Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Santa Fe!!!

Today we had field work on Santa Fe. Santa Fe is quite close to Santa Cruz, so the boat ride there was not too long. This was extremely exciting as we were getting to work on other islands for the first time this season!

Santa Fe is a pristine island with no invasive predators such as black rats or house cats. Thus, the animals on the island make for excellent photographs. For example, this juvenile Galapagos Hawk was enjoying the early morning sun and seemed to enjoy posing for us.

Land iguanas like to feed on the decadent pads of the opuntia cacti. If they get a hold of a pad, they wipe the pads on the ground to get rid of the spines and then feast on the succulent flesh.

Of course, we saw some finches as well, and even a Galapagos Dove!

Team Santa Fe!

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Field Work Food

People are often surprised to find that there are established towns on the Galapagos Islands (myself included when I found out). We had an apartment that came with a full kitchen including an oven. I had convinced Marco to bring some yeast down with him when he came, so Sarah and I didn't let it go to waste. The delicious results included homemade bread


 and homemade pizza!

Our neighbors also procured some whole coconuts, so they cracked a few open to let us have the coconut water (yum!)

So, we're pretty lucky in that we get to eat and drink some pretty yummy things during our field seasons!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016


Today we went to Baltra Island, also known as South Seymour Island. The island is most well known for harbouring the airport that serves Santa Cruz Island. It was regular flights to and from the mainland, and also hosts land iguanas, tribulus, and finches, of course!


Baltra also had an invasive house cat and black rat population that was successfully eradicated about 13 years ago.

It also served as a military base, and so there are abandoned military structures on the island.


This island is similar to North Seymour in that the terrain are large, red volcanic boulders, or areas consisting of vegetation and swathes of a fine, red dirt. The green vegetation, during the current dry spell, is fairly sparse, with patches of palos verde and acacia, as well as opuntia.


Also like North Seymour, it felt as though this is what Mars would be like once we get there!


We spent all day there but had a successful day collecting samples and data!

Sunday, March 20, 2016

The Galapagos Dove

In previous years, the Galapagos Dove was quite elusive, and I would maybe see one or two for an entire field season. This year, I've been lucky to see them on different occasions!

Here are some doves we saw at El Garrapatero

And here was one that decided to pose for me in the highlands. It has blue eyelids!!

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Working in town

When you are in the field, you tend to lose a sense of time. While we remembered pi day on the 14th of March, we forgot about Saint Patrick's Day on the 17th. Well, nobody is Irish I think so it doesn't really matter, and St. Patty's Day isn't really celebrated down here. So, instead, Marco and I headed into town to collect behaviour data.

We started on foot but quickly realized that it would be much easier on bikes. While going around town collecting data, we did see some cats hanging out.

We also went to some places near our apartment. Unfortunately, people often dump garbage by the side of the road when they think they are on the outskirts of town. One person's trash is another's treasure however. Marco found an algebra book, a chemistry book, and a Galapagos tour book!

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

North Seymour Part II

After a delicious lunch with pescado (fish), rice, and salad, we went to Las Bachas on the northern part of Santa Cruz. There we went for a short walk along the beach.

There was a lagoon, similar to the one at El Garrapatero, and there were also flamingos as well!!

One the way back, the gulls were trying kleptoparastize the pelicans who were busy fishing for their food.

We then went snorkling, which was nice. The visibility was decent, but we saw lots of fun things. I missed the turtles, but I saw parrotfish, hogfish, an eagle ray, an eel, and other fun things!!

Another amazing trip to North Seymour!

North Seymour Part I

Since we managed to get all of our poop samples - Team Poop for the win! - we took a day off. Well, Sarah did extractions all day, but she told Marco and I to take the day off, so we booked a day trip to North Seymour. This day trip tends to be one of the favourites of everyone who has ever done it, and Marco is only here for a limited time. We depart from the channel in between Baltra and Santa Cruz, which allows for a lovely view of both islands

We are treated to lovely views of Daphne Major and Daphne Minor, made famous by Peter and Rosemary Grant and their seminal work on Darwin's Finches.

There were many Frigate Birds of all ages, males and females. 

Frigate feet!

They are incredibly large birds, and the males have a red pouch that they inflate to attract females.

One of my favourite things to see this trip was a pair of Blue Footed Boobies courting. They both show off their feet, but the male especially took the time to lift each foot and show it off while turning in a slow circle around himself.

Finally, we stayed long enough to watch juvenile Frigates begging for food. Eventually, the parent would (literally) cough some food up for the juvenile. 

However, sneaky birds would try and steal the food!!

I will have more about what we did after lunch soon!

Monday, March 14, 2016

Happy Pi Day

Today is pi day, in honour of the irregular number we all love, pi. So, Marco decided to make a pie, and baked, from scratch, an apple pie. Yum!!!

Homemade apple pie!!
Happy Pi Day!

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Team Poop!!

On March 10, we had another super productive day at the beach. With three of us there, we were able to keep the nets open most of the time, and we hit our desired sample size of 15 females for each of two species (small and medium ground finch). We were also able to capture a few more birds that we were able to process, which was great! Sarah has trained me in how to measure the finch beaks, which is great. I have been watching my colleagues measure for three seasons, so it was nice to get my hands on the calipers and contribute to the dataset.

On March 11th, we hit our target sample size today for the parking lot! We were there well before sunrise, and had our nets in place. The finches are molting, and thus, are not breeding. This means that they tend to flock more, especially at dawn, so we had hit our target by mid morning. Today I set up a time laps video for fun. We'll see how things turned out with it! The most interesting finch we got today was some sort of hybrid, the top beak looked like a fuliginosa, and the bottom looked more like a fortis. I don't think I'd seen anything like this before!

We discovered a lovely place in Puerto Ayora above the Proinsular grocer store. They have amazing desserts as well as scrumptious snacks like patacones with queso fresco. It is on the second floor and overlooks the port.

Amazing view of the docks at Puerto Ayora

A yacht that had hit a rock or something had been on shore for repairs, and was heading out back to sea. Given how small and narrow the channels where marine craft can navigate, it's amazing this large yacht got out at all. The yacht managed to get to open sea by way of water taxis which are single outboard motor boats normally used to ferry passengers from a boat to port. Somehow, there was enough horsepower to get the yacht out!

The yacht getting pushed out of the port with water taxis.

We have decided to unofficially call ourselves Team Poop (and cat) for this field season. After all, our twitter and instragram hashtag is #HappyAboutPoop but you will have to ignore anything about happy toddlers pooping in the bathtub.