Monkeys Love Hawks

In June, the Tree Monkey Project travelled to southeastern Arizona to help researchers with the Arizona Gray Hawk Project (AGHP) study gray hawks (Buteo plagiatus) in the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area.

Here, Arizona Gray Hawk Project researchers approach the project site at the San Pedro Riparian National Conservaiton Area.

Gray hawks, also called Mexican goshawks, are widespread in the tropics but rare in North America, with only about 300 pairs nesting in the American Southwest, mainly along narrow strips of riparian (along streams and rivers) forest. In Arizona, their population is expanding within these riparian woodlands and also to drier upland habitats. AGHP is trying to understand more about the hawk’s habits, diet, breeding productivity and other potential causes of their expanding population.

Tree Monkey Project provided tree-climbing support to help access the nests, which were often 70 feet above the ground.

Here, Ariana La Porte prepares to climb up to a hawk nest. Her rope, harness, ascenders and other equipment provide access to the high canopy while ensuring her safety.

Once up to the nests, we lowered the babies down to the ground, so researchers could measure their physical characteristics and band them. We also installed cameras above the nests to record daily events.

Measuring various characteristics of the hawks—their size, weight, etc.—helps researchers understand the health, growth rates and other morphology dynamics of this hawk population.

During that time, I worked about 50 baby hawks. There’s a particular type of energy that comes with interfacing directly with wild creatures like these hawks. The atmosphere feels raw, not preprogrammed, unpredictable. It forces me to be present, helps take away my ticking mind and emotional games. It’s direct and pure, which can be psychologically and emotionally healing.

Here I am with two of my new best friends.

The Arizona Gray Hawk Project will be back again next year to see what becomes of the hawks we met in June, and the Tree Monkey Project is planning to join them.

I care about animals, and I love exploring our natural environment. I’m not a scientist, but I can be involved with and support interesting scientific studies through tree climbing. This is just one example of how modern tree-climbing skills and equipment can be used to help humans better understand and live in balance with nature.

Please donate today to help Tree Monkey Project support wildlife research like this in the future.

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