It’s a fantastic place, or was when I was there so many decades ago (before many of the current restrictions on movement were in place…which is not to say they are not needed…they are, but I did enjoy great freedom of movement).  I subsequently illustrated the first bird guide to the Galapagos (in print for 25 years…the only bird book I ever illustrated that made me royalties, yet done long before I was very good as an artist, even assuming I am now).


I can remember so many experiences…standing on the deck of a 21 foot sloop at night as great wheels of phosphorescent marine organisms swirled at my feet, and the Southern Cross glowed sharply amid the incredible display of dense starfields overhead, the Marine Iguanas thermoregulating half in sunlight, half in the shade of a shed at the research station where I stayed, the Land Iguana who came up to me each morning to see if I might drop a bit of banana his way; the endemic Large-billed Flycatcher who braced his feet against my forehead so he could tug at my hair for nesting material; the great Manta Rays leaping in improbable, gigantic grace; the penguins perched on a small red lava rock that was a degree north of the equator; the kilometre after kilometre of incredible rock filigrees soaring so high into the frigatebird-punctured cerulean above on fantastic seacliffs; my decision as I burned shot after shot of film in those pre-digital days, that the Swallow-tailed Gull was surely the most beautiful of all gulls; the Lava Gull who came on board to share our meal; the sealions, so curious and unafraid; the Lava Heron pulling one end of a small, dead moray eel while a scarlet and blue sally-lightfoot crab tugged the other, both ignoring me; the Yellow-crowned Night Heron calmly strolling up a red sand beach where there were great scattered lumps that, in fact, were basking sealions;.   My first ever wild flamingos…oh the memories. 


I recall once separating from the rest of my party…three people only…to go to an empty beach on an uninhabited island and sit on a stone, facing the sea, no sign of human activity anywhere…not even a jet contrail in the sky, and no sound of human origin.   Flies were attracted to me as fresh water was too precious for bathing, and some lava lizards attracted to the flies, ignoring me, began to challenge each other, using my anatomy as reference points as to how close one could come to the territory of the other.  My feet were braced on a facing rock.  Suddenly a Wandering Tattler landed on the same rock, centimeters from my toes.   This was a migrant, not a local species, and yet fearlessly calm, as if the magic of the place had assured him that, as seemed to be assumed by the lizards, I was part of the landscape. 


My first sighting of a Galapagos Mockingbird was the one who tugged at my shoelaces, on the morning I awoke after arriving in the dark, the day before.  Identifying the finches can be tricky, even if they are sitting on the palm of your hand like a chickadee in my garden.   The cone of Daphne Island, surely a fit backdrop for the wonderful tropicbirds above, the flying fish below.  


A pilgrimage, indeed, and I’m glad my interest in nature extends beyond just accumulating large numbers of species seen.  I did some mainland birding, and wish I could do more.  To me it is not an either/or thing, and the rich diversity of tropical jungle is wondrous to behold.  So were the bleak, dark shores of Labrador, or the silent tan expanse of Kalhari Desert…the richness of the world inherent to its natural wonders of all kinds.  





Barry Kent MacKay

Bird Artist, Illustrator

Studio: (905)-472-9731
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From: SciArt-L Discussion List-for Natural Science Illustration- [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Carolyn Smith
Sent: November-11-14 10:29 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: [SCIART] Galapagos Island trip


I'm a birder too, and I visited the Galapagos in April and thought it was spectacular. It's true that the total number of species is low compared to other places (on land and in the air, that is - marine life is another story), but the quality of animal sitings is amazing, in part because most of the wildlife has very little fear of people. The islands are so wild and beautiful, and they vary so much - some really lush, some desert-like and covered in cactus trees, some recent black volcanic stone. I can't imagine that there are many wildlife artists or photographers who wouldn't love it there. If I get to go back (I certainly want to!) I would LOVE to go with a group of illustrators.



On Tue, Nov 11, 2014 at 9:59 AM, Linda Feltner <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

I don't think it's called strictly a birding tour. 

I'm a hard-core birder, and I've birded in mainland Ecuador, and yes it's a stupendous place to bird. But the Galapagos can be a pilgrimage for some. I would LOVE to go. To walk the ground, smell the vegetation and warm rocks, taste the salt sea air. I'd cherish the experience of watching swimming iguanas, examine those moving boulders with large legs and incredible faces. It's an experience, made unique by it's history. Yes it's hard to get there if you don't like boats, and yes tourism is prevelant. But I'd LOVE to go despite the lack of bird diversity. There are four days "exploring" (birding if you will) in the interior. Having been a birding tour leader, and co-owner of a birding tour company, sounds like an all around package. Not strictly birds. 






Linda M. Feltner Artist, LLC
P.O. Box 325
Hereford, AZ 85615
(520) 803-0538







On Nov 10, 2014, at 7:22 PM, Bruce Bartrug wrote:

 why go to the islands where there's a handful of sea birds and a few finches.  


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Carolyn K. Smith

Wildlife Art and Scientific Illustration


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