Thursday, February 9, 2012

Another Exciting Sighting

On Sunday, the 5th of February, the bird survey team made ready to head out at the usual time, in the usual gear, in the usual way. The team consisted of Yannie Cheung, Jessica Plumb, Karen Toft, Kate Syren, Davis Ward and Nicole Bonnett. If we were to know that we'd make bird survey history that day, we didn't show it.

That day we surveyed the California canal - it began smoothly and we encountered the species we expected. After 3.6km of paddling, the sun was coming up and seeking shade, we crossed the canal. At this point Nicole found an odd bird staring straight at us.

All 6 binoculars came out but we couldn't make out what kind of bird he was. He was of very odd proportions: a massively bulbous head, large red eyes, a black cap, long legs and most noticeably almost zero percent body; frankly he was more creepy than any bird should be! We ran through the usual suspects and came up negative. Maybe he was a new species; in honour of his spotter, we were ready to name him Birdus Creepus Nicolus.

After a while, the mystery bird decided he had given us enough time to scrutinise him. Turning around he flew off but not before putting those rumours to rest: he stretched out and flew off, showing us that he did indeed have a body!

Back on base we consulted one of our resident ornithologists, Leo Keedy, and from the field photographs he concluded that it was the elusive, never before spotted, Black-crowned Night Heron! The related Yellow-crowned Night Heron is a very common sighting in these canals but it's close relative was a very exciting encounter indeed!

The canal surveyed that day was previously 2km long. Field staff and ornithologist, Alex Mead, had only recently extended the survey region to 4km. Had he not done that, we would have missed out on the sighting as the Black-crowned Night Heron was recorded in and around the 3.6km area. This sighting then supports our extension of the study area in new and relevant data collection.

Whilst known to habit Tortuguero National Park, the Black-crowned Night Heron is so elusive that he has never before been recorded in our bird surveys or even spotted around the area by GVI. This first sighting brings both relevant scientific contribution and much excitement to those on base at Jalova.

- Yannie, GVI intern



Anonymous said...

Awesome blog Yannie. I think you captured the excitment very well. I agree the bird looks creepy, the yellow crowned night heron is a bit more of a 'sweetling'

Well spotted guys and great photo too.