Friday, November 19, 2010

Birdathon results!

Zone-tailed Hawk

Well, it's official. The 8th SalvaNATURA Birdathon, held last month in El Salvador, reached a combined total of 327 species! Each of the five teams had birds that none of the other teams observed, so each team contributed to this impressive number. A big thank you to all observers - well done!

No, 327 is not a new birdathon record, for last year 336 species were recorded. However, the rules were a little stricter this year, with only species observed during the weekend of 16 and 17 October being accepted, leveling the playing field as a way to stimulate competition among the teams.

No fewer than 15 species were added as "first timers" for the 8th edition of the birdathon, one of them even a new country record!

New to the list in 2010 are Great Curassow, American Bittern, Rufous-necked Wood-Rail, Spotted Rail, Wilson's Snipe, Brown Noddy, Northern Barred Woodcreeper, Scaled Antpitta, Tufted Flycatcher, Purple Martin, Brown Creeper, Gray Catbird, Orange-crowned Warbler, Black-vented Oriole, and Hooded Grosbeak.

Purple Martin had not been reported for El Salvador previously, although it was expected to occur there in small numbers during migration. Three individuals were seen flying together over the savannah just outside of La Hachadura, near the border with Guatemala.

Seventeen species found this year had only been recorded once before in the preceding seven editions of the birdathon, and are thus considered rare, unusual or just very local or hard to find in El Salvador. These include Black Storm-Petrel, White Hawk, Gray-necked Wood-Rail, Double-striped Thick-knee, Killdeer, Pectoral Sandpiper, Long-billed Dowitcher, Wilson's Phalarope, Pomarine Jaeger, Green (Red-throated) Parakeet, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Rufous-breasted Spinetail, Gray-collared Becard, Cave Swallow (more common later in the season), Rock Wren, Wood Thrush, and Chipping Sparrow.

Looking at all eight editions of the SalvaNATURA birdathon combined, a total of 430 species has been recorded thus far, i.e. less than 125 shy of the country list for El Salvador. Not bad, eh?

With the 2010 results in, and the few identification challenges worked out, this is an excellent moment to highlight once again the purpose of the SalvaNATURA birdathon: to raise funds for bird monitoring in three national parks in El Salvador and one biological reserve in Honduras!

Collecting data on a hummingbird

Like the birdathon, the SalvaNATURA bird monitoring project started in 2003, and has since then collected a wealth of data on resident and migratory bird species in the region. In many cases, even basic life history information of tropical resident species is sparse, and for a number of species this program is starting to collect sufficient data to fill that knowledge gap.

Roselvy Juárez processing a Brown-backed Solitaire

Another important objective of the program is to monitor population trends; after all, we cannot protect what we don't know. Conservation always depends on hard data, which this program, supported by a team of dedicated Salvadoran biologists, is collecting in the field every month.

A resident and a visitor: Crescent-chested Warbler and Worm-eating Warbler

So if you care about bird conservation and believe that bird monitoring in Central America is a worthy cause, then please consider sponsoring the SalvaNATURA birdathon with a tax-deductible donation. Please visit The Resource Foundation and click on "Donate". This will open a secure (https) connection. You may then select the amount you want to donate, or fill in a different amount of your choice. It's important that you select "El Salvador - SalvaNATURA" in the pull-down menu called "Program Designation". Please also write in the "Dedication" box that your donation benefits the "SalvaNATURA 2010 Birdathon". That's all! When you're done, please send an email to john.vandort AT, to confirm your donation (and the amount).

Thank you very much for your generosity!

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