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The Peregrine Fund Notes From The Field
October 2007
Eddie Feltes — in California Condor Restoration    ShareEach September we get a glimpse of what lies in the autumn months ahead, as condor foraging behavior progresses on the Kaibab Plateau and in the Kolob region of southern Utah. We see use of travel corridors increase and utilization for roosting and foraging spikes up dramatically during the month of September. This behavior shift in the condor population maintains a constant increase as we enter October, and comes to a peak in November, before the snowfall buries their foraging range.

The archery deer season in September, both in Arizona and Utah, plays a major role in subsidizing the free foraging condor population with food, and it does so in three major forms: gutpiles, unretrieved-wounded losses, and unwanted carcass remains left in deer camps after the useful meat has been removed and hauled away. This latter form has been the most occurring subsidy during this year’s archery hunt. GPS locations from several birds led our crew to many abandoned camps that hosted condor activity, due to the raven behavior serving as facilitator in foraging, and leaving usually just skeletal remains and a hide for the scavengers to clean up.

This serves as a great food source during these hunts, but becomes the exact opposite in October/November during the rifle hunts if lead ammunition is used as the harvesting agent. At the time of writing we are in the middle of our Arizona deer hunts, and our crew has been tracking, attempting to trap and test blood-lead levels, and collecting known sources of lead contaminated carcasses/gut-piles, and removing them from the field in hopes of minimizing lead exposure. The Arizona Game and Fish Department has been a great help in this lead reduction effort, as well as fellow hunters that have been bagging up gut-piles and bringing them to us, or just calling in and tipping us off to the location of any sources containing lead and any experiences of condor behavior they may have had while in the field hunting. This is always a great help and we are thankful for it.

Matt Podolsky transferring birds for release.
Matt Podolsky transferring birds for release.
We started the month of October off by releasing four condors to the wilds of Arizona from the Vermilion Cliffs release site on 7 October. Condor 392 was a re-release, but it really was his first “technical” release, as he fledged from the wild in 2005, Condor 324 was a re-release, and Condors 265 and 423 were releases out for the first time in Arizona. All four birds did remarkable in roosting safely each night and adjusting to their new situation as a free-flying condor. We also had another condor take to the air for the first time ever— wild-produced chick Condor 441 from parent Condors 210 and 134 in the Grand Canyon. The successful fledge of Arizona’s sixth wild-produced condor was confirmed by Grand Canyon National Park biologist Rosa Palarino and GCNP condor monitoring volunteer Greg Ringer on 24 October, while backpacking in the canyon to observe the nesting activity of the seclusive condor family. And since the fledging, our crew has been able to catch some visuals from the canyon rim of the young bird soaring with its parents, and avoiding a Golden Eagle patrolling the canyon.

We are currently anticipating the successful fledging of the other wild-produced chick this year (Condor 459) from the Vermilion Cliffs any day now. This condor was hatched a month later than Condor 441 and is looking ready to go based on activity observed around the nest cave. This brings our total wild population to 61 condors soaring in the skies of northern Arizona and southern Utah!

Condor at roost.
Condor at roost.

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