During the first few hours of each day the valley is blanketed by a dense fog. The citrus trees show the effects of this daily gift of moisture; the branches are draped with mosses and epiphytes, and if you look closely, orchids. Parulas and redstarts can be seen gleaning from the leaves and flying out in quick bursts to snatch flying insects while ovenbirds and waterthrushes hunt unobtrusively on the ground. For the first week in the citrus, I spent my mornings wandering down the misty lines of trees, stopping at set points to survey the birds I could identify. After these preliminary assessments, we have begun capturing birds there, setting up nets within the citrus trees to color-band redstarts and assess the health of other warbler species we catch. Much like our work in the wet limestone forest, we set up 8-12 nets and leave them open from first light until early afternoon. We check the nets every 20-30 minutes, extracting the birds and taking them back to our makeshift banding station. We were able to borrow some extra nets from the other Smithsonian crew down in Whitehouse, and thanks to this, Ashley, Shawn, Laura and I have been able to split up into two separate banding teams, doubling our efforts. Here are some photographs of some of the birds we have caught so far, with some explanations to boot. Woot woot!
Monday, March 5, 2012
A Change of Scenery
While at our house and working in the Copse plot we are mostly by ourselves, isolated and secluded. The only people we see regularly are the cattlemen and the people who work around the house. Though the solitude is pleasant, it is always nice to have a variety, and thankfully we have been granted that in the form of a new study site. The Citrus. The valley below us is filled with vast citrus groves, where row after row of orange trees line the rolling hills. In addition to producing copious amounts of fruit for people to eat… many, many migrant warbler species live in this man-made habitat (although few resident species do). Since migrant warblers are what we are after, the citrus is a great study site, providing a contrast to the relatively pristine forest of Copse. What is the warbler density like down here? How healthy are they comparatively? These are the questions that we are trying to answer.