Explore the Costa Rican Bird Route

March 12, 2013 by  
Filed under Birding Tips

Protecting close to 12,000 acres of wildlife habitat, the Costa Rican Bird Route includes eighteen spectacular bird watching spots. Eight of these are private reserves established by local landowners and incorporated into the Costa Rican Private Reserve Network, while the other ten sites include Costa Rica’s established biological reserves – all of which offer rich and varied bird watching opportunities. The region incorporates the last remaining habitat of the second largest parrot in the world – the endangered Great Green Macaw (Ara ambiguus) – and every year since 2002, Costa Rica and neighboring Nicaragua have joined forces to host the Bi-National Macaw Festival aimed at raising awareness of the plight of these beautiful birds.

Although the main goal of the Bi-National Macaw Festival is to promote the conservation of the habitat of the Great Green Macaw, and therefore ensure its continued existence, the gathering also gives the neighboring countries the opportunity to learn about each other as they pursue their common goal. The festival includes a host of cultural, recreational and educational activities, with art and photo contests, dancing, music, storytelling and handicrafts all focusing on the Great Green Macaw. Landowners who protect macaw nests on their property are rewarded with monetary prizes and certificates in recognition of their efforts, which have resulted in a marked reduction in pillaging of nests for macaw chick for illegal trade.

Thanks to the efforts of conservationists and local communities, birders stand a good chance of spotting a Great Green Macaw when exploring the Costa Rican Bird Route. But if the endangered South American parrot is elusive, the fact that up to 520 bird species have been counted in the route means that birding enthusiasts will have plenty to see.

Birders are asked to take note of their sightings and report them to the Rainforest Biodiversity Group via eBird.org for inclusion on the electronic database. This helps landowners along the route to keep track of wildlife on their properties, while at the same time helping the foundation to track bird distribution in the Western Hemisphere. eBird.org also offers birders the facility to explore their database, which can prove really handy when planning a trip to expand your list of birds sighted. Advanced technology now offers birders the opportunity to be a citizen scientist, no matter where in the world you are pursuing your favorite pastime.

Macaw Mountain Bird Park – A Haven in Honduras

January 3, 2012 by  
Filed under Birding Tips, Features

Consisting of nine-acres of old growth forest, the Macaw Mountain Bird Park & Nature Reserve offers visitors the opportunity of viewing a wide variety of tropical birds in their natural environment. Located near the town of Copan Ruinas in Honduras, the large flight aviary is home to just about all the species of parrots and toucans to be found in this beautiful South American country, and many of its feathered inhabitants are so tame that visitors are able to interact with them at leisure.

While providing a haven for rescued, abandoned and endangered birds, the Macaw Mountain Bird Park is dedicated to educating the public about these beautiful animals and their vulnerability caused mainly the by destruction of their natural habitat. In a region known for its excellent birding opportunities, the Macaw Mountain Bird Park offers an unforgettable bird watching experience. Visitors to the park will enjoy strolling along the network of pathways which allow easy access to the entire area throughout the year. Interaction with the park’s birds allows visitors to appreciate their beauty and intelligence, while at the same time being made aware of the obstacles and dangers they face in the wild, which have brought many species to the brink of extinction.

Quite a number of the parrots and macaws found in the park were at one time household pets, but oftentimes people who buy these birds have no idea how long they live – parrots have a lifespan or 50 to 60 years and macaws can live for a century – or that because of their intelligence they require a lot of attention. So, when the birds become too much to handle at home, they are donated to sanctuaries such as the Macaw Mountain Bird Park & Nature Reserve. Birds to be seen in the park include the scarlet macaw, buffon’s macaw, green-winged macaw, yellow-lored Amazon, white-fronted parrot, red-lored parrot, mealy Amazon, yellow-crowned Amazon, white-crowned parrot, olive-throated conure, red-throated parakeet, keel-billed toucan, chestnut-mandibled toucan, grey hawk and great-horned owl.

The Copan region of Honduras is home to more than 330 species of birds representing 51 families, and has become a popular destination for keen birders from around the world. Although birds can be seen in the wild in the vicinity of the park, bird watchers should include Macaw Mountain Bird Park in their itinerary to experience up-close interaction with the birds of Honduras.

Black-throated Robin Rediscovered in China

December 20, 2011 by  
Filed under Birding Tips

The Black-throated Robin (Luscinia obscura ), also referred to as the Black-throated Blue Robin, or simply the Blackthroat, is a species in the Muscicapidae family of small passerine birds found mainly in the Old World – Europe, Asia and Africa. Primarily due to decimation of its preferred habitat of bamboo thickets and high altitude coniferous forest, this elusive little bird has become quite a rare sight in recent decades. So when a team of Swedish and Chinese researchers discovered a community of breeding Blackthroats in the Qinling Mountains of north-central China’s Shaanxi province, it was a newsworthy event.

With their distinctive song consisting of short, sharp, varied strophes including harsh notes and whistles, seven singing males were counted in Foping Nature Reserve, with another seven observed in the Changqing National Nature Reserve. Being the more vocal of the sexes, males are easier to find, and it is considered to be almost certain that each male has a mate. The majority of the birds were seen in bamboo thickets and coniferous-broadleaf forests at an altitude of around 2400 to 2500 meters above sea level. Recordings have been made of the Blackthroat’s song, which will made identification easier in the future.

Resembling a European Robin Erithacus rubecula in size and general shape, the Blackthroat male has a jet-black throat and breast, and while it is believed that the female has a light-brown throat and breast, this has not been confirmed. They were first recorded in the late 19th century, and between the time of first being observed and into the early 20th century, ten of these birds were collected during their breeding season of May to August, in two different localities in China’s Shaanxi and Gansu provinces. Subsequent Blackthoat sightings include unconfirmed records from China’s Yunnan and Sichuan provinces, as well as a few birds spotted in captivity at markets. The most recent reported sighting of a Blackthroat was at the Sichuan University campus in May 2011, with reports of a Blackthroat being captured in Thailand during the winter months, which is a possible migration destination or stop-over point.

Christmas Bird Count – Gathering Valuable Data

December 6, 2011 by  
Filed under Birding Tips

In the late 1800s wildlife conservation was unheard of and the hunting of birds and other animals was generally unrestricted in the United States. In some states it was a common Christmas tradition to go hunting, with the hunter bagging the most birds and animals being declared the winner of the so-called “Side Hunt”. By the turn of the century, however, nature lovers and scientists began to express concern regarding the effects of hunting on bird populations, and it was at this time, when the Audubon Society was still in its infancy, that the society’s representative Frank M. Chapman proposed starting a new Christmas tradition in which birds would be counted, rather than hunted, and so the concept of the “Christmas Bird Count” was born – and enthusiastically supported.

The very first Christmas Bird Count was carried out by Frank Chapman and a team of 27 birders, who recorded a combined count of 90 species of birds in 25 locations. From small beginnings, the Christmas Bird Count has grown into a nationwide effort involving thousands of keen birders, each doing their bit to compile a record of the country’s feathered creatures. Starting on 14 December this year, the 112th Christmas Bird Count will continue to 5 January 2012, during which time thousands of volunteers, referred to as “citizen scientists”, will collect data to be used by the Audubon society and other conservation organizations in determining the health of bird populations – and have loads of fun in the process.

With some nature-loving families, the annual Christmas Bird Count (CBC) has become somewhat of a tradition, and whether citizen scientists are monitoring backyard bird feeders, or going out into the wild, every bit of information collected in this carefully coordinated effort is important. The fact that the CBC has been taking place over such a long period of time gives conservationists a clearer picture of trends in bird populations. This allows them to formulate strategies to protect birds by protecting their natural habitat. Although the focus is on the feathered inhabitants of the monitored areas, conservationists are able to detect issues such as improper use of pesticides and groundwater contamination which could be detrimental to the humans in the area as well.

Whether you are a seasoned birder, or a budding citizen scientist, the Audubon Society welcomes participation in the Christmas Bird Count. So bundle up warm, grab those binoculars, and do your bit for the future of our feathered friends.

Bird Watching in Oman – A Rewarding Experience

November 22, 2011 by  
Filed under Birding Tips

Bird watching enthusiasts who make it a goal to visit a veriety of destinations where they can enjoy their hobby, may want to consider a visit to Oman during the northern hemisphere winter season. Located on the edge of the western Palearctic, between Africa, Europe and Asia, Oman is the wintering destination of avifauna from three distinctive zoo-geographical areas. The country has a wealth of varied habitats to cater for the specific needs of hundreds of bird species, and birding enthusiasts can be assured that each bird watching excursion will be a rewarding experience.

Officially called the Sultanate of Oman, the country is an Arab state located on the southeastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula. The Arabian Sea and Gulf of Oman form the coastline of the country, providing plenty of opportunities for seabirds and waders to enjoy the sea’s bounty. Husband and wife Janne and Jens Eriksen are experienced birdwatchers based in Oman, and they are making a concerted effort to bring the country’s rich birdlife to the attention of birders around the world. While the winter months, between October and March, are particularly interesting because of the foreign feathered visitors that join the locals, Oman has a thriving all-year-round population of around 500 species of birds spread throughout the more than 300,000 square kilometers of land.

The Oman Ministry of Environment, together with the Ministry of Tourism, is actively involved in both protecting the natural heritage of the country, and promoting eco-tourism. Authorities have allocated fifteen protected conservation areas and have sponsored the publication of books on birding in Oman to encourage both locals and international tourists to enjoy the birdlife of the country. The Eriksens note that while people flock to shopping malls for recreation, they are missing out on spending their leisure time in nature. This is a situation they would like to change and believe that nature clubs in schools are the answer, as these could encourage the younger generation to get involved in bird watching and hiking.

November is one of the most popular times for bird watching in Oman, as this is when large flocks of migrating birds arrive, providing plenty of action on the coastline as they establish territory for the winter by strutting about, swooping and diving in an endless flurry of activity. By December the birds are more settled and bird watchers can observe them going about their daily routines. In January, the water level of the lagoons and wetlands rises, attracting wintering waterfowl in large numbers. Certainly, birders who have spent time observing the birds of Oman agree that the diversity and number of birds is astounding, and well worth experiencing.

Interesting RSPB Survey Results

August 23, 2011 by  
Filed under Birding Tips

The RSPB’s wildlife survey would not be possible if not for the loyal participation of the public, who assist in the Make Your Nature Count project. The survey began on the 4th of June and ran to the 12th of June, involving over fifty thousand gardens. Due to the assistance of the participants, the RSPB Make Your Nature Count project could collect the necessary information to compile a report on a variety of bird species to determine how successful the breeding season was. The feedback was extremely positive.

Once all the data was received, it showed that there was an increase in the breeding of robins, and that there was a ten percent increase in song thrushes in gardens across the United Kingdom. The organizer of the RSPB Make Your Nature Count, Richard Bashford, commented that it was very exciting to see the increase of song thrushes, blackbirds and robins, as it means that weather conditions were ideal during the breeding season. Since 2010, blackbirds had increased by fifteen percent. Bashford said that even though the numbers of the song thrushes had increased, it is important to remember that they did go through a period of decline and are slowly beginning to recover and have a far way to go before their numbers are satisfying, even though there are not any guarantees that the same favorable outcome will appear next year. House sparrows also seemed to increase by approximately twenty percent, but are still to be watched carefully. Thirty percent increases were recorded for chaffinches and blue tits.

The survey was performed in rural areas, urban and suburban areas and it was also the first time the public participants were asked to be on the lookout for grass snakes and bats. Almost one in fifty of the participating members reported grass snakes and they are more likely to be found in rural areas. Thirty-three percent of the participants also reported bats. As an added request they were also asked to take note of toads and frogs, as there had been a decline in their numbers over the last two years. The wildlife in any garden impacts the environment, and through the voluntary services of the public the RSPB is able to conduct their surveys and compile their reports to keep constant records on the various species.

Crows Know How

February 2, 2011 by  
Filed under Birding Tips

Researchers and scientists have been studying the New Caledonian crow for a number of years now. It has proven to be a bird with extraordinary capabilities, able to solve problems and use tools to gain access to food. This remarkable talent has led to numerous papers being published in regard to the intelligence of the crow. It seems that researchers wanted more and believed that the crows’ problem solving skills could be pushed a little further, and they were right. New tests have shown that crows are able to devise plans and show extreme caution in unfamiliar circumstances.

The first round of research was done to see how crows make use of tools to forage. Researchers gave the crows a three phase puzzle which was solved successfully. They first used a short stick to retrieve a longer stick, which they then had to use to get to their food which was placed in a hole. This test already stunned researchers, but the crows have now shown that they use tools for various other actions as well.

Over and above using sticks to find food, it seems that New Caledonian crows also use sticks to look at objects they deem to be potentially dangerous. Instead of inspecting it closely, they make use of their sticks to take a look around first before approaching something they are unfamiliar with. Dr. Joanna Wimpenny, a research zoologist on the team is very excited about the new findings, saying: “Evidence is building up that they’re able to plan their actions in advance, which is very interesting from a cognition point of view. It isn’t just that they’re responding in a pre-programmed sort of way. It seems possible they may potentially view a problem and know what the answer is.”

To test this, a rubber snake was used in one instance. The crow moved a little closer, but showed signs of being hesitant. He then used a tool to prod the snake a few times and after seeing no movement, he quickly pulled on the tail while jumping backwards. Once he was sure that the rubber snake posed no danger, he approached completely and began pecking on it. These tests and research prove that crows have an intricate thought process. Further behavioral studies are underway to find out more about these fascinating birds and their intelligent problem solving abilities.

Niceforo’s Wren to Enjoy Increased Protection

August 13, 2009 by  
Filed under Birding Tips

Many people have not even heard of the Niceforo’s Wren – and without help, it is unlikely that that will change any time soon. The species is listed as being Critically Endangered with just fifty of these birds still remaining in the wild. Now, it seems, there may just be a sliver of light on the horizon – a new project designed to increase the bird’s natural habitat and provide it with further protection.

American Bird Conservancy has been working with partner Fundacion ProAves (Colombia) and World Land Trust (US) to secure 3 200 acres of dry forest in the Chicamocha Valley found in Colombia’s eastern Andes. The land, which includes some of the highest quality dry forest still remaining in the region, is to be turned into a reserve that will serve, not only to protect the wren, but also to secure the futures of several more endemic species. Other birds that should benefit from the new arrangement include the endangered Chestnut-bellied Hummingbird and the Apical Flycatcher.

At present there are fewer than 25 pairs of Niceforo’s Wren – 14 of which are living in the area, their lives threatened daily by the destruction caused by man-made fires, while intensive goat grazing continues to destroy their habitat. Knowing this, it was decided that the only way to preserve the species was to acquire the farms where these birds are found and create a safer, more stable environment that should ultimately help them to repopulate. The task means not only acquiring the land, but removing more than 500 goats and 50 heads of cattle. However most will agree that the effort is worth it. George Wallace, the Vice President for the American Bird Conservancy’s International Programs, said: “To be able to give a species that is so close to extinction another chance at survival is a thrilling opportunity, and we are tremendously indebted to the supporters who have made this a reality.” He added: “Now begins the work of protecting the habitat on the ground as well as on paper,” – a task which will most likely prove to be no small feat.

The new reserve will be located near Zapatoca, a small town about one hour from Bucaramanga. Any visitors and students interested in learning more about the project and the animals it aims to protect are invited to visit the reserve if they are able to do so.

New Discovery Sheds Light on Bird Evolution

June 25, 2009 by  
Filed under Birding Tips

Up until a few days ago it was a commonly held belief that modern birds evolved from theropod dinosaurs such as the tyrannosaurus or allosaurus. Now new evidence has been found in favour of the theory that birds evolved separately on a parallel path to dinosaurs.

The discovery may be new, but the evidence has been there all along. Simply put, it is virtually impossible for birds to have evolved from dinosaurs. Researchers at the Oregon State Univserity (OSU) in the US pinpointed the largest significant difference in their skeletal structures – their thigh bones – as proof of this fact. Up until now the relatively fixed position of the bird’s thigh bone and the role that it plays in keeping this creature alive has gone largely unnoticed. While virtually every other land animal has a moveable thigh bone, the bird’s thigh bone, or femur, is largely fixed, making them ‘knee runners’. What is most remarkable about this feature is that it is fundamental to the continued functioning of the animal; it is the fixed position of the femur and other bird bones that keeps their air-sac lung from collapsing when the bird inhales oxygen.

Research has revealed that warm-blooded birds need about 20 times more oxygen than do reptiles which are cold-blooded. As such, they have a unique lung structure which allows for a much higher rate of gaseous exchange and activity. It is this soft and delicate structure which is carefully protected by the fixed skeletal structures that surround the lungs.

According to Devon Quick, an OSU instructor of zoology, their unusual thigh complex and the way it supports the lungs is “fundamental to bird physiology.” Quick noted that “It’s really strange that no one realized this before. The position of the thigh bone and muscles in birds is critical to their lung function, which in turn is what gives them enough lung capacity for flight.” This only adds to other evidence that birds likely did not evolve from dinosaurs – such as the feathers, wings, bones and unique locomotion and lung system that is peculiar to birds – and supports the relatively new theory that they evolved separately on a parallel path to these extinct creatures.

Bird watching in Thailand

May 5, 2009 by  
Filed under Birding Tips

Many bird watching enthusiasts have already discovered the magnificent opportunities that wait in Thailand. With almost a thousand bird species, Thailand is a treasure trove of birding experiences that can be enjoyed in various provinces around the country. Tourist operators also specialize in bird watching excursions, offering daily hikes and even week long hiking packages, through some of the most breathtaking landscapes in Thailand. Bird watching here, is a unique and unforgettable experience.

Some of the more popular bird watching sites include Khok Kham, the Khao Kieo Wildlife Sanctuary, Kaeng Krachan National Park, Doi Chiangdao Wildlife Sanctuary, Khao Pra-Bang Kam Wildlife Sanctuary, Chiangsaen and the Koh Similan National Park. Although there are various bird species that overlap in all the provinces, some bird species prefer specific provinces according to landscape and food supply.

In the Samutsakhon Province for instance, the habitat is blanketed in fish ponds, swamps, mangroves and mudflats, luring species such as the Nordmann’s Greenshank, Streaked Weaver, Malaysian Plover, Ruddy-Breasted Crake, Pheasant-Tailed Jacana and the Asian Dowitcher to this region. Birds such as the Large Hawk Cuckoo, Asian Golden-Weaver, Forest Wagtail and Black Blaza prefer the woodlands and rice fields of the Nakhonpratom Province, while Grey Peacock Pheasants, Blue-bearded Bee-eaters, Violet Cuckoo, Green Magpie and White-hooded Babbler feel at home in the forests, by water streams and waterfalls located in the Petchburi Province.

Some of the larger national parks have a variety of habitats within their borders, having a larger variety of birds in one area. The Khao Yai National Park, in North-Eastern Thailand, gives visitors the opportunity to see birds such as the Siamese Fireback, Mountain Hawk Eagle, Scaly-breasted Partridge, Coral Billed Ground Cuckoo and many more. Other breathtaking species to be seen in Thailand include the Black-backed Forktail, Chestnut-flanked White-eye, Long-tailed Minivet, Collered Owlet, Hume’s Pheasant, White-bellied Redstart, Stripe-breasted Woodpecker, Sapphired Flycather and the Crested Tree Swift. In general, many national parks have more than two hundred different species of bird living and breeding within the park, giving visitors the experience of a lifetime. To see truly amazing bird life, Thailand is the perfect bird watching destination.

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