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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Galapagos Islands: Cormorant Pointe & The Galapagos Green Turtle

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CORMORANT POINT ON FLOREANA ISLAND

Today we took our zodiacs bright and early to Cormorant Pointe.

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VIEW OF CORMORANT BAY AND OUR BOAT

We took a short walk on an easy trial, thank the lord for that my little legs needed a break. I even gave up the big lens for a while and let Mr. Rogue take its weight off my hands for a bit.

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We passed a brackish pond where I was hoping to spot a few of the water birds but it was hot and no one was home.

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MR. ROGUE AND I ON THE DECK OVERLOOKING THE BRACKISH POND

After about a mile we finally ended up at our destination, a small secluded beach.

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THIS ISN’T JUST ANY BEACH

We were warned to be very careful about where we walk because this was a very special beach… a known nesting site for the Galapagos Green Turtle.

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OUR GROUP ON THE BEACH

Notice the deeper depressions to the right in the photo above, those are nests that the turtles have dug. Their babies should be hatching March-April. Further along down the beach we found our first turtle tire tracks, a path in the sand of a recent egg laying turtle. Our guide said the tracks were fresh from the past 48 hours.

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GALAPAGOS GREEN TURTLE TRACKS

Now that we were going to hang out at the beach for a while and were done walking I took back the big lens because we spotted the turtles in the water.

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GALAPAGOS GREEN TURTLES ON THE MOVE, LOOK AT THOSE TEETH

While we were oohing and ahhing over seeing a turtle our guide was spinning off facts. This turtle is the only population of green sea turtle to nest on the beaches of the Galapagos Islands and can grow to weigh 500lbs. Research on sea turtles has been difficult. Their constant migration and submergence underwater most of the research has been from tagging experiments.

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BUT THEN THERE WERE TOO, IT’S A MATING PAIR

The Galapagos Green Turtle, along with all other green sea turtles, are on the red list of threatened species. Most of their decline is due to humans. In the past we have eaten the meat (green turtle soup was once very popular) and eggs, used the hides and accidental deaths in fishermen’s nets. Now they are heavily protected yet all populations are still suffering massive decreases despite extensive conservation efforts. This is mostly due to their breeding. The Galapagos Green Turtle’s lifespan averages around 50 years of age but they have a slow rate of sexual maturity; not until about 33 years.

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USUALLY THE TURTLES ONLY COME UP FOR A MOMENT, NOT LONG ENOUGH TO GET A GOOD SHOT USUALLY

They come to the Galapagos to nest and only the females come to the shore to lay their eggs on the same shore where they were born. Males spend the majority of their lives submerged. Mating occurs near nesting sites and we were lucky enough to get to see several pairs mating on our trip ashore.

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AFTER A FEW MINUTES IT WAS OVER

After the turtles took off I directed my attention the hundreds of Sally Light Footed Crabs. They are pretty much the only wildlife that run away from people. The crabs do in fact have a reason to run away, they are hunted by many of the shorebirds.

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SALLY LIGHT FOOTED CRAB WITH ITS BRILLIANT COLORS STICKS OUT AGAINST THE BLACK LAVA ROCK

They typically live along the sea shore and get their name from their ability to scurry across the rocks quickly. They are also the only crab that can walk in all four directions. They are beautiful with clear brilliant colors, red and blue and warm browns.

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The sally light footed crab is not born with such rainbow colors. Instead they are born a very pale tan, it is almost impossible to see one them they are so tiny and blend in so well.

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SEE THE ITTY BITTY BABY SALLY LIGHT FOOTED CRAB

As they grow and become bigger and stronger their color changes from the pale tan of the sand to a dark black of the coasts lava rocks. It is only after they become fully grown adults when they graduate into their brilliant red color.

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A BLACK JUVENILE SALLY LIGHT FOOTED CRAB WITH AN RED ADULT BEHIND

Twice a year the sally light footed crab molts. To change its shell it emits a special saliva which makes its current shell soft. After the shell is left behind the crabs under shell hardens. This leaves the crab super vulnerable for a few days. They usually practice this molting process at night however we were lucky enough to spot one molting during the day. The naturalist said it was the first time they had ever seen this behavior in the wild.

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SALLY LIGHT FOOTED CRAB MOLTING

Along the path in some areas there are collections of bones or shells that the naturalist will stop at. They are normally placed on the ground or rocks and it acts as a mini classroom for us tourists. We stopped at one where there was a few skeletons of the spiny lobster. These lobsters, which we do eat, are fished lightly in the Galapagos Islands. Fishermen are strictly monitored and permits are difficult to obtain.

Spiny lobsters have been around a long time but no one knew exactly how long until a discovery in 1995 of a 110 million year old fossil in Mexico.

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THE SPINY LOBSTERS SKELETON

Later down the path I heard some rustling in the leaves. There were a few hermit crabs rustling around another. I couldn’t exactly figure out what they were doing but the lighting was great for a photo opp.

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As we were standing on the beach waiting for our zodiac to take us back to the boat, our long hike over for the day, the sun started to set on the bay and the soft pink light beamed above the clouds. Dawn and dusk are my favorite times of the day. The light is just so beautiful and soft.

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1 comment:

lilmansworld said...

33 year old virgins huh? shut the front door on those awesome turtles!

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