Earthspan principals conduct long-term studies on migrating peregrines at Assateague Island, MD/VA (autumn since 1970) and Padre Island, TX (autumn and spring since autumn 1977). We have expended almost 50,000 man-hours of survey time in observing over 62,000 peregrines and capturing 14,331. The tundra Peregrine has made a significant recovery and has been removed from the list of endangered species, yet continued monitoring of populations is imperative. Because of the continuity and standard method for data collection these surveys have become an essential tool in that effort. Our database at Assateague includes sightings of every other raptor we have observed on the Island since 1970. Nearly 90% of all observations there have been recorded by three experienced individuals, who have also conducted springtime studies at Padre Island. At Padre a more diverse cast of highly qualified individuals has participated.
Our work in these studies with satellite-received telemetry allows us to continue elucidating previously undescribed aspects of the tundra Peregrine’s wintering biology and continental migration and to identify critical habitats. Given available technologies, Assateague and Padre remain ideal laboratories in which to study and address present and future issues of concern to Peregrines, other Neotropical migrants, and humans. In recent years we have studied emerging infectious pathogens such as West Nile Virus and Avian Influenza in partnership with U.S. Government entities, and currently address contaminants through studies related to the 2010 Gulf oil spill.
In 2008 our database allowed us to provide an Expert Declaration on the Draft Environmental Assessment and Management Plan for Take of Migrant Peregrine Falcons in the United States for Use in Falconry. Among other points, we concluded that the standardized average number of migrating Peregrines we observed at Assateague over the preceding 29 years was essentially the same as that seen more than six decades ago (1939-1944), before DDT had serious adverse effects on the reproductive potential of the Peregrine in North America. Our work at Assateague and Padre Islands represents the bulk of tundra Peregrine Falcons banded within the continental United States since the establishment of the Bird Banding Laboratory by the Department of the Interior. Furthermore, our overall database constitutes the most significant and longest continuous monitoring study on this falcon in the Americas. Long-term studies such as ours are essential to monitoring the stability of wildlife populations, particularly in light of rapid changes that may occur due to contaminants, infectious diseases, habitat loss, climate change and other factors. By the long-term and standardized nature of our studies, we have established levels of observation in stable populations that will quickly raise future concerns if not achieved over a several year period.
In 2012 at Assateague, our 43rd annual study was conducted on the northern (MD) portion of the island. Observations and captures by unit effort were the 6th highest and 8th highest respectively for this long-term study. Between 28 September and 19 October the survey team expended 215 man-hours in the field, recording 344 sightings of Peregrines and capturing 98 different individuals. Five of the falcons captured were previously banded. The 344 sightings included 78 observations and six recaptures of individuals previously captured during the survey. We also obtained 96 blood samples for collaborative studies. Please see our full report for details on the study. 2012 Assateague Report
During the 2012 Padre spring survey period from 10-24 April, we expended 145 survey hours in the field, recording 301 sightings and capturing 37 individual peregrines. Of those captured, 7 (18.92 %) were previously banded Padre Returns, one had been originally banded at Assateague Island in 2005, and 29 (78.38 %) were first banded during the survey.
In autumn 2012 at Padre, we surveyed the wind-tidal flats from 25 September to 23 October. During this period we expended 484 survey hours in the field, recording 1,002 peregrine falcon observations and capturing 228 individuals. Of those captured 7 (3.07 %) were previously banded and 221 (96.93 %) were first banded this season. Please see our full report for details on the study. 2012 Padre Report