While on a guiding trip in Tagus Cove in the Galapagos Islands, Aura Banda spotted a juvenile penguin with a scar across its belly. The distinctive scar allowed Aura to follow the penguin and assess if he could be consistently identified by the spotting pattern on his chest and belly. Because the young penguin looked like he had been cut in half, Aura began calling him Miti; “mitad” means half in Spanish.
With the help of other observers and his characteristic scar, Aura obtained five photos of Miti over eight months. From one of those images, Aura made a transparent layer of Miti’s spots on Photoshop, and with minor adjustments, overlapped the transparent layer on the other two photos of the penguin and the spots matched up perfectly.
Using the many photos of Galapagos penguins Aura has in her files, she started applying this methodology to other penguins. This experience has reinforced the importance of citizen science. Naturalists and visitors are in a unique position while they explore the islands and have the opportunity to contribute to the Center’s long-term dataset of Galápagos penguin through photography.
Miti was first photographed by the naturalist Greg Aranea. Miti had already fledged meaning he had to be at least 2 months old.
Miti was spotted and photographed by Aura Banda. His distinct scar makes it easy to identify him.
Aura received another photo of Miti from photographer George Prigann.
Dr. Boersma photographed and marked Miti with toe-tag A136.
Aura received a photo of a penguin with a scar across its belly. It had been six months since he had last been observed. She overlaid the transparent layer of Miti on the new image and confirmed it was Miti.
Flecha lives in the Galapagos on Santiago Island in front of the islet, Chinese Hat, where Aura Banda works as a Galápagos Islands guide. Aura has been using photographs to follow Flecha by identifying the bird with its unique chest spotting that looks like an arrow. Over a year, the photos recorded the life history of Flecha including molting, body condition, and her gender.
The first time Aura Banda saw Flecha she thought to herself, the spotting pattern on that penguin looks like an arrow. The penguin she observed that day became known as Flecha, which is “arrow” in Spanish.
When Aura saw Flecha for a second time, she noticed the penguin looked slightly different. She compared photos she took of Flecha in April and July, and although the penguin looked different because it was molting, it had identical spots in both photos.
Aura came across another photo of Flecha from naturalist Jose Guerrero. Again, the penguin had the same spots as the two previous sightings, but Flecha lost some weight.
One year later, Flecha was with a mate. The photograph was of a male and female together making it easier to see the difference in bill depth. Because she had a smaller bill than the male, Aura determined Flecha is a female.