Birds Dominated the Month of May!  

May is a big birding month not only in North America, but across the world. ACA took part in some major birding activities throughout the month and we were excited to meet old and new birding friends!

The Biggest Week in American Birding took place in early May, to much success. The 10-day annual festival was organized and hosted by Black Swamp Bird Observatory and featured workshops, guided birding activities, half-day birding bus tours, keynote speakers, and more. Thousands of birders descended upon northwest Ohio to participate in the festival and observe the spring migration of songbirds. ACA marked our presence with a table and chatted with birders about our recently-renovated birding lodges in Peru.

We also participated in the Global Big Day, an international movement for participants to catalog as many bird species as possible in one calendar day. To raise awareness about bird diversity and conservation in Peru, our biological research stations participated in the Global Big Day, with impressive results! Our Los Amigos station recorded 246 bird species while our Villa Carmen station recorded 257 species – the second highest in the world!  All of our stations were in the top 20 in the world in terms of number of bird species recorded.

ACA’s sister organization in Peru, Conservación Amazónica (ACCA), along with other local partners, held in May the first bird-banding course in southeast Peru at our Wayqecha Cloud Forest Biological Station. Instructors included ACA staff, representatives of local organizations, and graduate students from the University of Florida. Thirteen Peruvian students participated in over 60 hours of instruction. The course was offered in coordination with the Tenth National Ornithological Conference, held in Chachapoyas, Peru. 

Global Big Day 2015 at Los Amigos

A collared puffbird at Los Amigos on last month's Global Big Day. Photo by Jorge Valdez.
A collared puffbird at Los Amigos on last month’s Global Big Day. Photo by Jorge Valdez.

Wow, the results are in! Los Amigos Biological Station participated in this year’s Global Big Day on May 9th in a big way. Global Big Day a day on which birders worldwide attempt to record as many species of birds as possible within a 24-hour period.

The 4-person team at Los Amigos included University of Michigan Ph.D. candidate Sean Williams. “My backyard in the Peruvian Amazon held more than 500 species in an area the size of Central Park, and I could not extinguish the blazing thoughts of the species I would encounter that day,” he wrote in a blog about the experience. 

By the end of the day, birders had seen a total of 308 species at Los Amigos—the fifth highest recorded site total in the world! Peru was also the country that saw the most bird species, totalling 1177 in all, almost a hundred more than the next closest country. (By the way, the two southeastern regions where we work, Madre de Dios and Cusco, saw the most bird species within Peru!)

ACA’s Third Birdathon Prepares to Take Flight

Masked Flowerpiercer (Diglossopis ctanea) perched on a branch, ready for the Birdathon. (Credit: Glenn Bartley)

Birds at both Wayqecha and Villa Carmen are getting ready for their closeup. From October 1 to 11, 2014, a group of Wisconsin birders will have their binoculars at the ready to spot species like the giant hummingbird (“the Schwarzenegger of hummingbirds”), the cock-of-the-rock, the gray-breasted mountain toucan, or even the undulated tinamoubut how many will they see in total? That’s the question we all want to know! [Left: Masked Flowerpiercer (Diglossopis ctanea) perched on a branch, ready for the Birdathon. Credit: Glenn Bartley]

The group will journey all the way from Wisconsin to southeastern Peru, along a high- to low-elevation route that includes multiple days at ACA’s Wayqecha and Villa Carmen Biological Stations. This area, located where the eastern slopes of the Andes meet the Amazonian lowlands, is one of the world’s most incredible biodiversity hotspots and hosts an exceptional array of unique and endangered bird species. Group leader and lifelong conservationist Craig Thompson has been leading Birdathons here since 2011.

Through this event, Craig and his group are also raising money for the conservation work at the core of ACA’s mission. Want to join in? You can make a per-species pledge, with a correct guess qualifying to win a copy of the Birds of Peru field guide. You can also make a fixed donation to ACA online or via check (make sure to note your donation as “Birdathon”). Thank you for your support and stay tuned for this year’s species total!

What Kinds of Habitat Will the Group See?

Gray Breasted Mountain ToucanThe landscape shifts dramatically between Wayqecha and Villa Carmen, which means the birds who live in each habitat zone will change, too. Driving between the stations, the elevation drops from 9,875 to 1,700 feet. The birders will pass through puna, cloud/elfin forest, cloud forest, lower montane forest and premontane rainforest in the span of a day.

These videos from Wayqecha show a taste of the bird diversity found at the station, which lies in the buffer zone of Manu National Park. Manu is a colossal protected area twice the size of Yellowstone and world-renowned for its off-the-charts biodiversity (it’s home to ten percent of the planet’s bird species!). As the birders make their descent toward Villa Carmen, they will travel along the Manu Road. 

Hoatzin Bird

According to Craig, the gray-breasted mountain toucan (Left: Andigena hypoglauca) is one of the birding stars at Wayqecha. Other favorites to spot at the station include the golden-headed quetzel, and more than 25 species of tanagers. (Photo credit: Rick Stanley)

Did you know that that biological station is one of the most concentrated sites for viewing or studying bird diversity in the world? There are over 500 species known in its immediate area; all of North America has just north of 700 known bird species. The hoatzin (right) (Opisthocomus hoazin) is one of Craig’s star birds to see at Villa Carmen. (Photo credit: Daniel Huaman)

ACA holds its third Birdathon

Martin Pescador BirdNext month, a group of Wisconsin birders will trek to Peru to participate in 9 days of bird counts and tallies, all in the name of fun and conservation. And they could use your help!  

Since 2011, Craig Thompson has been leading groups of birders from the La Crosse, Wisconsin area to southeastern Perubirding paradise. The group will spend time at Wayqecha Cloud Forest Biological Station and Villa Carmen Biological Station; the stations’ distinct habitats provide an opportunity for even more species sightings.

But the birders aren’t only trying to best previous Birdathon counts for bragging rights. Through this event, they are also raising money for the conservation work at the core of ACA’s mission. Want to join in? You can make a per-species pledge, with a correct guess getting the chance to win a copy of Birds of Peru. You can also make a fixed donation to ACA online or via check (make sure to note your donation as “Birdathon”). Thank you, and stay tuned for this year’s species total!

Left: Martin Pescador by José María Fernandez