Despite Rain, Over 200 Wowed by Wildlife at Birds & Bugs 2013

| December 10, 2013

in St Martin news. December 9, 2013 – Grand Case, St. Martin—Saturday’s rainy weather did not dampen the success of the first annual Birds & Bugs event, with over 200 guests coming out for a day of wildlife adventures despite the late-morning downpour. The free, public Wildlife Discovery Event for residents and tourists of all ages was created by the Les Fruits de Mer Association, organized by Les Fruits de Mer and Environmental Protection in the Caribbean (EPIC), and hosted by Loterie Farm.

“We were pretty surprised by the great turnout–we thought the weather would keep a lot more people at home!” admits Les Fruits de Mer Treasurer Mark Yokoyama. “Clearly there’s quite a powerful desire here on the island to explore, celebrate, and find out more about local wildlife, no matter what.”

A crowd gathers for a guided Bird Tour of the forest. (Photo by Oliva Roudon)

A crowd gathers for a guided Bird Tour of the forest. (Photo by Oliva Roudon)

Adults and kids of all ages clustered under the tent of the Bug Discovery Station hosted by Yokoyama, the author of The Incomplete Guide to the Wildlife of St. Martin, to look at live displays featuring fascinating insects and other invertebrates from the island, including walking sticks, caterpillars, beetles, and tarantulas. Attendees marveled at how shining UV light on a scorpion would make it glow with phosphorescence, and got an amazing up-close view of some very tiny insects and insect eggs with five microscopes loaned by Learning Unlimited. A video with time-lapse photography of the Bug Discovery Station taken from the “bugs’-eye view” can be seen at http://ass.lesfruitsdemer.org/birds-bugs-videos/.

Several intriguing insect specimens were brought to the event by the guests themselves, as part of the Station’s Bring Your Bug activity, including a Money Bug. “Folks tell me if you see this insect in your house, it’s a sign that money’s coming your way,” says Yokoyama. “Events like these provide more than the opportunity to learn from wildlife experts–they also give people the chance to share their own stories, knowledge, sayings, and folktales about local wildlife,” adds Les Fruits de Mer President Jennifer Yerkes, “and all of that is an important part of the island’s natural and cultural heritage.”

Groups of event-goers lined up eagerly for special Bird Tour hikes under the forest canopy, where they picked up bird-watching skills to use in the future and learned why the broadleaf forest habitat of Pic Paradis is so significant. Tours were led by EPIC Senior Biologist Adam Brown and professional birding guide Binkie van Es. Attendees also flocked to the tent of the Bird Education Station hosted by Natalia Collier, President of EPIC, to find out more about resident and migratory bird species of the broadleaf forest.

Attendees decorated about 175 bird feeders made from local calabash fruit at the Bird Feeder Workshop. (Photo by Olivia Roudon)

Attendees decorated about 175 bird feeders made from local calabash fruit at the Bird Feeder Workshop. (Photo by Olivia Roudon)

Also popular was the Art Activity Station in Loterie Farm’s Bamboo Room, where about 175 hand-made calabash bird feeders were painted by kids and adults to take home to attract birds year-round. Bags of assorted birdseed were provided as well as a guide of what to fill the feeders with to appeal to different local bird species. Younger children at bright, kid-sized art tables enjoyed bird-and-bug-themed coloring book pages created by local artists. When the weather was clear, toddlers and kids played with ladybug beach balls on the lawn.

“We’re looking forward to a whole year of amazing Wildlife Discovery Events in 2014, so check our website and Facebook to see what’s coming up!” encourages Yokoyama, adding, “Obviously we’re hoping for sunnier skies next time!”

“We’re happy so many came out to enjoy this event, and that we had such fantastic volunteers. Their dedication was truly spectacular, and this event would not have been possible without them.” says Yerkes. Birds & Bugs 2013 was made possible by the hard work and talent of over 40 volunteers, and the generous sponsorship of Calmos Café, Delta Petroleum, Island Global Yachting, Lagoon Marina and L’Esplanade Hotel.

A variety of fascinating insects were on display at the Bug Discovery Station, including species found only on St. Martin. (Photo by Olivia Roudon)

A variety of fascinating insects were on display at the Bug Discovery Station, including species found only on St. Martin. (Photo by Olivia Roudon)

Birds & Bugs 2013 was a co-production of the Les Fruits de Mer Association, EPIC, and Loterie Farm.

EPIC was founded in 2000 with the mission to protect the Caribbean environment through research and community-based action, and has conducted long-term studies on the birds of the island while working to raise awareness of bird conservation issues. EPIC biologists have partnered with Loterie Farm for over a decade to study the health and diversity of birds in this rare habitat.

Loterie Farm is a private nature reserve. The 54-hectare property includes broadleaf forest as well as the remains of historical buildings dating back to the 18th century. Loterie Farm safeguards the history and the environment while also sharing this unique site with the public. It is one of the most ecologically significant places on St. Martin, and has hosted a great deal of biological research, including ongoing studies of birds and other animals. Loterie Farm offers hiking and zip-lining as well as a gourmet restaurant, lounge, and spring-fed swimming pool.

Small SXM-ers meet checkered swallowtail caterpillars at the Bug Discovery Station. (Photo by Chemaine Petit-Booi)

Small SXM-ers meet checkered swallowtail caterpillars at the Bug Discovery Station. (Photo by Chemaine Petit-Booi)

Les Fruits de Mer is a non-profit association based in St. Martin whose core mission is to raise awareness about nature, culture, and sport. The organization carries out this mission through publications, an education program, and special public outreach events that entertain, inspire, and inform. The Association is currently accepting new member applications on its website, http://ass.lesfruitsdemer.org.

For more information about Birds & Bugs 2013, visit http://ass.lesfruitsdemer.org/events/, and visit http://www.epicislands.org to learn more about EPIC.

The Art Activity Station was bustling with creativity throughout the event. (Photo by Alain Duzant)

The Art Activity Station was bustling with creativity throughout the event. (Photo by Alain Duzant)

Rain didn’t stop guests from coming to learn about local wildlife. (Photo by Chemaine Petit-Booi)

Rain didn’t stop guests from coming to learn about local wildlife. (Photo by Chemaine Petit-Booi)

 

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