Thom Lord— 5 July 2006 — in California Condor Restoration ShareGreetings, Notes from the Field readers! Many of you have probably heard about the large wildfires burning in northern Arizona and southern Utah through much of June. Although the fires affected the biologists on the Condor Project to some extent, limiting where we could safely travel to track the birds and intermittently enveloping our field headquarters in a thick cloud of smoke, the condors seemed relatively unfazed by the drastic changes in their environment. They appeared to go about their business more or less as usual, traveling and foraging extensively as they have been for most of the spring. One of the largest fires in northern Arizona was on the Kaibab Plateau, easily visible from the Vermilion Cliffs release site and right in the middle of the birds’ primary foraging range. The condors appeared to pay it little heed, skirting the huge fire to the east and west in their typical day-to-day travels.
Aside from the fires, most of the major events in June occurred near the beginning of the month. As I discussed in last month’s NFTF, we had two nests with confirmed eggs this year, neither of which managed to make it to hatching stage. We were curious as to why this might have been, and therefore wanted to retrieve both eggs for analysis. Having already retrieved the egg from the nest of Condors 187 and 136 in late May, on 5 June we made the rappel into the second cave to retrieve the remaining egg. This being the first known egg from Condors 158 and 133, we were particularly interested in finding out whether or not it had been fertile.
With help from new crewmember Marti Jenkins (who we welcomed from the California Condor breeding program at the L.A. Zoo) and veteran crewmember Eric Weis, I was able to lower into the cave and retrieve the intact egg without a hitch. Both eggs were sent to the pathologists at the San Diego Wild Animal Park for analysis, and their findings were encouraging. Both eggs were, in fact, fertile, and each respective chick had developed normally until shortly before hatching. Although the cause of death could not be determined in either case, these results certainly bode well for each pair in the upcoming breeding season.
Just a few days after we retrieved the second egg, new crewmember Rob Gay observed one of last year’s wild-fledged chicks, Condor 392, at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. This was the farthest that we had documented Condor 392 from its natal area, and we again found the bird on the North Rim about ten days later. This time, however, Condor 392 was perched above a deer carcass with a number of other birds, another first in our observations of the chick’s development. Each of these trips is bringing Condor 392 closer to the Vermilion Cliffs’ release site, and integration with the rest of the Arizona flock.
Around the same time that Condor 392 was seen at the North Rim, a much-anticipated homecoming was occurring back at our Vermilion Cliffs treatment facility. Condor 134, whose rescue from the Grand Canyon and treatment for lead poisoning I detailed in last February’s NFTF, was finally deemed well enough to return to Vermilion Cliffs in preparation for release into the wild. He had spent the previous few months at the Phoenix Zoo, under the care of Dr. Kathy Orr and her staff. For a large part of that time, the likelihood of his recovery was uncertain, so it was an emotional occasion for all of us to see him so strong and healthy once again. The only condor that remains in treatment at the Phoenix Zoo is Condor 122, who is also showing significant signs of improvement under the zoo staff’s care. His return to Vermilion Cliffs is certainly no less anticipated, and we are all looking forward to getting both condors back into the wild very soon.
Our Conservation Projects
Species we work with
Where we work
|Unknown column 'Hits' in 'field list'|