Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

Red-capped cardinals feast on bananas. © Connie Roop

Red-capped cardinals feast on bananas.
© Connie Roop

April 2013

Rain Forest Birding

Experiences Wisconsinites "Crow" About.

Connie and Peter Roop

"Andean gull!" Eric cries as he exits the Cusco airport. Amazon Conservation Associationís (ACA) Birdathon has taken flight.

A mixed flock of Wisconsin birders, from fledgling to expert, arrived in Peru for a 10-day birding adventure, traveling from the dramatic Peruvian 11,000-foot highlands to the lush Amazon lowlands. "Never go anywhere without your binoculars," warns group leader Craig Thompson.

At dawn, sleepy-eyed birders don their binoculars to peer into the brush for a glimpse of an elusive rufous-tailed antwren.

"Is that colorful, long-tailed hummingbird a long-tailed sylph?" asks a "binoculared" birder at breakfast.

Cameras clicked as a sleek and swift tayra, a South American weasel, jumped to the same feeder to grab mouthfuls of a red-capped cardinalís bananas.

"Look at that soaring black-and-white hawk-eagle!" cries a trip member as others drop their sandwiches to grab binoculars at lunch.

Even after the sun sets, these dedicated travelers have birds on their brains and are out trying to spot owls.

Rewards are handsome for both participants and the Amazon Conservation Association. Each day birders could count on seeing a rainbow of colorful birds, butterflies and flowers. Each evening at science research stations, they share local food and learn from scientists conducting projects in these biologically rich and diverse habitats.

During this trip, these avid Wisconsin birders spotted 400 birds and heard 22 more with the assistance of Peruvian expert guides, Alex and Percy. These efforts raised $34,000 for ACA, an organization actively protecting rain forest land.

Thompsonís two trips have a mission: to create flocks of birders devoted to protecting biological "hot spots" in Peruís Amazon Basin and in Costa Ricaís pristine Osa Peninsula. Since 1992, Thompson has used his vacation time to gather friends of feathers together to personally experience tropical rain forests.

Each "Thompson traveler" donates $500 to the Amazon Conservation Association (Peru) or Osa Conservation (Costa Rica). The cost of the trip is low. In the past six years, Thompsonís groups have donated over $100,000 to conservation efforts.

"Protection of Wisconsin birdsí breeding habitats is only half the conservation story," explains Thompson, whose day job is at Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

"The other half is in Latin American countries like Costa Rica. Without protection of migratory bird winter habitat in Latin America, our Wisconsin woodlands and backyards will become increasingly silent in the spring and summer," Thompson warns.

Tropical forests on Costa Ricaís Osa Peninsula are the winter home to 55 species that breed in Wisconsin. These include peregrine falcons and worm-eating warblers – both of which are state endangered – as well as state threatened Acadian flycatchers, Kentucky warblers and hooded warblers.

Taking a trip to the Osa Peninsula or to Peru, Panama, Ecuador or Costa Rica links Wisconsin citizens and our avian denizens to our southern neighbors. Projects supported include monitoring overwintering survival of Wisconsin birds in tropical forests, purchasing property to enable construction of a field station and eco-lodge, and cloud forest and dry forest protection and restoration. Investing in these projects has brought incalculable returns to "our" Wisconsin birds that migrate to Latin America each winter and return to us to breed in Wisconsin each summer.

"Turkey vulture!" points out Peter as the newly-made friends say good-bye at the Cusco airport.

Bird by bird, birder by birder, Wisconsin citizens have two amazing rain forest trips to crow about. Each provides a unique opportunity to experience the rain forest, to make new "best" birding buddies, and to support conservation critical to Wisconsin and rain forest species.

If you would like to learn more about Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative nternational Programs or find out more about Thompsonís trips visit Amazon Conservation Association

Connie and Peter Roop The Roops said they had the privilege of joining Craig Thompson on a Birdathon trip to Peru. The Wisconsin group (primarily) established a baseline bird population for Amazon conservation. "It was truly amazing with 400 birds sighted and 22 more heard, raising $34,000 for Amazon conservation!"