Where to begin? The 2008 nest guarding effort has kept the field crews, volunteers, and even the in house breeding programs quite busy this season and so far everyone’s hard team work has been up to the task of discovering new nests in the wild and entering nest sites when necessary.
Through the winter months searching for wild condor nest sites yielded one new nest in February, two in March, as well as a surprise nest in April. After a hectic few months Southern California now has five active condor nest sites!
Our population’s most dominant male, condor No. 107 and his mate, Ventana’s condor 161, have committed to their fourth nesting attempt. The pair successfully fledged a chick in 2004, tragically lost a chick at the nest in 2006 and in 2007 they fledged a chick that died shortly after a devastating wildfire passed through the region. We have high hopes that this pair will fledge their chick once again this season.
The first wild egg laid in March was by condor No. 289. This nest took some effort to find in the remote canyons of the Sespe Condor Sanctuary, a large tract of wilderness set aside by the U.S. Forest Service to protect condor-nesting habitat. No. 289, the youngest condor of breeding age this season, has chosen one of our populations oldest males, condor 98. She will be his fourth mate since his first nesting attempt in 2002 and we hope they will prove to be a successful pairing.
The next breeding pair of the season is a 7-year-old male, condor 237, and an 8-year-old female, No. 214. They were the foster parents of the 2006 fledgling, No. 412, the second chick to fledge from a wild nest in California. Condor 412’s success was a result of a change in nest management strategies to enhance nest success in the wild and has resulted in the development of the nest-guarding program.
The fifth nest of the season came as bit of a surprise nearly a month later. Condors 111 & 125, which successfully fledged No. 450 in 2007, were still actively caring for this young bird. Quite suddenly, they were no longer being observed with condor 450. She had only recently left her parents’ nesting territory. To our great surprise, we discovered 111 in a cavity incubating a newly laid egg. While it is uncommon for condors to nest in consecutive years it has been known to occur in the wild. We eventually located condor 450 at a supplemental feeding site 45 miles away from her natal area in Bitter Creek National Wildlife Refuge interacting with other juveniles within the population. This is a benchmark towards her independence as she will begin to fend for herself at roosting and feeding sites with the many juveniles condors that frequent this refuge.
It is a time reminiscent of the period of pre-in house managed care program, with a total of seven active nests in California. Of the seven nests sites, five are in Southern California and two are located along the central California coast.
Stay tuned for Part II when Joseph enters a nest with an egg.
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