January 4, 2010

2010 Winter Bulletin

Southern Cross Peregrine Project Presentations
(Mt. Vernon/Seattle)

As I write this bulletin, we have just completed following two satellite-tagged peregrines on their journeys south to Chile from Baffin Island in Canada (www.frg.org). This was the third year of this ground-breaking migration project which is supported primarily by members of the Falcon Research Group.

As a way of saying thank you to all of you, our supporters, Bud Anderson will be presenting an hour-long program describing the SCPP results so far. The first talk, near Mt. Vernon, will take place at the Padilla Bay Center on Thursday evening, 14 January at 7PM. The second talk, in Seattle, will be held at the downtown REI store (Friday evening, 15 January at 7PM). We hope to see you all there. Both talks are open to the general public. So spread the word....

First Broad-winged Hawk Caught in WA

Our colleague, Kent Woodruff, reports that the crew at Chelan Ridge finally succeeded in capturing, banding and releasing the first Broad-winged Hawk ever caught in Washington State, a long-sought record among banders. It was trapped and released on 28 September 2009.
As Broad-wings continue to expand their breeding range into British Columbia (they are now nesting almost to the Pacific Ocean), we can expect to see more and more of them migrating through western Washington in the future. And thanks to Kent for sharing this record with us.

Annual Skagit Flats Raptor Census

Mark your calendars once again. The Skagit Flats hawk census will take place this year from 0900-1100 on Saturday, February 13th, 2010. We will all meet at the Padilla Bay Center after the count. Ed Deal and Roger Johnson will be coordinating the count and will be contacting team leaders in January. If you are new to this really fun effort and would like to participate, contact Ed at (206) 723-4742 or falcophile@comcast.net.

Noted Raptor Biologist, Allen Fish, to speak at 2010 Skagit Raptor Census

The Golden Gate Raptor Observatory is one of the finest raptor organizations in the world. They operate a famous observation and hawk banding site just north of San Francisco. Directed by Allen Fish and Buzz Hull, the organization is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.

Allen has kindly agreed to be our featured speaker for the ongoing FRG Lecture Series at the Padilla Bay Center. He will be presenting just after the census this year (noon) and will describe the history, results and goals of the GGRO over the last 25 years. Don’t miss this talk as Allen is an engaging speaker and extremely knowledgeable about raptors. Besides, you never know when you might show up in San Francisco for the fall hawk migration!

A Sea-Tac Airport Red-tail Recovery

As part of the Raptor Management Plan at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, we began banding and wing-tagging adult RTHAs in 2001 to identify individual hawks and define their ranges at the airport. So far, we have banded 231 hawks, relocating most to Skagit County.

On 23 December, 2001, we banded an adult female RTHA and attached yellow tag letter “E” to her right wing. In November, Teresa Yamamoto, of Wolftown, reported that “E” was found entangled in an electrified goat fence on Vashon Island on 14 November, 2009. Unfortunately, she had been caught for several days before discovery and, as a result, did not make it. But she had lived for nearly eight years after capture, apparently on Vashon Island.

Bander Alert: Merlin DNA Study

The Merlin (Falco columbarius), one of our little sky sharks, occurs over much of North America, including here in western Washington. Josh Hull, a geneticist currently with the USGS (and also the son of Buzz Hull, Golden Gate Raptor Observatory), has started a new study to examine the evolutionary relationships of North American Merlins. He is asking for volunteers to cooperate on a continent-wide effort by collecting DNA feather samples from these falcons. This is a great opportunity to contribute to the knowledge of Merlins and our FRG banding crew has agreed to cooperate on this project. If you encounter a breeding pair of Merlins in Washington this summer, please let us know.

Banding the San Juan Island Peregrines

With the help of Ed Deal, Mark Gleason, Michael Preusch and Frank Hainze, we completed our 15th year of banding nestling peregrines in the San Juans in 2009. We found that 18 (90%) of the traditional nest sites were occupied by adult peregrines. Two other sites were unoccupied. Nine (50%) of these pairs failed to produce young in 2009, one as a result of direct predation and the others for unknown causes. We did band 18 nestlings at the remaining 7 active eyries, but missed four young at the two other sites. Our stalwart FRG team has now banded 310 eyass peregrines in the San Juan Islands since 1995, a continuing record for Washington.

We observed some new behavior this year. Several eyass falcons died on the nest ledges before fledging, an unusual event for the San Juan Island population and seldom witnessed here before. Jennifer Bohannon of the Washington Department of Fish And Wildlife had one of these chicks analyzed at the USGS National Wildlife Health Center. No evidence of West Nile or avian influenza was found and the cause of death remained undetermined.

A San Juan Island Peregrine Band Return from California

On 10 June, we banded a male nestling peregrine at an eyrie in the western San Juans. It was one of two eyasses. Three weeks later, we observed the fledgling perched and flying near the nest cliff (30 June). It was observed again by a birder on 18 August in Victoria, BC, about 18 miles from the nest, and feeding on a Rock Pigeon.

In November, we got an e-mail from Candace Davenport at the Golden Gate Raptor Observatory in California, stating that the Hawk Hill team had captured this falcon just north of the Golden Gate Bridge in Marin County on 16 October, 760 miles south of the eyrie. This is the second San Juan peregrine captured by our friends in San Francisco.

Overall, we have now received reports (i.e. sightings, band recoveries, re-traps) from 72 of the 310 nestling falcons banded in the San Juans, a remarkable return rate of 23.2%. We believe this high rate is the result of using numbered VID leg bands. Such conspicuous bands are often be read by observers with binoculars and scopes. If you see one, please let us know!

The Original “Hawkwatching in Western Washington” Class

The FRG basic hawk class will be held once again in Mt. Vernon and Seattle next year (2010). Hard to believe that I have been teaching this class for 26 years but it has been a great pleasure and much fun. Thank you all for taking it and supporting the FRG over these many years. Please pass along the class dates and locations to friends, family and whoever else might be interested. It helps support our research.

Night Dates Time


Tuesdays 12 Jan-9 Feb. 7 PM

Wednesdays 13 Jan-10 Feb. 7 PM

As always, each class includes a 1 hour lecture and 1 hour of images, one night per week, plus a full-day field trip to the Skagit Flats to look at wild raptors. Cost of the course is $150. To register, please send your check to FRG, Box 248, Bow, WA 98232. For questions, call Bud at (360) 757-1911 or e-mail bud@frg.org.

Annual FRG Dues

If you like what we are doing and want to support our efforts, please send in your contribution to the Falcon Research Group. Dues are still $25.00 a year, but contributions over and above that figure are always welcome. And thank you for your support.....