Friday, September 16, 2011

Canal Birds End of Phase Summary

At the end of phase the staff here at Jalova get the opportunity to summarise their findings in the surveys of the previous ten weeks. It’s my job to have a look at the canal bird surveys and tell you a little about our findings.

We surveyed each of the canals an almost equal number of times, unfortunately, due to scheduling, Sirena missed out on a couple of visits in comparison to the others.

The northern jacana (Jacana spinosa) came out on top for number of sightings with a whopping 247 recordings, not really surprising to anyone who has visited these canals, you’ll see these guys showing off their yellow under-wings to any and all that will watch! The next most-popular was the green heron (Buotrides virescens) – with only 59 recorded sightings – which you do see often perched on dead branches just above the canal surface.

We saw a lot of our regulars this phase: the anhinga (Anhinga anhinga), bare-throated tiger-heron (Tigrisoma mexicanum) and little blue heron (Egretta caerulea) appeared quite regularly in our data.

All six kingfisher species were present this phase, testing our volunteers to the max with their propensity for sitting completely immobile with their back to you for extended periods of time, then flying past at high speed. Not an easy identification! Surprisingly (for those that follow our figures as I do) the belted kingfisher (Ceryle alycon) was only recorded once whereas the (usually) rarely seen green-and-rufous (Chloroceryle inda) and American pygmy (Chloroceryle aenea) kingfishers were both recorded 4 times.

The white throated crake (Laterallus albigularis) was only ever recorded for its call, not surprising really given its tiny size and the thick undergrowth in which it can hide.

Some of my favourites were present this phase, with the boat-billed heron (Cochlearius cochlearius), the purple gallinule (Porphyrio martinica), the gray-necked wood-rail (Aramides cajanea), and the yellow-crowned night-heron (Nyctanassa violacea) all making appearances.

Six of our lucky volunteers got to see the ever elusive agami heron (Agamia agami) leaving the rest of us quite jealous, and the limpkin (Aramus guarauna) appeared once in our figures.

For those of you who are not enamoured by our bird figures (there must be some, although I don’t imagine it’s many), never fear: this phase we have been recording canal incidentals in the database too! It involves a lot of searching for the spider monkeys that you can hear, but on the more sleepy mornings it keeps us entertained!

As I may have hinted, the Central American spider monkey (Ateles geoffroyi) was top of the billing with 69 individuals recorded. The ever vocal pale-vented pigeon alerted us to its presence 29 times. One group of 25 red-lored parrots (Amazona autumnalis) were spotted on a recon of Caño Negro that you may have already read about in the blog! The collared aracari (Pteroglossus torquatus) and green basilisk (Basilicus plumifrons) take fourth and fifth places respectively. But rather than telling you about the run-of-the-mill incidentals that will likely send you to another webpage entirely how about I keep it exciting with a few of our more interesting sightings?

The neotropical river otter (Lutra longicaudis) played alongside our canoe twice in our surveys. White-nosed coati (Nasua narica) were recorded in the trees next to the canal a couple of times. The northern tamandua (Tamandua mexicana) was spotted three times in the palms on the edge of Central. Spectacled caiman (Caiman crocodilus) and American crocodile (Crocodylus actus) spiced up a few of our outings, lurking at the water’s edge. The afore mentioned visit to Caño Negro yielded 10 bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) and a west Indian manatee (Trichechus manatus) (how I wish I had been there!).

So, with these amazing sightings from Caño Negro, next phase it will be added into our survey routes. Unfortunately Sirena has not been very generous in study species figures so we will not be surveying it from now on, a pity because it really is a beautiful route. The survey routes have all been extended (we’ve been rather busy this phase) to 4 kilometres each, meaning that we’ll have even more data at the end of next phase to give us a better overview and understanding of the state of health of the canals in and around Tortuguero national park.

I would like to take this opportunity to wish a heartfelt thanks to all of our eager volunteers for your binocular skills and of course your rowing arms!