January 4, 2009

2009 Winter Bulletin

Elizabetha Sets a New World Record

Elizabetha, an adult female peregrine that we tagged in Chile on 21 January 2008 as part of the Southern Cross Peregrine Project, migrated north to Baffin Island, Canada, to breed last summer. After raising her family, she began to migrate south again on 22 September, generally following the classic US east coast route. On 19 October, she was flying off the coast of New Jersey when she apparently caught the counter-clockwise storm system of Hurricane Omar. With solid tail winds, she flew south all the way to Palm Beach, Florida in a day, a distance of at least 954 miles and a knock-out world record. None of us had even dreamed that a peregrine could fly that far in a single day. This is yet another example of how satellite transmitters are revolutionizing our understanding of so many organisms worldwide.
As I write this bulletin (28 December), she is still migrating slowly south, having just arrived in Chile once again. She is demonstrating that some adult females perform an unanticipated “slow migration” south, long suspected but now confirmed for the species.

Nineteen-year-old Washington Red-tailed Hawk Return

Simone Lupson-Cook at Sarvey reports a long-billed Red-tailed Hawk found along the highway just west of Arlington, WA, on 1 September 2008. It had been hit by a car while trying to eat carrion. Turns out it was originally banded as an adult by FRG banders Kris and Shamus McBride along the I-5 corridor just north of the Stillaguamish River on 28 February 1989. So it was at least 19 years old and was recovered just a few miles from where it was originally captured. Imagine the wisdom and experiences that bird had acquired over those many years.

The 2008 Washington Mutual Tower Peregrine Nesting Disaster

Last summer, a new pair of peregrines took over the nesting box on the then-known WAMU tower in downtown Seattle. They succeeded in laying at least three eggs and successfully incubated them through April. All three eggs hatched but after a short period of time all 3 young died at about 10-14 days of age, which is quite unusual for peregrines at that stage.
We arranged for permission with WSDFW to collect two of the young and Denise Kolb (Wright Runstad) and Martin Muller were able to retrieve them right away. The dead chicks went to Dr. Lindsay Oaks at WSU in Pullman. He examined both nestlings and discovered that they had died from a bacterial infection. In fact, Dr. Oaks determined that this was a new species of bacteria and that it had never been reported in peregrines before. We do not know how this organism reached the nest box 56 stories above the ground. It may have come in via prey or have been airborne.

Annual Skagit Flats Hawk Census

The annual Skagit hawk count will be on Valentine’s Day, Saturday, 14 February 2009. Please contact Ed Deal (206) 723-4742 (falcophile@comcast.net) to sign up. Beginning hawk watchers are welcome. This year, we will be featuring graduate student Ursula Valdez from Peru who will describe her work on the enigmatic Forest falcons in the Amazon Basin. Please plan to arrive at the Padilla Bay Center by noon to hear the talk.

Spectacular New Book: Falcons of North America

Kate Davis, director of Raptors of the Rockies in Missoula, Montana, has written a beautiful and informative book on North American falcons. It features some of the finest falcon photographs by Nick Dunlop and Rob Palmer anyone has ever seen. I don’t usually recommend books in the FRG bulletin but this one deserves it. Check it out at your local bookstore and you’ll see what I mean. Or order it directly from Kate at raptors@montana.com.

Sea-Tac Airport Project Reaches 200 Hawk Milestone

We have been working with Port of Seattle biologist, Steve Osmek, over the last seven years to reduce the number of bird strikes involving hawks at Seattle-Tacoma Airport. Our approach is to capture and transport any new hawks that show up on or near the runways, in particular juvenile Red-tails. As part of a new way of dealing with the bird strike problem, we allow the “savvy” resident adults to remain on site. Turns out they avoid the jets and chase off other more na├»ve hawks. As an example of how this works, we have two wing-tagged red-tails (B and C) that have lived successfully at the airport for over 7 years, one even nesting under the approach lights.
Last fall, we captured and transported our 200th raptor away from the airport, taking it to the far safer and richer habitat of the Skagit Flats.

Summer Peregrine Banding in the San Juan Islands

Once again, we monitored 22 Peregrine breeding sites in the San Juans last summer including one new pair near Anacortes located by Jennifer Bohannon of the WSDFW. Sixteen sites were occupied (73%) and twelve of these produced at least 29 young. Our team banded 26 of these, including 9 males and 17 females. We assisted in taking one other male for the official state falconry harvest. We missed the precise productivity figures for one of the sites. Overall productivity rate for the islands (12 successful sites producing 29 young) was at least 2.41 young per site, considered slightly below the rate for sustaining the population.

Panama Tour

Thirteen stalwart FRG raptor aficionados now have a deeper understanding of army ants, tropical heat, and the myriad species of small birds that can hide in the tropical forest canopy of Panama. Guido Berguido of Advantage Tours gave us a really wonderful tour including the migration at Ancon Hill in Panama City, Gamboa, Cerro Azul, world famous Pipeline Road and the highlands of western Panama. We saw 300 species of birds including 26 kinds of raptors, as well as sloths, agoutis and coatis. Who knew there were Red-tails nesting in Panama?

La Serena Peregrine Sighted in Chile

The Southern Cross Peregrine Team caught this falcon near the city of La Serena in northern Chile on 2 March 2007. We tagged her with a satellite transmitter and released her just north of the city. Satellite data showed her to be a resident bird and not a North American migrant as we had thought.
That September, we followed her via satellite into the Andean foothills and realized that she was breeding in a dry canyon not far from town. Over the last two years, she has bred twice in the same canyon. The nest site was discovered by our Chilean colleague, Manuel Rojas, who also saw her with young last year. The nice thing about this bird is that for the first time, we are seeing exactly what a resident peregrine does in South America
Last week, I was in La Serena and found her sitting back on her original tree on the coastal plain exactly where we had caught her before. I could clearly see the antenna from her transmitter. She had just raised another family and was now “off duty” once again. Although I attempted to trap her again to recycle her satellite unit, she took off on a hunting flight and did not return that morning.

Hawkwatching in Western Washington Classes

The classic hawk ID class (which most of you have taken), will be presented in the following three cities this winter. Please pass this information on to friends, family and any other sort of ragamuffins that might be interested.

Location -- Dates -- Night -- Host
Bellingham -- 13 Jan-10 Feb. -- Tuesdays -- Whatcom County Museum
Mt. Vernon -- 15 Jan-12 Feb. -- Thursdays -- Padilla Bay Center
Seattle -- 16 Jan-13 Feb. -- Fridays -- Discovery Park

Classes meet from 7-9:30 PM one night per week night for five weeks. Cost ($150.00 per person) includes a full-day field trip to look at wild hawks as usual. To enroll, please mail a check to the FRG, Box 248, Bow WA, 98232. For more information, call Bud at (360) 757-1911.
Incidentally, I will be giving a free two-hour Introduction to Raptors talk at the Padilla Bay Center on Saturday, 10 January from 9-11 AM.


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