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|August 5, 2010|
|Hello again! What an amazing day! Today, we went to Dyer Island. We left very early in the morning, crossed over the Stellenboush Mountains, and met up with Dion from the Cape Nature Institute. He and his crew took Nola and I out on their boat. You need special permitting to even go near the island, and Dion's people of Cape Nature live on the island in shifts to monitor it. As soon as we walked off the boat, there they were, my first penguins in the wild! Nola couldn't stop laughing at me - I was so excited! Then, as we rounded the corner leading up to the house, I saw dozens of penguins by the artificial nests. Dion kept looking at me funny as I acted like a tourist, taking photos. Nola had to kindly explain to him how excited I was and that this was my first time. We went inside for a cup of tea before we started, and while everyone else talked, I was taking photos out the window. We went all around the island, collecting birds for the samples. Nola and the Cape Nature Institute are so organized, professional and safe with all of their collections. It was amazing. At first, Dion and his colleague, Petey, were grabbing the adults off the nests and handing them over to me so I could hold them for Nola. In the meantime, they were measuring and weighing the chicks for the Chick Bolstering project. But it wasn't long before they were ready to have me take a stab at grabbing the adults. They were almost all in artificial nests, and I actually found that it wasn't too difficult to grab them and get them out. I held the birds while Nola weighed them, took blood, swabbed their throat and cloaca and measured their beaks. I had to hold each bird for five minutes or so. We had great success for the day. After we finished the collections, we took a walk around the island, spotting other wildlife. I, of course, was taking tons of photos and Nola and Dion were again laughing at me. I asked about the artificial nests, and Dion says they are only seeing about a 35 percent success rate. Once we were ready to leave the island, Dion decided he wanted to play tour guide for the day (He's quite a funny man that way. I was greatly amused by him the whole time). But he decided he needed to take us on the boat over to Geyser Island, otherwise known as seal rock (Well, one of two seal rocks anyway). We saw thousands of Cape Fur Seals. I, again, was taking pictures. They were swimming, sleeping, fighting... everything. I was so excited until Nola told me I had to stop because I wasn't allowed to like seals. "We don't like seals here, so you can't either, because they kill our penguins for the fish in their bellies!" she says. I still took more pictures anyway. Then we drove through shark alley, right between Dyer Island and Geyser Rock. I didn't see any leaping great whites, but I did see one shark on the bottom, and there were a lot of people cage diving, looking for sharks. Afterward, we headed back, where Nola and I spent three hours in the lab processing all of the blood samples. I can't even explain how great today was! To see the penguins running around on grass, and all of the chicks and such! I wanted to get into this field to help educate and make a difference, but being here takes that to a whole different level. I am so proud to be part of this work!|
Skittish African Penguins cross a road on Robben Island in South Africa.
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