Puntacana Ecological Foundation

To protect and restore the natural resources of the Punta Cana region and contribute to the sustainable development of the Dominican Republic
Jul 8, 2016

July Report 2016

We are slowly catching our breath from the busiest and most productive season we have ever had here on the Ridgway’s Hawk Project. As we suspected, 2016 was a landmark year and we have seen some amazing results from all of our hard work these past years. We could not have accomplished this without all the help from our supporters, thank you!!!!

We set many new records this year with a final count of 12 nesting pairs being observed in Punta Cana. Eight of these pairs actively nested meaning that they made a nest, laid eggs, and incubated their eggs. Three of these pairs unfortunately failed at some point during incubation, but five pairs managed to hatch nine nestlings and eight of these nestlings survived and fledged. Since our first pair formed in 2013, a total of four nestlings have fledged, so having eight fledglings in 2016 was definitely an incredible achievement for the project.

Another exciting moment in the Ridgway’s Hawk Project happened this year when male Blue 4/4 and female Red 2/2 hatched and fledged their first nestling. Male Blue 4/4 was the first nestling to hatch in PC back in 2013 and he is now the first hawk native to Punta Cana to be a part of a breeding pair. This pair having their first successful nest was definitely one of the highlights of the 2016 nesting season.

We achieved our release goal this season with 25 new Ridgway’s Hawks being released into the area. One of these 25 new hawks was released by a method called fostering. To do this we placed a young hawk (12 days) into the nest of one of the wild pairs in Punta Cana. Due to unexpected circumstances this nestling was left in our care. Unfortunately the timing wasn’t very good to place this bird with one of the groups being released, so we decided to place the nestling in a wild nest that only had one nestling. We have successfully done this in the past so we knew that there was a good chance that it would work. This pair successfully raised both nestlings and they fledged from their nest in late April.

The other 24 nestlings fledged from a brand new release site. This site was constructed due to the old release site being chosen as a nesting platform. The pair male Black 2/5 and Female Black 3/8 was eventually joined by female Black 3/5. This trio was observed extensively and nest building and copulations were observed with both of the females, but neither female ever ended up laying eggs. The good news is that we were able to construct the new release site in time to release 24 new birds to the area. This new release site is truly a joy to work at since the new observation tower is 5 stories high and above the canopy of the forest. It was originally constructed as a birding tower and we thought there was no better way to turn it into a birding tower than releasing Ridgway’s Hawks right there.

Once again it was an incredible season both in Punta Cana and in Los Haitises National Park. In all we ended up monitoring about 120 nesting pairs of Ridgway’s Hawks which is also a new record for the project. Again, many thanks for all of the support and please keep helping us achieve conservation records for the Ridgway’s Hawk.

Mar 24, 2016

March Report, 2016

Original pair from 2013 still going strong
Original pair from 2013 still going strong

Hold on to your hats folks!! The Ridgway’s Hawk is coming back in a big way in Punta Cana. As we suspected 2016 is going to be and already has been a land mark year for the Ridgway’s Hawk Project.

We are working double time trying to get everything accomplished during this very busy time of year. Thanks to a new pair of hawks deciding to call the release site their home, we have had to make plans to move the release site in 2016. Male Black 2/5 and Female Black 3/8 have been making a nest right on the platform at the release site. We thought they may move off and find a more suitable nest site, but it appears they are bound and determined to stay put. Hopefully this young pair will be successful at nesting in 2016.

We are currently monitoring 11 pairs of Ridgway’s Hawks in Punta Cana. On top of that, 6 pairs are currently incubating eggs. This is truly an amazing sign that these hawks are adapting well and that we are on our way to creating a new, self-sustaining population of Ridgway’s Hawks in the Puntacana area.

As usual for this time of year we are very busy monitoring the wild population of hawks in Los Haitises National Park. This year we are monitoring more than 100 pairs which are more than ever. One of our main objectives is to increase the production in these wild pairs. With this effort, we are able to increase production enough that we can remove nestlings for releases and at the same time, increase the production of fledglings in the wild population in LHNP. This is a win win for the Ridgway’s, especially since we have hired 15 local Dominican field technicians to help us accomplish this task. This has been a great way to help the local communities see the Ridgway’s as a valuable resource.

In about a month we will begin to bring the nestlings to Puntacana for release.  Our goal for 2016 is to release 25 healthy hawks into the area. Hopefully the nesting pairs in Punta Cana will be successful in raising some young hawks as well.

That’s it for now, time to get back to work. As always, a big thanks to all of you who help support this very important work!!!

Our efforts to protect power lines have paid off
Our efforts to protect power lines have paid off
Dec 21, 2015

December 2015

It’s the end of 2015 and it feels good to look back on another fruitful year for the Ridgway’s Hawk conservation project in Punta Cana.

The work we did in Jan 2015 drastically reduced electrocutions of Ridgway’s Hawks this year. Only one hawk was electrocuted and it was on a pole that we had not been able to adequately cover with the materials that we had purchased in 2014. This year we have a grant from the Avian Power Line Interaction Committee (APLIC) and matching funds from the Puntacana Ecological Foundation, allowing for the purchase of more retro-fitting supplies with the goal to cover a new section of power lines and also to finish retrofitting the more complicated fixtures that we were not able to cover last year. The work on the power poles not only prevents electrocution of the Ridgway’s Hawks, but helps to protect many other bird species, including migratory raptors.

It has been several months now since we closed down the release site for the season and radio tracking the reintroduced hawks has been the lion’s share of our work. We do this in order to know how each hawk is progressing and also to make sure that people living near where the birds are hunting and roosting are aware of our reintroduction efforts and understand the importance of helping to protect this critically endangered species.

Many of the young birds that formed new pairs last breeding season have been seen together again. We have been concerned for the pair Red 27 and Black 23 since this spring when a gardener found Red 27 on the ground, overwhelmed by an infestation of over 70 bot-fly larvae. Miraculously, Red 27 survived the ordeal (see our last two quarterly reports), but she and Black 23 were not seen together at all over the summer and fall after she was re-released. We are happy to report that they have been together recently and we are excited for their prospects in 2016. Another young pair Red 24 and Black AR have already begun pre-nesting season copulations, also a promising sign for 2016.


As always we are constantly trying to improve our efforts at educating the public about Ridgway’s Hawks and conservation in general. At the end of October our environmental education coordinator, Marta Curti conducted a teacher training workshop at the Puntacana Ecological Foundation. This was an intense four day session and 10 teachers from 5 target communities in the Punta Cana area participated. These teachers learned valuable skills which they can take back to their communities and use to help reach hundreds of students. This event was so successful that we are already in the process of planning the next workshop.


Project coordinator, Thomas Hayes, says he thinks this year is going to be pretty awesome for the Ridgway’s Hawk in Punta Cana.

 
   

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