By. CSFellow22 Onil Rodríguez
On September 29-30, 2023, the first edition of the Migratory Shorebird Festival was held in the Gulf of Fonseca, Honduras. The event was held in two natural areas that are part of the first site of regional importance of the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network (WHSRN) in Honduras, called Punta Condega – El Jicarito System, with an area greater than 45,000 hectares and which is made up of four Habitat Management Areas by Species (AMH/E): El Jicarito, La Berbería, Las Iguanas – Punta Condega and San Bernardo. This event was held within the framework of my Coastal Solutions project: “Shorebird Habitat Conservation Initiatives in the Punta Condega – El Jicarito System: safe sites for shorebirds in Honduras”, with the fundamental support of Pronatura Noroeste.
The first day of the event was held at the visitor center of El Jicarito, together with the communities of Los Prados and San Jerónimo, and La Berbería, for the community of Ojo de Agua. This first day was attended by community representatives of the Association of Artisanal Fishermen of Namasigüe (APEANA), representatives of the Forest Conservation Institute, the Ministry of Natural Resources, the Honduran Institute of Tourism (IHT), the NGO Committee for the Defense and Development of the Flora and Fauna of the Gulf of Fonseca (CODDEFFAGOLF) and the representation of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), who supported the development of this event and other research objectives through funds from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
The second day of the event was held in the community of El Venado, at the Sea Turtle Conservation and Research Center in the Gulf of Fonseca. Over More than 40 kids enjoyed different activities, with the gentle sea breeze that reached the beach, it was the perfect setting for different activities, games adapted to the context of bird conservation, bird watching and many other activities to engage with both, children and adults. Jorge Alberto Hernandez, director of the Sea Turtle Conservation and Research Center, welcomed the event from the first moment and gave his full support to the development of the festival and the environmental education workshops.
During this time of year, two of the main economic activities for the community coincide. On the one hand, the adults participate in the sea turtle season, with the care of nests and the release of newborn turtles into the sea, and on the other hand, is also shrimp harvesting season in nearby farms. Both are among the main employment opportunities at the site and the reason why the kids were the main focus of the day. We were also joined at the event by Julia Salazar, a collaborator in the declaration of the Punta Condega – El Jicarito System, 2023 Coastal Solutions Program fellow, and a Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network (WHSRN) specialist in salt production and its relationship with shorebirds.
During both days, the public enjoyed different activities designed to involve both adults and kids, focused on the conservation of birds and the Punta Condega – El Jicarito System, a key site for migratory shorebirds in the region. Pronatura Noroeste, a Mexican NGO with a long history in the conservation of coastal habitats in Mexico, took part in planning and delivery of both workshops. We are especially grateful to Lizz González, coordinator of Pronatura Noreste’s Conservation Education program, who helped with the development and adaptation of the educational materials to the context of the birds in Honduras. In addition, we thank Lizz for sharing her knowledge and experience during the training of CODDEFFAGOLF, ICF and IHT staff and volunteers on the use and delivery of workshops using the various educational materials used during the festival, along with other materials related to plastics and fisheries.
Both days exceeded our expectations in terms of participants, and it was evident that this event helped to awaken enthusiasm and curiosity for shorebirds, especially in children, an audience in which we can reinforce this new knowledge through new workshops, festivals, or environmental education initiatives.
With this event we sought to raise awareness about the protection of these priority habitats for migratory shorebirds, and to improve knowledge of these species. Members of the La Berbería community demonstrated already having knowledge of local birds and requested our help in obtaining identification guides and receiving species identification training. The same community expressed interest in making an identification guide of their own and requested our help to achieve this. As we listened to the comments and feedback from our participants, we have committed to finding the resources to support the communities with the development of bird identification guides, in addition to increasing workshops on environmental education, with reinforcement in the field, thanks to the close relationship between Pronatura Noroeste, IUCN, ICF and CODDEFFAGOLF.
This First Shorebird Festival in the Gulf of Fonseca in Honduras, met the proposed objectives and exceeded our expectations. A second edition is planned for October, 2024, and we hope to be able to count again with the support and sponsorship of IUCN and USAID, among other collaborators. Additionally, we want to increase community participation and reach out to the various other communities surrounding the Punta Condega – El Jicarito System. In this way we hope to increase the impact of this project on habitats, inhabitants, and shorebirds, with the support of the CODDEFFAGOLF Board of Directors.