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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.

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Found 14 entries matching your request:

Amazing Ethiopia

Darcy Ogada — in East Africa Project

‘This is our Grand Keenyan’ explained the entrepreneurial young Ethiopian guide, describing the magnificent cliffs and views below us.In the second that followed I tried to think how he knew I had come from Kenya.Then my brain fully engaged and I realized he was actually talking about the Grand Canyon.

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Find more articles about Egyptian Vulture, Peregrine Falcon, Tawny Eagle, Africa


Adventures in the Triangle

Corinne Kendall — in East Africa Project

It is always an adventure to go to the Triangle. It is also rather far away. So we started off early and travelled to the two hours to the entrance along the Mara Bridge. There is only one bridge to cross the Mara and this is it (unless you dare to travel the long rocky roads to the north of the park which will take you out and around the mighty river). On our way to the bridge, we came across a carcass and we drove off the road to get a closer look. As we neared the rowdy flock of vultures, we heard a small bleating shriek, the noise of an animal making one last plea for life. Oh God, I thought, we ran it over. We looked left to see a reedbuck doe leaping from the brush and with eyes squinted closed in disgust, I looked right to see the inevitable – the calf we had run over. The brown fuzzy mass was more adorable than I could have imagined and lay flat tucked into a small sedge behind us. We reversed for a closer look. With a deep breath of despair, I looked at the small creature but there was no blood and no sign of a track mark. Was it dead? Suddenly the ears wiggled and I assumed the worst – we had injured it severely but not killed it. A friend joining us for the day stepped from the car and lay a hand slowly and gently on the animal’s back. The same mournful bleat emerged from its body and it pushed itself up on the wobbly legs of an infant designed for hiding and promptly, decisively, ran away. We hadn’t killed it after all. We had run over it, but hadn’t actually hit it, just covered it with the car for a few frightening moments. My feeling of relief quickly returned us to the task at hand and the observations at the carcass began.

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Find more articles about Hooded Vulture, Tawny Eagle, Africa


Pile of Vultures

Corinne Kendall — in East Africa Project

It isn’t often that you get to watch a carcass from start to finish, but I got lucky. We came upon a single lioness finishing off a fresh wildebeest kill. On her own, she was only able to consume perhaps a quarter of the carcass and with vultures, hyenas, and jackals gathering around the lion was beginning to feel the pressure. So she left. Two hyenas moved in first feeding for a half hour they ate the bulk of the carcass with the occasional jackal or vulture rushing in to steal a soft piece of organs. Then it was the jackal’s turn. The pair rushed the vultures viciously, leaping and snarling to keep them away. The little dogs fed greedily, but their small stomaches were soon rounded and they slowly moved away. Down to the last half, the vultures swarmed, forming perhaps the most perfect pile I am yet to have seen. The wriggling brown mass of wings bounced above its prey as all fifty heads vanished into the food. Occassionally a full bird would eject itself from the mass standing on top of its comrades to gain enough leverage to leap away. Even with the mammals gone, the feeding frenzy of White-backed vultures was soon interrupted by their larger brethren, the Lappet-faced vultures. A pair jumped onto the mass, biting down on the backs of the birds beneath it. Once removed, the damage to the carcass was clear, perhaps only ten percent remained. The Lappet-faced vultures fed slowly and laboriously, ripping and tearing the last few tough pieces of tissue, while Hooded vultures wandered the edges of the carcass finding small treasures in the intestinal remnants. A pair of Tawny eagles made a brief appearance, but could do little more than steal a small piece of organs to fly away with as the vultures so clearly dominated the scene.

Find more articles about Hooded Vulture, Lappet-faced Vulture, Tawny Eagle, White-backed Vulture, Africa


The Unexpected Carcasses

Corinne Kendall — in East Africa Project

It is the wet season (although we haven’t actually had any rain yet) so I wasn’t really expecting to find many carcasses – and I haven’t. But what I have found has been particularly interesting. A zebra carcass with three dogs and a handful of vultures, a hyena carcass with eight Lappet-faced vultures, two lion kills in a day (both of which got eaten by lions, not vultures), and the mutilated mass of a cow that was partially eaten by hyenas, then slaughtered for human consumption, and finally nibbled on by the birds.
With all of these it has been reassuring to find that my observations and my predictions are coming closer together. First, vultures are much more afraid of dogs than jackals, so the implications of having more dogs or dogs in certain areas are very different than more natural predators. Second, vultures will eat anything including hyenas. I have to say watching them eat the hyena did make me a little nervous as you never know how such an animal has been killed. Given the proximity to the villages, though it was in the park, I was a bit concerned the hyena could have been poisoned. But none of the vultures dropped dead and upon closer inspection once the hyena researchers arrived (they gather the heads of hyenas to study the jaws, so I gave them a call when I realized what the carcass was; bit of a conflict of interest since we had to chase the vultures off to salvage the hyena, but seemed like it was going to be more valuable data for them than me) we found that the hyena had huge claw marks around its neck and was likely killed by lions. Third, vultures get very little food from predator kills, especially this time of year when food is so valuable. A large pride of lions (with eight females and seven cubs) killed a zebra and a topi in the same day. They totally abandoned the topi so they could all work together to finish the zebra. Despite this both animals were entirely consumed by the lions by morning meaning that the patiently waiting Hooded vultures got very little to eat. Finally, certain species of vultures are more likely to avoid feeding in settlement areas than others. The cow had been killed just outside the park, right next to my camp (in fact on land owned by Ilkeliani). Herders were thus passing it frequently throughout the day and actually took most of the meat for their own consumption. As a result the carcass was mainly consumed by the less shy species – Hooded vultures, Tawny eagles, and Marabou storks. A few white-backs landed but they hardly ate anything with all the disturbance and Lappet-faced vultures and even a pair of the rare White-headed vulture passed over but were unwilling to land in such uncertain territory. Interesting indeed!

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Find more articles about Hooded Vulture, Lappet-faced Vulture, Tawny Eagle, White-headed Vulture, Africa


Two weeks on the edge. . .of the Masai Mara

Munir Virani — in East Africa Project

Editor's note: The following article is from Rebecca Johnson and Gus Keys, volunteers working in the Masai Mara as part of our East Africa Project

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Find more articles about Bateleur, Tawny Eagle, White-headed Vulture, Africa


Two distant kills

Corinne Kendall — in East Africa Project

It is amazing what you can find even when you aren’t really looking. On our drive to set up some sheep meat for another carcass observation we passed not one but two kills. The first was more of a massacre than a kill. Over forty hyenas were prowling around, several with blood soaked faces, so we knew something was up. We followed the cries of a few Tawny eagles to the site of the actual kills. Almost fifteen hyenas, many of them still cubs, crowded around what presumably was once a wildebeest. Honestly though there wasn’t even enough left to know that for sure. When hyenas make a kill, the meat goes fast. Though a few vultures had gathered I highly doubt that got anything.

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Find more articles about Bateleur, Tawny Eagle, Africa


Naivasha Notes 2

Evan Buechley — in East Africa Project

Having become familiarized with the study area and with the biking legs warmed into prime shape, data is starting to pour in regarding the Augur buzzard presence around Lake Naivasha, Kenya. With 85 independent visuals on the buzzards in as many as 23 different territories over the past 16 days, a picture of the species’ presence in the area is starting to come into focus. So far, I feel highly confident about the existence of 7 different active breeding territories, while an additional 10 territories are very likely active, pending further observations. At least one territory documented by Munir Virani in the mid 90’s seems to have been abandoned by the buzzards. However, with so many territories still being observed, it is too early to draw any conclusions regarding the affects of habitat alterations on the population in the area.

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Find more articles about African Fish Eagle, Augur Buzzard, Lappet-faced Vulture, Tawny Eagle, Africa


The Last Bird

Corinne Kendall — in East Africa Project

So with only a Tawny eagle to show for our efforts after three long days of trapping, we still had work to do. We had a test unit that needed to get deployed, so I could decide which units we would be using during our July trapping session. We really needed one more bird.

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Find more articles about Tawny Eagle, White-backed Vulture, Africa


Eagles versus Vultures

Corinne Kendall — in East Africa Project

Trapping vultures is hard. It takes almost as much patience as watching vultures. After our amazing day of two birds at once, we had three days of nothing. We caught one Tawny eagle, which was interesting, but not quite what we were going for. The Tawny managed to snag itself on one of the nooses just as ten vultures were feasting around it – what are the odds? We quickly drove up to grab it. I carefully secured both feet before removing the noose. Wilson, who up until this point had only ever handled vultures, went to secure the head. He sort of pinned the bird to the ground. I quickly explained that with this bird we really didn’t need to worry about that end.

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Find more articles about Tawny Eagle, Africa


Mara Moments

Munir Virani — in East Africa Project

I have just returned from a visit to the Masai Mara where I had gone to help Corinne Kendall (see Tracking Mara’s Vultures) tag and release some more vultures. Corinne has now been in the Mara for two and a half months and has been working incredibly hard on her transects and carcass watches. Last week, with the help of her field assistant, Wilson Masek, she managed to trap and attach two more GSM units on Lappet-faced Vultures, the largest and heaviest of the vultures in Africa. The reason for my trip to the Mara was to carry a newly designed unit that Corinne will test that has been kindly donated by Henrick Rasmussen, from Savannah Tracking Ltd (a company based in Nairobi that makes telemetry equipment).

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Find more articles about Bateleur, Lappet-faced Vulture, Tawny Eagle, Africa


Hidden treasures

Corinne Kendall — in East Africa Project

I’m sitting on the veranda by the dining tent, looking out at the Mara. The rolling hills of green can be seen in the distance merging with the golden yellow of the tall grass plains below. The Talek river babbles slowly beneath me, the rains have slowed, though not quite stopped and the river still manages to flow around the rocks. It is cool and calm this morning, though the sun is up and soon its warm rays will warm the earth.

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Find more articles about Tawny Eagle, Africa


Rumble in the Jungle

Corinne Kendall — in East Africa Project

Large carcasses are scarce this time of year. With the tall grass, the herbivores have plenty to eat and the big cats and hyenas have a hard time catching their prey, who have freedom to roam wherever they please. The cheetahs seem to be the only ones having any great success, perhaps because they rely more on speed than stealth. There also aren’t a lot of animals dying this time of year, precisely because there is so much lush food and water to go around. There are still calves being born, some of whom won’t make it and the occasional diseased or injured animal that might keel over. Needless to say, the vultures have to work hard to find their food and when they do discover something, they work even harder to ensure they get a bit.

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Find more articles about Hooded Vulture, Lappet-faced Vulture, Tawny Eagle, White-backed Vulture, White-headed Vulture, Africa


Lions, hyenas, and dogs, oh my

Corinne Kendall — in East Africa Project

The sky is speaking. It grumbles and rumbles and crackles, squealing with rage like a toddler unable to get its way. Then finally it breaks like the thunder that accompanies it, the rain crashed to earth and splatters the floor. Luckily, I am done for the day. For some reason, it has been raining mainly in the afternoons. This is good news for me since the rain virtually shuts down vulture activity. As is I have time for my carcass experiments and transects in the morning and seem to get done just as the sky is threatening to fall. It is a hard rain and I sit outside under canvas surrounded by the droplets. Within seconds pools of mud form and I can only wonder what the roads will be like tomorrow. Oh my God, it is hailing!! I can’t believe it. At first, it looked like little frogs were jumping around magically erupting from the soil (which they are, one just joined me under the tent), but that was actually hail. I just got up and grabbed a piece to confirm and indeed, ice just fell from the sky in Africa. Be amazed! But now it is just raining again.

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Find more articles about Bateleur, Hooded Vulture, Lappet-faced Vulture, Tawny Eagle, White-backed Vulture, White-headed Vulture, Africa


Trapping Fish Eagles at Lake Naivasha

Munir Virani — in East Africa Project

Trapping African Fish Eagles is not only fun, it is incredibly therapeutic. Furthermore, it provides a wonderful opportunity to take photographs of these charismatic eagles in action as they majestically swoop down over the water towards a dead, belly-up floating fish. Sorry to burst your bubble but I am afraid that’s how all the “action” fish eagle shots are taken. The late Leslie Brown in his epic book “The African Fish Eagle” said that fish eagles spend on average only about eight minutes a day hunting. So it would be a long wait if you were to try and get the naturally perfect shot!!

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Find more articles about African Fish Eagle, Augur Buzzard, Tawny Eagle, Africa


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