Caribbean Birding Trail

Launches New Training Program for 24 Tour Guides on Grenada

(St. Georges, Grenada) July 8th, 2013  – Ramier. Godbird. Chicken Hawk. Until recently, that is how many of the Caribbean Birding Trail Guide Training participants would have described some of Grenada’s common birds. Now, after having successfully completed the five-day training course, participants know that these birds have common English names that are recognized internationally by the birding community: Scaly-naped Pigeon (Ramier), House Wren (Godbird) and Broad Winged Hawk (Chicken Hawk).

The Caribbean Birding Trail (CBT) Guide Training Program was held from 17-21 June on the campus of St. George’s University and was attended by 24 participants—staff from local tour operators, non-profit organizations and the Forestry and National Parks Departments. Grenada is the first country to receive this training from the CBT, a newly launched project of the regional non-profit organization, the Society for the Conservation and Study of Caribbean Birds (SCSCB) [1].

The mission of the CBT is to engage audiences (both local and international) with the unique birds of the Caribbean and to connect them to the extraordinary places, diverse cultures and people of each island. Integral to achieving this is having well-trained guides that are knowledgeable about the cultural and natural resources of their island, including birds [2]. Just as important is having guides that can effectively communicate this information to audiences, in a meaningful and enjoyable way. To that end, the training covered not only bird identification but also the core principles of environmental interpretation, utilizing curriculum developed by the National Association of Interpretation (NAI), based in the US [3].

Facilitating the training were interpretation and bird guiding professionals from Panama, Rick Morales and Beny Wilson. Assisting Rick and Beny were Lisa Sorenson, Executive Director of SCSCB, Holly Robertson, Project Manager of the CBT, and Anthony Jeremiah, Wildlife Conservation Officer with the Forestry and National Parks Department of Grenada.

The training provided time in the field, utilizing the distinct ecosystems of Grenada to demonstrate the relationship between birds and habitat. The excellent viewing platform at the Woburn-Clark’s Court Bay mangrove wetland provided an ideal location to learn to identify waterbirds and explain how they are uniquely adapted to find food in this wet and muddy environment. The Grand Etang Forest Reserve, an entirely different habitat, provided an opportunity to see Grenada’s special forest birds, and to demonstrate how guiding a group in the forest is much different than guiding them elsewhere. Other sites visited during the week were the coastal site of La Sagesse and dry thorn scrub habitat of Mt. Hartman, home of Grenada’s national bird, the critically endangered Grenada Dove.

The week culminated in a day of presentations, with the participants making use of their new knowledge to give a 10-minute talk tailored for a specific audience. The most outstanding presentations were ones that had a cohesive and clear message that was evident throughout the presentation. The best presentations also had elements of humor and whimsy, that captivated the group’s attention from start to finish and had everyone wanting to know more. Many participants were able to do this, and it was an extremely entertaining day!

The feedback on the training has been very positive from participants. One participant, Michael Bowen of Caribbean Horizons Tours, had this to say, “Before this workshop birds and the environment meant nothing to me…but all this has changed in the last five days. I am now ready to start doing something about what I learned.”

Anne Campbell, owner of Caribbean Horizons Tours, remarked, “This workshop was fantastic. It’s given us the tools to revamp the tours that we have, put more emphasis on interpretation, and of course add the bird tours which we think are a great means to help raise environmental awareness for our guests as well as our local visitors. So we are going to be targeting two markets and hope to be able to help and do something positive for Grenada, the environment, and still have fun doing it. Thanks a lot.”

“Ultimately, it is going to take practice and commitment on the part of the guides to keep honing their skills in bird identification, bird guiding and being an effective interpreter,” said CBT Project Manager, Holly Robertson. “With the training and the materials provided in the five days of the workshop, we are confident that the participants have what they need to get started and to begin incorporating birds into the tours that they give on the island. We look forward to continuing to work with them.”

The training was made possible by major funding support from the Critical Ecosystems Partnership Fund and from local sponsors and partners, including the Grenada Forestry and National Parks Department, St. George’s University, McIntyre Brothers, Ltd, Blue Horizons Garden Resort, Caribbean Horizons, Grenada Fund for Conservation, the Grenada Dove Conservation Programme, and Optics for the Tropics.

The Caribbean Birding Trail Interpretive Guide Training Program will be made available in additional countries as the project continues to develop. The Caribbean Birding Trail and other important bird conservation issues will be the topic of conversation at the 19th Regional Meeting of the Society for the Conservation and Study of Caribbean Birds from 27-31 July inclusive on the campus of St. George’s University in southwest Grenada. The purpose of the meeting is to bring together Caribbean and international wildlife professionals, ornithologists, educators, students and others to share their knowledge passion, and experiences, and participate in practical activities that promote applied conservation. Visit the conference website for more information: http://sites.google.com/site/scscbmeeting2013/home.

Press Release, Date: July 9th, 2013

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