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.