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Dr. Ponder’s Journal #14: Land snails and geckos rediscovered

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!

GeckoI wanted to share a couple of other stories with you. It is worth noting that in addition to the current work on Pinzon, the team in Galapagos also did follow-up work on the islands that underwent rodent eradication in January 2011. The results of that work were quite exciting. In addition to confirming that the rodents are gone, members of the monitoring team also documented the presence of two species – a land snail and a gecko – that were previously thought to be extinct. Both of these species, which have been looked for in the past, were found this year on the island of Rabida; presumably their populations are growing thanks to the removal of rodent predation …

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Dr. Ponder’s Journal #13: Feeding, cleaning and photo opps

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!

Dr. Ponder is back, but The Raptor Center Education Program Manager Gail Buhl is still on Pinzón. She sent some pictures recently, and Dr. Ponder wrote some notes to accompany them …

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Dr. Ponder’s Journal #12: The target zone

It is sea lion pupping season on Pinzon and a succession of new pups on the rocks have been seen every few days.

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.

I am excited to finally be able to share some images with you!  Gail took these with her phone and we found a way to send them …
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Dr. Ponder’s Journal #11: The other side of Pinzon

“Imp of Darkness” marine iguana sketch by Gail Buhl (from a previous Galapagos trip). The iguana was on the North Seymour Island in the chain.

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!

Franny, one of my colleagues here, and I pushed through our morning chores early today so that we could hike up to a couple of territories to check on some free-flying males that we have never been able to catch. My first chance to get to the other side of the island, which was very different than “our side.”

When we arrived at the site we were headed to, we climbed up to the rock overlook to eat lunch and scout the situation. Interesting side note – we call this site “Avion” (plane) as there is a wreckage of a WWII plane there. We intended to hike down to see the wreckage, but one of our stray males showed up pretty quickly. Franny and others have tried in vain to capture this guy, so we had no expectations, but put out goat meat anyway. He came in within 30 minutes – just enough time for us to get set up, wolf down lunch and catch him. As he is one of the known breeding males on the island, he was a priority, so no question we were keeping him.

Getting him out, however, was a bit more difficult. And Pinzon (the island) exacted its revenge on me …

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Dr. Ponder’s Journal #10: Prima donna

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!

Things are quieting down here and settling in. All the birds are eating except one that was just admitted today.  Most are pretty settled, especially the youngsters. A few are still a bit jumpy, so working to get them quieter.

Although I know there will be ongoing maintenance, I finally got the right number of perches (for now) in each enclosure. We had to unwrap the original perches, which were wrapped with 3-strand sisal, then split the strands to get spare rope. Worked well and we now have a rope-wrapped perch and a natural branch perch in each enclosure. As much as I have worked with these birds, they still amaze me. I went into one enclosure to put up a spare perch, which was designed to sit perpendicular to the original perch. Two hawks were perched exactly where I wanted to place the new one, so I tried to gently encourage one to move by sliding the perch toward her. She didn’t move even when the perch touched her. Tried to get her to step over it – no luck. Given that she was so relaxed and curious, I finally lifted the perch up and over her head and placed it between the two birds. Never moved, but watched curiously the whole time. And this was an adult, not a juvie!

After 12 days on the boat/island, I finally found time to sneak in a swim yesterday. What a wonderful treat for all the hard work! Saw white tipped tintoreras (placid sharks), green sea turtles, a penguin, sea lions (breeding season – lots of pups on the “beach”) and a plethora of colorful salt water fish (which I am totally incapable of identifying) …

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Dr. Ponder’s Journal #9: 58 hawks and counting

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!

Have a moment for a bit of a newsier update.  Started at 4:45 this morning. I spent the morning at the hawk enclosures – all hawks fed and mostly quiet. I need to do some perch work and cleaning, but find the hawks are quieter when fed and wanted to get them as relaxed as possible. Right now, we have our boat, the Queen Mabel, and the two large park boats staged just off-shore. The new boat (Queen Mabel – we switched boats a couple of days ago) is smaller than our previous one, but actually a bit more comfortable. And the cook is exceptional! Yes, we still get rice twice a day (lunch and dinner), but things like granola, yogurt and fruit available for breakfast (along with eggs, meat, toast, etc), and a broad range of foods for lunch/dinner …

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