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Isla Isabel ~ Escape To Paradise for Birds and Birders.

I am trying to catch up on a few places we have visited but about which I have not written.  We actually visited Isla Isabel back in January!

Isabel is a small island of only 1.94 square kilometers and is host to a huge number of sea birds.  This uninhabited island was declared a national park in 1980 and in 2005 was added to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Isla Isabel is sometimes called the Galapagos of Mexico and Frank and I decided it was a must visit for us. So after our brief stay in Mazatlan, we pointed TTR south and slightly west for a quick 93 nm hop to Isabel.

                    Image taken from Pacific Mexico: A Cruiser’s Guide.

We left Mazatlan around 4 pm and the next morning we dropped the hook in the southern anchorage of Isabel. Approaching the island, we could see many birds riding the wind drafts and once closer we could see many others roosting on the nearby rocks.

In 1975, Isla Isabel was featured in a Jacques Cousteau documentary called The Sea Birds of Isabela, and after visiting, we understand that title completely!

The birds were everywhere and the trees were dense and lush.

The wildlife on Isabel has been free of human aggression and as a result was completely unfazed by our presence.  In fact, we were able to get so close to the birds that I could have easily touched several of them while they were sitting on their nests.

There is no zoom or adjustment to this photo – this is how close we were to the birds!

There are several loosely marked paths on Isla Isabel and I think we managed to walk all of them.  It felt a bit like walking into Jurasic Park as we ducked below and squeezed by branches.  The birds continued to call to one another as we traversed, but not in an agitated or warning voice, more like normal bird calls.  Similar to the fact that the birds just looked at us as we passed by rather than flying away, the tenor of their calls made it seem like they were not the least bothered or concerned by our presence.

Frigate with a protective claw on her chic.
A close up of one of the babies.

Neither of us are “birders” but we enjoyed seeing the frigate birds and hearing some of the males beat upon their inflated pouches as they tried to entice a mate. Several years ago we took a frigate bird tour on the island of Barbuda and the frigates were in full mating mode during that tour!

That inflated gular pouch doesn’t look comfortable.

At Isabel we caught the very end of the season and saw only a few males with inflated gular pouches. Hopefully they were eventually successful!

The blue footed booby is truly stunning.

The boobies were our favorite birds, specifically the blue footed ones.  Isla Isabel is host to blue, brown and red footed boobies. The color of boobies’ feet and the intensity of the color is dependent upon the diet of the birds. 

Several of the boobies had eggs with them as you can see in this photo.

We only saw blue and brown boobies on Isla Isabel and we noticed that the blue boobies sort of ‘displayed’ their feet when they walk. 

Frank having a chat with two boobies.

Turns out, the more blue the feet are, the more attractive the bird is considered to be. 

The male boobies are smaller than the females.

Boobies are also known to “skypoint” to attract females.  Skypointing means that while flying, the male throws his head back and points his beak to the sky. 

Come on ladies, you know that is totally sexy!?!

Brown boobies are similarly shaped but colored very differently than blues.

We also saw some brown booby birds and while their feet weren’t as pretty as the blue footed boobies, their dark fur was interesting because it really showed the outline of the feathers against the bird’s head.

Birds were not the only interesting aspect of Isabel.

This section looked a bit like a meadow compared to the dense trees with frigate birds.

As we walked we saw a variety of fauna, iguanas, an interior pond and shores that were sometimes high and grass covered and other times shallow with ocean refreshed tide pools.

This lake is within the island itself.
We kept our shoes on while exploring here as the rocks were sharp.

Although Isla Isabel is basically uninhabited, there is a good deal of activity. We saw two boats bring a photography class to Isabel where the students spent the nights in tents and during the day wandered the island honing their photo skills.

The birds were constantly looking for handouts from the shrimpers.

We also saw a couple of shrimping boats out working their nets and later they anchored nearby for a much needed rest.

                       Walking along the coast we even saw whale spouts in the distance.

We found Isla Isabel to be a fabulous immersion into nature after being in the large, busy city of Mazatlan. We spent four nights at the island and wished we could have stayed longer.

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