Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory had a productive and successful first field season studying Baird’s and Grasshopper Sparrow overwintering survival and habitat use in the Chihuahuan Desert grasslands of northern Mexico. From early November to early March, RMBO gathered a massive amount of novel and informative data on these two species at Reserva Ecológica El Uno near Janos, Chihuahua, Mexico.
A herd of bison grazes the golden-hued grasslands, Ferruginous Hawks patrol the skies for jackrabbits, and packs of coyotes yip back and forth across the prairie dog colonies. Thus was our welcoming as we arrived at Reserva Ecológica El Uno near Janos, Chihuahua, Mexico on the afternoon of Nov. 11. Our mission: Catch and place radio transmitters on Baird’s and Grasshopper Sparrows this winter to track them and study their habitat use and overwinter survival.
Earlier this month, the sustainable tourism website Rumbos published a photo of an alleged Black Swift taken Dec. 2, 2012, during a birding rally in Tambopata, Peru. If it is indeed a Black Swift, this would be the first known sighting of the species in South America, outside of samples of a Black Swift subspecies collected in Colombia in 1993.
Six years ago in late August, Rich Levad, Rob Sparks, Jason Beason and Ken Behrens hiked through spruce fir forest to a spot just above timberline where a Black Swift nest clung to a wet, rocky outcrop. The outing was part of Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory’s effort to collect baseline data on this little-known species. When no swifts were seen that evening, the scientists wondered if they had already started migrating – and where did they go?
The last bird that breeds in the U.S. and Canada with an unknown winter destination has finally given up its secret. After years of research – and with some luck – three Colorado researchers have learned that Black Swifts travel more than 4,000 miles to spend the winter in Brazil.
The new Fall/Winter edition of The All-Bird Bulletin features five stories about RMBO’s work. See pages 12 -16 to read: “New Model Identifies Bird Habitat Use at Multiple Scales,” “‘Boots on the Ground’ Expands Habitat Conservation,” “Taking Outreach from the Land to the Classroom Builds Future Conservation Ethic,” “Critical Chihuahuan Desert Grasslands Rapidly Give Way to the Plow” and “Integrated Monitoring in Bird Conservation Regions (IMBCR)”.