Thursday, January 21, 2016

Connecting Two Worlds: BSBO Partners with Costa Rica Bird Observatories

We are all familiar with the bright and vivid warblers of spring migration, their calls on the breeding grounds in summer, and their often confusing fall plumages; but what about winter? Where do these birds go once they pass through Ohio in the fall, and what are they doing before they return in May?

As part of BSBO’s goal to connect our migration research on neotropical migrants (e.g. warblers, vireos, tanagers) to a larger monitoring network and promote conservation on breeding grounds, stopover habitat, and wintering grounds, a member of BSBO's research team is currently undertaking an exciting opportunity in the rainforests of Costa Rica. With years of experience and as one of BSBO’s premier bird banders, Julie Shieldcastle, in cooperation with Costa Rica Bird Observatories, will be spending a month between two monitoring stations as part of an ongoing study of land bird populations in Costa Rica.

Julie Shieldcastle

This is an amazing opportunity for BSBO's research team not only to work with residential tropical birds, but also to share our own experience and knowledge of operating a large-scale banding station (such as BSBO’s Navarre Marsh Banding Station) and work with the neotropical migrants our team is all too familiar with from our banding work during spring and fall migration in Ohio.

As much as we know about the needs of these birds during migration and the breeding season in North America, there still remains a gap of knowledge and communication concerning neo-tropical migrants on their wintering grounds in Central and South America. As exciting and educational as this experience will be for Julie and BSBO, it is also a step in bridging the two (very) different worlds of these long-distance migrants.

Julie is currently at her first monitoring station in Tortuguero. Considered one of the best stopover locations for neo-tropical migrants, Tortuguero is located on the northeast coast of Costa Rica overlooking the Caribbean Sea and surrounded by lowland rainforest, Julie will have the opportunity to work with tropical birds such as manakins, seedeaters, hermits and other various hummingbirds. So far she has handled Variable Seedeaters, White-collard Manakins, Long-billed Hermits, and Rufous-tailed Hummingbirds. But it seems only fitting that the very first bird Julie caught while in Tortuguero was a species she handles multiple times during migration and the breeding season in Ohio… the Prothonotary Warbler. In her first few days she has already banded multiple Porthonotarys as well as a Chestnut-sided Warbler and Summer Tanager.

Prothonotary Warbler
Internet connection is sporadic, but we will continue to post updates about Julie’s experience and share the birds that she is working with. She will remain in Tortuguero through this week, and then will head off to the cloud forests of Madre Selva in the area of Cerro de la Muerte of the Talamanca Mountain Range. 

Rufous-tailed Hummingbird
Chestnut-sided Warbler
Female White-collared Manakin

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