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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 25 entries matching your request:

February 2007

Thom Lord — in California Condor Restoration

Greetings, Notes from the Field readers! The movements of Arizona’s condor population calmed a bit in February, with most of the birds spending an increasing amount of time between the release site and the Colorado River corridor. A notable exception to this, however, was the expanding activity of established condor pairs as breeding season marched on. At least five strong pairs have developed so far this year, and we have seen extensive courtship and nest-searching behavior in each. Two of the pairs have produced wild chicks in previous years, and two more have incubated eggs in the past. The previous breeding experience in these four pairs bodes particularly well for their chances at success this season, and we’re eagerly and optimistically watching as they make their current attempts.

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January 2007

Thom Lord — in California Condor Restoration

Greetings, Notes from the Field readers! The first month of the new year proved to be both productive and challenging for the Condor Project. We were able to complete our seasonal trapping of the entire Arizona population, and all of the birds being temporarily held in our treatment facility were re-released into the wild. We did, however, have additional lead-related fatalities in the population, an unfortunate end to a season in which the field crew put forth an incredible effort to protect as many birds and gather as much data as possible. The advent of the breeding season in the last weeks of the month, though, helped to end January on a very positive note.

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December 2006

Thom Lord — in California Condor Restoration

Greetings, Notes from the Field readers! As hunting season came to a close in early December, Condor Project biologists maintained efforts in tracking and trapping birds— collecting valuable data on lead exposure in the population. We were able to capture and test the vast majority of the Arizona population by the end of the month, and we treated a number of condors for lead exposure in our Vermilion Cliffs treatment facility. We also continued the collection of carcasses from the field, both to gather data on the occurrence of lead fragments in the carcasses, and to prevent the birds from being exposed to those that did contain lead.

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November 2006

Thom Lord — in California Condor Restoration

Greetings, Notes from the Field readers! The Peregrine Fund’s condor crew has been running full bore for the last month, swarming the Kaibab Plateau in an attempt to document as much of the birds’ movement and feeding activity as possible while the hunting season is underway. With the help of hunters and the Arizona Game and Fish Department, an extraordinary number of gutpiles and carcass remains have been recovered or turned in. This is extremely important, giving us information as to how many of these remains contain lead fragments, and preventing condors from being exposed to these fragments when lead ammunition has been used (for more information on lead and condors, see last month’s NFTF and the articles available at http://www.peregrinefund.org/pdf_articles.asp). We have also continued our fall trapping effort in order to assess lead levels in individual birds as they return to the release site.

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October 2006

Thom Lord — in California Condor Restoration

Greetings, Notes from the Field readers! The steady march of seasons rolled on last month, bringing snowfall in the higher elevations and the first signs of morning frost in the deserts below. More notably for condor project biologists, October also marked the beginning of hunting seasons in both Utah and Arizona. This is of particular concern to us, because we inevitably see an increase in lead exposure in the condor population at this time of year.

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September 2006

Thom Lord — in California Condor Restoration

Greetings, Notes from the Field readers! Fall is clearly upon us in northern Arizona; the days are becoming cooler, the nights cold, and the leaves are changing in the mountains. The condors began changing their patterns slightly in relation to the seasonal progression last month, moving around a bit more frequently from the high elevation regions of southern Utah and Grand Canyon National Park. They are still spending quite a bit of time in those areas, but have been increasingly traveling to the Kaibab Plateau, the Colorado River corridor upriver of the Grand Canyon, and the release site in Vermilion Cliffs.

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August 2006

Thom Lord — in California Condor Restoration

Greetings, Notes from the Field readers! Last month began relatively slowly, as we wrapped up our summer trapping and worked on a variety of projects to prepare for the upcoming hunting season. Fall is the time of year when the condor population in Arizona has seen the highest incidence of lead exposure, and these projects primarily involved readying and making improvements to our treatment facility in Vermilion Cliffs. Although these improvements will help us to be ready for anything, we hope to see a decline in lead exposure again this season, primarily due to the outstanding voluntary lead reduction program initiated by Arizona Game and Fish last year. The program, which offers two free boxes of non-lead ammunition to every big game tag holder in the condors’ primary foraging range in Arizona, will be continued again this season.

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July 2006

Thom Lord — in California Condor Restoration

Greetings, Notes from the Field readers! Monsoon season arrived none too soon this month, providing much-needed precipitation and somewhat cooler weather to the residents (human and otherwise) of northern Arizona. The frequent rains helped to finally contain the large wildfires consuming the area’s parched forests, and brought some relief from the stifling temperatures that we had been experiencing in the preceding weeks. The condors, for the most part, followed a pattern that has become typical for this time of year, with many birds escaping the heat by heading to the cooler high-altitude regions of Zion and Grand Canyon National Parks.

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June 2006

Thom Lord — in California Condor Restoration

Greetings, Notes from the Field readers! Many of you have probably heard about the large wildfires burning in northern Arizona and southern Utah through much of June. Although the fires affected the biologists on the Condor Project to some extent, limiting where we could safely travel to track the birds and intermittently enveloping our field headquarters in a thick cloud of smoke, the condors seemed relatively unfazed by the drastic changes in their environment. They appeared to go about their business more or less as usual, traveling and foraging extensively as they have been for most of the spring. One of the largest fires in northern Arizona was on the Kaibab Plateau, easily visible from the Vermilion Cliffs release site and right in the middle of the birds’ primary foraging range. The condors appeared to pay it little heed, skirting the huge fire to the east and west in their typical day-to-day travels.

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May 2006

Thom Lord — in California Condor Restoration

Greetings, Notes from the Field readers! May was another beautiful month in northern Arizona, with warm, sunny days and springtime winds providing the conditions that suit foraging condors perfectly. The Arizona population took full advantage of the favorable weather, with even the most inexperienced birds in the flock traveling extensively throughout the condor range and locating an abundance of wild food. On the Kaibab Plateau alone, we documented groups of birds feeding on carcasses of a cow, a mule deer, and even a bison, which we had never before observed. In addition to the heavy utilization of the Kaibab Plateau by a large percentage of the population, several condors began regularly visiting the Zion region of southern Utah again.

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April 2006

Thom Lord — in California Condor Restoration

Greetings, Notes from the Field readers! Fortunately for the crewmembers on the condor project, things were a bit less hectic in April than they had been in the preceding months of 2006. Although the birds did use the beautiful spring weather to begin traveling extensively once again, we’ve come to expect that transition, and the month proceeded primarily as we would have hoped. We continued observations on our two remaining condor nests, both of which were active through the end of the month, in addition to monitoring the encouraging progress of both of last year’s wild-fledged chicks.

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March 2006

Thom Lord — in California Condor Restoration

Greetings, Notes from the Field readers! I’m sure that those of you that read last month’s NFTF are interested in the condition of Condor 134, the bird that was rescued in the Grand Canyon and taken to the Phoenix Zoo for treatment of lead poisoning. The good news is that Condor 134 is still alive and seems to be improving; however, this turned out to be one of the good points in a month with quite a few dramatic ups and downs.

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February 2006

Thom Lord — in California Condor Restoration

Greetings, Notes from the Field readers! The breeding season fell into full swing once again in February, with five California Condor pairs in the Arizona population exhibiting very promising behavior. Two of the five pairs have produced chicks in the past, and there is no reason to expect that they won’t be successful again this year. Two more of the pairs have attempted to breed previously; as it’s not uncommon for condor pairs to try for one or two years before producing a viable chick, we’re hopeful that this is the year that they’re able to pull it off. The last pair showing encouraging breeding behavior, two slightly younger birds, came as a pleasant surprise to all of us.

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January 2006

Thom Lord — in California Condor Restoration

Greetings, Notes from the Field readers! The new year began on a primarily positive note for The Peregrine Fund’s Condor Restoration. The first month of 2006, however, also presented new challenges and lessons for the biologists on the project. In January, we were able to re-release two condors, saw promising courtship behavior in a number of pairs, monitored the encouraging progression of our two most recent wild-fledged chicks, and, sadly, lost one bird to a relatively uncommon illness.

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December 2005

Thom Lord — in California Condor Restoration

Happy New Year, Notes from the Field Readers! After a somewhat difficult month of November, the year ended encouragingly on all fronts for the Condor Project. In addition to the complete recovery and return of Condor 350, December saw the addition of seven young birds to Arizona’s captive population (to be released in the upcoming year) and significant progress in the development of both of this year’s wild chicks.

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November 2005

Thom Lord — in California Condor Restoration

Greetings, Notes from the Field readers! I ended last month’s NFTF with the good news that we had trapped and tagged wild-fledged Condor 350, and explained the importance of having radio-telemetry and GPS available to track the condors. Unfortunately, Condor 350 illustrated that point all too well early in the month of November.

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October 2005

Thom Lord — in California Condor Restoration

Greetings, Notes from the Field Readers! October was an extremely busy month on the Condor Project, for reasons both expected and unexpected. Fortunately, the project crewmembers and volunteers proved well up to the tasks at hand, and it turned out to be an exceptionally productive month for the project as well.

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September 2005

Thom Lord — in California Condor Restoration

Greetings, Notes from the Field Readers! We spent most of the month of September gearing up for the fall, one of the busiest periods of the year for Condor Project biologists. The fall hunting season provides the condors with a tremendous food source, but also unfortunately provides numerous opportunities for lead exposure. This lead seems to be largely obtained in the form of lead bullet fragments from carcasses and gutpiles, and the rapidity with which the birds find these food sources requires us to track intensively throughout the fall to keep up with them (for more information on bullet fragmentation and lead exposure, see Hunt et. al.’s publication, “Bullet fragments in deer remains: implications for lead exposure in avian scavengers,” on The Peregrine Fund website at http://www.peregrinefund.org/pdfs/ResearchLibrary/Hunt-bullet-ms.pdf). If we find that a condor or group of condors has fed on a lead-contaminated carcass, we immediately attempt to trap the bird(s) to test and possibly treat them.

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August 2005

Thom Lord — in California Condor Restoration

Greetings, Notes from the Field (NFTF) readers! It seems that no matter how long any of us has worked on The Peregrine Fund’s California Condor Restoration Project, each month has the capacity to bring something new. Fortunately, those unpredictable events have been very positive for a number of months, and this trend continued in August. The first half of the month was relatively uneventful, as the birds maintained, for the most part, the traveling and foraging patterns that they had exhibited in July.

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July 2005

Thom Lord — in California Condor Restoration

Greetings, Notes from the Field (NFTF) readers! With July temperatures frequently reaching well above 100 degrees in much of northern Arizona, the condors spent a considerable amount of time at higher (and cooler) elevations throughout the month. In addition to the birds’ continued use of the Grand Canyon and the Kaibab Plateau, a large group established their annual presence near Utah’s Zion National Park. An initial group of about eight birds in the Zion area had increased to more than twice that by month’s end. The condors continued to exhibit their proficiency at foraging for food by finding a number of wild carcasses in each of the regions they occupied.

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June 2005

Thom Lord — in California Condor Restoration

Greetings, Notes from the Field readers! In May’s installment of NFTF, I mentioned that the month of June would be very telling in whether our three wild nests in Arizona had produced chicks or not. This certainly turned out to be the case, as the status of all three nests became apparent fairly early in the month. There was no evidence of anything amiss in the first couple of days in June, and all three pairs continued to exhibit normal nesting behavior. On 3 June, however, first-time breeders Condors 136 and 187 returned to the release site together and roosted there that night. This was not good news for their breeding attempt. Their chick, if they had one, would probably not yet have been old enough to regulate its own body temperature for such an extended period of time. We maintained some hope when the female returned to the nest cave the next day, but both birds were away from the nest and back at the release site two days later. Any lingering doubts about the nest’s status were removed when the pair remained away for two consecutive nights, indicating that something had gone wrong.

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May 2005

Thom Lord — in California Condor Restoration

Greetings “Notes from the Field” readers! The condors in the Arizona population continued to travel a great deal in the warm May weather, and the last holdouts from the most recent group of releases finally left the release site to begin exploring their new world. Our two wild-hatched birds in Arizona also followed the trend, and continued to integrate into the rest of the population throughout the month. On 1 May, Condor 350, who fledged last year from a nest in the Grand Canyon, made its way to the release site in Vermilion Cliffs, at least 50 miles from its nest area. This was the first time that we had been able to document Condor 350 outside of Grand Canyon National Park, although we had suspected that Condor 350 had been traveling more and more widely for at least a few weeks. When Condor 350 arrived, it fed at leisure, perched with a variety of other birds, and generally seemed to make itself at home.

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April 2005

Thom Lord — in California Condor Restoration

Greetings, Notes from the Field readers! To those that have been following the saga of wild-hatched Condor 342, the month of April held an exciting and encouraging conclusion to the first stage in this young bird’s life. After being captured in January due to evident health problems, Condor 342 had been transported to the Phoenix Zoo for surgery to remove a blockage in his digestive tract. He remained in captivity for nearly 20 days, leaving us unsure as to whether his parents, who were still providing food for him until his capture, would accept and care for him again when he was re-released. Upon being released, Condor 114, Condor 342’s father, picked up right where he had left off. The mother, however, seemed to abandon both birds almost entirely.

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March 2005

Thom Lord — in California Condor Restoration

Greetings, Notes from the Field Readers! The month of March started out on an exciting note, with the 1 March release of five new juvenile condors into Arizona’s free-flying population. Just two days later, the program’s first wild-fledged condor, Condor 305, returned to the release site for the first time in about seven months. After his first trip to the release site in July of 2004, he had spent the fall and winter near his nest cave in the Grand Canyon. We were elated upon seeing Condor 305 back at the release site, as we had observed him being chased extensively by his parents in the preceding weeks. This seemed to indicate that they were finally “cutting him off” of parental care to begin the process of producing another chick, forcing him to forage completely on his own for the first time.

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February 2005

Thom Lord — in California Condor Restoration

Greetings, Notes from the Field readers! The winter months in Arizona have typically provided condor project biologists with a bit of “down time”—a period where the birds travel somewhat less, providing a brief respite from the 13-hour days of summer tracking and the bustling schedule of trapping and lead testing in autumn. This lull in activity, however, has become steadily shorter with each passing year of the project. As the condor population in Arizona grows, and as the birds spend an increasing amount of time away from the release site at Vermilion Cliffs, the condor crew is required to be on their toes and ready for anything nearly year-round. Thankfully, the stellar group of field biologists working on the project prove time and again that they are up to the challenge, as the eventful month of February demonstrated.

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