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.