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1,158 Chook Species, 7,500 Miles, 1,000 Cups of Espresso and Counting: Meet the Couple Doing the First-Ever Large 12 months 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 practically 100 miles on a dust street to succeed in 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 chicken Hapalopsitaca fuerte—to take us throughout Colombia to document as many birds as doable in 2021. We’re, so far as we all know, the primary folks ever to conduct a Large 12 months in Colombia, and tomorrow we’re hoping so as to add a surprising species to our rising checklist: a household of Harpy Eagles, the world’s largest and strongest eagles.

    Crammed into the automobile 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 couple of days on the street, introducing us to folks on this area

    By way of them, we meet Fabian Suaza, a younger chicken information who will put us up for the evening. He greets us in his house with chilly agua de panela blended with lime juice, a conventional sugarcane beverage. Our presence attracts 10 curious villagers, and Yiyo introduces us. As we journey by Colombia, which has probably the most chicken biodiversity on Earth, we’re additionally aiming to boost consciousness for chicken 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 avoid wasting the close by forest the place a household of them has discovered a house.

    The following day we wake at daybreak with a transparent objective: to see “Chaira,” the offspring of a pair of Harpy Eagles that constructed their nest in a small patch of forest 650 toes away from Suaza’s home. The day earlier than, Suaza advised 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 turned a chicken 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 stay 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 exquisite. Niky bursts into tears. As soon as she recovers from her astonishment, the pictures of her digicam be part of ours till all of us cease and easily look ahead to a couple of lengthy minutes in silence and contemplation. Then Chaira referred to as her mother and father, breaking the spell.

    Since January 1, once we left Arrancaplumas, within the municipality of Honda in central Colombia, we’ve heard tons of of tales like Fabian’s, folks whose lives have been remodeled by birds, a few of whom have been skilled as guides by Audubon consultants. 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 bushes regrow of their pastures so birds would discover a house. To espresso growers who’ve left bushes amid their crops to supply bird-friendly espresso. To former coca pickers who in the present day keep forests and develop ecotourism initiatives.

    Our dream of doing a Large 12 months began in 2016, once we created Birds Colombia, a content material platform the place we share pictures of Colombia’s birds, and the place we’ve hosted social media campaigns akin to #AVueloDePájaro, or #BirdersTogether, by which we raised near US$50,000 for 150 folks within the chicken tourism sector in Colombia who have been affected by the pandemic. Moreover, we created the Guardianes de las Aves (Guardians of the Birds) contest, wherein we invite kids to share drawings and movies explaining why they wish to turn out to be chicken guardians. To this point 500 Colombian kids have joined the competition, and every year, 10 have received the birding package awarded to the very best drawing, which incorporates binoculars, a subject information, and extra. Final yr, because the pandemic made us rethink our priorities, we determined to mud off the previous dream of occurring a tour of Colombia in the hunt for guardians of the birds.

    Throughout our Large 12 months, we wish to use our expertise as publicists and photographers to boost consciousness of the splendor of our nation’s birds, the threats they face, and the chicken guides and different folks on the bottom working to preserve them. We anticipate to spend 10 days in every one among Colombia’s 32 departments. To this point we’ve pushed 7,500 miles by 14 departments, fueled by about 1,000 cups of espresso—and counting—which have helped us stroll greater than 600 miles to succeed in distant locations and picked up in 376 lists in eBird. Of the 1,958 chicken  species present in Colombia, we’ve documented 1,158 so far.

    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 chicken species as doable, a lot of our most vital encounters have been with folks like Suaza, those that work in each nook of our nation for conservation. And now, midway to the end line, we will’t wait to fulfill much more unbelievable folks and see birds by their eyes.

    Comply with Niky and Mauro’s Large 12 months at @nikymauro on Instagram, and @guardianesdelasaves on Fb.