Birdland, Isla Isabel

Coming up to Isla Isabel. The big rocks on the right are called the Monas. We anchored to the left of the sailboat that is almost visible in the center of the island.

We almost skipped Isla Isabel this time. We estimated the passage time from Mazatlan to Isabel so that we’d arrive there just after daybreak. What we didn’t include in our time estimate was that winds near Mazatlan were getting us sailing speeds of around 7 knots for most of the afternoon rather than the 5 that we’d used to calculate the time. At the faster speed, we’d arrive at 3 am. The question became: do we continue on to Banderas Bay so we don’t have to anchor in the dark? Luckily, the wind decided to drop in the middle of the night and we ghosted up to Isabel at daylight. There was one other boat anchored on the east side of the island, Perspective, who we’d met in Pichelingue. Two more sailboats were anchored in the south anchorage off the fish camp. Our anchor down, we heard from Perspective on the radio. Were we up for a hike? Of course.

Isla Isabel is called the Galapagos of Mexico. The diving is excellent and often has ecotours staying at the old research station. There are iguanas endemic to the island. It’s also a protected habitat for blue footed boobies and magnificent frigate birds. When we were here last year, it was courtship season. This year, since we got here later, there were babies! We walked past nests right off the side of the path. The birds don’t get up as you go by, they just clack their beaks at you. At one point we saw a Blue Footed Booby courtship dance. It was very stately. The male would raise one blue foot and then the other, all while his tail feathers were erect. The female mostly ignored him and then would give him a nip. He kept up his dance, and then gave her a twig. We aren’t sure why, as their nests are a clean hollow in the dirt.

We hiked up to the top of the hill on the west side of the island. In the foreground on the left is the old research station with the fish camp on the beach. The trees by the research station are full of Frigate Bird nests. Most of the Blue Footed Booby nests were on the other side of the far hill. There were also booby nests at the top of the hill. The Monas are in the background. Birds are everywhere.

There are literally thousands of birds on Isabel. Frigate Birds build their nests in trees, Blue Footed Boobies on the ground in the dirt. The Booby nests are very clean and very exposed. Sometimes their nests are right under the Frigate Birds. The Frigates tend to leave the boobies alone until there is food, and then they turn into dive bombing bullies.

Bill snorkeled around the boat to check on the bottom. What he didn’t tell Nina was that he had the dinghy kill cord in his pocket. She saw something red float by and thought it was a hot sauce bottle or something. By the time Bill realized it was gone, it had been half an hour. We got in the dinghy and rowed in the general direction the red thing had drifted and managed to spot it with the binoculars. We got to it just before it floated into the rocks on shore. We can use the dinghy motor again! Lesson learned: if you see something, say something.

A Brown Pelican on one of the Monas.

We ended up spending about three days at Isabel, a truly amazing place.

9 thoughts on “Birdland, Isla Isabel”

  1. Love your blog!!!! We adore the birds of Mexico and I am really enjoying learning more about them. Those frigates, pelicans and boobies are our favorites! Buenas Noches! Lisa


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