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The Peregrine Fund Notes From The Field

"Notes from the Field" provides frequent updates and pictures from our biologists and students who are working in the field or at our headquarters, the World Center for Birds of Prey.

Marta Curti

I have been working as a field biologist for The Peregrine Fund since 2000. I have had the opportunity to work with a variety of species including the Aplomado Falcon and the California Condor. I am currently working on the Harpy Eagle and Orange-breasted Falcon Conservation Programs in Central America.

View Marta Curti's full profile on the Global Raptor Information Network (GRIN)

Found 54 entries matching your request:

A Hawk's Story

Marta Curti — in West Indies Project

As biologists, we aren't "supposed" to get attached to the animals we work with. We are often taught to be objective and analytical, but this is much harder said than done. This is especially true when, as in our case, we begin working with the Ridgway's Hawks when they are still too young to fly and monitor them on a daily basis for up to 3 months. We observe them on their initial flight attempts, and their sometimes wobbly landings. We worry about them on their first nights out of the release box and hope that they roost in safe spots and avoid being caught by predators. We watch them as they practice hunting and cheer when we find them with wild caught prey for the first time. After they disperse, or leave the release area, we track their movements and hope that they will continue to remain out of harm's way. One of our greatest fears is that they will end up shot or otherwise harmed by humans. We do all this work (and all this worrying) as part of our Assisted Dispersal program, wherein we release wild hatched young into other protected areas within Dominican Republic as a means to help create additional sustainable populations of this species in parts of its former range.

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All's Well that Ends Well: The Continuing Adventures of the Valentine's Day Pair

Marta Curti — in West Indies Project

The next morning – the beginning of the fourth day with no sign of the female from the Valentine’s Day Pair (see Notes from the Field, 22 April 2013) started off gloomy. Dark clouds rolled across the sky and the weather ranged from heavy down pours to just raining really hard.I had decided that this would be a good day to catch up on office work, updating field notes and data entry, mainly.I had been working for a about an hour or so when a break in the weather finally came.About twenty minutes later my phone started ringing. It was Henry, one of the guards working in Cap Cana within the Valentine’s Day Pair’s territory. “Estoy mirando los dos gavilanes,” he told me. He was seeing two hawks! I quickly gathered my gear – my binoculars andtheradio telemetry receiver wrapped in as many plastic bags as I could find to keep it dry (it had started raining again) – and headed out to the site

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Trouble in Paradise: An Update on the Valentine's Day Pair

Marta Curti — in West Indies Project

The sky was clear except for a few expansive clouds tinged pink by the rays of the rising sun. Egrets lazily flew by overhead, their great wings flapping golden in the early morning light. It was early and the air was cool and light, heavy only with the faint scent of the ocean tagging along on the tail end of an occasional breeze. The grass was green, the palm trees waved whenin thewind and the bougainvillea bloomed bright fuchsia. It seemed like a perfect day here in Dominican Republic, and it almost was, except for one nagging detail. This was going on the third day that we hadn’t seen the female, ND, from the Valentine’s Day Pair (see Notes from the Field, 20 March 2013).Up until a few days ago, she was regularly seen side by side with male AN as they worked together to build their nest, perched together, or fed together.Since ND’s radio transmitter wasn’t functioning, I had no way to track her so for two days I kept a close eye on AN. I hoped he would lead me to her, but he was always alone and often vocalizing loudly, as if calling for her. He never received a reply.

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The Valentine's Day Pair

Marta Curti — in West Indies Project

For the past three field seasons, Christine and Thomas Hayes and I have been working on The Peregrine Fund's Ridgway's Hawk Conservation Project. Ridgway's Hawks are a critically endangered species with the only known breeding population found in a small national park in Dominican Republic. Christine and Thomas spend about 6 months of the year in-country monitoring the wild pairs in Los Haitises National Park and helping with releases of young birds. Since 2008 The Peregrine Fund has been releasing young wild birds into protected areas in the hopes of creating additional self-sustaining populations. For the first time, two of our released birds have paired up and are making a nesting attempt. What follows is Christine' account of her observations of this exciting moment in our project's history!

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Raptor Conservation and the Kindness of Strangers

Marta Curti — in West Indies Project

It was just past 7 p.m. and the sun was quickly setting behind the fields of sugar cane and grass that lined the narrow road. Roaring motorcycles, and buses with music blaring from their windows whizzed past me, their lights fading into the darkness as I made my way slowly towards La Herradura – one of the release sites for the Ridgway’s Hawk in the Dominican Republic.I was on my way there with two young hawks in tow and a large bag filled with frozen meat (hawk food). I was coming from Los Limones – the small town that borders Los Haitises National Park, where the last known population of this species exists. As part of The Peregrine Fund and the Hispaniolan Ornithological Society’s conservation efforts, we are conducting an assisted dispersal project whereby we take up to 10 chicks from wild nests and release them in other protected areas in the country, in the hopes that they will eventually breed and establish additional wild populations. That afternoon, my co-workers in Los Limones, Thomas and Christine Hayes, had just returned from the field with two healthy, beautiful chicks and my job was to get them safely to the release site.

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In Search of AC

Marta Curti — in West Indies Project

It was still dark – 3:00 in the morning to be exact. I woke up, dressed, gathered the telemetry receiver, binoculars, rope, machete, food and water that I would need for the day and headed out into the field. I was in search of AC – a young Ridgway’s Hawk that had been released four days prior, but had not yet returned to the release site for food.

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Releasing Ridgway's Hawks

Marta Curti — in West Indies Project

On April 13, Thomas and Christine Hayes and I placed two young wild-hatched Ridgway’s Hawks into the hack box (a special enclosure designed to temporarily house the birds prior to release) set in a high tree overlooking the forest of Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. As part of an assisted dispersal program carried out by The Peregrine Fund and the Sociedad Ornitológica de la Hispaniola, the chicks would spend one week in the box before being released into their new home. The seven days spent in the enclosure gives them time to become accustomed to their new surroundings.

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A Hack Site Attendant's Experience in Dominican Republic

Marta Curti — in West Indies Project

With only an estimated 200-250 individuals left in the world, and the only known sustainable population found in Los Haitises National Park (LHNP), Dominican Republic, the Ridgway’s Hawk is a critically endangered species in need of strong conservation actions. The Peregrine Fund,in conjunctionwith the Sociedad Ornitologica de la Hispaniola, has been studying this species for years, and has begun what is known as an “assisted dispersal” program. The idea behind this is to take wild hatched chicks from some nests in LHNP and release them in other areas of the island where this species once existed that still contain suitable habitat. The hope is that, eventually, this will create additional populations on the island, thus making the species as a whole less vulnerable to major catastrophes such as hurricanes or disease outbreak.

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Of Forests and Fires

Marta Curti — in West Indies Project

Lush. Green. Verdant. Vibrant. This is what the forest in Los Haitises National Park (Dominican Republic)should look like. This is what it did look like once upon a time – before fires and machetes felled much of it to the ground.I have been brought to this small patch of uncut forest by my friend and co-worker, Nohine, who has been a part of the Ridgway’s Hawk Project for years and who knows the layout of the hills and trails of this park like most people know the layout of their own back yards. When we first enter the shaded landscape, I can feel the temperature drop 10 degrees - if not more. Nohine shows me an endemic palm tree and a large Ceiba tree – the first one I have seen since my arrival in the Dominican Republic in early March. I can hear songbirds singing in the trees and butterflies of all colors and sizes abound. For a few moments, I can pretend that this is all there is – just flowers and trees and winged creatures. I can forget the tragic loss of land that we witnessed today. But alas, we can’t spend much time here – maybe ten minutes or so. It is getting late. We have been walking for more than 5 hours and still have a ways to go before we get back to the cabin, so we grab our packs and head back onto the trail – back into the blazing hot sun and the now even-more-noticeable lack of trees to shade us.

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First Ridgway's Hawk Chicks of the Season Hatch

Marta Curti — in West Indies Project

Adult Ridgway's Hawk.
Photo by Jorge Brocca.

A cacophony of sounds surround me: the rhythmic hymns that float from open church doors, the braying of donkeys, the clop, clop, clop of horses trotting down the cobblestone street, the screaming laughter of children, the roar of motorcycles, the occasional Michael Jackson tune blaring from someone’s home, and finally, the high whistle of a Ridgway’s Hawk as it flies into view. This particular Ridgway’s Hawk is the adult male from the “Titico” pair which is nesting in a high palm tree just inside the town of Los Limones in the Dominican Republic. The town itself is small, with houses built of wood and palm, where roosters, dogs and goats roam with equal abandon.Here, the people are friendly and welcoming, greeting you with a “buenos dias” or an “hola” or a silent, cheery wave. Vendors young and old walk the streets selling sweets: coconut bread or toasted sugary peanuts something akin to peanut brittle, and men carrying machetes and wearing gum boots walk to their “conucos” (fields) to plant and harvest corn, squash, yucca, bananas, and many other delicious foods. Sour oranges grow everywhere in the forest and make for a delicious treat after hours of hiking beneath a hot sun. The town of Los Limones, just outside of Los Haitises National Park where the largest concentration of this species is found, is where we are stationed for the next few months as we survey for nesting pairs of Ridgways Hawks.To date this year, we have found about 35 pairs and all but two seem to be in some stage of nesting.

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This Year's Release Season Comes to an End

Marta Curti — in Orange-breasted Falcon Project

Adult male Orange-breasted Falcon

This is the last time I will stand on this spot in the Mountain Pine Ridge, Belize watching these particular Orange-breasted Falcons chase and dive after each other across a grayish sky. It is the last time I will watch these five birds land deftly in the pine trees that surround the hack site, or hear them utter their loud, rapid fire calls - cack, cack, cack - as a vulture lazily glides over the hack site, unwittingly entering into a “no fly zone” – at least in the eyes of the falcons who will be off in an instant, diving and stooping at this “intruder” until it clears an acceptable distance understood only by those blessed with wings.

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Looking Back: Release Day

Marta Curti — in Orange-breasted Falcon Project

Spending time together after release

I opened the release box door to see several tiny feathered faces staring up at me, patches of down in varying degrees sticking up from the tops of their heads like many tiny white dandelion seeds. I grabbed a small piece of meat from the plate I had carried up with me to the release tower, held it on the edge of my finger, and reached toward D2, the falcon closest to me. He stretched his neck, made a soft cacking noise, and greedily pulled the meat into his beak and swallowed.I offered a few more pieces to the other falcons and they all ate happily. I didn’t want to feed them too much. Today was the day they were going to be released for the first time, and we wanted them to come out of the box and eat on their own, which would help them continue to associate the platform and the box with safety.

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Looking Back: The Start of Release Season

Marta Curti — in Orange-breasted Falcon Project

Young captive-bred Orange-breasted Falcon

As the release season for Orange-breasted Falcons winds down, and I am now back in Boise at The Peregrine Fund’s headquarters, I can’t help but think about the great season that we had this year. I also realized that we didn’t write much about the releases themselves, so I hope to remedy that with the next few entries...

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Emergency Search for a Harpy Eagle and Orange-breasted Falcon Update

Marta Curti — in Orange-breasted Falcon Project

Harpy Eagle in Belize

Almost since its inception, The Peregrine Fund has enlisted the help of volunteers to assist in a wide variety of projects. Today, we continue to rely on the passion and commitment our volunteers possess. Through the Harpy Eagle and Orange-breasted Falcon Conservation projects alone, we have trained almost 90 volunteers from 16 different countries. Volunteers spend anywhere from 3 months to several years tracking eagles through the forest, gathering nesting data on wild falcons, or observing and caring for young birds after their release.

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Searching for the Orange-breasted Falcon in Southern Guatemala

Marta Curti — in Orange-breasted Falcon Project

Despite the noise-cancelling head phones, the thump-thump-thump of the helicopter blades sounded in my ears. From the empty space where the door should have been (it was removed to give us better visibility) a blast of cool air rushed past my face as I peered down into the thick green tangle of trees just below us. Their ragged branches and verdant leaves were so close I expected them to scrape the bottom of the helicopter at any moment. Suddenly, to our left, we saw a large white cliff jutting out from the forest floor. We banked toward it, and then approached slowly. When we were directly in front of it, the pilot slowed the helicopter even further so that we were literally hovering what seemed like just a few feet from the actual cliff face, as my co-worker Angel Muela and I scanned the area. After only a few minutes, Angel pointed to a dark shape flying swiftly above the canopy – its pointed wings beating the air furiously. It was a falcon for sure, but we weren’t sure yet if it was the species we were looking for. Our mission that day was to find Orange-breasted Falcons - a rare raptor that The Peregrine Fund has been studying since the 1980s.

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Environmental Education in Kenya

Marta Curti — in East Africa Project

It is probably every wildlife lover’s dream to visit the “dark continent”—a magical place where hippos laze languidly in shallow waters; where zebras, elephants and giraffes graze quietly in loose herds; and a pride of lions can be seen with relative ease sleeping belly-up in the afternoon sun alongside the road, so close you feel as if you could almost touch them. If you are really lucky you may also get to see the sleek spotted coat of a leopard as it slinks quietly into the tall grass, or a catch a rare view of a serval cat pouncing on unsuspecting lizards just beside your car. For those who have a particular affinity for raptors, Kenya is high on the list of places to visit. This east-African country is home to more species of raptors than almost any other country on the planet and more than 1,000 species of birds.

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A New Pair of Orange-breasted Falcons Found in Guatemala

Marta Curti — in Orange-breasted Falcon Project

Of all the raptor species that I have had the good fortune to work with, the Orange-breasted Falcon (OBF) is truly one of the most captivating. Its bright plumage, almost awkwardly large feet, and its aerial speed and agility coupled with the fact that there is still so much to learn about its behavior and habits, makes it a fascinating species to work with. At the same time, this falcon’s habitat, which consists of sometimes remote cliffs surrounded by dense Neotropical forest, makes it a very challenging species to study. While some of the nest sites are very easy to access; others require much longer, more strenuous hikes, and some are only reached by helicopter.

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Rehabilitated Wild Harpy Eagle Flies Free Once Again

Marta Curti — in Harpy Eagle Conservation and Research

Probably the greatest threat that the Harpy Eagle faces in the short-term is that of human persecution. Many of the reported “sightings” that occur throughout its range (from southern Mexico to northern Argentina) involve the bird being shot and more often than not, killed. As a means to mitigate human-caused mortality of this species, The Peregrine Fund began an extensive environmental education program in Panama in 2001, to coincide with the Harpy Eagle captive breeding and release programs.

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Harpy Eagle Release Update-March 2009

Marta Curti — in Harpy Eagle Conservation and Research

The question: can we successfully release a captive-bred female Harpy Eagle into the territory of an adult wild male, who recently lost his mate? In order for the release to be considered a success, the female would have to remain in the male’s territory, with the idea that they would eventually form a pair bond and produce offspring. To increase the chances of the male and the female interacting, The Peregrine Fund field technicians working in the area constructed a specially designed aviary within the male’s territory, very close to the original nest tree. The idea would be to hold the female in the aviary for two to three weeks, while observing from a blind a few meters away. Biologists would make sure that the female was safe and eating, but also record any interaction between the two eagles: the male perching on or near the aviary; the male bringing the female food; or both of them vocalizing together would all be good signs that they may form a pair bond. If none of these behaviors are observed, then the female will not be released in that area.

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Another Successful Harpy Eagle Day Celebration

Marta Curti — in Neotropical Environmental Education Program

For the fourth year in a row, The Peregrine Fund-Panama’s education department hosted “Festiarpia,” a festival held in celebration of Harpy Eagle Day on 13 April 2008. Harpy Eagle Day, which officially falls on the 10th of April, commemorates the law that officially declared the Harpy Eagle as the national bird of Panama. This year, as last year, we joined forces with the Summit Zoo and Botanical Gardens to make the celebration even more special. The festival was held on the zoo grounds, which are located adjacent to Soberania National Park and which boast an amazing amount of wide open green space.

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Harpy Eagle Release Program Update

Marta Curti — in Harpy Eagle Conservation and Research

In 2005 we released an independent male Harpy Eagle named DT into the Rio Bravo area of northern Belize. After several months, he began dispersing in a westerly direction. He crossed the Belize/Guatemala border and soon arrived at Tikal National Park (TNP). For the past few months, he has remained within the park boundaries, and, more recently, has begun to display the first signs of breeding behavior: defense of territory and rudimentary nest building.

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NEEP Makes Second Visit to Guatemala

Marta Curti — in Neotropical Environmental Education Program

Since 2002, The Peregrine Fund-Panama (TPFP) has been conducting an intensive environmental education program in communities near Harpy Eagle release sites and in areas where wild Harpy Eagles remain. In 2003, when we began releasing this species in Belize, we teamed up with The Belize Zoo, and thanks to their work through community visits, billboards, newspaper articles, and radio programs, the Harpy Eagle is now a household name in that country!

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Third Annual Harpy Eagle Day Celebration the Biggest Success Yet

Marta Curti — in Neotropical Environmental Education Program

Thanks to the efforts of many individuals, organizations and groups, the government of Panama officially declared the Harpy Eagle as the nation’s national bird on 10 April 2002. In order to commemorate this momentous act for raptor conservation, and to make the general public more aware of the Harpy Eagle, The Peregrine Fund began hosting an annual festival, called “Festiarpia,” in 2005. It started out as a small activity, with approximately 500 people participating. This year, its third year, we had the best turnout yet, with more than 3,000 people attending this event.

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Released Harpy Eagles Disperse Throughout the Selva Maya

Marta Curti — in Harpy Eagle Conservation and Research

The Selva Maya – an expanse of forest that reaches into Belize, Guatemala and Mexico, is the largest contiguous forest in Central America. In the heart of this tropical jungle, at the Rio Bravo Management Area, Belize, The Peregrine Fund has been releasing independent, captive-bred Harpy Eagles since 2004, as part of our Harpy Eagle Conservation Program. Since the first bird was released from her kennel and took her first tentative flights into her new home, we have released 10 independent sub-adult Harpy Eagles into this area. All released birds are fitted with a PTT transmitter that allows us to track their movements via satellite.

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Releasing Harpy Eagles at an Older Age May Help them Reach Independence Faster

Marta Curti — in Harpy Eagle Conservation and Research

When we first began releasing captive-bred Harpy Eagles in Panama, we did so when they were approximately six months old in order to mimic their natural fledging age. While the releases went smoothly, we noticed that it took the young birds between six months and up to two years before they were hunting on their own. This is consistent with the development patterns of wild-born Harpy Eagles as well. However, whereas adult Harpy Eagles are prepared to continue feeding their young for this amount of time, the effort was time consuming and difficult for our volunteers and biologists who were often tracking and feeding up to ten released birds or more at a time. In order to test the theory that releasing birds at an older age would significantly decrease the time it takes them to become independent, we began releasing them at around 18 months of age. To date, we have released four birds, two males and two females, at this advanced age.

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Neotropical Environmental Education Program Visits Darien

Marta Curti — in Neotropical Environmental Education Program

One of the three main target areas for our education program is Darien, the western-most province of Panama, located along the border of Colombia. This area still maintains an amazing amount of forest and wildlife, is one of the last strongholds for Harpy Eagles in Central America, and therefore is a key area for our education work. We have been working in Darien for several years now and we have presented talks, games and films about the Harpy Eagle, raptors, top predators, and migration.

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NEEP Makes Preliminary Educational Visits to Mexico

Marta Curti — in Neotropical Environmental Education Program

One of the greatest threats to Harpy Eagles in the short term is human persecution. In order to prevent our released birds (see our Notes From the Field-Harpy Eagle Releases for more information) from getting shot, trapped or otherwise injured at the hands of humans, The Peregrine Fund-Panama has been conducting an intensive environmental education program in Panama for the past four years. In 2003, we expanded our release program into Belize and, subsequently, began a partnership with the Belize Zoo in order to provide quality environmental education to children and adults in that country.

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Remote Camera Gives a Peek into the Mysterious World of Orange-breasted Falcons

Marta Curti — in Orange-breasted Falcon Project

Male Orange-breasted Falcon
Male Orange-breasted Falcon
In early March of this year, we installed a camera in one of the active Orange-breasted Falcon nests in Belize with the hopes of learning more about this species’ breeding behavior (see Notes from the Field March, 2006). The camera was designed to film all nest activity during daylight hours. In addition to the camera, we had three of our biologists, Chris Hatten, Ryan Phillips and Phil Hannon, and one volunteer, Cody Phillips, monitoring the nest to record all the activities that would occur off camera, such as hunting, food exchanges between the male and female, and nest defending. Chris, Ryan, Phil, and Cody each took turns camping at the nest to record behavior, identify prey species and to recharge the battery to the camera and download the footage every few days.

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Installing Remote Camera at Orange-breasted Falcon Nest Proves Challenging

Marta Curti — in Orange-breasted Falcon Project

The Peregrine Fund has been studying the elusive Orange-breasted Falcon (OBF) throughout Central and South America since the mid 1970s. Despite all of our efforts, however, there is still much to be learned about the habitat needs, reproduction and diet preferences for this species. In an attempt to garner more information about their nesting behavior, we decided to place a camera into one of the wild nests in Belize. However, this would not be as easy as it sounds.

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Educational Guides and Teacher Training Workshops Go Hand in Hand to Further Raptor Conservation in Panama

Marta Curti — in Neotropical Environmental Education Program

The Peregrine Fund-Panama’s Neotropical Environmental Education Program (NEEP) is currently focused on working in three main target areas within Panama. The first area consists of 16 communities surrounding Soberania National Park (SNP) where The Peregrine Fund-Panama is soft releasing young Harpy Eagles (see Notes from the Field Harpy Eagle Releases). The second area includes 21 communities in Darien, the region that borders with Colombia, and where a significant population of wild Harpy Eagles remains. Most recently, we have begun to work in 13 communities in the Bocas del Toro region, where we have already released several independent Harpy Eagles and where some wild Harpy Eagles still remain.

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Adventures with Stella: Relocating a Harpy Eagle, January 2006

Marta Curti — in Harpy Eagle Conservation and Research

The task seemed straightforward enough: travel to Belize, help two members of our field crew, Chris Hatten and Ryan Phillips, capture a female Harpy Eagle named Stella, and relocate her to a safer place. Stella is one of four captive reared Harpy Eagles that The Peregrine Fund released into the Chiquibul Forest in western Belize. However, when incursions into the area by poachers became a concern for the Harpy Eagles’ safety, we decided to relocate them into a safer expanse of forest in northern Belize. By this time, Stella had moved roughly 18 kilometers from the release site and was spending most of her time in a rugged, karstic limestone area of the forest that is very difficult to traverse on foot. To make matters more difficult, very little fresh water sources are found in the area, so all of the water needed for the journey, we had to carry.

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First Teacher Training Workshop Hosted by Neotropical Environmental Education Program

Marta Curti — in Neotropical Environmental Education Program

For the past two years, we at Fondo Peregrino-Panama’s Neotropical Environmental Education Program have been working on an educational guide based on birds of prey, designed for teachers working with students from kindergarten through sixth grade. The guide, entitled “Las Aves Rapaces” (Raptors), contains five chapters on the biology, taxonomy, cultural importance and conservation of raptors and a sixth chapter with a variety of educational activities that use birds of prey to teach concepts in language, science, art, math and even physical education. With the help of Panama’s Ministry of Education, we hope to distribute these guides to teachers and schools throughout the country. As a means to better ensure that the guides will be utilized once in teachers’ hands and that they won’t simply sit on a shelf collecting dust, we knew it would be essential to train teachers in the use of this guide.

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First Ever Release of Orange-breasted Falcons a Success!

Marta Curti — in Orange-breasted Falcon Project

Orange-breasted Falcon <br />chicks in hack box
Orange-breasted Falcon
chicks in hack box
A big day for all of us involved in the Orange-breasted Falcon Project occurred on 13 May 2005. It was the day when we released, for the first time ever, two young Orange-breasted Falcons using time-proven hacking methods. Though The Peregrine Fund has been using these techniques to successfully release other falcons like the Peregrine and the Aplomado, this would be the first time ever that we would try it with this species. Despite “pre-release jitters” we were feeling optimistic. After all, the birds had been eating well, and they were alert and active while in the box; in other words, they were ready!

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Orange-breasted Falcon Project Update—April 2005

Marta Curti — in Orange-breasted Falcon Project

With the success of last month’s trip to Belize (see Notes from the Field, March 2005), Angel and I were looking forward to our next visit. Last time we were in Belize, we had seen some interesting courtship behavior in a few of the Orange-breasted Falcon pairs and were hoping to find at least one pair already on eggs. Meanwhile, the three eggs we brought to Panama last time were just about ready to hatch and we had to finalize plans for their potential release. So, on 30 March, Angel and I headed to Belize. Our mission: secure all necessary materials for construction of a hack box and tower, transport them for over an hour up a rocky, hilly, bumpy road, build the hack box and tower and then visit an Orange-breasted Falcon nest that we believed was incubating — all in one week!

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First Annual Harpy Eagle Day Celebration a Resounding Success!

Marta Curti — in Neotropical Environmental Education Program

Harpy Eagle Day
Harpy Eagle Day
On 10 April 2002 the Harpy Eagle was officially and legally declared the National Bird of Panama. To celebrate the third anniversary of this important event and to spread the message about raptor conservation to more Panamanians, the Environmental Education department of The Peregrine Fund-Panama decided to host a Harpy Eagle Day Celebration, called “Festiarpia.” After months of planning and organizing, the big day finally arrived on Sunday, 10 April 2005.

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Harpy Eagle Release Update

Marta Curti — in Harpy Eagle Conservation and Research

On October 4 of 2003 we at The Peregrine Fund - Panama received the distressing news that a Harpy Eagle had been shot and injured in a remote area of the Darien Province of Panama. She had been rescued by government authorities and was being brought to our facilities for care. Not one month later, on October 31, did we receive word of another Harpy Eagle, this one a young male, that had also been shot and injured. He, too, was brought to our facilities. And then in March, on a tidal wave of bad news, a third Harpy Eagle, also shot, was on its way to us.

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Environmental Education as One Means to Conserve the Ridgway’s Hawk in the Dominican Republic

Marta Curti — in West Indies Project

Crystal blue waters, white sand beaches and lush vegetation; these are the views we take in as we drive from the airport in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic (DR), through the countryside, on our way to Los Haitises National Park, located in the northeast portion of the country. I have come from Panama to spend a week working with biologists Jesus Almonte and Pedro Rodriguez, to help implement an education program designed to promote the conservation of the endangered, endemic, Ridgway’s Hawk. My job would be to help them develop presentations, activities and a means to evaluate the progress of this program, which will take place in communities that surround Ridgway’s Hawk territory.

Marta Curti talks with community members about the Ridgway's Hawk
Marta Curti talks with community members about the Ridgway's Hawk
A medium-sized hawk with a spectacular, almost indescribable call, the Ridgway’s Hawk is threatened by habitat loss and by human persecution due, in part, to its misplaced reputation as a fierce chicken hunter. These two factors have been crippling for this species so that it is now considered critically endangered and found only in small pockets of its former habitat. Our challenge: how do you convince people to preserve this raptor when they fear it will kill their chickens, a source of food and, potentially, of income? How do you convince the general public of the importance of this bird before time runs out? In order to find some insight and, perhaps, some answers to these and other questions, we conducted some pre-evaluations in a community on the border of Los Haitises National Park. Jesus and I spent three days talking with Los Limones community members and conducting formal pre-evaluations. All in all, we spoke with around 60 members of the community, who were all happy to share their experience and insights with us.

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Mission: Harpy Eagle—Students of Colegio Brader Teaching Conservation

Marta Curti — in Neotropical Environmental Education Program

Colegio Brader students visit the Neotropical Raptor Center
Colegio Brader students visit the Neotropical Raptor Center
Herbert Spencer said that “the great aim of education is not knowledge but action.” This certainly is true in the case of conservation education, where we work daily to inspire children and adults to make a conscious effort to better our planet. Working to educate the general public about raptors, and Harpy Eagles in particular, can be a challenge as these birds are often feared and misunderstood. Despite this, we have been very lucky. Over the past two years, we have visited many classrooms and communities and have been inspired and overjoyed at the enthusiasm and interest most everyone has shown for the Harpy Eagle and its conservation.

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Orange Breasted Falcon Update

Marta Curti — in Orange-breasted Falcon Project

Angel Muela observing<br />Orange-breasted Falcon male
Angel Muela observing
Orange-breasted Falcon male
Just off one of the many back roads in Belize, high up on a limestone cliff, lives a pair of Orange-breasted Falcons. We have observed them for two years now and they always provide us with an amazing show—streaking through the air at top speed after songbirds, stooping White Hawks and Black Vultures, or perching on a branch as the evening light illuminates the beautiful, colorful feather pattern of this rare species.

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Harpy Eagle Releases in Panama

Marta Curti — in Harpy Eagle Conservation and Research

Things have been pretty active at the Harpy Eagle release site in Panama these past few weeks. We now have 15 free-flying eagles, several of which began to disperse long distances from the release site all at the same time! Though this is good news for the project and for the birds – as it means they are becoming more independent and are beginning to hunt a bit on their own, it means a lot of hard work for the volunteers and staff who have to keep up with them.

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Harpy Eagle Releases in Panama

Marta Curti — in Harpy Eagle Conservation and Research

It’s that time of year again on the Harpy Eagle project! Two more eaglets are once again ready to be released into Soberania National Park in Panama. I arrived at the hack site on a Wednesday ready for a mellow week of releases and all-day vigils at the blind. Instead, I experienced a week of day-long hiking in search of birds, some sadness and one or two surprises.

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Children's Drawing Contest a Success!

Marta Curti — in Neotropical Environmental Education Program

We recently hosted a national children’s drawing contest throughout Panama. The theme was “The Harpy Eagle: National Bird of Panama and Symbol of Conservation.” Every student in Panama from grades K through 6th was eligible to participate. We received more than 25 entries from all over the country including Chiriquí, Coclé, Colón, Darién, Los Santos, Panama, and San Miguelito. The drawings were as varied as the children who submitted them. And if there ever was truth to the saying that “a picture is worth a thousand words” it was evident in the beautiful pictures we received. Filled with bright colors, creativity, imagination, and a wide range of themes depicted; from a Harpy Eagle shedding tears at the loss of its forest home, to children teaching others about the importance of this magnificent species, these pictures spoke volumes about the status of Harpy Eagles and conservation in general, as seen through the eyes of a child.

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Program begins in Bocas del Toro, Panama

Marta Curti — in Neotropical Environmental Education Program

Loa Tzu said that a journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step. These words rang true, both literally and figuratively, for me and my co-worker Kathia Herrera, as we began our five-hour hike through the dense Neotropical forests of the Rio Teribe (Teribe River) area in Bocas del Toro Province, Panama. We were headed to a small community called Buena Selva, located at the top of a high mountain. This would be the first of four communities we would visit during the week. The others included Seiyic, Bonyic, and Solon. We were making this trip in order to begin an environmental education program in the area. Bocas del Toro Province, specifically the forests that surround the Rio Teribe, will be the site for releasing our captive-bred Harpy Eagles once they become independent of our care and are hunting on their own and no longer need to be monitored on a daily basis. Before these releases can occur, however, we need to ensure the support and acceptance of the people living in the area, thus, the purpose of our visit.

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Harpy Eagle Releases in Belize

Marta Curti — in Harpy Eagle Conservation and Research

At the end of October, I flew to Las Cuevas Research Station, in Belize to check on the status of the four Harpy Eagles we had released there in April and June of this year, respectively. I was excited to see the birds again. It had been more than four months since I had last set eyes on these particular Harpies. I was also going to meet two new volunteers for the first time and help them set up individual feeding trees for the eagles.

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Orange-breasted Falcon-June 2003

Marta Curti — in Orange-breasted Falcon Project

One of the lesser studied falcons in the world, the Orange-breasted Falcon (Falco deiroleucus) is arguably one of the most beautiful. It is similar in coloration to the Bat Falcon (Falco rufigularis), but has a shock of orange on its breast that the Bat Falcon lacks. It is also much larger and has proportionately bigger feet than its more commonly seen cousin. Orange-breasted Falcons (OBF) are swift fliers and feed on birds and bats which they catch on the wing. They regularly nest on cliff ledges, but have also been found nesting in epiphytes growing in emergent trees. OBFs usually lay between one and three eggs and chicks remain in the nest for about five to six weeks before fledging.

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March-April 2003

Marta Curti — in Harpy Eagle Conservation and Research

As we sat huddled in the observation blind, quietly battling the mosquitoes and black flies, the first strokes of light set the forest ablaze with green, as the sun's rays began to peak from between the large Chicle trees that composed most of our view. In the distance, we heard howler monkeys greet the day with their typical guttural wails that echoed across the forest and sounded like a chorus of 20, when in reality only two or three were calling. The scent of rain lingered in the air. Amidst the hustle and bustle of a typical morning in the Belizean wilderness, something very atypical was about to happen. The forest was getting some new residents—two captive-bred Harpy Eagles being released into this Central American country for the first time ever. As we waited anxiously for the Harpy Eagles to emerge from the hack box, their home for the past three weeks, and venture out into the wild for the first time, I couldn't help but think of the long process that brought these birds here in the first place.

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The 2002 Hacking Season

Marta Curti — in Aplomado Falcon Restoration

On 6 July 2002, Peregrine Fund biologist field supervisor, Angel Montoya, Marta Curti, and landowner/rancher Jon Means opened the door to a hack box containing six juvenile Aplomado Falcons on the Means Ranch, just outside Van Horn, Texas. In less than an hour, three of the birds had emerged from the box. Soon after, a young male Aplomado took his first flight, marking the first time a known juvenile Aplomado Falcon has flown free across the open grasslands of the Chihuahuan Desert within the United States for over half a century.

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Banding Wild Chicks and Preparing for the 2002 Hacking Season

Marta Curti — in Aplomado Falcon Restoration

With summer officially underway, and hack season already beginning, this is a busy time for the Aplomado Falcon field crew. This month, we find ourselves still banding wild-born falcons, rearing young falcons in the hack boxes, and planning for our third release, less than a week away. 

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Reading Bands and Preparing for the 2002 Nesting Season

Marta Curti — in Aplomado Falcon Restoration

The transition from winter to spring marks the beginning of the nesting season for the Aplomado Falcon in southeast Texas.  For us, the field crew, it marks the beginning of long, hot days spent battling mosquitoes, ticks, snakes, and our own tired eyes as we try to locate and identify new and established pairs of wild Aplomado Falcons. 

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Texas Central Power and Light to the Rescue

Marta Curti — in Aplomado Falcon Restoration

Since the inception of the Aplomado Falcon recovery project, The Peregrine Fund has worked with such past and current partners as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), the U.S. Coast Guard, Texas Parks and Wildlife, American Electric Power (AEP) - Central Power and Light, and many private landowners, in order to raise and transport falcons, to build facilities, to
band birds, and to identify and utilize release sites. These strong and diverse partnerships have made up an integral part of the program itself and have contributed greatly to its success. Recently, an event occurred that demonstrates the commitment and concern that these outside agencies and individuals have for this endangered species and its recovery.

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