Puerto Rico Field Trip Jan 2015

Just settling back in NYC after my first field excursion to Puerto Rico with two PhD students who are also in the Hauber lab at Hunter College.  We were in PR for just shy of two weeks, but accomplished a great deal!

This trip was a combination of learning field skills necessary for genetic analysis of passerines and also meeting some members of the wonderful community of researchers operating in Puerto Rico.

 

 A juvenile Orange Cheeked Waxbill ( Estrilda melpoda ). Notice the individual is still molting in orange patches, the bills is not yet fully orange, and there are visible remnants of characteristic gape patterns.

A juvenile Orange Cheeked Waxbill (Estrilda melpoda). Notice the individual is still molting in orange patches, the bills is not yet fully orange, and there are visible remnants of characteristic gape patterns.

Our overarching goal was to bring back specimens and DNA samples of several non-native species of finch for further analysis at the American Museum of Natural History.  Our first few days were spent honing in on flocks of our focal species.  Early morning mistnetting allowed us to survey different habitats to determine which species were present in a given location.

 

 

 The view over Laguna Cartagena National Wildlife Refuge at sunrise.

The view over Laguna Cartagena National Wildlife Refuge at sunrise.

During the first half of our trip, the majority of our work was conducted at two national wildlife refuges in southwest Puerto Rico: Laguna Cartagena (left) and Cabo Rojo. Both refuges feature a stunning variety of flora and fauna, and we heard reports of our focal species sighted on these grounds during the summer. Through several days of netting, we caught 4 waxbills and 3 bronze mannikins. We decided to relocate for the final half of our time in PR.
 

 Vials of ethanol to preserve tissue samples.

Vials of ethanol to preserve tissue samples.

During our last few days in Puerto Rico, we switched locations closer to La Parguera which was our home base during the trip.  Both sites were very close to each other: one is an agricultural research station and the other a large open pasture generally used for horse grazing. Upon arrival at the agricultural research station we spotted a mixed flock of Red Bishops and Orange Cheeked Waxbills, and began to determine the best orientation for net lanes.

These two sites proved wonderfully productive. During our final day of netting we had the assistance of a local avian researcher named Ive and were able to simultaneously run both locations and net an increased number of focal species.  Many thanks to the colleagues in NYC and Puerto Rico who made this first field trip a successful and enjoyable experience!

 While mistnetting at the agriculture research station in La Parguera we were excited to find this Blue Grosbeak ( Passerina caerulea ) in one of our nets!

While mistnetting at the agriculture research station in La Parguera we were excited to find this Blue Grosbeak (Passerina caerulea) in one of our nets!

Rob Crystal-OrnelasComment