Archive for the ‘News’ category

Field practicum training, St. Eustatius

December 5th, 2016

November 2016, St. Eustatius

We were asked to provide assistance with a field practicum for ten students of the Sustainable Island Management minor from Van Hall Larenstein School of Applied Sciences (the Netherlands). The students spent two weeks on St. Eustatius and learned a wide variety of practical skills, from handling birds to underwater surveys.

The group inside the crater of the Quill

The group inside the crater of the Quill

We took the group on a guided hike up the Quill slopes and into the lush crater. During the hike we explained about the various kinds of research and monitoring that occur on Statia, such as excluders to monitor the impact of roaming goats in the park, and a population assessment of the Bridled Quail-dove.

Along the way we showed them many different species of plants and how these are usually visited by just one pollinator, highlighting how fragile this relationship can be should anything negatively impact the pollinator. Under rocks, we found a large tarantula, a tiny Johnstone’s whistling frog, and a variety of insects, worms and snails.

Hannah Madden (founder of Ecological Professionals) during the "field survey design" session

Terrestrial ecologist Hannah Madden explains about point counts and transects during the “field survey design” session

A morning session on field survey design was given by Hannah Madden, founder of Ecological Professionals Foundation. She explained why systematic field surveys are required, and gave a few examples of the different types of survey. Survey bias, and how to avoid this, was discussed.

Madden then split the group into pairs and asked them to design their own survey for a species/taxonomic group of their choice. They all presented their efforts and everyone in class was encourage to ask questions and give feedback.

Finally, Madden showed the students an example of terrestrial bird monitoring surveys from Statia, as well as some preliminary analysis of the dataset.

The students worked in pairs to design a field survey on a chosen species/taxa

The students worked in pairs to design a field survey on a chosen species/taxa

The students took it in turns to present their field survey on a chosen species/taxa

They then took it in turns to present their field survey on a chosen species/taxa

The students took it in turns to present their field survey on a chosen species/taxa

This one focused on Statia’s native Lesser Antillean Iguana

Over the course of the week, the students were exposed to different field survey methods, including mist netting for terrestrial birds and searches for iguanas. They spent time with various researchers and learned how to safely extract, handle and measure animals for scientific research. For many, it was their first time getting close to wildlife but everyone enjoyed the experience and gained tremendous knowledge on how field surveys are conducted in practice.

Some students joined us on evening surveys to search for iguanas

Some accompanied us on evening surveys to search for iguanas

The students learned how to measure and handle iguanas

The students learned how to measure and handle iguanas

Extracting birds from mist nets and taking measurements was one component of the field course

Extracting birds from mist nets and taking measurements was one component of the field course

Students learned how to safely extract and measure Red-billed Tropicbirds at the Pilot Hill site

Students learned how to safely extract and measure Red-billed Tropicbirds at the Pilot Hill site

Interpretive Guide Training, Bonaire

December 5th, 2016

birdscaribbean-logoFrom 26 to 30 September, two representatives from St. Maarten and St. Eustatius attended an Interpretive Bird Guide Training Workshop in Bonaire for the Caribbean Birding Trail program. The 5-day training was given by BirdsCaribbean, a regional non-profit dedicated to bird and nature conservation, and hosted locally by Echo Bonaire and the Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance (DCNA). Hannah Madden of Ecological Professionals Foundation and Binkie van Es of St. Maarten Nature Foundation were among the 25 participants, which consisted mainly of tour operators and guides, but also park staff, nature educators, and Bonaire’s salt industry.

A Northern Crested Caracara, locally known as Warawara (photo by Lisa Sorenson).

A Northern Crested Caracara, locally known as Warawara (photo by Lisa Sorenson).

Globally, the tourism market for wildlife watching and wildlife photography is growing, and bird tourism is a significant part of this market. Another growing segment is that of the independent traveler; individuals that prefer to go “off the beaten path” and seek out authentic experiences. The Caribbean Birding Trail seeks to attract these markets to Bonaire and the Caribbean as a whole. Integral to this is having well-trained guides who can help connect these travelers with the cultural and natural resources of the island.

The five-day workshop offered skills in identifying birds, how to use binoculars and spotting scopes, avian ecology, and guiding and interpretation techniques. The training also included daily field visits to some of Bonaire’s best birding sites. Interactive presentations and demonstrations were given by staff of BirdsCaribbean, STINAPA Bonaire, Echo, and certified interpretive trainers Venicio Wilson and Rick Morales from the

(L to R) BirdsCaribbean director Lisa Sorenson, Venicio Wilson, Holly Robertson and Rick Morales (photo by Hannah Madden).

(L to R) BirdsCaribbean director Lisa Sorenson, Venicio Wilson, Holly Robertson and Rick Morales (photo by Hannah Madden).

National Association of Interpretation in the USA. Despite the threat of Hurricane Matthew, the workshop participants’ enthusiasm could not be dampened and they showed up every day. For some it was their first time seeing White-cheeked Pintails, Black-necked Stilts and Caribbean Elaenias, and even the trainers were excited about seeing Bonaire’s national bird, the American Flamingo.

Madden’s participation was sponsored by BirdsCaribbean and van Es by DCNA. Based on their extensive field and conservation experience on Statia and St. Maarten, both became certified birding interpretive guides at level 4 (expert), the highest level offered by the Caribbean Birding Trail. Level 4 can only be achieved if guides have completed at least 80 hours of birding time in the field, entered 40 or more eBird Caribbean checklists, can identify (by sight and/or sound) all the birds in their area, participate in regular Caribbean Waterbird Census counts, incorporate birds into tours or educational walks, and have given at least two dedicated birding tours.

Participants of the interpretive guide workshop (photo by Lisa Sorenson).

Participants of the interpretive guide workshop (photo by Lisa Sorenson).

Both Madden and van Es are working with BirdsCaribbean to offer packages to Statia and St. Maarten, as well as working with other operators such as Seagrape Tours to promote birding opportunities on their respective islands. According to van Es, “The workshop was a tremendous experience that brought together a wide variety of professionals to give them an insight into the fabulous world of birding. Hopefully they will see the value of this multi-million dollar niche market and the many opportunities it brings.” As well as the invaluable knowledge gained, all participants also received a pair of Vortex binoculars, copies of field guides, “Birds of the West Indies” and “Birds of Aruba, Curacao and Bonaire”, a BirdsCaribbean buff and hat, and bird identification cards for Bonaire and Curacao.