Field Notes

More Nests in Southern California

Posted at 5:27 pm May 1, 2008 by Joseph Brandt

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.

Birds Arrive Safely in Baja

Posted at 1:27 pm March 24, 2008 by Michael Wallace, Ph.D.

Thanks to the efforts of many people, eight condors were transported from the San Diego Zoo’s Wild Animal Park by truck, back across the border to the Sierra San Pedro de Martir release site on Tuesday, March 11th. This was the first time we transported condors across the border by land and not by air.

The First Nest Entry of the 2008 Season: Fertility Check on a First Time Pair

Posted at 8:15 am February 26, 2008 by Joseph Brandt

The sky is full of vibrant pinks and deep reds on the early morning of February 12th it looks to be another beautiful southern California day. We begin this day by filling our packs with rebar, carabineers, webbing, and climbing rope. In addition to the nest observations, we have planned a series of nest entries as a part of health checks on nests that began in 2007.

Today will be the first entry of the 2008 season. Our goal today is to determine whether the first time pairing of condors 79 and 247 has produced a fertile egg. If we happen to find an infertile egg, it is possible to substitute that egg with a replica that the pair will treat as its own. Later it can be replaced with a healthy egg that was laid in captivity and is on the verge of hatching. This process is referred to as an egg transplant. In this case, condors 79 and 247 have an egg that we suspect to be about 20 days old. We are hoping they have a fertile egg.

Condor Release Scheduled March 15 in Arizona

Posted at 10:59 am February 25, 2008 by admin

BOISE, Idaho – In the Vermilion Cliffs Monument in northern Arizona at 11 a.m., Saturday, March 15 the public may observe the release from a viewing area where spotting scopes will be set up and experts will be available to answer questions.

The Pairing of No. 247 & No. 79 and the First Egg of the Season

Posted at 4:16 pm February 6, 2008 by Geoff Grisdale

The first wild condor nest of the season was found on January 30 by the Santa Barbara Zoo nesting technician team. The nest is located in the vicinity of the Sespe Condor Sanctuary in Southern California. An interesting new pairing has formed this year between the young male condor No. 247 and the oldest free flying female condor No. 79 (Indian name Pitahsi) to produce this egg.

Bird No. 220 and the Challenges of Tracking Transmitters

Posted at 11:04 am February 4, 2008 by Michael Wallace, Ph.D.

With condor No. 220 now at six years (the youngest breeding females in the program laid eggs at 5 years old but the norm has been older by several years) and No. 261 at 5 years old we were watching Baja California birds for sexual displays between the expectant “pair” in the spring of 2006 when their soap opera took yet another turn. Most large mammal predators take advantage of fresh carrion given the right opportunity and conditions. Bobcats, coyotes and pumas regularly visited the carcasses of cows, horses and goats that we place out for the condors. Our still “capture cameras” indicated that most of this activity occurred at night but sometimes mammal predators fed in the day as well.

Feeding Frenzy

Posted at 10:26 am February 2, 2008 by James Sheppard

condors feeding on goat carcassYou may remember the I was patiently waiting in the blind to observe condor behavior, but had several false alarms with other animals enjoying bites from the goat carcass before the condors could get a chance. Fortunately, I eventually managed to shoo off all the unwanted carnivores from the carcass well before all the condors arrived later that morning (making me feel like a kind of biologist bouncer). After surveying the scene for an hour one bird summoned the courage to be the first to fly down from the trees to the carcass, followed in quick succession by the rest of his compatriots. The goat was greedily gobbled up in a few minutes of squabbling, hissing, pecking frenzy (see photo).

Adventures of the Baja Condor Population

Posted at 10:00 am February 1, 2008 by Michael Wallace, Ph.D.

For the springtime release a few months later it made sense to include our best flyer who had already proven his ability to orient well in the neighborhood. Still at the bottom of the hierarchy, #261 was released with the two other condors, #220 and #217, neither of whom had any previous negative experience with eagles. This release went exceptionally well with no eagle issues and within a month we released the other two condors to join the group. We later realized that territorial red-tailed hawks and ravens keep eagles out of the release area during their hatching and chick rearing season so spring and summer has become the best period to release condors, allowing them to learn to fly more confidently and lessening the severity of eagle attacks seen later in the year.

2007 California Condor Breeding Season – The Chick Phase

Posted at 2:57 pm January 29, 2008 by Joseph Brandt

The chick stage brought many more hours of observation and entries. In all 18 entries were performed on the six nests during the chick stage. All four nests were found to have trash items of varying degrees during this period (19-233 items). Metal detection and palpation identified metal and foreign bodies many times during chick exams but this did not always translate to stunted development or poor body condition, which were the indicators we used for intervention. There was one occasion of removing trash from the crop of a chick – 60-day-old No. 428 — while at the nest.

Condor Lead Poisoning in Baja

Posted at 11:32 am January 28, 2008 by Michael Wallace, Ph.D.

portable x-rayAfter the suspicious death of condor #390, the most subordinate condor of the 16 free flying birds in Baja, we stepped up our routine annual health exams for the 22 condors both captive and free flying in Baja. On Sunday, November 18, 2007, we discovered 5 out of 8 birds tested to have high lead poisoning using the field lead care kit (HIGH being >65 ug/dl, the limit of the equipment). On Friday, November 23rd, all five condors were transported to the Wild Animal Park’s Harter Veterinary Medical Center, a USDA-approved quarantine facility, and chelation treatment was initiated.