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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.

Found 27 entries matching your request:

30 March 2004

Sophie Osborn — in California Condor Restoration

It has been an incredible time in Arizona Condorland. Condor 305, our wild-hatched chick and the first condor to fledge successfully in the wild since the inception of the captive breeding program, has found its wings and has finally discovered the other condors! For months following Condor 305’s unprecedented leap out of the nest, it has remained in close proximity to where it was raised. With the rest of the condor flock beginning to move around more with the coming of spring weather, we felt it was only a matter of time, before Condor 305 began moving beyond the confines of its nest drainage. But rather than Condor 305 flying out to meet the other condors, on March 13, an influx of free-flying condors discovered Condor 305.

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5 February 2004

Sophie Osborn — in California Condor Restoration

Greetings Notes from the Field Readers,

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23 December 2003

Sophie Osborn — in California Condor Restoration

Greetings Notes from the Field Readers,

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20 November 2003

Sophie Osborn — in California Condor Restoration

Greetings Notes from the Field Readers,

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27 October 2003

Sophie Osborn — in California Condor Restoration

Greetings Notes from the Field Readers. I am sure many of you have been anxiously awaiting news of Arizona’s first wild-hatched condor chick! Condor 305, as our chick is now known, is alive and well and seems increasingly anxious to leave the confines of its nest cave. Condor 305 is now 25 weeks old and we expect it to leave the nest any day. Its flight and body feathers are fully grown and it looks like any other juvenile condor except that its head is a paler gray and it has no wing tags! It spends much of its day resting in the front of the cave, awaiting its parents and its next meal. Each day, Condor 305 has one or two periods of tremendous activity when it flaps frenetically and runs out of view into the back of the cave then reappears running and flapping madly. It cranes its head looking for a place to climb and has given watching field crew members many tense moments as it clambers out onto a barely discernible ledge on the west side of its cave and flaps against the cliff. During such moments, we can’t help but feel that the chick’s fledging is going to happen by accident, when it loses its balance and is forced to take flight!

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20 September 2003

Sophie Osborn — in California Condor Restoration

Greetings Notes from the Field Readers. Just a quick update to let you know that the first wild-hatched condor in Arizona is alive and well! Our first baby condor recently received its name! Henceforth, it will be known as Condor 305. Although this may sound like a mere number to most people, to those of us that monitor the condors on a daily basis these numbers become names.

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20 August 2003

Sophie Osborn — in California Condor Restoration

Greetings Notes from the Field Readers! Details of the last few weeks will follow soon, but I thought you’d all appreciate a sneak preview of the recent exciting events in Arizona Condorland.

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1- 15 August 2003

Sophie Osborn — in California Condor Restoration

Perhaps I am being fanciful, but it often seems as though condors return “home” to the release area when they are feeling unwell. Over the years, we have been fortunate in discovering that several condors had recently ingested lead by trapping them upon their return to the release site. Whether the condors returned to the one place they know of that has a stable, reliable food supply because something felt not-quite-right with them or whether it was pure coincidence and we happened to get lucky with our trapping is anyone’s guess.

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15 - 31 July 2003

Sophie Osborn — in California Condor Restoration

I have said before that the ups and downs of working with condors resemble riding a roller coaster. Lows are invariably followed by highs, delight all too often wages with fear. The second half of July epitomized this analogy. We started out on a high. On July 16, Project Director Chris Parish trapped Condor 123, the father of our first wild-hatched condor chick and our most dominant condor. Condor 123 had increased all of our stress levels by going into stealth mode (meaning both of his radio-transmitters stopped functioning) on July 7. Unable to track his movements using his radio signals as we do with all the condors, we had to rely on chance sightings and feared we would never know what happened to him if he suddenly disappeared. Fortunately, we need not have worried. Condor 123 spent his seven days in stealth mode under our watchful eyes as he fed on an elk that had fallen off the rim of the Grand Canyon and calf carcasses that we had put out at night for the condors at our release site.

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1 - 15 July 2003

Sophie Osborn — in California Condor Restoration

When tourists view condors at the South Rim for the first time, the awe that they feel is quickly followed by curiosity about these giant birds and the efforts to restore them. After we explain that we monitor the birds all day, every day using radio telemetry, the invariable follow-up questions are “How long do the batteries in the radio transmitters last?” and “What do you do when the batteries die?” Since the batteries last about a year, the answer to the second question is that we must retrap the birds to replace the transmitters. This response is always followed by a look of amazement and disbelief and an exclamation of “How on earth can you catch a bird like that?!”

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16 - 30 June 2003

Sophie Osborn — in California Condor Restoration

At 0630 on the already warm morning of June 18, Project Director Chris Parish opened up our baited condor trap and settled back in a folding chair in the trapping blind to await the arrival of the giant birds. Only four condors had roosted at the release site on the Vermilion Cliffs the night before, so he expected to get off to a rather slow start. We were finally beginning the task of recapturing our 35 free-flying condors to inoculate them against the dreaded West Nile Virus. Although West Nile was not yet present in Arizona, we could not afford to take risks, given the few California Condors that exist in the wild. Many of the captive condors that form the breeding program had already been vaccinated with a vaccine developed specially for the condors and it was now time to confer a measure of protection on the wild birds.

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1 - 15 June 2003

Sophie Osborn — in California Condor Restoration

Whenever condor field crewmembers return to the Vermilion Cliffs to visit or call to ask us how the condors are doing, their first question is invariably, “How is 241 doing?” Aside from the ever-present specter of lead poisoning, how Condor 241 would fare when she first encountered people-areas was perhaps the over-riding concern for anyone that worked on the condor project in the last year. In the beginning of June, we all finally had to face our demons. And, to our eternal surprise, they amounted to very little.

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16 - 31 May 2003

Sophie Osborn — in California Condor Restoration

On the morning of May 20, a Grand Canyon National Park (GCNP) helicopter flew through normally restricted air space and set down in the canyon on the massive formation known as The Battleship. Three people climbed out and headed toward the cliff rim. About a mile away, up on the canyon rim by Hopi Point, assembled Peregrine Fund and park personnel anxiously monitored their progress through binoculars and spotting scopes. Today, we hoped to discover why Condor 119 and 122’s Battleship nest had failed.

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1 - 15 May 2003

Sophie Osborn — in California Condor Restoration

As hot-pink prickly pear cactus flowers began bursting over the desert like fireworks, the condor field crew anxiously watched our breeding birds for any hint that we might at long last be able to celebrate the hatching of the first wild condor chick in Arizona in decades. Despite our hopes, the adult condors’ behavior remained frustratingly unclear. On May 4, Condors 119 and 122 raised our hopes by switching incubation duties in their cave twice in one day. When a condor chick is hatching (a process that can take up to three days), first-time condor parents are typically very curious about their egg’s bizarre transformation and both parents will spend time together in the nest and switch nest duty more frequently. For the next three or four days, the pair took daily turns at nest duty, as opposed to the two to four days of nest duty that had been typical for them in March and April. Could their egg finally have hatched?

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16 - 30 April 2003

Sophie Osborn — in California Condor Restoration

On April 19, Condor 250 landed on a low wall adjacent to the rim trail that passes through Grand Canyon Village. Hopping to the ground, he quickly drew the attention of numerous tourists, who sought to get as close to him as possible. Unlike most condors, Condor 250 showed little fear. It was the moment we had been waiting for. For the past week or two we had been hoping for an opportunity to recapture Condor 250. His excessive curiosity and fearlessness put him at risk and threatened to entice condors that would usually behave appropriately into bad situations.

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1 - 15 April 2003

Sophie Osborn — in California Condor Restoration

The life of a field biologist can be surprisingly dull at times. Days in the field are exceedingly long and all too often consist of hours of waiting for an animal to show up, watching it rest for hours on end, or driving long distances listening to the monotonous blips of radio transmitter signals. Days are often spent in solitude in remote areas in inhospitable conditions. Clearly, it is not the life for everyone.

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16 - 31 March 2003

Sophie Osborn — in California Condor Restoration

Although using caves as nest sites has undoubtedly benefited condors for many thousands of years, this breeding strategy can be extremely frustrating for the biologists who are attempting to monitor the birds’ nesting activities. Unable to see into our condors’ nest caves, the Arizona condor field crew has to content itself with watching the adult condors’ behavior for clues about the status of their nesting effort. After weeks of wondering what our condor quad was doing in their cave on the southwest corner of the Paria Plateau and hiking to innumerable different vantage points to try in vain to get a look into the cave, we finally took more drastic measures to satisfy our curiosity.

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1- 15 March 2003

Sophie Osborn — in California Condor Restoration

Sometimes releases of juvenile condors are just plain boring. Even after the front gate on the release pen has been opened up, young birds often wait for hours before either noticing their pen now has an exit or overcoming their timidity enough to investigate the opening by taking the first tentative steps out of the pen.

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1- 28 February 2003

Sophie Osborn — in California Condor Restoration

As befits the month containing Valentine’s Day, February was a time of romance and adventure for the Arizona condors! Romance for the older birds and adventure for the youngsters. Courtship activities continued to heat up for the breeding birds. Condor 122 and 123 repeatedly cemented their pairings with their respective mates of almost two years—Condors 119 and 127.

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16 - 31 January 2003

Sophie Osborn — in California Condor Restoration

Beechcraft-18 used to transport condors<br /> from Boise, Idaho to Page, Arizona for release.
Beechcraft-18 used to transport condors
from Boise, Idaho to Page, Arizona for release.
On January 18, the condor field crew did something that it hadn’t done in years. Rather than gathering up our tracking equipment and setting out alone to the various zones (the release site, “up top,” the river corridor, the South Rim, etc.) from which we usually monitor the condors, the whole crew convened at the airport in Page, Arizona. Around noon, we would be receiving a very special delivery: eight new juvenile condors!! Our last batch of condors had been flown to us in November of 2001 by U. S. Forest Service pilots, who had delivered them almost to our doorstep in Marble Canyon, AZ. This time, friend and cooperator, Norm Freeman, who has helped with the Condor and Aplomado Falcon Projects innumerable times in the past, made arrangements for a charter plane to transport the young condors from The Peregrine Fund’s World Center for Birds of Prey in Boise Idaho, where they had been raised, to the airport in Page. With funding from the BLM and Catalina Flying Boats, Inc., the Beechcraft-18 owned by Catalina Flying Boats, Inc. made the flight with their pilot, Annette, and Norm serving as the co-pilot.

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2 January 2003

Sophie Osborn — in California Condor Restoration

Just a quick note to let you know that the first stirrings of the condor breeding season are upon us! Condors 119 and 122 have spent the last week to ten days in and around last year's Battleship nest cave at the South Rim. The last two to three days, the pair have spent most of each day in drainages west of the Horn Creek Drainage. We suspect that they have been investigating caves in these areas, but have not been able to get visuals on them doing so yet.

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1 - 15 January 2003

Sophie Osborn — in California Condor Restoration

The New Year began on a high note with the return of Condor 249 from his convalescence at the Phoenix Zoo. Condor 249 had contracted lead poisoning during his sojourn on the west flank of the Kaibab Plateau in November and December of 2002. After finishing his chelation treatment and passing the metallic fragment that he had ingested, Condor 249 finally had been given a clean bill of health and was cleared to come home to the Vermilion Cliffs. A heartfelt “Thank you!” to Dr. Katherine Orr and her dedicated staff for restoring our young condor to good health.

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16 - 31 December 2002

Sophie Osborn — in California Condor Restoration

December 2002 ended much as it had begun: stormy skies, coupled with increasingly sedentary condors; excitement over re-releasing now-healthy condors, sobered by lingering concerns about lead; steadily accelerating condor courtship, accompanied by the field crew’s condor matchmaking and speculation about the upcoming breeding season.

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