Friday, May 28, 2010

Banding in Monte Uyuca

This little ball of feathers is one of many, many hummingbirds we caught this week in Monte Uyuca, Honduras. It's an Azure-crowned Hummingbird, a common pine-oak resident that here in Monte Uyuca, a forest with an exceptionally well-developed middle layer, reaches high densities. This may be one of the plainer species, but the azure crown for which it is named is spectacularly beautiful. Brilliant colors on hummingbirds, however, are a product of refracted light, and are only visible from certain angles. From this angle, it does look rather plain.

The bird has just been processed, and is ready for release. They sometimes wait a little before takeoff. One moment it sits quietly in your hand, the next moment it blasts off full throttle.

This is a female Magnificent Hummingbird, a larger species. In SalvaNATURA's bird monitoring program, we don't band hummingbirds; a special permit is required for that. Thus, processing a hummingbird means determining its age/sex class; measuring its weight and its wing cord; assessing its breeding condition, its molt condition, and fat score; and determining flight feather wear by looking at the four outermost primaries. The tip of the right outermost rectrix (tail feather) is cut, and the bird is released.

We left San Salvador Monday morning and met with Honduran forestry staff at the ICF in Tegucigalpa in the afternoon; Monday late afternoon we arrived at the site. Although not fully recovered from the flu that kept him at home last week, Carlos Zaldaña joined Roselvy and me on this trip. In Montecristo, we had occasional assistance from park rangers. Here in Uyuca, it was just the three of us. We caught so many birds - nearly 200 in 25 hours - that it would have been difficult to do this with a crew of just two (one of whom - me - being less experienced). Especially hummingbirds need to feed constantly and have to be processed quickly. The first day of banding, Tuesday, we caught 103 birds, 70 of which were hummingbirds. Azure-crowned and White-eared Hummingbirds were particularly numerous, as were Green-breasted Mountain-gems, a hummer as beautiful as the name suggests. I did not take many photos on this trip, partly because we were just too busy processing birds and partly because it was overcast and dark most of the time. The top two photos show a few rays of sunlight but we had mostly light rain.

This Anna's Eighty-eight (Diaethria anna), a typical cloud forest denizen, found the collar of my rain coat to be infused with delectable salts and minerals from sweat, and fed on it for quite some time.

It's interesting how this site shows a mix of pine-oak and cloud forest residents. Birds that are primarily associated with cloud forest, like Slate-colored Solitaire and Resplendent Quetzal, mix here with pine-oak birds like White-eared Hummingbird, Olive Warbler, and Crescent-chested Warbler. Birds like Yellowish Flycatcher and Mountain Trogon, typical of transitional zones between pine-oak and cloud forest, are found here also.

1 comment:

Kerry Lavulo Tattooist said...

Thank you!
Very interesting. Ended up here whilst looking for pics of the Quetzal. First time I've seen someone holding a Hummingbird - what an experience that must have been!
Will be back to read more, as I must continue with my research now.
Great phrase; 'Have binoculars, will travel'
Like it :D