29. elokuuta 2022


I just returned from a 5,800-mile road trip to the West Coast. I haven’t quite known how to describe this trip. I've made many long road trips previously to various parts of the country. Their overt purpose was typically to visit family and friends in far-flung locations. In all such travels (dating back to my enlistment on iNaturalist and earlier), I observed a lot of nature and took many pictures along the way--sometimes very casually, occasionally with an intense focus here or there. Those results are detectable on a map of my iNat uploads over the past several years.

But this most recent trip has been qualitatively and quantitatively different.

Once again, the nominal impetus was to visit our daughter (and a few other expat Texans) in Portland, Oregon. But during the planning stages for this trip ranging from Texas to the Pacific Northwest, it was evident that the recent wet monsoon conditions in southern Arizona elicited in me a desire for more than a casual drive through that particular region. More planning ("bio-planning"?) for the trip suggested that I ought to take the opportunity to visit not only southern Arizona, but also several habitats en route which either had been long-resident on my bucket list or which harkened back to childhood family vacations.

Putting that all into motion--literally--and maintaining a high energy level directed at garnering useful iNaturalist data lead to this...experience. After hundreds of miles of thinking about it, I finally settled on the following term: This has been a BioVac*. The word is a purposeful play on two concepts: (1) biological vacation, and (2) biological vacuuming (of observations, etc.).

The biodiversity of the western U.S. is overwhelming on any scale. I certainly can't call what I've done a "bioblitz". Although there were locations and moments when I tried to document just about any biota that presented itself, in no way were any of my efforts thorough enough to rise to the level of a "blitz" as we now apply the term. Rather, I made a point of targetting selected ecological regions and major habitat types and attempting to document a full suite of dominent or characteristic plants, along with any animals that presented themseleves. I brought along a boxful of field guides and floras, but as the travels progressed the primary companion guide for much of the trip was the classic Peterson Field Guide to Western Trees (Petrides & Petrides 1992, 1st ed.). With that tome in hand, I allowed myself to focus on two "guidepost" species groups: conifers and oaks. I had previously encountered most of the common species in these groups in many of the western states. So I poured over the Peterson Field Guide to help focus my attention and chart some special travel stopovers to look for regional endemics (within reasonable travel reach of my general path to/from Oregon) such as Brewer's (Weeping) Spruce, Bishop Pine, Coast Redwood, Giant Sequoia, and the many oaks of the Southwest. An additional reference that became indispensible during the course of my journey was @michaelkauffmann's Conifer Country. I knew I couldn't possibly encounter and document all of the potential species, but a reasonable effort along my selected route eventually compiled a very respectable list.

And beyond my guidepost species and habitats, I just "vacuumed up" whatever other biodiversity I could find!

So from seaweeds to saguaros, slime molds to spruce, Syssphynx to Sasquatch, everything was fair game. Of course, I focused (for the most part) on identifiable stuff (plants with flowers or fruits) but that didn't stop me from documenting an interesting plant here or there if the foliage seemed distinctive to me.

Oh, did I mention mothing? I tried to do some mothing at every camping stop. The travel routine to/from Oregon was typically two days camping to one night at a motel to recharge batteries and clean up. I put up lights and a moth sheet on ten camping nights from Arizona to Oregon and back. That is a lesson in biodiversity worthy of a separate journal entry.

So here are some handy links to gain an entry into the biodiversity I encountered and documented. I have over 6,000 images to sift through. Making a SWAG: I might guess that about 10% of those were scenery shots, another 15% will be culls (out of focus, etc.), so I might have garnered something like 4,500 images of plants and animals to edit and select from. Erring on the generous side, if I averaged 4 or 5 images per subject (especially for plants), I can make an initial guess that I made something like 900 to 1,100 observations. I certainly documented some species of plants and animals more than once, so if I averaged maybe 2 or 3 observations per species (probably less than that), I am looking at going through, identifying, editing, and uploading something like 300 to 400 species of plants and animals. Time will tell if that calculation is anywhere in the ballpark.

All of my West Coast August 2022 observations
Flowering Plants
My "Biota of the Klamath Mountain Geomorphic Province"
A Sampler of Plants in Del Norte County, California
My Seaweeds (Green, Red, and Brown Algae)

Texas observations
New Mexico observations
Arizona observations
California observations
Oregon observations

* I'm clearly not the first writer to coin the term "BioVac". A quick search of the internet reveals diverse corporations, products, and government programs around the world going under this moniker. So I will only claim this novel use of the term for my particular corner of the citizen science world.

Lähetetty 29. elokuuta 2022 15:46 käyttäjältä gcwarbler gcwarbler | 48 havaintoa | 7 kommenttia | Jätä kommentti

6. kesäkuuta 2022

Common Moth, Rare Caterpillar

It's probably not an unusual situation that the larvae of a common species of moth are poorly known and seldom documented. Despite the efforts of guru's like David L. Wagner and enthusiasts like @k8thegr8, a lot of caterpillars still elude us or remain unidentified.
Such seems to be the case of the Spotted Peppergrass Moth (Eustixia pupula, Crambidae; a.k.a. the "Peppergrass Pyralid").
Eustixia pupula_6166

I accidentally documented a couple of larvae of this species on the Texas coast in late May and only recently discovered what I had done:
Eustixia pupula_7384cropEustixia pupula_7383

I tell the story of that documentation in the notes with the first of these observations, but to recap: Between Moth Photographer's Group, BugGuide, iNaturalist, and a few other online resources, there are well over a thousand images of adults of the Spotted Peppergrass Moth...and yet my images of the caterpillar seems to be the first. I uploaded these to BugGuide a short while ago.
Dyar described the later instar larvae over 120 years ago:

I suspect there are any number of images of the larva of this species "out there" on iNaturalist and other venues but they have been overlooked or unidentified. I guess one could start seaching through unidentified Lepidoptera on iNaturalist to look for similar caterpillars, but that seems to be a very inefficient method. Observers have annotated the host plant (e.g., "Lepidium") on only a very small percentage of such images of caterpillars. Those annotations might point in the right direction, but such instances are unfortunately rare. There needs to be a more efficient way of searching through unidentified caterpillars once a search image for a species (to the human eye) can be established. I'm open to suggestions!

UPDATE: With hours after I posted the above images to BugGuide, the Balabans were able to uncover three additional observations of previously unidentified larvae from NY, NJ, an AL (2016-2021) which all appear to be various instars of Eustixia pupula:
And so, science marches on!

Lähetetty 6. kesäkuuta 2022 12:41 käyttäjältä gcwarbler gcwarbler | 2 kommenttia | Jätä kommentti

5. toukokuuta 2022

A Couple of Tricks for Moth Identification Using MPG

I spend a lot of time trying to identify moths—my own images and moth observations from other iNatters. Aside from the mass of observations already identified on iNaturalist, the most prominent online resource in my arsenal is Moth Photographers Group, maintained by the Mississippi Entomological Museum of Mississippi State University,
There are lots of resources to help with identifications on MPG, including the very useful “Try Walking Through The Moth Families”,
Walk Through Moth Families
I highly recommend that page as a starting point if you are not familiar with moth families, especially the micromoths. I come back to that index time and time again, even though I’ve been studying these darned things for over two decades.

But undoubtedly the majority of my time on MPG is spent combing through the main plates of moth images to try and find a match to the moth of interest. You’ll find two slightly different sets of these plates, both with the same large set of images. The traditional one uses the “Hodges Check List” numbering sequence:
MPG Plate Index

MPG has also arranged the thumbnail plates under the newer “Phylogenetic Sequence”, which uses the “Pohl numbers” from a more recent checklist of Lepidoptera of North America.
It doesn’t really matter which index plate set you use because eventually clicking on any moth thumbnail on MPG will take you to the same species page.

Once you’ve decided which set of moth family thumbnails to look through (from either of the above lists), you have a choice of going to a set of index pages (known as “plates” in MPG terminology) showing either “Collection Specimens” or “Living Moth Photographs” (see the above screen capture). The Collection Specimens have square thumbnail images of the left wings of mounted museum specimens. Anything that has been photographed and uploaded to MPG will be seen on that set, and I’d guess that includes maybe 50 to 70% of the micromoth species and >95% of the macromoths of North America. You’ll see small button links to L, M, and S pages, meaning large, medium, or small size pages. Most modern internet connections and speeds handily support the large format; choosing the “L” format gives you more species on a page and thus fewer thumbnail pages to wander through. Here’s a link to a typical page of Collection Specimen thumbnails and a screen capture of an example of the first line of thumbnails you might see on a typical page of Collection Specimens:
MPG Collection Specimens - Acontiinae
Note that an MPG “plate” for a given family or subfamily will usually have two to several “pages” of images (small numbered buttons just above the family header). Don’t forget to look through all of the pages before moving on to the next (or previous) plate.

The “Living Moth Photographs” are an alternative to the Collection Specimens and it’s tempting to go right to those pages since we are normally trying to identify an image of a live critter, but keep in mind a very important caveat: IF a moth species has NOT been photographed in the field (and the image made available to MPG), it WON’T be on the Living Moth index pages. And a great many moths, especially micromoths, don’t have live photos available, so using only the Living Moth index plates can lead to overlooked possibilities. Always check a potential ID against the Collection Specimen plates to look for similar species. Also, the Living Moth index plates have two options, Slow and Fast. The Slow set displays one line of images per species and often has multiple image for a given species—very useful! Here's a link and a screen capture for a typical Slow page of living moths:
MPG Living Moths - Slow
The Fast set offers only a single image per species, which of course can’t include all the variation within a species—and a reminder, these are only for species which have been photographed alive. Here's a link and a screen capture for a typical Fast page of living moths:
MPG Living Moths - Fast
Again, modern internet and wifi download speeds are such that in most areas, the Slow index plates, with their multiple examples, are very convenient and most useful.

Another fairly recent innovation on MPG which can be useful is the “View by Region”, which allows you to subset all the possible species to view only those for which MPG records are available in a given region of North America or a given state.
MPG Viewing Regions
Links on each side of the View by Region button take you to an explanation of these viewing options and the list of available subsets. But another important caveat: When you look at only a regional subset of all images, it ONLY displays those species for which the MPG database (and map) have an explicit record in that state or region. For common species that’s not a problem, but for uncommon species or something you might be looking for at the edge of its range, MPG may not have a state or regional record for the species—even though the species is illustrated on the full set of MPG plates—and the species won’t show up in your geographical subset. ALWAYS check the full array of species for all of North America if you can’t find a species match in the geographic subset you look through.

One final trick I employ when I really settle into a detailed image search involves the window setup on my desktop computer screen. These searches can involve a lot of clicking back and forth between windows and browser tabs. So I have an advantage with a large screen on my desktop Mac which allows me to set up a search like this:
CWS Screen Arrangement copy
In the above example, you can see that I have my browser open to the MPG Collection Specimen plate, but I also have tabs available back to the original iNat observation and to MPG Living Moths, and to BugGuide as well. To minimize having to click back and forth among tabs (e.g., to iNat), I have downloaded an image from the iNaturalist observation—in this case an unidentified moth from @jcochran706—opened the downloaded image in Preview, cropped the image closely, duplicated it, and rotated the two versions to give me standard MPG angles of view. I arrange the two versions of the image side by side with my browser page so that the visual comparison with either the left-wing museum specimens or the right-facing live moths (standard for MPG) are immediately comparable to the subject iNat moth. The ease of finding a match for a given image of a moth (or any critter) has a lot to do with visual perception and our brain’s pattern recognition abilities. Anything I can do to facilitate those visual and mental processes will make moth identification that much easier.

Easy-peasy, right?!

Acknowledgements: I must always thank Founder Bob Patterson, Editor in Chief Steve Nanz (@steve_nanz), and all the staff and volunteers (such as @krancmm, @blocky, etc.) working on MPG who make this incredible resource available.

p.s. The screen captures of the MPG site above are sourced from the website itself but individual images are copyrighted by the listed photographers.

Moth Photographers Group. 2022. http://mothphotographersgroup.msstate.edu. [accessed 5 May 2022].

Lähetetty 5. toukokuuta 2022 21:50 käyttäjältä gcwarbler gcwarbler | 2 kommenttia | Jätä kommentti

4. toukokuuta 2022

Earliest First-hand Field Photos on iNaturalist?

I was taking a look again at the earliest images that I've scanned and uploaded to iNaturalist. Those date from the late 1960s (see below). There are now thousands of earlier images of organisms on iNaturalist but the majority of them are images of museum specimens of plants, insects, mollusks, etc. So I began looking for the earliest images of organisms in the field, so to speak, using the simple filters on the Explore page.

I quickly had to qualify my search of old observations on iNaturalist. First, I summarily ruled out those museum specimens, and since I wouldn't expect to see photographic field evidence prior to 1900, I started my search at the beginning of the 20th Century. I also disregarded the unfortunate set of modern observations with erroneous observation dates (evident from high quality digital images dated to the 1900's, etc.).

I began to uncover a number of "observations" from secondary sources like images out of newspapers of beached whales, captured sharks, etc., and photos from published research papers. Those certainly provide "evidence" of an organism, but the dates are sometimes estimated or very approximate and the original "observer", i.e. the photographer, is rarely stated. These include such examples as a Pel's Pouched Bat from Niangara, Congo, presumably a captured specimen and dated May 27, 1913, documented in a Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History, and uploaded in 2014 by @jakob :

So I began combing through observations chronologically, looking for the earliest first-hand personal evidence of living or recently dead animals or plants.

There is a photo of a public gathering around a Great White Shark, presumably captured off the coast of Turkey in 1920, and uploaded in 2021 by @gorkialkan.

The earliest image of any animal which is not a captured or museum specimen seems to be the following beached Rorqual (Baleen whale) in Tampico, Mexico, dated February 4, 1922. @josecastaneda2 uploaded the image, stating that it is from the digital Historical Archives of Tampico.

The earliest first-person, non-photographic account of an organism seems to be W. C. Russell's notes on Yellow-bellied Marmots ("woodchucks") in Elko Co., Nevada, recorded in his field journal for July 13, 1935, and uploaded by @floydch in 2019:

And--drum roll, please--the earliest first-hand, field photo on iNaturalist of a living organism seems to be this Koala documented in Victoria, Australia on December 31, 1935. https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/77862210
I've left a message for @nimzee, who uploaded the image in 2021, for more details on the photographer, etc. It does not appear to be a commercial or secondary source image, so I'll look forward to learning more about its provenance.

The earliest observations of any plant uploaded to iNaturalist are apparently some European Larch trees in the background of a set of family ski vacation images in the French Alps, taken by L. Hunault in January 1936, and uploaded in 2021 by @mercantour.

It gets a little difficult when trying to pin down the earliest first-hand, first-person photos of an organism, since it isn't often clearly stated that the iNaturalist/uploader was the person who took the image. But there are some likely candidates.
In 2020, @hoaryherper uploaded a couple of herp pics from his childhood. The earliest is one he took of a Blue Racer grabbed by his friend John Evans on June 20, 1949 in Ohio:
@hoaryherper also uploaded an image of himself (taken by John Evans) with a captured Prairie Kingsnake in Pennington Co., South Dakota from June 21, 1955:

@blastcat uploaded a couple pictures of recently-caught fish at Chincoteague, Virginia in June 1955. These are akin to the above documentation of a Great White Shark but these are family photos, in the first instance taken by his grandfather:
Red Drum: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/106281440
Billfishes: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/106281439

My late pal Greg Lasley got minimal documentation with his dad's Bell and Howell movie camera of an Eastern Cottontail in Shillington, Pennsylvania, on/about September 19, 1962, during a family trip:
And just 10 days later, about Septermber 29, 1962, found himself with his family in La Rochelle, France, using the same camera to document a Gray Heron:

My own earliest personal upload of a first-hand field image dates from May 1969, a butterfly photographed in Taiwan with my first new SLR camera, a trusty Minolta SRT-101:

So I offer a challenge for anyone to mine the iNaturalist database of images to find earlier personal, first-hand, field observations. What can you find?

Lähetetty 4. toukokuuta 2022 22:05 käyttäjältä gcwarbler gcwarbler | 10 kommenttia | Jätä kommentti

30. huhtikuuta 2022

Surprise first-day leading species for Austin's City Nature Challenge

I just glanced at the project page for Austin's City Nature Challenge 2022 and was tickled when I saw the leading species for the first day of the event: Rain Lily!

CNC 2022 Austin 0429

Just like 95% of Texas, much of the Austin area is in moderate to exceptional drought, although the region is split about half and half in and out of the drought areas:

Drought Monitor map Texas 20220426

It was only a brief passing storm system last Monday that prompted the appearance of the rain lilies ... but we'll take 'em!

Lähetetty 30. huhtikuuta 2022 14:52 käyttäjältä gcwarbler gcwarbler | 1 kommentti | Jätä kommentti

14. huhtikuuta 2022

Digital Archives of Scientific Literature

During a recent bioblitz at the Timberlake Biological Field Station, some of us were discussing how to access older scientific literature which might be available in digital form online. I'll have more to say in a follow-up post about my favorite archive, the Biodiversity Heritage Library,
but I thought I'd take a moment to list some other potential online archives which may be useful. Here are some I've discovered. There certainly may be others:

Google Scholar
A good starting place. The results might link to free pdf downloads, pay sites, or only literature citations without digital access, but it's pretty thorough--often too thorough, bringing up distantly related or unrelated titles. You can test it by searching for your favorite plant or animal like "Calyptocarpus vialis", "Jalisco Petrophila", or even a location like "Timberlake Biological Field Station".

JSTOR (a part of ITHAKA)
Accessing articles through their front-end search engine may involve some cost, but JSTOR downloads are available for free through many/most academic institutions (such as University of Texas, Austin Community College, etc.) and even Austin Public Library (with a library card).

The Hathi Trust Digital Library

PubMed Central
Less focused on natural history, per se, but includes many relevant journals. Their Full-Text Archive Search can bring up some surprisingly useful results:

SORA (Searchable Ornithological Research Archive)
A great resource for searching journals like The Auk, Condor, Wilson Bulletin, and a growing list of other bird-oriented publications.

Please feel free to add links to useful resources you are aware of.

Lähetetty 14. huhtikuuta 2022 15:19 käyttäjältä gcwarbler gcwarbler | 3 kommenttia | Jätä kommentti

3. maaliskuuta 2022

Struggling With Straggler

February 2022 finally broke my string of months with at least one upload of blooming Straggler Daisy (Calyptocarpus vialis), a string that dated back to March 2020. With a couple of hard freezes at the beginning and end of this February, the species never had enough growing “season” in CenTex to put out flowers. There were five observations of Straggler Daisy uploaded in the Greater Austin Metro Area during the month, but none of them show evidence of blooming:
Across the state, there were a few observations of blooming Straggler Daisy in the first few days of February, particulary in Laredo, the LRGV, and on the coast, but including one in the DFW area on February 1 as a hard freeze set in:
I should have gotten out in my neighborhood on February 1 as well and might have kept my string alive. No one documented flowers on the species again in Texas until February 22 on the coast at Corpus Christi:
I failed to find flowers on any Straggler Daisy on a 4-mile walk in the neighborhood today (March 3).

Lähetetty 3. maaliskuuta 2022 22:06 käyttäjältä gcwarbler gcwarbler | 1 kommentti | Jätä kommentti

1. maaliskuuta 2022

Way Back Recap: June 2021 Panhandle Excursion

When I go on a targeted iNaturalist trip, whether with a group or on my own, my focus on Nature is pretty intense. But I’ve wondered occasionally how this compares to other people’s experience and outcomes. Just this morning (March 1, 2022) I’ve completed the uploads from a rather grueling six day journey last June to the Texas Panhandle. (Other trips and obligations delayed these uploads.) So I’ve compiled some overall stats from the trip, as follows.

Over the six days and five nights of the trip, I made stops at eight target destinations:

— Timberlake Biol. Station (Mills Co.) with other iNaturalists
— Lake Meredith NRA (Moore/Floyd Co.)
— Rita Blanca Lake (Dalhart, Hartley Co.)
— Rita Blanca Nat. Grassland (Dallam Co.)
— Palo Duro Res. (Hansford Co.)
— McClellan Creek Nat. Grassland (Gray Co.)
— Caprock Canyon SP (Briscoe Co.)
— E.V. Spence Res. (Coke Co.)

There were other miscellaneous roadside stops and observations most days. Most of my focus was botanical, trying to learn new plants in the South Plains and Panhandle, but of course I tried to document any critters I encountered that would sit for a photograph. I made concerted mothing efforts at three of the locations (Timberlake, Rita Blanca NG, and E.V. Spence Res.).

I got home with a little over 2,200 photos, out of which I eventually created 707 observations of 431 taxa of plants and animals (according to iNat’s accounting). Excluding two days which were primarily long travel days, my uploads amounted to 652 observations from 4 primary field days, thus averaging 163 observations/day on those intense days (range 116 - 181).

Here is a link to the full set of observations over the six days of the trip. It includes a small number of moths that I'd documented at home early on the first morning before I hit the road.
And here are links to my observations for the counties of some of the above destinations:
Mills Co.: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations?d1=2021-06-12&d2=2021-06-17&order=asc&order_by=observed_on&place_id=1714&user_id=gcwarbler&verifiable=any
Moore Co.: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations?d1=2021-06-12&d2=2021-06-17&order=asc&order_by=observed_on&place_id=888&user_id=gcwarbler&verifiable=any
Hartley County: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations?d1=2021-06-12&d2=2021-06-17&order=asc&order_by=observed_on&place_id=1551&subview=table&user_id=gcwarbler&verifiable=any
Dallam Co.: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations?d1=2021-06-12&d2=2021-06-17&order=asc&order_by=observed_on&place_id=807&user_id=gcwarbler&verifiable=any
Hansford Co.: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations?d1=2021-06-12&d2=2021-06-17&order=asc&order_by=observed_on&place_id=2777&user_id=gcwarbler&verifiable=any
Gray Co.: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations?d1=2021-06-12&d2=2021-06-17&order=asc&order_by=observed_on&place_id=814&user_id=gcwarbler&verifiable=any
Briscoe Co.: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations?d1=2021-06-12&d2=2021-06-17&order=asc&order_by=observed_on&place_id=801&user_id=gcwarbler&verifiable=any
Coke Co.: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations?d1=2021-06-12&d2=2021-06-17&order=asc&order_by=observed_on&place_id=1770&user_id=gcwarbler&verifiable=any

So how does that compare to field days for you? I seem to recall that during one of the first City Nature Challenges I participated in for the Austin area—a five-day event at the time—I was uploading something on the order of 150 to 200 observations per day (you could check me on that). So this Panhandle trip was a roughly equivalent effort. That early CNC effort was exhausting. This Panhandle trip was steady and there was a lot of travel involved so the changes in location were as much responsible for the high number of observations as the diversity of plants and animals, per se.

I love taking these iNat trips. For me, documenting so many plants and animals cements in my memory the broader, diverse landscapes that I encounter during each journey. Among those thousands of photos, I do include any number of general “habitat” shots, but the encounters with this plant or that critter offer hundreds of “defining moments” that I can think back on. The trips and the subsequent research to identify all the plants and animals deepen the learning experiences. They are overt evidence of my old adage, “Travel is taxonomically broadening.”

Lähetetty 1. maaliskuuta 2022 17:29 käyttäjältä gcwarbler gcwarbler | 8 kommenttia | Jätä kommentti

18. helmikuuta 2022

Guatemala Recap

Well, it took me a little over a month, but I've finally edited and uploaded the last of my images from our Guatemala journey in early January. Here's the whole set:
These are the product of sorting through about 1700 photos to compile just under 500 observations. By iNat's calculation, the effort documented about 343 species of plants and animals, but I'm not sure how that total is calculated for my Observations page. There is still a fairly large set of my observations left at genus, subfamily, family, or higher levels of classification. In many cases, of course, some plants and animals won't be ID-able better than genus or so, but that still leaves a lot that I haven't pinned down. If anyone has a desire to delve into those groups needing more work, here are some subsets of my observations that could use some help:

Flowering plants IDed no lower than tribe (currently 17 observations):

Insects with an ID no finer than tribe (about 84 observations; mostly moths, see next):

Moths IDed no finer than tribe (about 53 observations):

For a country with such incredibly rich biological diversity, Guatemala is in dire need of additional attention to document this diversity. My meager efforts on a 12-day visit now place me among the top dozen in observations and species out of some 3,000 iNat observers in Guatemala (local and visitors). To date, this most populous country of seven Central American nations has the 2nd lowest iNaturalist observer density (in terms of both population and area), 2nd lowest number of observations per 1000 sq. km. and the lowest number of observations per iNaturalist observer. There are obviously some difficult and complex socio-economic issues behind such numbers and I am in no position to analyze this further. That said, I have been encouraged by some of my Guatemalan friends to solicit further attention to this biological wonderland. I am certain I will be making a return visit to Guatemala in the not-too-distant future.

Lähetetty 18. helmikuuta 2022 15:21 käyttäjältä gcwarbler gcwarbler | 16 havaintoa | 3 kommenttia | Jätä kommentti

16. tammikuuta 2022

Back From Guatemala

My wife and I enjoyed a relatively quick (12-day) getaway to Guatemala for a birding trip. Traveling, flying, or just being in public places in this continuing pandemic is particularly stressful, but we were traveling with a trusted group of Covid-vaccinated and tested friends and excellent local guides with a well-established itinerary. Aside from the two long and uncomfortable travel days (airports, planes, etc.), touring in Guatemala was very exciting and pleasurable.

Arranged through JB Journeys, our local guides were the incomparable (and surprisingly young) John Cahill and Josue de León L. Part of our stay was at the Community Cloud Forest Conservation (CCFC) in the highlands of central Guatemala, hosted by John’s parents, Rob and Tara Cahill. All of these folks are superb birders and naturalists. The work being done at CCFC is particularly inspiring; see the link below to their website for full details of their important efforts. One afternoon, I got a picture of John, Rob, Josue, and visiting friend Moises Rodriguez, who collectively constitute 4 of the 5 top eBirders in the country!
My first upload from the trip is appropriately emblematic of the country and the journey:
We saw two male Quetzals in beautiful cloud forest habitat. I ended up with a bird list of over 300 species, including at least 27 Life Birds. That latter number may be supplemented by some "heard only" species--some glimpsed briefly--that were new to me.

Perhaps most thrilling for me were a few encounters with over-wintering Golden-cheeked Warblers in cloud forest and humid pine-oak habitat in the highlands. In very real ways, those brief sightings rounded out my life-long studies and work with the Golden-cheeked Warbler. I certainly hope to spend more time with GCWAs on their winter range, but now their full life history story has so much more meaning to me personally, bringing it “full-circle” in an ecological sense. John even took us birding in the hills above the village of Tactic, presumably close to the spot where the Golden-cheeked was originally discovered by Osbert Salvin in 1859. We saw one of our Golden-cheeked Warblers close at hand, foraging in oaks in those hills. That gave me chills just thinking about the history involved in all of that.

I will have hundreds of iNat uploads of plants, insects, and a few more birds over the next several days and weeks. Stay tuned! Here are a some relevant links to information on the tour company, guides, and other Guatemalan information:
https://www.jbjourneys.com (our U.S.-based tour company)
https://xikanel.com (John Cahill’s tour company)
https://cloudforestconservation.org (CCFC; hosted by Rob and Tara Cahill)
https://www.hotelatitlan.com (4-star hotel for our first two nights)
http://www.hposadaquetzal.com (2 night’s stay in cloud forest)
http://www.tikalnationalpark.org (our last 2 days and nights. It’s Tikal; what more can I say!)
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations?place_id=6940 (all iNaturalist observations for Guatemala)
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations?place_id=6940&user_id=gcwarbler&verifiable=any (my Guatemala sightings—keep checking back)

Lähetetty 16. tammikuuta 2022 17:33 käyttäjältä gcwarbler gcwarbler | 25 havaintoa | 10 kommenttia | Jätä kommentti