Rábida Island is a small island near the center of the Galápagos archipelago. The sand on its beaches and the soil elsewhere are red due to the high iron content of this particular island’s volcano. The contrast between blue sea and sky, red soil, and white palo santo trees was stunning. We tasted wild tomatoes and hiked up to a beautiful viewpoint. This was one of my favorite sites.
As soon as we arrived, I was mesmerized by the red sand, which glittered in the morning sun. Mockingbirds wandered along the shoreline and sea lions rested on the sand. Although Darwin’s finches get all the glory now, it was the mockingbirds that caught his attention while he was actually visiting the islands. On Rábida, I took a few of my favorite photos of the trip, including this mockingbird.
A very short walk to the interior of the island brought perhaps an even more amazing sight: a brackish lagoon, alive with a flock of flamingos and two flamingo nests. In one nest, a flamingo guarded an egg; in the other, a flamingo chick rested under its mom. These are the same species of flamingo found in Mexico and the Caribbean. They are not endemic to the Galápagos, but are native to the islands.
Kathy, who has been a naturalist in the Galápagos for over 30 years, told us that she hadn’t seen flamingos nesting in this lagoon since very early in her career. Years ago, rats brought by ships chased the flamingos off of Rábida. Eradication efforts over the past decade have been successful, and native species are returning, including the flamingos. In fact, I just saw this success story written up in the news. Keeping the Galápagos wild (and restoring habitats when needed) is an ongoing effort. The government had to rid Rábida (and other islands) of goats as well, since they can quickly destroy the ecosystem.
We were all excited to watch the baby flamingo, all fluffy and white, when it began to toddle around in its nest on its long, gangly legs. The nests are interesting in themselves; they’re volcano-shaped and made of mud, built by mom and dad using their bills to mold the mud into shape.
That same day, we spent the late afternoon at Cerro Dragon (Dragon Hill) on nearby Santa Cruz Island. As the late afternoon sun began to set, we watched several flamingos filter-feeding in another picturesque lagoon. It felt like a pretty special day.