Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Harley Dec 17-21

Harley gave us a scare - the Monday data download showed that histransmitter was not moving since Friday afternoon and was losing power overthe weekend, indicating that it was either off of Harley or that Harley was in a position that his backpack was not receiving any light (solar powered battery) and not moving. Our fears - Backpack could be off (loss of project data, but Harley okay)- Harley injured or ill (or even dead) - lead poisoning known to be a problem in that part of Arkansas. Since Harley arrived in Arkansas, we have established a good relationshipwith colleagues down there - they were very quick to offer assistance as soon as there was an indication of trouble. Wednesday's data download showed the battery recharged, operational and moving around in the area that Harley has been in - all appears good! Wethink that the battery just got weak (not receiving enough light) and unable to send data, but was still data-logging. Of course, we will continue to keep a close eye on things and are very grateful to our Arkansas colleagues for their willingness to help.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Galapagos Journal Entry #9

During my November trip to Galapagos, I was able to spend four days on the island of Rabida with six of my colleagues. Of the islands being targeted for rodent eradication this year, Rabida is the largest (500 hectares). It has gorgeous red sand beaches, gregarious sea lions and hawks. After an early morning and long day of hiking the island and working with the hawks, it was wonderful to be able to get in a quick swim. While the water was quite cold (felt good on my tired muscles!), the snorkeling was amazing. The diversity of marine life in this area was much greater than other areas where I snorkeled (likely a result of more regulated fishing in area??)

Our work on Rabida was focused on developing a plan for the eventual capture of the hawks. We first identified the hawks, noting age and sex, number of birds in each territory and expanse of territory. There are eight hawks on Rabida, occupying three territories. Through careful observation and lots of photographs, we were able to identify each bird individually. And then the fun began. We chose ideal sites for trapping in each territory and began accustoming the hawks to those sites by providing access to food. The lack of fear that is so characteristic of animals in Galapagos was on full view with the hawks. They would come right up to us, hopping on the sticks we were using and watching everything we did. At one point, we were working with a hawk on the beach, trying to explain our work to a tour group while avoiding a sea lion intent on chasing us. Only in Galapagos.

Will soon know how effective our work on Rabida was. I was amazed at how much we accomplished, but the truth will be in the results in January. Stay tuned!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Harley Still in Arkansas

Harley happily remains on his Ozark wintering area between Jasper and Parthenon, Arkansas.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Galapagos Journal Entry #8

Looks like I made it back to Minnesota just in time for the 5th largest snowstorm ever. Digging out has been an all-out effort for a few days, both at work and at home. The raptor housing at The Raptor Center has been totally inundated with snow – the birds are perched inside as the staff works to be sure their outdoor housing is safe. As we try to escape the bone-chilling cold that followed the storm, my mind leaps back to another part of the world where white snow is replaced by white sand. The sky is brilliant blue in both places, but the temperature difference is about 80ºF. No surprise that I am looking forward to returning to Galapagos to continue with our project there.

The schedule is being finalized for the project with hawk trapping due to begin after the holidays. In the meantime, I thought I would share some more images.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Harley December Travels

Harley remains near Parthenon, Arkansas where he has been since October 28. As has been his pattern, his hourly movements are pretty restricted to the river valley between Parthenon and Jasper

Friday, December 10, 2010

Raptor Center Patient on WCCO TV

On Thursday, Bill Hudson of WCCO-TV did a story on a Barred Owl, who is a patient at TRC.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Dr. Redig at MOU Paper Session Dec.4

On Saturday, December 4, Dr. Pat Redig, co-founder of TRC, spoke at the annual Paper Session for the Minnesota Ornithologists’ Union. It has become a part of the program to have an annual update on the peregrines in the Midwest, for which the Midwest Peregrine Society, headquartered at TRC, coordinates banding activities.

Some interesting information from this past season: Whitewater State Park is the last known historical nesting site of peregrines in Minnesota in 1962, before restoration efforts. In 2009 there was a pair of peregrines that nesting again there, and between last season and 2010, there have been seven young successfully fledged.

Over 400 birds were produced in the 2010 season, for the 13 Midwestern states and two Canadian provinces.

For more information on how MPS assisted in the recovery of the peregrine falcon, you can visit the website here. There is a searchable public database if you are interested in finding information on peregrines at a site in your area, or want to know the history on an individual bird by its band.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Galapagos Journal Entry #7

How quickly things can change! It has been a very busy 10 days, with the unexpected result of a significant delay in our project and a brief return home for me. Due to a growing number of complications and logistical challenges, the decision was made to postpone project implementation until January, allowing time to regroup and be sure that all components of the project (rodent eradication, hawk mitigation, and pre- and post-eradication survey work) are ready to go. The decision was not made lightly as there had been a significant amount of money and resources already invested to get things done in this calendar year. In addition, there were several experts/consultants (in addition to me) on-site and ready to go. While such a decision has significant ramifications, I totally agree that it was the prudent thing to do – it was important to step back and re-group.

My time in Galapagos, however, was not wasted. It was extremely helpful to see the situation and meet the people. We worked hard to tie up loose ends in the hawk mitigation plan, setting a stronger base for successful implementation. In addition, we spent several days in the field, observing and working with the hawks on Rabida Island. What a thrill it was to be able to have that time in the field. We were able to successfully accustom the birds to feeding around us at specific sites for eventual trapping.

After being there, I am more than ever convinced of the importance of this project, and have an increased awareness of the magnitude of what is being attempted. The project is being rescheduled for January and The Raptor Center will continue to be involved. I have many stories to tell (and more to come) – I look forward to continuing to share the journey with you. Some pictures here are of an adult female Galapagos Hawk; the bands on a sub-adult bird; one of the family groups I monitored, and a hawk near sea lions.

Thanks for all your well wishes and support!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Galapagos Journal Entry #6

Tuesday morning has again dawned grey, cloudy, foggy and misty – they call this garua, which refers to the fog or mist that hangs over the area during what is their dry season (July – Dec). No rain, just heavy mist/fog. Definitely not your image of sunny tropical paradise.

I finally met Francesca, the lead for the hawk mitigation team. She is just back from an exciting field trip to study Mangrove Finches. Her primary role for that project is to establish a second population area of the highly endangered Mangrove Finch. When they went back to their study area, they found a male. Not only was he established in the territory, but he was singing for a female (only happens during breeding season, which is beginning to get underway).

The team was very excited. I learned a lot about the challenges all of the finches are facing with an invasive botfly, Philornis downsi. The larvae of the botfly parasitizes nests, causing nestling mortality.

Still working on the plan for getting all of the parts to this project to interface. Our "hawk team" is planning to go to Rabida Island for four days to work with the hawks and see if we can make the capture component of the plan a bit easier.

I have included photos of a Palo Santo tree and Opuntia cactus, Galapagos Mockingbird, and Cactus Finch (different than the Mangrove Finch).

Monday, November 22, 2010

Harley Mid-November Check In

Harley remains in Arkansas around the town of Parthenon. The map shows his location at approx 5pm for the past week. Two days, the 7th and the 12th, are not shown as he was a bit to the north but still in the same valley.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Galapagos Journal Entry #5

Hard to believe I have been in Galapagos for a week – the first week has been a wonderful balance of “taking it all in” (I am, after all, in one of the most unique places in the world!) and getting my mind around the job ahead. Spent several days island hopping to get a lay of the land. We scoped out some potential future projects, as well as got a look at some of the more challenging aspects of the current project. Have thoroughly enjoyed getting to know my new colleagues – what a great group of people to work with!

One of the islands we visited was Pinzon – not on this year’s agenda, but will be the next major eradication project. Due to several species, such as hawks and tortoises, that have endemic subpopulations there, the decision was made to postpone Pinzon until this year’s pilot project has been evaluated. Pinzon is the island that people love to hate – the lava rocks there will tear up a pair of hiking boots in no time flat and the plants are have nasty, spiny thorns. We spent half a day walking on Pinzon and I have the battle wounds to prove it. Not only are my pants a bit torn up, but the skin that was under them took some damage, too. When I packed for “field camp in the tropics”, I did not think to bring jeans and long socks!

But it was worth it – my first sighting of Galapagos hawks was exactly what everyone said. Curious creatures, they met us as we jumped off the boat and sat on the rocks to watch us. Yes – they are so close you can almost touch them. Other notable sightings – gorgeous Vermillion flycatchers (rare that anything is that colorful here) flitting around and giant tortoises under Opuntia cacti. And along the coast, boobies (Nazca and blue-footed) and sea lions. Also checked out Rabida, which is the largest island we are doing this year, a much “friendlier” island for hiking. It has the largest population of hawks that we will be working with for now – looked at the logistics of trapping 7-10 hawks and getting them off the island.The easiest spot to capture them is at the top of the island, based on some earlier field trips. Hiking down with them might be a bit challenging – wondering if we can lure them down to a more convenient spot to capture them with a bit of advance work. After all – they have wings – would be nice to let them do the work! Looking at all our options now as we will begin to implement some of them next week when the fun begins!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Thank you for your Support!

Thank you to the over 100 donors whose gifts of almost $9500 for GiveMN made a huge difference for us! We appreciate the support more than we can say!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Give to the Max Day is Tuesday, November 16!

Please join the supporters of The Raptor Center and help keep eagles like Max soaring!

Click here to donate.

Your gift will help:
Provide care and treatment for nearly 700 sick and/or injured raptors.

Fund raptor education programs for more than 200,000 children and adults.

Provide specialized training in raptor medicine, surgery and rehabilitation for veterinarians from around the world.

More than 60% of our funding comes from individuals like you! Please join in supporting The Raptor Center. As an extra incentive, each hour during “Give to the Max” on Tuesday, November 16 one donor who's gift was given through the GiveMN site will be randomly chosen to have $1,000 added to their gift!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Galapagos Journal Entry #4 - Dr Ponder Has Arrived

The adventure is finally underway! After a long day of travel from Minnesota, I am settled in Quito, Ecuador, for the night. A relatively uneventful trip – a few delays and some rough air, but nothing that could possibly dampen my excitement. As always when I travel by air, I was struck by the magnitude of the human footprint on the world. It is just so unbelievable to look down and see how much impact we have had. But this time, there was a twist. While I recognize that there is truly no untouched place left on this planet, I am headed to one of the most pristine places in the world. We should all be grateful for Ecuador’s strong commitment to conserving such a treasure. And, we should help where we can, because it matters.

Tomorrow – GALAPAGOS!

Note from TRC: We will continue to post Dr. Ponder's adventures as she is able to get information to us. For background on this project, please visit our website at Thanks for following!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Harley's Recent Arkansas Movements

Harley remains in Arkansas. He is using a valley between Jasper and Parthenon. The map shows the last reading from each day indicated. His hourly movements show extensive use of the valley but he does not wander far from it.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Galapagos Journal Entry #3 - Dr Ponder Departs

As my departure date has approached rapidly, I have often been asked about my preparations for this trip. How am I preparing for this project? What am I preparing for? What am I bringing?
Reality is that I would be lying if I didn’t admit to a little apprehension. It weighs heavily on me that I am preparing for an unknown. I have never spent any time observing Galapagos hawks in the wild and no one has ever managed them in for an extended period of time. I am trying to prepare for all eventualities by bringing a well supplied medical trunk and hoping not to need most of what I take. This could be very routine work, but those of us working with live animals (especially wildlife) know that nothing is ever “routine”.
So – what brings me peace? By remembering “nanos gigantium humeris insidentes” – I am a dwarf standing on the shoulders of giants. There is tremendous depth and breadth to those around me and I am grateful for all the support:

The incredible team at The Raptor Center, who generously share their years of knowledge and experience every day.

The volunteers and donors at the center who provide the support that makes our program possible. Without you, The Raptor Center would not be what it is and would never have had this opportunity.

A special thanks to 3M and Lafeber for helping to out with supplies!

My newest colleagues at the Galapagos National Park, the Charles Darwin Foundation, Island Conservation and University of Missouri, St. Louis who are doing such exceptional work in the Galapagos islands. They have been so very welcoming and easy to work with, sharing knowledge and ideas daily. These will be my teammates for the project and I look forward to meeting them soon!

And, of course, I remember that I am going to be spending 6-7 weeks in one of the most amazing places on earth! Thanks for all the well wishes! I will send updates as I can - technology permitting - so keep checking the blog!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Dr. Ponder on Minnesota Public Radio

Dr. Julia Ponder was on Minnesota Public Radio on Monday, November 1, talking about her upcoming Galapagos trip.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Harley Still in Arkansas

Harley is still in northern Arkansas . . .

Friday, October 15, 2010

Galapagos Journal Entry #2

Preparations for the trip are still underway! I just received a revised departure date of November 4th – gives me a little bit of extra time to prepare.

Geographically speaking, the Galapagos Island chain is located off the coast of Ecuador. Ecuador is strongly committed to conserving the islands and maintaining their unique biodiversity (as shown through the establishment of the Galapagos National Park and Marine Reserve (GNP), as well as their work with the Charles Darwin Foundation (CDF)).

One of the goals of the GNP and CDF is to address the impacts that non-native and introduced species have on the islands. Introduced non-native species are a leading cause of extinctions in island communities worldwide. Increasingly, land managers are removing introduced species to aid in the restoration of native ecosystems. Like other islands around the world, the Galapagos islands are facing ecological pressure as a result of the long-ago introduction of invasive species (goats intentionally introduced as a meat source for seafarers and rats unintentionally from stowing away on ships). Goats were successfully eradicated in 2006 from the large island of Santiago, allowing a resurgence of native vegetation and habitat. Rats are responsible for 40-60% of all recorded bird and reptile extinctions worldwide.

This project is focusing on the removal of invasive rats from ten small islands and islets in the chain; four of these islands are home to the Galapagos hawk, a species considered vulnerable due to its small population. There are approximately 20 hawks that reside on the islands being addressed; these hawks are the only predators on the islands. Our goal is to protect these hawks from being at risk during the rat eradication project.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Harley's Southern Travels

Though bald eagles are not on the federal endangered species list any longer, tracking Harley's movements with his satellite transmitter has given us several surprises. One good reminder from Harley's information - researchers working on conservation plans for species may not always know all the questions that need to be asked, especially regarding habitat and range. Knowledge about a species is a growing body with new information always being added. We are learning new things with the information from Harley's travels, though it is unclear if we are learning more about Harley as an individual, or about bald eagles in general. We probably have more questions than answers based on his recent travels. This pattern of travel is certainly different than what he did last fall.

Harley has traveled a great deal this past late summer and fall. On the morning of Sept 13 he was on Lake Vermillion in northern Minnesota where he had spent most of the last half of the summer. He moved 75 miles S/SE that day to Douglas County, WI, which is the general area he was recovered last year, and also spent time in last spring. He spent the next 12 days in the SW corner of Douglas County and then on the 25th of Sept he moved 27 miles south into Washburn County, WI. By the 29th he had moved 21 miles south into Barron County, WI.

In the past 2 weeks he has traveled about 640 miles through MN, IA, MO and is now in the Ozark Mts. of Arkansas. His specific travels were:

9/30 – 61 mi to Read’s Landing, MN
10/1 – 142 mi to Delaware Co., IA
10/2 – 76 mi to just south of Cedar Rapids, IA
10/3 - 175 mi into Missouri just south of the Missouri River
10/4 – 93 mi to near Springfield, MO
10/5 – 15 mi
10/6-7 – 40 mi to near the Arkansas border
10/8 – 20 mi to Boone Co., Arkansas where he spent a couple of days around what appears to be a large poultry farm
10/12 – 20 mi south into Searcy Co., Arkansas

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Dr. Ponder's First Galapagos Journal Entry

As mentioned earlier in the blog, Dr. Julia Ponder, The Raptor Center’s Executive Director, has been invited to work on a project to protect Galapagos hawks on four of the Galapagos Islands this fall. She is currently preparing for her trip, securing and packing all the necessarily items for maintaining the health of 20-30 hawks during their time in captivity. We are thrilled that 3M Foundation has generously offered to donate medical supplies for the trip and Lafeber Company is donating critical nutritional products. Emails communications are flying back and forth between Ecuador (Galapagos National Park, Charles Darwin Foundation, and Island Conservation) and Minnesota as plans are being laid for the hawks’ care. Travel plans are also still being finalized, but in the meantime, Dr. Ponder has agreed to begin sharing information about the Islands before she is there!

“Of course, it is only logical to start with my charges - the Galapagos hawk (Buteo galapagoensis) - I am sure there will be many more messages about these guys! This image is an adult from the island I will be housing my charges on (Santiago, or San Salvador). The most closely related hawk we are familiar with is the Swainson's Hawk, which breeds in western North America and winters in South America - likely a few were blown off course during migration 300,000 years ago and settled on the Galapagos Islands, eventually evolving into an endemic, non-migratory species. First piece of trivia - like Darwin's finches, these birds have evolved into physically different populations based on what island they are on. Some island populations are 80% bigger than others. And the islands aren't THAT far apart – buteos really do not like to cross large bodies of water!

The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) has included this species on its Red List of Threatened Species in its Vulnerable category. Total population may number 400-500 adults and 300-400 juveniles."

Monday, October 4, 2010

Duke Lectureship

The Duke Lectureship was given to a sold-out house on Friday, October 1. Dr L. David Mech and Mr. Mark Martell gave wonderful presentations of their work with wolves, and several raptor species. Dr. Mech has taken a yearly trip to Ellesmere since 1986, and talked of the information he was able to learn about the wolves there, before and after he was able to use a radio collar on a wolf. Mr. Martell has gathered data related to several aspects of natural biology on Swainson's hawks, Broad-winged hawks, osprey, and bald and golden eagles.

Gail Buhl, TRC's Education Program Manager, talked to folks afterwards with the help of several of our winged ambassadors. Thanks to Irene Bueno for the photos.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Name TRC's Newest Education Bald Eagle!

Please suggest a name for our newest Education staff member!
This bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) is three years old. He has a shoulder injury that prevents him from flying very well and therefore cannot be released. He will be a part of The Raptor Center's winged ambassadors team, educating thousands of people each year. Bald eagles do not get their white heads and tails until they are around five years old. He weighs approximately eight pounds.

Please go to our website,, and suggest a name for him! (Photo credit Jeff Fischer).

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A.I. Field Journal Entry #2

Second Journal posting
Our First shoot went swimmingly and we collected samples from 124 ducks total! Of those birds sampled we counted 78 Mallards and 46 Northern pintails. We had a moment or two of hesitation when an intruder passed through our site and I am convinced that slowed my team down. A fat little skunk waddled his way right by our set up. It wasn’t at all interested in being anywhere near us but had been frightened in that direction by a farmer driving a combine through his field. Wildlife and humans often have to find ways to coexist when habitat meets human development whether the development comes in the form of agriculture, a new home or a sprawling city. This farmer shares his land as habitat with skunks, deer, coyotes, Northern leopard frogs, toads, garter snakes of various colors, voles, musk rats, dragon flies of many species, song birds and birds of prey (raptors)… the list goes on and on. Each organism shares the land and shares a part in the ecology on and near this refuge. I like to think of each organism as a stick in that game “JENGA”. With many sticks or organisms the structural support is obviously quite strong and solid; but as you take away sticks or organisms you begin to compromise the structural integrity of your JENGA tower. A weak tower is not likely to last in this game and will eventually topple just as an ecosystem can weaken and topple if too many pieces are taken away. Granted, ecology is a bit more complex than the fun table top game but I think you get the picture.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Harley's Start of Fall

Harley has moved his base of operations back to NW Wisconsin in the Douglas County area. He used this area in April and May of this year and it was near here where he was found injured last year. We are seeing some repetition and reuse of areas in the short time we have been tracking him.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

A.I. Field Journal Entry #1

First journal posting
Ah. The familiar scent of waterfowl and wetlands is present on the early morning breeze here at Sand Lake Wildlife Refuge near Columbia,
South Dakota. Dragon flies of various species are patrolling the air space like tiny winged guards. Western grebe young are calling out to their parents who are busy diving for fish to fill their chicks' seemingly bottomless pit of a ventriculus (stomach).

My team and I are anxiously awaiting the cannon-like explosion that
results when 4 rockets, loaded with military grade explosives, are
deployed. These rockets are attached to a large net which, when the
rockets are set off, will blanket a large (hopefully) group of ducks
who were attempting to enjoy yet another free buffet of barley on the
beach compliments of the US Fish & Wildlife Service. The target species
we hope to catch and obtain samples from are Mallards, Northern
pintails, Blue-winged and Green-winged teals Wood ducks and other
dabbling species. These are species that previous years of sampling
have shown are considerably more likely to be carrying either influenza
or paramyxoviruses, especially the juveniles. Did I mention we cannot
even see the ducks or the beach loaded with the barley bait?

My team, a few US Fish & Wildlife staff and I are waiting for the
a big bang approximately a quarter of a mile from where the ducks
are feeding. We set up the rockets and net the previous day with an
additional load from the barley buffet and ran charge wire along the
ground back to a viewing tower in a group of trees nearly 150 meters
away. One staff member will climb a tower and monitor the baited beach
with binoculars. When he feels that the ducks are positioned close
enough and the number of ducks is high enough to justify firing the
rockets he will give the word to deploy. Another staff member remotely
triggers the rockets.

POW! We are all wide-eyed with surprise for a split second before
dashing to our vehicles and racing down the path to the beach where
several hundred ducks are attempting to rush back to the water. The net
is quite large and has a pocket feature on the end nearest the water
which acts as a catch for ducks as they try to rush back to the safety
of the lake or lift the net. We carefully extract the ducks from under
the net and separate them into different crates depending on species.
The ducks will quickly be banded before we collect epithelial cell
samples from the cloaca of the birdb; the swab is placed in special
transport media to taken to the laboratory for virus isolation work .
We record each bird's band number along with the species, age, sex,
weight of the bird as well as a few other measurements. Each of these
bits of data, when pieced together, will provide us with a good
understanding of what condition this particular duck was in and what,
biologically, was going on with it at the time the sample was taken.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Raptor Center fieldwork in Avian Influenza

Waterfowl (ducks) are the natural reservoir for avian influenza viruses. While only the highly pathogenic, or disease-causing, forms of the virus are of public concern, there are many different low pathogenic strains of avian influenza. Many of these strains circulate normally in waterfowl populations and cause no apparent disease. However, certain strains can be problematic for domestic poultry where they can cause disease, as well as undergo mutation that makes them more pathogenic for other birds and possibly humans.

As part of the Minnesota Center for Excellence in Influenza Research (MCEIRS), a project funded by the National Institutes of Health, The Raptor Center is leading efforts to test wild ducks in the upper Central Flyway (Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota) for the presence of avian influenza viruses and to identify what strains are found in these populations.

Katie Burns, lead field technician for the efforts this fall, will send some journal entries and photos we will post to let you know how the efforts are going!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Harley's End of Summer

Harley has spent most of his time since Aug 16 on the west end of Lake Vermillion, particularly Taylors Island. On Aug 25 he took a 40 mile trip south to the St. Louis River on the west end of the Sax-Zim Bog Important Bird Area. He had spent some time here in June as well. On the 29th of August he returned to his summer home on Lake Vermillion.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Barn Owl Nest Camera

A couple in San Marcos, CA have a nest box with a camera that a barn owl has used twice this season. For the current clutch, one egg was laid on each of these dates: July 6, 8, 11 and 14. The chicks hatched on August 7, 8, 11 and 14. There are two chicks that are still surviving.

The link to watch this is at:

Disclaimer: there is a social chat stream to the side of the site, and the site does occasionally run advertisements.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Harley's Summer

Director of Bird Conservation Mark Martell commented that, "Harley continues to hang around the west end of Vermillion Lake. Both his evening roost sites and daily wanderings are limited to a fairly small area of the Lake. This western edge does not have as many historic eagle nests as parts of the lake further east. It may be an avoidance of conflict with territorial nesting pairs that acts as a restraint on his activity."