Team Effort in Southern California Leads to Success

Posted at 2:43 pm January 25, 2008 by Joseph Brandt

With the last chick to fledge we have paused to take a short reprieve from what has been 11 months of intensively monitoring nesting condors. This was just in time for the holidays and to start all over again as pairs have already been observed in courtship behaviors at feeding and roost sites. Volunteer observers helped comprise the first line of defense against nest failure.

The many hours of observation contributed toward behavioral data that have been used to enlighten concerns such as egg failure, extra pair interference, eagle aggression and trash ingestion. These observations identified points in time where it was necessary to make interventions on behalf of the wellbeing of a chick or egg. Members of volunteer clean up parties enacted an offensive against trash being brought to nests by cleaning up known problem areas that our pairs have frequented. For this, we extend our thanks.

The US Fish & Wildlife Service would also like to acknowledge and give many thanks to all of our partners who have helped make this season a success. The Santa Barbara Zoo (specifically Alan Varsik, Estelle Sandhaus and Shaun Putz, who is now with Peregrine Fund) has been a strong new partner in the field as co-creators of this season’s nest guarding program, providing assistance in nest entries, nest observation, volunteer recruitment, volunteer training and data entry. They also provided a contingency fund for helicopter operations in California.

The Los Angeles Zoo played an integral role in providing handler and veterinary support for nest entries and providing many opportunities to help teach the techniques involved in handling condor eggs and chicks of a variety of ages. In turn, the Pinnacles National Monument provided the opportunity for many of those involved with nest entries to receive training and experience working on high angle terrain. These training opportunities translated into not having a single injury to staff or birds during nest entries this season.

The San Diego Zoo’s Wild Animal Park also provided support with a captive laid egg that is now a fledged chick, increasing our success this season by 25 percent, necropsy support for condor 443, as well as assistance from Dr. Mike Wallace in training and support with tagging and placement of transmitters on the chicks. Finally, Ventura County Search and Rescue provided helicopter support early on in the season during egg transplants. An 11-month season has meant a huge commitment of time and energy from volunteer observers to staff from partner agencies! We are extremely grateful for all the help and assistance. We look forward to future nesting seasons as we make real progress towards creation of a self-sustaining wild population.

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