An Extraordinary Organization
The Nicaraguan art center The Artist’s House (La Casa del Artista) is an organization that promotes growth in the community through art, education, and environmental awareness. A few years ago this group of sensational artists initiated a series of workshops called “The World of Birds” for the communities of Managua and the surrounding counties in Nicaragua. These workshops are a creative space where knowledge about birds, their habitats, and their relationship with the human environment intersect. Art, Nicaraguan culture, and participatory science were all hot topics of conversation. It was out of these workshops that the festival “Birds at the foot of the hill” was born. This festival, which is backed in part by a mini grant from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology for organizations and groups in Latin America and the Caribbean, is a wonderful celebration that promotes the well-being of birds and the local neighborhood of Villa Libertad. Art, birds, and community all came together in Villa Libertad ensuring a collaborative space and entertainment for everyone. Birds became a passionate topic and the importance of observing them and keeping them safe was strongly emphasized. Concurrent collaborative conservation activities were carried out in the neighborhood to improve the local environment and the quality of life. It was inspiring!
Murals and Posters
When it came time to design a mural it was critical to find natural elements that served to represent people’s emotions. Many people in Nicaragua worry about the agricultural industry and the growth of urban sprawl which has caused much deforestation in the country, impacting native and migratory birds as well as other species of animals and human settlements. After an exchange of information and community perspectives it was concluded that the mural’s basic elements should contain birds, the river, and the hill. The mural was possible thanks to the leadership of Juan David Hernández. It was painted on the walls of the local grocery store, a high traffic area in the neighborhood where many different people’s lives intersect in Villa Libertad. Many different people in the community got together to paint the walls of the grocery store. The resulting mural is beautiful, but that wasn’t the end of it! Workshop participants created pots in the shape of birds which were made from reused materials like automobile tires.
The festival poster was created with the help of Cintya Espinoza, a young artist committed to social causes who dedicated her time to create the poster for the program. The poster incorporated key elements like the hills and local birds. Wonderful!
Artistic Presentations and Bird Watching
The workshops commenced and groups of artists began to arrive in the neighborhood. The mood in the community was one of excitement! There was an element of joy in the air as the participants got ready for the day of celebrations. The first day of activities officially opened with words of welcome from community representatives and Ariel Salinas, who represented La Casa del Artista. The importance of bird conservation for the well-being of nature and the environment shared by humans and animals was emphasized. Jugglers came to entertain the community, putting on an amazing fire and hula hoop show; be careful! During the second day of the festival, participants took part in interactive activities and games based on the “International Bird Detectives” curriculum of the K-12 Education program of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. The participants then set off on an early morning bird-watching hike. While on the way to the top of the hill, 63 individuals of 43 different species of birds were observed. A second bird-watching hike was carried out in the afternoon in the “Witch” lagoon, located in the La Patasta reserve. Here 41 individuals of 21 species of birds were observed. In these sightings something incredible happened: the White-browed Charralero, (Thryothorus ludovicianus) was observed and identified by song. This bird is on the list of endangered bird species in Nicaragua. Observing this bird was very impactful on the participants. To add to the excitement, the number of species observed during the hike was a five-year high! All the data collected was then uploaded to eBird. This is a beautiful example of participatory science that proves everyone can contribute the collective knowledge about birds. Not everything that was observed had to do with birds. Beautiful flora was also present! At the top of the hill, species of plants whose numbers had dwindled due to agricultural activities were observed, raising awareness about these plants and the role that they play in their ecosystems.
Mandagüal Reforestation and the Conclusion of the Festival
As part of the workshops a reforestation project was undertaken to plant native tree species on the banks of the Musunce River micro-basin. The species chosen was the Mandagüal which is native to Mexico and Central America, and is ideal for planting in Nicaragua. Due to its high regenerative capacity the Mandagüal is important for the natural regeneration of disturbed areas . The participants planted 80 Mandagüals near the river. After the hard work was done, snacks and lunches were shared, and the last bird sighting was conducted at the Witch Lagoon. The workshops ended with words of thanks from those present. We thank the organizers, the artists who helped make this event a reality, and all the participants whose energy invigorated the workshops. Their passion for birds and nature was inspiring to all!
A special thanks to The Artist’s House and its members: Erling Morán, Ariel Salinas, Sarahí Mendoza, Jonier Espinoza, Milton Talavera, David Rivera, Ronald Díaz, and Christoph Jaschek who were the driving force behind the workshops and dedicated their time and effort to make the activities a success. We also thank Agropecuaria Caballero S.A. for their fundamental role. Thanks also to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology for their support of these workshops through their mini-grant program. Special thanks to Alfredo Cabellero, Carlos Emilio Gómez, Mr. Noel Zambrana, Suyapa Acevedo, and to the Church of the Nazarene and all the families of the Villa Libertad neighborhood who actively participated in the workshops.
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