Thursday, October 21, 2010

Arrived in Tortuguero

Yesterday I arrived in Tortuguero, Costa Rica, to band birds at the longest running bird banding station in Latin America. Tortuguero is world famous as a breeding site for marine turtles, but turtles are not the only creatures living there. In fact, the place is teeming with wildlife of all sorts - including snakes!

A very common, no - abundant - snake here is the Eyelash Pitviper. Highly poisonous, and responsible for many fatalities each year in Costa Rica. This, of course, is not it. What I'm holding here is just a cute little baby Boa Constrictor, completely harmless. Well, maybe not completely. I was advised not to harass it in any way, or it might just start constricting my arm. So I didn't, and it didn't.

The gardener of the CCC (Caribbean Conservation Corporation), which is where I'm staying in Tortuguero, found this individual. Isn't it just beautiful?

Birds this first day were mostly Swainson's Thrushes, Empidonax flycatchers, wood-pewees, and Great Crested Flycatchers. Those guys are here in pretty good numbers. Some of the resident species we caught today include Northern Barred Woodcreeper and a female White-collared Manakin.

The manakin had a bill deformity. Poor thing.

Postscript 7 December 2010:
The circle comes round in this last week for me in Tortuguero, as I caught again one of the first birds I banded here: that White-collared Manakin with the bill deformity. It is well-known from the literature that birds with bill deformities can often be infested with quantities of ectoparasites. Grooming one's plumage, after all, is harder with misshapen equipment. So is feeding, and thus the bird is often at a significant disadvantage. This particular individual, however, seems to be coping just fine. On 21 October, she weighed 16.7 g and had a 0 fat score. Now, 47 days later, I measured 17.5 g for body mass and 2 for fat score!

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