Sunday, April 3, 2022

Return to the mangroves in St. Michel/Camp Louise

In March 2022 I returned to Université Chrétienne du Nord d'Haïti (UCNH) in northern Haiti to reconnect and teach a short biology course. I also visited the mangroves that I surveyed in March 2020 under a small BirdsCaribbean grant. This time, Elio took me to the shore side of the mangroves. We walked the mile-long stretch which was a narrow (<1m) strip of sandy shore covered in plastic trash for almost the entire length. Two of the 3 paths that we followed into the mangroves led to areas cleared for charcoal. We heard several yellow warblers in the mangrove, and saw one sandpiper along the shore, along with washed up pieces of coral and sponges. In the mainland side of the mangrove, we saw glossy ibis, greater yellowlegs, and black-necked stilts.


Cleared for charcoal

Spotted sandpiper


Trash on the beach.
Black-necked stilt, glossy ibis, greater yellowlegs in front.

Sunday, May 16, 2021

BirdsCaribbean grant - Environmental education in Camp Louise

Using BirdsCaribbean bird silhouette poster.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Debbie had to leave Haiti in March 2020 and was not able to return as of May 2021. Elio and Wilnise of UCNH continued the activities for this project by leading environmental education workshops for children and their parents of the Institut Rehoboth de Belle Hotesse school which is near the previously monitored mangroves. Snacks were provided! Thank you BirdsCaribbean for funds to do this important outreach. 

 April 28 2021, 8 – 10a Children’s workshop 

Audience: 96 students, 5 teachers, 1 director. (With assistant Wyd)

Theme: Protect birds, mangroves, and the environment. 

Topics: • The importance of birds - How birds make us have plenty of food. Distribute handouts of birds pictures and names. • Protection of birds - Do not litter, do not break their nests, do not kill birds, plant trees, do not use slingshots. 

The parents.

May 12 2021, 12:30 – 2:30p Parent’s workshop. 

Audience: 40 parents, 5 teachers, 1 director. (With assistant Gideon) 

Theme: Protect the mangroves through protecting the environment. 

Topics: • The importance of mangroves. • The importance of birds and how this can lead to better jobs. • Exhort children for killing birds. • Do not cut trees. • Do not litter. 

Elio says: Mwen kwè fòmasyon sa dwe gen swit. Kèk aksyon pou ede timoun ak granmoun yo rebwaze zòn nan. Granmoun yo pare pou kolabore nan jan yo kapab. Mwen te kontan anpil travay nan pwojè sa. Ekip la solid e pare pou kontinye patisipe nan bon chanjman kap fasilite byenèt tout moun ak tout zwazo yo!!!!! 

(I believe this training must follow. Some actions to help children and adults reforest the area. Adults are ready to collaborate as best they can. I was very happy working on this project. The team is strong and ready to continue participating in good changes that facilitate the well-being of everyone and all the birds !!!!!)


Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Scouting the Limbe rice fields - Trip 3

Look closely for the flock of around 80 glossy ibis passing over the rice fields!
17 Mar. 2020 On our way back to UCNH after teaching about birds at Bon Berger school on the outskirts of Limbe, Wilnise, Elio, and I stopped to see the birds that flock to the rice fields along National Route 1. Each morning large flocks of glossy ibis (Plegadis falcinellus) fly from the east to these fields, and each evening return to wherever they roost, perhaps along the Baie de l’Acul. We walked into a small patch of mango trees to find a suitable place to regularly survey with our spotting scope. We saw at least 100 glossy ibis! As well as cattle and great egrets and one green heron.

We planned to return during a morning to spend more time surveying. And also planned to return to the mangroves at Camp Louise that coming Saturday. But two days later on 19 March, two confirmed cases of COVID19 were discovered, Haiti shut down its borders to people entering and exiting the country, and I was left scrambling for a flight back to the US. So this project is on hold until people are able to freely travel in Haiti. Thanks to BirdCaribbean for helping us with this great start! Our conference to train the local school teachers in using BirdSleuth materials is on hold until I can get back to Haiti. In the meantime, I left materials with my assistants so they can commence birding and teaching once the pandemic passes and kids resume school, this fall I hope.

Wilnise and Elio teaching about birds at Bon Berger.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Sketches of Nature – Environmental education through art

Cacao tree
On Thursday March 19 2020 I begun an art and nature activity funded by the Cape Cod Bird Club Conservation fund. The objective of the project is to engage Université Chrétienne du Nord d'Haïti (UCNH) School of Fine Arts students with nature through directed activities of sketching nature and composing poetry and songs, and help them pass these skills along to children in the surrounding community through an art and nature workshop that they plan and direct. The ultimate goal is to link participants to nature to increase their awareness of the environment and conservation needs.

Funding allowed me to bring art supplies for 12 students (sketch books, color pencils, and graphite pencil kits). Fine Arts student Ruben stepped up as a leader and organized the students. The first workshop was 2 hours long and we sat outside on campus and sketched a cacao tree and leaves. At the end I gave the students two assignments – return next week with a drawing of flowers, and a drawing of something that wasn’t a plant. At the next meeting we would plan a Saturday morning children’s art workshop.

Little did I know that while we met, Haiti was closing its borders due to two confirmed cases of COVID19 and the US Embassy was recalling all overseas citizens back to the US. I returned to my campus house to find the messages and immediately bought an airline ticket for return to the US. The next meeting will have to wait until I return to campus, perhaps this fall or next spring semester. I hope the art supplies will give the students a creative outlet while the university and everything else is closed. I have asked Ruben to send me pictures of the students’ art work. And the supplies for the children’s program are safely stored in Haiti.

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Camp Louise mangroves – Trips 1 & 2

Site 2 - Main monitoring site
In early 2019 Wilnise and I went with our birding group (Mike, etc.) to do a survey along the road that goes to the Camp Louise beach (edit: Actually the stretch of mangroves between St. Michel and Camp Louise). We stopped at the mangroves and surveyed from the road. Wilnise and I returned a month later and the fields and mangroves were dry – we were able to walk pretty far into the mangroves and saw warblers. I was awarded funding from BirdsCaribbean to continue monitoring this area, train other birders, and have a bird workshop for the children in the area. These are my notes for this work. Bird lists are uploaded to eBird.

19 Feb. 2020 Mini-foray at mangrove next to beach
I did a stationary survey by myself after a swim at the beach. Very small patch of trees, No remarkable birds, cattle and snowy egrets in wet area next to it. Brown pelican flew by on beach.

7 Mar. 2020 First trip to train others
Two trusted motorcycle drivers took Wilnise and me to the mangroves to commence monitoring this year. Our first stop along irrigation canals became muddy so we weren’t able to get in a great spot, but did see both yellowlegs species and some black-necked stilts and killdeer. We moved to a new location that will be our long-term monitoring spot for this mangrove. Rice fields run along it and they are full of water now (previous week had rain almost the entire week).

We then went to the small mangrove that I previously surveyed next to the beach, and saw a green heron perched on top of a bush. Then walked north along the beach to a rocky tip. A remnant mangrove runs along the beach, we recorded the clear song of a yellow warbler. We saw 2 spotted sandpipers bobbing their tails along the ocean shore. In the back area of the mangrove where trees were cut so now it’s only a mudflat, we saw 2 Wilson’s plovers chasing little crabs. The motorcycle drivers Wid and Carlo took to spotting the birds, and I think are candidates for training to be guides. Wilnise asked the men in the snack shacks along the beach who to contact for arranging a kids bird camp.

Lesser and greater yellowlegs

The team at site 2 - main site
Site 3 - the little mangrove right at the beach

Site 4 - destroyed mangrove on left (remnant on right off of photo)

Spotted sandpiper at site 4

Wilson's plover at site 4 - in the mudflat that once was a mangrove

Monday, February 24, 2020

Cap Haitien Universite Louverturienne d'Haiti

My ecology student arranged for us to teach a bird class at Universite Louverturienne d'Haiti in Cap Haitien, Since it was mainly administration students, I focused on the economic importance of birds in Haiti and ecotourism. 40 students attended, including some agriculture and nursing students. When he saw my computer and projector, the professor graciously acquired some diesel to run the generator so we could have current. I gave some posters provided by Birds Caribbean. FYI we left my house at 10am and got home at 5pm, all to teach a 2 hour class 15 miles away. The road and traffic are that bad (we did spend an hr on lunch and a bank stop)!

At the intersection of 23 & F.

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Rivière Haut du Cap (Mapou), Cap Haitien

In August 2019 I was part of a biological assessment team that surveyed the Haut du Cap River in Cap Haitian, Haiti’s second largest city. Don and I surveyed the aquatic environment of the river, surrounding wetlands, and tributaries, with a botanist and two ornithologists. The river empties into the bay in Cap Haitian where it historically was an estuary. However, people have cut down the mangroves in and along the estuary and have moved in. Every year their homes flood. The area is full of trash and fecal bacteria. People say they don’t see the quantity and sizes of fish they used to see here. Protecting the river and its mangroves would have protected the city from flooding and provided more fish for food. We hope that this survey can increase awareness of the importance of protecting natural areas in Haiti.
The old colonial bridge over the Haut du Cap.

Houses along the river.

Walkway to the boat taxi.