Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Earthwatch Team Laughing Pinzones: Day 6 Day Off

Today, the volunteers took a well deserved day off, with most of them taking a day trip to North Seymour. The team has been having a wonderful time with lots of laughing at meals and during breaks (we're very serious when we're collecting data!), so they have named themselves Team Laughing Pinzones!

We had hoped for a day off, but it turns out the Galápagos Park Service wanted to see us at work in the field, so Luis, Diana, and I headed to El Garrapatero.
Our banding station in the field
 For those familiar with the book entitled "The Beak of the Finch," you might remember the discussion about tribulus seeds, and how certain size ground finches are able to crack open the hard, spiky exterior of the seeds. It's very dry right now, so finches are eating the tribulus seeds.

Here, Luis was watching this G. fortis (medium ground finch, large beak morph) eat the tribulus, while Diana was looking at banded birds to identify the colours.

We also had a mockingbird visit our equipment!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Eartwatch Team ??: Day 5 El Garrapatero

Today, we headed over to El Garrapatero for our field work. It is amazing how on this relatively small island, there can be so much variation in how much vegetation there is. The rainy season should hopefully arrive any moment, but until then, EG is very dry, and very brown. We had a busy day, so I didn't have time to take many pictures, but I took a few...

We were working so hard, I barely had a chance to take photos! I'll be sure to correct that soon...

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Earthwatch Team ??: Day 4 Academy Bay

Today was another day of field work around Puerto Ayora. I was with the observation crew, and for the first time, I saw some Smooth-Billed Anis foraging on the ground. I've always been impressed with their bills. One can see how birds and dinosaurs are related in these birds!

Of course, we saw some finches foraging on all sorts of yummy foods as well...

We did spot a kitten that seemed more interesting in playing, but it did spot a finch and start to stalk it. Feral cats are a problem where there are human populations, and I am sure this might be affecting finch behaviour.

The volunteers head to El Garrapatero tomorrow. They've done a great job working around the research station and in town, so they've been busy taking pictures!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Earthwatch Team ??: Day 3 Academy Bay

Today I worked with the mist nets, and we had a successful day catching all of the common finches that are around the Charles Darwin Research Station: small, medium, and large ground finch, cactus finch, vegetarian finch, and small tree finch. The volunteers were particularly happy to see a large ground finch compared to a small ground finch because it was quite an opportunity to see the differences in beak size. We had a very busy morning and closed the nets before 8 am because we had so many birds!

A successful day in the field!

Packing up the mist net poles
Back at the house after lunch, the volunteers settled into entering their data and prepping everything for the next day.
Entering data and getting ready for the next day...
This included fixing some equipment such as our carrying case for our mist net poles and fixing some holes (cue Beatles Song) in our mist nets.
Fixing the mist net pole bag.

Can you spot the mist net?
And in case you ever see birds with their feathers fluffed out and basically rolling around in the dirt, they are likely trying to clean themselves and get rid parasites.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Earthwatch Team ??:Day 2 Training Day

 Today we began our training with the second group of Earthwatch volunteers. All three of us presented an interactive presentation to explain the theory behind our work and what they would be doing in the field with us.

Diana explains the data sheets to the Earthwatch volunteers

Diana explains how the volunteers will help with banding birds
Luis explains how humans are affecting the evolution of finches
We headed outside to learn how to set up mist nets. The volunteers were setting up nets and doing knots like experts in a short time!

One of our volunteers spotted a snake in our yard, which was the striped Galapagos snake. This was my first time seeing one, so I was very excited to snap some photos. It was quite adept at climbing walls and managed to climb up onto a ledge while we were practicing setting up mist nets.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Earthwatch Team ??: Day 1 Welcome

After two days of hard work on grants, proposals, and manuscripts, we welcome our second group of Earthwatch volunteers to the Galápagos! After a brief orientation, we took them on a walk through Charles Darwin Research Station.

I had considered not bringing my camera, but then realized you never know what you will spot when walking through the station. I was quite happy I had brought my camera as the animals were as photogenic as always!

Tomorrow we begin training the new volunteers before we head out into the field!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015


I seem to be lucky enough to document a Mockingbird handling different prey items every year, and this year I continued my luck by capturing a third prey item! My first year in the Galápagos, we stumbled upon a Mockingbird bashing a caterpillar on the ground.

Last year, we came upon a mockingbird bashing a small rodent on the ground. This was a very intriguing behaviour, so we did some looking into it. The results will soon be published at the Wilson Journal of Ornithology, so keep an eye out for Gotanda, Sharpe, and De Léon 2015!

Last year, we also saw a Mockingbird doing the same thing to a gecko

This year, I spotted a Mockingbird with a grasshopper. It took me a while to be able to identify what it was pecking at and picking up and hitting on the ground. All I could spot was a long, black object in the birds mouth. Unlike previous years, the Mockingbird decided to take its prey into an area covered in brush, so getting a clear photo was difficult.

Hopefully my streak of being able to photograph Mockingbirds with various prey items will continue!