Studying the birds' migration patterns is an important first step toward habitat conservation, Martell said. "Freddy's going to get more ospreys there than anywhere else in the world," Martell said, "and if areas in Cuba appear to be more important to ospreys than others, we want to conserve those."
The Cuban scientists have also begun an educational campaign to get volunteers into the act, and they have recruited park police to help protect the birds. Melian has even converted Cuban vendors at the park into part-time osprey counters and educators. One 21-year-old woman named Davamaris keeps an eye out for the birds while selling jewelry to tourists on the peak of Gran Piedra, which, at 4,068 feet (1,240 meters) above sea level, is the highest peak in the Sierra Maestra mountains. The ocean spreads out below. On a clear day, you can see Jamaica. "Some days I see eight or nine," she said, scanning the view of the sea. "Other days, thirty or forty." By getting everyone involved, osprey consciousness has exploded, Melian said. "Now, everyone loves the osprey."
The benefits of studying migrating birds goes beyond basic science and conservation, Martell said. Ospreys and other traveling species have a way of bringing people together. "We're sharing birds with people in Latin America," Martell said. "That connection is really powerful, there's no doubt about that." There is also something uplifting about the close cooperation between conservationists in different countries, especially ones as politically divided as the United States and Cuba.
And the lessons don't stop there, especially for those who live in northern climates. The same birds that spend their summers in Minnesota, for example, pack up before the leaves turn and head south for Bolivia, Belize, and beyond to wait out the winter months. "You have to admire them," Martell said. "They do know when to leave and when to come back."
Recent Bird Stories by National Geographic News:
Sixth Great Backyard Bird Count Begins in U.S.
Bird Story: Black-Capped VireoHope for Survival?
Four-Winged Dinosaurs Found in China, Experts Announce
Aggressive Seagulls Menacing Urban Britain
Satellites Help Reveal Secrets of Epic Goose Migration
Birds May Hold Clues to Role of Time in Teamwork
Mysterious Kenya Flamingo Die-Offs Tied to Toxins, Study Says
Quarter of U.S. Birds in Decline, Says Audubon
Farmers, Conservationists Seek Return of Barn Owls
Seasons of a Birder's Life
Do Some Birds Cheat to Avoid Inbreeding?
Water-Diversion Plan Threatens California's Salton Sea
National Geographic Bird Resources:
Bald Eagles: Come Back From the Brink
Experience the Sights and Sounds of Eagles
Recent "Birder's Journal" Stories from Robert Winkler:
Giving Thanks for Wild Turkey Sightings
Birder's Journal: Ghost Town's Curse Haunts New England Forest
Birder's Journal: Looking at a Handy New Guide
Birder's Journal: Learning to Let Birds Come to You
Birder's Journal: A Morning With Migrants
Birder's Journal: This Warbler Is a Master of Deception
Birder's Journal: Seduced by Dueling Thrushes
Birders Journal: Attack of the Flying Goshawk
Nationalgeographic.com Bird-Watching Sites:
Florida Keys Area
Maine's Acadia National Park
New Orleans Area
New York City Area
North Carolina's Outer Banks
Rocky Mountain National Park
Salt Lake City Area
San Francisco Area
Santa Fe Area
South Dakota's Black Hills
Washington's Olympic National Park
Wyoming's Grand Teton National Park
Yellowstone National Park
Yosemite National Park
From the National Geographic Store:
Guide to North American Birds
Portable Birdsong Identifier
Additional Information from Related Web Sites:
American Bird Center
American Bird Conservancy
Fish and Wildlife Service Bird Web Site
National Audubon Society
Environmental Protection Agency: Bird Conservation
SOURCES AND RELATED WEB SITES