2014 is upon us and with it a new breeding season for the Ridgway’s Hawk. Many pairs of Ridgway’s Hawks in Los Haitises National Park are already incubating and here at the Puntacana Ecological Foundation we are anticipating that our Ridgway’s Hawks in Punta Cana will soon be incubating as well. The pair of Ridgway’s Hawks, AV and ND, who raised a chick here last year have been observed taking fine materials to their nest (a sign that it is near completion). They have also been observed copulating and we are excited to see what the coming nesting season will bring for them.
B-44 (short-hand for right leg banded Blue 4 over 4), the offspring hatched last year by AV and ND, is a beautiful juvenile this year. He has been wandering the area as most young hawks do when they are surveying the available land before establishing a territory. B-44 has been spending time with another single male in the area, AR (released in 2011); they have been observed flying together on their way to separate roosts in the evening.
We recently discovered that AN, a young adult male Ridgway’s Hawk released in 2012, has moved his territory and paired up with SN, a female released in 2009. This is the first time we know of that SN has had the opportunity to be with a male. She and AN have been taking nesting materials to a palmchat nest in a royal palm that is located in the front yard of a large house here in Punta Cana. This is a great example of how easily these hawks can live in green urban and suburban areas when they are not persecuted by people. These hawks feed on rats, mice, snakes, lizards, skinks, birds, frogs, insects, and bats so they are able to support themselves readily both in wilderness and urban habitat. AN and SN have also been copulating and nest building so we are eagerly awaiting the results of their breeding efforts this season as well.
Aside from monitoring the Ridgway’s Hawks that are already in Punta Cana, we are looking forward to a great release season this year. We have been preparing a new release site in Punta Cana to help meet our goal of releasing 15 to 25 hawks this season. Last year we did not release any new hawks in Punta Cana because we wanted to put more effort into environmental education within the surrounding communities and also allow time for the electric poles in the area to be retro-fitted with t-perches to make them safer for perching hawks and other birds. In 2014, our educational outreach program will include efforts by a new project partner, Fundacion Propagas, who will be heading up a national education campaign to raise awareness about the Ridgway’s Hawk and the amazing conservation work being done with this species.
Last year The Peregrine Fund focused efforts on the main population of Ridgway’s Hawks in Los Haitises National Park. They monitored nesting pairs of adults as they have for many years and with the help of the Santo Domingo Zoo (ZOODOM) they came up with an effective treatment for the prevention of bot-fly infestations in nestling hawks. In the past, bot-flies have been associated with high mortality in nestling Ridgway’s Hawks. This treatment of nestlings has been credited with an increase in survival of nestling hawks to fledging age from 50%-60% in previous years to about 83% in 2013. This is great news for the Ridgway’s Hawk since it will make more nestlings available to release in order to create a second self-sustaining population here in Punta Cana.
During the 2009 to 2012 hacking seasons the project released about five birds per year as a sort of pilot program to help work out any complications involved in the hacking of Ridgway’s Hawks. Now that there are two breeding pairs from the released birds in the Punta Cana area and we have had a chance to address the highest causes of mortality, it is time to begin releasing larger groups of birds. The Peregrine Fund is investing heavily in the conservation of the core population in Los Haitises National Park and as a result, more nestling Ridgway’s Hawks are available for release. It is vital to the conservation of the species that a second, self-sustaining population be created and now with two nesting pairs in Punta Cana, we are on our way to doing just that here on the eastern end of Hispaniola. With so many positive things happening for the Ridgway’s Hawk we are very excited to see what the coming year will bring!
Please, if you are in the position to help, won’t you join us in our quest to conserve this unique and very rare animal?
This report was written for the Puntacana Ecological Foundation by Thomas Hayes and Christine Deegear Hayes, Ridgway’s Hawk Project Biologists, The Peregrine Fund.
Since the last report the first natural born Ridgway’s Hawk in Punta Cana, B44, has become totally independent and is now living around the residential area of Tortuga Bay within the Puntacana Resort & Club property. When the last report was posted the parents of B44 were still hunting for him but slowly he began hunting on his own and expanding his territory until recently when he stopped returning to his parents’ territory for meals. Over the next year he will most likely continue to explore until he settles on an area that suits him best. B44’s birth helped spur a flurry of local media attention to the plight of the Ridgway’s Hawk and other critically endangered birds in the Dominican Republic. Accompanying this report are photos of two articles that appeared in some of the more widely circulated newspapers in the Dominican Republic: Hoy and El Nacional.
As for the parents (AV & ND), they are still together and living in and around the area where they nested several months ago. Typically Ridgway’s Hawks form a pair for life and will mate/lay eggs every year. Our hope is that AV & ND will mate again in early 2014 only this time ND hopefully will lay two or more eggs!
In other news, AN, one of the males without a mate has moved into SN’s (a female’s) territory around the Puntacana Village. SN has yet to mate with any of the other hawks in the area and we are hoping these two might form the next pair. To back this assertion up, one of the conservationists recently observed SN & AN flying in circles together, a typical behavior with hawks that are courting. Finally, as we reach the end of 2013 we are looking to expand and build off of this year’s successes in 2014. The Peregrine Fund hopes to reintroduce as many as 20 hawks to Punta Cana and along with our project partners at Fundacion Propa-Gas, launch an even more expansive awareness campaign. To prepare for this initiative Fundacion Propa-Gas, The Peregrine Fund, and the Puntacana Ecological Foundation recently recreated the educational brochure based off of feedback from this year’s initiatives (see the accompanying photos) we are also exploring publishing other potential materials such as children’s books and t-shirts to help raise awareness about our efforts to protect this amazing bird. In order to dramatically increase the number of hawks to be reintroduced to the area we are preparing to construct new hack boxes and observational decks to handle the increased number of birds. If you have a chance to visit Punta Cana in 2014 we recommend you come and visit the Puntacana Ecological Foundation as this should be quite a site to see!
Since the last report was published in July 2013 the Puntacana Ecological Foundation and its project partners made a tremendous push to raise funds from a variety granting organizations and fundraisers to finance the construction of the wastewater treatment system. This portion of the Fuentes de Vida initiative is the necessary precursor to the potable water system and securing access to clean drinking water. With each member of the Fuentes de Vida project team including the Peace Corps, the Punta Cana Bavaro Rotary Club, the community of Domingo Maiz, and of course, the Puntacana Ecological Foundation, collaborating to raise funds from a number of different sources we were able to secure the necessary funds to complete the constructed wetlands water treatment system.
Funding was secured from several granting organizations including: Adventures of the Mind Foundation, USAID’s Small Program Assistance (SPA), Peace Corps Partnership Program, and most notably Positive Legacy. Additional funding was also raised through a generous benefit dinner hosted by the Puntacana Resort & Club with Iron Chef Geoffrey Zacharian preparing a special meal for the donors. Although small compared to the project’s total cost every dollar raised on Global Giving was a tremendous help in advancing the initiative and the Global Giving Fuentes de Vida project page also provides an invaluable forum, which the above groups and individuals were able to reference when considering their support of the project.
Moving forward we are currently receiving bids from contractors to excavate the constructed wetland treatment area and the sewerage (collection) system as well. The Response Peace Corps Volunteer, an engineering specialist with decades of experience developing wastewater and potable water systems all over the world, who helped finalize the system designs and budget earlier in 2013, has returned to the Dominican Republic and is assisting in organizing all of the necessary preparations. We expect to break ground in the next few weeks and are planning on hosting a brief ceremony to inaugurate the project.
As for this Global Giving page we ask that any and all potential donors continue to consider this project for their donations as we still need your help in raising the necessary funds for the potable water and integrated waste management systems. As we mentioned in the project overview section of this page the mission of Fuentes de Vida is to provide community-wide solutions to the most elemental environmental concerns of Domingo Maiz: providing safe drinking water, successfully treating its wastewater, and implementing an integrated solid waste management program to avoid trash collecting in the streets.
The potable water section of the project contemplates implementing a centralized community-wide aqueduct system that will affect the same area as the wastewater treatment system. The well would be equipped with a submersible pump and operate approximately 19 hours per day. The water will be chlorinated as it is pumped into the system ensuring that it is safe for bathing and consumption. The waste management portion of FDV includes purchasing an initial round of 15, 55-gallon, trash containers to be disbursed throughout the community every 200 feet, or 61 meters, as suggested by the community. The neighborhood association of Domingo Maiz is beginning to negotiate with the municipality’s waste hauling company, to establish pick-up times, locations and days for the collection of the community’s garbage. Once this is established the trash cans can be installed throughout the community.
In short, there remains a lot of work to be done and your continued support is crucial to the long term success of the initiative. On behalf of the community of Domingo Maiz and the rest of the Fuentes de Vida project team we would sincerely like to the thank the donors who have so generously supported the project to date and we kindly ask that you continue to support the potable water and solid waste management portions of the initiative . We will be submitting exciting pictures and reports as we begin to break ground and implement the first phase of the Fuentes de Vida project.