1,158 Fowl Species, 7,500 Miles, 1,000 Cups of Espresso and Counting: Meet the Couple Doing the First-Ever Huge Yr Throughout Colombia


The solar is setting once we arrive within the small village of Lobitos, in southcentral Colombia, and we’re exhausted. It took us seven hours to drive almost 100 miles on a mud street to achieve this distant spot within the division of Caquetá—an already precarious journey made even tougher by a malfunctioning four-wheel drive truck, which has stymied seven mechanics throughout the nation since January. We’re relying on the truck—named Fuertesi in honor of the critically endangered endemic chook Hapalopsitaca fuerte—to take us throughout Colombia to document as many birds as attainable in 2021. We’re, so far as we all know, the primary individuals ever to conduct a Huge Yr in Colombia, and tomorrow we’re hoping so as to add a shocking species to our rising listing: a household of Harpy Eagles, the world’s largest and strongest eagles.

Crammed into the car are three ornithologists from the Asociación Ornitológica del Caquetá. Eyiber “Yiyo” Oyola, Jorge Muñoz, and Josue Collazos, are becoming a member of us for a number of days on the street, introducing us to individuals on this area

By them, we meet Fabian Suaza, a younger chook information who will put us up for the night time. He greets us in his dwelling with chilly agua de panela combined with lime juice, a conventional sugarcane beverage. Our presence attracts 10 curious villagers, and Yiyo introduces us. As we journey via Colombia, which has probably the most chook biodiversity on Earth, we’re additionally aiming to lift consciousness for chook conservation as we go, so we’re excited to talk with them. We inform all of them about Harpy Eagles, and the way necessary it was to save lots of the close by forest the place a household of them has discovered a house.

The following day we wake at daybreak with a transparent aim: to see “Chaira,” the offspring of a pair of Harpy Eagles that constructed their nest in a small patch of forest 650 ft away from Suaza’s home. The day earlier than, Suaza informed us that when a birder noticed the eagles in 2019—and left astonished by the sighting—he realized he had a treasure in his yard. He and his group determined to present birding tourism an opportunity. Educated by the Asociación Ornitológica del Caquetá (AOC), Suaza grew to become a chook information, and the guardian of the Harpy Eagles close to his yard. Some in his group adopted his steps, supported by the AOC. Now they’re dedicated to conserving the habitat for the eagles and dozens of different forest birds that reside right here, like King Vultures, Collared Puffbirds and Blue-crowned Manakins.

Because the sky lightens, we hear Suaza’s excited voice: “Look! There she is perched, that is Chaira.” There she is, sitting excessive in a tree, majestic, imposing and delightful. Niky bursts into tears. As soon as she recovers from her astonishment, the pictures of her digital camera be part of ours till all of us cease and easily look ahead to a number of lengthy minutes in silence and contemplation. Then Chaira referred to as her dad and mom, breaking the spell.

Since January 1, once we left Arrancaplumas, within the municipality of Honda in central Colombia, we’ve heard lots of of tales like Fabian’s, individuals whose lives have been remodeled by birds, a few of whom have been educated as guides by Audubon specialists. We’ve talked to former hunters who now are birding guides. To former forest loggers who’re constructing bird-watching towers. To cattle ranchers who let timber regrow of their pastures so birds would discover a dwelling. To espresso growers who’ve left timber amid their crops to provide bird-friendly espresso. To former coca pickers who at present keep forests and develop ecotourism initiatives.

Our dream of doing a Huge Yr began in 2016, once we created Birds Colombia, a content material platform the place we share images of Colombia’s birds, and the place we’ve hosted social media campaigns similar to #AVueloDePájaro, or #BirdersTogether, via which we raised near US$50,000 for 150 individuals within the chook tourism sector in Colombia who had been affected by the pandemic. Moreover, we created the Guardianes de las Aves (Guardians of the Birds) contest, by which we invite youngsters to share drawings and movies explaining why they wish to change into chook guardians. Up to now 500 Colombian youngsters have joined the competition, and every year, 10 have received the birding equipment awarded to the most effective drawing, which incorporates binoculars, a subject information, and extra. Final 12 months, because the pandemic made us rethink our priorities, we determined to mud off the previous dream of occurring a tour of Colombia looking for guardians of the birds.

Throughout our Huge Yr, we wish to use our expertise as publicists and photographers to lift consciousness of the splendor of our nation’s birds, the threats they face, and the chook guides and different individuals on the bottom working to preserve them. We count on to spend 10 days in every one in all Colombia’s 32 departments. Up to now we’ve pushed 7,500 miles via 14 departments, fueled by about 1,000 cups of espresso—and counting—which have helped us stroll greater than 600 miles to achieve distant locations and picked up in 376 lists in eBird. Of the 1,958 chook  species present in Colombia, we’ve documented 1,158 up to now.

Regardless of Fuertesi’s mechanical issues, we’re able to proceed touring throughout the 18 remaining departments, reaching La Guajira, the northernmost tip of Colombia and South America, on December 31. Whereas this journey started with the intention to seek out and {photograph} as many chook species as attainable, lots of our most vital encounters have been with individuals like Suaza, those that work in each nook of our nation for conservation. And now, midway to the end line, we are able to’t wait to fulfill much more unbelievable individuals and see birds via their eyes.

Observe Niky and Mauro’s Huge Yr at @nikymauro on Instagram, and @guardianesdelasaves on Fb.


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