The Children’s Forest of Coto Brus, Part 2

Tree Sources

The first 50 trees for this future forest were donated by Finca Las Alturas de Coton. The tree species include roble (tropical oak), amarillon (a hardwood), aguacatillo (wild avocado) and inga (pollinator attractor). You can watch a short video about Las Alturas, narrated by the manager Fernando Castañeda, by clicking here.

Rod de Sousa at Las Cruces

The OTS Las Cruces Biological Station’s Native Tree Nursery, started and managed by Rodrigo de Sousa, contributed more trees and Rod helped with placement and reforestation expertise.

Maria Rosa Rodriguez Rodriguez also provided trees for the new forest. She has a highly regarded booth at the local Feria de Agriculturas on Saturday mornings at the Campo Ferial de San Vito from 7 am to noon. Many SVBC members consult with Dona Maria for flowering plants, shrubs and trees for their gardens.

More Collaborators

LSAMP Las Cruces 2019

A university student group from the OTS Las Cruces Biological Station’s program called the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP) Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) came to observe the program in action as well as help plant trees.

Coordinator Scott Walter.

The group’s Coordinator Scott Walter is a longtime OTS staff member and SVBC supporter.

All in, this is a great project with volunteers spanning generations from the 5th grade to senior citizens: SVBC-ers share the same curiosity, fascination and reverence for wildlife and natural history. From now on, ‘habitat restoration’ is our middle name.

The Children’s Forest of Coto Brus, Part 1

Dr. Lilly Briggs is up to something very wild in her new digs at Finca Cantaros: she’s working to create The Children’s Forest of Coto Brus — or, perhaps a little more melodically speaking, El Bosque de los Ninos de Coto Brus.

We talk endlessly about our Detectives de Aves environmental education program from the Cornell University Laboratory of Ornithology. In fact, Lilly is one of the co-authors of this curriculum, Lesson 9 of which is a Community Project.

This Flows So Well

In the first two weeks of July, students from six participating schools chose to plant trees as their Community Project — so they, and we, are part of the reforestation effort that will ultimately create The Children’s Forest.

Alexandrina is all smiles with her ‘personal’ part of the future forest. Photo by Peter Wendell.

The staked out young trees have been GPS-ed by SVBC President Peter Wendell and every student was photographed with his/her planting. Lilly is encouraging them to come back whenever possible to check on the tree’s growth and — one day — to bring their children and grandchildren to see their trees in the future mature forest.

Each school heard a talk on the history of Finca Cantaros, given by former owner and reforestation leader Gail Hewson Hull, followed by a discussion of the importance of trees for healthy environments and habitats, and, lastly, a brief demonstration of tree planting techniques.

Escuela Copal from Concepcion; Director Jairo Murillo accompanied his students. Photo by Peter Wendell.

The students fanned out in the pasture directly east of F. Cantaros to find their own personal sapling that they then planted with shared shovels, big smiles and great vigor!

As of the end of July 2019, 110 trees were planted by an equal number of students.

To date, participating schools include Escuelas Santa Rita, San Marcos near Sereno, Copal in Concepcion, Los Angeles, Linda Vista and Gonzalo Acuña in Sabalito. We will update this list as the forest grows!

Hello and Goodbye: Please Welcome Dr. Lilly Briggs!

Most of our readers are familiar with the beautiful Finca Cantaros, a public center of activity in San Vito that until recently was owned and operated by Gail Hewson Hull and Harry Hull. This magical place has hosted many of our bird walks, research projects by international scientists, educational opportunities and other events that SVBC-ers cherish and, yes, we all cried at the Hull’s Farewell Party.

In her element. Photo by Michael Olivieri

But please join us in welcoming the new owner of Cantaros, Dr. Lilly Briggs from the Cornell University Laboratory of Ornithology. With Jennifer Fee, of the Laboratory of Ornithology Education Department, Lilly is the co-author of the BirdSleuth-International (aka Detectives de Aves) curriculum with which SVBC members work daily and happily!

After earning her PhD in 2016 at the Department of Natural Resources at Cornell, Lilly now works as a Postdoctoral Associate in Education and Citizen Science Programs. To learn more about Lilly’s career and see her publication list, visit this page.

Their legacy lives on in San Vito; we send every good wish to the Hulls.

‘Goodbyes’ are hard — sob, sniff — we miss the Hulls and wish them well in their new desert habitat in New Mexico.

‘Hellos’ are fun — whoo hoo! — please join us in a warm welcome and a huge hello to Lilly!

 

 

We’ve Got Mail from Our French Friends!

A most welcome letter from Jean-Philippe Thelliez (“JP”) and Christopher Stamp who visited us in April: among the most accomplished and energetic birders and photographers we’ve ever encountered:

Jean-Philippe Thelliez and Christopher Stamp, our bon amis de France

What a wonderful chance or was it destiny that put JP (Jean-Philippe) in touch with Peter?
Whatever it was, thanks to that contact one Frenchmen and his Franglais sidekick, Christopher, had the pleasure of meeting Peter and joining the San Vito Bird Club for its Sunday visit to the Wilson Botanical Gardens on the 6th of April.

What a wonderful experience it was. First, the warm welcome by members of the group, most of whose names are remembered (more than can be said for the names of the birds! Thankfully, others have recorded the names for us).  We have never been to a place where so many birds could be seen at the same time. It was impossible to capture them all on celluloid as they whizzed here and there and at the end we felt veritably shell shocked – rather like small children being let loose in a sweets factory. But we went back for second helpings!

The following day Peter took us up to Las Tablas with Marco Mora, one of the SVBC Detectives de Aves teachers. The Resplendant Quetzal and Three-wattled Bellbird were on the menu, among others, and we had good weather until the heavens opened on the trip back down but — fortunately, according to Peter — not until after we had already negotiated the slippery bits.

Great Green Macaws in Ara Manzanillo on the Caribbean coast. Photo by Jean-Philippe Thelliez

We enjoyed a couple of days exploring the Coto Brus area following Peter’s advice and met up again with Jeimiry Badilla from Finca Cantaros. He proposed a trip to his home near Cuidad Neilly on a holiday Thursday. So us two, Jei, his wife Marylin Saldana and their daughter Georgea were jimmied into our rented “Jimmy” for an exciting road trip.  What a trip! Jei and his wife are formidable birders; highlights of the trip were a Savannah Hawk, Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture, a nighthawk, three trogons and three manakins (we told you we couldn’t remember all the names…).

On the social side we apéroed chez Judy and chez Jo and Peter, where the latter kindly introduced us to their pet armadillo! We ate at Rancho Amigos with Alison, Jo and Peter; Peter then joined us at Liliana’s for a final meal and helped us plan the rest of the trip.

We thank you all — and especially Peter, who helped us with initial planning and without whom our Costa Rica safari would have been much less memorable and colourful in both human and avian terms.

Oh! and the San Vito Bird Club now has two new French members who would be delighted to welcome visiting SVBC members to share the French birding experience. I think the only bird that we have in common is the House Sparrow — Moineau domestique — but WHAT are you waiting for?

Many thanks

JP and Christopher

Please Join Us for 2019/Afiliarse con nosotros 2019!

Birding with the Pajareros Del Sur at the Wilson Botanical Garden. Photo by Jo Davidson

It is time to join the San Vito Bird Club for the first time OR to renew your membership for 2019!

Benefits of membership include bi-monthly Bird Walks at the Wilson Garden/OTS Las Cruces Biological Station, invites to the members-only Annual Meeting at Cascatas Del Bosque, day trips in and around the Coto Brus Valley and occasional overnight jaunts throughout Costa Rica in search of rarities like the Lanceolated Monklet. Plus your membership support helps us bring BirdSleuth-International, an environmental education program from the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, to local schools as “Detectives de Aves”. Please read President Wendell’s post about the Detectives de Aves year 2018 here.

Detectives de Aves teachers Carla Azofeifa and Paula Mesen with SVBC President Peter Wendell. Photo by Alison Olivieri

Part of your membership dues will be donated to the Organization for Tropical Studies Las Cruces Biological Station that provides us with an exciting place to bird and free coffee and camaraderie after the walks.

We are keeping dues at 2018 rates: C11,000 or $20 per person for International Members and C14,000 or $25 per person for residents of Costa Rica. Family membership are priced for two people but always include children.

Without you, we are nothing so please join today! You can give your dues to Peter at the Bird Walk on December 9 or to Randall Bourbon Jimenez or to any other executive committee member: Greg Homer, Alison Olivieri or Harry Hull.

Windows vs. Birds: some observations and possible solutions

NOTE: This is a re-post, combining two earlier posts on this subject into one.

Why, At Times, We Hate Our Windows/Porque, A Veces, Odiamos Nuestras Ventanas

Sigue en espanol

Windows kill birds; there is no doubt about that. In a popular book called Pete Dunne on Bird Watching, Daniel Klem, a professor of biology at Muhlenberg College in Muhlenberg, PA, estimates the number of birds killed by striking sheet glass per year at between 100 million and one billion birds in North America alone. Dr. Klem has studied this hazard for more than 25 years.

We did not come to Costa Rica to kill birds; however, in our rush to build a house with a view, we have done just exactly that. Every time we hear the sound of a bird hitting a window in full flight, our hearts sink.

In searching for a mitigation device, we’ve visited many websites by Googling “Window Kills Birds” and, as you might expect, this troubling problem has generated many sources of information.

ABC Translucent Window Tape to protect birds. Photo by Alison Olivieri.

ABC Translucent Window Tape to protect birds. Photo by Alison Olivieri.

Recently, we purchased translucent tape in two sizes from the American Bird Conservancy and have applied the thin strip type to one of our kitchen windows. For more than a month this window has been bird-collision-free. Click here for more information on this product and other ways to reduce collisions suggested by the ABC.

Continuing this experiment, Roni Chernin, a ‘Detectives de Pajaros’ teacher and birding companion, has just decorated her large windows with the wide kind of ABC Translucent Tape. We will wait to hear about the success of her efforts.  If you’d like to try putting this tape on one or some of your windows, please CONTACT US . We would be more than happy to lend you our tape and will be buying more on our next trip north.

Thick ABC Translucent Window Tape to prevent bird strikes. Photo by Roni Chernin.

Thick ABC Translucent Window Tape to prevent bird strikes. Photo by Roni Chernin.

Creative solutions continue to arise, addressing this issue. For new construction projects, we found a product called Ornilux Bird Protection Glass. Manufactured by a company called Arnold Glas in Germany, it is patterned with a UV reflective coating that birds can see but, apparently, humans cannot. Lisa Welch who works in the Ventura, CA office of Arnold Glas told us recently there is no Costa Rican distributor but it is available to be shipped here. If you or anyone you know wants to try to reduce window kills, contact her at: lisa.welch@arnold-glas.de for more info.

Please let us know if you find ways to prevent this problem that we have not, as we’d like to be in the business of protecting birds, not killing them!

Aqui en espanol

Las ventanas matan aves; no hay duda de eso. En un libro popular llamado Pete Dunne on Bird Watching, Daniel Klem, un profesor de biología en Muhlenberg College en Muhlenberg, PA, ha estimado el número de muertes por estrellarse con una ventana entre 100 millones a un billón de aves por año en norte America solamente después de estudiar este fenómeno por más de 25 años.

No hemos venido a Costa Rica a matar aves; sin embargo en nuestro apuro por construir nuestra casa con una vista, hemos hecho exactamente eso. Cada vez que escuchamos el sonido de un pájaro chocando con nuestra ventana en pleno vuelo, nos da mucho desconsuelo en nuestros corazones.

En busca de un dispositivo que mitigue estos accidentes, hemos visitado muchos sitios web a través de google buscando con palabra clave ’’Ventanas que matan las aves’’ y como ud podría suponer, este tipo de problema ha generado muchas fuentes de información.

Thin ABC Translucent Tape to protect birds. Photo by Alison Olivieri.

Thin ABC Translucent Tape to protect birds. Photo by Alison Olivieri.

Recientemente, compramos cajas de cinta translucida en dos tamaños de la entidad American Bird Conservancy y hemos aplicado una delgada tira en una de las ventanas de nuestra cocina.

Por más de un mes esta ventana ha sido una ventana libre de colisiones. Presione aquí para obtener más información de este producto y también otras formas o sugerencias para reducir las colisiones en las ventanas hechas por la ABC. Roni Chernin, una “Detectives de pájaros’’ profesora y aficionada a las aves, ha decorado sus ventanas más grandes con la misma cinta translucida pero esta vez la versión más ancha promocionada también por la ABC. Esperamos pronto escuchar noticias del éxito de sus esfuerzos.

Thick ABC Translucent Tape on large windows. Photo by Roni Chernin.

Thick ABC Translucent Tape on large windows. Photo by Roni Chernin.

Si le gustaría a alguno de Uds. poner esta cinta en alguna de sus ventanas, por favor CONTACTENOS. Estaré más que feliz en prestarle un poco de nuestra cinta y estaré comprando más en nuestro próximo viaje al norte.

Nuevas y creativas soluciones están surgiendo para solucionar esta problemática. Para nuestro proyectos nuevos de construcción, encontramos un producto llamado Ornilux Vidrio Protector de Aves. Manufacturado por una compañía llamada Vidrio de Arnold en Alemania, esta patentado con una cubierta reflectiva Ultra violeta (UV) que aparentemente las aves pueden ver, pero que los humanos no pueden. Lisa Welch quien trabaja en Ventura, CA oficina de Arnold Glas nos dijo recientemente que no hay un distribuidor Costarricense pero que podría mandarse sin problemas. Si Ud. o alguien que conoce quiere tratar de reducir este tipo de muertes, contáctenla a lisa.welch@arnold-glas.de para más información.

Por favor, déjenos saber si encuentra o ha encontrado alguna forma de prevenir este problema que no hayamos ya encontrado ya que nos gustaría estar en el negocio de protección de las aves, no matarlas.

Another Way to Bird-proof Windows

In response to the post above about the dangers of windows to birds (Why, At Times, We Hate Our Windows), we’d like to pass on a simple and relatively inexpensive solution that Karen Arras has developed for her home near El Roble de Heredia in Costa Rica using plastic netting hung from eaves in front of windows.

A screen made of plastic netting or mesh hung in front of a window to protect birds. Photo: Harry Hull.
A screen made of plastic netting or mesh hung in front of a window to protect birds.

As Karen explains:

Have you noticed that birds never hit windows with screens? For windows that don’t have screens, I use plastic netting or mesh as thin as possible with squares of about 1/2 inch to make what in essence are hanging screens. To make a hanging screen, measure your window, cut the plastic netting to a size that covers it, and staple this to two thin strips of wood on top and bottom. Add two eyelets to the top piece of wood, one near each end, and hang the entire screen with nylon cord or thin wire from your eaves. If the window opens outward, hang the screen far enough away from the window to allow you to open it easily. Otherwise, hang the screen a minimum of 6 inches away from your window. Hanging screen

Avoid using a heavy material for the top and bottom of the screen; otherwise, a constant wind might set the whole screen swinging enough to hit and damage the window. If the window is wider and taller than the width of the netting, use two or more pieces of netting  to protect the window.

Hanging screen detail

This system has been very effective and low maintenance. We’ve never had a bird get caught in the screen, so I think the mesh of the screens is large enough not to snag birds.

A special thanks to Karen and Rob Arras for sharing this great idea.

All photos by Harry Hull.

Another example of a hanging screen
Another example of a screen of plastic netting hung in front of a window to prevent birds from hitting the window.

Notes from the Classroom

 

We have had a very busy, productive, and sometimes frustrating, year teaching Detectives de Aves here in Coto Brus. (For those of you who are unfamiliar with this program, you can learn all about it here http://www.birdsleuth.org/international/.) This year instead of simply writing about how many schools we visited, how many kids we taught, etc., I would like to take some time to discuss what I see as the larger purpose of teaching Detectives de Aves to as many kids as we can, as best as we can. This post is a little long, but I hope you will find that it is worth your time.

It’s All About Making Connections
This year we have had the opportunity to make lots of connections.
In March two of our teachers, Carla Azofeifa-Rojas and Paula Mesén, and I had the opportunity to go to Guatemala to meet and collaborate with other teachers of Detectives and volunteers dedicated to providing essential educational opportunities to one of the most disadvantaged populations in Guatemala – Rural Indigenous Women.

This year we were also able to connect with a new teacher of Detectives, Marco Mora, who has been, and hopefully will continue to be, a valued colleague who has brought new energy and perspectives to the program. We also made connections with two new schools, Santa Rita and La Esmeralda, and reconnected with two schools we haven’t worked with in a while, La Lucha and Concepción. And finally, we connected with Pablo Elizondo to bring kids from three of our schools to Madre Selva, on the Cerro de la muerte, to connect with kids from the schools his organization, Costa Rica Bird Observatories, has been teaching this year.

Finally, we are ending this year making new connections with our neighbors, and fellow bird enthusiast (bird-lunatics?) the Pajareros del sur. Both groups hope that this collaboration will help both groups make connections with the greater community of Coto Brus, and with neighbors who haven’t known each other well enough up until now.

 
Now I want to spend a little time connecting with you all writing about these three, very important events.

 
To Guatemala, and back again
In March of this year Carla, Paula, and I had the great pleasure to visit Guatemala to meet and work with teachers and supporters of Detectives de Aves in Alta Verapaz, and to attend the Guatemala Bird Fair on lake Atitlan. This trip was made possible by a grant from the National Geographic Society obtained by the formidable Dr. Lilly Briggs, our close partner at the Cornell University Lab of Ornithology. We were also accompanied by Jennifer Sánchez, who has been teaching Detectives de Aves for years at the Parque de Libertad in Desemparados, San José during the school vacations. A rather impressive group of young, professional women.

 

The reason for the trip was two-fold: first an opportunity for people working on Detectives de Aves to meet and share experiences, and second to continue developing a survey to try to measure the effectiveness of Detectives de Aves in imparting knowledge and changing the attitudes and behavior of our students. You might be surprised by how difficult it is to develop such a survey, especially across linguistic and cultural norms. It looks easy at first but becomes very complicated as you dig into it. The survey is an important way to objectively measure the practical impact of the course on the kids, and is even more important when it comes to raising money and garnering Institutional support for the program. Those of us who have worked with the kids in the classroom know that it changes their attitudes and behaviors because they tell us stories about how they stopped killing birds with slingshots, or about how they protected a nest near their house, or about how beautiful the birds they see on their walk to school are, etc. We can tell they have learned to care by the passion they bring to the lessons. However, the surveys we had been using had not been very effective showing this, and scientists don’t care much for Anecdotal Evidence. So, Lilly hoped that by bringing our teachers together with those from Guatemala, they could work through the problems and come up with a unified instrument that would be able to objectively demonstrate the positive effects of the course on the kids, and that would work equally well in Costa Rica and Guatemala.

 
So, our first task was to travel to the Central Highlands to stay with Rob and Tara Cahill at their most impressive center in Alta Verapaz, to meet Vilma, Gilda, and Norma, three Q’eqchi’ women who have been teaching Detectives de Aves to the local kids. Rob and Tara are an extremely dedicated couple who have a genuine vocation to help the community in which they live, and particularly the women of that community. If you want to learn more about what they are doing, please go here: http://cloudforestconservation.org/. They will do great things with whatever support you want to provide.

 
The climate and ecosystem around Rob and Tara’s place is very much like Linda Vista or Paraguas here in Coto Brus. It is very rural, with a large indigenous population, lots of trees and wildlife, although less every year, and lots of birds and fog in the Winter. Unlike Coto Brus, however, Alta Verapaz, and particularly the Indigenous areas, have had very few resources and little government support over the decades, leading inevitably to high levels of poverty and a large percentage of families surviving through subsistence farming. Just to give you some idea of the effect that this has had, during the Civil War that only ended in 1996, there were no public schools in the area. None. Although now almost all the kids go to primary school, the majority of their parents remain illiterate. A lot of kids start dropping out of school after third grade to work, after all by that point they have already learned to read and write and have surpassed their parents. Maybe 50% of the kids finish primary school (6th grade), less than 5% high school, and virtually none attend university. It is even worse for girls. While still beautiful for now, the area is facing an impending environmental disaster. The population has been rising rapidly and the traditional way of feeding families by clearing old-growth forest to plant maize, has become unsustainable because growing maize quickly exhausts the soil and they are running out of forest to clear for more crops. In this context, education in general, and environmental education in particular, is critical to the medium and long-term survival of these communities, since it one of the only means through which families will be able to provide for themselves in the future without further, grave environmental damage.

 
Guatemala is not Costa Rica. This is obvious, but in a very important sense this is what we all learned in Alta Verapaz from Vilma, Gilda, Norma, Rob and Tara. We live in increasingly cynical, self-absorbed, and angry times in which the idea of the Common Good seems more and more like a sucker’s bet. However the very stark contrast between the resources and opportunities available to even the poorest and most isolated families in Costa Rica and the lack of the same in Guatemala is a clear demonstration of what 70 years of peace without an army, an unrelenting commitment to public education and health care, and an almost universally acknowledged duty to raise others from poverty and to provide opportunity to the disadvantaged can accomplish. I’m not saying this to lionize Costa Rica, which like all countries is far from perfect, nor to denigrate Guatemala, but to show one manner in which the trip to Guatemala was a way for Paula, Carla, and Jennifer to reconnect with what Costa Rica represents, and to appreciate the advantages they have gained by growing up here. More importantly, I believe that we all discovered a profound connection with Vilma, Gilda and Norma, and that we have a duty to help as we can out of respect for the obstacles that they have had to overcome to become the women they are, and with the humbleness that comes from realizing that we have not had to face the same challenges because of the sacrifices, work, and commitment of those who came before us. Oh, and also because Vilma, Gilda, and Norma are absolutely hilarious… I don’t think any of us will forget our experiences in Alta Verapaz, and I hope the memory will be a reminder that we have a duty to do what we can for our neighbors, even if they are 1.000 kilometers or more distant. As I said in the beginning, it’s all about the connections.

 
Neither birds, nor animals, nor the weather observe national boundaries. Rivers don’t stop at borders, nor does polluted air. Any environmental work is necessarily collaborative and international. It does little good to protect areas used by migrating birds in Costa Rica, if all of their habitat is destroyed in Guatemala, Honduras, or Mexico. This was brought home to all of us during the working sessions of the Guatemala Bird Fair. The chance to learn from the experiences of other academics and bird guides trying to change the ways both governments and local communities view their natural and living resources was invaluable. I found particularly impressive the presentation by Dr. Vincente Fernández on the community-based monitoring of birds on the Yucatan peninsula. He outlines many successful techniques that have been used to involve rural communities not only in the collection of valuable scientific data, but in gaining a much deeper appreciation of the wild creatures they share their lives with, and in learning to work with those creatures to improve their lives. I want to use some of his ideas and techniques to involve our Detectives graduates in citizen science down the road. Paula and Carla had the opportunity to connect with, and be inspired by, colleagues from Guatemala and other parts of North and Central America. They assisted Lilly teaching a super intense training session for Detectives, which was hugely popular. Oh, and I understand that there was some late-night dancing well – being old, I was already in bed.
If you want to see an excellent, short documentary of our trip to Alta Verapaz, please go here https://youtu.be/lqgacdHkpvE for Spanish, or here https://youtu.be/T18guTwhovg for English. I’m afraid there’s no dancing in the videos…

 
Also, a big Thank You to Dr. Lilly Briggs, Rob and Tara Cahill, the many supporters and members of the San Vito Bird Club, and the Cornell University Lab of Ornithology who made this all possible.

 
That’s all for now. Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll be writing more about our year in the classroom, and our collaborations with the Pajareros del sur. I think you’ll find that many of the same themes raised will return over and over again since they are an essential aspect of what we do and why.

 
Saludos desde Coto Brus,
Peter Wendell

 

Taxonomy Update – 2018 (from Jo Davidson)

Dear SVBC members and friends. We have gathered on this web page to mourn the loss of two beloved species which recently died at the hands of the North American Classification Committee (NACC). The American Ornithology Union (AOU) has published the list of taxonomy changes for 2018, and we in the Southern Zone have lost two species. They are still around, thank goodness, but have been reclassified as members of another species.

Our local Cherrie’s Tanager and the Passerini’s Tanager are once again lumped together as one species. They are both known again as the Scarlet-rumped Tanager (Rampocelus passerinii).

The Masked Yellowthroat, which we have seen during our walks at the San Joaquin wetlands, is now lumped together with, and now known as, the Olive-crowned Yellowthroat (Geothlypis semiflava).

Fortunately, we also have two new species to celebrate. The Buff-throated Foliage-gleaner was split, and the species in our area, the Chiriqui Foliage-gleaner (Automolus exertus), is named for the Panamanian canton which is a large portion of the range of this new species. The White-collared Seedeater was also split, and the Costa Rican species is Morelet’s Seedeater (Sporophila morelleti), named for the person who first found the original species in 1885. The species that occurs in areas north of Costa Rica is now the Cinnamon-rumped Seedeater.

Three of our Costa Rican Woodpeckers have been placed in a new genus – Dryobates. Their previous and new scientific names are as follows:

Hairy Woodpecker – Picoides villosus is now Dryobates villosus      

Smoky-brown Woodpecker – Picoides fumigatus is now Dryobates fumigatus     

Red-rumped Woodpecker – Veniliornis kirkii is now Dryobates kirkii

Additionally, the Mouse-colored Tyrannulet has had its scientific name changed from Phaeomyias murina to Necotriccus murinus.

Finally, I implore the AOU and the NACC to stop picking on the Red-breasted Blackbird. Last year they changed its scientific name to Leistes militaris, and this year they have changed its English common name to Red-breasted Meadowlark.

Please update your field guides to reflect these changes. Happy birding to you all!

tax 1tax 2

Why Are They Called ‘Ant’-Birds?

Antbirds–Ant Tanagers–Antvireos–Antshrikes–Antpittas–Antwrens–Antthrushes?  Why are so many Costa Rican bird species modified with the word ‘Ant’ in from of them?

Most people have the misconception that all of these various species of ‘Ant’ birds are consumers of…ants!  This is not the case (although some birds, like the Northern Flicker woodpecker, do consume ants with gusto).  These birds are called ‘Ant’ birds for another reason.

‘Ant’ birds are given this prefix not because they eat ants; but rather because they FOLLOW ants, in particular Army Ants ( most often Eciton burchellii).  If you live or have visited the neo-tropics you may have had the opportunity to observe Army Ants on the move.  Hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of these tiny marauders will sweep through an area not unlike…an army!  Along their march the Army Ants attack and kill pretty much anything they encounter.

***No, they are not as fierce and aggressive as those ants in that great movie with Charlton Heston, ‘The Naked Jungle’.  In that movie the ants could ‘..clean a bull down to the bones in less than an hour.’  Great movie!***

n jungle.jpg

Invertebrates and even small vertebrates probably fear nothing more than being swarmed over, torn apart and ultimately eaten by Army Ants.  And so, when an army of Army Ants is discovered by the beetles, crickets, worms, centipedes, lizards and even small snakes of the forest floor they do exactly what you or I would do; GET THE HELL OUTTA THERE!

And guess who takes of advantage of this Army Ant-induced mass-panic?  Correct; our ‘Ant’ birds!  A swarm of Army Ants creates a delicious and nutritious movable feast of beetles, crickets, etc. for the ‘Ant’ birds who hover above the swarm and simply wait for movement.

FYI: If ever you find yourself in swarm of Army Ants…do not panic; simply move out of their way.  Army Ants are blind and stay in contact with their kin through a pheromone trail left by the ant in front of them.  But they can bite!  Also, take some time to look and listen for some bird species you rarely get the opportunity to see; the ‘Ant’ birds.

(photo courtesy of Greg Homer, taken at El Tangaral in San Vito de Coto Brus)

a ants.jpg

 

Let’s Try Some ‘Deductive Reasoning’

Observing the photo at the bottom of this page, courtesy of young Hellen Hidalgo, we see a sizable tree near Campo Dos y Media in the southern zone of Costa Rica.  In this tree we can also see about 14 or 15 spectacular long pendulous nests built and maintained by Crested Oropendolas (shown here, courtesy of Monique Girard):

Crested Oropendula. Photo by Monique Girard

Crested Oropendola. Photo by Monique Girard

As we observe the photo below more closely we notice a few interesting features of these Oropendola nests.   Let’s put on our Deductive Reasoning Caps and ask ourselves, ‘Why?’.

  1. Why are the nests constructed very high up in an isolated tree?
  2. Why do the nests seem to be hanging from the extreme distal (furthest from the tree) part of the branches?
  3. Why do the nests all seem to be on just one side of the tree?
  4. And lastly, why are the nests communal?

Over countless generations, Crested Oropendolas have found this particular lifestyle to be the most successful for them; the best way ensure that their genes are passed on to another generation.  All organisms do the same; we call this Population Dynamics or Population Ecology.

FYI: These questions are merely rhetorical and posed just for fun.  No homemade cookies for the best answers.

(photo courtesy of young Hellen Hidalgo)

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