by Michael Rogers
This March, BFREE proudly joined as a collaborator in the International Motus Network! Motus, which is Latin for the word ‘movement,’ is the future in migratory ecology studies. Scientists throughout the world are now afixing tiny radio transmitters to their species of interest, be at a thrush, warbler, or even a bat or imperiled monarch butterfly. These miniature devices send out a unique identifying pulse every 30 seconds, and if they pass within six miles of a host antenna station, the tag is automatically detected and uploaded into a public database, not just for the benefit of those scientists, but rather for anybody interested in the health and welfare of our migratory species.
This newer technology is groundbreaking because it is no longer necessary to recapture the bird in order to get the device and download it into a computer. Instead, the data collection is automated. However, if there are no receiving antennas on the ground, there is nothing to receive and record that migrating species.
Just in time for spring migration, I traveled to Belize with the missing components of the BFREE Motus Antenna. Together I worked with Mario Teul, Pedro Witz and Heather Barrett (who was collaborating from the US at the time) to get the BFREE computers set up to receive and manage the data. Mario then worked on assembling the antenna while Jacob Marlin and Tom Pop prepared for Jacob to climb the tower. Jacob free climbed the 140 feet on the communication tower above the BFREE office, and through brilliant rope and poly engineering, he installed the two antennas!
BFREE hosts only the second Motus receiving station in all of Belize!
We are proud to do our part and help scientists see a more complete picture of migration patterns. With Motus, scientists are now see a more accurately calculate migration timing, key stopover sites, and even to a certain extent evaluate site fidelity both in their breeding grounds and here in their overwintering grounds. This new information will help guide future conservation practices.
With great thanks to Birds Canada, who oversees the International Motus network and who also generously donated the antennas. For more information on Motus, go to www.motus.org
Special Thanks to the Author
BFREE would like to give special thanks to Michael Rogers. After traveling to BFREE in January to volunteer with his partner Rebecca, Michael took on the not-so-easy task of determining why our current Motus station wasn’t functioning. Through diligent research and support, Michael generously funded the purchase of many of the key elements needed and returned to Belize to support the installation at BFREE. Michael’s enthusiasm, initiative, and problem-solving skills made this Motus tower possible for us and we are supremely grateful!
Michael (pictured left) with the staff of Runaway Creek Nature Reserve, deploying Motus trackers on migratory songbirds with school children from Mahogany Heights.