Day 11

This sign denotes the “forbidden” zone for workers, for the protection of the penguins.

The perimeter is set, most of the workers and here, and THE HARVEST HAS BEGUN! This is an unbelievable experience to witness a conservation effort at its best. The guano harvesters are some of the hardest working men on the planet. Ric called them an “army of iron men”. They have productivity down to a science, and their strength and determination is truly amazing.

One man would go around picking up rocks and feathers, then a handful of men would start digging into the guano, and then another handful of men would start bagging the guano. Each bag contains about 40-50 kilos, which equals about 80-100 pounds. And each man is required to move 40 bags each day. Watching them carry the bags is almost like watching a little girl carry a feather. It is so effortless for them and they do it with such skill. They have a mission, and they want to get it done.

After the workers went back to their camp for lunch, a group of us went to try to lift the guano bags to see how heavy they really were. Ric and Alle were the only two people who wanted to (or were crazy enough) to attempt to lift a heavy bag filled with guano, and it was tough!

We also set up the moveable blind today, which is a white porous fabric cloth that we hung between poles to work as a visual barrier between the workers and the penguin colonies. It took us a couple tries to get it in the right place, but it works!

The moveable blind works! This is unbelievable. We all celebrated. See the penguins behind it?

 

The guano harvesters are currently working in an area where the penguins like to transit from one beach to another, and all morning we watched the penguins trying to debate on whether or not they wanted to get that close to the workers. Well, after we hung the moveable blind in the right location, and once the penguins realized that it was safe, they transited from one side to another without seeing us and being afraid. It was an amazing successful feeling to see our prototype work. See the picture for proof of our success!

This shows you why we needed the moveable blind. If you look passed the men and the bags of guano, you can see a small colony of penguins being hesitant to move down the cliff. The moveable blind went up shortly after this, and now the penguins feel comfortable now to transit.

This is Ric now:

What a day!  I’m done. It’s time for the Gatorade.   Hector (Moody Gardens / Newport South) and myself have been working together scanning a couple of sites particularly sensitive due to the density of the species of penguins and Cape Fur Seals.  Scans are important before the harvest begins and then once again in the middle of the day.  The objective is to determine if there are any disturbances or conflicts between the harvest and the colonies. 

The working conditions are pretty challenging.  The winds have been reaching gusts of up to 15 knots.  The good thing today was the sun was out and it reached temperatures of around 66 degrees.  Sunglasses and a hat is a must due to the reflections of the sun off of the desert.  As Alle, mentioned the harvest has begun.  It is good to see but now the monitoring begins; early mornings and late afternoons for the future monitoring teams. 

As we were walking across the desert today, we talked about the blog and the next few weeks will have to be labeled as the “Curator’s Cut”.  This is due to the fact that some videos and pictures are very large and almost impossible to download with limited service.

As the sun is coming up, we are watching the fishermen go out for the day,  10 or 12 boats go out within an hour. Some are divers fishing for urchins and mussels; while others are bringing in anchovy. We usually see the same boats each day.  

These are the tics we encounter daily. Some are bigger, some are smaller, but they’re everywhere.

 

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