The End of an Era

After over 6 years of intensive research and community development work in and around the Yachana Reserve, GVI Amazon is coming to a close. We have finished our final research project (look forward to our Road Effects paper, coming soon!) and are handing over the project to our partner, The Yachana Foundation. They will continue to maintain and monitor the reserve, using it as an hands-on science education center for students -- we're very excited to see what fabulous things this next generation of scientists find! For more detail on GVI Amazon's closure, and our accomplishments over the years, please read on...
GVI Amazon Closure Statement

Monday, June 14, 2010

'El Monstro' Returns

One of my first bird-watching memories is going with my dad to watch European Nightjars on a local heath. Nightjars are peculiar cryptically-patterned nocturnal birds. So peculiar, in fact, that they were originally called ‘Goatsuckers’ due the belief that they fed on the blood of livestock. Britain’s only representative of the order Caprimulgiforme, they glide silently through the night catching moths and other insects and are normally detected by their bizarre ‘churring’ song, reminiscent of a distant motorbike engine. Watching them swoop around in the late evening certainly captured my imagination.

After that I was hooked on Caprimulgids. Rare, invariably weird-sounding and incredibly hard to see during the day they still seem for me like the most mysterious birds in the world. When I started visiting the Neotropics I encountered a new family within this group – The Potoos. Whereas most Nightjars feed on the wing and look sort of falcon shaped Potoos are even more unique – they feed from perches have incredible wide mouths and look, when perched, very much like tree –snags!

Whilst working in Bolivia I became familiar with the Great Potoo. It’s booming nocturnal song earned it the nickname ‘El Monstro’ in the camp where I was working. Despite standing half a metre tall and issuing a call which could be heard over a kilometre away its amazing camouflage meant I only ever saw it as a silhouette during the night.

Since coming to work for GVI Amazon in February I had been hoping desperately to find a Great Potoo during the day. Last year a bird was seen regularly along the road until its roosting tree fell over, since which time no-one had seen it. Then, finally during a walk, I scanned what looked like a large broken branch on a roadside tree to realise it wasn’t a branch at all..... Having found the bird the second battle was convincing the volunteers it was a bird at all, the realisation impressed us all with its incredible camouflage!

Simon Mitchell - GVI Amazon Field Staff