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The Tennessee Ornithological Society provided matching funds for this project to receive five pairs of binoculars.  TOS is developing a partnership with the Hispaniolan Ornithological Society in the D.R. formally known as the Anna Belle Dod Bird Club.  The collaboration includes the University of Missouri and Vermont Institute of Natural Science.  Latta and Rimmer will direct this research but Dominican biologists and trainees will be responsible for all work at these sites.  These biologists and trainees will use binoculars donated through the Optics for the Tropics program.

The Dominican Republic harbors a large percentage of the wintering populations of many North American breeding birds.  For example, at least 17 species of North American wood warblers winter in significant numbers in the country, including a large proportion of the world’s population of Black-throated Blue Warbler, Cape May Warbler, Prairie Warbler, Palm Warbler, and Northern Parula.  The most striking example of the dependence of a North American breeding species on Dominican habitat is the Bicknell’s Thrush.  Breeding only in high-elevation forests of northeastern US and adjacent portions of Canada, this bird winters almost exclusively in mountain forests of the Dominican Republic, indicating that its future survival hinges largely on the protection of wintering habitat in this country.

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Endemic birds in the Dominican Republic

Principal Investigator: Julio E. Féliz R.

Jim Wiley with the Maryland Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit is known for his long-time work in the Caribbean.  Jim identified a need on this project and hand-carried one pair of binoculars to Sr. Féliz principal investigator this research project in the Dominican Republic.

Julio Féliz, a resident of Barahona, southwestern Dominican Republic, has been passionate about birds throughout his life.  His passion has carried him into some of the most remote areas of that part of the Dominican Republic, including the heights of the Sierra de Bahurco down to the below-sea-level shores of Lago Enriquillo.

With his growing reputation of being able to locate some of the most elusive of the Dominican Republic’s endemic birds, Julio was often contacted to lead individuals or groups in search of rare resident birds.  Those contacts have allowed him to visit some of the best birding spots in the country, because he does not have a personal vehicle and public transportation is limited.

Julio is working on a publication describing the endemic bird species of southwestern Dominican Republic.  He is reluctant, however, to produce written reports, because he considers himself an untrained biologist.  Even working without optics, Julio still has gathered some important and hopefully will be reported in the future.  Since receiving the pair of binoculars and spotting ‘scope from Optics for the Tropics, Julio’s enthusiasm and abilities have only increased.  Certainly, his improved field abilities will produce additional information for the better understanding of bird distribution and help in development of conservation strategies for native species of birds.

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International Crane Foundation Cuba Expedition

February 4-16, 2002

Since 1995,  International Crane Foundation has been supporting work in Cuba and it’s neighboring Isle of Youth to study the Cuban Sandhill Crane, an endangered subspecies or our beloved Sandhill Crane.


In the early 1950’s, an American dentist from Michigan by the name of Dr. Lawrence Wilkenshaw was the first to study the Cuban Sandhill Cranes. His work focused on the Isle of Youth population and he documented such behaviors as nesting and habitat use.  However, following the 1959 Cuban Revolution, little was heard about the birds until the early 1990’s when ICF partnered with a remarkable woman by the name of Xiomara Galvez, whose original work focused on the endangered and endemic Cuban Parrot.  In 1995, Xiomara and ICF’s co-founder, George Archibald met for the first time and spent a considerable amount of time putting plans together for collaborative studies of la grulla Cubana.

In that same year, Xiomara took the first step towards organizing the crane program in Cuba, she organized a national survey to be distributed to many contacts throughout the country.  Reports arrived that cranes survived in seven areas of the country.  As a result of the survey, ICF sponsored its first ever expedition to Cuba.  George Archibald and Sam Evans, an ICF Trustee, traveled to Cuba to do aerial surveys.  The surveys confirmed the presence of the birds.

Since then, ICF, has financially supported Xiomara and her field crew’s activities, particularly on the Isle of Youth, which hosts the largest population of the Sandhills and is the site of Xiomara’s PhD fieldwork. In 1996, 1997, 98, 99, 01 and 02, ICF has sponsored expeditions to Cuba for educators, biologists, fire ecologists, GIS specialists, veterinarians and photographers to exchange information and experiences and, just as importantly, to celebrate the cranes with the Cuban people.

Current Events

In February 2002, a team of 5 Americans traveled to Cuba to be part of an education-focused expedition.  The goals of the 2002 expedition were to:

  • Disseminate information about ICF to American and Cuban educators and students, and to empower them to carry on or continue this mission in their classrooms and communities.
  • Actively participate in Cuban Crane Festival activities while interacting with and supporting Cuban educators, biologists, and professionals.
  • Develop activities, educational programs and resources focusing on crane ecology and conservation.  Cranes will be used as a tool to build international relationships and cooperation to teach and empower Cuban and American students to become involved in a common conservation goal.
  • Plan and implement student and teacher workshops to take place in Cuba.
  • Participate in an international art exchange between American school children and Cuban school children, engaging both Cuban and American students in the arts and natural sciences.


In order to accomplish the goals of the project, ICF has partnered with individuals and organizations that share a common conservation goal.  Optics for the Tropics, Inc. was one such organization that so generously donated five pairs of binoculars to our expedition.  Many Cuban biologists, who not only participate in field research but also community-wide environmental education, do not possess the necessary equipment to continue to grow in their field of interests or to share the world of nature with others.  For example, Eliser Socarras Torres, a bird guide and educator near Moron, Ciego de Avila province, lacked a pair of binoculars.  Likewise, biologists studying crane ecology on the Isle of Youth lack the optical equipment that would make their work more efficient.  During our expedition, the five OFT sponsored binoculars were presented to Eliser and four other bird specialists to assist in their work and continue ICF’s partnership on behalf of the Cuban Sandhill Crane.  The biologists will use the equipment to collect information on the cranes, their movements, their habitat use, territory delineations, and other important life cycle data.  Likewise, the biologists will utilize the equipment to study and observe other birds as well.  As John Muir pointed out, when we tug on one thing in the universe, we are reminded that all things are connected.

The smiles and gratitude of the biologists receiving these generous gifts more than tell the story of how this optical equipment will be used, and how well the equipment performed.  On behalf of the International Crane Foundation and all of our Cuban colleagues, I would like to thank Optics for the Tropics.  With your help, we have touched the lives of our Cuban friends, and have continued to promote friendship and goodwill between the two countries.  After all, one does not need to seek new travels in life, but rather new eyes…

Muchas gracias, Optics for the Tropics.

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Project Chicamocha

The conservation of two Critically Endangered dry forest birds; Niceforo’s Wren and Chestnut-bellied Hummingbird

Principal Investigators: Jorge Parra & Nicolas Davila

The birds from Colombia are seriously threatened, mainly by habitat destruction.  Little is known about the food requirements, specific behavior, area of occupancy and other ecological characteristics of many threatened species.  The aim of this project is to study ecological, ethnological, and phylogenetic aspects of some seriously threatened hummingbirds, in terms of conservation priorities in our country.  Localities with recent records will be visited during dry and rainy stations, to identify the food and habitat requirements and to make observations of breeding behavior.  New information on each species will be contributed, which will help channel funds towards the conservation of the appropriate threatened habitats.  Also, blood samples and a few of tissue samples will be collected to sequence mitochondrial and nuclear DNA to clarify the taxonomic status of two of the birds in this project.

Corporación Sentido Natural wants to focus this project in the study of the three hummingbirds endangered and endemic from Colombia.  the Blossomcrown Anthocephala floriceps (VU), the Santa Marta Sabrewing Campylopterus phainopeplus (EN), and the Sapphire-bellied Hummingbird Lepidopyga lilliae (CR), are the priority of this study.  The Blossomcrown includes two subspecies separated by two mountain systems approximately separated by 500 Km of distance; possibly each subspecies corresponds to different species, which would correspond to the necessity to protect both habitats of the actual subspecies.  On the other hand the Sapphire-bellied Hummingbird Lepidopyga lilliae probably corresponds to a hybrid between the Sapphire-throated Hummingbird L. coelogularis and Shining-green Hummingbird L. goudoti . The Santa Marta Sabrewing, does not have taxonomic problems, but as the two above birds, their ecological and habitat requirements are little known.

The study area corresponds to three important ecosystems in Colombia.  The National and Natural Park Island Salamanca and Ciénaga Grande de Santa Marta, north of Colombia (to study the Sapphire-bellied Hummingbird); southeast and north of Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta: Cuchilla San lorenzo and San José (to study Santa Marta Sabrewing and the subspecies floriceps of the Blossomcrown); and the oriental slope of Central Cordillera and surroundings of volcano Tolima (to study the subspecies berlepschi of the Blossomcrown).

The new knowledge and data will be important to determine the habitat preferences and threats of this hummingbirds, therefore this project will reforce the conservation frame and lineaments of the candidate areas to protect birds (AICAS in spanish), or the existing areas as National and Natural Parks.  In the same way, the genetic results would clarify current doubt with these birds, and for the future the results could be used with SIG tools to look for more important areas and to delimit the extent of occurrence or furthermore area of occupancy of the hummingbirds.  We hope that the local communities will participate, to share knowledge and solutions to the conservation of the hummingbirds and other fauna of interest, and of the habitat as the main goal.  In addition of this study, records and observations of other birds will enrich much more the ornithological knowledge in Colombia.

What Do You Do?

Right now we are working in a project which objective is to generate an inventory of (my focus) avifauna in Southwestern Natural National Park Cocuy, an area little known.  The project also includes an inventory of ants, plants as Melastomataceae and Rubiaceae.  We pretend to give novel information that will benefit the conservation of this important ecological area.

Also “Sentido Natural“ is supporting a project of nocturnal austral migratory birds, which pretend to determine the main routes, a subject little known in austral birds.  For more information of this project you may contact: Jen Johnson at:

Partial Migration in Central and S. America

I propose to study the behavioral ecology of partial migratory birds in South America, which has one of the highest incidences of partial migration in any major avian migration system.  South America’s migrants breed within the continent’s south-temperate latitudes (e.g., Argentina) and migrate north towards and into the Neotropics (e.g., Bolivia) to over-winter.  Comprised of over 200 species, this is the major avian migratory system in the Southern Hemisphere.

A better understanding of the ecological and behavioral processed behind partial migratory patterns of these birds will provide clues on how and why these species move between ecosystems seasonally, ultimately permitting more informed conservation planning for migratory birds in these regions. The dry forest habitats in which this research will unfold are the most threatened in the Neotropics, such that results of this research will not only offer a better understanding of how losses of these ecosystems may affect migratory bird species, but by providing information on how these migrant species use these habitats throughout the annual cycle, will lend an increased scientifically-generated basis to the case to preserve these unique habitats.

Research will be conducted in eastern Bolivian savanna and woodland habitat, where many partial migratory species both breed and winter, depending on the population.  Collaborators in Argentina will collect data on the same species on their breeding grounds.

2 Bolivian biology thesis students and 2 field assistants will be accompanying me in Bolivia.  I will also have 2 collaborators in Argentina, who will be simultaneously collecting similar data in Argentina on the same species, since many species breed in Argentina and winter in Bolivia.

Project Chicamocha – Columbia

Niceforo´s wren and Chestnut-bellied hummingbird are both Critically Endangered species, endemic to the dry valleys of the Eastern Cordillera of Colombia.  Although extremely poorly known, their current distributions are likely to be highly restricted and their remaining forest habitats are under intense anthropogenic pressure.  In order to develop an urgently needed and effective conservation strategy for these two species, this student initiative aims to establish their current status through: accurate determination of their distributions; identification of their principal habitat and resource requirements; clear delineation of current threats; and the collection of relevant data in order to clarify both species taxonomic status.

Our team of student fieldworkers will determine the major threats to these species and their habitats and what people know about them through informal interviews.  Quantitative surveys (line transects, mist-netting, plot grid) will be undertaken to asses population dynamics and where possible individuals will be caught using mist nets for marking and collecting relevant data to assess species taxonomic status.  Detailed ecological studies (habitat characterization, breeding biology, diet and movements) will be carried out at two study areas.  During fieldwork, data on other bird species will be collected to identify Important Bird Areas.

This project will produce vital information on the population status and distribution of these two species, as well as conservation activities and environmental education aimed to awake the ecological awareness in the local community.


Jorge Parra & Nicolas Davila
Departamento de Biología, Facultad de Ciencias
Universidad de Los Andes Bogotá D. C., Colombia
Dirección: Calle 71 A # 89 – 77 Apt: 212 Bogotá

Teléfono: + 57 – 1 – 2243129
Fax: + 57 – 1 – 3348553


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Community Project “Friends of the Birds”

Principal Investigator: Ernesto Reyes Mauriño

The Sierra de Nipe harbors a high diversity of bird species in varied ecosystems, approximately 30% of the birds of Cuba. A proposal is under way to give the area status as an Important Bird Area. The creation of a community-based project to instill knowledge about the birds in the local residents is crucial to the success of conserving these bird populations.

This program works to link the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment’s Mountain Research Station with the community, by means of an environmental education program. The objective is to increase the community’s knowledge of birds and local ecology and instill new behavior patterns toward nature. Sensitizing the residents of Mensura Dos, in the Sierra de Nipe to the local ecology, will allow them to propose solutions to current ecological problems that threaten the birds. Understanding the principles of sustainable development will lead to the rational use, conservation and protection of the environment.

The observation of birds on the Sabina Nature Trail and areas surrounding the community during periods of residence and migration will allow the creation of a database that will express to the community in charts and graphs the result of their knowledge. The trips will allow community members to detect environmental problems that affect the birds and will promote the discussion of points of view, opinions and ideas to propose solutions. The development of attitudes toward the birds and nature will be expressed by means of literary compositions, drawings, paintings, posters, etc., where participants reflect their vision of the birds and their environment.

The change of local residents’ attitudes regarding their environment and the formation of the club “Friends of the Ave” will begin conservation initiatives for 189 hectares of habitats in the Park Garden of the Pinegrove, belonging to the Mountain Station of Integral Investigations in Sierra de Nipe, the oriental region of Cuba.

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Migratory Birds and Forest Conservation in Western Cuba

Principal Investigator: Alina Perez (Recipient of the Association of Field Ornithologists’ 2001 Bergstrom Award.)

The unique location of the Guanahacabibes Peninsula Biosphere Reserve is one of the reasons for its importance to neotropical migratory land birds (and migrating butterflies!).  The peninsula is located at the extreme southwestern tip of Cuba and seems to function as a “funnel” for migratory birds moving to and from the Yucatan Peninsula. Its pristine habitats are important for millions of migrant songbirds that feed and rest in its forests twice a year during spring and fall migration.  Located half way between Florida and Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, Guanahacabibes is a “rest stop” or “stepping stone” of favorable habitat for many birds on their long, migratory voyage.

Alina Perez’s work has shown that at least 22 species of migratory warblers rest and forage in large numbers within the lush vegetation of Guanahacabibes during migration. Guanahacabibes Peninsula is of great importance to the conservation of the many N. American migrants that choose this eastern migration route.  Irrespective of the political situation in Cuba, the fact remains that many birds we enjoy seeing in our local wood lots or backyards depend on the conservation of forested habitat in Cuba during their biannual migration.

Alina’s research includes continuous monitoring of resident and migratory birds, and investigating the effects of various land management practices on their occurrence.  She also studies the behavior of birds at Guanahacabibes during migration, and helps educate the local communities to appreciate and protect their natural resources.  There are other projects planned to study the effects of various management strategies and sustainable forestry practices.  Also there is a need to develop a sustainable ecotourism program that would allow visitors to enjoy the reserve and would give the local residents an incentive to protect it.

Binoculars and other equipment are greatly needed for the success of these conservation projects at Guanahacabibes.  You can help make this possible by making a donation to Optics for the Tropics.

If you are part of a bird club or other group that would like to consider helping the Guanahacabibes Reserve through a “sister” relationship,  please contact the Gulf Coast Bird Observatory 979-480-0999 or

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Park Flight International

Principal Investigator: Carol Beidleman

Park Flight international interns reunite with biologists from the United States at a workshop in Honduras to coordinate migratory bird monitoring programs across the hemisphere. Pictured from left to right are Alexis Cerezo (Guatemala) with Rachel Mazur (Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks); Belkys Jimenez (Panama) with David Mizrahi (New Jersey Audubon Society; missing is Phil Correll, New Jersey Coastal Heritage Trail Route); and Edgar Castañeda (Nicaragua) with Bob Kuntz (North Cascades National Park). The interns are wearing new Eagle Optics binoculars donated at the workshop to each Mesoamerican country’s Park Flight grantees through the Optics for the Tropics program.

The Park Flight Migratory Bird Program works to protect shared migratory bird species and their habitats in both U.S. and Mesoamerican national parks and protected areas through developing conservation and education projects and a program of technical exchange, including international internships. These internships, where Mesoamerican biologists assist with Park Flight projects in U.S. national parks, provide an opportunity for technical and cultural exchange and enhance opportunities for collaboration on migratory bird conservation. Said Alexis Cerezo of his experience in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, where he spent ten weeks banding birds, conducting back-country monitoring, and giving interpretive programs, “It was the most beautiful place I had ever seen in my life.

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Harpy Eagle Conservation Program in Ecuador

Principal Investigator: Ruth Muñiz-López

A Harpy Eagle nest with young.

Since the year 2000 we are developing in Ecuador an intensive program to project the Harpy Eagle ( Harpia harpyja ) and their habitat. The area where the program is being developed belongs to indigenous communities at the East of the country, and Afro Ecuadorian communities at the west. Five nests were monitored by now in the Ecuadorian Amazon Basin, but this year was discovered one Harpy Eagle nest with a juvenile at the endangered forest at the West of the Andean Mountains, the first one known in South America. This nest is the most southern report for the distribution of this species at the West of the Andean Mountains. We are monitoring East and West nests collecting data about the develop of the juveniles, behavior, diet, habitat characterization, interactions between parents and juvenile and inter-specific interactions. Actually, the GIS tool is starting to be used to join and interpret all the data. Aside from that, a training program for local people was developed to include the work of indigenous or native people collecting data and caring for the nests. Moreover, they are the main source of information when we have news about new nests. The next step is to tag the Western juvenile with a VHF transmitter to look for its dispersion movements. To do that, observations have to be very carefully collected and the use of a good optical equipment is required. Optics for the Tropics allowed us to leave with native people the instruments to do that observations. Besides that, one new eaglet was born in the Ecuadorian Amazon Basin and we started the monitoring there. Indigenous people, biology students and the researcher are collecting data about this first step in the develop of a Harpy Eagle and new information is being given about this relatively unknown species.

All this work aloud indigenous and native people to use the maintenance of their natural resources like an alternative source of develop. Logging activities, invasions of new people to extract these resources and oil companies offer economic increase for these communities, most of the times with no respect for cultures or biodiversity richness.

Ruth Muñiz-López
Programa de Conservación Águila Harpía en Ecuador (PCAHE)
SIMBIOE (Sociedad para la Investigación y Monitoreo de la Biodiversidad Ecuatoriana)

Looking up from the ground.
A working group of Ecuadorian people.
Taking notes in the tower.
Looking east from the tower.
Group photo in the tower.
Looking west.
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Bicknell’s Thrush Survey at Parc National Pic Macaya in Haiti

Principal Investigator: Chris Rimmer

Five pairs of Optics for the Tropics binoculars made their way to the remote Macaya mountain range of southwest Haiti during February of 2004.  Led by the Societe Audubon d’Haiti and the Vermont Institute of Natural Science, the 8-day field expedition combined ornithological exploration and training of Haitian biologists and park rangers.  Using a combination of mist-netting, point counts, and general observations, the team worked at two sites, one in mesic karst limestone forest at 1200 m elevation, the second in wet montane forest at 1900 m elevation.  Goals were to survey the avifauna of this national park, to search specifically for Bicknell’s Thrush, to assess habitat threats, and to develop specific conservation recommendations.  The trip was a great success on all fronts, as the team recorded 36 species (9 North American migrant species and 27 resident species, of which 10 were Hispaniolan endemics), mist-netted 234 individuals, and confirmed the presence of wintering Bicknell’s Thrush (the first documentation of this species in Haiti ).  We located 14 thrushes and managed to mist net and band 13 of these.  In addition, we mist-netted 5 Swainson’s Warblers, a species previously unrecorded in Haiti .  The 5 pairs of OFTT binoculars were well-used by our Haitian counterparts, whom we trained in all aspects of our field work, particularly mist-netting and banding.  Whenever possible, we relayed information on bird identification and biology, and several participants regularly practiced techniques of bird handling and mist net extraction.  While there are some very real and disturbing threats to forested habitats of Parc National Pic Macaya, we believe that our trip can serve as a catalyst for meaningful conservation of this important region.

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Nectarivorous birds in the pollination network of the upper montane forest of the Andes.

April 10, 2014
Ms. Joni Ellis
Optics for the Tropics

Dear Ms. Joni:

I am writing to say thank you very much for your support to my project. The binoculars that Optics for the Tropics provided me were used and are still being used for students and volunteers of one of the poorest regions in Peru; they are learning how to identify birds and are motivated in getting deep into environmental sciences.

The photographic report attached here shows myself and these local students and volunteers in different locations in Huanuco, Peru; using Optic for the Tropic’s binoculars. Detail on my research is found in my web page: as you can see in the acknowledgements, I recognized Optic for the Tropics for your sponsorship in my project.

Feel free to contact me for more details on the research that I am still working on in Peru.

Best regards,

Oscar Gonzalez

PhD . Candidate
University of Florida
Phone (Until May 1, 2014):