Orange-breasted Falcon Project Update—April 2005
Marta Curti— 5 May 2005 — in Orange-breasted Falcon Project ShareWith the success of last month’s trip to Belize (see Notes from the Field, March 2005), Angel and I were looking forward to our next visit. Last time we were in Belize, we had seen some interesting courtship behavior in a few of the Orange-breasted Falcon pairs and were hoping to find at least one pair already on eggs. Meanwhile, the three eggs we brought to Panama last time were just about ready to hatch and we had to finalize plans for their potential release. So, on 30 March, Angel and I headed to Belize. Our mission: secure all necessary materials for construction of a hack box and tower, transport them for over an hour up a rocky, hilly, bumpy road, build the hack box and tower and then visit an Orange-breasted Falcon nest that we believed was incubating — all in one week!
We started off in Belmopan, Belize’s capital, buying lumber, paint, nails, fencing materials and everything else we needed to build a sturdy hack box and tower. Our next dilemma was how to haul all the materials to Hidden Valley Inn in the Mountain Pine Ridge area where we will be conducting the releases. However, after speaking with Craig and Lisa Milner, the managers of the Inn, they sent one of their trucks to help us carry the lumber.
Once the hack box was complete, our next step was to begin monitoring a few pairs of OBF’s that we thought were nesting. We visited one pair whose nest is on a large wall just above a clear, calm river with a small sandy beach. We suspected these birds were just about to lay eggs the last time we were here and we both were anxious to see what they were up to. With the help of volunteers Chris Hatten and Ryan Phillips, we hiked our way up to the top of the cliff. Angel descended to the nest, but unfortunately, there was nothing to find. This nest had failed. All that was left were some feathers and some bones from prey animals. However, we did see both birds, and the male brought the female some food which indicates they might be in courtship behavior again and could attempt to re-nest.
We were a bit discouraged, and time was running out. We had to return to Panama in just a few days. Without wasting time, we headed back to Hidden Valley Inn to check out what the pair of OBFs on that property was up to. Unfortunately, the weather had turned cold and the birds were not active. We spent over six hours observing the cliff, without ever seeing a bird. Finally, the next morning, and the day before we were supposed to return to Panama, the weather broke and there were clear, sunny blue skies—a good omen for us.
The very next day, we were on a plane back to Panama, exhausted but happy. We arrived around midnight and, with help from Saskia and Mary, placed the eggs in an incubator. But our night wasn’t over yet. While we were in Belize, the three eggs we had brought last time had hatched and we were greeted by the sight of three fluffy, downy chicks welcoming us home!
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