By Lena Moser
On May 22-31, Lena Moser traveled to Nicaragua with a group of students from the University of New England. The students were all members of ImmUNE: International Medical Missions at UNE, an undergraduate club devoted to bringing healthcare to impoverished communities in Latin America. (Lena Moser served as the travel advisor for this student club.)
While in Nicaragua, Lena took every opportunity to introduce kids to birding in the local communities. The children of these small, rural villages had never held a pair of binoculars before, nor had they seen a field guide. Once they were introduced to binoculars, however, they were hooked! For them it was nothing short of magical to see birds up close. The boys in the village of Pochocuape wanted to see every bird possible, which turned a short stroll into a multi-hour adventure across the entire village! They sought out Tropical Kingbirds, Clay-colored Robins, Rufous-naped Wrens, Great Kiskadees, Groove-billed Anis, Ruddy Ground-Doves, and other common species. Each time a new bird was spotted, the boys enthusiastically flipped through the field guide to identify the species. They taught Lena the Spanish names of their favorite birds, and they asked her to return again one day with the "binoculares increibles" (incredible binoculars) so they could go birding again.
Lena also visited an orphanage where the kids dove into birding with great enthusiasm and eagerness. Their authentic curiosity and love of learning made her wish that she could stay back to start a Nicaragua Young Birders Club! In a country where poverty and politics undercut progress towards environmental conservation, it is even more essential to expose children to natural environments and wildlife, as well as to nurture their sense of wonder and love of exploring. Resources are very limited in a country like Nicaragua, where families struggle with basic day-to-day needs, such as acquiring nourishing meals. Children have no access to optics and books that would enhance their appreciation of the natural world, not to mention knowledgeable mentors who could guide them. Hopefully someday this will change.
The American Birding Association is trying to make a difference in Latin America with the Birders’ Exchange program. Birders' Exchange collects donated new and used equipment and distributes it to researchers, educators, and conservationists working to protect birds and their habitats throughout Latin America and the Caribbean but who lack basic equipment, such as binoculars and field guides. If you are interested in learning more or helping out, visit http://bex.aba.org/.
The Maine Young Birders Club is proud to do young birder outreach wherever we may find ourselves on the globe!
All photography and videos by Lena Moser.