Question: “Is Finca Cántaros Environmental Association (FCEA) focused on birds?”
Response: “Yes AND no! No AND yes!”
The other day, on the very same day, two unconnected people asked me in two distinct conversations: “your organization focuses on birds, right?”
I laughed out loud and sighed a little on the inside on both occasions. I will explain, but first let me answer in the simplest terms:
Yes AND no. No AND yes.
YES, birds are ONE component of FCEA’s work, in that they fold strategically and meaningfully into our three main areas of focus—environmental education, forest restoration and research—which support our mission of connecting communities through biological corridor conservation.
NO, birds are not our primary focus, but I understand why you might think so.
First, many of our environmental education (EE) activities have a “bird-y element” for the important reason that our feathered friends are considered a powerful tool in EE for connecting people of all ages to their natural surroundings. One can detect and observe birds more easily than other species such as mammals or reptiles. They can be found everywhere—from rural to urban settings—which means they create an accesible and magical window into the local environment, no matter whether it is remote wilderness area or a park in a populated metropolis. Never has there been more proof of the accessibility and magic of birds than during this pandemic, when more and more people have turned to birds in their own backyard for a healthy and relaxing distraction.
Many also turn online to oogle bird photos, including a large percentage of our loyal social media followers. That’s why we dedicate an equally large percentage of our posts to sharing the beautiful bird photos taken by talented team members. I encourage you to follow the impressive photography of Yeimiry Badilla, Randall Jiménez and David Rodríguez (Cántaros coordinators of property management, community outreach, and wildlife research, respectively) on their personal platforms. I understand how all these photos—in combination with the beautiful bird in our logo designed by Mauricio Valverde—add to the mystique that our organization focuses on birds!
Finally, I get why I, Lilly Briggs, am associated with birds. Before launching this new career chapter with FCEA, I worked with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology for many years on developing an EE program (Detectives de Aves in Spanish/BirdSleuth International in English) aimed at engaging youth throughout Latin America in learning about birds, conservation and citizen science. Simultaneously I pursued a separate but overlapping path completing my masters and PhD, both degrees focused in large part on environmental education.
Plus, I became a birdlover at a young age, when watching Blue Jays flock and fight at our feeder in Quebec inspired the self-designated nickname “Lilly Blue Jay Briggs.”
I understand why people have consistently asked me over the years, “so you focus on birds, right?” But I would usually respond defensively that I focus on environmental education, NOT ornithology.
Now I’m inspired to be more “pura vida” about it, the relaxed cultural philosophy of Costa Ricans. After all, I do love birds and I do know a lot about them!
But just as I never wanted to misrepresent myself, nor let my professional priority and expertise get overshadowed, I feel the same about these initial days and “branding” of our Environmental Association and its objectives.
In that spirit, I encourage you to not “pigeon hole” us into being all about birds. We DO plan to continue pursuing partnerships with bird-focused organizations on cool bird conservation projects. Through our collaboration with local partners San Vito Bird Club/Detectives de Aves-Coto Brus, and tools from the Cornell Lab, we will continue to create spaces for environmental education focused on birds. Through our collaboration with Birds Canada and Proyecto Cerulea we will use our Motus Tower to study the movements of resident and migratory species of birds. Through our collaboration with Osa Birds we will organize events such as Migratory Bird Festivals.
But we also plan to explore numerous other projects in the diverse fields of environmental education, forest restoration and research.
Our talented and reflexive Environmental Education Coordinator, Carla Azofeifa, can tell you about our educational initiatives focused on Nature Sketch (thanks to our partnership with the Bateman Foundation of Canada) or on gender and conservation.
We have the pleasure of counting on the ongoing support and advice from Isaac Sánchez about the agroecology project at Finca Cántaros, one of our forest restoration efforts.
Wim de Backer, who is in charge of the Monteverde Bat Jungle, is leading the bat research on the property. He is also a charismatic speaker who loves to answer ANY questions you may have about bats!
So please, continue enjoying the beautiful bird photos we post. But stay tuned in to all of our other exciting updates and projects, too!