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!

The Children’s Forest of Coto Brus, Part 3

The Musical Arts of ‘Pest Network’

Pest Network performing as ‘Pajaros de Bobos’. Photo by Michael Olivieri

A big surprise was waiting at the end of each future forest tree planting day at Finca Cantaros for the Detectives de Aves students, as ‘Pajaros de Bobos’ popped out of the woods to sing and dance, as well as play percussion, guitar and recorder!

Integrating the arts with environmental and sustainability education is an idea that has taken hold over the past several decades and was in full ‘swing’ here recently, grabbing some gleeful attention from our student reforesters!

Sabalito students enjoy the performance organized by Carla Azofeifa in red at rear. Photo by Alison Olivieri

As Arts-in-Residency participants at the local Jaguar Luna Arts Collective in Copabuena, Sean Smith and Félix Prater entertained the students with great verve, color and flair.

As most SVBC members know well, Lesson’s Motmots “whoot” and “whoot” in gardens and forests throughout the country so these larger-than-life Bobos’ repeated multi-syllabic refrains, “Escucha! Escucha! El ritmo! El ritmo!” reverberated in our ears in quite a similarly tuneful way.

Sean? Or Felix? Thank you for your part of this exciting project. Photo by Michael Olivieri

We want to extend huge thanks to Sean and Félix for bringing each of the Childen’s Forest Tree Planting days to such exciting finales with their invigorating and unexpected performances.


Friends From Afar — We’ve Got Mail!

Greetings, members of the SVBC:

We wish to convey to you all our sincere thanks for the welcome that the SVBC members extended to us during our recent visit to San Vito this past March. Our little group of six was comprised of short term visitors (a few days for four of us; an additional couple of weeks for two of us). Although there was only one formal SVBC member among us, we were all treated as regulars and included in a delightful variety of birding adventures: the walk and brunch at Cecilia Sansonetti’s beautiful finca; the walks at Cántaros (with the opportunity to meet new owner, Lilly, and managers, Yei and Marylin); the tense photo competitions, the awards, the refreshments, etc.

Greg Homer took two of us on an early morning walk to Tres Rios in search of, among other birds, the albino vultures. Peter Wendell gave us a primer on using eBird. Alison Olivieri gave us perfect directions to Rio Negro. And everyone else was equally gracious. We were also impressed with the club’s industriousness—from its nascent effort to merge with the Pajareros del Sur, to the continuing inclusion of young birders, the involvement with the local schools and the Detectives de Aves education progam. You folks gave us all great memories of San Vito, its birds and its birders. Thank you! 

David and Audrey Fielding, on our own behalf and on behalf of our friends: David Rorick, Sandra Braden, John Denvir and Miriam Rokeach.

David and Audrey Fielding, members from San Francisco


PS – It must be about time to renew our membership, so for David & Audrey Fielding, our check is in the mail (via Paypal).

The SVBC responds: this is the nicest news we’ve had in forever, so thank you both for your note and your Membership Renewal.

Please Join Us for 2019/Afiliarse con nosotros 2019!

Birding with the Pajareros Del Sur at the Wilson Botanical Garden. Photo by Jo Davidson

It is time to join the San Vito Bird Club for the first time OR to renew your membership for 2019!

Benefits of membership include bi-monthly Bird Walks at the Wilson Garden/OTS Las Cruces Biological Station, invites to the members-only Annual Meeting at Cascatas Del Bosque, day trips in and around the Coto Brus Valley and occasional overnight jaunts throughout Costa Rica in search of rarities like the Lanceolated Monklet. Plus your membership support helps us bring BirdSleuth-International, an environmental education program from the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, to local schools as “Detectives de Aves”. Please read President Wendell’s post about the Detectives de Aves year 2018 here.

Detectives de Aves teachers Carla Azofeifa and Paula Mesen with SVBC President Peter Wendell. Photo by Alison Olivieri

Part of your membership dues will be donated to the Organization for Tropical Studies Las Cruces Biological Station that provides us with an exciting place to bird and free coffee and camaraderie after the walks.

We are keeping dues at 2018 rates: C11,000 or $20 per person for International Members and C14,000 or $25 per person for residents of Costa Rica. Family membership are priced for two people but always include children.

Without you, we are nothing so please join today! You can give your dues to Peter at the Bird Walk on December 9 or to Randall Bourbon Jimenez or to any other executive committee member: Greg Homer, Alison Olivieri or Harry Hull.

Watch this video of Detectives de Aves in Guatemala! Mira el video de Detectives de Aves en Guatemala!

Espanol abajo

Because Detectives de Aves is THE most exciting program sponsored by the SVBC, we decided to re-post this 7 minute video from the Cornell University Laboratory of Ornithology — they hit it out of the park with this short film!

In April, two of our teachers — Carla Azofeifa and Paula Mesen — went with SVBC President Peter Wendell to the highlands of Guatemala to share teaching experiences and learn from indigenous teachers Vilma, Gilda and Norma.

That visit was reciprocated in May when Tara and Rob Cahill came to San Vito in May with Vilma and Norma — all from the Cloud Forest Conservation Society — to participate with us in local schools. These travels were funded by a grant to Dr. Lilly Briggs from National Geographic. (See a report here.)

It’s just a GREAT program and we are proud to play a part. In this presentation, those of you who don’t live here will meet Carla Azofeifa and Paula Mesen, two of our wonderful teachers! Please consider sending a donation to continue this program in local schools by visiting our Support the Club page.

Ya que Detectives de Aves el EL programa más emocionante patrocinado por el SVBC, decidimos volver a postear este video, de 7 minutos, del Laboratorio de Ornitología de la Universidad de Cornell. ¡Realmente se lucieron con este corto video!

En abril, dos de nuestras maestras Carla Azofeifa y Paula Mesén, fueron junto al Presidente del SVBC, Peter Wendell, a las tierras altas de Guatemala para compartir sus experiencias de enseñanza y aprender de las maestras indígenas Vilma, Gilda y  Norma.

Vilma y Norma nos devolveron la visita en mayo, cuando vinieron junto a Tara y Rob Cahill, de la Cloud Forest Conservation Society, para participar en nuestras escuelas locales en San Vito. Estos viajes fueron financiados mediante una donación del Dr. Lilly Briggs de National Geographic (vea el reporte aquí).

Este es un GRAN programa y estamos orgullosos de tomar parte. En esta presentación, aquellos de ustedes que no vivien aquí, ¡conocerán a Carla Azofeifa y Paula Mesén, dos de nuestras maravillosas maestras! Por favor considere enviar una donación para continuar con este programa en nuestras escuelas locales, visitando nuestra página Apoye el Club