Know GEF Through Its New Leader

Mongabay‘s Rhett A. Butler offers an engaging conversation with the new leader of GEF, who we have confidence will lead this institution to the planet’s benefit. His realization at a young age about seasonal differences in bird abundance is a good example of why programs like Celebrate Urban Birds in places where migratory birds come and go are so important. It has been too long since we last sourced from Mongabay, but today we correct that with this recorded interview (click above) and the printed version (click below):

The post-COVID opportunity for the environment: An interview with the GEF’s Carlos Manuel Rodriguez

Tropical forests in places like Costa Rica (pictured) can be an important source of livelihoods by attracting nature-oriented tourists. Photo by Rhett A. Butler.

Rhett A. Butler for Mongabay: Congratulations on the new role at the Global Environment Facility.

Rodriguez: Well, I’m very pleased and honored. I’ve been working half my professional life in government and half within the civil society in Costa Rica. I have worked very close to the GEF, including in the early days of the GEF. I was a negotiator for CBD for the Rio convention and also had the fortune to work with the government of Costa Rica in the first implementation of GEF funding in Costa Rica. Those were very interesting times, the mid-1990s.

I’m really delighted that 25 plus years after that, I’m leading this very prestigious organization. I never thought I would have that opportunity, particularly for coming from a developing country, a recipient country. Continue reading

Paint Color: More Than An Aesthetic Choice

Image: Tyros.andi/Wikimedia Commons

Wind is a formidable renewable energy option, but the impacts on wildlife have long been discussed. It’s heartening that such a simple solution as paint has the potential to so drastically reduce the dangers to birds and bats.

A simple paint job can save birds from wind turbines

A small study in Norway showed that painting one blade of a wind turbine black reduced bird mortality by over 70%.

Wind energy is one of the world’s most popular renewables. It’s also one of the most promising—some calculations suggest that strategically placed wind turbines could conceivably power the entire planet. As more turbines go up worldwide, they’ll help us reduce pollution, water use and carbon emissions, along with the environmental degradation, habitat loss and human health risks that come with fracking and oil extraction.

But there are some who don’t benefit quite as much: flying animals. Each year, turbine blades kill hundreds of thousands of birds and bats. As wind power becomes more prevalent, this number may rise into the millions—although it’s important to remember that other power generation methods likely kill far more birds than wind farms do.

This concern has led to a number of proposed interventions, from turning off wind farms during migrations to installing special whistles only bats can hear. A new study presents a relatively low-cost, set-it-and-forget-it option: just paint one of the turbine blades black.

Continue reading

CSA + NGO = 100% Forward

Organikos had a life before Authentica, but when Authentica opened one year ago the context was different. The Adriatic island and the outpost in India were temporary homes where we were launching projects for clients. Costa Rica is where the entrepreneurial conservation work began, so now we were coming home to stay and build a platform of our own. The logic for Authentica? Several million visitors per year had become the norm for the country over the last couple decades. And for Organikos? On average one million bags of coffee went home in the luggage of those visitors each year, mostly to the USA. Authentica’s location in two of Costa Rica’s most successful hotels would allow Organikos coffee to increase that flow. Good logic, no question.

Until now. This year international tourism is a fraction of that norm, and next year is likely to be similar. It would be easy to see the glass as less than half full, but instead we are looking for ways to refill the glass. We want those million bags of coffee to reach all the people who have either already fallen in love with Costa Rica, or are yet to.

Particularly for those people who have come, or want to come to Costa Rica to support its conservation commitments, our goal now is to provide an alternative way to lend that support. With our coffee as a taste of place alternative while travel is on hold, we have set up a platform for roasting and delivering 4 of our 12 coffee selections in the USA. And we continue to commit that 100% of the profits from the sale of these coffees goes to bird habitat regeneration initiatives in Costa Rica. Our first such initiative is in progress, but we want to expand our conservation outreach. One way to do this might be by partnering with conservation NGOs in Costa Rica. We are starting to explore this option.

World Shore Birds Day

Bird conservation goals play an important role on this site, and in the lives of many of our contributors, and Birds Caribbean has spearheaded many projects we’ve been actively involved in.

We look forward to hearing more about this initiative and wish all participants happy, healthy, safe birding!

Join Us As We Celebrate World Shorebirds Day: September 3-9, 2020

September is right around the corner and migratory birds are making their way south.  World Shorebirds Day 2020 is Sunday, September 6th and we need your help to count Caribbean shorebirds at your favorite birding spot (or spots)!

Wilson’s Plovers are one of the many shorebird species found in the Caribbean. (Photo by Hemant Keshan)

Where are these fascinating birds to be found? While you will find them on shores and beaches, some shorebirds use habitats further inland, including freshwater and brackish marshes and ponds. Shorebirds are also fond of salt ponds, mud flats, mangrove areas, and tidal flats.This year’s Global Shorebird Count will take place from September 3 to 9, 2020. All across the Caribbean, birders will be compiling checklists from island to island and recording them on eBird Caribbean. Our migratory shorebirds are more vulnerable than ever, threatened by human activities that have changed or destroyed their habitat. Most species of shorebirds are in decline around the world.

eBird Caribbean is a critical tool for tracking and understanding bird migration and population changes – never more so than for our shorebirds. If you do not have an account, it is easy to register – here’s a quick guide to enter eBird data online.  There is even a free eBird Essentials course to get you fully oriented.  Download the free mobile app for recording your data in the field.

Note that shorebirds are a type of waterbird and any counts you do at wetlands, mangroves, mud flats, coastal areas or beaches count as Caribbean Waterbird Census counts. To increase the value of your count to science, be sure to count ALL birds at your site, including seabirds, herons and egrets, land birds, etc.

Continue reading

A Day in the Life of a Birder at Macaw Lodge

Macaw Lodge’s gardens fill the landscape with color and provide shelter and food for hundreds of species of animals. All photos by Hugo Santa Cruz

It is regularly the first to wake, its song encouraging us all to do the same. It is still dark but the Great Tinamou is already singing, while a couple of hundred more species begin to flap their wings, to soon sing different songs––some very complicated and sophisticated, to make them stand out from the rest.

As I get ready for the day, I mentally identify and count the different sounds I hear––trying to imitate some of them with little success. While brushing my teeth I go through the 13 identified species, leaving 2 or 3 that I don’t recognize.

Scarlet-rumped Tanager by Hugo Santa Cruz - Organikos

Male Scarlet-rumped Tanager

The recognition of birds by songs and calls is essential to count effectively; some of these songs will delight the most demanding ears, as much as good jazz; and others not so much. Some people living in wilderness areas like this may even come to hate some of the calls, such as the tireless, insistent and unending calls of the Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl. You will feel that it follows your steps day by day, night by night; wherever you move or where you try to sleep…  Unfortunately you’re unlikely to  actually see it, because it has excellent camouflage, and at scarcely 15 cm tall but living 20m high in the trees, it will remain invisible, but you will know it is there, because you’ll hear it even in your dreams…
If you’re “lucky” to encounter the little owl when he’s looking for a girlfriend, you’ll understand what I mean … and that’s that all people in this area have their history with the “Maja-Fierro” – local name of the owl, due to his shrill and constant monotonous whistle. Continue reading

Swifts Here & There

Knight-Swifts

Watching a flock of swifts power and zoom all over the sky in Cornwall, I realized that the feeling of being trapped by the coronavirus is not just about wanting to be somewhere else—it is about wanting to escape this time entirely. Photograph from Alamy

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Costa Rican Swift. Chaetura fumosa. Smallest swift in most of range. All dark gray with contrasting pale rump and paler throat, both of which can be difficult to see in many viewing conditions. A good look at the rump is necessary for a firm visual identification, otherwise Vaux’s Swift can look very similar. However, in some parts of its range (the Osa Peninsula, for example) this is the only small Chaetura swift. Makes twittering calls similar to many other swifts. Usually found in flocks over forests and more open areas.

I am not even the second birdiest member of our family. I enjoy birding events and join the fun from time to time. Apart from such events I do not travel specifically for birds, even the one to the right.  We see it on occasion and it is a particular pleasure. Not as thrillingly colorful as a scarlet macaw, nor as resplendent as a quetzal, but it is part of a famed family of birds. The essay below explains why. In Costa Rica the airports will be opening up again on August 1. Until then, and still for the foreseeable future, tourism is primarily locals going on weekend outings. Birding is usually thought of as a motivator for foreigners visiting Costa Rica–especially those from the UK–but now is an activity appreciated by more locals than usual. Sam Knight‘s perspective from the UK, where tourism is also primarily local currently, can be especially well appreciated from our vantage point in Costa Rica:

Letter from the U.K.

Swifts and the Fantasy of Escape

On July 17th, I drove out of London for the first time since the start of the pandemic. The last time I had seen a field or sensed a broad horizon was four months earlier, when we escaped the city in the early days of the coronavirus, feeling faintly ridiculous, to celebrate my daughter’s third birthday with an Easter-egg hunt on a quiet country lane. Last week, I was taking my daughters to stay with their grandparents for a few days, in the town of Helston, in Cornwall. It’s about three hundred miles from London—no great shakes by U.S. standards but about as far as you can drive in England without crossing into Scotland or falling into the sea. We left at 5:30 a.m., heading west, and arrived in Helston in the early afternoon. It’s hard to describe the effect of movement after being confined in a dense urban neighborhood for so long. The monotonous walks to the shitty park. I felt like I was being unpeeled. As we stood in my mother-in-law’s garden, in the bright July sun, a party of swifts, tipping from right to left, their long wings like blades, came over our heads and spiralled higher and higher into the sky, screaming. Continue reading

The Elusive Uniform Crake

Uniform Crake by Beto Guido - La Paz Group

Photo credit: Beto Guido

On the morning of May 9 during Global Big Day 2020 an unfamiliar whistle resounded in the grasslands and bushes along the edge of the huge garden of Macaw Lodge. I would never have imagined that it was a Uniform Crake, but thanks to the keen hearing of guides Beto Guido and Marco Umaña, we were able to register this species for the first time in the Macaw Lodge Private Forest Reserve. The record was made only by the bird song, and despite the team’s effort to try to spot it, we could only hear it.

This elusive and shy crake (Amaurolimnas concolor) has rarely been sighted in the Costa Rican Central Pacific, so this record was of great importance to the region. Because it prefers to inhabit dense undergrowth thickets, it is usually identified by  its sound rather than by actual sightings. Continue reading

Sleuthing The Breeding Of Rare Birds

Thanks to Audubon Magazine:

ParrottKingTHE PARROT KING
OVER THE PAST 14 YEARS, MARTIN GUTH HAS BUILT A MONOPOLY ON SOME OF THE WORLD’S RAREST BIRDS. WILL HIS SECRETIVE ORGANIZATION ULTIMATELY HELP PUT MORE PARROTS IN THE WILD, AS HE SAYS—OR PUSH THEM CLOSER TO EXTINCTION?

BY BRENDAN BORRELL | ILLUSTRATIONS BY JASON HOLLEY | SUMMER 2020

For Stephen Durand, March 16, 2018, began like most other days—with an inordinate amount of squawking. Durand lives on the Caribbean island of Dominica and oversaw the federal aviary that houses rescued parrots, including casualties of Hurricane Maria. Six months earlier, the storm had leveled large numbers of the island’s trees and stripped many more of their fruit and foliage, threatening two endemic parrot species.

ParrottKing2

Illustration: Jason Holley

The festive green Red-necked Parrot, or Jaco, and the monkish, mountain-dwelling Imperial Parrot are a source of pride for Dominicans. When their populations were at an all-time low in the 1980s, Durand helped launch an amnesty program to reclaim pet parrots for research and education. After the hurricane, he hosted International Fund for Animal Welfare veterinarians who performed surgeries under generator-powered lights. “Goal is to RELEASE back home to their wild habitat!” they wrote on Twitter that February. Four Jacos were set free and aviary staff tended to those still recuperating. Continue reading

2020 Audubon Photo Contest

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An Anna’s hummingbird, Amateur Honorable Mention, photographed on the Ardenwood Historic Farm in California #
Bibek Ghosh / 2020 Audubon Photography Awards

Alan Taylor has been a go-to visual explainer on our platform for years. He also led us to this contest in 2016. By the time of the 2019 contest we were linking directly from the source but here we give him credit for reminding us it is that time of the year again:

The winners of the the 11th annual Audubon Photography Awards competition were recently announced. Photographers entered images in four categories: professional, amateur, youth, and plants for birds. More than 6,000 images depicting birdlife from all 50 states and seven Canadian provinces and territories were judged. The National Audubon Society was again kind enough to share some of this year’s winners and runners-up with us below. You can also see all of the top 100 entries on the Audubon website.

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The 2020 Audubon Photography Awards: Winners

This year’s top shots delight with dazzling colors and fresh perspectives.

Every spring, the judges of the Audubon Photography Awards gather at Audubon’s headquarters in Manhattan to review their favorite images and select the finalists. But as with much of life in 2020, this year’s awards had to be handled differently due to pandemic-related travel, work, and social-distancing restrictions. Continue reading

Backyard Birding & Organikos

ViviBirding

Education Images/Universal Images Group/Getty Images

Thanks to the folks at Short Wave for this brief tutorial on backyard birding, featuring a scientist from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. For those fortunate enough to be able to use some of their time in recent months for this purpose, the tutorial may resonate. A total novice like me finds it useful so I recommend it to others.

SETarrazuLabelI especially appreciated the advice of paying attention to the coffee that you purchase, because it can have significant impact on migratory birds. The new series of Organikos labels are almost ready for print-testing. One of the final decisions made in the last month was to let the label on the bag focus on the coffee and keep the bird-habitat mission messaging on the website and in places like this. A key part of that message is that the particular coffee offered matters most. We believe that if we start with the highest quality green beans, apply the perfect level of heat, and deliver them at the fairest price we will get what we need to plant more trees. So, the Tarrazu single estate is the second label I will share here. Along with the Hacienda la Amistad single estate organic, this is some of the most spectacular coffee grown in Costa Rica. And for every bag sold, the difference between what we pay to get this to you, and what you pay to Organikos, goes to bird habitat regeneration.

Onon’s Epic Journey

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Onon returned after a 26,000km round trip that took in 27 border crossings and 16 countries. Photograph: Mongolia Cuckoo Project/Birding Beijing

Thanks to ornithologists like Dr Hewson, and to scientific instruments like the tracking device on Onon, we can see that Onon the cuckoo has made one of the longest migrations recorded by any land bird:

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Guardian graphic. Source: The Mongolia Cuckoo Project

Cloud cuckoo land? How one bird’s epic migration stunned scientists

When Onon the common cuckoo took off from Mongolia last June no one expected him to make a 26,000km round trip to southern Africa

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Onon moments before he was released on 8 June 2019. Photograph: Mongolia Cuckoo project/Birding Beijing

When Onon took off above the rolling hills of the Khurkh valley in Mongolia last June, researchers had no idea if they would see him alive again. Along with one oriental cuckoo and three other common cuckoos, each fitted with a tiny tracking device, he was about to embark on an epic journey to southern Africa.

Last month, he was the only bird to return safely with his tracker intact.

“It’s an amazingly long migration,” says Dr Chris Hewson, senior research ecologist at the British Trust for Ornithology, who said Onon’s 26,000km round trip was one of the longest journeys recorded by any land bird. Continue reading

BirdsCaribbean Global Big Day in a Big Way

Birders, in general, tend to be an enthusiastic bunch – and the constraints of the current circumstances actually added extra incentive to find creative problem solving solutions, in finding new birding locations or ways to be safely be in familiar ones.

The BirdsCaribbean Global Big Day video compilation provides proof positive. Enjoy!

 

Birds Caribbean Global Big Day Results

Happy to see the results and first post from Birds Caribbean about the various teams’ contributions to the 2020 Global Big Day. Looking forward to reading the highlights of all the teams.

BirdsCaribbean Takes Global Big Day by Storm, Despite COVID-19

The biggest birding day of the year — Global Big Day —took place on Saturday May 9, 2020. More than 50,000 people from around the world joined in to record their sightings. Close to 300 participants from throughout the West Indies recorded 345 different species of birds! Cuba had the most species by country (135) followed closely by the Bahamas (126) and Puerto Rico (125). Regionally1,051 checklists were submitted, 205 more than last year. That’s an incredible achievement — way to go birders!

Birders from Cuba looking great with their BirdsCaribbean buffs in Zapata Swamp on Global Big Day. We will share more about the birding experiences on the different teams in a second blog post

This year was quite a different experience as much of the world remains under stay at home orders or is following social distancing guidelines. Certainly many of the great open spaces that are go-to spots for birders were not open to the public for safety reasons. Nevertheless, eBird recorded a 32% participation increase from Global Big Day 2019 and more than 120,000 eBird checklists were submitted.   Continue reading

Global Big Day at Macaw Lodge – May 9, 2020

Marco Umaña, Santiago Adaniz, Hugo Santa Cruz and Beto Guido (from left to right) / Birding Guides in Costa Rica

My name is Hugo Santa Cruz and I’m excited to write about the Macaw Lodge Global Big Day outcomes. As I’m new to the La Paz Group site, let me introduce myself. I’m a birdwatching and neotropical ecology guide in the Central Pacific of Costa Rica and Bolivia. I’m also a nature photographer and consultant for ecotourism projects and management of protected areas. 

The Global Big Day is an initiative of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology that has been held since 2015, to raise awareness about the conservation of birds and their habitats. Birdwatchers and photographers from around the world contribute to the census of birds through the eBird platform; an increasingly popular citizen science management tool among birders.

Birders across the globe persisted with the Global Big Day despite the crisis caused by COVID-19, surveying birds either in literal “backyard birding“, or carefully enjoying the fresh air of parks and natural areas within access.  This year’s event had record-breaking participation with more than 48,500 registrars and more than 15,000 submitted lists.

In this edition of the Global Big Day, Costa Rica registered 676 species, obtaining the seventh place worldwide among 172 participating countries.  The Macaw Lodge Private Forest Reserve stood out among the best hotspots in the country, achieving the eighth place with 137 species of birds registered in a single day, inside our Ecological Sanctuary.

Our team of expert guides and birdwatchers began our Big Day census at 00:00 hrs., starting the first records with species of nocturnal birds. We then continued the count at dawn, moving through the different micro-ecosystems of Macaw Lodge. Continue reading

Nature’s Soothing Songs

‘Hearing birdsong with such clarity has become for many a small joy and a valuable mental health boost during lockdown.’ Photograph: Alamy

Although not an experienced birder, I would call myself a proponent of ornitherapy; it makes me happy and relaxed to see and hear birds around me. I also have the good fortune to live in a country with not only a great number of birds (both species and individuals), but also an area that’s remote enough to have fairly little noise pollution. So bottom line, I hear birds all the time. In fact, at the times when they’re quiet for some reason, it feels eerily strange.

So, despite the unprecedented challenges people are currently facing around the world, I hope that occasionally there’s a moment to at least open the window and listen for the birds.

The Guardian view on birdsong: a fragile joy

The chance to put biodiversity and the environment at the heart of recovery from the pandemic should not be squandered

One night in April, birdwatchers from around Britain stepped outside their doors and listened intently to something most of them had never experienced before: the fluting, mysterious, melancholy cry of the common scoter on the wing.

Flocks of these dusky sea ducks were beating their way over Britain on their long migratory journey towards their Arctic breeding grounds, easily audible to the naked ear. The first great wave was heard on the Wirral before being picked up in the Peak District, and at last by the Humber. A second wave was made out as flocks made their way along the line of Hadrian’s wall, from the Solway Firth in the west to Northumberland in the east. A third wave flew above listeners from the Severn estuary to the Wash. The birds were heard in urban Blackburn, Stalybridge, Bristol and London. It was thanks to social media that so many listeners were alert to the birds’ progress – and thanks to the silence of lockdown that they could be heard.

With few planes in the sky and vehicles on the roads to muffle its sound, birdsong has been ringing out loud and clear. It was a decade ago that the skies were anything like this quiet, when flights were grounded after the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull erupted. The last time traffic levels were so low was the early 1970s.

Hearing birdsong with such clarity has become for many a small joy and a valuable mental health boost during lockdown.

Continue reading

Spoonbills Dream Team @ Macaw Lodge, Global Big Day 2020

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Macaw Lodge dining room observation deck, January 29, 2020

Three years ago today, a few countries north of where I type this, Team Sapsucker had excellent results on Global Big Day 2017. Today I am reporting on the efforts of one part of the Spoonbills Dream Team.

MacawChocThis team’s dream is spread across multiple geographies and results will be shared later. I will share what I know from Costa Rica. A few months ago, in a world that now seems far, far away Amie and I visited the farm where the cacao is grown for the farm-to-bar chocolate we offer in our shops. The farm has a lodge (or vice versa depending on your perspective), and before our visit to the cacao plantation and chocolate-making facilities we started, at dawn, on the deck of the lodge. That is what you see in the photo above. The lodge is closed at present but the deck that you see in that photo normally has birders from all over the world because of the forest conservation surrounding the cacao and the neighboring Carara National Park.

CacaoMore on the cacao-growing and the chocolate-making later. Plus, this is where I first saw a melipona bee hotel and I have photos and video from the recent harvest, so more on that later also. For now, birds. Seth, in New Haven, CT USA joined this team, then asked Amie to join the team, and she asked some birding guides who work at the lodge in the cacao plantation to join the team. I am the scribe for that Costa Rica part of the team. I do not even know who else is on the team in other countries, so will leave that for Seth or Amie to report later.

For now, some photos from the location where the bird experts have spent much of their time in recent years. Continue reading

In Anticipation of Global Big Day, 2020

In a bit over a week, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s yearly push for a massive, coordinated citizen science effort in birdwatching will take place. On May 9th, I’ll be trying to see as many bird species as I can within my neighborhood of New Haven, Connecticut, just like I did last year, when I photographed the Black-and-white Warbler pictured below (recently featured as a Bird of the Day, if it looks familiar). But this time around, I’ll be part of the Spoonbills Dream Team, raising money for the BirdsCaribbean campaign to support the Journal of Caribbean Ornithology.

Continue reading

Here Is Where We Are, With Birds & Coffee

BOTDCrist

Of all the gin joints in all the towns, in all the world…here is where we are.

BOTD2CristAmie and I are following local rules in place over the Semana Santa holiday week, which ends today. Starting tomorrow there will be more freedom of movement. Most of our friends in Costa Rica feel confident in their country’s leadership during this time, and we have respected the rules and appreciated the clarity of their communication.

BOTD3CristWe are at home, and I took the photo at the top yesterday with a book we keep next to the binoculars. We have been seeing two different species of bird coming to that window, and I did my best to capture the more colorful pair. I was hoping to get the male and female at the same time on the rail, with their entry in the book clearly in view in the lower right of the frame. I took what I could get. The entry for this pair is on a page with the header Plate 47: Larger Red or Yellow Tanagers which then specifies:

Flame-colored Tanager (Piranga bidentata), p433. Streaked back and wing-bars. (a) [male] orange-red. (b) [female]: yellowish-olive.

BOTD4CristPositive id. During the setup for that shot, looking out our family room window Amie noticed that one of our coffee trees still has blossoms on it. The white flowers to the right, slightly droopy, signal the beginning of the fruit production cycle that will culminate in December with the ripe red cherries we have been harvesting for 20 years now. Just a few days ago the beans from the most recent harvest were ready, and I placed them in a sack after they had been sundried and the husks removed. We call them beans but they are really seeds, and unlike the previous 20 years when this coffee has been roasted and consumed, this year I will germinate them to fulfill the commitment made one year ago. There is plenty to be concerned about today versus 363 days ago, but there is also, still, inspiration.

BOTD5Crist

 

Biodiversity via Rwanda’s Resiliency

While the actual events of the Environmental Film Festival had been canceled, the wonder and value of each entry remains intact. In fact, the DCEFF is offering hundreds of the films for streaming on line.

So many of these amazing projects strike home, but the one featured above has even more so, as Claver Ntoyinkima was Seth’s field assistant during his work doing bird surveys in Rwanda’s Nyungwe National Park.

A Walk Through The Land of a Thousand Hills

Claver Ntoyinkima, a native park ranger, shares the secrets of Nyungwe National Park in Rwanda as he guides us through the forest. With almost 300 bird species, over 1,000 plant species, and dozens of large and small mammals, Nyungwe is one of the most biodiverse places in the world. Twenty-five years after the devastation of the Rwandan Civil War, the park is now one of the best-conserved montane rainforests in Central Africa. As Claver walks through the forest we uncover the origins of his conservation values and the history of an ecosystem that survived one of Rwanda’s darkest periods.

Find this and more films here.