Isla de la Plata: July 12, 2008

Last summer while staying in Puerto Lopez, we eschewed a visit to this “Poor Man’s Galapagos,” focusing instead on viewing the spectacular courtship displays of the migrating humpback whales. This year, we discovered that both are quite possible to achieve in one day, as we witnessed several breaching whales on the way out to the island; we also saw one breaching in the harbor as we walked along the beach back to our hotel at sunset.

Depending on your point of view, the island itself can be considerably less impressive, as it is isolated and rocky and covered in dry scrub that appears dead for most of the year. Migrating seabirds nest here though, and the experience of stumbling across an innocent pair of Blue-Footed Boobies setting up a nest near the trail is exactly what you can expect to observe in the Galapagos.

We were lucky to see the last remaining Waved Albatross nesting on the island; our guide Alegria, who also studies these birds, explained that there were actually two chicks underneath the roosting bird, just recently hatched a few days ago. With a little patience, I also managed to glimpse the Short-Tailed Woodstar, the island’s only hummingbird, and the Gray-and-White Tyrannulet, a small but double-crested flycatcher which is a difficult-to-see Tumbesian endemic species.

Notable birds seen: Magnificent Frigatebird, Blue-Footed Booby, Nazca Booby, Gray-and-White Tyrannulet, Short-Tailed Woodstar, Long-Tailed Mockingbird, Collared Warbling-Finch, Red-Billed Tropicbird, Waved Albatross, Groove-Billed Anis, Croaking Ground Dove.

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