Friday, December 18, 2009

About to go

When Kashmir and I traveled down to El Salvador almost a month ago, we anticipated spending little time in El Salvador before heading out to Honduras and Costa Rica, in search of Golden-cheeked Warblers. This study, now in its fourth year, is carried out in five Central American countries: Mexico (Chiapas), Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua. A sixth country - Costa Rica - lies outside the species' known wintering range, although recent records suggest that it may winter there in small numbers. We were going to investigate that.

But we're still in El Salvador, and though we've seen many cool birds, we have yet to see our first Golden-cheeked Warbler this winter.

The main reason for our delay has been lack of funds. The study is funded, but on a reimbursement principle. To put several crews into the field requires a sizable working capital, which our client in today's global financial crisis does not have. At one point, there was even talk of postponing all field work on this project to next winter.

However, we are now almost ready to go to Honduras and do a 5 or 6 week field season there. We're hoping to resolve several smaller bottlenecks today so we can leave for Honduras either today or tomorrow. Field work in Costa Rica has been postponed to next winter.

Meanwhile, we've been guests on SalvaNATURA's bird monitoring project, and assisted with vegetation sampling on a Scarlet Macaw reintroduction program. Here are some snapshots from these activities.

Here's Karla, project coordinator on SalvaNATURA's Scarlet Macaw reintroduction program, interviewing an elder about various animals, including Scarlet Macaw, that he may have seen in his youth. He remembered seeing Scarlet Macaws in the 1940's in southwestern El Salvador, where Karla is conducting the interviews. In the foreground a video camera, which I operated that morning. Other work Kashmir and I helped out with on this ambitious project was collecting vegetation data on potential food supply trees in El Imposible.

We also spent a bunch of time banding birds, in a small forest near a coffee plantation in the Santa Ana area, and also at a higher elevation in Los Andes, a part of Parque Nacional Los Volcanes.

Here's a close-up of a Rufous-and-white Wren.

I banded this Slate-throated Redstart. This species, incidentally, is also found in pine-oak forest and is a regular flock member of mixed flocks that also include Golden-cheeked Warblers.

In Los Andes, a good portion of the birds we caught were hummingbirds. This is a male Green-throated Mountain-gem.

This magnificent hummingbird is a Magnificent Hummingbird.

The last bird I removed from a net yesterday was this Rufous Sabrewing, a lifer for me.

I wish to express heartfelt thanks to various SalvaNATURA staff (especially Lety, Carlos, Roselvy, Vicky, Ricardo, Karla and Robin) for providing us with the opportunity to assist them on their projects. We learned a lot from all of them, and the time spent waiting for our own project to start was not wasted.

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