Saturday, February 6, 2016

Connecting Two Worlds: Julie of the Jungle

In cooperation with Costa Rica Bird Observatories, BSBO’s Julie Shieldcastle is currently undertaking an exciting opportunity, banding birds at multiple research stations in Costa Rica. She’s not only learning about tropical birds and their molt strategies, but also learning more about the wintering habits of neotropical migrants which we extensively band in Ohio during spring and fall migration.

During her time in Tortuguero, Julie not only experienced the heat of coastal rainforests, but had the opportunity to work with Bright-rumped Attila, Wedge-billed Woodcreeper, Red-capped Manakin, White-collared Manakin, White-flanked Antwren, and the American Pygmy Kingfisher –which in her words, “…may now be the coolest bird ever.” Neotropical migrants she encountered included Chestnut-sided Warbler, Prothonotary Warbler, and Wood Thrush.

It’s interesting to note that the habitat these neotropical migrants were caught in resembles that of their breeding habitat in the deciduous forests of the United States and Canada: denser secondary and successional forest for the warblers, and mature forest for the Wood Thrush. Traveling thousands of miles between two different ecozones, these birds are not arbitrarily picking breeding habitats in the Nearctic or wintering habitats in the Neotropic, but are selecting similarly aged and vegetated habitats.   

American Pygmy Kingfisher
Having departed Tortuguero last week, Julie is currently in Madre Selva in the Talamanca Mountain Range near the southern end of Costa Rica, and will be residing there for three weeks. The Madre Selva area is predominately cloud forest –tropical forest with low-level cloud cover– and is known for its rich biodiversity, as well as being the center for birds endemic to Costa Rica.

At an elevation over 8,000 feet, the field station Julie will be at is described as having an “alpine” feel, and is broken up by many pastures among the surrounding cloud forest. With the opportunity to see birds such as the Resplendent Quetzel, Collared Trogon, and even the Green-fronted Lancebill, Julie has already worked with solitaires, brush-finches, tropical vireos and warblers, woodcreepers, elaenias, and the Fiery-throated Hummingbird.

Madre Selva

Fiery-throated Hummingbird
As we observe her journey from afar, it’s interesting to see the boost in species Julie has already encountered since transitioning from Tortuguero; and, conversely, the absence of neotropical migrants. When thinking in terms of similar habitat usage between breeding and wintering grounds, it may make sense that our neotropical migrants would not inhabit these high elevation regions, as they don’t typically inhabit them up north when breeding, but that remains to be seen. We’re still expecting Julie to at least encounter Tennessee Warblers, which are known to inhabit the area, and interested to learn what state of molt they're in as spring draws nearer. 

Chestnut-capped Brush-Finch

Black-faced Solitaire

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