finches (Geospiza fuliginosa) , lava herons (Butorides sundevalli) , swallow-tail gulls (Creagrus furcatus) and Nazca boobies (Sula granti) , nesting in the same area made it that much more impressive.

On Genovesa Island there were red-footed boobies (Sula sula) nesting in trees right next to great frigatebirds (Fregata minor) and magnificent frigatebirds (Fregata magnificens) , their nemesis. Underneath the trees were nests of Nazca boobies (Sula granti) , mockingbirds (Nesomimus) , Galápagos doves (Zenaida galapagoensis) , and finches. On the north side of the island there were hundreds of thousands of Castro's storm petrels (Oceanodroma castro) and Galápagos storm petrels (Oceanodroma tethys) nesting near the edge of the water. Genovesa is a small island and I found it amazing that so many birds could live together without much, if any, territorial disputes.

One would think with so many individual birds and the limited amount of space on the island chain that there would be more disputes for the resource of nesting areas. Perhaps these disputes do take place from time to time, but I did not witness any while on the trip. From my perspective it appeared as if all the different species of birds lived together quite harmoniously.

The most disappointing biological discovery was the lack of large, colorful reefs. I was expecting something similar to the dense coral reefs with countless life forms like I had seen in Jamaica. However, I did not really see a major defined reef system at all. I did see some isolated corals and definitely a lot of different species of fish, echinoderms and sharks, but the population density was far smaller than I had expected.

I can only speculate the reasons for this; perhaps the island chain is not old enough to have established such a dense reef system. Or, the changes brought on by El Niño events have continually disrupted such a reef system from developing through the years. It is possible that the overfishing in the area has some effect as well, however, if the fish population has been highly decreased due to these human activities it would seem the coral would grow faster since many fish are predators to the corals.

In regard to stories I would like to tell people who have not traveled to the Galápagos archipelago, there are many. I have shared several in my online journal, but one interesting discovery I had on the trip was that of the smell. When preparing to come to the islands you see many videos, photos and hear stories from others who have been. Seeing the photos makes one conjure up images of paradise in the mind. But, one thing that is not translated either in the images or the stories is that of the foul smells in the islands. The Galápagos paradise stinks! Whether it be dead sea lions rotting on the trails or the unquantifiable amount of bird droppings everywhere one looks, the smells on the islands are atrocious, so I would warn people that are coming to prepare yourself for the stinkiness.

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