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Conserving the Ridgway's Hawk in Punta Cana, DR

by Fundación Grupo Puntacana
Conserving the Ridgway's Hawk in Punta Cana, DR
Conserving the Ridgway's Hawk in Punta Cana, DR
Conserving the Ridgway's Hawk in Punta Cana, DR
Conserving the Ridgway's Hawk in Punta Cana, DR
Conserving the Ridgway's Hawk in Punta Cana, DR
Conserving the Ridgway's Hawk in Punta Cana, DR
Conserving the Ridgway's Hawk in Punta Cana, DR
Conserving the Ridgway's Hawk in Punta Cana, DR
Conserving the Ridgway's Hawk in Punta Cana, DR
Conserving the Ridgway's Hawk in Punta Cana, DR
Conserving the Ridgway's Hawk in Punta Cana, DR
Conserving the Ridgway's Hawk in Punta Cana, DR
Conserving the Ridgway's Hawk in Punta Cana, DR
Conserving the Ridgway's Hawk in Punta Cana, DR
Conserving the Ridgway's Hawk in Punta Cana, DR
Conserving the Ridgway's Hawk in Punta Cana, DR
Conserving the Ridgway's Hawk in Punta Cana, DR
Conserving the Ridgway's Hawk in Punta Cana, DR
Conserving the Ridgway's Hawk in Punta Cana, DR
Conserving the Ridgway's Hawk in Punta Cana, DR
Ridgway's hawk (Buteo ridgwayi)
Ridgway's hawk (Buteo ridgwayi)

It’s October and the Ridgway's Hawks are officially taking a recess from their busy nesting season. We usually continue to monitor them to make sure that they are still in their territories and in optimum health. As the 2020 nesting season is officially over, we're beyond excited to announce that this has been the most successful nesting season in Puntacana so far.

During the 2020 nesting season we monitored 18 pairs of Ridgway’s Hawks in Puntacana and 17 of these pairs attempted nesting. We observed 21 nestlings successfully fledge, of which we were able to band 18. This gives us hope for the future of Ridgway’s Hawk in Puntacana and the Dominican Republic.

With Covid 19 it has definitely been a strange year! You may be wondering how we managed to keep the project going and at the same time have our most successful nesting season in Puntacana during such a difficult time. The lions share of all the work was achieved by the locals who have been trained to accomplish this important work. Thanks to their dedication and commitment, we were able to keep working despite the pandemic and the adversities that it caused. This is why it is so important for us to keep training locals, and now our resolve to do this is stronger than ever.

As you can imagine due to COVID-19, we were unable to conduct face to face education outreach in Dominican Republic throughout most of FY 2020. However, at the start of the year, we did conduct community and school visits reaching a total of 1,600 people, of which 1,479 were first time contacts. We distributed 10 chicken coops, held 3 workshops for 34 people (19 of which were teachers) and visited 18 communities and 4 schools. While we were unable to host any Ridgway's Hawk Day activities, we did host a virtual event which included a presentation and a chance for participants to meet some of our field team in Los Limones and Puntacana. We had 17 participants for this event.

We also designed and printed several new education materials which are available in both Spanish and Haitian Creole. We continue to make progress on the text and design of our raptor-based environmental education guide which we hope to make available throughout the Caribbean, and available in Spanish, English, and Haitian Creole.

We're already preparing ourselves for the next nesting season and as you can see, great things are coming for the Ridgway's Hawk Project next year.

Ridgway's Hawk at Puntacana Resort & Club
Ridgway's Hawk at Puntacana Resort & Club
Ridgway's Hawk at Puntacana Resort & Club 2
Ridgway's Hawk at Puntacana Resort & Club 2
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Ridgway's Hawk at Puntacana 1
Ridgway's Hawk at Puntacana 1

It’s June 22nd and the Ridgway’s Hawk season is coming to an end. After a great start to the season, Covid-19 entered our lives and we had to adapt our work to the new normal. We’re very happy to say that despite all the changes, we have been able to continue our work in Punta Cana without any major problems. In fact, this has turned out to be the best nesting season on record for wild Ridgway’s Hawks in Punta Cana.

The season started off with a bang! Most of the pairs of hawks began building their nests and copulating very early in the season and we were excited to be, once again, working with such an amazing species.

Despite the pandemic we have been monitoring 17 established pairs of hawks, as well as a few lone males, and some juveniles from the previous year. It’s always very pleasant to see these young birds doing well. So far, 17 young have fledged and two more nestlings will be banded soon. The hawks success this year makes us really happy and gives us great expectations for the future.

Another important part of the project is the Educational program, this part has definitely changed during the pandemic as we usually visit all the communities near Punta Cana. This year we have introduced new ways of reaching locals via Instagram live, zoom presentations and others platforms. It is our goal to reach and educate more locals each year and for them to learn about this endangered species so they can generate interest to preserve what's theirs.

Work in other project areas has continued this season as well, though we have had to limit some work in order to take precautions due to Covid-19. We have continued to monitor about 150 pairs of hawks in Los Haitises National Park. We asked our local team to work together, but maintain social distancing. About mid season, this meant that we stopped climbing into nests to treat nestlings for nest flies. We did continue all of our monitoring of these nests and it appears that without nest treatment nest success will be lower this season. Fortunately we were able to treat many nests prior to the pandemic causing us to alter our work plan.

In Aniana Vargas National Park, where we released 25 young Ridgway’s Hawks in 2019, we have continued to monitor as well. Early in the season we observed some nesting behavior from a pair of hawks there, but after the nest they were building fell, they seemed to lose interest. This is actually normal behavior for younger birds. Often they will begin showing some interest in nesting during their first year, but they don’t normally have nesting success. Their chances of success in nesting during their first year increase if they have a nest mate that is older, but since all of the hawks in this area were just released in 2019, that was not the case. We continue to get reports from our local crew in this area and they are seeing hawks on a daily basis. Hopefully we will see some successful nesting in Aniana Vargas National Park during the 2021 season.

Ridgway's hawk at Puntacana 2
Ridgway's hawk at Puntacana 2
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Ridgway's hawk (Buteo ridgwayi) hunting a snake.
Ridgway's hawk (Buteo ridgwayi) hunting a snake.

A new year has come and with it a new Ridgway’s Hawk nesting season. We are especially grateful for the opportunity continue preserving this critically endangered species and the opportunity to keep improving our methods.

As this new season starts, we are preparing ourselves for the next six months of incredibly hard work monitoring and managing the Ridgway’s Hawk in Punta Cana, Los Haitises National Park, and now at our newest release site, Aniana Vargas National Park.

Last nesting season in Puntacana was our most productive season yet with a total of 19 new hawks recruited into the population. Wild pairs in Puntacana hatched 17 of these young and two young were fostered into wild nests due to their nests in Los Haitises National Park being destroyed. This is beyond exciting and we always hope that we can be at least as successful this year as the last. This season we will continue to monitor and manage nests in Puntacana to maximize productivity. We will also search for new nesting pairs and individuals as well as continue with environmental education activities.

In Los Haitises National Park, we continue monitoring and management of the hawk population. Currently we have four teams including 18 individuals working to accomplish all of this work. The work in LHNP is crucial to the goals of our project. Bolstering this population as well as allowing us to relocate at least some young to other areas are only possible with this intensive hands on management. Last year, 126 young reached fledging.

In Aniana Vargas National Park, we are preparing for another season with plans to release 25 additional young. It is amazing to see how excited people in the community are to watch the population of Ridgway’s Hawk grow over the next few years. The project has made a positive impact in this community. Last season four tours went to Los Brazos in Aniana Vargas National Park, where over 40 visitor were able to see the release process and how the project works in this community. The people on the tour ate at one of the local people's homes, giving them an income that they did not have before. We will continue to do this at least a few times a year. It is important to give locals the opportunity to get to know the Ridgway’s Hawk and to be inspired to protect what is theirs.

While all of this fieldwork is taking place, the need to continue environmental eduction never stops. Last year we reached more than 2,000 new people who did not know about the Ridgway’s Hawk. We achieved this through door-to-door visits, teacher training workshops, as well as visiting schools and new communities. This year we are planning some amazing activities for the Ridgway’s Hawk week!!

For now, the fieldwork is just beginning and an amazing season awaits!

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Community of Los Brazos
Community of Los Brazos

It´s September 25th of 2019 and Ridgway’s Hawk nesting season is now over. After almost seven months of intense nest monitoring, we are starting to catch our breath. We are beyond happy to announce that we monitored a total of 17 breeding pairs of hawks in Puntacana alone. Twelve successful pairs were able to produce 17 nestlings. Additionally, two nestlings brought from a fallen nest at Los Haitises National Park were fostered in Puntacana for a total of 19 new individual hawks recruited into the population. 

In Los Haitises National Park (LHNP) we monitored a total of 144 pairs of hawks this past season and observed 126 nestlings fledge. Many of these nestlings likely wouldn’t have made it to fledging if it were not for the care provided by our Dominican field team.  

A very important step in achieving our goals has taken place this past season. As mentioned in the last report, a new release site was established in Aniana Vargas National Park (AVNP). A total of 25 hawks were successfully released and to date nearly all of them have become independent, which means they are no longer depending on the food that we provide at the release site. The work we are conducting in AVNP isn’t just about releasing hawks. We have been working very closely with the communities in the area, especially the community of Los Brazos which is the closest to our release site. A total of 8 community members directly worked or volunteered on the project this past season. Many of these amazing individuals are even doing education work in local communities and even in their own schools.

Our education program is stronger than ever! Program coordinator Marta Curti has been conducting numerous activities with our partners. Ridgway’s Hawk Day, teacher training workshops, door to door visits and coming soon – a new campaign in the Puntacana area. This campaign is going to focus on educating the general public using mass media such as radio, newspapers, and billboards. Prior to the campaign we conducted surveys in the area to evaluate residents’ knowledge of Ridgway’s Hawks and the protection of the environment in general. Once the education campaign has ended we will again conduct similar surveys and see if our efforts worked. This will be very important information for the next task, a “Nation-wide Campaign”.

Until the next nesting season begins we will focus our efforts on monitoring the existing populations and continuing the quest to educate the public about protecting Ridgway’s Hawks and the environment in general. There are many preparations underway to make next Ridgway’s Hawk nesting season the best yet!

Monitored Hawk
Monitored Hawk
Monitored Hawk 2
Monitored Hawk 2
Monitored Hawk 3
Monitored Hawk 3
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Infected Ridgway hawk
Infected Ridgway hawk

It´s June 5th of 2019 and Ridgway’s Hawk nesting season is almost over. After a few busy months monitoring these hawks, we´re beyond happy to see the progress they have made in the first half of 2019. In Punta Cana alone we have a total of 18 pairs of hawks - including a brand-new pair we found this year. We also have observed several juveniles (hawks that hatched during last year’s nesting season), which gives us great hope for the future of the species. Though some pairs are still incubating eggs and others are caring for nestlings, the pairs at Punta Cana have fledged 10 young so far this year.

The population in Los Haitises National Park is also doing very well. Our local teams continue to work hard to find nesting pairs, treat young for parasite infestations, and educate locals about the importance of the hawks. Because of their amazing efforts, we expect nest productivity rates to be the same or even better than last year. We will have a better idea of final numbers at the end of breeding season.

One of the main threats to Ridgway’s Hawk survival is the infestation of nestlings by botflies (Philornis sp). The botfly larvae burrow under the nestlings’ skin and feed on their tissue, muscle and blood. In order to better understand the prevalence of Philornis in Punta Cana, we conducted a planned experiment, wherein we left the first five hawk nests untreated for Philornis, to see if nestlings would remain unaffected. After closely monitoring those nests we noted that the majority of the nests were parasitized and just a few chicks survived. As expected in Ridgway’s Hawks, which often lay replacement clutches, most of the pairs that had failed in their first nesting attempt are now incubating for a second time. We have treated those nests and so far, they´re doing very well. Also we continued developing less invasive techniques to treat nests and continued working to identify natural repellents for this parasitic fly. So far, tobacco has shown promising results and we will be conducting further experiments under semi-controlled conditions in the next few months.

Another important threat to Ridgway’s Hawks is human persecution. So, a large part of our program involves environmental education efforts. This year, we visited several communities around Punta Cana and Los Haitises National Park - including a few new ones. It is always exciting to see how interested people are in learning more about Ridgway’s hawks and their importance. As usual, during the last week of May, we celebrated “Ridgway’s Hawk Day” with a number of activities and presentations in several different communities close to Punta Cana and Los Haitises National Park. Most notably, we worked with over 220 students at Escuela Basica de Juanillo. During the event, the kids had the chance to play some conservation-oriented games and paint nature-themed portraits of Ridgway’s Hawks and other amazing birds.  We were also joined by artist Nathalie Ramirez, who painted a beautiful mural at the entrance to the school, highlighting the beauty of Ridgway’s Hawks and the school’s pledge to protect them.

Since one of the main goals of our project is to create 3 additional populations of Ridgway’s Hawks outside of Los Haitises National Park, we are happy to announce that we have begun releasing hawks in a new area - Aniana Vargas National Park. To get ready for the releases, we first met with local community members to share information with them about the hawks, as well as to listen to any concerns or questions they might have had about the project. We couldn’t begin a reintroduction program without the full support of the nearby communities. Happily, we received overwhelming support and enthusiasm! So, our next step was to build two hack towers where we would house young hawks prior to their release. We began reintroducing young hawks to the area in late April and to date have released close to 25 hawks. So far, they are doing great. It is beyond exciting to be able to watch as these young birds quickly get used to their new home. Another remarkable aspect of this new site is that we have hired and are in the process of training five local young men and women who are working on the project. It is amazing to see how eager they are to learn, to protect this amazing bird, and to pass on what they have learned to other members of their communities.

Students projects to promote awareness.
Students projects to promote awareness.
Students from local public schools
Students from local public schools
More students working on awarenss projects
More students working on awarenss projects
Beautiful wall painting of the Ridgway Hawk
Beautiful wall painting of the Ridgway Hawk
Healthy Ridgway Hawk
Healthy Ridgway Hawk
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Organization Information

Fundación Grupo Puntacana

Location: Santo Domingo, no applicable - Dominican Republic
Website:
Project Leader:
Jacob Kheel
Vice President
Santo Domingo, N/A Dominican Republic
$75,326 raised of $95,000 goal
 
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