Date: 2/8/19 2:13 pm From: Chris Rimmer <crimmer...> Subject: [VTBIRD] Farflung migrants in Cuba
Although this post doesn't relate directly to Vermont birds, I thought some might be interested to know that I'm wrapping up 2.5 weeks of field work in the mountains of eastern Cuba, surveying for Bicknell's Thrush with colleagues from our local partner institute BIOECO. It has been an arduous but exhilarating expedition, the majority of it in majestic cloud forests of the remote Bayemesa range, where I'm told it's unlikely any human feet have ever trod (though it is possible some Taino natives did centuries ago). Much of our work involved creating a new trail to reach two relatively inaccessible peaks -- we weren't able to get as far as even the first of those (Pico Maceo). Chronic rains hampered our progress and made working with machetes a dangerous proposition. My 4 Cuban colleagues and I did manage to break some new ground, share some chilly and wet moments, enjoy one another's company immensely, AND encounter some very cool birds.
Though this was my third trip to Sierra Maestra's highest elevations, the endemics never cease to captivate. Cuban Solitaires and Cuban Trogons were never out of earshot, and one simply can not tire of their songs. Cuban Todies (one of 5 tody species, all endemic to the Greater Antilles) rattled and scolded frequently, while engaging and curious bands of Oriente Warblers sputtered and squeaked, often approaching closely. We ran 12 mist nets on several days and managed to band many of these species (todies and trogons being our big "miss"), which was very rewarding.
And, several migrants familiar to us in Vermont were present. Most common were Black-throated Blue Warblers (6 of 33 birds we mist-netted were BTBWs), and every one we saw or captured was a female. American Redstarts and Black-and white Warblers were also reasonably common, with smaller numbers of Cape Mays and No. Parulas. A surprise for all of us was the capture of 3 Swainson's Warblers in our nets. This species, which breeds in southeastern N. America, is apparently regular on Cuba, but none of my local colleagues had ever seen one. And, of course, we found Bicknell's Thrushes -- not many, only 7 individuals in fact, but this area is clearly important overwinter habitat for the species on Cuba. We managed to mist net and band 3 birds in Bayemesa.
If anyone is inclined to see a few photos and a short video, check out VCE's Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/vtecostudies/. I haven't had time to post anything on the VCE blog, but hope to soon. Cuba is a wonderful island, and its protected areas are in remarkably good shape. I wish Hispaniola (where the majority of Bicknell's Thrush overwinter) offered the species similar habitat security!
Chris Rimmer Vermont Center for Ecostudies PO Box 420 | Norwich, Vermont 05055 802.649.1431 x202 http://vtecostudies.org/