Thursday, December 11, 2014

Warm Greetings

A trio of Mangrove Swallows (tropical relatives of our Tree Swallow) was swirling behind the ferry that crosses the Gulf of Nicoya, showing off the impressive aerobatic skills shared by all members of the swallow family.  Brown Pelicans travelled low in formation over the water.  Magnificent Frigatebirds, fork-tailed and long-winged wanderers of the open ocean, circled higher, watching and waiting to steal the hard-fought-for meal of a Laughing Gull or Royal Tern.  The occasional Brown Booby would cross in front of the ship.

Brown Pelicans aboard a small fishing boat in the Gulf of Nicoya

Our arrival in Costa Rica yesterday marks the beginning of the fourth annual research expedition of the Nicoya Peninsula Avian Research Station.  In each of these four years my research partner Sean Graesser and I have traveled to the Nicoya Peninsula of the northwestern portion of the country to collect important data on some of the more vulnerable species of neotropical migratory songbirds, which spend their winters here.  Over the next seven weeks we will run several bird banding stations to capture, mark, and study these long-distance migrants, and to collect data from individuals that we banded in the past that have returned.

The sun was going down as we turned down the dirt road that leads to Finca Pura Vida, the farm on which we will live for the next two months.  As we tried (in vain) to dodge the myriad potholes, two bird calls familiar to us northerners came through the open windows: the "stchip" of a Yellow Warbler and the “kinkachurr” of a Summer Tanager.  I welcomed these as warm greetings to our return to Costa Rica.  It’s good to be back!

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