Nicaraguan Intern at Cabot Head Research Station

Field Notes – Rod Steinacher                                          (May 2010)

Imagine living in a place where the average temperature year round is 30°C, where the palm trees sway in the breezes off a warm lake, a place where ripe tropical fruit hangs from the trees.  Now imagine, in the space of just one day, experiencing a daytime high temperature of  4°C with snow flurries.  It would be a shock, to say the least!

Ometepe Island, viewed from the mainland at Rivas, is made up of two connected volcanoes, Concepción to the left and Maderas to the right. (photo – RS)

This is what the Bruce Peninsula Bird Observatory’s Nicaraguan intern felt when he came here on April 27.  22 year old Luis Valerio (pronounced Loo-ees Buy-air’-ee-oh) knew he was coming to the north, but nothing had mentally prepared him for the bone chilling cold at the Cabot Head Research Station.  Only the recent warmer weather has managed to finally thaw him out.

Luis scribes biometric data as Station Scientist, Stéphane Menu bands a bird. (photo – RS)

BPBO intern Luis Valerio transporting mist-netted birds to the banding lab at the Cabot Head Research Station on a chilly April morning. (photo – RS)

Luis works as a guide on the Island of Ometepe (declared a World Biosphere Reserve on May 17, 2010), in Lake Nicaragua, in the Central American country of Nicaragua.  This easy to reach beautiful area is packed with worthwhile sights, such as ancient petroglyphs carved by a long gone people, a sporadically active volcano, and areas of intact tropical forest.  For several months a year, Luis volunteers to monitor birds at two local “MOSI” stations, located in these forested areas.  In Canada, we monitor either migrating birds or those that are breeding in an area.  In Nicaragua, they monitor the survival rate of birds over wintering (short form “MOSI” in Spanish) in their country.  Since about 30% of “our” birds pass through or over-winter in Nicaragua, their results are very important to understanding what is happening to birds when they leave North America each fall.

Luis’ trip to CHRS is part of BPBO’s Nicaragua project, which aims to assist the bird research community in Nicaragua through financial assistance (BPBO is able to donate about $1,500 towards the operation of four MOSI stations in southern Nicaragua through its local sale of shade grown fair trade Nicaraguan coffee), technical advice, and training of personnel.  A kind donation by a participant in BPBO’s spring 2009 birding and culture trip to Nicaragua paid for Luis’ travel to and from Canada.  Planning is currently under way for some additional initiatives with Nicaragua’s ornithological community.  Members of the public who are interested in supporting BPBO’s efforts are invited to get in touch at bigbayrange@bmts.com.

Luis (in his new boots) giving a presentation on bird monitoring in Nicaragua to visiting birders at CHRS. (photo – RS)

While here, Luis has had opportunities to experience some of the life of the Bruce Peninsula.  He has been invited to dinner and has stayed over at the homes of several area residents.  He has experienced the “night life” of Tobermory, attending the opening of the Crowsnest, and spent the day at the recent Sources of Knowledge Forum.  Local families have kindly loaned Luis warm clothing andbedding; a windbreaker may be warm for Nicaragua, but sub-zero mornings in Canada demand something more.  The Blue Heron Shop has generously supplied Luis with a pair of warm and waterproof Keen hiking boots, which he greatly appreciates.  Unfortunately, while here, Luis has developed a taste for those great little maple-flavoured cookies we all take for granted.  He is quite concerned about how he is going to get them when he returns home to Nicaragua June 2!  Except for the person who got him “hooked” on these cookies, Luis would like to express his thanks to those who have made his stay on the upper Bruce this spring a great one.