An Afternoon of “Magnificens”

Sunday, 8 July (Part III)

With the mandatory muster drill over, Mui headed up to Deck 6 at 4:00p to receive his snorkeling gear.  He had his own mask and snorkel, but with the Humboldt Current bringing cold waters to the area during the cool season, and water temps dipping down to the 70-74F (21-23C) range, he needed to get a wet suit, and also some flippers.  I accompanied him for the photo-op; no snorkeling for this gal!

Very chic!
celebrity provides a handy bag to carry beach towels and snorkeling equipment.

By the way, during this cruise, we’re expecting the air temps to range from a low of 66F (19C) after sundown to a high of 80F (25.5C) during the day; +/- either way, of course.  The cooler and less humid conditions is one of the reasons why we chose to come to the islands in July.

With the snorkeling gear returned to the cabin, we grabbed our cameras and headed to the bow on Deck 6 for the afternoon’s planned circumnavigation of the Daphnes.  As it turns out, we didn’t do a full turn around the islands, but sort of sailed by.

Daphne Mayor (left) and Daphne Menor are both popular with scientists
studying the unique qualities of the Galápagos Finches.

There was narration of sorts, but the conversations of the passengers drowned it out, so I didn’t hear much of it.  Instead, I resorted to asking questions of the naturalists who circulated amongst us.

(Photo to the right was taken by one of those naturalists; each cabin received a CD collection of the pictures taken by the naturalists during the cruise.)

Daphne Mayor (Major) is the younger of the two volcanic islands.  It’s a tuff crater, inside of which blue-footed boobies are said to nest.  Visitation to this island is highly restricted; only boats with 16 pax or less, and only once a month.  It is used primarily for scientific research.  (For those interested, there’s a Pulitzer prize winning book, The Beak of the Finch, which documents a 20-year study undertaken by Peter and Rosemary Grant.)

Half of Two to Travel in front of Daphne Menor

… and the other half in front of Daphne Mayor.

Thinking back, I’m not sure how I really feel about this afternoon.  Yes, there were hundreds of frigatebirds gliding above us and photo-ops abounded.  On the other hand, we were too far to see — I mean really see — the Nazca and blue-footed boobies nesting on the islands, or the red-billed tropicbirds flying in the distance.  After the excitement of getting here, staying aboard instead of doing a landing was a bit of a letdown.  Not that I let that influence my shutter-finger.  I was out there with everyone else, taking pictures left and right, my camera sounding like a machine gun at times.

Magnificent Frigatebirds following the Xpedition.

The Red-billed Tropicbird looks like a really long tailed tern.
It’s the only one of its species found in the Galápagos Islands.

Of the five species of frigatebird, only two are found in the Galápagos Islands — the magnificent and the great.  They are not easy to distinguish from one another unless one can see the scapular feathers.  Today, however, figuring out which of the two species we were seeing was actually easy.  According to the naturalists, only one is a ship-follower — the magnificent frigatebird (fregata magnificens), aka the Man O’ War.  The birds mostly glided above us, occasionally perching on a high-point on the ship, but we did see a few instances where one or two of them stole food from another bird in flight.  In fact, it’s this pirate-like behavior of stealing that has garnered them their name.

By the way, to give you a sense of the size of these birds — they have a wingspan of 7 feet (2+ m).

these two male magnificent frigatebirds would make good bookends.

The white head identifies the birds above and below as juvenile magnificent frigatebirds.

The black head, blue eye ring, and white chest identifies this Magnificent frigatebird as female.

The magnificent frigatebird on the right is a male (identified by that tiny bit of red at its throat);
the one on the left I believe is a juvenile male coming into its adult plumage.

it takes 4-6 years for Juvenile Magnificent Frigatebirds to develop their adult plumage.
both of these are males.

Sorry about the clipped wings; sometimes the birds come too close, too quick :-)
These are both male magnificent frigatebirds.  According to my buddy MBZ — fitness? diet?? … different conditions can impact color of the gular pouch.
[Click here if interested in more detail.]

There’s no mistaking these two (above and below) as anything but adult male
Magnificent Frigatebirds; it’s all about that bright red gular pouch.

I think we were all a little disappointed that none of the males inflated their gular pouches, but there weren’t that many female frigatebirds around, so perhaps that’s why.  We’ve been assured, however, that we will see plenty of inflated gular pouches when we visit one of the nesting sites later in the cruise.

We waited for a brilliant sunset when the sun went down around 7:00p.  No luck today; we’ll keep our fingers crossed for the coming days.

At 7:30p, we joined our shipmates for the briefing and the captain’s welcome aboard cocktail.  The briefing was very short, and provided basic information about what kind of landings to expect — wet or dry, the terrain and suggested footwear, and the fauna and flora we might see.  Everyone on the ship is very careful about using the word “possible” when they talk about wildlife sightings.  I suppose it’s possible that newbies to this kind of cruising might not have gotten the memo that wildlife is just that — wild, and may or may not show themselves.

For dinner, we were joined by a couple from Toronto, Scott and Cindy, and enjoyed their company.  The food was good, but the conversation was better.

Our selections from the Day 1 Menu.

It was almost 10:00p when we finally returned to the cabin.  We were too tired to go out to do any stargazing, so we’ll have to plan that for another night.

With two landings, tomorrow promises to be more like the expedition sailing we’ve been expecting.


  1. With inflated pouches, not so sure those Mag-Frigs would be very air-worthy.
    Betcha you energizer bunnies were amongst the few wishing for a shore excursion on that first afternoon. We were exhausted and quite content to just hang and look around.
    Mui! Take those pants off you silly. Or maybe not. An extra layer to prevent serious shrinkage in that ice water? ;)))

    1. The frigates seem to do pretty well flying with their pouches in display mode. But I won't say more as that would give the future away :-)))

  2. Eniştem emekli olunca fotomodelliğe başlasın...yakışır yani. ;)

  3. [re-posted fm CC]
    Great pictures! I was eyeing that huge lens you have. Did you use that a lot? We're trying to decide what to take. Thanks.

    1. Thanks. Yes, I used that lens almost exclusively -- the 70-200 mm reach was sometimes just a little too short, so I often used it with a 2x extender. Yes, the birds can be close, but I was glad to have the reach of this lens so I could capture photographs from a distance, without stalking the wildlife (as I unfortunately saw happen a few too many times).

  4. [re-posted fm CC]
    I have been following your blog and these boards since I booked this trip. Enjoying the pictures and commentary. Looking forward to the rest.

  5. My favorite, favorite photo is the second to the last one above the menu shot. It somehow captures something so mystical about this journey.