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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 13 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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AV and ND, The Adventure Continues...

Thomas Hayes — in West Indies Project

For the last three years, my wife Christine, my daughter (now 4 years old) Mojave, and I have spent half the year in the Dominican Republic monitoring the last remaining population of the critically endangered Ridgway's Hawk. We have also been a part of a reintroduction team to release this rare raptor into novel habitat in one of the Dominican Republic's most renouned resort areas, Punta Cana. Below is the latest account of "The Valentines Day Pair", written by Christine Deegear Hayes.

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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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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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