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Bird Banding in the rainforest!

August 31, 2019

Another few weeks have flown by here at Las Tangaras since our last blog, which included having the Life Net Nature August bird banding expedition come to the reserve! As avid banders ourselves, we were more than happy to get stuck in and help to monitor the avian life at the reserve, which happens twice a year during these projects. We and the Ecuadorian staff greeted Kevin (the project leader) and three keen volunteers at the cabin after their journey from Quito, then it was straight into orientation before dinner and our first of many nightly bird lists – better known as La Lista! This consisted of going through the reserve bird list and recording what everyone had managed to see and hear each day. Our highest single day total was an impressive 129 species!

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Watching a Chocó Toucan

Next morning was an early start to do our first of three walking surveys around the reserve, followed by setting up 30 mist nets around the secondary forest and riparian habitats near the cabin – all set for the next couple of mornings of bird banding. We caught an interesting variety of species, from tiny Wedge-billed Hummingbirds to an impressive Rufous Motmot, as well as some rarer birds such as Olive Finch, which are known to be declining here.

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Wedge-billed Hummingbird (female)

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Rufous Motmot

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Olive Finch

After a couple of sessions around the cabin, it was time to do our second walking survey and then hike all the gear (30 nets and 60 poles) up to the primary forest. What a workout! It’s always worth the effort though, as we found out over the next two mornings of 4:15am starts and 30-minute treks up the hill. In the upper forest we caught some AMAZING species! Colombian Screech-Owl was an unexpected find in the net and a species that we hadn’t detected at all on our surveys – a gorgeous bird to say the least. A fierce female Barred Forest Falcon was also amongst the highlights, as well as a beautiful Beryl-spangled Tanager and probably the most unexpected, a White-throated Quail-Dove! These birds are large, round and have very soft feathers, so typically do not catch well in the passerine mist nets, however Pascual (one of the Ecuadorian staff members and banding expert) was there fast enough to get to it! We also caught a new male Andean Cock-of-the-Rock, which was colour-banded as a contribution to the ongoing project at the reserve. Overall a great couple of sessions, proving the age-old theory of high effort leading to high reward.

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Colombian Screech-Owl

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Barred Forest Falcon

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Beryl-spangled Tanager

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White-throated Quail-Dove

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Andean Cock-of-the-Rock

After a day off consisting of a hike (birding all the way of course) into Mindo for some well-earned beer and pizza, we all went up at dawn to see the spectacle of the Cock-of-the-Rock lek, and then set up our 30 nets in our final sampling habitat, the recovering pasture across the river. This is usually the busiest place for banding, so we spent three sessions there to get a decent sample of new and recaptured birds. This pasture brought us some weird and wonderful species; a male Golden-winged Manakin was an incredible find in the nets, as it is a rarely seen species on the reserve and they are probably the most adorable yet bizarre birds ever! We got some unusual hummers for the reserve too, including Buff-tailed Coronet (usually a higher elevation species) and the endangered and rarely-seen Hoary Puffleg. Another treat to see up close was a Pale-mandibled Araçari, a banding first for Kevin who has been coming to the reserve for many projects now.

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Golden-winged Manakin

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Hoary Puffleg

After all our banding sessions, we just had our final walking survey to do and then it was time for some reflection on our work during the project. The volunteers put together some great presentations using the data we’d collected, and Kevin gave us an interesting overview of our captures and sightings over the two weeks. We ended up banding just over 400 birds, with around 150 recaptures of birds banded on previous projects. During the two weeks we collectively detected 178 species of birds around the reserve and Mindo – a fantastic effort!

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A typical scene of the 2 week expedition…

It’s always a privilege to be able to safely capture and handle such amazing species, whilst contributing to such a worthwhile cause and collecting some great data. Of course, none of it would have been possible without the tireless efforts and enthusiasm from our volunteers, the excellent organisation of basically everything from finances to fieldwork from project leader Kevin, the expertise of the local staff and not forgetting the delicious food made by local cooks, who made sure we were always well fed. We had a brilliant couple of weeks and banded some amazing species with some great company. Thank you all!

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A birthday celebration thrown by our wonderful Ecuadorian staff!

If you would like to come on one of these fantastic banding expeditions, there is one coming up from the 2nd – 15th December 2019 which still has a few spaces available – contact Dr. Dusti Becker – dustizuni@yahoo.com – for details and application form from Life Net Nature.

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