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Mist Netting to Assess Avian Occupancy at Siempre Verde
Posted 07/22/2016 08:41AM

by Cody Cox '07

As a Lovett alumnus (’07) currently conducting my PhD research on the effects of forest fragmentation on tropical birds in Costa Rica, I leapt at the opportunity to visit Siempre Verde and help with bird-related research at the campus. I stayed at Siempre Verde for a week in June, where I was able to interact with students from Lovett’s summer tropical ecology course and conduct some research alongside Siempre Verde station manager Sylvia Seger and current Lovett student Robert Jordan.

We set up 12 meter wide mist nets, which are composed of a web of fine nylon threads, at 17 locations around campus to capture birds, which fly into the nearly invisible nets and become entangled. Mist netting is a common technique for ornithological research because it allows researchers to capture individuals and take a series of measurements on each bird (e.g., weight, wing length, tail length, etc.). It has also been shown to be the most effective way to census certain types of birds that are often difficult to detect visually or audibly (e.g., understory insectivores) in Neotropical forests. We opened the nets before dawn each day and checked them hourly for birds.

Captured birds were carefully extracted, identified, weighed, measured, and then released. Every precaution was taken to minimize stress to captured individuals. Nets were then closed each afternoon. Over the course of five days, we captured 70 birds representing 23 different species, five of which had not been previously recorded at Siempre Verde (Tyrian Metaltail, Dusky Antbird, Olive-striped Flycatcher, Rufous-headed Pygmy-Tyrant, and Rufous Wren). Our most abundantly captured species was the Russet-crowned Warbler, for which we recorded 23 captures.

This research effort confirmed the presence of five new species on campus while also serving as a vehicle for students to get hands-on field research experience. Additionally, this research can function as a foundation for future bird research on campus to better understand which types of habitat are preferred by different species, which can inform local conservation.

Overall, this was an incredibly rewarding experience for me, and I would like to extend my sincerest thanks to The Lovett School, Alex Reynolds, Sylivia Seger, Nelson, Mari, and Edwin Ruiz, Robert Jordan, Nolan Morris and his tropical ecology students, and Diane Staats for all of their help in making this research trip possible for me.

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