Santiago Bejarano is the co-founder of Think Galapagos. He is also a photographer and one of the top naturalist guides in Galapagos. Santiago personally accompanies all of our small group trips and usually spends the month of May in the Galapagos with consecutive trips of Think Galapagos guests. Here he explains why May is one of his favourite months in the Galapagos Islands.
“May is one of the best times to visit the Galapagos Islands as it marks the transition between the warm and cold sea currents as the colder Humboldt Current from the south starts to influence the waters around the Galapagos Islands. This brings nutrient rich waters to the Galapagos and an explosion of food for the wildlife. This triggers the nesting season amongst both the seabirds and land based birds creating a noisy and colourful soap opera of courtship displays.”
1. Great Frigatebirds nesting on Genovesa Island
These incredible seabirds are one of the iconic creatures of the Galapagos. During the breeding season, males show off by puffing out their bright red gular sacs, giving them a bright red balloon shape on their chests. As females fly overhead, the males waggle their heads from side to side, shake their wings and call out to attract attention. These colourful mating displays amongst the bushes and trees are an incredible sight and are incredibly photogenic! As you can see from the photo, visitors can get quite close to the birds to take the perfect shot.
Great Frigatebirds nest all over the Galapagos can be seen in the largest numbers on Genovesa Island (Tower). Once the females have chosen a mate, the pair will stay together to build a nest then look after the single egg until it hatches into a helpless chick.
2. Waved Albatross courtship on Española Island
The Waved Albatross, also known as the Galapagos Albatross breeds primarily on the Island of Española with over 30,000 birds making this their breeding ground. These are fairly shy birds and their courtship ritual is rare to see, however those lucky enough to see it witness a spectacular sight. It is like a slow dance where the male and female stand opposite each other, circle and clack their bills, bow and then lift their heads to make a very distinctive ‘woo woo’ sound.
When the eggs hatch, the chicks stay together in nurseries while their parents fly off to sea in search of food. Their parents are model parents, remaining mates until one of them dies.
3. Lovely daytime temperatures and warm seas to snorkel in
May is the changeover month between the rainy season – which ironically is the sunniest season in the Islands – and the dry season which runs from June to December. It usually rains for a short time at least once a day but the rest of the time it’s warm and sunny. Due to the influence of the Southern Trade winds creating a lovely breeze, the more intense heat of the previous months diminishes, making it the perfect temperature for exploring. In May you have the added advantage that the sea is nice and warm too, perfect for snorkelling or diving. From June onwards the sea cools as the Humboldt Current starts to make its presence felt.
4. Green Sea turtle hatchlings
May is at the end of the Galapagos green sea turtle nesting season and most eggs have been laid in the sand. We sometimes see the first hatchlings emerge this month on the few sandy beaches of the Galapagos. Most hatchlings emerge under cover of darkness to avoid predators but they can be occasionally be spotted seen in the late afternoon as they leave the nest and head straight to the sea to start feeding. This is a heart-warming sight for those lucky enough to witness it. Once they reach the water, the turtles will remain at sea for many years until they mature into adults; this makes the sighting of them before they disappear even more special.
5. Galapagos Finch chicks
The Galapagos finches are the most famous land birds in the Galapagos, due to the role they played in Darwin’s theory of evolution. The thirteen slightly different species are easy to spot on each island, although it takes a trained eye to tell them apart. May is the month when the chicks hatch and start to be visible. Although the birds are dull coloured and not the most exciting to look at, they are very noisy and curious and of course play a huge role in natural history!
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