Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Canal birds, the first 5 weeks

One of the projects we work on is the survey of 30 selected species of canal birds. This is a very popular survey as it is conducted by canoe on the beautiful, sometimes very narrow, canals. Some canals are only accessible by canoe and not open to the public; Sierpe Viejo has a reed bed which must be conquered by canoe before it can be surveyed, it is a truly secluded canal. It is also the location of the most exciting sighting on the bird surveys this phase; an Agami Heron.

The Cattle Egrets, which are now in breeding plumage with orangey patches on head, breast and back, have been frequently seen, usually in large flocks. There are now fewer Snowy Egrets than phase 111 as they are no longer migrating. We have seen numerous Little Blue Herons once again, with many of them being juveniles. They look totally different to the adults; juveniles are white, sometimes with grey patches as opposed to the adult’s blue-grey colourings.

All six of the Costa Rican Kingfishers have been seen, ranging from the huge Ringed Kingfisher, 16” (41cm), to the tiny American Pygmy Kingfisher, just 5” (13cm). Many more of the study species have also been recorded; Green Heron, Anhinga, Northern Jacana, Grey-necked Wood-rail, Sungrebe, Boat-billed Heron, Snowy Egret, Great Egret and Bare-Throated Tiger-Heron are among the more usually recorded birds. The White-throated Crake has been heard but not seen as it is a small bird that lives in the reed beds.

In total there has been 317 records so far this phase. The most frequently seen species is Northern Jacana which has been recorded 80 times, a close second is Cattle Egret which has been recorded 78 times. The most birds seen on a single survey was 64 on Sierpe Viejo.

As always people are very enthusiastic about the bird surveys, always eager to be out on the canals working on this very important project. It is currently even more exciting to have recorded an adult Agami Heron in breeding plumage (see photo above, by Gemma Doran), a result that will be very interesting news to our partner MINAE.

David White