July - August 2007
Eddie Feltes— 17 September 2007 — in California Condor Restoration ShareThe summer months of July/August have come and gone, leaving behind some long periods of extreme heat followed by heavy thunderstorms. Here in condor country we kicked off the month of July with a happy homecoming, returning five-year-old Condor 270 back home from his stay at the Phoenix Zoo.
Some may recall from our April NFTF, Condor 270 was trapped and taken to the zoo to rehab a broken leg from an unknown incident in late April. He was able to heal up just fine under the great care of the Phoenix Zoo staff, and on 3 July I was asked to come and pick him up for transfer back to the Vermilion Cliffs. Upon first seeing him, I immediately noticed that his leg still had an awkward angle, unlike the square stance of a healthy bird. Dr. Roberto Aguilar of the Phoenix Zoo reassured me that Condor 270 was all healed up, just a bit crooked, but ready for release.
As expected, post release had him staying local at the Vermilion Cliffs release-site for several weeks. On 22 August, he took his first major flight, covering nearly 150 miles in a day and a half. He headed west over the Kaibab Plateau and explored the rugged canyons that stitch the southwest border of the Kaibab National Forest to the Grand Canyon; then headed north to join 25 other condors that were foraging and roosting in the Kolob region of southern Utah, and immediately soared back south along Paria Canyon the next morning, and eventually coming full circle to the release-site atop the Vermilion Cliffs.
The month of August had us tracking our greatest number of condors at any one time (42 of the 55 bird population) up in the Zion region of southern Utah. As we have seen in recent years past, each summer more and more birds join for the first time, an already established free foraging population of condors in the area. With an ample and consistent food supply, and the near perfect topography for soaring condors, we expect this trend to continue and have had to dedicate a major portion of our monitoring to this region.
All through these past few summer months we have been monitoring the assumed nesting activity of female Condor 210 and male Condor 134 in a remote canyon in Grand Canyon National Park. Both birds exhibited, and continue to exhibit, model behavior for breeding condors. They are covering great distances in daily forage patterns that always lead back to this secretive nest site after leaving a carcass. After a handful of attempts at locating the root of this behavior, all involving rigorous hiking and extreme temperatures, we were narrowing the potential cave location down to a general area based on signals received from the parent birds while down near the canyon.
Once at a closer location with a clearer view from above, Tim set up the scope and observed a healthy 133-day-old wild produced condor nestling. The cave is in an ideal location- high up on a wall that is situated in a very remote and undisturbed canyon. The nestling looks to be in great health based on feather development and overall size. So now the month of September will have our crew observing and anticipating the growth and successful fledging of the seventh bird to have been produced in the wild by this released population. Until next time…
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