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Ellen's Journal

February 24

After lunch and a siesta, we went to Punta Espinoza on Fernandina for a wonderful hike. As we alighted from the dinghies, we had to walk through a gauntlet of marine iguanas draped across one another and the path. We had to tiptoe into bare spots because these creatures seemed totally unaware that we were there. The odor was quite strong!

We walked through a small thicket onto lava flats and made our way to pools where sea lion cubs were cavorting. They were being watched over by a male and eventually a female showed up. Marine iguanas occupied the same pools, though on the fringes. Small lava lizards crawl over the rocks and their larger cousins. Across from the pools, there is a nesting area for the iguanas. Indentations were visible where eggs had been laid as well as many females actively carving out their nests.

Further on, we came to a small group of flightless cormorants and more iguanas. Angelika said that in an El Nino year, the population of iguanas and penguins will drop due to the lack of nutrients in the water which is diluted by all the rain. They will rebound as the area dries out.

As we walked along the path, we spotted a Galapagos hawk in the distance on a shrub. It flew and we continued on. As we rounded a curve in the trail, we again saw the hawk, standing sentinel, for a bit farther on were 2 others, the mother and her mottled young, eating an iguana. We were literally within two meters of the male and slightly more from the other two. Truly a close encounter of the amazing kind!

Other sightings included a mockingbird, a small ground finch, some oyster catchers, yearling iguanas, a partial whale skeleton (moved inland by the naturalists), and a couple of complete iguana skeletons. We watched as two cormorants built a nest on the bare rock by laying some seaweed down. Life and death in the natural world.

Perhaps one of the most amazing sights was to see many iguanas lined up on the rocks facing the sun. As temperatures rise, they face the sun and raise their heads and torso in the reptile version of the cobra pose, thereby casting a shadow on their backs and tails, regulating their body temperatures. Rita nailed it when she declared that they looked like a cult performing a ritual!

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(Music: Music for Manatees by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) Licensed under Creative Commons "Attribution 3.0" http://creativecommons.org/ licenses/by/3.0/