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A Puerto Rican Flycatcher sings at first light on Global Big Day. (Photo by Hector Ortiz)

Congratulations to all our citizen scientists out there! The biggest day in birding was even bigger for the Caribbean this year. May 4, Global Big Day 2019, saw 846 checklists posted on the eBird Caribbean site, topping last year’s 698. This is quite a big jump in one year!

Whether it was by the sea, in the hills or in backyards, over 200 Caribbean birdwatchers, ornithologists, photographers and nature enthusiasts grabbed binoculars and cameras on May 4. They recorded 330 species in total, including 140 endemics. This means that no less than 80% of the Caribbean’s special birds, found nowhere else in the world, were seen in one single day. This is a very encouraging development. You can see all of the Global Big Day data from the West Indies on eBird.

A pair of Bobolinks were spotted on the Cayman Islands. (Photo by Denny Swaby)

This year, 21 islands played a part in Global Big Day.  In recent years, an annual (friendly) competition in the West Indies has been warming up between the Bahamas and Puerto Rico. This year the race to the top was again close, but the Bahamas emerged as winners, spotting 138 species. Puerto Rico came in just six species behind and Cuba came in third with 125.  Who will the winner be next year? Trinidad and Tobago, grouped with South America in Global Big Day counts, spotted 194 species.

Globally, a record 33,459 enthusiasts went out birdwatching in 171 countries, finding 6,842 species. Two thirds of the world’s bird species were spotted in a single day. The Western Hemisphere dominated the global results; Colombia came out on top for the third consecutive year with the stunning total of 1,591 species, followed by Peru.

A Wilson’s Plover in Anguilla. (Jacqueline A. Cestero)

BirdsCaribbean and eBird Caribbean thank all who went out on Global Big Day, even if only for a short time. The main point is that you participated, making an invaluable contribution to science and conservation. As the world’s largest biodiversity-related citizen science project, eBird had 1.85 million observations on Global Big Day. eBird is managed by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, in collaboration with partner groups such as BirdsCaribbean – and hundreds of thousands of eBirders. For more information, go to the Caribbean portal:  https://ebird.org/caribbean/home. You may also download the free mobile app, which makes tallying those numbers even easier. Enjoy!

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What is a Gavilán? Have you seen a Guaraguaíto?

Field technicians check the the hawk chicks for Philornis pici fly larvae. These parasites will feed off the chick’s blood which can result in death. (Photo by Eladio Fernandez)

These are two names sometimes given to the elegant Ridgway’s Hawk, a Critically Endangered bird of prey which lives only on the island of Hispaniola. This hawk has an estimated population of just  450 individuals in the Dominican Republic, and is believed to be extirpated in Haiti. Since 2000, The Peregrine Fund – a non-profit organization working for the conservation of threatened and endangered birds of prey worldwide – has been in the Dominican Republic, fighting to save this species. The program consists of four major components: scientific research and monitoring, assisted dispersal, environmental education and community development.

I came on board this project in 2011 and have been amazed at the incredible strides our great team has made for the conservation of this species. As I write this, we are right in the middle of the busiest time of year – Ridgway’s Hawk nesting season! As many of our local field crew are busy nest monitoring, banding chicks and treating young for botfly infestations, I have had the privilege to spend some time at our new release site in Aniana Vargas National Park.

The Community is Key A newly released Ridgway’s Hawk spending some time on the release tower. (Photo by Marta Curti)

Part of our long-term goals for the conservation of this species include creating 3 additional populations outside of Los Haitises National Park – the location of the last known population of this species. Last year, our team leader, Thomas Hayes, spent a lot of time searching for potential new release sites that would provide the hawks with sufficient prey and nesting habitat as well as relative protection from human threats.  In fact, one of the main reasons we chose this park was because of the communities that surround it. Most of them make their living selling organic cacao and are already committed to environmental protection!

But before we could begin releases in this area, we had to do much more than pick a spot and set up a release site. We had to make sure we had the support from the local community members. After all, the success of the project and the survival of the hawks very much depends on the residents’ reactions to these efforts.

So, over the past several months our team has made many visits to Los Brazos, the nearest community to the release site. We held town meetings to discuss the possibility of releasing hawks in the area. We also brought a few individuals from the town of Los Limones (outside of Los Haitises National Park) where we have been working for close to two decades. The residents learned from them first-hand what benefits the project could bring to their own community. After receiving the go-ahead and full support of the people of Los Brazos, in March we constructed two towers to house the young hawks prior to release. We hired several community members to help with transporting materials through the forest to the site (about a 30-minute walk) and construction.

How Are the New Releases Doing? Members of all ages from the surrounding community were able to enjoy the hawks. (Photo by Marta Curti)

As of the writing of this report, 14 Ridgway’s Hawks have been released into the park. They continue to do well. Nine more are currently in the hack boxes* and will be released within the next two weeks. We hope to bring at least two more hawks to the site, to be able to release a total of 25 individuals this year. All the hawks have been fitted with transmitters which help us locate them during this critical stage of their development.

In order to benefit the community as well as the hawks, we built and provided one free chicken coop to each household in Los Brazos. This will help prevent any conflicts between Ridgway’s Hawks, other raptors and domestic fowl. We also hired and are in the process of training three full-time, seasonal employees and three seasonal, paid volunteers. These young community members are responsible for monitoring and caring for the released hawks, under the supervision of Julio and Sete Gañan. Some have even taken the initiative to give presentations in nearby communities and schools. Our presence in Los Brazos also provides other sources of income for individuals as we pay for additional services such as cooking, laundry, house rental and transportation, among others. We have been overjoyed by the enthusiasm shown by the people of Los Brazos and surrounding communities in support of this project and the Ridgway’s Hawk.

Over the next few months, the released hawks will naturally develop their hunting and survival skills and in no time – they will become completely independent. When that happens, the young hawks will disperse to other areas within and outside the park.

Learning More About the Guaraguaíto Los Brazos community members giving presentations on the Ridgway’s Hawk in local schools. (Photo by Marta Curti)

In order to keep the hawks as protected as possible once this happens, we have to make sure our education program reaches other surrounding communities before the hawks do. To that end, we expanded our education program to the region. To date we have visited 10 other communities that surround the park, going door-to-door, and giving presentations in local schools. We have also engaged local teachers to help us spread this important conservation message.

To date, we have conducted two workshops for a total of 38 teachers working in schools around Aniana Vargas National Park. These two-day workshops are designed to provide teachers with the tools necessary to be able to talk about conservation issues one-on-one within their communities and in the classroom. The training also showed how to utilize whatever materials are on hand to create fun and dynamic learning experiences for their students. Our goal is for the educators to duplicate what they learned and help spread the word about the hawk and conservation far and wide.

Workshop activities include creating artistic sculptures of Ridgway’s Hawks out of recyclable materials; putting on a play – complete with actors, costumes and scenery; a bird watching excursion; playing a food-chain game; and participating in “Raptor Olympics.” During these exercises, the teachers are learning about the Ridgway’s Hawk’s biology, food chains, birds of prey, and conservation issues and actions. We have since received word from some participants, who are already putting what they learned into action. Some teachers have begun giving presentations at their schools about the hawks, and one hosted a mini-workshop with the other teachers at her school. We have also conducted art activities in several schools around the area, focused on birds of prey and the Ridgway’s Hawk.

The Future Looks Brighter, Thanks to Support! Kids with our new Ridgeway’s Hawk brochure. (photo by Marta Curti)

Additionally, we have printed our first children’s brochure (in Spanish and Haitian Creole) and poster, and we are making progress on several other educational materials! We still have a lot of work to do in order to conserve this species and to reduce the human threat to its survival. However, we have made great strides and will continue to work hard for a better future for this beautiful raptor and for all wildlife and wild places, besides the human communities in Dominican Republic that live alongside them. I can’t wait!

We are grateful to our in-country partners Fundación Grupo Puntacana, Fundación Propagas, ZooDom, Cooperativa Vega Real, and Ministerio de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales: and to our generous donors: BirdsCaribbean and the Betty Petersen Conservation Fund, and Premios Brugal Cree en Su Gente. And very importantly, we thank all of our local employees and volunteers, and all the community members for ensuring the success of this project. We could not do it without your support!

Hover over each photo to see the caption or click on the photo to see a slide show.

By Marta Curti, The Peregrine Fund. Marta Curti began working as a field biologist with The Peregrine Fund (TPF) in 2000 when she worked as a hack site attendant on the Aplomado Falcon project in southern Texas. She has since worked as a biologist and environmental educator on several TPF projects from California Condors in Arizona to Harpy Eagles and Orange-breasted Falcons in Belize and Panama. She has been working with the Ridgway’s Hawk Project since 2011. 

* A hack box is a specially designed aviary that serves as a temporary nest for young hawks awaiting release into a new area. The hawks are places in the hack box at a young age (before they are naturally able to fly). They remain in the hack box for about 7-10 days, until they are at the age of fledging. During their time in the hack box they are fed daily and become accustomed to their new home so that when the doors are open, they will naturally want to return to the site for food. Over time they will develop their hunting skills and once independent they will disperse naturally from the release area and no longer show up for the food we provision.

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Barbuda Warbler, endemic to the tiny island of Barbuda. The world’s population of this bird is restricted to 62 square miles. (Photo by Jeff Gerbracht)

March 28th, 2019: A year and a half after Category 5 Hurricane Irma smashed into the beautiful island of Barbuda.  A survey team is on the local ferry, returning to conduct follow-up population assessments of the endemic Barbuda Warbler and the Magnificent Frigatebird colony. The Barbuda Warbler was last evaluated by the IUCN in October, 2016 and was classified as Near Threatened; the Magnificent Frigatebird colony is the largest breeding colony in the western hemisphere. As an endemic, the Barbuda Warbler is completely restricted to the 62 square mile island and with its relatively small population, is at a higher risk from extreme weather events and habitat loss.  The frigatebird colony as the largest breeding colony in the region is critical to the continued success of this species in the Atlantic.  When Hurricane Irma swept over the island, we feared for the safety of both the Barbuda Warbler and the frigatebird breeding colony.  An assessment team was quickly gathered and sent to assess both species in October 2017.  We found that the Barbuda Warbler seemed to have survived the hurricane well and the Magnificent Frigatebirds were already started to return in numbers.  But, we were returning to investigate: how were these populations both doing 18 months later?

Of Tents, Tarps, and Old Friends Shanna and Junior observing while Fernando records the observations. (Photo by Jeff Gerbracht)

Immediately upon landing at the ferry docks, we were greeted by the faces of friends we had made on the previous visit. Kelly Burton, Codrington Lagoon National Park Manager (Dept of Environment), was there making sure that the arrangements for transportation, food and lodging were taken care of and that our sometimes ‘unusual’ needs were met. Once we settled into our lodgings, we had a quick look around the town of Codrington, which had been nearly destroyed by the hurricane. Many homes now have electricity and roofs, but many were still without the basic needs of a simple roof. Tents and tarps are still being used by many Barbudans.  Before we even left Codrington for an initial training session on methods, we encountered several Barbuda Warblers and the local subspecies of Yellow Warbler. A good sign for the first day.

We then headed north towards Two Foot Bay, where Jeff Gerbracht and  Fernando Simal from BirdsCaribbean oriented the rest of the team with the survey methodology and what to expect for the following week: early mornings, late evenings and lots of walking, counting birds and good company!!  Natalya Lawrence (Environmental Awareness Group – EAG), Sophia Steele (Flora & Fauna International) and Joseph (Junior) Prosper (EAG) enthusiastically dove right into the methods, asking great questions about the survey forms and practicing the count protocol. Sophia was part of the field team just after Irma and her prior experience with the methods was an added bonus. Of the eight point counts made that first afternoon, only one didn’t include a Barbuda Warbler, again a great start to a great week.

Revisiting Old Haunts, Meeting the Barbudans, and Lobster Wraps for Lunch Discussing the Barbuda Warbler with John Mussington, secondary school principal and science teacher. (Photo by Natalya Lawrence)

The next day started with sunrise, with two teams visiting the points we had sampled a year and a half earlier. Generally, each team was able to cover 8-15 points before the sun drove both us and the warblers into hiding. We looked forward to the lunch breaks with fantastic lobster wraps provided by Claudette and the occasional visits by her lovely granddaughter.  After a relaxing lunch and brief rest, we were back in the field by 3pm, covering as many points as possible before sunset. Evenings were a group dinner, followed by a few Wadadlis (local beer!) and strategizing for the following day.

One of the biggest differences from my prior visit was the number of people that were back on the island. During our first visit, Codrington was almost deserted, and this time it was a vibrant community.  This also meant we could meet with the community members, discuss what we were doing and why, and also begin to understand their lives and challenges post-Irma. We met with the principals of both schools, gave presentations on the Barbuda Warbler and the monitoring efforts to several of the classes, and had many enlightening discussions with Barbudans we would meet in and around town. Several times during the week we met children returning home from school, which often resulted in some impromptu birding classes.

The Frigatebird Revival Most of the smaller groups of mangroves appeared to be dead though the frigatebirds are still using them for nesting. The larger sections of mangrove appear to be slowly recovering with much dead vegetation still in evidence. (Photo by Jeff Gerbracht)

Partway through the week, Natalya and Sophia had to return to Antigua and Shanna Challenger (Flora and Fauna International), also an alum from the first season, joined the field crew and quickly showed her talent for spotting hard to find birds. With the help of Shanna and Joseph (who walked more miles than any of us), we were able to complete the necessary point counts, which gave us some extra time to conduct a rapid count of the Magnificent Frigatebird colony in the Codrington Lagoon NP.   An afternoon boat trip to the colony was spectacular. We were joined by additional EAG staff (Nathan Wilson) and we counted as much of the colony as possible. One person counted adults, a second counted downy chicks and a third counted the ‘white-headed’ birds (mostly birds hatched either last year or very early this year).  We counted a whopping 7,451 frigatebirds.   The mangroves appear to be recovering slowly but that didn’t seem to bother the frigatebirds too much.

Connecting with Barbudans of All Ages

One of the very important aspects of our trip, besides counting the birds of course, was interacting with the Barbudans. During the second half of the trip, a team from EAG traveled from Antigua to do just that. In addition to the visits that we had already made to both schools, Arica Hill, EAG’s Executive Director, led the charge to host Barbuda Warbler presentations at the elementary school, complete with Shanna dressed as a Barbuda Warbler! Arica and EAG Director, Tahambay Smith, also organized a town hall meeting that was held with Barbudans, to gauge their interest in establishing an arm of the EAG over there. And let’s not forget filming! Lawson Lewis captured moments in the field, in the schools and in the meeting. These will be made into a short documentary that should become available very soon.

A New Airport Raises Concerns Survey point now in the middle of the new airport runway. (Photo by Joseph Prosper)

Back to the field work! During the first few days, we kicked up clouds of red dust as we walked from point to point to count the Barbuda Warbler. Then, there were a few unexpected challenges, some caused by the much-needed heavy rains we encountered (Antigua and Barbuda have been in a drought for several years). But folks were happy to pull us out of the resulting mud when we got stuck and we were able to complete our surveys despite several rain delays. The construction of the new airport meant that several points we had previously counted were now either on the runway or in the middle of the rock quarry supporting the new construction. Habitat loss and concerns about the impact the airport will have on the surrounding warblers are something that should be closely monitored into the future.

There was also good news. We observed warblers throughout the island in numbers roughly similar to the previous counts shortly after the hurricane.   71 of the 105 random points counted during the week included at least one Barbuda Warbler.  Certainly, one of the reasons the Barbuda Warbler population is doing this well, following a direct hit by Irma, is simply the amount of habitat available on Barbuda. The small human population and communal land ownership laws on Barbuda have resulted in most of the island remaining in a wild state, providing the warbler and other life with ample habitat. This likely provides significant buffers to the impacts of natural disasters such as droughts and hurricanes.  As that habitat decreases, however, with the developments that are sure to follow the opening of a new airport, the risks to the warbler and its long term survival will also increase.

While the warbler appears to be doing fairly well, the data are still being analyzed and any conjecture about the true population status at this time is based on our observations and not statistics. We will follow up this blog post with the population estimates once the numbers have been crunched (and we will also present our work at BirdsCaribbean’s 22nd International Conference in Guadeloupe). The data are now off to Dr. Frank Rivera-Milan (who led the team during the first visit) – he will be running the various models to produce a current population estimate.

All in all, it was a very busy week but we had a wonderful time.  Counting birds, meeting new friends, and spending time on such a beautiful, mostly wild island is a special experience—I’m ready to go back !!!

Thank you to our Partners!

We thank our donors and supporters who made this trip a successful one.  Firstly, many thanks are expressed to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act Fund), Global Wildlife Conservation, and Mr. Lamont Brown for providing funding for these important surveys and also for the educational outreach in Barbuda. Sincere thanks to the Environmental Awareness Group (EAG) for assisting with the logistics, especially Ms. Arica Hill and Mr. Kelly Burton (Dept of Environment). Thanks to Fernando Simal (WILDCONSCIENCE), Joseph (Junior) Prosper, Natalya Lawrence, Shanna Challenger, and Sophie Punnett-Steele for tireless help with the field work. Thank you to Mr. John Mussington and Ms. Charlene Harris, principals at both the secondary and elementary schools in Barbuda, for affording us the opportunity to visit and speak with the students. Finally, we wish to thank the Barbuda Council and the Barbudan people who provided us with their assistance and support.

By Jeff Gerbracht, Lead Application Developer, eBird, Cornell Lab of Ornithology. For many years, Jeff has served as a volunteer facilitator at our BirdsCaribbean training workshops and assisted with a number of field survey and monitoring efforts.

Hover over each photo to see the caption or click on the first photo to see a slide show.

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Birds Caribbean by Justin Proctor - 1M ago

Cardinals are definitely red,

Blue Jays are… well….yes, mostly blue,

And it’s a FACT that our Guadeloupe Conference in July will be a damn good time…

Because your BirdsCaribbean family—along with great birds, stunning landscapes, and a warm French culture—all anxiously await you!

Dearest delegates and potential delegates far and wide,

We are now less than 3 months from conference time, and I’m happy to report to you that everything is lookin’ good!

Our Conference Organizing Committee has been working around the clock for the last 5 months to ensure that your time in Guadeloupe is going to be the best it can be! And we have no intentions of dialing it back until we’ve made sure that all of you are at the Karibea Beach Hotel with a smile on your face, an ocean breeze in your hair, and a cold drink in your hands.

I can confidently say that we’ve created what promises to be an unforgettable adventure for you. Don’t miss out! If you haven’t yet acted on any of the other deadline reminders we’ve sent out, please take this one seriously – May 7th (less than 10 days from NOW!) is the deadline for a GREAT MANY THINGS!

Early Bird Registration – May 7th

Call for abstracts (presentations and posters) – May 7th

Travel Support applications (awarded on a rolling basis) – May 7th

I also want to point out that the pre-conference field trip on July 24th with Anthony Levesque has only 8 openings left!

And the post-conference field trip to Dominica and Martinique has only 3 openings left!

In order to claim a spot, you MUST pay a DEPOSIT here, absolutely immediately.

Please reach out to me personally if you have any questions and need some help: justin.proctor@birdscaribbean.org.

Ok, with the paperwork behind us, let’s give you a glimpse of what we’ve been putting together!

First, the Karibea Beach Hotel is going to be our venue, and it won’t disappoint. The presentation and meeting rooms are comfortable and sized just right; the socializing space where we’ll be having our coffee breaks is set up perfectly to mingle with old friends and meet new ones; the backdrop is a beach looking out over the ocean towards the western half of the island, where Le Soufriere dominates the landscape; and the personal rooms are close-by, comfortable, and come with quite the view!

We’ve got 6 exciting Keynote Speakers lined up. Be sure to make time to meet with as many of them as you can during a coffee break or over a meal!

The field trip options before, during, and after the conference are abundant and diverse. We’re throwing as many opportunities to explore the island at you as we possibly can! Climb a volcano, snorkel the mangroves, island hop down to Dominica and Martinique, watch the Caribbean Martins come in to roost in downtown Pointe a Pitre, explore the Deshaies Mountains, or experience Guadeloupe’s famous waterfalls – staying active won’t be a problem!

The Program itself is filling up quickly. We’ve already had dozens of excellent presentation and posters abstracts submitted, which means that our symposia from shorebirds to hurricanes to technology will be rich with new and exciting talks and information. Likewise, we are overflowing with interesting workshops and engaging training sessions. We’ll be sure to get the full digital version of the conference PROGRAM out to you before you head to Guadeloupe, so you can start making some decisions on what you’d like to attend!

Don’t forget, there are several PRE-CONFERENCE workshops ready for you to attend. Please make sure to adjust your travel accordingly and also let us know that you’ll be attending!

Restoring Habitat through World Migratory Bird Day Cleanups Open Standards for the Practice of Conservation Atlantic Flyway Shorebird Harvest Workshop

And if you’re coming to Guadeloupe to see some awesome birds, the island will not disappoint.

284 bird species have been observed in Guadeloupe, including 81 nesting species reported since the year 2000. Guadeloupe hosts 8 bird species that are endemic to the Lesser Antilles, 5 species that are endemic to the Lesser Antilles + Puerto Rico, and 1 species entirely endemic to Guadeloupe – the Guadeloupe Woodpecker.

A huge thank you to Frantz Delcroix and Anthony Levesque for allowing us to showcase some of their stunning photographs:

And there is so much more lined up for you! Head to our conference website and just browse around to see what else we’ve been up to! 

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, our conferences wouldn’t be teaming with a diverse crowd of scientists, conservationists, and students if it wasn’t for the generous support of donors that help sponsor delegates to attend. PLEASE CONSIDER helping sponsor a delegate – our conferences can be life changers for our community members that don’t normally have the financial means to travel, personally network with leaders in their field, and attend workshops and symposia that can help them better their work. Help shape the future of the Caribbean you love, and please considering sponsoring a delegate. 

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The Caribbean islands are home to 172 endemic bird species that are found nowhere else in the world.  Many survive on just one island.  Right now, these birds, and their habitats, are under increasing pressure from badly planned commercial development, poaching for sport and subsistence as well as increasingly deadly storms due to climate change, to name just a few threats. The Caribbean’s biodiversity is at serious risk with about 1/3 of the region’s species threatened with extinction, making the Caribbean one of the top hotspots assessed by the Critical Ecosystems Partnership Fund for globally threatened species.

That is why Saint Lucia artists, Chris Cox, Donna Grandin & Daniel Jean-Baptiste, have donated their work, including an outstanding image of the Imperial Parrot, to raise funds to protect this and other magnificent endemic Caribbean species.  The auction will launch on May 3rd at https://www.32auctions.com/SaveCaribbeanBirds You can buy one of these incredible pieces of art and, with your purchase, ensure the work needed to save these birds in the wild continues. This is vital work so reward yourself and purchase art that will protect the most endangered birds of the Caribbean.

Caribbean Species Continue to Face Serious Challenges

For years, Caribbean conservation organizations have toiled to bring these species back from the brink of extinction. Recent hurricanes and lack of resources have caused huge setbacks that conservationists are desperately working to resolve.  Funds raised from this auction will all go to support the recovery of critically endangered Caribbean island species: protecting their habitat and ensuring local communities are engaged in protecting them – actions that will guarantee their survival. Please support our effort and purchase some of the Caribbean’s finest artwork.

Chris Cox and the Imperial Parrot of Dominica “Imperials of Waitukabuli – Imperial Parrots” by Chris Cox

The auction is the brainchild of Chris Cox, who felt compelled to support preservation of Imperial Parrots after he saw the massive devastation on their island home, Dominica, caused by Hurricane Maria in 2017. Having worked at Saint Lucia’s Forestry Department for many years, Chris knew how much this hurricane’s destructive force would impact this magnificent species’ already stressed chance for long-term survival. This painting depicts the birds in their element – as they should be forever – high in the rugged rainforest, with the poise of majesty and hope of a secure future.

Chris feels privileged to be among the few recognized wildlife artists from the region. He has combined his passion for wildlife art with his conservation career; working with Saint Lucia’s government and then with a regional environmental agency. Recently, he has opened up new horizons beyond the Caribbean, having relocated to Nairobi, Kenya in 2014, where he pursues his professional career with the United Nations Environment Program working on combating marine pollution. His art is expressed in a variety of media from watercolors to acrylics to oils.

His stunning image of Imperial Parrots in the wild, titled “Imperials of Waitukabuli – Imperial Parrots,” is an oil painting on canvas. Its dimensions are 48×36″ – based on the current size of the stretcher it is on; *note that when re-stretched it may be slightly smaller.

“Mango Delight” – a Vibrant Work That Expresses Joy “Mango Delight” by Daniel Gabriel Angelo Jean-Baptiste.

Silk painting artist Daniel Gabriel Angelo Jean-Baptiste of Saint Lucia immediately joined with Chris on the idea of an auction to support Caribbean birds.  Daniel uses tropical nature as his inspiration and silk as his canvas.  His creations reflect on a life of growing up in the beautiful tropical paradise of the Caribbean. His works are in the private art collections of golf champion Arnold Palmer, heavyweight boxing champion George Foreman, singer/songwriter Paul Simon, U.S. President Bill Clinton, U.S. President George W. Bush, South African President Nelson Mandela, and CEO of Sandals Resorts Gordon “Butch” Stewart.

Daniel’s contribution to the auction, “Mango Delight” is a commissioned one-of-a-kind. It is hand drawn water-based resistant (?) and hand painted using Sumi sheep hair brushes to apply a water-based liquid pigment silk paint onto 10mm, 100% Habotai silk. This magnificent image measures 40″high x 30″wide. The piece is unframed and is shipped as a rolled textile.

Daniel states, “My life is one which is so close to nature that I feel a part of all her splendor and mystery. When I paint, I become my subject, from the tree frog in the mist of Fond St. Jacques rainforest to the sea turtle gliding in the deep blue waters of Anse Chastanet Bay… I do not just want to paint, but I want you to create so that you too can feel the intense joy that I experience in being here.”

A Third Saint Lucia Artist Has Stepped Up “Pondlife with Snowy Egrets” by Donna Grandin

Donna Grandin is a professional fine artist from Saint Lucia. She studied art in Canada and, since then, has been exhibiting her acrylic paintings in the Caribbean and Canada, gaining collectors from those areas and beyond.  Donna also responded to Chris’s call and has provided the third piece for the auction.

Donna states that Nature provides a feast of inspiration for the artist. With its organic shapes and patterns, nature provides her with an endless supply of interesting compositions. “As an acrylic painter, I capture and translate these compositions through the filters of my personal sense of color and interest in visual rhythm, to convey mood and movement.”

Her piece, “Pondlife with Snowy Egrets,” conveys the serenity of nature.  Her inspiration for Pondlife was the pond in front of the Auberge Seraphin at Vigie, in Saint Lucia. This beautiful image is a 30”x40” acrylics.

Let the Bidding Begin!

Now that you have seen the images, let’s all go bid on them!  It’s easy, all you have to do is click on https://www.32auctions.com/SaveCaribbeanBirds and put a bid on one or all of the paintings. Mark your calendars – the auction begins on Friday, May 3 and closes on Sunday, May 12, 2019.

Please spread the word as well.  Tell everyone you know about the auction by e-mailing the link, pasting the link into your social media with a post encouraging friends to enter the auction and any other creative ways to make the auction a success.  Let’s ensure the birds and habitats of the Caribbean, especially Dominica’s Imperial Parrots, survive for generations to come. Thank you!

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Cuban Oriole, one of 26 endemic birds in Cuba. (photo by Aslam Ibrahim)

Last May, more than 30,000 people took to fields and forests around the world, noting 7,025 species in a single dayGlobal Big Day. A world record! In less than 2 weeks, birding’s biggest day is coming back.

On Saturday, May 4th, will you represent the Caribbean and join birders across the world as part of Global Big Day? You don’t have to commit to birding for 24 hours- just an hour or even 10 minutes of watching birds makes you part of the team. This annual event raises the profile of birds, conservation issues, and gathers a snapshot of bird distribution around the globeand we need your help to do it!

The Caribbean Endemic Bird Festival is ongoing and incorporating Global Big Day as an activity into your events is the perfect opportunity to introduce newcomers to the joys of birding. You can practice bird identification, proper equipment use, and field skills like keeping a checklist. Visit your favorite spot or search out someplace new!

A Little Friendly Competition

In 2018, a total of 254 Caribbean birders reported an incredible 453 species on Global Big Day! Here are some of the top contenders from last year (see all the West Indies data on eBird). Will they be able to defend their titles in 2019?

Species diversity:

    1. Trinidad and Tobago: 178 species (yes, yes, we know TT is on a different level, being so close to South America)
    2. Puerto Rico: 136 species
    3. The Bahamas: 135 species
    4. Guadeloupe: 83 species
    5. Cuba: 82 species

Number of checklists (of 926 total across the region):

    1. Puerto Rico: 249 checklists
    2. Bahamas: 167 Checklists
    3. Cayman Islands: 50 checklists
    4. Guadeloupe: 42 checklists
    5. U.S. Virgin Islands: 41 checklists

In 2018, 104 of the 175 West Indian endemics were reported. Can we do better this year? If your island has endemic bird species, near endemics or endemic subspecies, make sure they are represented on the count!

Global Big Day last year also resulted in some interesting and rare birds in the Caribbean. In Barbados, a Pacific Golden Plover and a Eurasian Spoonbill were both spotted on the same day. In Antigua, a Black Kite was reported. We are curious what rarities or vagrants might show up this year!

How Do I Participate? Birding at Ashton Lagoon, Union Island, St. Vincent and the Grenadines. (Photo by Lisa Sorenson)

You don’t need to be a bird expert, you just have to go out and enjoy birds. Here’s our two-step guide:

  1. Watch birds on Saturday, May 4th: Can’t commit to an excursion? Even 10 minutes in your backyard will help. Global Big Day runs from midnight to midnight in your local time zone. You can report birds from anywhere in the world.
  2. Enter what you see and hear on eBird CaribbeanYou can enter your sightings via the website or—even easier—use the free eBird Mobile app. You can enter and submit lists while you’re still out birding, and the app will even keep track of how far you’ve walked, so you can just focus on watching birds. Counts conducted at wetlands, ponds, mud flats and beaches can be entered as Caribbean Waterbird Census counts. (On a desktop when entering your data on eBird.org, on Step 2 “Date and Effort” page, be sure to choose either the “CWC Point Count” “CWC Traveling Count” or “CWC Area Search” observation type. If you are using the EBird Mobile app – adjust your settings – choose eBird Caribbean as your portal and these options will show up!)

Global Big Day Tips:

  • If you’re looking for a new place to find birds, explore eBird Hotspots near you.
  • Use Merlin Bird ID for help with tricky species.
  • Get together with friends and set a goal for your birding—most unusual species? biggest flock? all the species in your favorite family? The possibilities are endless.
  • Take photos and add them to your checklist—they might end up on the Global Big Day page!
  • Make your sightings more valuable: submit complete checklistskeep counts of the birds that you see, and keep multiple checklists throughout the course of your birding—if you get in the car, end that checklist and start a new one when you get to the next location.
  • Share what you’re seeing on social media with #globalbigday! Add your planned May 4th location to the global map.

Last year’s Global Big Day was record-breaking in terms of effort and species reported. On May 4th, we hope you will join us for the word’s next birding record!

 

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The following birthday announcement is brought to you by…

Presidente, a refreshing brand of Pilsner beer proudly brewed in the Dominican Republic since 1935

and…

The Solenodon Crochet Company, a family owned and operated business out of Rabo de Gato known for high quality, hand-crafted crochet animals

Loving shout-outs, warm well-wishes, and funny anecdotes from your friends around the Caribbean and beyond:

Kate Wallace is a living legend in the Dominican Republic. With much enthusiasm, passion and energy, she has done so much to advance ornithology, bird education, and bird tourism in the DR.

For those that may not know her history: Kate arrived to the DR 24 years ago with the Peace Corps and has worked as a volunteer for BirdsCaribbean, Sociedad Ornitologica de la Hispaniola, Grupo Jaragua, and Grupo Acción Ecológica. Her formal education is teaching, and as a field naturalist, bird education came natural to her. At her house one can see drawings from the 1980’s all over the walls, including pictures done by school children learning how to draw birds. There is also a colorful bird rotofolio to give talks (“charlas”) about birds when there is no electricity, a frequent condition out in the countryside.

Over the years Kate has worked with many researchers and students such as Steve Latta, Chris Rimmer, and Justin Proctor, to name a few, generously helping them with whatever they needed—providing a place to stay in Santo Domingo and organizing help in the field and other logistics. Kate has been a key person in getting the Caribbean Waterbird Census going in the DR, and has organized and helped with countless bird education events for the Caribbean Endemic Bird Festival and World Migratory Bird Day, as well as BirdSleuth Caribbean. Kate also developed her own bird tourism company, Tody Tours, and has a fabulous “camp” up in the Sierra de Bahoruco mountains so that people can experience the incredible birds and beauty of this region.

When you walk down the streets of the Colonial Zone with Kate, she is greeted by everyone. The day we went to the Ministry of the Environment, she was treated like royalty. Greetings from different people included, “I took the course you coordinated!” “Hi Katy, how are you? I know you from the workshops!” and “Hi Kate, after our bird club, now I work for the ministry.” Even out in the countryside, people wave to Kate as she drives by shouting “Katy, Katy” with a big smile! If you say to her, “Kate, you didn’t tell us you were famous,” she cheerfully responds, “I didn’t know I was!”

Kate is also fearless—the WORST roads in the world are in the DR and they are not an impediment to Kate and her mission. I have been with Kate when a rock fell from a passing truck on to our windshield – it sounded like a bomb and the windshield shattered into a million pieces, embedding some tiny fragments of glass into my skin. Another time, in pursuit of birds, we drove across a stretch of flooded, washed out road with a river running over it that nearly swept our car away! Both experiences were terrifying (to me), but were all in a day’s work for Kate!!!

Kate absolutely loves being a part of the conservation movement in the DR and, at 80, she still wants to do more for birds! Kate inspires us to keep working…and keep giving. She just registered for the upcoming BirdsCaribbean conference in Guadeloupe, and we can’t wait to see her there. In the meantime, we plan on celebrating her 80th birthday with a tall, cold beer—her favorite, El Presidente!!!  Happy Birthday Kate, we love you!!!

– Lisa Sorenson and Sheylda Diaz-Mendez and the BirdsCaribbean Board

Over the course of 5 years of field work, Kate helped make the Dominican Republic a second home for us.  She welcomed us into her Santo Domingo apartment, even providing a room for Jason to stash his many bins of field gear! Kate showed us around Santo Domingo, introduced us to birding spots, directed us to secluded natural areas, and let us camp at her Rabo de Gato property whenever we came down the north side of the Sierra de Bahoruco. She also introduced us to everyone and everything related to birds on the island, and never asked for anything in return except the occasional jug of maple syrup, brought in from the old country!

Kate’s influence on birdwatching and conservation in the DR is enormous. On her 80th we wish her many more years of continued success and positive influence. We wish we could be there for a couple of Presidentes with Kate!

– Jason and Andrea Townsend

Happy Birthday Kate!  We can never thank you enough for having been so much help and giving so much of your time and warm hospitality when we were in the DR. Your passion and dedication are an inspiration. We’ve been showing videos and photos of the work with cua and gavilan to our boys lately and we miss the birds, and you, a lot. Hope you have a lovely and wonderful day surrounded by many friends!  All our love!

– Lance and Rina

Saludos a Dona Kate on your 80th birthday!

We are SO HAPPY that you stumbled into Joe Wunderle, Esteban Terranova, and me in Jarabacoa many years ago, and that your service to Dominican ornithology was launched.

Thank you for being our host, our field help, our eyes and ears, our recorder of data and histories, our annotator of records.

Thank you for being our networker, and introducing so many of us to each other.

Thank you for bringing ecotourism with style to the Sierra de Bahoruco.

Thank you for being you, and keeping that Kate attitude!

And most of all, thank you for being our friend!

Un abrazo,

– Steven Latta

A Birthday Shout-Out to Kate!  Happy Birthday to the Silent Auction Queen! Thank you for all you’ve done to support BirdsCaribbean over the years!

– Jennifer Wheeler

Would like to add my birthday wishes to Kate Wallace. We have worked together on the Silent Auction for a few years and have also roomed together several times – still friends.

My Bird Club of New Providence (Bahamas) did Kate’s tour in 2010 which was amazing, she is a great tour guide and ambassador for the birds of the region.

Kind regards from Nassau, Bahamas,

– Carolyn Wardle

Kate has been an important part of my training in the world of birds, I am very grateful to have known her.

Once we were in a Christmas Count in Bani, for the Waterfowl and at lunchtime she told us that she felt calm in the local restaurant because the dishes had flower paintings, which in the restaurants that put white dishes without designs was very expensive, hahahaha.

In the festivals of endemic birds I teach how to draw any bird in 4 simple steps: a circle for the torso, a circle for the head, two lines are the legs and a triangle is the peak. Ready, you have your bird.

There are many things you can meet with a person with so much experience and way of being. Thank you Kate Wallace for your love of the birds of my country.

– Johanna Rodriguez Paulino

Kate,

Happy Birthday – can’t believe it’s your 80th, but congratulations for your many contributions to bird conservation and environmental education in the DR and throughout the Caribbean, all contributed with good cheer. Your willingness to assist with the silent auctions for BirdsCaribbean has helped raise badly needed funds for BC. I don’t know where the time went, but it seems like only yesterday when you came up to Jarabacoa to join Steve and the “Ciguetaros” in our coffee study. Your infectious enthusiasm was a shot in the arm for us and eventually to bird conservation and environmental education in the DR. Hope I can celebrate with you in Guadeloupe in July. Much to discuss I’m sure. In the meantime, all the best on an important birthday!!

Cheers,

– Joe Wunderle

I will say about Kate… she is a character and one for the history books. While Annabelle Stockton (Dod) made the birds of the DR and Haiti available for all through her newspaper articles and guide, Kate Wallace was responsible for promoting the birds of the DR and Haiti, helping researchers do their work, and helping form a whole generation of bird lovers in the DR. Her commitment to the conservation of birds is undeniable. She established the first hostal designed exclusively for birdwatchers in this country. She has witnessed how a few local bird watchers have transcended to become accomplished bird photographers. Here are a few of my favorite moments when I think of Kate:

Kate instructed Danilo Mejia once to buy a used SUV for her. He found one and used a mechanic friend of his to make all the necessary repairs before Kate even saw the vehicle. When Danilo was about to deliver it, he thought it needed a “Hati Guallace” special something that would make it hers, so he had a tinted paper placed on the upper part of the windshield that read “LLEGÓ KATY”.

Kate’s eternal response to whether she had seen birds on any given outing was always… “miliones de aves”. She would also unknowingly make these yummy noises when she ate… “hmmm… muy buena”. So I travelled with two good friends around Lago Enriquillo and after a couple of days of imitating Kate’s “miliones de aves” and “hmmm… muy buena” we arrived at the Hotel Iguana in La Descubierta. We met the owner at the front door of the house, next to which there was a closed window that hid the hotel’s dining table. We could not see beyond the window as the panes where shut. We asked the owner if there was vacancy and a second later we heard a voice through the closed window. “Hmmm… muy buena!” It was Kate who coincidentally was having dinner with some birders. Of course my two companions only knew Kate by my imitations of her savoring her beloved Dominican food.

A Kate Wallace fact: Kate is a very nice person until 5pm rolls around, at which time it is imperative to provide immediately a Jumbo-sized Presidente “vestida de novia” (frosted). If the Presidente is not provided immediately, she will turn into werewolf.

With much love,

– Eladio Fernandez

Happy birthday, Kate! Wow, 80! Congratulations on this milestone. We are sorry that we aren’t around to celebrate with you. I remember your 75th birthday party, dancing and partying on the street with you!

And there are so many wonderful memories we have with you of birding adventures. We have quite a few photos but want to send you a few for memory’s sake.

We want you to know how much we love and appreciate you, Kate, and we will celebrate your birthday with you, although from a distance.

Love,

– Steve & Sandra

Please send Kate my warmest regards and a Happy Birthday! shout out.

– Wayne Arendt

The day we visited Ebano Blanco reserve, while training guides for the Caribbean Birding Trail, a rooster ripped Kate’s pants! I have no idea what that rooster was thinking Kate would do, but It was just amazing to watch her, calmly but cautiously, regaining her balance after the “attack”. Strong message that the rooster will never forget! Kate your patient, diaphanous speech, and overall passion for bird conservation truly inspired me!

Happy Birthday “desde Panama”

– Beny Wilson

Kate, it has been A LOT OF FUN becoming good friends with you over the past 9 years. I feel like those of us that have extensively wandered the back woods of the DR looking for birds together share a special bond. There’s just nothin’ else like it!

Thank you SO MUCH for all your warm hospitality over the years, and most importantly, for all the great laughs and fun adventures along the way. You have been a big inspiration to me, and so many others, and you should be proud of that!

All my best,

– Justin Proctor

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Plastic is killing our planet – not least our beautiful birds. But you can help! This year, the Caribbean Endemic Bird Festival (CEBF) and World Migratory Bird Day (WMBD) address this critical issue with the conservation theme Protect Birds: Be the Solution to Plastic Pollution.

While migration is in full swing, in the Caribbean, it’s a time to celebrate the birds that live only in the region and that stay here all year round. The Caribbean Endemic Bird Festival, organized by BirdsCaribbean, focuses on these special birds that we know and love. CEBF events are held between Earth Day on April 22nd and International Biodiversity Day on May 22nd.

What can we do about plastic? BirdsCaribbean workshop participants clean up plastic trash in Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico. (Photo by Lisa Sorenson)

We know that all the plastic ever manufactured since the 1950s is still with us, in some form or another. Globally, only around 9% of plastic is recycled. According to the Ocean Conservancy, which sponsors International Coastal Cleanups in the Caribbean and around the world, 8 million metric tons of plastic enter our seas annually – adding to the 150 million tons that is already floating around!

Like other parts of the world, the Caribbean has become increasingly aware of the scourge of plastic pollution. Several islands have already moved to ban various forms of plastic as well as Styrofoam, including Antigua & Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, Jamaica, Saint Lucia and the French-speaking islands—kudos to these countries! Others have plans in place to reduce the use of single-use plastic in the next year or two. Meanwhile, private and government-led plastic recycling programmes have started up. But much more needs to be done.

Plastic pollution ruins our beautiful beaches and coastlines, and blocks drains and gullies. It impacts our own health and lifestyle and hampers economic growth, especially in the tourism sector. What is more, it is harming all kinds of marine life, including endangered Caribbean turtles.

During recent beach cleanups around the Caribbean, non-biodegradable, indigestible plastic has been by far the most common type of trash to be collected from our shorelines, rivers and gullies by local volunteers. Plastic bottles, especially for soda and water, are the most common plastics that end up in our waters and on our beaches, as well as small items such as bottle caps, single-use plastic cutlery and straws and toothbrushes. Electronics (e-waste) of various types is increasingly washing up on our shoreline. Plastic shopping bags are also a great danger to our marine life, including birds.

Killer Trash A dead Albatross chick at the remote Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge; it’s stomach is filled with marine debris plastic.

Have we thought about how plastic affects our birds? It is estimated that 80% of seabirds and waterbirds have ingested plastic.

“Plastic pollution is a global issue. Here in the Caribbean it is having a major impact, not only on our important tourism product, but also on our fragile environment,” explained festival coordinator Sheylda Diaz Mendez. “Our islands are home to over 170 endemic birds – found nowhere else in the world. Just like our human visitors, the birds that live year-round on our islands need to feel welcome and comfortable in a clean, healthy environment. Solid waste, mostly consisting of plastics, is upsetting the balance of our ecosystems, for birds and for ourselves.”

“The number of seabirds dying as a result of plastic may be as high as one million annually,” said BirdsCaribbean Executive Director Lisa Sorenson. “Many Caribbean birds are eating plastic daily. The pileup of plastic can also hamper nesting, breeding and feeding on land and prevents important habitats such as mangroves and wetlands from flourishing. This year, our volunteer CEBF coordinators will be organizing this spring, to raise awareness about plastics pollution, how you can reduce your use of single use plastic, doing clean-ups and other activities.”

World Migratory Bird Day Poster showing different groups of birds that are affected by plastic pollution. (Artwork by Arnaldo Toledo)

Plastic breaks down into tiny fragments (microplastics), which can be ingested and lead to disease and suffering in birds – as well as in smaller members of the food chain that birds may eat. It can gradually kill a bird, filling its stomach and essentially starving it to death. Plastic bags can choke and smother birds and animals. In the Caribbean, birds often become entangled in plastic fishing nets, lines, and other equipment, causing serious injury or death.

Which birds are particularly impacted by plastic pollution? The twelve bird species selected for the beautiful WMBD poster produced by Environment for the Americas this year have each been negatively affected by plastic, even though their feeding habits and the places where they live are very different. They are the Magellanic Penguin; the Black Skimmer, which feeds by flying low over the waves; the Lesser Scaup, a diving duck; the Chilean Flamingo; the Common Tern; the Northern Fulmar; the Magnificent Frigatebird (which you may see soaring around our coastlines), the splendid Osprey, a fish hawk; the lively Belted Kingfisher; the stately Tricolored Heron; the Killdeer, a shorebird; and the lovely yellow Prothonotary Warbler.

By the way, the gorgeous artwork on this poster is by Arnaldo Toledo Sotolongo, from Santa Clara, Cuba, a BirdsCaribbean member, who works as a scientific illustrator, photographer and designer and volunteers in conservation projects in his free time.

Be the Solution

Plastic is a worldwide epidemic. We need to work together to be the solution, for the sake of our birds and ourselves!

BirdsCaribbean Cuba Beach Clean up - YouTube

What YOU Can Do to Beat Plastic Pollution:

  • Use reusable metal bottles for your drinking water.
  • Travel with your own metal cutlery and use glass or metal storage containers.
  • Take cloth shopping bags with you to the grocery store.
  • Try reusable bamboo or metal straws.
  • Refuse plastic straws or containers in restaurants and stores.
  • Avoid plastic packaging in food stores as much as possible, including clamshell containers.
  • Take your plastics to the nearest recycling centre.
  • Reuse plastic items as much as possible in and around the home.
  • Host a beach or community cleanup day. Get local companies on board as sponsors. Share your photos.
  • Get involved! Join a local environmental or community group. Get your neighbours involved, too!
  • Design art competitions highlighting the problem of plastic trash.

Contact your local environmental group to find out about events on your island, or contact BirdsCaribbean to organize an event of your own.

The Caribbean Endemic Bird Festival celebrates the 172 species of birds that are found only in the Caribbean and nowhere else in the world. World Migratory Bird Day (WMBD) is a celebration of the thousands of birds that make their way to and fro across the Americas and the Caribbean each year. To raise awareness about the need for bird conservation, volunteer coordinators organize events in the Caribbean in April and May for CEBF and September and October for WMBD. For much more information about CEBF, WMBD and the 2019 plastics theme, visit www.BirdsCaribbean.org and www.migratorybirdday.org/

Learn more about plastics pollution and what you can do to help: https://oceanconservancy.org/trash-free-seas/

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It’s that time of year again – spring migration! Migratory birds have started making their way to the temperate areas of the globe for breeding, Some of these birds have spent the entire winter in the Caribbean and others are passing through as part of a longer journey. In both cases, the Caribbean provides essential habitat that supports these fearless travelers. Safe, clean places to rest and refuel are critical to their survival.

A round trip migration for the Pectoral Sandpipers can reach over 18,000 miles (30,000 km). (Photo by Nick Dorian)

Some of the longest trips made this spring will be completed by the arctic-breeding shorebirds. If you catch a glimpse of a Red Knot in the next few weeks, you are seeing it on just a small part of its 9,300 mile (15,00 km) journey! Shorebirds are both incredible athletes and world travelers: they can travel hundreds of miles a day without rest and pass over continents in weeks.

Capturing data of birds during migration is vital to understanding their status, distribution, and how they are using sites in the Caribbean throughout their life cycle. While you are out birding don’t forget to log your observations in eBird Caribbean. If you are visiting a wetland, please do a Caribbean Waterbird Census (CWC) count! The regional count occurs in January and February, but CWC data is collected year-round! When entering  your data on eBird, on Step 2 “Date and Effort” page, be sure to choose either the “CWC Point Count” “CWC Traveling Count” or “CWC Area Search” observation type. (you can also choose one of these options if you are using the EBird Mobile app – adjust your settings – choose eBird Caribbean as your portal and the options will show up!)

Is that a Least Sandpiper or a Western?

Earlier this year, we redesigned an existing poster of common shorebirds in the Caribbean which features many of the sandpipers, plovers and larger shorebirds that you may see while birding. This poster is a great resource because: 1) it shows the relative size of the shorebirds to each other and 2) all the birds are in their winter plumage. In their non-breeding plumage shorebirds – especially peeps – can be challenging to identify. We hope that this resource is a helpful guide for those learning their shorebird identification.

The poster is also available in Spanish. Below the English common name and scientific name, the common name of the bird appears in Spanish for Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico. For example, the Red Knot has three Spanish common names: Zarapico Raro (Cuba), Playero Gordo (Dominican Republic), and Playero Pechirrojo (Puerto Rico). If only two Spanish common names appear, this indicates that two of these three countries have the same common name for the bird.

Do you have access to a large format printer and want to have a hard copy of this beautiful resource? The poster is the perfect addition to wildlife offices, public education spaces, or to have on hand for events like presentations and bird festivals! Larger versions of the posters can be downloaded here: English and Spanish.

We very much appreciate the National Audubon Society and the Bahamas National Trust allowing us to redesign their original poster and for Manomet’s input during the process. Participants at the Conserving Caribbean Shorebirds and Their Habitats Workshop were treated to small versions of the poster thanks to a generous donation from the Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources.

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It’s a hit – for students, teachers and communities.

Binkie van Es leads an eager BirdSleuth group at Les Fruits de Mer Natural History Museum on St. Martin. (photo by Mark Yokoyama)

“This program is so well designed that once introduced to educators it sells itself. It brings knowledge with the help of fun activities, and because birds are all around us, it helps children and adults alike to better appreciate our immediate surroundings, and inspires environmental stewardship for our surrounding habitats,” said Binkie van Es, an educator and guide on the island of St. Martin/ St. Maarten.

What was Binkie enthusing about? It is the BirdSleuth Caribbean program “Connecting Kids Through Birds,” an innovative, vibrant curriculum that uses birds to teach youth how to study, appreciate and conserve Caribbean birds. Designed for students 9-13 years old, the BirdSleuth Caribbean program contains lessons, activities and learning games that can be done in the classroom and outdoors.

BirdsCaribbean recently submitted its Final Report on the five-year program, which received funding support from the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act Fund of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

BirdsCaribbean is proud to report that over the five years almost 50,000 children and community members on 22 islands/ countries joined in a range of BirdSleuth activities and learning opportunities. From Junior Rangers in the Grenadines to pre-school teachers in Haiti and Montserrat, Caribbean citizens of all ages got involved.

Detectives of Discovery A young BirdSleuth participant in Carriacou is fully focused on documenting the clues.  (Photo by P. Becker)

Now, what exactly is a sleuth? He (or she) is a person who tracks things; a keen investigator who unearths all kinds of interesting facts. Inquiry is an important feature of the BirdSleuth Caribbean curriculum, which was adapted for the Caribbean by Project Coordinator Lisa Sorenson and her team. The study of our birds means asking questions: What? (species identification) Where? (habitats) and How? (the interactive nature of the learning process). There is also a Why? (the important role our birds play in Caribbean ecosystems). Why, indeed, are birds important? At the end of any BirdSleuth training session, students can all answer that question – and in many different ways.

The program got off to an exciting start in October, 2014, when 27 participants from 23 different islands attended a workshop at the Headquarters of the Bahamas National Trust in Nassau. The three-day workshop included field trips as well as classroom sessions, and peer teaching. With workshop kits and relevant materials tucked under their arms, the trained educators returned home and held 39 Birdsleuth Training Workshops for over 1,000 educators in their own countries. The response was overwhelmingly positive.

Project Coordinator and BirdsCaribbean Executive Director Lisa Sorenson is happy at the achievements of the program – and very optimistic about its prospects for sustainability. “We are especially pleased that we were able to adapt the materials from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s highly-successful BirdSleuth International Program for a Caribbean audience,” she said. “This was welcomed by teachers, who did not see it as an ‘imported’ curriculum, but immediately embraced and adopted it as their own. This brought the whole program to life.”

Inclusive for all Avian Investigators

Dr. Sorenson also sees it as important that all the project materials are available in English, Spanish and French. BirdsCaribbean partners are also working on Creole and Dutch versions. All the materials are available for download free of cost on the BirdsCaribbean website. Those who are interested in starting their own BirdSleuth program – whether a school, a community group or a conservation organization – can get in touch with their local BirdSleuth partners for guidance. It’s a sustainable, ongoing project.

BirdSleuth students with their certificates on Abaco, The Bahamas.

So, where have the ”Bird Sleuths” been busy sleuthing? The program has not only been taking place in school classrooms, but also at summer camps, after-school science clubs, and at events organized by youth and community organizations. Les Fruits de Mer’s Heritage Museum in St. Martin has a permanent BirdSleuth activity station for visitors. BirdSleuth Caribbean activities have also been used in annual celebrations such as World Wetlands Day, World Migatory Bird Day, and the Caribbean Endemic Bird Festival.

The feedback from the 2014 workshop and beyond has been positive. “The materials are extremely entertaining, which appeals to the children,” said Johanna Rodriguez of Grupo Acción Ecologica in the Dominican Republic. Amy Avenant of the Department of Environment and Maritime Affairs in the Turks and Caicos Islands noted: “The curriculum is well structured and uncomplicated, driving home the need for habitat conservation and equipping youth with an empathetic looking-glass through which they can view both migratory and resident bird species, alike.”

Gumshoes Achieving Goals

Children and adults have been both inspired and entertained, engaging in a wide range of activities such as planting native plants beneficial to birds, developing birding trails, conducting clean-ups, and monitoring local birds using eBird Caribbean. Despite some challenges (including hurricanes, and fitting in with teachers’ busy schedules) there were many high points. One example is the declaration of the Petite Carenage wetland on Carriacou as a protected bird sanctuary, thanks to local partner, the KIDO Foundation. They have turned nearly the entire island into a community that cares about birds and have been busy building and  installing nest boxes, planting trees, and creating original artwork for their interpretive materials and signage.

The Petit Carenage Sanctuary in Carriacou, one of the Grenadine islands of Grenada. (photo courtesy of the KIDO Foundation)

“The goal of BirdSleuth Caribbean is to encourage Caribbean people in the study, appreciation and protection of endemic and migratory birds and their habitats,” explained Lisa Sorenson. “In the past five years, we have realized that the study of our beautiful birds has sparked a new excitement and an interest in teaching – and learning – more about science and conservation. And once that spark is lit, it often grows into a real passion for birds, which we at BirdsCaribbean share, of course!”

BirdSleuth Caribbean is an inquiry-based science curriculum that engages kids in scientific study and real data collection. BirdSleuth encourages kids to answer their own questions about nature using the scientific process. Students will spend more time outdoors, connecting with nature by focusing on the fascinating sights, sounds and behaviors of birds. Click here for more information on the BirdSleuth Caribbean program.

We are extremely grateful to the USFWS Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act Fund for providing the main funding for this program. We also thank the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, US Forest Service International Program, Optics for the Tropics, Vortex Optics, Bahamas National Trust, and Parc National de la Guadeloupe for funding and support.

Photo gallery: Hover over each photo to see the caption. Click on the first photo to start a slide show.

Read about the success of this project in these articles:

BirdSleuth Caribbean Brings Protection for Resident and Migratory Birds in Carriacou, Grenada.

BirdSleuth Caribbean featured in ZiNG magazine.

Rural Teachers make Bird Connections in Seville, Jamaica.

Empowering Youth to Garden for Wildlife in Grand Bahama.

Connecting Communities and Conservation with BirdsCaribbean.

Environmental Educators Become BirdSleuths in the Bahamas.

Connecting Communities and Conservation with Birds.

By Emma Caroline Lewis, member of BirdsCaribbean’s Media Working Group, activist and blogger, follow me @petchary

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