The new year of 2012 has been an especially busy one
for the previously reintroduced Ridgeway’s Hawks to Punta Cana. Immediately
after Christmas through the New Year an unprecedented number of birding
tourists came to the PuntaCana Resort & Club to partake in free birding
tours with renowned tropical ornithologist Dr. Andre Dhondt and his wife Keila.
During these tours several lucky birders had the opportunity to observe one of
the world’s rarest hawks in the comfortable resort setting around the PC Ecological
Foundation. Besides helping to push a nascent but growing birding tourism
industry in the area these amateur observations also help employees of the
Hispaniola Ornithological Society and the Punta Cana Ecological Foundation keep
tabs on the birds.
After the holidays Dr. Andre Dhondt stayed in the area to teach his annual
tropical ornithology course to visiting students from Cornell University. In
addition to providing a great learning experience for Cornell students of all
academic disciplines, their daily logs of birds seen help provide valuable
information regarding species diversity and density in the area. Over the past
several years we have been able to observe important trends in the increase of
some species and the relative decrease of others.
Since mid-January, Virginia Tech students studying abroad for the 2012 Spring
Semester at the PC Ecological Foundation have been volunteering their time to
track the previously reintroduced hawks and are now pairing this experience
with their Tropical Ornithology course. This week the VT students also had the
opportunity to observe and assist visiting researchers from the Peregrine Fund
and the Hispaniola Ornithological Society to trap and re-outfit previously
introduced females with new back packs for continued radio tracking.
The next reintroduction is programed to begin in April, 2012, for which we will
be 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 birding
tourism guide, supported in part by the PuntaCana Resort & Club, who in
addition to offering general birding tours will also offer tours specifically
focusing on the Ridgeway’s program. As we enter the fourth year of the
reintroduction program raising awareness about the hawk and the combined
efforts of the Hispaniola Ornithological Society, the Peregrine Fund, and the
Punta Cana Ecological Foundation to ensure the survival of the species
continues to be one of the primary focuses of the program.
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