Marc Bechard, biology professor and director of the Raptor Research Center, Greg Kaltenekcer, director of the Intermountain Bird Observatory (IBO), and John Kelly, manager of Photographic Services, are in Tarifa, Spain, from Aug. 14-23 to accompany two Boise State students in the field. They are studying hundreds of thousands of raptors as they migrate from Europe across the Mediterranean Sea at the Strait of Gibraltar.
“We also will meet with Fundacion Migres staff to work out future exchanges of students between Migres and Boise State and to discuss ways of obtaining funding to make these exchanges possible,” Bechard said. Fundacion Migres is a nonprofit group that monitors this migration each year from July 15 though Nov. 15.
He noted that one of his goals is to increase the international presence of the Raptor Research Center. Toward that goal, Bechard will spend two days in Sevilla with the director of Fundacion Migres to discuss establishing cooperative agreements between the two institutions.
Bechard also will discuss with Migres staff about how to make 10-day undergraduate class through Boise State in Spain more affordable for students. “It is a unique opportunity for Boise State biology undergrads to gain research experience in southern Spain and Northern Morocco,” he said.
Fundacion Migres monitors the mortality of raptors at wind farms at the Strait of Gibraltar. Bechard has been involved in this research and has co-authored two scientific papers on the subject with scientists at Fundacion Migres.
“The Fundacion Migres director and I will meet to discuss ways of continuing this collaboration and ways that we can incorporate students in the Raptor Research Center into this type of research,” Bechard said.
Dozens of raptor species migrate across the Strait of Gibraltar each year from July through November. Raptors cannot fly over large expanses of open water because of their soaring flight. Since the strait is only 9 km wide, it provides an ideal corridor for raptor migration.
Fundacion Migres monitors this migration, as well as the migration of storks, shorebirds, marine birds and marine mammals such as whales. The organization operates several sites where the numbers of migrating raptors are counted each day. Volunteers also capture and band migrating raptors and flamingos.
Because the IBO and Raptor Research Center at Boise State have similar interests in bird migration, they have established a cooperative agreement with Fundacion Migres. The agreement facilitates the exchange of students and scientists between the two institutions to provide opportunities to study raptor migration both in southern Spain and in Idaho.
For three years, Boise State has sent past and current students to Tarifa, Spain, to volunteer with Fundacion Migres for four months. Students participate in daily count activities as well as learn techniques for trapping and banding migrating birds. They are immersed in Spanish culture and must learn to communicate in Spanish while they are there, making it is not only a scientific experience, but a cultural one as well.