Several raptor species become more and more urban dwellers and they thrive very well in many different urban habitats now. In Berlin, four species are very common – even in heavily urbanised areas. While the common buzzard (Buteo buteo) mostly inhabits parks and urban woodlands, aeries of the peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus) and the common kestrel (Falco tinnunculus) can be found in higher buildings all over the city. The latter can be regularly seen at the Tempelhofer Feld (see photo) and a good place to observe the peregrine falcon is the Alexanderplatz and the television tower which is used as raised hide, even during the night.
In the last years, we conducted research on the northern goshawk (Accipiter gentilis). Interestingly, this species spreads more and more into the heavily urbanised areas and while it was breeding in urban parks and large gardens at the beginning, aeries can be found in backyards in isolated tree by now. Sometimes northern goshawks are even hunting in busy roads like the Schlesische Straße in Kreuzberg. Watch out for more findings …
Together with Arno Cimadom, his team from the University of Vienna and researchers of the Charles Darwin Research Station I spent gorgeous morning hours in the highlands of Santa Cruz. We captured darwin finches (e.g. warbler and tree finches as well as the woodpecker finch) using mist nets and ringed them. The field work was part of the Los Gemelos research project which among others focuses on how control of the invasive blackberry affects darwin finches in the Scalesia forests. I usually work with invertebrates – not only in this project – and thus I was glad to do some ornithological work for a change.
I had a very amazing field trip to the Scalesia forests at Los Gemelos. Scalesia species have been called „the Darwin’s finches of the plant world“ because they show a similarly dramatic pattern of adaptive radiation. These giant daisy trees have an entire vegetation zone named after them. Scalesia is a genus of the family Asteraceae that is endemic to the Galapagos Islands. They consist of 15 native shrubs and tree species with six subspecies and each of the species has adapted to the different vegetation zones across the different islands.
Scalesia forests at Los Gemelos (Santa Cruz, Galápagos)
Study site at Los Gemelos. Scalesia forest with blackberry control
A zone in the highlands of some islands is referred to as the Scalesia Zone which is a lush cloud forest and home to the largest of the Scalesia species (S. pedunculata dominant on Santa Cruz). From a distance the vegetation looks like a hummocky bog land but under the canopy, mosses, bromeliads, epiphytes and orchids thrive. The whole Scalesia zone is most threatened by human settlement. The zone is some of the most fertile land area on the Islands and perfect for agriculture. This has led to much of the original Scalesia forest being chopped down and replaced. Furthermore, the spread of introduced species such as blackberry has adverse effects on the habitat.
Malaise trap at Los Gemelos
Here is a very interesting article about Scalesia forests which was published in GALAPAGOS REPORT 2009 -2010.