Ometepe Island Nicaragua and Cabot Head, Bruce Peninsula Canada have lots in common and lots to share thanks in part to Salvadora Morales. Salvadora, a Nicaraguan biologist and bird specialist currently working for Fauna and Flora International in Managua, just returned to her home country after spending 19 days in Canada thanks to the Bruce Peninsula Bird Observatory (BPBO). BPBO runs a migration monitoring station to track bird populations moving over the Bruce Peninsula every spring and fall. Approximately 40 species of birds monitored at BPBO’s Cabot Head field station on the eastern tip of the Bruce peninsula spend their winters in Nicaragua, and many more pass through Nicaragua, the largest of Central American countries, on their ways further south.
Included in this list are familiar and less familiar species such as Blue-winged Teal, Osprey, Turkey Vulture, Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, Wood Thrush, Swainson’s Thrush, Orange-crowned Warbler, Tennessee Warbler, Wilson’s Warbler, American Redstart, Yellow Warbler, Northern Waterthrush, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Ovenbird, Prothonotory Warbler, Baltimore Oriole, Eastern Meadowlark, etc.
In 2003/4, BPBO began collaborating with a Nicaraguan conservation group to support the monitoring of birds in Nicaragua and efforts to conserve bird habitat. Salvadora has been the driving force of this partnership from the Nicaraguan side from the beginning. She was coordinating the Monitoring Avian Over-wintering Survivorship (MoSI) program in all of Central America at the time.
In 2009, Salvadora was instrumental in helping plan a trip to Nicaragua by 12 BPBO members, led by myself and current BPBO President Rod Steinacher. She also acted as guide on a few of our outings.
In 2010 and 2011, BPBO hosted two young Nicaraguan ornithologist/educators who were working for Salvadora on Ometepe Island, for 25 days of training at it Cabot Head Field Station.
2010 – Thanks largely to Salvadora’s efforts, Ometepe Island in Nicaragua was accorded World Biosphere Reserve Status (just as the Niagara Escarpment has).
2011 – A linking exchange project is initiative between a school on Ometepe Island and a school in Tobermory.
May 4, 2012 BPBO brings Salvadora to Canada to visit the Research Station, meet the students and teachers and the school, further develop the linking schools projects, and participate in her first Birdathon.
May 22, 2012 Salvadora visits Ottawa, participates in an Ottawa Field Naturalist outing at Mud Lake Conservation Area, and makes two presentions on: bird conservation issues in Nicaragua to staff at Environment Canada, hosted by EC’s International bird program staff. and on ecotourism (birding) opportunties in Nicaragua (particularly Ometepe Island) to Ottawa Field Naturalists Bird Study Group.
This project has raised awareness in both countries about our shared species of birds and built an appreciation for our cultures. To conserve Canada’s birds, we must work closely in partnership with people in the countries where “our” birds spend their non-breeding seasons – which amounts to most of their lives!
Nicaragua is the largest Central American country with over 710 known species of birds but also the highest rates of deforestation, and many economic, political and social challenges. Nicaraguans are strong and proud people who have had more than their share of suffering. Most of the country is safe and its potential as an ecotourism destination is only starting to be developed.
Supporting international efforts to conserve our birds is tremedously important. The imminent State of Canada’s Birds Report will tell us that 78% of Canada’s bird species migrate out of Canada every year. The data will also reveal as troubling finding: the further they go, the worse they fare.
Here are a few things that we can do as individuals to support our birds outside of Canada:
- support a conservation groups working in Latin America and the Caribbean
- support Canadian bird observatories working in latin America and the Caribbean
- use our shared species to connect to communities in Latin America and the Caribbean
- purchase bird-friendly organic shade-grown coffee from Central America
- spend your tourist dollars on sustainable ecotourism opportunities such as planning a vacation that includes a stay on Ometepe Island and supports the ecologically sustainable tourism activities there.
Images and figures:
1. Loation of Bruce Peninsula Bird Observatory and Nicaragua (stars)
2. Salvadora with students on Ometepe Island
3. Salvadora on Ottawa Field Naturalists field trip