January 3, 2008

2008 Winter Bulletin

Australian Peregrine Expert to Speak at the Skagit Hawk Census in February

Noted Australian peregrine biologist, Victor Hurley, will describe his work on Australian peregrines at the Skagit Hawk Census on 16 February from 1200-1300. Victor is one of the most dedicated peregrine people that I have met and also one of the funniest and most captivating guys around. Trust me, don’t miss this talk. He will be coming all the way up from Australia to present it to FRG people.


Skagit Flats Annual Winter Hawk Count

As stated above, the winter hawk count will take place on Saturday, 16 February from 9-11 AM this year. As usual, meet at the Padilla Bay Center after you complete your route (by noon if possible). The count is being coordinated this year by Ed Deal (Seattle). He will be contacting the route leaders soon. If you are new to the count and would like to participate, please contact Ed at (206) 723-4742.


The Entiat Ridge Experimental Hawk Banding Station

Our dedicated team of volunteer hawk banders made another good effort at Entiat Ridge last autumn. After setting a new record in 2006, the team was expecting another dynamite season this year. However, after starting out at a sizzling record pace, their hopes were dashed by terrible weather in mid-September, which is normally our best trapping period. Heavy rain, snow, fog and earlier-than-normal freezing temperatures hampered their activities and reduced the number of birds caught. Because of the bad weather, they were forced to shut the project down a week earlier than normal.
The team banded a total of 280 birds, including 140 Sharp-shinned Hawks, 83 Cooper’s Hawks, 14 Red-tailed Hawks, 32 American Kestrels, 3 Merlins, 2 Prairie Falcons, 2 Northern Goshawks, 2 Northern Harriers and 1 Peregrine Falcon. Pat Little provided the highlight of the season with a Golden Eagle, very rarely caught at Entiat.
We have now banded a total of 2,013 migrant hawks at Entiat Ridge over the last 7 years (217, 228, 235, 280, 309, 349, and 395), for an average of 287 birds per year.
Thanks go to everyone involved, especially our hawk banders, who spend long hours in the blind and on the roads. Thanks also to both Longview Fibre for their continued permission to conduct the study on their land and Eagle Creek Ranch for their continuing logistical support.


San Juan Peregrines

Ed Deal, Pat Little, Russ Beardsley and Martin Muller surveyed the San Juans last summer and found a low rate of productivity. Among the 22 known breeding sites in the islands, only 15 were occupied this year. Among these pairs, only 6 were successful. They produced only 14 young falcons, an average was 2.3 young per successful pair. Weather and predation are the most likely causes for this low rate.


The Urban Peregrines of Western Washington

This year, the FRG monitored 6 active pairs of urban nesting peregrines in Seattle and Everett. We did not visit five additional pairs in Tacoma, Bremerton and Olympia.
The new pair at the Washington Mutual Tower failed again but under quite unusual circumstances. Ruth Taylor observed eight peregrine eggs in the nest box early in the season. This is extremely unusual for peregrines. Our best guess is that an early female laid her eggs and then either died or was driven out. A second adult female must have also laid her four eggs in the box. Unfortunately, all eight of the eggs perished.
In addition, Martin, Ed, Mark Gleason and Mike McDonald banded 4 young falcons at West Seattle, 4 at the I-5 Ship Canal, and one at Ballard. At least one young fledged unbanded at Mercer Island and two more from what is my candidate for the most hideous peregrine nest site in the world, the First Avenue South Bridge.
As always, the Everett pair failed.
Our thanks go to the Washington State Department of Transportation (especially Mike McDonald) for their kind permission to band these birds.


Southern Cross Peregrine Project Update

Thanks to the support of our membership, the FRG research team traveled to Chile last February and March and successfully tagged seven peregrines with satellite transmitters. Four were North American adult migrants and three resident Chilean birds.
Last spring, (April-June), we followed the four adults back to North America via satellite. Their daily movements were displayed “live” on our website at http://www.frg.org/.
All four migrant peregrines flew back north into Canada. The first female (Arena) migrated to the Ungava Peninsula and the other female (Linda) apparently bred near NW Hudson Bay. One male (Sparrow King) went to the southern tip of Baffin Island and the other male (Seven) flew all the way to the Northwest Territories above the Arctic Circle. He arrived at his breeding site in Tuktut Nogiat National Park near the Arctic Ocean and was actually observed at his nest site with young during the boreal summer.
During this migration, we discovered the routes, roosting sites, distances and timing for each of the birds as they passed through both hemispheres. We followed each bird back to their presumed northern breeding sites, completing their spring cycles.
In July, Arena’s transmitter failed and we lost contact with her.

- The Autumn Chase South:

In September, we selected one adult female, Linda, and attempted to follow her south. The plan was to parallel her route via truck as much as possible during her flight back to South America. However, she proved to be a very late migrant and took an unexpectedly long period of time to move south. Due to time constraints, we had to continue on south without her. In addition, she chose to migrate down the eastern seaboard, guaranteeing that she would cross the Caribbean Sea and effectively prevent us from following her by ground vehicle.
So we drove the truck south to Texas, into Mexico and across Central America to Panama. From there, we shipped it to Chile for the next phase of the study.

- La Serena Breeds In Chile:

In the meantime, our colleagues in Chile followed the resident adult female at La Serena and discovered her nest in the Andean foothills. She succeeded in raising two young peregrines this year. This was the first time that a peregrine had been followed to her nest in South America by satellite transmitter.

-Searching for Tundra Migrants in Chile:

In December, FRG advance team members Zach Smith, his wife Elizabeth, Kathryn Gunther and Mark Hopey arrived in Chile and spent two weeks surveying for tundra peregrines in the coastal areas of Chile from near Santiago south to Puerto Montt.
Their goal was to locate the southernmost migrant peregrines in the world and to provide information on these birds to the satellite-tagging team arriving in January. They discovered that such birds are unexpectedly rare in this region of Chile, locating only four peregrines suitable for tagging.

-Follow Our Field Team in Chile During January:

On 8 January, Mark Prostor and Bud Anderson will fly to Chile and join Kathryn Gunther for a two week banding effort. Our goal will be to capture and tag the falcons located by the FRG advance team. We expect his part of the project to be very challenging. Tundra falcons are rare and it is not easy to capture them. However, because of our special interest in this group of truly “deep” peregrines, we will make our best effort to tag them.
We plan to provide daily field reports to our members during this trip via the FRG website (http://www.frg.org/), so check out the site beginning around 10 January.


Proposed FRG Panama Hawk Tour

During the trip south, I spent 11 days in Panama and fell in love with the place. I also met a variety of bird people including Guido Berguido, a supporter of the hawk migration project and owner of a birding tour company in Panama City, Advantage Tours.
We decided to see if we could organize a Panama tour among FRG members for next November. So I am querying the membership. How many would be interested in a 7-10 day tour to visit the best birding country in Central America? Although we would emphasize raptors (Harpys, Ornate Hawk-eagles, Bat Falcons, etc), we’d also go for the many other species that can be found there (from Toucans to Three-toed Sloths).
We need a minimum of 8 people for the trip. If you are interested, contact Bud by e-mail (bud@frg.org) for more information on prices and itinerary. Amazing place!


Hawkwatching Classes

This 5 session class is a traditional point for entry into the world of raptors in western WA and still one of the best ways to get involved with hawks through our FRG field projects. Please pass on this information to friends, family and potential hawkwatchers.
The following is the class date and location information:
5 Feb-4 March in Bellingham at the Whatcom County Museum on Tuesday nights.
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14 Feb-13 March in Mt. Vernon at the Padilla bay Interpretive Center on Thursday nights.

Cost is $135.00 per person. To reserve your space, please send a check to the FRG, Box 248, Bow, WA 98232. For more information, contact Bud at (360) 757-1911.


Annual Dues

Once again, if you like what we are doing and would like to help the FRG, we’d appreciate your support. Dues are $25.00 per year. You can send a check to FRG, Box 248, Bow, WA 98232. Happy New Year to you all.