I finally made it, well, at least I tried!

Many months ago, Born Again Bird Watcher sent me a link in Spanish about a project in Argentina related to the study and conservation of the red crested cardinal. Ironically, while living in Argentina I couldn’t translate some fragments of the blog he sent me, but now, back in Peru, I sat down with my dictionary and crossing my fingers for a good enough translation.

The blog is called “Estudio y Conservación del Cardenal de Copete Rojo en Argentina” and talks about the study and the volunteer work, often required for this kind of activity.

I read it all and will try to resume some of the information I found, all pictures posted here belong to that blog.

The red crested cardinal - “Cardenal de Copete Rojo” (Paroaria coronata) - has a big demand as a pet and therefore its natural habitats are disappearing. In South America you can find it from southern Brasil (Mato Grosso - Río Grande do Sul), east of Bolivia, Paraguay, Uruguay and in Argentina.

The study described in the blog is located in the Biosphere Reserve “Parque Costero del Sur", (26.581 ha) not far from La Plata river. Within the Reserve they work in a 650ha ranch called “La Matilde” owned by Mr. Luis del Sotto, who breeds cattle and therefore maintains the wooded aspect of some areas (other areas have been subject to deforestation due to agriculture) and allows the project to research in a non (human) populated area.

The project begun on 2004, and since then, every nesting season the ranch opens his doors to students, grad students and bird lovers from all over the world who wish to participate in the project and get some field experience.

The main objective of the Project is to lay the foundations about the biology of the species to be able to protect it and handle it in an adequate way.

The volunteer program itself begins in the reproductive season: around the end of October and finishes around mid February, and volunteers can choose to stay for the full season or just a part of it, depending on the demand of work in the field. The minimum of permanence in the program is 35 days, but 60 days in the field are highly recommended. In general, work groups go between 4 and 8 persons.

The work is to monitor the nests. Mornings are dedicated to observe adults and try to find the nests, afternoons are for active nests already found (between 15 and 30), when the recollection of data as size of eggs, size of pigeons, characteristics of the nest and of the surrounding vegetation, activities of the adult birds, time of construction, incubation and permanence in the nest, parasites, depredation, etc.

Identification rings are put on pigeons that are still in the nests, a metal one with the unique number id, and one or more colored plastic ones for individual identification. Also the ringing on young and new adults is made.

They demand a good physical condition from the volunteers, because of the long walks on open field (Temperatures go between 25 and 32 °C during the day and 12 and 20 °C at night). During the morning walks are 3 to 4 km long, and at evenings, they could go up to 4 or 5 km long. It is preferred that volunteers know some Spanish because the field managers and the local people don’t speak other languages.

Every foreign volunteer must pay 60 us dollars a week for food, camp maintenance and work supplies, bring binoculars, tent and sleeping bag, although there is a possibility of getting cheap camp supplies in La Plata. In the study area, tents are set and chores are distributed, from cleaning to cooking.

Once a week the volunteers have a free day can go out to the nearest town to access internet, make phone calls, be part of regional events and traditions and learn about the local people.

Well, that's pretty much it, not a lot of info that you already know about cardinals, but notes on a project going on in Argentina! By the way, if any of you is interested or know someone that might be interested, their email is paroaria@fcnym.unlp.edu.ar.

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