Bird guide training successfully certifies 11 participants on the island
PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten, 5 July 2023 – Sint Maarten’s first bird guide training course was successfully held in April, thanks to a collaboration between the Nature Foundation, BirdsCaribbean, and Resources for Community Resilience (R4CR). The five-day course took place in class and on the field, as eleven participants were certified as bird guides through the Nature Foundation.
The training was led by naturalist Binkie van Es, a certified BirdsCaribbean trail guide and the coordinator of the island’s BirdSleuth program, an initiative out of Cornell University’s Lab of Ornithology. During the course, participants received training on how to use birding equipment like binoculars and spotting scopes, proper birding etiquette, and how to identify bird species through field marking, size, and vocalization.
Participants came from a diverse range of backgrounds but shared a common interest in wildlife and habitat conservation in St. Maarten. With this training, the newly certified bird guides will be able to give accurate, in-depth tours and presentations to local students, policymakers, interested residents, and birding tourists. Birdwatching is a hobby enjoyed internationally by bird enthusiasts, some of whom travel to islands like St. Maarten for the opportunity to lay eyes on the island’s nearly 150 diverse species.
The bird guide training course was organized by the Nature Foundation as part of their new ecotourism and birding project, funded by R4CR. The initiative is meant to spread appreciation and awareness for the conservation value and the economic importance of birds and their habitats. Along with the bird guide training, the project includes active outreach to local schools. After his guide certification, project coordinator Kevin Sammy developed a bird-focused educational curriculum that he presents to classrooms weekly, with terrestrial ranger Eusebio Richardson.
“This event has had a lasting effect on me, as I no longer see a bird passing without trying to identify it,” said Richardson, who participated in the course. “I have also carried this knowledge over to my eleven-year-old daughter, who has also found a love and appreciation for our local birds, and we are proud to say we are avid bird watchers.”