Friday, January 21, 2011

Galapagos Journal Entry #13

What an incredible few days! After our first day trapping, I headed to the field camp and the aviaries. Over the next few days, I had birds arriving on boats and even on a helicopter. The modifications allowing the transport boxes to be carried on our backs were quite helpful for hiking in many of the areas. Trapping was very successful – we managed to get all the birds we went for in 4 days. Twenty birds in total are now housed in the aviaries – the total population of birds holding breeding territories on the islands undergoing rodent eradication.

It took a few days to finish construction on the aviaries, so I had my hands full trying to keep the birds calm and settled. Knowing how important reducing visualization is in keeping the hawks quiet, I spent quite a bit of time modifying the aviaries to cut visual lines to the outside. The birds slowly settled down over several days and all of them began to eat well. A few hawks lost weight in the first few days, but with patience and a bit of training, we were able to give them some supplemental food without stressing everyone.

One of the first birds to start eating extremely well was our old friend, V2, from Rabida Island. Of the 20 hawks we have, this was the only bird previously banded. I first “met” him on Rabida last November – he was one of the birds that briefly tricked us into thinking we had more territories on Rabida than we thought. While our teams spent a couple of hours hiking to the north and south parts of the island to establish feeding areas for the hawks (pre-trapping), V2 and friend were quickly flying back and forth between the north and south coastal sites, resulting in two teams counting them. V2 was a good eater then and continues to be a good eater in captivity!

As I worked to get the hawks settled, the bait drop began on the islands. While not my area of expertise, I can tell you that the reports are that the bait drops went exceptionally well. No complications or unexpected problems. In the meantime, I also began running all my lab work to get baseline health data on the birds – blood counts, parasite checks, etc. The construction crew created a very nice lab/work area for me – a lovely shaded corner of the aviary with mesh walls complete with table and stool. Just don’t tell the Dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine how much I love my outdoor lab. He might solve one of the college’s space problems by moving me outdoors in Minnesota!

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