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Expeditions and Travels

Red Knot, Tierra del Fuego 2018

Looking Towards the Future

king penguins in Porvenir Chile
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The previous post “Choosing Extinction? From Malevolence to Farce After nearly two decades of trips to Chile, one gets the pulse of the people and community and how it changes over time. In 2001 we stayed at a small estancia on the east end of Tierra del Fuego, run by a diminutive but muscular rancher.  He had a face as craggy as a rock wall but he was generous and eager for the company.  After we finished three weeks of grueling field work, he offered to celebrate its completion with a lamb roast, or Asado. This traditional feast starts with…

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Expeditions and Travels, Tierra del Fuego 2018

Tierra del Fuego – An Island of Contrasts

mountains, chile
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 Seven years ago in Tierra del Fuego Seven years ago we finished our last expedition to Tierra del Fuego, Chile, the wintering area of the red knots and other Arctic nesting shorebirds. We expected to return. Instead, an 11-year-long investigation aimed at understanding and protecting an ecologically important and fragile place ended. For a field biologist, ending a long-term study is like ending a long-standing personal relationship. A good field biologist not only understands the ecology of a place but loves it by seeking more protection for its fragile parts. Once the connection ends, one longs for the beloved land,…

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Arctic, Expeditions and Travels, Tierra Del Fuego 2000

Our Expeditions to the Arctic and Chile in search of red knots – 2000-2004: An introduction written 17 years later

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Following are a series of blogs I wrote 15 years ago while leading expeditions to the Arctic tundra and the pampas of  Tierra del Fuego (TDF).. We were following the wandering life of the red knot, a shorebird that migrates 20,000 miles every year from one end of the earth to the other, just to survive.  On it’s return from wintering sites like Tierra del Fuego, Brazil’s Maranhao, or Florida’s Gulf coast, most red knots stop for a few weeks on Delaware Bay.  You’ll see blogs in this site that describe this amazing wildlife spectacle shorebirds hosing down horseshoe crabs…

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Brazil, Brazil 2017, Expeditions and Travels, Red Knot, Shorebird, Travel

On the Birds and Boats of Brazil

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Previous Post Birds and Boats I am a biologist that loves the birds and boats of northern Brazil. For good reason. In addition to the enormous bird diversity inherent in all tropical environments, the northern coast of Brazil in the states of Para and Maranhao stands out as one of the most important shorebird wintering areas in the western hemisphere.  It’s an amazingly vast area of mostly unpopulated beaches, intertidal sand and mud flats and mangrove forests. This ecological wonder also produces an abundance of fish and shellfish, on which the birds depend.  It also supports a network of traditional…

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Bird Study, Brazil, Brazil 2017, Red Knot, Shorebird

Our Brazilian Expedition – Trapping Shorebirds in Panaquatira

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Previous Post The capture of Arctic nesting shorebirds first brought us to Brazil in 2013.  We also brought 125 geolocators and caught both ruddy turnstones and red knots, attaching 85 on the former and 30 on the latter.  But we also came to create a new perspective on shorebirds in this place, one of the most important shorebird habitats in the world. For all intents and purposes, shorebird work in this area started In the mid-1980’s, when Canadian biologists, Guy Morrison and Ken Ross surveyed from an airplane, the entire coast of South America.  In this monumental and dangerous survey,…

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Brazil, Brazil 2017, Red Knot, rural communities, Shorebird

Our Brazilian Expedition – The Rights of Traditional Communities

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Previous Post Over the last few days of our expedition, we left the state of Para and flew to Sao Luis in the adjacent state of Maranhao.  There we begin the next phase of our work, trapping red knots, ruddy turnstones and other species, as we have done since 2014.     Traditional Communities Have Rights But prior to leaving Para, while we stayed in the village of Apiu Salvatore, the fishermen asked to meet with Max.  He hadn’t planned it, so at first, the reason was unknown. The fishermen of the village knew Max represented ICMBio, and that Apiu Salvatore…

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Bird Study, Brazil, Brazil 2017, Red Knot, rural communities, Shorebird

Our Brazilian Expedition – Going to the heart of the Mangrove and Beach Ecosystem

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Previous Post It took us long into the night to reach our next port.  We went from the relatively populated area of Braganca to the dark heart of this coastal region of Viseu.   In three trucks, we caravanned through a maze of remnant tropical rainforests, cattle pasture and impenetrable second-growth woodland.  Along the rain-slicked red clay road, small and desperate looking towns popped out of nowhere always looking like the past was a better day. The road cut through countless mangrove forests that define this region.  We reached Viseu too late to do anything but find a place to stay…

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Bird Study, Brazil, Brazil 2017, Red Knot, rural communities, Shorebird

Our Brazilian Expedition – Conducting a Scientific Investigation in a Tropical Wilderness

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Previous Post Tough Conditions for Scientific Investigation   It’s hard to imagine the difficulties of people living at latitude 37 degrees north when coming to the equator in northern Brazil. It challenges even the best-prepared field investigations.  But after three days our team has not only acclimated but accomplished surveys in two separate estuaries.     The tide cut short our first day in the field.  High tide persisted longer than we expected and our survey must take place when birds forage.  Shorebirds typically forage until 1 to 2 after before high tide and start again 1-2 hours after, usually…

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Brazil, Brazil 2017, Expeditions and Travels, Red Knot, Shorebird

Our Brazilian Expedition – investigating the plight of shorebirds and rural people

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We leave a cold and dark NJ with mix feelings for our destination tropical Brazil.  It will be warm and sunnyish –  forecasts predict drenching thunderstorms threatening us every day of our trip.  We will explore a very new place, the ocean coast of Para, a largely unsurveyed coast known to be a wintering shorebird mecca.  At the same time, we will undergo trials experienced by few biologists.  Zeke is prevalent in Para, but recent cases of malaria are equally alarming.  Of course one must be ever vigilant for food and water pathogens.  Last year I developed food poisoning ending…

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Expeditions and Travels, Tierra del Fuego 2004

Expedition to Tierra del Fuego – 2004: Introduction

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On our fifth campaign to Tierra Del Fuego, we hope to achieve a variety of scientific and conservation goals focused on the red knot and their chief non-breeding or wintering area on Bahia Lomas. Guy Morrison and Ken Ross will continue the aerial survey of all shorebirds species along the Atlantic coast of Argentina and the Chilean coast of the Straits of Magellan. Our main team, composed of Chilean, Argentine, Dutch, Canadian and American biologists, will conduct several projects including red knot capture and banding, foraging efficiency, and invertebrate prey inventory. Concurrently, we will continue our effort to assist Chilean…

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Chile, Expeditions and Travels, Red Knot, Shorebird, Tierra Del Fuego 2003

Expedition to Tierra del Fuego – 2003: Introduction

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On our fourth trip to the southern-most tip of South America, our team will focus once again on the condition of the wintering red knots (summering knots for South Americans). These are the same birds that stopover on the Delaware Bay each May to refuel before flying to nest in the Canadian Arctic. After leaving the Arctic in late July, red knots make a journey that nearly spans the globe to the shores of Chile and Argentina where we will do our work. When they leave in late February they will slowly work their way up the South American coast…

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Chile, conservation, Expeditions and Travels, Red Knot, Shorebird, Tierra Del Fuego 2002

Expedition to Tierra del Fuego – 2002: Introduction

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In our third trip to Tierra Del Fuego, we will continue assessing the status of wintering red knots with a international team of biologists from Chile, Argentina, US, Canada, and Australia. We do this to accomplish two major conservation goals. The first goal is to help focus attention on the important concentration areas for wintering birds like Bahia Lomas in Chile, Bahia San Sebastion in Argentina, and the Atlantic Coast beach of Rio Grande in Argentina. Our second goal is to determine the population numbers and the age ratio of the wintering flocks in Bahia Lomas, which accounts for a…

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Chile, Expeditions and Travels, Tierra Del Fuego 2001

Expedition to Tierra del Fuego – 2001: Introduction

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On February 1, biologists with the NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife’s Endangered and Nongame Species Program will lead a team of other biologists from the US, Canada and Chile to Tierra del Fuego, at the southernmost tip of South America, to study the Red knot. The knot, a dove sized, red breasted shorebird, flies an incredible 10,000 mile journey from arctic breeding grounds to winter in Tierra del Fuego. On their return journey to the Arctic, the birds run out of fuel and stopover on the Delaware bay, where they gorge on the eggs of the horseshoe crab. The…

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Arctic, Arctic 2001, Expeditions and Travels, Red Knot, Shorebird

Arctic Shorebirds – Our second expedition 2001 – July 15

searching for knots
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Previous Post   Bearing Arms We must be among the few biologists who study the habits of innocent tiny bird chicks while armed. Because two bears set up temporary residence within sight of our esker we must now split into only two groups, each with shotguns. Our fifth bear, massive and slow, hauled himself over the ridge south of camp, lay down, and slept for the next three days. He slumbered near two of our three instrumented birds with broods, leaving little chance to work on them. Our sixth bear rested near the south ridge close to our only other…

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