Thom Lord— 1 August 2006 — in California Condor Restoration ShareGreetings, Notes from the Field readers! Monsoon season arrived none too soon this month, providing much-needed precipitation and somewhat cooler weather to the residents (human and otherwise) of northern Arizona. The frequent rains helped to finally contain the large wildfires consuming the area’s parched forests, and brought some relief from the stifling temperatures that we had been experiencing in the preceding weeks. The condors, for the most part, followed a pattern that has become typical for this time of year, with many birds escaping the heat by heading to the cooler high-altitude regions of Zion and Grand Canyon National Parks.
The vast majority of individuals in the wild California Condor population wear some type of tracking device, either a conventional radio transmitter or a GPS transceiver. These devices are extremely important tools in the management of the population, and give us important information on bird location and movement that would be impossible to gain in any other way. Therefore, when these transmitters lose battery power or malfunction, we have to capture the condors to repair or replace the devices. For just this reason, we spent much of July trapping condors in between their forays from the release site. We were able to capture almost every bird in the Arizona population, and opportunistically tested their blood lead levels as well. In addition to remedying any transmitter problems, we discovered a few incidences of lead exposure, and were able to treat those birds successfully.
In last month’s NFTF, I talked about Condor 134’s return from the Phoenix Zoo after his successful treatment for lead poisoning. We held Condor 134 for a short time at our Vermilion Cliffs’ treatment facility in preparation for his return to the wild, and he continued to show improvement, gaining weight and asserting dominance over the condors he was being held with. Finally, on 21 July, after spending over five months in captivity, Condor 134 joined the wild population once again. Many of the Phoenix Zoo staff responsible for his recovery were able to attend his release, a touching and gratifying conclusion to the long hours that they contributed in getting Condor 134 to this point.
An equally impressive effort was made to ensure Condor 122’s recovery from lead poisoning, and it now appears that he will be back in the wild very soon as well. He was transferred from the zoo to our treatment facility in mid-July, and his improvement is just as heartening as Condor 134’s was. Thanks again to Dr. Orr and all of the staff at the Phoenix Zoo!
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