There are usually a ton of all kinds of birds on Genovesa Island. You can see them walking on the ground and also flying around in the sky. There is however, a particular kind of bird that we try to spot every time we go and visit Genovesa on our Northern Islands itinerary aboard the Santa Cruz II Galapagos cruise. Alas, given its nature and plumage, we are not always successful in spotting the elusive and beautiful Galapagos owl.
Landing in Owl Town: Genovesa Island in Galapagos
We get to Genovesa pretty early in the morning after a long journey across a substantial portion of the archipelago. By the Santa Cruz II has reached its anchor point, most of our guests are waking up and getting ready for breakfast. We have to start this excursion particularly early to avoid the sun, as it is quite a long walk as we cross the island from one side to the other. To make matters slightly less comfortable, the middle of the island barely receives any coastal breeze to cool you off. The early human gets the bird, in this case.
The visit begins after a short panga ride that drops us off at Prince Phillip steps. These so-called “steps” are actually rather steep and sometimes tricky to climb. As a matter of fact, it’s more like rock climbing than walking up a series of steps. Luckily, it’s only a short distance from the bottom to the top where our guests are always rewarded with a wide open space that’s usually inhabited by a big group of Nazca boobies.
Once on top of the island, the trail is clearly marked and easy to follow. At the beginning, it is an easy walk consisting of nice and leveled terrain (for the most part) that cuts right through the middle of a Palo Santo tree forest. Up in the Palo Santo trees you can see the famous red-footed booby nesting and, if you are lucky, you might even be able to spot a white-feathered red-footed booby.
Along the sides of the trail you can also see curious Nazca boobies that are intrigued by the presence of humans and eager to get close to us in order to get a better look at our “strange” appearance.
This is, of course, the perfect opportunity to take amazing pictures of some really cool-looking birds. Finally, at the end of the trail, you will get to a wide open space that is decorated with a chocolate-brown lava terrain and a very special cacti that’s often surrounded by all sorts of birds.
Across this predominately brown-ground sits our challenge for the day: spot a short-eared owl which happens to have the exact same color scheme of the ground on its own feathers! Incredibly well-camouflaged, this special Galapagos bird can literally hide in plain sight. This time, however, we were lucky enough to see not one but three owls in different spots and somewhat close to the trail! We got to see one just standing over the floor, minding his own business as another one moved towards a crack in the rocks, perhaps its personal hiding spot.
By far the most spectacular one was not far from us and gave us enough time to get our cameras ready before taking off. It was amazing to see this bird flying and almost immediately blending in again with the background. Words and even the pictures in this blog can barely do it any justice, you truly have to experience it with your own senses!