Go Wild! Go Birding!!!

Bertrand Jno. Baptiste and Stephen Durand
Forestry, Wildlife & Parks Division

The Caribbean region continues to be a "hot-spot" for hundreds of bird species, and Dominica is home to a large number of these birds. Those which remain here year-round are called "residents" and those which visit annually are called "migrants."

One may wonder, why birds? Or, what is this topic "Go Wild, Go Birding" really saying. It is important to note the word "Birding", since most Dominicans are more familiar with the term "Bird Watching". Of course, the latter term has been done away with since the "watching" part gives one the impression that this recreational sport is only for those who can see. However with the new term "birding", everyone is included. Even those who are blind can go birding, as they too are able to enjoy the birds by listening to their various sounds and calls.

Dominica, for the eighth successive time this year, is participating in the Caribbean Endemic Birds Festival (CEBF), which extends from 22nd April through 22nd May. This "bird festival" was initiated by the Society for the Conservation and Study of Caribbean Birds (SCSCB) a decade ago.

The CEBF programme continues to showcase all Caribbean birds, but more specifically the endemic birds of the region, through various means of education and public awareness. This year's CEBF theme; "Go Wild, Go Birding!" is seen as fitting with Dominica's Healthy Lifestyles Programmes, the Tourism Sector, and all other groups and agencies who seek to encourage the public to get outdoors and engage in wholesome, natural and meaningful activities.

Birding is indeed a wonderful activity. One does not have to be a birder or necessarily have the ability to identify every bird spotted or heard but, just to enjoy the outdoors, hearing the calls and songs, especially at this time of year when a large number of birds are nesting. Taking note of how our beautiful, endemic parrots squawk in the rainforest; or how the hummingbirds gracefully work their way through the flowers moving from petal to sepal searching for nectar and in the process contributing to pollination; or the cooing of the doves (Scaly-naped Pigeon or "Ramyé"), and the intricate dance displayed by the Common Ground Dove ("Zotolan").

One also has to admire the fantastic mating behaviour of the Bananaquit ("Sikiyé"); the confusing vocal repertoire of the Thrashers ("Gwiv") as they defend their territory by mimicking each other; the amazing thirteen different calls of the Rufous-throated Solitaire ("Siflé Moutany"); and the Broad-winged Hawk ("Malfini", "Chicken Hawk") soaring up high and eyeing its next prey. These certainly bring much joy to any human being, whether he is a birder or not.

Other birds such as the Magnificent Frigate Bird ("Fwégad", "Sizo") sleekly gliding, and waiting to steal the catch off the Terns and Gulls; the Carib Grackle ("Benson choupit") singing in large groups in an old mango tree, while the Sandpipers ("Bégas") with their ‘spragidy' legs go prancing on the beach searching for their next meal, are all birding wonders that we have forgotten. Our busy and stressful lives, with the quest to obtain and accumulate wealth, have blinded our eyes. This has prevented us from seeing, hearing and enjoying the richness of the bird life that is within our back yards and along our road-sides.

We at the Forestry, Wildlife and Parks Division would like to strongly urge that through this year's CEBF activities Dominicans join and participate in the month-long programme of activities for the "Endemic Birds Festival". Let us continue to celebrate and enjoy the rich bird life that we are blessed with. Let's "Go Wild, Go Birding!"