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).