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The New Year has started off very well for Big Sur Condors. After both being treated at the LA Zoo for lead poisoning, Condors #444 and #340 were released back into the wild on January 4th. We were pleased that they recovered so quickly and are back out just as breeding season is swinging into gear. VWS staff has been paying close attention to the GPS signals for our breeding birds, watching birds on the web cam, and observing them around Big Sur to see if we will have any new pairs this year. So far, almost all of our mature Condors have been in on the action displaying and copulating. Even a few of the sub adults, like Condor #559, have been observed picking up tips from the older pros trying to emulate courtship behavior. All in all, we have high hopes that our flock will continue to naturally expand this year with more fledglings.
This month we helped the Central Coast flock get a jump start on expansion by introducing four new pre-release birds to the flight pen! Condors #631, #646, #650, and #652 arrived in Big Sur just after New Years Day. So far they seem to be adjusting fine to their new surroundings. They will remain there until they are officially ready to join the rest of the flock in the wild. From our web cam, wild Condors can sometimes be seen perching on the flight pen or sticking their heads through the mesh to the inside where they can investigate the newcomers. This is when we often trap a mentor to stay for several weeks with them inside the pen. The socialization that occurs during this time of investigation is foundational to the successful integration of the new birds into the flock.
If for some reason new birds are socially ostracized by the free-flying Condors the chances that they will survive are narrow. In the wild, the high level of parental investment both adults show their chick usually ensures its social inclusion in the hierarchy. Since pre-release birds do not have this help from their parents we design our release strategy to compensate for this as much as possible. We are really excited to have Condor #646 back in the mix and ready for release after she was removed from a nest in 2012 along the coast due to a broken wrist. She is all healed up now and getting ready to join her parents again in the flock! Get to know our latest arrivals' histories here My Condor
In the middle of the month, we established another new feeding site. In collaboration with the Big Sur Land Trust and Monterey Peninsula Regional Park District, we now have two Condor baiting stations in the coastal mountains just south of Carmel. This is part of VWS's strategic plan to expand Condor foraging and nesting throughout the entire Big Sur coast range from Carmel to San Simeon.
Along with help from a member of Parks Department, VWS field staff put in a hard day of work setting up fencing and carcass anchors at our latest coast-ridge feeding installment. There are many large and beautiful redwoods near this untapped foraging habitat that we hope will one day be used for nesting. Our field biologists have observed Condors feeding on natural wild carcasses relatively near this site, so we anticipate the Condors will find it soon and begin to occupy the northern habitat available to them.
Toward the end of the month, our full time field staff was hired for two days of Condor monitoring at powerline site in Big Sur. The power line utility once again threw their weight behind Condor conservation by replacing a dangerous stretch of power lines with more condor-friendly insulated lines. Condors were particularly vulnerable to this line since it was not insulated and posed the threat of electrocution. Now, thanks to all hands on deck, the line is insulated with "tree-wire"; slightly thicker gauged lines that cannot electrocute the Condors and are more easily distinguishable to the birds.
Finally, we were sad to see Robin's tenure on the crew come to an end this month. Robin's positive outlook and deep commitment to this project has been instrumental since starting with us in May. It's been a long haul and her contributions on behalf of helping Big Sur Condors fly high will surely be missed. We wish you all the best Robin on your future endeavors!
Fly on, friends~
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