By James Adams
Thus begins many of my days here, then on to checking emails, grabbing multiple coffees, having a short meeting with the guides to check itineraries, and then stepping back to watch as the magic of birding in the tropics begins. My job here as head naturalist and manager involves all sorts of things—from conservation to marketing to camera trap surveys—but the most important by far is ensuring our birding guests have the richest experience possible.
I suppose this is what U.S. Ambassador to Honduras James Nealon and Honduras President Juan Orlando Hernandez had in mind when they contacted me about a year ago to discuss avitourism. Each wanted to know how Pico Bonito Lodge could help with this Central American country’s new focus on birds and bird conservation. The ambassador and the president both pledged as much help as possible, and I would be in charge of creating the Honduras Birding for Conservation Tour 2016.
The idea would be simple and fun: In November 2016, five teams, each consisting of a tour leader, a local guide, and ten participants, will bird some of Honduras’ best and most diverse habitats over eight days. The objective will be to see as many of Honduras’ birds as possible, to generate money for five conservation projects, and to promote Honduras as a magnificent tropical birding destination—as so many are discovering.
The itinerary for the Honduras Birding for Conservation Tour will be some of the best of Central American birding, including the lush rain forests of Pico Bonito National Park, Mayan Ruins and pine forests at Copan, and the bird-rich tropical habitats around Lake Yojoa.
Prize money will go to five Honduran conservation projects that have been carefully selected on the basis of their history and transparency.
But as I got further into the planning I began to worry; could I really put this all together? Who would be our team leaders? Who would have the time or interest in supporting such a thing? What about all those administrative things like websites and marketing and on and on?
All of this daunted me as I began to contact friends about being tour leaders. I really thought it would be an ordeal to assemble what had originally seemed like a simple, brilliant idea. As is often the case when it comes to birds and conservation, however, birders came to the rescue.
Right away our tour leaders stepped forward and agreed to participate. Tim Appleton of the U.K., Cape May’s Richard Crossley, the ABA’s Jeff Gordon, Adam Riley of Rockjumper Tours, and Bill Thompson, lll, of Bird Watcher’s Digest were all immediately enthusiastic and signed on.
Then came the issue of money and logistics. But again, birders to the rescue! The U.S. Ambassador (a lifelong birder) committed logistic assistance and funds. Honduras’ President (a beginning birder) committed $20,000 in prize money and further coordination. As word got around, even more friends offered their help and support.
The optics community in particular was generous, and Zeiss jumped at the chance to help our event, offering optics, publicity, and a $5,000 Zeiss Conservation Prize to one of our carefully selected conservation projects.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s Lisa White approached me, offering to donate the forthcoming Peterson Field Guide to The Birds of Northern Central America to all of our guides and participants.
Bird Watcher’s Digest is helping with brochures and promotions, and Laura Kammermeier of Nature Travel Network created a gorgeous website (www.hondurasbirdtour.com).
And, of course, the birders themselves came through. No sooner did we announce the Honduras Birding for Conservation Tour at last year’s American Birding Expo than the inquiries commenced and participants began to register!
So, the ball is rolling and picking up speed as Honduras’ inaugural Birding for Conservation Tour is becoming reality!
As my early-morning Motmot is replaced by a Chestnut-collared Woodpecker and a pack of brightly colored Aracaris, I’m grateful and humbled. I’m grateful for the opportunity to be involved in such an event, with such supportive people, and I’m humbled that all of these people—birders one and all—are my friends.