Cleaning binoculars, stretching legs!

We don’t know what you’re doing but we are going back into the field to look for birds and we’d like you to join us.

It’s time! Let’s get started! Kick that inertia through the door! Wear masks if you are more comfortable but know that we will be outside even when we break for coffee.

Recent Group on the Magic Road

Along with Bird Walks and upcoming events, we’d also like to ask you for Membership Dues. We’ve let them slide for a while now but to keep our teachers in the classroom and the Detectives de Aves lessons flying, please pay your dues now for 2022. You can do it here via PayPal by clicking on Membership in the website drop-down menu OR bring cash to the next Bird Walk.

We need your support! Those faces below? They need your vote of confidence. As always, thank you!

Detectives de Aves on the Canopy Tower

Why Environmental Education?

This past weekend we were invited by Osa Conservation to to a training session for instructors of Detective de Aves in Rancho Quemado on the Osa Peninsula. The participants came from several communities in the zone; Rancho Quemado, Puerto Jiménez and Drake Bay. There were many river crossings along the way.

It was a real privilege to be able to work with people who have shown a real commitment to developing responsible tourism and businesses for decades, while protecting and improving the abundant plants and wildlife in the area. Carla and Marco did an impressive job, as always, teaching how to teach the course. We learned a lot from the attendees as well, especially the really impressive story about how in Rancho Quemado they have managed to completely turn around the drastic drop in the Chancho de Monte (White-lipped Peccary) population through a long-term, community effort. I hope we can emulate their example here in Coto Brus.

I originally intended to only write a simple post about this training, but I decided to take advantage of this platform, and of Independence Day number 200, to share some of my thoughts on why these activities are important. I shared these with the group over the weekend and they seemed to resonate, so I thought I would try here as well.

Although there are many excellent reasons to teach kids to value and care for the Natural World, and provide them with opportunities to know it better, and, hopefully, come to love it, for me there is one simple and profoundly terrifying reason to do so. The path we are on as a species is leading us towards a final showdown with the Natural World in which our demands for food, water, land and less obvious “necessities” will lead us to use every resource until there are none left. If it comes to a choice between clearing the last forest so we can feed our families today, even if we know that tomorrow we will have nothing, we will clear the forest. This has and is happening on increasingly large scales throughout the world: from Borneo to Madagascar, vast swaths of India, to Honduras and the Amazon. In my opinion there is no new “green” technology that will save us — that will allow us to continue more or less as we are without utterly depleting the resources we depend on. Believing there is is simply partying while the City burns. So, what are we to do?

There are many who believe that finally there is nothing we can do because that is simply the way Homo sapiens is wired — that we will always, inevitably choose our own immediate interests over the future, collective good. Perhaps they are right. There is ample historical evidence to show that when push-comes-to-shove we’ll almost always shove the the other guy in front of the train to save our own skin, if only for the briefest instant.

However, we also must be honest with ourselves and admit that this fatalistic perspective is very convenient for the privileged, since it preserves a system that gives us advantages and relieves us of the obligation to act. It is a comfortable despair, especially for those of us like me who will most likely have lived out our due before the worst happens. In my opinion, we must demand more of ourselves.

This “comfortable despair” also ignores two very obvious of facts. First of all that we do, every single day, choose the common good over our own selfish interest in small, yet critical ways. I don’t think I really need to give examples because they are obvious. This quotidian virtue is often dismissed as unimportant or facile, but that completely misses the point. We are wired for cooperation as well as for selfishness, and perhaps more so. That is obvious. Why we ignore it and often act as if it isn’t the case may be less obvious and worth more than a few minutes of quiet thought.

Second of all, we can change and we have: as a species, as societies and as individuals. The way we imagine our Human Nature to be now, and how we see our relationship as individuals to the communities we inhabit and how these communities envision their relationships to other communities and the World that sustains us has changed countless times throughout the millennia. It is time for us to change again, but this time by will and hope, and very hard work, and not by necessity and desperation. If we wait for the latter, I fear it will be too late.

I do not believe that one person, or one people, can save the World. I believe that all we can do is love our neighbors as best we can, and receive love in return with an open heart — and even that most basic thing is often incredibly hard. The simple fact is that when Carla, Marco, Paula, Randall, Yadira, Yolanda, Emily, Kelly, and Ronnie have gotten in front of a classroom full of kids to teach Detectives de Aves it was and is an act of love first and foremost — an attempt to grow the hope that we will all need to look beyond our own selves and towards our neighbors and the Natural World. We work with the kids and the adults so that somehow together we can figure out how to become better here and now in this small place, and then share what we learn with others, who share with us in turn so that, somehow, we will learn to turn away from the precipice and avoid cutting the last forest to feed our families today, even if tomorrow they will surely starve.

I don’t have a clue how to avoid disaster, and if I think about it in those terms in my day to day life I despair, but thankfully there are many smarter, wiser, more compassionate, courageous, hard-working, creative and loving people than I. So I/we do what we can to help each other out of love and hope for future generations, and for our own peace of mind and joy for the time we we have left. That’s all we can do, and we have to do it in the best way each one of us knows how.

May this Bicentennial find each one of you and your families well and happy.

Peter. Coto Brus September 15, 2021

Detectives in the Pandemic

Class from escuela Santa Rita on the Observation Tower at the Garden

I hope everyone reading this, wherever in the world they are, is healthy, happy and living without fear! It has been too long since I have posted here. I have been meaning to do it for a while, but well, good intentions and all that…

After an academic year 2020 without classes at all, I was frankly feeling rather pessimistic about our chances of offering Detectives de Aves in the local schools this academic year. Luckily, many of my neighbors had a lot more sense than I did. Marco Mora, our principal teacher this year, and I began visiting schools in mid-februrary, a couple of weeks after classes resumed after nearly a year, expecting to merely stop by, say, “Hola, we’re still here!” and move on. Much to our surprise, however, we were welcomed with open arms at four schools; Santa Rita, Las Mellizas, San Francisco (de La Lucha) and San Miguel. We were very excited to begin again, and the kids were happy to have us back, too. The year off had been very hard on everyone, especially the kids. The directora of Santa Rita, to whom I will always be grateful for NOT going on strike for 3 months in 2018, told me that during the first week back the kids hardly even talked to each other. They’d apparently forgotten how to socialize, which is very strange for young Homo sapiens. In any case, by the time we started up in early March, any shyness they had once had was long gone, and we were rather bombarded with questions, observations, and just crazy stuff — which is how it should be.

We got off to a running start in Santa Rita, San Francisco and Las Mellizas, by giving lessons for 3 plus hours each week during a day when the kids were not normally in school — because of the continuing COVID situation, most kids don’t go to school every day — and we were, fortunately, able to finish Detectives in Santa Rita and Las Mellizas before school was halted again for 2 months in May. We had only one lesson left to give in San Francisco when we had to stop. In San Miguel, Carla was a little farther behind due to (inevitable) scheduling conflicts. Being able to bring the kids from Santa Rita to the Gardens once again after more than a year was a real pleasure. A big thanks to CAFROSA, or Finca La Amistad, for letting us bring the kids from Las Mellizas there for their graduation bird walk and lunch. It was an exceptional day!

In San Francisco de La Lucha, which is a school with a very large Ngöbe population, we had the luck and pleasure of meeting up with don Alexis “Unchi” Rodríguez, who is a rather famous musician who has traveled the world performing his songs written in Ngäbere — the language of the Ngöbe people. Nowadays he is a teacher of Ngäbere in the local schools. With a two month pause in lessons on the horizon, don Alexis invited Marco and myself to use his finca with a small classroom in La Casona to offer Detectives de Aves to some of the local kids during the “vacation”. We were thrilled, of course. This was a singular experience. We met some great kids, a couple of whom I will never forget, and parents, too. Some walked 2 hours each time from Copey, which is muy montaña arriba (“Way the heck up the mountain”). After several weeks of driving on days on which I wasn’t supposed to — I did write myself a letter which should have been sufficient to make me legal — we finished up there two weeks ago with a lovely bird walk, graduation, music by Unchi and his band, and a wonderful lunch. A big thank you once again to don Alexis, his wife, don Rafael and Luciano for making this possible!

Don Rafeal Bejerano, who helped us at Unchi’s place, is a person of some stature in the community and offered to setup a meeting for us with the principal of the school in La Casona to see if we could offer Detectives there. This was an opportunity I have been trying to get for years. I met with the principal and the head of the junta educativa (school oversight board) last Wednesday (Marco couldn’t come because he was busy teaching in La Lucha), and after a nice conversation we have committed to offering Detectives to 27 6th graders starting this Wednesday! Even, or especially, in times of pandemia it is super important to get out in the community, show your face, press the flesh (even if only metaphorically) and make the personal connection that is required to build trust and a foundation for future collaboration. This is even more true here, in Coto Brus, which is one big small town, and where, even though WhatsApp is ubiquitous, a cafecito and conversation is still how things get done in the end.

So, everything is back at full speed once again after the two month “Pause”. We have finished in San Francisco and San Miguel. We have begun in La Lucha and Piedra Pintada already. La Casona starts on Wednesday, Gonzalo Acuña on Thursday and San Marcos very soon. We have two new teachers in training: Yolanda Morales, who will be working with Marco in La Casona for the next several weeks, and a very bright and interesting young man named Luciano, who is from La Casona and who helped us out at don Alexis’ finca.

I have a couple of more articles planned for the near future (I can hear you thinking, “Yeah, we’ve heard that one before.”) about other exciting, well at least to me, things we have been up to.

Thank all of you for your support over the years! None of this would have been possible this year without the trust we have built, the friends we have made and the experience we have have gained over the last several years thanks to you all!

Please take care of yourselves, and your neighbors too!

Bird Walk This Sunday!/¡Caminata para ver aves este domingo!

Please join us for a bird walk at the Wilson Botanical Gardens this Sunday at 7 AM. The entrance will be free thanks to the generous donation of a Club member. The female White-crested Coquette has been seen hanging around the pollinator garden, and maybe we’ll be lucky enough to see her. The comedor will be open for those who would like coffee and conversation afterwards. Binoculares and guides will be available as always.

Por favor venga al jardín botánico Wilson este domingo al las 7 AM para una caminata para ver aves. Las entradas serán gratis por una donación muy amable de un miembro del Club. La hembra Coqueta crestiblanca se vea actualmente en el jardín de los polinizadores. ¡Tal vez tendríamos la suerte de verla! El comedor estará abierto para los que ocuparán un cafecito y conversación después de la caminata. Habrá binoculares y guías disponibles como siempre.

Contest Winner!

Congratulations to Judy Richardson who correctly identified the butterfly from our Father’s Day Bird Walk at the Wilson Botanical Garden as a male Surprising White, Pereute charops. Male and female butterflies often look identical so how did she know? Well, she’s a butterfly whiz and the females apparently have red stripes! According to a website called http://www.butterfliesandmoths.org, it is also known as a Darkened White. When Judy next arrives in San Vito, we will treat her to a glass of wine for her efforts.

Not to leave you hanging from that last post, here is a photo of the Lesser Goldfinch (Spinus psaltria) from a website called allaboutbirds.org. This was one of the three species we don’t often see and we didn’t want you to miss out on its striking looks:

Editor’s note: apologies to Leandro Barrantes who is in his first year of teenagism — he is 13, not 9, and I don’t know what I was thinking when I wrote that post.

Where were you last Sunday?

We missed you! The Father’s Day Bird Walk was nice — we saw several species we usually don’t see at the Wilson Garden including Buff-rumped Warbler, Gray-headed Tanager and Lesser Goldfinch.

Jo Davidson took these photos on the spot:

The warbler
The tanager

And a bonus mystery butterfly presented here by Nancy Warshawer. Free glass of wine or beer to anyone who can identify this lepidopteran; send a note to alison.w.olivieri@gmail.com.

Photo by Alison Olivieri

Furthermore, we had the pleasure of treating Leandro Barrantes, a 9 year old neighbor, to the majesty of the Canopy Tower where he and Nancy spotted an immature Roadside Hawk at eye level.

Now, aren’t you sorry you didn’t join us? Our next adventure will be posted soon so keep an eye out and come walk with us!

Father’s Day Bird Walk 2021

Please join us for a Bird Walk this Sunday, June 20, at the OTS/Las Cruces Research Station aka Wilson Botanical Garden. We will meet at the Reception Building at 7:30 am and have binoculars to share.

As guests of the SVBC, you will enter for free; however, if you want to make a voluntary donation, that would be most welcome. (The Entrance Fee is $10 for tourists and $3 for residents.)

Let’s look for these beautiful woodpeckers:

Lineated Woodpeckers, photo by Alison Olivieri

Bird Walk on Sunday, June 6

Please join us for a Bird Walk at the incomparable Finca Cántaros on Sunday, June 6 (tomorrow!). We will meet at the entrance gate at 7:30 am and have binoculars to share.

The walk will last for about an hour.

If we have more than 6 walkers, we will go in two groups and run a little competition to see which group sees the most species.

A Voluntary Donation to the new Finca Cántaros Environmental Association would be most welcome. Hope to see you there!

The Canopy Tower Today

It is still standing and an attraction for visitors to the OTS/Las Cruces Research Station and Wilson Botanical Garden.

This photo, from 10 years ago, will remind you of pre-pandemic SVBC events! The Tower requires a climb of 75 steps to reach the top.  All of the folks you see in the photo above have done it; many times. Photo by Harry Hull III.

The slender and powerful young man in this photo, however, is the only person to have made the climb in less than one minute while toting 36 pairs of binoculars, 20 birding books and 120 juice boxes … Peter Wendell, head of the SVBC, standing alone. That’s what a pandemic will do for you. Photo by Alison Olivieri.

Thank You Again!

Speaking of which, we would like take some space here to honor the major donors to the construction of this amazing gateway to another world: Wildwood Foundation, Judy Richardson, Peggy and Fred Sibley, Jean and Fred Schroeder, Patricia J. Scott, Lauren and John Royer, Theodore Wickwire Royer and Zak Zahawi.

Finally, this is how small you look from the top; photo by Peter Wendell.

May 31, an Auspicious Day

First, we want to acknowledge Memorial Day for our members in the US — the beginning of summer but a solumn day commemorating the countless soldiers who lost their lives in wars over too many years.

Closer to home, we celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the Canopy Tower at OTS/Las Cruces Research Station inaugurated on this day in 2011. SVBC members, supporters and friends pulled together to raise the necessary funds for this rather daunting project that began with an enormous hole in the ground.

Special thanks to Campaign Committee Members: Julie Girard and Dave Woolley; Lydia and Ernie Vogt; Michael Olivieri; Zak Zahawi, then Director of Las Cruces; Kate Allen and Patrick Desvenain for special events assistance; our architect Felix Villalobos; Jim Zook for site consulting; the entire staff of Las Cruces for encouragement; the construction crew and, finally, the two Great Tinamous that walked right up the trail to the ongoing building site and bobbed around for a bit, leading me (at least) to think it would work out in the end.

We re-dedicate the Tower to all birders — past, present and future.

Photo by Harry Hull III
From La Nacion, May 31, 2011