Dr. Julia Ponder, executive director of the University of Minnesota Raptor Center, is traveling to the Galápagos Islands to support efforts to restore an endangered Giant Tortoise population. In this series of journal entries originally posted on The Raptor Center’s blog, Dr. Ponder will share her experiences over the course of two months. For background on her trip, click here to read or here to watch a video, and be sure to check back in to Health Talk to follow the project!
Recently we had a big cleaning day. Gail Buhl arrived to assist here (and take over when I have to leave), so this was her first big introduction – to the birds themselves and to the workload of caring for 60 of them. There is a lot of scrubbing to keep enclosures clean and the hawks are amazingly tolerant of our working within their rooms. The juveniles are especially curious and tend to hop right over to watch. One danger of cleaning in their target zone is becoming a target (of being pooped on), which happened to me as I was leaning over and scrubbing. While both Gail and I had a good laugh at that, the next hit was even better. A young bird that was sitting on a perch watching Gail scrub a wall, carefully turned around before letting go, then looked over its shoulder as if checking to be sure he hit the target. He did.
The reward for cleaning here is the ability to jump into the ocean immediately afterwards. A combination cleansing bath and great snorkeling opportunity. Today’s snorkeling partners included sea turtles, sea lions, white tipped tintoreras (sharks), a penguin and many, many fish. The nutrient rich ocean currents that surround the Galapagos
archipelago are responsible for much of the uniqueness of these islands. These currents, however, are cold water currents – after snorkeling for awhile, it is necessary to learn from the marine iguanas and haul oneself onto the dark lava rock to soak up some warmth.