aba events
Nikon Monarch 7

    Dancing with Mr D

    Bird by bird I’ve come to know the earth…Pablo Neruda

    Dominican Republic July 2012 470The name says it. Aves Caribe (The Caribbean Birding Trail) is all about birds. Birds serve as a pathway to nature, and delineate a trail to lead the adventurous to truths behind the obvious. Birds are colorful, active, gregarious, and engaging. Who can resist a tody?

    Yet at times birds and language fail us. Biodiversity is a word stripped of poetry. We need to bring it alive. A scientist describes the feeding habits of the Hispaniolan emerald. Neruda celebrates the small bird on fire which dances out of the pollen.

    We look to every creature in the wild and to every word in the dictionary to bring our neighbors to an understanding of the kaleidoscopic world enveloping us. Yes, the Dominican Republic is blessed with 32 species of endemic birds. An island’s lack in numbers of species is often replaced by endemicity. But at times orchids, anoles, and Calisto butterflies demonstrate evolutionary radiation more directly than birds. If we wish to affect public sentiment, and to influence public policy, then we can’t afford to be hamstrung by an abbreviated lexicon or a narrowed focus.

    Dominican Republic July 2012 149The orchid in this photograph is endemic to the Sierra Bahoruco Oriental around Cachote. One may visit Cachote to see the jilguero (the rufous-throated solitaire), but why ignore the endemism that surrounds you extending beyond birds?

    Consider the butterflies of the genus Calisto. As an aside, the genus is named for the mythical Callisto, who,

    As a follower of Artemis, Callisto, who Hesiod said was the daughter of Lycaon, king of Arcadia, took a vow to remain a virgin, as did all the nymphs of Artemis. But to have her, Zeus disguised himself, Ovid says, as Artemis (Diana) herself, in order to lure her into his embrace. Callisto was then turned into a bear, as Hesiod had told it:

    …but afterwards, when she was already with child, was seen bathing and so discovered. Upon this, the goddess was enraged and changed her into a beast. Thus she became a bear and gave birth to a son called Arcas.

    1200 Dominican Republic July 2012 562

    There are 42 species in the genus Calisto, many of which are endemic to Hispaniola. The radiation in Calisto is so profound as to inspire some to call this group “Darwin’s butterfles.” Why did the Calisto diverge in such a dramatic fashion? Here is a quote from a recent study of the genus.

    Though it is tempting to assume some role of geological events in speciation of Calisto, it has been shown repeatedly that adaptive radiation process is the main driving force behind evolution of species richness in the Caribbean (e.g., Losos et al. 2006). In our opinion, the genus shows a remarkable degree of diversification in comparison with other Caribbean clades, presumably because of low dispersal ability of these butterflies that interacts with topographic isolation within an island of Hispaniola and with exploitation of different habitats with varying rainfall patterns. Inter-island isolation, of course, also contributed to the overall diversity of the genus. However, it is the incredible diversity of habitats, ranging from the hot, dry deserts of the Hispaniolan lowlands to montane forests and grasslands at over 3000 m in elevation, that is responsible for the todays diversity of Calisto.

    Dominican Republic July 2012 114Dominican Republic July 2012 492The “incredible diversity of habitats” today is at risk from climate change as these elevational strata are transformed (and in some cases lost) through a warming climate. The Calisto radiated because of “low dispersal ability…interact[ing] with topographic isolation.” The constraints are the same with many of the species we have seen and photographed, from orchids at Cachote to the Calisto at Zapoten. These species have evolved within the context of a delicate balance of temperature, rainfall, and elevation. Climate change will reorder all of this.

    At first I thought that climate change might be peripheral to our interests in Aves Caribe. I have changed my mind. Climate change threatens to undermine the fundamental underpinnings of Caribbean existence. Wildlife, ecosystems, agriculture, and societies will be reshaped and reshuffled in a wink of an eye. The Calisto invested millions of years to reach a diversity that climate change will impoverish within a geological nanosecond.

    I understand the nature of denial. I would never argue that politics is rational nor amnesiac ignorance logical. Yet along our trail I spy Darwin at every twist and turn, I see his troupe twirling in the shadows, and I see the storm clouds gathering over the horizon as we inch our way up this brain-battering road.

    The following two tabs change content below.
    Ted Lee Eubanks

    Ted Lee Eubanks

    Ted Lee Eubanks is president and CEO of Fermata Inc. an Austin-based global leader is sustainable tourism and outdoor recreation. Eubanks and Fermata were responsible for developing the first birding trails, in Texas, in the early 1990s. He has served on the national boards of Audubon and the CLO, and received the first ABA Chan Robbins Award in 2000. Eubanks writes extensively about birds, conservation, and sustainability, and has coauthored two books about birds (The Birdlife of Houston, Galveston, and the Upper Texas Coast, and Finding Birds on the Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail). To continue his work connecting people to places, birders to birds, Eubanks has formed a new company, Great American Trails, which is using new technologies to attract new constituents to the outdoors.
    Ted Lee Eubanks

    Latest posts by Ted Lee Eubanks (see all)

    Birders know well that the healthiest, most dynamic choruses contain many different voices. The birding community encompasses a wide variety of interests, talents, and convictions. All are welcome.
    If you like birding, we want to hear from you.
    Read More »

    Recent Comments

    Categories

    Authors

    Archives

    Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    • Nine Tips for Leading Bird Walks November 18, 2014 9:39
      Recently, I have noticed an interesting phenomenon. More and more young birders have been leading bird walks. This is awesome and really helps enrich the young birder community, as well as the birding community as a whole. […]
    • Young Birder Blog Birding #34 November 3, 2014 4:34
      October is one of my favorite months for birding. While, at least where I am, most Neotropical migrants have already passed through by the end of September, October brings some really great birds into the area. […]
    • Young Birder Blog Birding #33 October 31, 2014 8:00
      Wow. September brings migrating birds, exciting cold front fallouts, and exceedingly productive birding blogs. The results from the summer are in, flooding the pages with posts about fun summer camps, projects, and birding excursions, followed closely by fall, with new birds and weekend trips. […]

    Follow ABA on Twitter

    Nature Blog Network