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Migratory Birders

August 7, 2014

The biggest event of July at Reserva Las Tangaras was the arrival of Dr Dusti Becker and a team of volunteers who flew down from North America for a short season of birding at the equator. For Jo and I the arrival of these guys was even better than suddenly finding yourself in the middle of a mixed flock of tanagers on a forest trail in the shafts of morning sunlight.

New mattresses arrive by mule for nesting birders

New mattresses arrive by mule for nesting birders

Larry liberates a bird

Larry liberates a bird

Dr Dusti Becker helps me band a bird

Dr Dusti Becker helps me band a bird

For two weeks the cabin and trails at Reserva Las Tangaras were full of new friends, laughter, songs to Larry’s guitar, and discussion, especially about birds. Our days began alarmingly early at around 4:30. Beams of headlamps swept around the cabin as people dressed and made their way from the communal sleeping quarters, downstairs to breakfast by candlelight. Two Ecuadorian couples regularly help Dusti with birding research. The men, Pascual and Mauricio are experts at handling birds, while the women, Jessica and Alicia are experts at feeding people and keeping houses in order amidst their families, or birders.

Boys watching birds

Boys watching birds

Jheri bands with guidance from Mike

Jheri bands with guidance from Mike

Kevin prepares to release

Kevin prepares to release a flighty friend

Still before dawn we packed up our snacks, donned our rubber boots and walked out into the reserve to open mist nets just in time to catch early birds, but not so early as to catch too many little furry, leathery, sharp-toothy bats. Captured birds were released from the tangled locations in 30 nets every half hour, until we closed the nets in the warmth of the day, an hour before noon. Placed in cotton bags the birds were returned to banding stations where we recorded species, ages, sexes, all manner of measurements and the presence of any ectoparasites. Birds without leg bands were given them, each with individual numbers, and previously banded birds had their numbers noted. The object of the ongoing research (since 2005) at Las Tangaras is to gain longitudinal information about the composition of bird communities at several established sites on the forest edge and in the deeper forest within the reserve.

 

Jo (right) learns from Alison

Jo (right) learns from Alison

Checking the T-shirt for accuracy

Checking the T-shirt for accuracy with a real-live Golden Tanager

Callie measures a Trogon

Callie measures a Trogon. Photo by Kevin Shaw

On one day of banding the birding team was visited by a group of teenagers travelling with National Geographic Student Expeditions. Many were fascinated by the up-close contact with birds that the banding experience provides.

Pascual with members of the National Geographic Student Expedition

Pascual with members of the National Geographic Student Expedition. Photo by Kevin Shaw

For Jo and I birding and banding with birders has been a lot of fun. We’ve learned to recognise the songs of several species in the forest around us and we have closely observed and handled many species. They have now become much better-known neighbours.

Morphometrics with Mike

Morphometrics with Mike

Bagged birds await banding

Bagged birds await banding

Beryl-spangled Tanager in hand

Beryl-spangled Tanager in hand

While our highlight for the month was definitely the half of it that we spent with the birding crew, July at the reserve was also busy in other respects. Jo managed the construction of a new shower, floor and wall in the bathroom of the cabin. A new septic pond was constructed after the existing one choked on its substantial contents. I walked all of the reserve’s trails with a GPS unit to create a new map and Jo’s new flyers advertising the reserve were printed in Quito and we began distributing them in Quito and Mindo. Time for us at the reserve has flown, like the departing North Americans. We are determined to make the most of our final few weeks here.

Left to right; Mike, Larry, Dusti, Alicia, Kevin, Mauricio, Pascual, Hamish, Alison, Jessica, Callie, Jo, Jheri and Sarah. Thanks for the fun!

Left to right; Mike, Larry, Dusti, Alicia, Kevin, Mauricio, Hamish, Pascual, Jessica, Alison, Callie, Jo, Jheri and Sarah. Thanks for the fun!

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Terry permalink
    August 7, 2014 7:09 pm

    Fabulous Fabulous Fabulous Hamish and Jo!!!! So good to see you doing real science and having a ball!

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