Monday, March 13, 2006

Gifts of Birds, Words

Monday, March 13, 2006
Sharing copies of the Kaufman Guide (in Spanish) with several of our Guatemalan friends and local birding guides was really enjoyable. Here Julie and I are posing with, (from left) Hugo Enriquez Toledo, Jesus (local Laguna Chikabal guide), Kenneth Alvarado of INGUAT, and Jesus (our other local Laguna Chikabal guide).

Among the highlights of our recent adventure in Guatemala was the chance to give a few gifts to friends new and old in that wonderful country. I traveled to Guatemala loaded down with copies of BWD, a few of our books, some BWD bino-harnesses, and eight copies of the Spanish-language version of the Kaufman Guide to Birds of North America. I intended to give these Kaufman guides to some of the local Guatemalan bird guides we encountered during the trip.

In Guatemala, a bird watcher can use the excellent Howell and Webb Guide to the Birds of Mexico and Central America. But it is among the heaviest and bulkiest of any field guide I've ever encountered. Carry Howell and Webb up one volcano and you'll get quite a work out. Many Guatemalan birders carry the Peterson Guide to the Birds of Mexico. But both these books give short shrift to the many neotropical migrants that winter in Guatemala--"our" warblers, thrushes, vireos, and so on. This is where the Kaufman Guide's images and information (in Spanish!) fill a gap. While the Kaufman Guide does not include most of the birds that breed south of the US/Mexico border, it does give excellent photographic representation of our neotropical migrants. And it solves the problem that many Guatemalan bird guides have in communicating about specific species with visiting birders: the Latin and Spanish names are included.

We were surprised at how familiar our Guatemalan birding friends were with Latin names of birds--far more so than most of us. This is where flipping through the pocket-sized Kaufman Guide is useful.

Perhaps some day Guatemalan bird watchers will have their own guide--one that is comprehensive, up-to-date, in Spanish and English, and portable. Until then, consider taking a couple of extra copies of the Kaufman Guide in Spanish with you on your tropical birding adventures in Latin America. It makes a useful, interesting, and memorable thank-you gift.

I had a hard time choosing where and when and to whom to give the Kaufman Guides. It would have been easy to give away 50.
Our local guides at Reserva Los Andes. Jesus on the right helped me to find the resplendent quetzal in the nearby cloud forest. He was also a field assistant to Anne LaBastille when she was studying the quetzal in Guatemala.

The families that work at Los Andes growing coffee, tea, and other products also live there. The local school children all gathered to welcome us and to sing us a song. It was so sweet that most of our group was overwhelmed by emotion.

Asked to say a few words to the children, I praised them for their beautiful land and beautiful voices. And asked them to watch over the birds for us, because we and many of our bird-watching friends would greatly enjoy coming back to visit them and their birds again. I presented the school's principal with my last remaining copy of the Kaufman guide. I told the children that my wife was inspired to become a bird artist when she looked through books of bird paintings as a young girl. I hoped that when I come back to Los Andes, that I would get to see some of their art depicting the local birds.