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Shorebird researchers to fly over Panama again

Fly low, count fast

Fly low, count fast:  Buzzing Panamanian mudflats flushes thousands of birds for counting and identification by researchers.

Two researchers from William and Mary's Center for Conservation Biology will travel to Panama this fall to study populations of migrant shorebirds.

Bryan Watts, director of the center, and Bart Paxton, a research biologist, will continue research the Center for Conservation Biology (CCB) began in 1997 in the Bay of Panama after the U.S. agreed to turn the Panama Canal over to the nation of Panama. The Bay of Panama, at the Pacific entrance to the canal, is an important wintering grounds and stopover point for many species of shorebirds.

Watts explained that the bird's wintering grounds were endangered by urban sprawl from Panama City and by shrimp farm operators, who ruin habitat by gouging out mangrove forests for their operations. When they return to Panama, Watts and Paxton will conduct low-altitude shoreline flights over mudflats, the plan flushing up birds by the hundreds and thousands to be counted. The two WIlliam and Mary researchers will compare numbers and species distribution in the area to the benchmark surveys of 1997 to evaluate any changes over the past decade.

The project is funded by the U.S. Department of Defense Legacy Resource Management Program.   i