“Before this workshop birds and the environment meant nothing to me…but all this has changed in the last five days. I am now ready to start doing something about what I learned.”
This is what one participant had to say about the recent Caribbean Birding Trail Guide Training Program held in Grenada this past week. Another stated that they are keen to get decision-makers out in the field to go birdwatching, as it is clear that the government does not value bird tourism as a component of the tourism industry. If there was any complaint, it was that the training was too short…they wanted more time in the field birding with us! All in all, we feel safe in saying that we have effectively unleashed 24 new bird enthusiasts onto the islands of Grenada!
The recent guide training workshop was conducted by the Society for the Conservation and Study of Caribbean Birds and local partners on the campus of St. George’s University in southwest Grenada. The training was made possible by major funding support from the Critical Ecosystems Partnership Fund and from local sponsors: Blue Horizons Garden Resort, Caribbean Horizons, Optics for the Tropics, McIntyre Brothers, Ltd, and St. George’s University.
The training provided time in the field, utilizing distinct ecosystems in Grenada to demonstrate the relationship between birds and habitat. We used the excellent viewing platform at the wetlands in Woburn to explain how shorebirds are uniquely adapted to find food in this wet and muddy environment. To contrast the wetlands, we traveled to the Grand Etang Forest Reserve and explained the differences seen in the bird life, and demonstrated how guiding a group in the forest is much different than guiding them elsewhere. Other sites visited during the week were the dry thorny scrub habitat of Mt. Hartman, and the coastal site of La Sagesse.
The training also focused on the principles of environmental interpretation, utilizing the training framework and materials of the National Association of Interpretation (NAI) in the United States. Facilitator Rick Morales is a Certified Interpretive Trainer through the NAI and adeptly incorporated this element into the training program, blending it with bird guiding and the Grenada context.
The week culminated in a day of presentations, with the participants utilizing interpretive techniques and newly learned information on birds to give a 10 minute talk tailored for a specific audience. The most outstanding presentations were ones that had a cohesive and clear message that was evident throughout the presentation. They were also the presentations that had elements of humor and whimsy, that captivated our attention from start to finish and had us wanting to know more. Many of our participants were able to do this, and it was an extremely entertaining day!
Ultimately, it is going to take practice and commitment on the part of the guides to keep honing their skills in bird identification, bird guiding and being an effective interpretor. With the training and the materials provided in the five days of the workshop, we are confident that the participants have what they need to get started and to begin incorporating birds into the tours that they give on the island.
We thank everyone who participated and who helped make the training happen. We look forward to bringing the training to another island sometime soon!