Readers’ wildlife photos

Thanks to all for sending in photos, and remember that I’m always looking for good new ones. The first one today, sent by reader Hempenstein, shows a brown inchworm from Vermont, the larva of a geometrid moth. The resemblance to a twig is stunning:

Perhaps Lou Jost in Ecuador can help with this one, but if you know the insect, please respond in the comments below.

Reader John Conoboy sent some photos from a Galápagos trip. His notes are indented:

These are from a trip we took to the Galapagos in 2012. Unlike many Galapagos visitors we did not take a cruise, as I get seasick easily unless I am able to be outside in the fresh air where I can see the horizon. If I go below deck and the is enough movement, I get sick. We took a land-based trip through a New Zealand company called Active Adventures. Our guides and contacts were actually all from a Galapagos based company called Galakiwi, run by New Zealand ex pats. Our naturalist guide was superb. His name was Pablo and he was a big Darwin fan, so how could I not like him. I have read that the Seventh Day Adventists are working hard to convert people in the Galapagos and that it is possible to find guides there who are creationists. The downside of the trip was that we only got to the four islands that had settlements.

The Galapagos tortoise (Chelonoidis sp.) picture was taken at the Charles Darwin Research Station on Santa Cruz Island. I did not take good notes, so I think this is either Lonesome George, who we saw shortly before he died, or, more likely, Super Diego who has had much more breeding success than George, thus his name. I tried comparing this photo to some online photos of George and Diego but didn’t have much luck.

We spent a couple of nights on Floreana Island, which has a fascinating human history, fewer tourists, and, of course, interesting wildlife. I include two photos from the island. We saw couple of endemic Lava Herons (Butorides sundevalli) who posed nicely on a cactus (Opuntia sp.).

 Marine Iguanas (Amblyrhynchus cristatus)  are, I have read, black when young and more colorful as adults as this one on Floreana. I know there are a number of subspecies of iguana, but don’t know which this is. For anyone who is interested in Galapagos history, there is a fascinating documentary called “Galapagos Affair: Satan Came to Eden” It is a murder mystery involving the first European settlers, a German doctor (Ritter) and his mistress, the Wittmer family who moved there after reading Ritter’s writings about the island, and finally a self-styled baroness and her two lovers. It may still be available on Netflix.  The hotel we stayed at on the island is owned by the Wittmer descendants.

We took a hike to a cove on San Cristobal where people and endemic Galapagos sea lions (Zalophus wollebaeki) were enjoying a lovely beach together. This little sea lion was so cute and he posed nicely for a portrait.

It is easy to resist the sophomoric “I Love Boobies” t-shirts that are sold in all the gift stores. The real birds are much more appealing. My attention was on a couple of Nazca boobies (Sula granti) and did not immediately notice the blue footed booby (Sula nebouxii) on the right. This was taken at Kicker Rock, a very popular snorkeling site.

Lava lizards (Microlophus sp.) are everywhere. Here is one earning his name on San Cristobal Island, which would probably make him Microlophus bivattatus.

The sea lions love the harbor on San Cristobal and are found lying around on the piers, beaches, and even most of the benches near the water. The problem, of course, is that you have to be exceedingly careful about not stepping in sea lion poop, as I learned when walking on the beach while concentrating on taking photos.


  1. Tom Esslinger
    Posted August 16, 2017 at 7:56 am | Permalink

    The iguana in the picture looks like a land iguana to me. After two trips to the Galapagos, and seeing many hundreds of ocean iguanas of all sizes, I’ve never seen one that wasn’t dark gray. Probably to simulate the gray lava rock. Possibly there are other colored iguanas on islands I didn’t visit.

    • John Conoboy
      Posted August 16, 2017 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

      Definitely a marine iguana as there are no land iguanas on Floreana. This was right along the edge of the water. Land iguanas like dry lowlands and we did not see any in the wild. One species is found on six islands and another species is found only on Santa Fe Island. We saw one at the Darwin Research Station. Most of the marine iguanas we saw elsewhere were dark and they were also smaller than this guy in the picture.

  2. Posted August 16, 2017 at 8:05 am | Permalink

    Excellent photos. A trip to the Galapagos would be a dream vacation, as far as I am concerned.

    I could not ID the caterpillar, except that it is obviously in the family Geometridae.

    • Posted August 16, 2017 at 10:18 am | Permalink

      That’s all I can tell you as well….

  3. Hempenstein
    Posted August 16, 2017 at 8:52 am | Permalink

    Hold off on the caterpillar part – a big edit coming.

    • Hempenstein
      Posted August 16, 2017 at 8:54 am | Permalink

      OK, I see you’re on it. You can delete this comment & reply.

  4. darrelle
    Posted August 16, 2017 at 9:23 am | Permalink

    I’m with Mark. A Galapagos trip would be a dream vacation. That Lava Heron is very similar to the Green Heron (Butorides virescens) we have around my parts.

    That inch worm is fascinating.

  5. Hempenstein
    Posted August 16, 2017 at 10:00 am | Permalink

    (The twigs themselves are American Chestnut.)

    • Posted August 16, 2017 at 10:29 am | Permalink

      The tree the caterpillar is on seems to be part of the exciting breeding program to make the nearly-extinct American chestnut resistant to the invasive fungal disease that has wiped out nearly all adult American Chestnut trees in the US. This was once an iconic tree in US forests, now completely gone except for young saplings which die as they get older.

      • Hempenstein
        Posted August 17, 2017 at 9:19 pm | Permalink

        Indeed it is! I don’t know the pedigree of this one, but it’s likely a nominally 15/16 American specimen.

  6. Karen Bartelt
    Posted August 16, 2017 at 10:36 am | Permalink

    Great Galapagos photos; always a joy to see these unique animals. I don’t think your tortoise is either Diego or George, as both of them are/were saddlebacks, and the photo you have is a domed tortoise. But who cares – they are all wonderful.

    • John Conoboy
      Posted August 16, 2017 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

      I think you are right. Mea culpa.

  7. rickflick
    Posted August 16, 2017 at 10:59 am | Permalink

    Great pictures today. Galapagos shots remind me of my own trip 10 years ago.

    I can’t move on without noting how cleverly disguised that inch worm is!

  8. Heather Hastie
    Posted August 16, 2017 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

    Fantastic pics all ’round!

    That sea lion pup is lovely.

  9. Mark R.
    Posted August 16, 2017 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

    When roasting and eating unidentified insects, do you first taste a little bit to see if it’s edible/not poisonous? Did you use any seasoning? The only insects I’ve eaten were crickets in a taco. Not bad at all; actually all the other ingredients drowned out the mild, salty, crunchy crickets.

    Galapagos photos are always a welcome treat. I’m surprised how bright the lava lizard is; it doesn’t blend in with its namesake at all. Obviously, it doesn’t need to since you said their presence was ubiquitous.

    The heron was new to me and quite stunning.

  10. Posted September 23, 2017 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    The inchworm is great! Sorry for the chestnut.

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