Thursday, April 12, 2007

Para los Pajaros

On my last two annual trips to Guatemala I was able to fit some birding swag into my suitcases (yes, that's suitCASES--plural) to share with birding friends and with folks new to bird watching.

Houghton Mifflin, publisher of many field guides we natural history buffs rely upon, has graciously donated or discounted to me copies of the Kaufman Guía de campo a las aves de Norteamérica. That's the Kaufman Guide to North American Birds translated into Spanish. It was published in 2005 by Houghton Mifflin.

These Spanish-language guides are incredibly useful to bird watchers in the Latin American tropics because most of the migrant species that spend spring and summer with us in the U.S. and Canada spend their winters to the south of our borders in Central and South America. The existing guides to birds in many Latin American countries cover their own endemic, common, and migrant birdlife. To also include all of "our" birds would result in a book that would not be portable or useful in the field. The Kaufman Guia is perfect for filling this gap. It's got great color photographs, short, descriptive text, and it's in Spanish!
This young man and his father came to a bird walk I was leading in Guatemala. It was the boy's first ever trip outside his village in northern Guatemala. I bet he'll use this guide a lot in coming years.

The 10 copies that accompanied me to Guatemala went into the hands of my friend Claire Dallies who works for the Peace Corps there. Claire has been instrumental in helping a handful of remote villages develop their ecotourism opportunities. Visiting bird watchers do enjoy seeing many of Guatemala's special bird species--birds like the pink-headed warbler, resplendent quetzal, and the horned guan. Claire and others are helping to train the villagers to become birding guides for visiting ecotouristas. And she thought some of the Kaufman guides would go a long way to helping the human guides learn more about their local birds (especially those that spend the winter in Guate).

Ernesto Col, one of the new Guatemalan birding guides, with his new field guide, courtesy of Houghton Mifflin.

Dear Bill:
Here is the photo of you with Ernesto Col. He is one of the bird monitors from a monitoring program funded by ProEval RAxmu that Knut Eiserman spoke about.
He lives in a small community named Senimtaca, in the Sacranix mountains, west of Coban. He is learning how to be a bird watching guide as well, and is pretty good at identifying the birds from his locality by sound . He will be teaching other people in his community with the book you gave him and the other 2 guides from there who could not come.

Thank you again for your help and support.

Take Care,


Claire Dallies (far right) presented four guides to community members in Candelaria Camposanto.

Later that week, Claire wrote me again:

Hello Bill,

I took 4 guides to the area of Chisec, to a good community-based ecotourism project currently named "puerta al mundo maya" (the door to the Maya World).
This project includes 5 ecotourism sites in 5 different communities. One of them is the Archaeological site of Cancuen which has recently been excavated by Dr. Arthur Demarest from Vanderbilt University. The other 4 are all community projects with other interests: caves, lagoons, rivers, and all in tropical rainforest. I left 4 books there, one for each community. The only community that I did not want to give a book to was the Cancuen site community because they are not interested in birds.

The gentleman holding standing next to me on the picture is Sebastian Tut, who is a Guatemalan working for Counterpart International, the International NGO that is currently supporting these projects, and the gentleman next to him holding the book is the president of the Tourism Committee at the community of Candelaria Camposanto. All the people standing at the back as local guides trained to guide throught the caves of Candelaria. The young man with a beard on the left is Mark Yoders, the local Peace Corps Volunteer currently working with them as well.

Mark was actually the person who called me and asked me if we could get birding guide books in Spanish for the communities he works with. I ask you based on his request, and we are all very grateful, Bill, that you helped us get the donation of books for them. I am sure that each of those books will be put to good use by them.
Miguel Ramirez (at right) is one of the lead local birding guides in the Cerro San Gil regions of Guatemala. He a Kaufman guide to one of the local community members who is very interested in birds.

Whenever you get a chance to come back to Guatemala, maybe on your own, and spend more time discovering some of our beauties, I would gladly take you to some of these places and meet the wonderful local people who are now understanding that ecotourism can represent and IS an additional income for them and a strong incentive for not cutting down the rainforest.

Best regards,

Thanks to you, Claire, for helping find the best new owners for these guides.

Dear readers of BOTB, the next time you visit Latin America--or if you know a Spanish-speaking person in your community or school who is interested in birds---consider giving the gift of birds in the form of this excellent field guide.

Es un regalo muy bueno

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