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Saturday, February 15, 2014

Hummingbirds III: Rufous-tailed Hummingbird chicks

Some things that happen in nature fill us with wonder. A newly born animal can be especially wondrous. Another spectacular natural being is the hummingbird, really any and all of them are magical. This week, Rufous-tailed Hummingbirds (Amazilia tzacatl) hatched at The Mountain School, giving us a beautiful gift and an opportunity to document their nesting characteristics, as well.
Rufous-tailed Hummingbird
Tropical hummingbirds typically have two eggs. Both eggs in this Rufous-tailed Hummingbird nest hatched successfully, and were approximately one day old at the time of this photo. Photo Jeffrey McCrary. 
Hummingbirds have very small eggs, hence their chicks are inconceivably small. They are also very weak and fragile, so much so that it seems improbable that they would even accept food. These chicks really didn't even seem alive, but they were receiving food and attention constantly. FUNDECI/GAIA intern Pauline Pearse, with plenty of experience at handling chicks on nest, reviewed the chicks carefully, then returned them to their abode.
Amazilia tzacatl
The chicks are being attended on a nest along a path at The Mountain School. The nest is only 1.2 m above ground, but deep in the vegetation and difficult to see. Photo Pauline Pearse.
Two Rufous-tailed Hummingbird nests were located, and both clutches hatched at the same time. Their small cups were located near walkways with considerable foot traffic around, both in tiny cups with lots of spider web and fine material. One of the nests contained thin strips of plastic.
hummingbird chick
Pauline Pearse holds the two hummingbird chicks (Amazilia tzacatl) approximately one day after hatching. Photo Jeffrey McCrary. 
The backs of the chicks were covered with sparse, reddish hairs, and no feathers were evident yet. Although both were small, one was considerably larger than the other, perhaps having hatched first and gotten a head start on feeding. Moss and lichens decorated the exteriors of both nests.
Amazilia tzacatl
Rufous-tailed Hummingbird nest with day-old chicks in an ornamental plant. Photo Jeffrey McCrary.
Another nest was found in plain view, at 1.8 m above the ground on a cedar (Cupressus lusitanica) hedge along a walkway next to the communal kitchen. The chicks were also healthy and their care seemed to be vigorous.

The FUNDECI staff discussed that evening, the different threats to the nests, mainly predators which would eat the chicks, unwitting workers involved in yard maintenance, and even children who may not respect the fragility of these marvelous nests and chicks. This was perceived as an excellent educational opportunity for the children of the farm workers living in the Casas Ecologicas.

Amazilia tzacatl
Rufous-tailed Hummingbird sitting on nest with two recently-hatched chicks. Photo Pauline Pearse.
These nests were discovered while we were engaged in another study in the area, a typical example of the serendipity that results from good work in a dedicated fashion. We left the nests to be observed another day.
We were appreciative to get the opportunity to see this bird nest at The Mountain School, in Matagalpa where it is common. This species is rare in Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Bird Monitoring Laguna de Apoyo 2014

Our intern Pauline Pearse took some photos of the latest round of bird monitoring in Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve. We are now in our fifth year of MARENA-sponsored research on birds in this protected area. Here we share a few of them with you, to give you an idea of the esthetic value of the forest of this protected area. We hope you enjoy them. 

Summer Tanager
Summer Tanager, Piranga rubra, male. Photo Pauline Pearse.

Birds Nicaragua
Grey-headed Tanager, Eucometes penecillata. Photo Pauline Pearse.

Grey-headed Tanager
Grey-headed Tanager, Eucometes penecillata. Photo Pauline Pearse.

birds in Nicaragua
Banded Wren, Thryothorus pleurostictus. Photo Pauline Pearse.

Swainson's Thrush
Swainson's Thrush, Catharus ustulatus. Photo Pauline Pearse.

birds in Nicaragua
Immature Long-tailed Manakin, Chiroxiphia linearis. Photo Pauline Pearse.
Here are represented both migratory and resident birds which are all typical of the Tropical Dry Forest habitats of the Pacific region of Nicaragua.
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Monday, February 3, 2014

Illegal traffic in Nicaraguan wildlife IV

Wildlife in Nicaragua are facing two very critical issues. The first is that forests are disappearing rapidly, as the country prospers and develops more. Enforcement of the protection of natural areas is a big challenge to the government, which does not grow at the same pace as the economic forces behind deforestation and habitat destruction of all kinds.
But for many wild animals in Nicaragua, the greatest challenge to their continued existence in the wild is the pet trade. It is simply illegal to buy or sell many animals, or to exhibit them publicly, yet they are found daily in public places on display in restaurants and hotels, or along the road for sale. Again, authorities have little capacity to respond to this type of crime.
One of the most egregious groups of violators of the rights of protected wild animals is found along the Panamerican Highway at Moyua. Here are some images of animals for sale, openly on display.

pet trade
This young man is holding a Scarlet Macaw (Ara macao) for sale along the Panamerican Highway at Moyua. Photo Maggie Folkesson.
All day long, people drive by these folks with animals for sale, offering Nicaragua's natural heritage on a stick as if the macaw were fast food. Although people may be offended by the spectacle of these animals for sale, few do anything, because people may not feel capable of doing anything about such crimes.
This view shows even more clearly the Scarlet Macaw for sale along the Panamerican Highway in Nicaragua. Photo Maggie Folkesson. 
Among the animals which has suffered the most from the pet trade in Nicaragua is the Scarlet Macaw (Ara macao). This majestic animal once filled the skies with color and sound, flying in groups above the treeline and even in cities. Managua had Scarlet Macaws visit daily until they were all captured from their roosts in the Chiltepe Peninsula in 1983. A handful of these birds fly freely in the Cosiguina Peninsula, in the northwest corner of the country, their nests most likely protected from nest raiders by the steep slopes of the crater interior of the Volcano Cosiguina.
pet trade
There were two Scarlet Macaws on display this day at this site. Photo Maggie Folkesson.
FUNDECI/GAIA postdoctoral scientist Maggie Folkesson documented the wildlife on sale illegally in this location recently. Not only were there Scarlet Macaws, there were also several other species, most notably Yellow-naped Parrots (Amazona auropalliata), and White-faced Capuchin Monkeys (Cebus capuchinus). The woman in the photo below is holding one of each on display. 

pet trade
White-faced Capuchin Monkey and Yellow-naped Parrot for sale. Photo Maggie Folkesson.
Monkeys and macaws present many problems as pets, so it is typical that people who purchase them regret their actions later. Furthermore, their promotion of the illegal traffic in wild animals helps to empty the forests of wild animals, which is the principal reason Scarlet Macaws are no longer seen throughout most of Nicaragua.
The Yellow-naped Amazon is a common bird in the pet trade, but its status on the CITES list was recently adjusted to Appendix II, which means that it is not permitted for international commerce except within the context of an approved, successful captive breeding program, which does not exist in Nicaragua. Its range in Nicaragua is throughout the tropical dry forests of the Pacific side and some of the humid tropical forests on the Caribbean side of the country.
A new initiative is needed to stop the pet trade. What do you suggest?

pet trade
Here is a clear photo of a Yellow-naped Amazon parrot and a White-faced Capuchin Monkey for sale in Moyua. Their sale is illegal in Nicaragua. Photo Maggie Folkesson..
All of these animals are prohibited from sale in Nicaragua, although as anyone an see, the law is little respected. We share these photos in the hope that people will react. Do you want to see wild animals in the forests of Nicaragua? Then do something to stop the illegal traffic in wild animals.
pet trade
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Saturday, February 1, 2014

Conservation Science - Birds in Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve, Nicaragua

Although many people only think of Laguna de Apoyo as a place to swim or to build a house, fascinating wildlife can still be found in its forests. Our bird monitoring program, managed by the biologist Jeffrey McCrary in coordination with the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources (MARENA), is now in its fifth year, is intended to demonstrate what is important about this forest as a natural area. We have been very successful in identifying some of the more important places as bird habitat in the Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve. In one of the sites we study, a pair of Pale-billed Woodpeckers (Campephylus guatemalensis) is regularly seen. Here is a picture of the female, taken by the FUNDECI/GAIA intern Pauline Pearse.
Jeffrey McCrary
Female Pale-billed Woodpecker in Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve, Nicaragua. Photo Pauline Pearse.
Our list of birds documented inside Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve now reaches well over 225 species. Although we are surveying only a small fraction of the 2500 hectares of land, well over a quarter of all the birds documented in Nicaragua have appeared here. We continue to press upon the authorities at MARENA and community to enforce policies against hunting, wood extraction, building and other land uses which destroy the habitats for birds like the Pale-billed Woodpecker. For instance, this bird is not found in the less mature forests on the north side of the lake, but rather only where there is a greater amount of intact, mature forest, in the southwest corner of the reserve. There are not so many places in Nicaragua where this glorious bird can be seen easily, so we are always happy to get a glimpse.
Jeffrey McCrary
This juvenile Grey Hawk (Buteo nitidus) is a typical sighting in Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve. Photo Pauline Pearse.
The documentation of biodiversity and the environmental effects on it by human activity requires detailed work, much of which is performed by the conservation science interns at FUNDECI/GAIA. Their assistance in our long-term bird studies is essential to understanding how an area so heavily used by humans can retain its qualities as a natural area for wildlife.
Jeffrey McCrary
Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve is home for many birds, including the colonial nesting Montezuma Oropendola (Psaracolius montezuma). Photo Belen Camino.
We recognize that the threats are palpable to these wild animals. For instance, on two occasions, the Montezuma Oropendola (Psaracolius montezuma) colonies in the area have been affected by landowners destroying their nesting colonies. In many areas where houses are found, large trees that would attract the birds are downed, limiting the potential habitat for these and many other birds.
conservation science intern
FUNDECI/GAIA conservation science intern, Ruben Pelckmanns, at work on a study of the motmots. Photo Pablo Somarriba.
We are continuing to gather information on the wildlife of the area, with the aid of visiting scientists, interns and volunteers. Our studies have recently been widened to consider nest sites, in which two of our conservation science interns have participated. We invite interested people to contact us and participate in the study and protection of this special natural area.
Jeffrey McCrary
Migratory birds such at the Summer Tanager (Piranga rubra) are important components of the birdlife in Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve. Photo Onno Bierman.
conservation science internships
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Thursday, January 30, 2014

Illegal traffic in Nicaraguan wildlife III: Wild animals for sale

The natural heritage of Nicaragua is rich and abundant. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that it WAS that way. For some time, the wild animals of Nicaragua have been subjected to the pet trade, and they can still be found for sale on the roadsides and even in the markets.
Sale of several animals is illegal in Nicaragua, among them, the Amazona parrots, Ara macaws, and monkeys. Nonetheless, here is evidence that sales of these animals continue in broad daylight in the presence of authorities and anyone who wishes to see the animals.
This young man was confronted in the PriceSmart parking lot in Managua, holding a lovely Amazona parrot for sale. Photo Jeffrey McCrary.
Public places in Managua with heavy middle-class traffic such as the PriceSmart parking lot are typical places where animals for sale can be found. In the photo above and following, a young man is noted selling an Amazona parrot along with a pair of budgies in a separate cage. FUNDECI employee Jeffrey McCrary confronted this person regarding the legality of the sale of this animal.
Jeffrey McCrary
As can be seen from the photo, the Red-lored Amazon parrot for sale has been bleached to hide its identity. Photo Jeffrey McCrary.
People who sell Nicaraguan wildlife illegally know perfectly well that what they do is illegal. They also know that almost no one will bother them beyond shouting an insult from the car window. The benefits can be great, because the sale of an animal an yield hundreds of dollars. Owning a parrot such as this one is a status symbol, a temptation for many with the resources to purchase it. The bird this young man was carrying on a stick, it turned out, was a Red-lored Amazon (Amazona autumnalis), a controlled species, but also one of great popularity among pet owners.
Red-lored Amazon
Knowing he was in trouble, the Parrot vendor attacked the person photographing him, attempting to take the the camera. Photo Jeffrey McCrary.
The Red-lored Amazon is native to a large swath of forest along mostly the eastern half of Nicaragua. Although still common in some areas, the species is now quite rare in numerous places. And our vendor carrying illegal wildlife, after realizing that intimidation did not work, fled the scene. He ran because he knows that wild animals deserve to live and die in the wild, not in cages.
Wild animals in Nicaragua
A quick snap of the camera shows the young man choosing, instead of assaulting the photographer, to turn and flee. In the left hand, a cage with two budgies. In the right hand, a Red-lored Amazon. Photo Jeffrey McCrary.
Although the sale of such animals is illegal, views such as those shown in these photographs are common in Managua, especially in the wealthier areas. Wildlife is for sale every day, and the vendors are bold in their intentions to sell. This young man, however, realized he was in trouble. He turned and ran, taking the birds with him.

Jeffrey McCraryWildlife in Nicaragua

The vendor recovered his backpack from other vendors and hid behind a kiosk, to pack away the Red-lored Amazon in it. He knew that he may be followed and he could lose this animal as evidence of criminal activity if the police became involved, so he left quickly.
The vendor packs the Red-lored Amazon into a backpack to flee from the scene, when he realized he may be in trouble for illegal traffic in wildlife. Photo Jeffrey McCrary.
Whenever we can, we recover wild animals from the pet trade and when appropriate, return them to the wild. Doing this requires a lot of thankless labor, many interns and volunteers and some confrontations. This bird could also be given another chance to live free.
Do you know of locations and people involved in the illegal traffic of wildlife in Nicaragua. We are interested. We want to denounce those who sell and harm wildlife, especially when for profit. Please contact us and we will act. 
Yellow-naped Amazon, Finsch's Parakeet, Scarlet Macaw, Nine-banded Armadillo, and White-faced Capuchin monkeys, all for sale on the Panamerican Highway near Moyua (km 65). Photo Maggie Folkesson. 
Here is a recent contribution worth noting. The vendors of wildlife who act most egregiously of any are found in the area of Moyua, Ciudad Dario, along the Panamerican Highway at km 65. Several illegal animals were presented to all passing traffic, including Scarlet Macaw, Yellow-naped Amazon, and White-faced Capuchin Monkeys. Please do not buy wildlife from these people!
Red-lored Parrot
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Sunday, January 19, 2014

Animal Rescue XV: Our nicest Christmas

We at FUNDECI/GAIA think that wild animals should not be in cages. Obviously, not everyone feels the same way, because wild animals can be found in cages throughout Nicaragua. Even foreigners often feel the need to keep a bird in a cage or a monkey on a chain, and often they try to convince themselves that they are "rescuing" the animal by purchasing it. After all, caged wild animals can be found everywhere in Nicaragua, even animals that are legally prohibited from the trade in wild animals. So whenever we see someone with a caged animal, we consider it an opportunity to discuss what is best for the animal and also for the entire situation for the wild animals that suffer from the pet trade in Nicaragua.
So, we are no longer surprised when people just call us up and ask us to take their caged animals. This is an increasingly common event. The good folks at the Redwoods Resort did that back in October, wishing to place their Keel-billed Toucan back into the wild. We have had a single experience, and it was successful, so we responded enthusiastically.
Keel-billed Toucan
This Keel-billed Toucan narrowly escaped returning to the pet trade when employees of The Peace Project tried to convince the owners of the bird that they were Estacion Biologica! Photo by Pablo Somarriba.
In anticipation of his arrival, we augmented our cage space, with ample dimensions and natural conditions to permit flying and perching at different levels. We fenced the cage with high-quality, galvanized wire chosen in consultation with the National Zoo. Special help was provided by our volunteers, especially from Ruben Pelckman from On-Stage in Holland. When we were prepared, we called the good folks at the Redwood Resort and they delivered the bird. 
Ruben and Elmer are hard at work on the new cage for the Keel-billed Toucan. Photo Pablo Somarriba. 
The folks from the Redwood Resort had a beautiful bird, in perfect health and with intact plumage, worth easily 600 dollars in the pet trade in Managua. When they delivered him, they asked to find us at The Peace Project, where the employees immediately told them that they represented us and could take the bird. But thanks to the fast response of Elmer, this toucan narrowly escaped returning to the pet trade through the inappropriate intentions of these people. 
The Peace Project
The toucan in his new cage at Estacion Biologica in Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve. Photo Pablo Somarriba.
Our new Keel-billed Toucan was beautiful, and quite wild. He had no intention of remaining in captivity. Likely captured as an adult, he did not like people and he was not satisfied with a cage, from the very beginning. This was a good sign.
We kept the toucan almost two months, feeding him well and observing him. He croaked often and loudly. He flew from side to side in his new cage. 
Keel-billed Toucan
Wild birds should not be in cages, and this toucan certainly agreed. He had ample food, attention, and room to fly, and he still wanted to be free! Photo Pablo Somarriba.
After all, this bird was in a cage. Although his conditions were better than ever, he wanted to be free, and having the abundant nature all around him inspired his desires even more. So, we began to prepare for his release. 
animal rescue
We carried the toucan to the southwestern corner of Lake Apoyo, where Keel-billed Toucans are common. FUNDECI/GAIA staff and volunteers helped to make the transfer to the wild, making the trip in our Road Warrior, also known as the Land Rover. Photo Pablo Somarriba. 
Keel-billed Toucans are common in the Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve, only in the southwestern quadrant of the caldera. We took him to near the San Simian hotel, where their very conscientious staff participated in seeing off this beautiful bird on his first flight into freedom.
animal rescue
Having reached his launching point, the FUNDECI/GAIA staff prepare to take the toucan from his transport cage. Photo Topi Lehtonen. 
It is always exciting to see an animal return to the wild, but especially so when the animal shows his desire so strongly. This bird never liked captivity and he was ready to return!
pet trade
Hotel San Simian staff prepare to document the liberation moment. Photo Topi Lehtonen.
Keel-billed Toucans are quite large, as birds go. So he is best handled with two hands. The bill can cut skin, and the serrations are sharp. But a little cut was no deterrent to our staff who are devoted to protecting nature.
wild animals
Pablo and Elmer in the last moment of captivity for this lucky bird. Photo Topi Lehtonen.
Not all birds are so lucky. The pet trade is driven by the money many people are willing to pay to keep such an animal in a cage. We hope some people will read about this bird and remember that wild animals should live and die in the wild, not in cages.
Keel-billed Toucan
We hope to see you from a distance again some day! Photo Pablo Somarriba.
Would you like to help with wild animal rescue? FUNDECI/GAIA needs volunteers to care for animals, cages and supplies and good food for animals which frequently appear for our care. Or go birdwatching with us! You can help, by participating as a volunteer or by a donation to help to purchase food and supplies. Please contact us for more information.
animal rescue
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