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!