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Ellen's Journal

February 22

The dinghies brought us to Prince Phillip's Steps on Genovesa. Angelika had been here three weeks ago and said it had been dry and grey. Apparently, there had been some rain because there is a great deal of greenery ... trees leafed out, grasses, seedlings and some flowers.

At the top of the stairs, we were greeted by a red-footed booby - red feet and blue beak - sitting on a pillar and posing for us. All around, there were red-footed and masked (Nazca) boobies, docile, beautiful and close enough for eye contact. The masked boobies have intense yellow eyes. We also got to view a couple of fluffy, white-downed red-footed young on their nests, as well as some courting couples. The masked booby male whistles while the female honks.

There were frigatebirds of all ages in shrubs and flying. One great frigate (green iridescence on his back; the magnificent's iridescence is purple) with an inflated pouch, an indication to females that he is available, was waiting patiently. It takes about 20 minutes to inflate and the bird will sit until a female joins him or until he becomes hungry. At that point he will partially deflate and go in search of food which could be stolen from others or flying fish caught as they jump out of the water.

Doug and I were the only ones to see a pair of finches in a tree building a nest. (Angelika identified them from the photos as large ground finches). A pair of mockingbirds treated us to a courtship dance. She sat on the ground, feathers fluffed, and he danced around her. He mounted her briefly. We weren't sure if that was foreplay or completion!

As we approached the more barren landscape, out of the foliage, there was a short-eared owl in the distance. There are no hawks on Genovesa, so the owls are diurnal. Angelika said there is often an owl sitting out there, waiting for a storm petrel to emerge from a crack in the lava where they nest. A bit further on we got a closer look at another owl which was seeking shelter from the sun in a larger crack.

Several of the trees were flowering - tiny, fragrant blossoms. One yellow, ground-spreading plant was a puncture weed which produces the hardest nuts, food for the finches with the heftiest beaks. The shore pansy has lots of green leaves and a broad, round blossom reminding me of a morning glory. There were several unidentified flowers, not surprising as the attraction in the islands is the animal life and I seemed to be the only one focused on the flora.

Off shore, behind where we saw the owl, storm petrels were swarming along with frigatebirds, filling the sky with dark, moving spots. From the dinghy, on our return to the boat, we were able to view sea lions and fur seals lounged on the rocks. Several red-billed tropic birds were visible as well.

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