Buffalo, Back Big

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Bison and their calves in Yellowstone National Park. A fossil found in Canada provides the oldest evidence of bison ever discovered in North America. Credit Nicole Bengiveno/The New York Times

We love watching the return of this beast, so this story in today’s Science section is our kind of story:

When did North America become a home where the ancestors of buffalo roamed? Between 195,000 and 135,000 years ago, according to a study published Monday that reports on the oldest fossil and genomic evidence of bison on the continent. Continue reading

Global Big Day 2017, Belize

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You have plenty of options of where to spend the day, but we are hoping to share the entire week leading up to May 13 with lots of old friends of Chan Chich Lodge–not only dedicated birders, but especially them. And not only old friends–we welcome the opportunity to introduce new folks to birding. So think about joining us that week in particular.

In our work around the world in recent years we have tried to support the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s mission, focused through ebird in this worthy call to action, in as many ways as possible. If you do not know about the Lab, start with what they say about themselves and if it strikes you as relevant click on the banner above to make a pledge on one key initiative:

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is a world leader in the study, appreciation, and conservation of birds. Our hallmarks are scientific excellence and technological innovation to advance the understanding of nature and to engage people of all ages in learning about birds and protecting the planet. Continue reading

Come See, Enjoy, & Count With Us!

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We had the good fortune some weeks ago to host one of Europe’s finest birder-guide-photographers at Chan Chich Lodge. His bird photos are wow quality (see below for an example) but my favorite of all his photos is the one above of an ocelot. We are gearing up for Global Big Day at Chan Chich Lodge. Our primary goal is simple. Follow the leader, and lead by example. Our secondary goal is kind of competitive, related to the program’s own details:

Details

For the past two years, the second Saturday in May has been the biggest day of the year for birds: Global Big Day. More than 6,000 species of bird. Tens of thousands of people. 153 countries. Immeasurable fun. Continue reading

Global Big Day 2017, Neotropical Focus

Neotropical BirdingNeotropical Birding’s magazine feature on Global Big Day 2017, which we are looking forward to at Chan Chich Lodge, provides a good primer on the what, how and why of this event; we hope to convince you on the where:

Walking the thin line between madness and brilliance, ‘big days’ (also known as ‘bird races’) are the essence of birding’s competitive spirit distilled into 24 intense, frantic and thrilling hours. Months of planning, poring over spreadsheets and pen-marked maps; days spent scouting out the perfect stops, driving practice routes while ingesting egregious amounts of caffeine; and years of birding experience used to find  the right habitat for each target species, the game is to see or hear as many bird species as possible in a single, incredibly efficient, BIG day.

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Why do this? Why care? These friendly competitions are an incredibly powerful way to engage people around the world, both within the birding community and beyond. Across fields of study and walks of life, there is always an innate human interest in setting records or being a part of something that has never happened before. In addition to the inherent fun, record-setting events provide an outlet to talk to non-birders about conservation issues, ecological concerns, and all the things that make birds so interesting. Continue reading

Salmon On Northeastern USA Rivers

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American shad in fishlift in Holyoke Dam on Connecticut River in Holyoke, MA. Courtesy of Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection

Of all North America’s Atlantic salmon rivers none compared in size or productivity with the 407-mile-long Connecticut River that drains Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Connecticut. But early in the 19th century all strains of salmon uniquely adapted to this sprawling system (at least 25) had been rendered extinct by dams. Continue reading

Preparing For Global Big Day On May 13, 2017

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Global Big Day map painted by Luke Seitz, a Bartels Science Illustration intern and member of the Redheads student birding team.

We have about two months to prepare, and this third year of Global Big Day could be epic. When we started participating in this annual event in 2015 our work still mostly focused on the Western Ghats region of southwest India, but we were migrating back to the Mesoamerica region so our attention has been shifting. Now we are all in at Chan Chich Lodge and we want to help ensure that this year Belize is as strong a contributor as possible to the goals of this program:

In our ongoing effort to push the boundaries of a Big Day, we’re inviting everybody around the world to join together and participate in our Global Big Day to support global conservation.

How to Participate

Submit Your Data to eBird on May 13

It’s that simple. If you submit your birds to eBird they count. Learn how to take part. Don’t worry — you don’t need to be a bird expert, or to go out all day long. Even a half hour checklist from your backyard will help. Of course, you are welcome to spend the entire day in the field, but know that it is not required! Please enter your data as soon as you can, preferably by Tuesday, May 16. Continue reading

Please Support Sierra Club On This Initiative

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Photo credit: B. Bartel/USFWS

We know that most of our readers on this platform, and most guests we serve at the various properties we have developed and managed over the years, care deeply about primary forests and the ecosystems they support. Here is a chance to vocalize together with one of the influential organizers of vocalization:

Help Protect Tongass National Forest: Stop the Clearcutting

They’re about to start their chainsaws. Timber companies are trying to clearcut one of the most primeval wild places — and this is our last chance to stop them.

Alaska’s Tongass National Forest is nothing short of magical: it contains centuries-old trees and one-of-a-kind wilderness, home to animals like Alexander Archipelago wolves and bald eagles. Your voice is needed to pressure Congress to bring an end to old growth logging and save the Tongass for our children and grandchildren.

Take action today to save the Tongass National Forest.

Responsible Fish-Sourcing, 2.x

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Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch App best choice recommendations for cod. Screenshot by NPR

Rules change. Guides get updated. Staying on top of this topic requires effort. But it is worth it. Thanks to the folks at the salt for an acknowledgement that choosing fish in a responsible manner is no easy task, even for those regularly paying attention:

This month, I ventured to ask the man behind the counter at a Whole Foods Market what kind of shrimp he was selling. “I don’t know,” he replied. “I think they’re just normal shrimp.” I glanced at the sustainable seafood guide on my phone. There were 80 entries for shrimp, none of them listed “normal.”

What about the cod? Was it Atlantic or Pacific? Atlantic. How was it caught? I asked. “I’m not sure,” he said, looking doubtfully at a creamy fish slab. “With nets, I think. Not with harpoons.” Continue reading

Herbal Patrimony Saved For Posterity, And For The Health Of Present Generations

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Black cohosh is a valuable commercial medicinal plant, used to treat symptoms of menopause. TOM POTTERFIELD/FLICKR

Thanks to Nancy Averett at Yale360 for this:

Seeds of Commerce: Saving Native Plants in the Heart of Appalachia

In southern Appalachia, botanist Joe-Ann McCoy is collecting the seeds of thousands of native plant species threatened by climate change. But in this job-scarce region, she also hopes to attract an herbal products company to cultivate the area’s medicinal plants. Continue reading

Norms At Chan Chich Lodge

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Norms have developed on the sightings board at Chan Chich Lodge over the years; unusual birds and apex predators get most of the attention most of the time.

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howler monkey

And for good reason. But on a day to day basis, monkeys are almost always in the trees in close proximity to the lodgings. The variety to the left is a noisy one, territorial and vocal in a manner that you will recognize from the soundscape of whatever King Kong movie you might have seen. Urbanite guests seem to favor that noise, we have noticed. Continue reading

Massive Scale of Discovery In Remaining Forests Inspires, Raising The Stakes For Conservation

Douglas Adams @ 65

It has been four years since we last noted his birthday and the most recent public event we can find now is this video is from two years ago.  65 is a suitable birthday to merit coming back to a favored writer and thinker with a small celebration. Neil Gaiman, starting at about nine minutes in to this video, pays fitting tribute to his friend, and ours, and what may have been his most important work.

Borneo Bridge Not Needed, Thank You

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Pygmy elephant males play-fighting near the Kinabatangan river in Borneo. Photograph: Alamy

What he said:

David Attenborough attacks plan for Borneo bridge that threatens orangutans

Endangered pygmy elephants and orangutans threatened by scheme for Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary

David Attenborough and Steve Backshall have joined conservationists and charities asking officials in Borneo to reconsider a bridge that threatens one of the last sanctuaries of the rare pygmy elephant.

Continue reading

Merlin Flying Further Afield

We’ve written about this amazing APP on our pages before, and it’s exciting to watch it’s evolution and expansion of both technology and territory.

Our work has yet to expand to Mexico, but birds don’t acknowledge national borders, so the majority of the species in the Yucatan  can be found in all 3 countries that make up the peninsula – Belize, Guatemala and of course, Mexico.

We look forward to having our marvelous guides try it out just for fun!

 Merlin Expands to Mexico

We’ve spent the last few months working to expand coverage of Merlin, and we’ve just released a new bird pack for the Yucatan Peninsula. Research at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology repeatedly points to the Yucatan Peninsula as a vital wintering ground for many of our favorite breeding birds in the United States. It’s also home to many dazzling birds unique to the Neotropics. Continue reading

Galapagos, Bird Behavior & More Great Science Writing

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A booby doing its mating dance. Credit Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket, via Getty Images

We had missed one of our favorite science writers for a while and we are so happy she is back! In her latest outing, covering ground we thought was already familiar, we get some new clues to the meaning of their coloration and rituals:

On Galápagos, Revealing theBlue-Footed Booby’s True Colors

With no real predators, the birds live proud, public lives. That accessibility has proved a bonanza for scientists, casting light on their mating habits and even why the shade of their feet matters.

By Natalie AngierContinue reading

Marvelous Marvin’s Magical Mysteries

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At Chan Chich Lodge, in the northwest of Belize, something brings loyal guest back year after year, sometimes multiple times a year. There are many guests who have been coming to Chan Chich year after year for decades; there are more than a handful of guests who have had more than 200 total night stays at the Lodge, one couple approaching 300 nights and at least one couple approaching 400 nights. Having grown up in this business and knowing no other business, I do not have metrics to compare this level of loyalty to any other kind of business. Continue reading

Diving For Megalodon

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Hunting the teeth of the Megalodon, the largest shark that ever lived, can be very profitable—and very dangerous. ILLUSTRATION BY JEE-OOK CHOI

Thanks to Brent Crane for this posting about a search for one of prehistory’s wonders:

On a sunny January morning outside Richmond Hill, Georgia, Bill Eberlein, a fifty-two-year-old former I.T. specialist, went diving in a local creek. He wore a wetsuit, a drysuit, a dive hood, and an orange kayaking helmet affixed with a waterproof headlamp, whose ten thousand lumens would afford him six inches of visibility under the murky water. Continue reading

Cacao’s Curious Clues

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A view from the Amazon Tall Tower Observatory in São Sebastião do Uatumã, Brazil. A new study examines correlations between plant species in the forest today and archaeological finds. Credit Bruno Kelly/Reuters

Different day, different location, and our interest in cacao is  piqued again:

How the Amazon’s Cashews and Cacao Point to Cultivation by the Ancients

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Scientists studying the Amazon rain forest are tangled in a debate of nature versus nurture.

Many ecologists tend to think that before Europeans arrived in the Americas, the vast wilderness was pristine and untouched by humans. But several archaeologists argue that ancient civilizations once thrived in its thickets and played a role in its development. Continue reading