Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Bird Surveys Finish Off With Flying Colors

Green Heron in the vegetation

Ahhh, the bird surveys. Many volunteers talk about the bird surveys as being one of their highlights of their time at Jalova. Not only are they a nice break from the mosquitoes of the jungle, they’re also an amazing opportunity to see some incredible wildlife along the canals of Tortuguero. After all, it’s this spectacular diversity of animals in the canals that draws thousands of visitors to the park every year. Some (sunny) days it seems that if we were accidentally “stranded” and had to slowly drift along all day, it might not be such a bummer…

This phase was quite successful for our bird teams. Despite some challenges (see below), we carried out 26 individual surveys (which would be about 720 man-hours in total!). Among these 26 surveys, we spotted 23 of the 30 target species, and recorded 1186 individual birds. This phase the bird we saw the most was the Snowy Egret which we counted 234 times, followed by the Little Blue Heron which we counted 197 times, leaving 3rd place to the Northern Jacana which we counted 184 times. We were very fortunate to have some sightings of rare birds this phase too. These included the Purple Gallinule, Gray-necked Wood-rail, Limpkin and the Sunbittern.

We were lucky to be able to have such a successful phase with the canal surveys because we had several big obstacles in our way. Our boat, which we use to shuttle our bird teams, was out of service for a good portion of the beginning of the phase so we had to change our logistics quite a bit. Then, at times the rain became so intense (remember, it rains up to 21 feet a year here!) that the canals, which usually are mostly stagnant, became rather fast moving rivers, forcing us to end surveys early on multiple occasions. There was also an unexpected bloom of aquatic plants on one of our survey canals, making it impossible for our canoe to pass through (despite the valiant efforts of several teams to attempt anyway!). However, despite having various setbacks and challenges, we finished this phase on quite a good note. We also saw loads of other interesting animals in the canals, including Manatee, Toucans, Tayra, Basilisks and all three kinds of monkey present in the Park.

All in all, everybody at the Jalova Biological Station is quite content with the information we got and what we’ll be able to learn from it. Because the birds make up a very crucial part of the fauna in Tortuguero National Park, this data will be especially useful in providing proof for the need for continued protection of the park in the future.

-Kevin, Expedition Field Staff