Winter this year has arrived in style with snowstorms, ice storms, power outages, and oodles of delayed flights. Slippery and icy sidewalks, shovelling out cars, shovelling driveways, and taking an extra 15 minutes just to bundle up are the norm with winter, but everyone dreams of getting away to somewhere sunny and warm. Luckily enough, I’ve managed to re-join Team Pinzón for some more research on Darwin’s finches on the amazing Galápagos Islands. I joined up with former some former labmates and friends, Diana and Luis on Saturday in Baltra, the island with the largest airport. A quick ferry ride, and a quick photo, and then we were on Santa Cruz where we will be joined for the first time by three different teams of Earthwatch volunteers.
Luis and Diana on the boat from Baltra to Santa Cruz
As always, being the first group there, a thorough equipment inventory was done, as well as the stocking of food and research supplies. Our Earthwatch program manager, Caroline, arrived on the 12th, and we met to discuss the logistics of the project. Each team will consist of eight volunteers, which meant teams of up to 12 or more people at a time, which is the largest we’ve ever had! However, we are very excited to have such large teams because it is going to allow us to have an intense data collection season. We discussed everything from safety (how to not get lost) to food (I’m the ‘head chef’ since I like cooking so much) to the research we are doing.
Finch eating a piece of corn that I did not cook
A quick walk around the Charles Darwin Research Station (CDRS) after some equipment fixing revealed something unique that nobody had ever seen. We noticed a mocking bird whacking something on the ground (similarto what we saw last year with a caterpillar), and we noticed it had a small rodent of some kind in its beak. We know mockingbirds eat everything from insects to small animals like geckos, but we’d never known one to eat a mammal! Anyone ever seen something like this? If not, we’ll make a report of it since it seems quite unique.
Mockingbird with a small rodent, preparing to eat it
For those unfamiliar, Earthwatch is a non-profit organization that funds scientific research around the world. It provides a unique opportunity for the public to join in the process of conducting research by providing the means for individuals to volunteer for research projects. Expeditions themes range from culture to conservation and are spread around the world. For more information on the expedition that Luis is heading, check it out! For one volunteer this year, this is his 80th (you read that right!) expedition, and has already booked his 81st!
So, after a hard day’s work, nothing beats a stroll down the main drag past some sea lions, a lovely dinner at the Kioskos (a street where several kiosks offer quick, delicious, relatively inexpensive meals), and of course, some beer to!