Posted by: JanF | March 24, 2011

For the Birds

Today’s post takes a trip across a continent to check up on our birds.

Our harsh Wisconsin winters send our songbirds winging to more hospitable destinations in the fall. They spend the winter at their vacation home, waiting (longingly, I am sure) for when they can return home. Leaving aside for a moment where their actual home is (since they are in their vacation home for longer than they are here), let’s go check on “our” birds.

Last week, Wisconsin Public Television broadcast a show about a project by the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin (NRF) to help protect the Osa Peninsula, an area of Costa Rica that is home to half of all wildlife species in that country.

So why would a group of Wisconsinites care about a peninsula hundreds of miles away? The answer is “For the birds”.

The Friends of the OSA Avian Bird Conservation Program is focused on “avian monitoring and protection of bird-friendly habitat”. The reason, from the Osa Conservation site:

Costa Rica’s south Pacific coast is home to over 460 bird species. About a dozen of these species are endemic and restricted to this region and adjacent Panama.

Osa Peninsula

There are also some non-breeding birds that winter there. And that is where the Wisconsin NRF comes in:

Because the wintering grounds of Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula provide refuge for non-breeding migratory birds in the wintertime, partnerships with North American organizations become vital in the monitoring of bird populations on both winter and summer territories.

Imagine billions of adult and new fledgling birds leaving North America to embark on one of the most awe inspiring migration events, funneling down through Latin America to their winter destinations. Now imagine those same birds meeting with forest loss and fragmentation in an area where they spend half their lives. Winter habitat protection is vital for these migrant birds.

Many of Wisconsin’s breeding birds winter on the Osa Peninsula, several of which are species in decline such as the Prothonotary Warbler, the Golden-winged Warbler and the Wood Thrush. Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) through the Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative International Program in partnership with Friends of the Osa is trying to stave off declines in bird species and their habitats by establishing a protected area network from Matapalo to Corcovado National Park.

Through land acquisition, habitat protection and bird species monitoring, it is the goal of every partner involved to save what is known to be a global conservation priority and one of the most biodiverse places on earth.

Read more about the partnership in this report by Craig D. Thompson: Orioles and Ocelots. Dr. Thompson, who was featured in the video, works for the DNR out of the LaCrosse region.

The Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin (NRF) was created in 1986 when the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources anticipated budget cuts and decided that a foundation was needed to continue the important work of conserving public natural resources. Through private donations, that work continues and the Friends of the Osa, Wisconsin connection, can continue their efforts.

Realizing that our environment is more than just what we can see in our own backyard is an important step in understanding how everything on earth is interconnected. Caring for the Osa Peninsula is caring for our own songbirds.

Nothing trivial about it. It is more than just for the birds, it is for us.

(A version of this was originally posted on 03/24/2011 at BPI Campus)

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