Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
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
Thursday, December 16, 2010
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
Friday, December 10, 2010
Monday, December 6, 2010
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
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
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
Thursday, November 18, 2010
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
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
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 www.TheRaptorCenter.org. Thanks for following!
Monday, November 8, 2010
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
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
Thursday, October 21, 2010
Friday, October 15, 2010
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 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
“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
Friday, October 1, 2010
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.
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
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
Thursday, September 23, 2010
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).
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.
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 .
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
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
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
The link to watch this is at: http://www.ustream.tv/theowlbox
Disclaimer: there is a social chat stream to the side of the site, and the site does occasionally run advertisements.