Wild day banding at CATIE

Last Friday’s routine banding day down at CATIE turned into a torrid affair.  Unusually, Alejandra was not able to be there, so it was left to Fabrice to lead the affair.  I’m not much help because I still can’t retrieve birds from the nets nor ascertain all the details for processing.  You are old, Father William, the young man said…etc.  We were at café y poró, a very productive site, but it has recently been cleared and so prospects were not necessarily good.  We usually do several rounds of the nets once they’re in place.  Generally, we leave about 45 minutes in between each round, ending around 9.00 am or sooner if the sun is up, because the birds easily get stressed from the heat.  Besides, there is already much less activity by 9.00 am.

Friday was a surprise.  We did only one round and then had to close down the nets because we couldn’t handle all the birds that decided to hang out, literally, in the nets.  No time for coffee and cookies.  There were just four of us and we had 49 birds to deal with.  We had to release 14 common residents without processing them because it was just impossible to keep up, particularly since Fabrice had to shoulder most of the responsibility. 

I’m told it was perhaps the busiest day ever for the banding program.  The  migrants are now here in numbers, so we concentrated on processing those first.  A Chestnut-sided warbler (Dendroica pensylvanica) was a recapture, of particular importance for the information it yields.  I was amazed at the large numbers of Swainson’s thrushes (Catharus ustulatus) that we caught.  Clearly a large wave was moving south.  The best thing, however, was the presence among them of Gray-cheeked thrushes (Catharus minimus), two of which fell into the nets.  This afforded a marvelous opportunity to compare the two species.  

Swainson's Thrush recuperating at San Antonio de Turrialba


Gray-cheeked thrush for comparison

I now see that the Swainson’s buffy spectacles are always so prominent that I’ll always be able to differentiate between the two in the future.  Actually, this was the first time that I was sure that I had seen a Gray-cheeked thrush!  No photos, I’m afraid, because I again stumbled out of the house without the camera.

Other neat birds were a slightly sad-looking Paltry tyrannulet (Zimmerius vilissimus) apparently still suffering from its  in-built inferiority complex, a Northern waterthrush (Seiurus noveboracensis) with its lovely eyebrow (eyebrows, plural, really,I suppose), and numerous Red-eyed vireos (Vireo olivaceus) and Empidonax flycatchers.  We had no time to try and distinguish among the Empidonax, and they all were recorded as Empidonax traillii.  We tried in vain to close down before more customers arrived, but just couldn’t get to the nets in time.

When he finally caught his breath, Fabrice mentioned that, the very next day, he and Alejandra were to teach a bird monitoring seminar at Barbilla National Park headquarters to a group of visiting environmentalists, and he invited me to tag along.  That’s the subject of my next post.

2 thoughts on “Wild day banding at CATIE

  1. Hi Paul,

    I really enjoy reading your blog and am very envious of your bird banding experiences. Keep it up! Even though I don’t comment often, you can be sure that I look forward to each new one.



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