Saturday, September 6, 2014

World Shorebirds Day

Today, september 6th, is the World Shorebirds Day... and to celebrate it many people around the world is censing its local population of shorebirds in more than 750 selected sites.  Panama was not the exception.  In order to include the general population, NGOs and public institutions, the Panama Audubon Society (PAS) organized the "Shorebird Challenge" at the registered counting site in Costa del Este (Panama City).
PAS Executive Director, Rosabel Miró, listed the rules for the challenge.  Simple: each organization would be represented by 4 members (plus supporting staff) and provided with binoculares and illustrated field guides with the objective to ID the greatest number of shorebirds species with no professional aid (all these participants were non-experienced in the theme of birdwatching) in 30 minutes.  Each team was assigned an "expert" birdwatcher in charge of the checklist.  We weren't supposed to help in the ID  of any species.... just to confirm it.  All the "experts" were PAS members.
Shorebirds Challenge experts.  From left to right: Ariel Aguirre, Venicio Wilson, Michele Caballero, Jan Axel Cubilla and Yenifer Díaz
The team of the Capital District Municipality, guided by Venicio, were the undisputed winners, identifying 11 shorebirds species after sticking to its strategy of "being where the birds are"... they changed its original watching site after quickly recognizing that most of the flocks were in the other side of the river!  Good one!
1st place: Capital District Municipality team (11 species)
My own team, the crew of MarViva, a regional NGO that promotes the conservation and sustainable use of coastal and marine ecosystems in the Eastern Tropical Pacific, correctly identified 9 shorebirds species.  Our strategy was pretty the same of "being where the birds are"; however, we spent all the necessary time pointing out field marks and didn't make it to the other side on time (where a huge and diverse flock was resting).
2nd place: MarViva team (9 species)
Two teams identified 8 shorebirds species.  The draw was resolved by a knowledge test that won the team of the National Environmental Authority (ANAM), guided by Ariel Aguirre.
3rd place: ANAM team (8 species)
Leaving then in the fourth place (also with 8 shorebirds species identified) the composite team of several NGO's and government agencies, including members of Panama's Aquatic Resources Authority (ARAP), Ramsar CREHO and Wetlands International. The last team, the representatives of the Ministry of housing and land zoning (MiViOT), identified 7 shorebirds species.  As you can see, all the government agencies and NGOs that participated have something to do with the protection of the habitat that these shorebirds need in the Upper Bay of Panama.
4th and 5th place: ARAP/CREHO/Wetlands and MiViOT teams
What a great experience.  As mentioned earlier, the site was full of shorebirds and other aquatic species... but the activities are not over... and I will show you some of the shorebirds we managed to ID in another post!

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