California Condor Recovery Project
Eddie Feltes— 26 October 2010 — in California Condor Restoration Share
Greetings NFTF readers! After a large lapse in writing, I would like to apologize for the lull and ensure that regular updates are sure to be more frequent thanks to our new NFTF setup on our website. To briefly pick up where I left off in my last writing, I would like to summarize the season’s nesting outcomes. After all the dust settled from our research and searching for possible new nesting pairs and their locations all season, we ended up with only one confirmed chick hatched. The reliable pairing of 126F and 114M in the Vermilion Cliffs hatched young condor #558 on 12 April 2010. Since we were still releasing birds during that time and since the nest cave location is so close to the release site, our monitoring of that nest was very reliable. Throughout the summer months, the pair was exhibiting perfect behavior suggesting the raising of a healthy chick. As the summer progressed, our visuals of the nestling were more frequent, and then daily, as it aged and developed in mobility and curiosity around the immediate vicinity of the nest cave porch. Then on 20 October 2010 veteran biologist Shaun Putz observed the chick several hundred meters away from the nest cave and now taking short flights in the area along the cliff wall; a successful fledge! At the time of writing, 558 has been a little more active in flight, but no major flight distances have been observed yet. This marks the 11th wild-produced condor to successfully fledge since our releases began in 1996.
Our final spring release was carried out last March when we released condors 442F and 484F on 7 March 2010, and 484 has been doing great establishing herself as a free-flying condor. We decided to halt spring releases for two major reasons: weather and breeding. March is extremely windy and the weather can be pretty unpredictable from day to day, making it harder for us to ensure survival of these newly released birds that have difficulty navigating in high winds so early on. In addition, the breeding pairs near the release site become very territorial and aggressive towards the new birds, making roosting high up on the cliff and away from ground dwelling predators even more challenging. We decided the sensible thing to do was to start releasing birds during the more favorable fall months. On 25 September 2010 we partnered our public release with National Public Lands Day by releasing 442F again, as well as first time releases 413M, 435M, and 486M. All four birds have taken to the system very well and it looks like none will have to be re-trapped for temporary holding. The release of these four, as well as the fledging of 558, brings our current free-flying population to 76 condors; and another 9 still awaiting release in our flight-pen.
The population trend of foraging in southern Utah during the summer months and into fall and winter is what is going on right now. On any given day we record three quarters of our total population in the Zion region of Utah, an area that holds them there due to the domestic sheep herds and the ample supply of deer and elk carcasses and offal piles that are left over from the hunting seasons. We have not yet begun to trap and test/treat for lead poisoning, as we do every season, because the birds are not yet returning to the release site where our trapping station is located. Until they start venturing back in to be trapped, we will continue to release more new birds in groups of two at a time during the next few months, allowing us to monitor the new releases and carry out trapping duties at the same time. As we dive into another season of treating condors for lead poisoning, I would like everyone to check out the short video link below reminding everyone of the severity of lead poisoning on wildlife populations nationwide. The current population will continue to experience problems of re-establishment as long as lead remains in their sources of food.
Eddie Feltes 26-October-2010
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