Bird Surveys and Early Mornings

September 12th, 2016
By Ausprey, Ian J

Much of the fieldwork I’ve been doing over the past 3 months has involved surveying birds living in cloud forest fragments throughout the Andes of northern Peru. This may sound relatively straightforward – millions of people around the world love making bird lists after all.  But correctly identifying some 300 bird species in the early morning hours is deceptively difficult.

Most people assume that bird detections occur by sight – you pull up your binoculars and witness a beautiful, exotic tropical bird. But, in reality, tropical birds can be maddeningly difficult to observe. Many tropical species are almost never seen, because they are extremely shy and live in dense, dark vegetation. Hence, nearly all of the birds on my surveys are detected by the remarkably exquisite sounds they make. Some of the songs, such as the extraordinary melody produced by Cyphorhinus thoracicus (Chestnut-breasted Wren), are obvious and stop you in your tracks. Many others, however, are subtle and highly variable and, in some cases, still being described. Add to this the fact that most of my mornings begin at 4:30am with an hour trek up some mountain to arrive at my survey sites by dawn when song activity is at its most intense. Hence, I always make recordings of my surveys to review during the evenings. I use Raven, a program created by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology that converts recordings into visualizations known as spectograms, to crosscheck my written observations and ensure that I am correctly quantifying the bird community. When this is done I will then confront the even more daunting task of turning these field data into estimates of occupancy and density. But, that is a story for another day……………………………


A spectogram featuring the sounds of the Russet-crowned Warbler (Myiothlipis coronata)


No doubt what THAT is! Masked Trogon (Trogon personatus)

Participation in Peru’s 10th National Ornithology Congress

May 23rd, 2016
By Ausprey, Ian J

Peru’s 10th National Ornithological Congress was held in the lovely Andean city of Chachapoyas where our research is based. It was a fine week presenting on our project, Aves del Bosque Montano Peruano, meeting old and new friends, and enjoying an impressive slate of keynote speakers, including Tom Schulenberg, lead author of the Birds of Peru.

Congreso Ian

Peru Winner of Global Big Day!

May 23rd, 2016
By Ausprey, Ian J

For the second year in a row Peru is the winner of the Global Big Day! Organized by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the event aims to increase global awareness of birds by asking birders to spend one day searching for as many birds as possible. This year’s Big Day was May 14, and over 16,000 individuals observed 6292 species, around 60% of global avian diversity. Peru boasts the second highest level of avian diversity in the world (1800+ species) and once again beat out its closest competitors, Brazil and Colombia, to record the Global Big Day’s largest number of species at 1230! I had the pleasure of contributing several endemic species from my route on the Cordillera Colán, including Rufous-vented Tapaculo, Rusty-tinged Antpitta, Russet-mantled Softtail, and the iconic Marvelous Spatuletail Hummingbird.

Cordillera Colan

Looking from the Cordillera Colán towards one of my research study sites near the town of Pomacochas.


Field Season Begins with a Bird Banding Course in the Manu

May 23rd, 2016
By Ausprey, Ian J

I and fellow grad student Felicity Newell have begun the 2016 field season! After spending a week in Lima finalizing permits, networking, and braving the city’s horrendous traffic we met up with Peruvian colleagues in Cusco as part of a bird banding workshop we helped to instruct. The course was jointly organized by Corbidi and the Asociación para la Conservación de La Cuenca Amazónica (ACCA), using standard practices developed by the North American Banding Council. We spent a lovely week at ACCA’s beautiful biological station, Villa Carmen, at the base of the famous Manu Road in Madre de Dios trapping lowland tropical birds and teaching students basic bird banding techniques. Many thanks to our co-instructors, Diego Garcia, Mauricio Ugarte, Renzo Piana, and Elio Nuñez, who organized the course.

Mauricio, Diego, Renzo, Ian, Felicity, and Elio on a tributary of the Rio Madre de Dios near Villa Carmen.

Molt instruction.

Campylorhamphus trochilirostris – Red-billed Scythebill

Hylophylax naevius

Hylophylax naevius – Spot-backed Antbird





January 16th, 2016
By Ausprey, Ian J

I am a graduate student in the Department of Biology and Florida Museum of Natural History at the University of Florida where I study the ecology and community assembly of birds in high elevation cloud forest fragments in Peru. I am lucky to work out of the Ordway Lab for Ecosystem Conservation with a fantastic group of avian ecologists. I hope to put updates from my research here in the future, especially when fieldwork resumes in May!


Near Kuelep.












Tangara parzudaki

Flame-faced Tanager.