The new year of 2012 has been an especially busy onefor the previously reintroduced Ridgeway’s Hawks to Punta Cana. Immediatelyafter Christmas through the New Year an unprecedented number of birdingtourists came to the PuntaCana Resort & Club to partake in free birdingtours with renowned tropical ornithologist Dr. Andre Dhondt and his wife Keila.During these tours several lucky birders had the opportunity to observe one ofthe world’s rarest hawks in the comfortable resort setting around the PC EcologicalFoundation. Besides helping to push a nascent but growing birding tourismindustry in the area these amateur observations also help employees of theHispaniola Ornithological Society and the Punta Cana Ecological Foundation keeptabs on the birds. After the holidays Dr. Andre Dhondt stayed in the area to teach his annualtropical ornithology course to visiting students from Cornell University. Inaddition to providing a great learning experience for Cornell students of allacademic disciplines, their daily logs of birds seen help provide valuableinformation regarding species diversity and density in the area. Over the pastseveral years we have been able to observe important trends in the increase ofsome species and the relative decrease of others.
Since mid-January, Virginia Tech students studying abroad for the 2012 SpringSemester at the PC Ecological Foundation have been volunteering their time totrack the previously reintroduced hawks and are now pairing this experiencewith their Tropical Ornithology course. This week the VT students also had theopportunity to observe and assist visiting researchers from the Peregrine Fundand the Hispaniola Ornithological Society to trap and re-outfit previouslyintroduced females with new back packs for continued radio tracking. The next reintroduction is programed to begin in April, 2012, for which we willbe renovating the hack site complete with a new spotting scope and tripod to make viewing the hawks more accessible for visiting researchers and birders alike. The PuntaCana Ecological Foundation has recruited a birdingtourism guide, supported in part by the PuntaCana Resort & Club, who inaddition to offering general birding tours will also offer tours specificallyfocusing on the Ridgeway’s program. As we enter the fourth year of thereintroduction program raising awareness about the hawk and the combinedefforts of the Hispaniola Ornithological Society, the Peregrine Fund, and thePunta Cana Ecological Foundation to ensure the survival of the speciescontinues to be one of the primary focuses of the program.
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