Birds and Nature Festival

The birdwatching club Aves P’e’la’ank’eweles,/Titira Puerquito is a group of volunteers based in the Yucatán peninsula in Mexico that is passionate about wild birds. The group won a mini grant for Latin American and Caribbean organizations and groups from the Lab of Ornithology. The group’s objective is to encourage and promote the protection of birds and their habitats in coordination with the community and with the support of organizations and international institutions. In their region, the Tizmín municipality of Yucatan, there are few efforts to create educational materials about the environment. This region of Mexico also has a large concentration of Maya speakers, whose rich culture and has many connections n to nature. The club, formed in 2018,  works mainly in the Colonia Yucatán community with the children of Mayan communities and promotes birdwatching and environmental education in the region. 

The clubs’ leaders, Lic. Angel Fernando Castillo Cime and Lic. Victoria de la Cruz Estrella Canul, held educational activities and birdwatching workshops for children and teens. These workshops emphasized the value of birds for the environment and for people, the relationship between birds and their culture, and the importance of taking care of the environment they share with birds. The group collaborates with the Sal a Pajarear Yucatán program to work with kids between 8 and 12 through periodic outings during which they learn to identify the bird species that best represent the region. Binoculars and guides are scarce in the region, but with the help of Sal a Pajarear Tucatan who supplied the equipment, the group was able to receive the tools needed to identify the birds and improve the experience for the participants. Everyone uploaded their observations to eBird and iNaturalist. 

The group completed a series of activities with children and their families in a local community park. Activities began with a presentation from Colonia Yucatán community authorities who were represented by their accountant Carmen Chan. Mtro. Waldemar Santamaria Rivero represented the Go Birding Yucatán program, and Lic. Angel Fernando Castillo Cime and Lic. Victoria de la Cruz Estrella Canul represented the P’e’la’ank’eweles/ Titira Puerquito club as presidents of the birdwatching club. 

After the presentations the students were welcomed, and introduced to the basics of birdwatching, shown how to use the equipment, and taught how to be a good birdwatcher. Students were amazed when a Keel-billed Toucan appeared in the park’s palm trees for a snack and were eager to start birdwatching. They went on group hikes through the park and along the main road. Each group then shared the list of birds they spotted, highlighting their favorite birds, their characteristics, and why they like them. How fun!

After this exciting activity, the children created posters and signs with messages supporting the conservation of birds and the protection of the environment to be placed in the park. They also enjoyed an artisan embroidery art expo showcasing the Mayan Artisans of Xocén who depict the beautiful birds native to the Yucatán Peninsula in their art. To conclude the first day of activities the children prepared a small festival where they dressed up as their favorite birds in hand made costumes. They showed off their costumes on a feathered runway. 

The second day was also filled with activities! Deputy Commissar Luis Dzib helped bring together the children of the Cenote Azul community and gave a warm welcome to students, their families, and other members of the community before his presentation. Afterwards members of the club gave an informative introduction to birdwatching, including how to use binoculars, bird guides, and most importantly, the recommendations and precautions necessary to go birding. 

The participants split up into groups based on age before embarking on their birdwatching outing. Each team was equipped with a list of bird species that was later referred to when discussing which species they saw. Afterwards the participants split up into two teams. The first team picked their favorite species from those that they observed in the outing and drew it with a message promoting the protection of birds and nature. The second team planted fruit trees in locations that would benefit both the birds and the families of the community. 

After completing the fun activities, participants received a certificate of participation and took lots of lovely pictures in the deep natural well [what does this mean? What is a deep natural well?] in the town, the habitat of the del Turquoise-browed Motmot (Eumomota superciliosa) and Cave Swallow (Petrochelidon fulva). The activities were educational for the children of the community and their families. They also made the participants feel empowered to act and make contributions to the protection of birds and nature in their wonderful community. The activities were a great success!

Special thanks to the Education and Technology Training Institute A.C., Sal a Pajarear Yucatan and their facilitator Mtro. Waldemar Santamaria Rivero, the Colonia Yucatan authority accountant Carmen Chan, and the Deputy Luis Dzib.

Article developed by Cassandra Nuñez.