Celebrating the Least Tern in Mexico!

July 6th – July 7th, 2019
Isla de Carmen, Mexico

The organization Aves de la Laguna (Birds of the Lagoon) organized an educational and fun event for the community of Isla del Carmen in Campeche, México! As winners of a Celebrate Urban Birds mini-grant, Aves de la Laguna carried out a series of activities during a two-day event centered around the celebration and conservation of the Least Tern bird on the island Isla del Carmen.

Aves de la Laguna chose the Least Tern (Sternula antillarum) to be the center of the event for a very important reason. The Least Tern is a small migratory bird that arrives on Isla del Carmen every year. Once there they nest and rear their chicks on the beach. Unfortunately this beach is also the most visited urban beach on the island. Thus the Least Tern faces great challenges in successfully reproducing on Isla del Carmen. By speaking about this bird at their event Aves de la Laguna taught the local people more about these cute birds and helped show the people how to protect the Least Terns and their nesting sites.

With the support of great environmental organizations like Ecopil Arte Crea Conciencia A.C. (Ecopil Arts Create Awareness A.C.), Mente Verde A.C. (Green Mind A.C), Casa Grande (Big House), the municipal government, and the Instituto de Ciencias del Mar y Limnología de la Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Mexico (Institute of Marine Sciences and Limnology), Aves de la Laguna was able to plan and coordinate bird watching activities, talks with useful tips on how to improve habitat for shore birds, and art and science activities. Participants were mostly families who regularly go to the beach where the Least Tern nesting sites are located.

On the first day of the activities Aves de la Laguna members talked about how to improve the habitat for the Least Tern nests. Organizers and participants installed signs warning bathers, athletes, and other members of the community of the existence of this bird nesting area. This activity helped participants learn about the importance of the beach for birds like the Least Tern.

There were two great talks that afternoon! The first talk was by the biologist Lourdes Potenciano on behalf of the bird monitoring and banding team led by Dr. Julio Cesar Canales of the Instituto de Ciencias del Mar y Limnología of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México. Afterwards Gilberto Ceballos, one of the Aves de la Laguna leaders, presented the results of the Share the Beach program; a four-year awareness campaign to protect and conserve the Least Tern. The results highlighted the efforts of everyone who worked directly with the local community to provide information regarding safe practices to help these incredible birds. It was amazing seeing so many positive impacts of the efforts in the community!

On the second day of the event, participants watched several bird species in nearby green areas close to the beach. They entered their observations in aVerAves (eBird in Mexico). Among the birds they watched were the Roadside Hawk (Rupornis magnirostris), the Vermilion flycatcher (Pyrocephalus rubinus), the Cinnamon-rumped seedeater (Sporophila torqueola), the Eurasian collared dove (Streptopelia decaocto), the Monk Parakeet (Myiopsitta monachus), and the Great-tailed grackle (Quiscalus mexicanus).

In the afternoon families enjoyed games, art and crafts. Kids got very excited when they personalized their own bird masks. They also decorated eggs that were similar to the eggs of the Least Tern. Kids were really attracted to the mascot of the “Share the Beach” campaign “Charry the Charran (Tern)”. This mascot was created by Sol Bautista, one of the most energetic collaborators of Aves de la Laguna.

The families also enjoyed a sensory game created by Mente Verde A.C. Participants were blindfolded and had to cross a trail on the beach without harming imaginary Least Tern nests (plastic bottles). Participants realized how difficult this was! This game really emphasized the importance of respecting the nesting sites to avoid crushing the eggs and chicks.

The event also had a traditional bird bingo session. The winners received small prizes! The materials of Celebrate Urban Birds – Mexico were very helpful in starting the conversation about birds in the local urban environment, and in explaining the importance of citizen science.

The event ended with the gift of a bird field guide by Kaufman to the family that participated in the most activities during the event.

The two days were filled with lots of fun! Aves de la Laguna shared the significance of the Least Tern. Special thanks to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology for the mini-grant, as well as to Ecopil Arte Crea Conciencia A.C. for their support.

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