American Ornithological Society & Birds Caribbean Conference 2022 - Puerto Rico, baby!

When you travel with David La Puma you are guaranteed to have an incredible time, and you better believe that includes birding, so I knew I was in for a trip of lifetime when asked to join him for the AOS/BC Conference earlier this summer. We had talked about it before but I wasn't certain I was IN. With a fairly last minute decision our team made quick work of lining everything up to showcase the newest & best of our CTT line and we booked our flights! 

Warming up the engine at oh-dark-thirty
2 coffee mugs, shot from above, alongside a cell phone with map of the GPS tracking device on the screen
We started our days early, up before 5am, to be sure we got out to see some endemics before the work day started at the conference. Coffee in our blood streams, bins around our necks and being sure to bring along our trusty travel companion, the new Flicker CL (cell locate) device, we loaded into the not to be missed rental Jeep and headed off in a different direction each morning.

David and our trusty blaze-orange Jeep!
DLP with the Orange Jeep rental car in the Puerto Rican forest
The view from Las Quebradillas, home of White-tailed Tropicbirds!
Cliff side in Puerto Rico, rocks in foreground with breaking waves & ocean
Walking the plank to Yellow-shouldered Blackbirds
DLP walking down wooded wooden path leading to water in Puerto Rico
Mega! Puerto Rican Parrot
Puerto Rican Parrot, preening back feathers with head turned around

By 9am we would be finalizing the eBird checklist and heading back to the hotel to prepare for the day at the conference, feeling pretty excited. Since the pandemic put a halt to in-person meetings over the last couple of years this was the first chance we've had in a long to to come face to face with our clients. This being my first bird conference, it was amazing to meet so many people in such a warm and beautiful environment. The first few days were filled with joyful hellos and (sweaty) hugs as we recognized voices and faces from the all the consultation and support calls.

Straight off the beaches of Mexico, Julián García-Walther graced us several times at the booth
DLP, JFO & Julian Garcia Walther
So great to finally meet the Raven whisperer Janelle, in person! 
JFO & Janelle Chojnacki
 After sending so many SensorStations to Benoit over the last two years, it was great to meet him in person too!
DLP, JFO & Benoit Laliberte Selfie
The man, the myth, the legend: Luke DeGroote of Powdermill Avian Research Center 
DLP, Luke Degroote & JFo pose for Selfie at AOS/BC Conference

Having the opportunity to see some of our clients present their research was just the kind of cup-filling we needed after a long couple of years battling supply chain issues. There is a great deal of work being done in this community that's crucial to wildlife conservation and we're extremely grateful for the clients who use our equipment for their research. From poster sessions to workshops, we soaked up as much learning as we could, it was hard to decide what to catch and what we had to miss out of the many presentations! Luckily we got some snapshots from a few that we caught:

Miles Buddy with the Danner Lab with his Poster on wintering marsh sparrow movements.  
Miles from the Danner Lab posing with his Poster, smiling big
Professor Andrea Bonisoli Alquati from California State Polytechnic University presenting his paper on TUVU and environmental contaminants.  
Andrea Bonisoli presenting his work with Turkey Vultures in Stage with powerpoint
Michael Gamble from LSU and his poster on the Movement Ecology of Golden-cheeked Warblers. 
Michael Gamble next to his poster on Golden-cheeked Warblers
The week was a blur of amazing birding, the hustle & bustle of the conference days and delicious dinners with friends & colleagues and before we knew it it was the last day of the conference. AOS & BC really know how to throw a closing ceremony and we all gathered Friday night on the terrace to celebrate the connections we made to the backdrop of local musicians and dancing.

We made our way back to the hotel, packed our gear and got ready to take in the island with our remaining two days. Saturday we hit the road with the Cell Locate in hand to find the rest of the Puerto Rico endemic birds on our list. We captured this blitz on our Facebook and Instagram, take a look and be sure to check out the AOS/BC stories! 

Here are a few highlights from the trip around the island:
Another island endemic: Puerto Rican Emerald (female)
Puerto Rican Emerald perched on a hibiscus branch
One of two Motus stations in Puerto Rico, this was at Cabo Rojo NWR!
DLP pointing at a CTT Motus Station on the side of a building in Cabo Rojo, PR
 White-tailed Tropicbirds!!
JFO spotting the White-tailed Tropic Birds
Before reluctantly heading to the airport Sunday morning we finally made it into Old San Juan to take in some of this "enchanted island" charm. We only had time for a bit of breakfast, so we made the most of our time and took a walk around the city in the light rain while we waited for our table. The blue cobblestone streets were glistening and the overcast skies made the colorful buildings pop. It was a beautiful send off, which had us daydreaming of plans to come back soon with our families. 
View of the ocean from Old San Juan
View of colorful houses in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, overlooking the water
The cobblestone (Adoquines) of Old San Juan's streets are a fantastic blue; from furnace slag brought over as ballast during Spanish colonization of the island hundreds of years ago.
Blue Cobblestone street looking up a hill in Old San Juan Puerto Rico
A perfect latte, one of several we consumed during our final morning in Old San Juan. 
amazing and delicate latte art in 2 small white cappucino cups
All in all, what takes the cake was the experience of meeting people in person after such a long time with only online communication. It brought me closer to the work we do, gave life to projects we only previously heard about and brings passion to future partnerships. It was exhilarating to connect with students in the beginning stages of their research or that have ongoing projects ready to take the leap into automating aspects of their data collection. Sometimes when you are immersed in the world of this technology it's easy to lose sight of how far wildlife tracking has come, always pushing for smaller, faster, better & it helps to see it from the perspective of fresh eyes- to be amazed over and over again throughout the week- has instilled a refreshed sense of purpose to the mission here at CTT. I only wish our whole staff could feel it first hand. They'll just have to take our word for it, and of course some souvenirs ;) 

Until next time, Happy Birding!