Thom Lord— 7 September 2005 — in California Condor Restoration ShareGreetings, Notes from the Field (NFTF) readers! It seems that no matter how long any of us has worked on The Peregrine Fund’s California Condor Restoration Project, each month has the capacity to bring something new. Fortunately, those unpredictable events have been very positive for a number of months, and this trend continued in August. The first half of the month was relatively uneventful, as the birds maintained, for the most part, the traveling and foraging patterns that they had exhibited in July.
Our greatest source of excitement for the month came on 13 August, when veteran crewmember Eddie Feltes was able to confirm the presence of a second wild condor chick in a nest cave overlooking Arizona’s Grand Canyon. We had been working for a number of months on the assumption that this chick was alive and well based on our observations of the parent birds. Nevertheless, it was thrilling to finally have our suspicions confirmed by actually seeing the approximately 10-week-old chick. Eddie’s observations were only made possible by a grueling 24-mile round trip hike into the canyon, but the results were undoubtedly worth it. Incidentally, Eddie has been the first person to see three of the program’s five wild-hatched chicks, surely a testament to his determination and skill in monitoring condor nests.
In addition to obtaining the first visual on the Grand Canyon chick, we continued to observe Arizona’s other new chick near the Vermilion Cliffs release site. We were regularly able to view this chick perched at the mouth of its nest cave, and both parents (Condors 114 and 126) spent considerable time in or near the cave throughout the month. Both chicks appear to be healthy and developing normally, and both pairs of parents have been observed feeding their respective chicks. Everything still appears to be on track for fledging in a few months.
The remainder of Arizona’s condor population continued to forage widely throughout August, with many birds using the entire range from south of the Grand Canyon to north of Utah’s Zion National Park. We were able to document the birds finding carcasses on a number of occasions. On 19 August, we re-released three birds into the wild: Condor 314, who had been attacked by an unknown predator before being found, captured, and treated (see May 2005 NFTF), and Condors 270 and 287, both transferred from a release site at Pinnacles National Monument in California. These transfers from Pinnacles had exhibited an inclination to perch on power poles, which can be deadly for large birds such as condors. The risk of electrocution and collisions with power lines is an important consideration in both Arizona and California. We have not seen this type of behavior in Arizona since the beginning of the project, and hope to break the behavior pattern in these birds that had been released in California prior to their re-release in Arizona by moving them to a completely new location. In addition, we placed additional “dummy” poles equipped with mild shocker units for anything landing on them near the release site to encourage a negative association with power poles. We will monitor the condors closely for signs of any problems, and continue to flexibly manage the population to maximize the birds’ chances for success.
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