Saturday, January 24, 2009

On the road

Today a photo of one of the sixteen Golden-cheeked Warblers we encountered during these past five weeks. More than half – nine – were adult males. In this part of the winter range, adult males indeed appear to be more abundant than the other age/sex classes, although the fact that there is so much overlap in plumage characteristics between ages and sexes, muddles the issue somewhat. Adult males are distinctive, though.

Adult males are the first ones to return to the Texan breeding grounds in March, and generally arrive a week earlier than the females, in order to claim territories. The females, upon arrival, can then choose their mates on the basis of the quality of these territories, among other things. It makes sense for the males to winter closer to the breeding grounds, because an early arrival in good condition will give a male a competitive edge over males arriving later, or from further away.

That said, my own northbound migration will be delayed by more than a month, as I have an opportunity to improve my Spanish skills at a language school in Nicaragua. I will also be spending some time in San Salvador, working on the analysis and reporting of this Golden-cheeked Warbler study.

In an earlier entry, I mentioned the Panamericana, or Pan-American Highway. That’s where I’m headed next, south on this highway – which for the most part isn’t really a highway so much as a two-lane paved road connecting villages and towns, just like any other road around these parts. But it’s also a mythical road, an idea of a connection that transcends countries and borders, stretching across the American continent.

Next time more on that journey.

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