The 21st International BirdsCaribbean Conference was held in Topes de Collantes, Cuba from July 13-17. This event occurs once every two years and brings together researchers, students and other professionals who aspire to achieve a common goal: conservation of Caribbean birds and their habitats.
Some 240 delegates representing 30 countries and islands participated in five fun and intense days of networking, learning and sharing.
The TT group of ten included members of the Field Naturalists’ Club (TTFNC), its president Darshan Narang, and former BirdsCaribbean president Dr Howard Nelson. Seven TT delegates delivered oral presentations or posters detailing their recent research on birds, ecology, or human-wildlife interactions in TT.
The topics covered were diverse, from Sharmila Tolan’s An assessment of heavy metal levels in the Brown Pelican, to Raqib Abdul’s poster, Investigating the Bananaquit in the Aripo Savannas. The theme was Celebrating Caribbean Diversity. With this in mind, the first day was devoted to research and education in Cuba. Cuba Day was a great way for the hosts to introduce itself and share the many reasons why Cuba is so biodiverse and unique.
Cuba has 26 endemic bird species—which means they are found nowhere else on the planet. One, the Bee Hummingbird, is the smallest in the world. Cuba is home to several outstanding, contemporary ornithologists including Dr Lourdes Mugica Valdés and Dr Hiram González Alonso, who both gave keynote speeches and were presented with Lifetime Achievement Awards from BirdsCaribbean.
In the 150 sessions, workshops and round-table discussions, participants continued to explore themes that are unique to the Caribbean. There were sessions highlighting how migratory birds rely on the region, the fragility of Caribbean forest and wetland ecosystems, marketing and ecotourism, and more. The conference also included immersive participatory workshops that ranged from enhancing writing techniques to capturing and banding wild birds. One of the highlights was an announcement from author and conservationist Herbert Raffaele on his updating the Birds of the West Indies field guide.
The new version will include revised information about ranges, changes in taxonomy, and some new illustrations. This announcement is especially exciting because the project is fully supported by Princeton University Press.
TT and BirdsCaribbean have a long history of collaborating. In 1997, Trinidad hosted the BirdsCaribbean Conference and Tobago hosted in 2003. BirdsCaribbean has presented capacity-building programmes in TT such as the West Indian Whistling-Duck and Wetlands Conservation Workshop and has financially supported Trinbagonian researchers with grants to conduct studies on local avian ecology.
TT is consistently highlighted by BirdsCaribbean for dominating Global Big Day, an effort to count as many bird species as possible in one day. TT is also a participant in the Caribbean Endemic Bird Festival and International Migratory Bird Day activities which are held annually.
The next BirdsCaribbean conference will be held in Guadeloupe in 2019 and is open to anyone interested in attending. We anticipate that Trinbagonians and TTFNC members will continue to be leaders in researching our natural environment and once again share critical and new information about the regions avifauna and habitats with our neighbours.
To learn more visit www.birdscaribbean.org or visit BirdsCaribbean on Facebook or Twitter. For more info on our natural environment, contact the Trinidad and Tobago Field Naturalists’ Club at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our website at www.ttfnc.org and our Facebook or YouTube pages. The club’s next monthly meeting is on October 12 at St Mary’s College, Port of Spain.