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One of the checkpoints at Pacaya-Samiria, by the Marañon river.

It has been several days since the last time I posted something…more than I wanted, but such is life sometimes, however here I go again with another article that I would like to share (and spread) with everyone. While it is true that it is not strictly about birds, it is of fundamental importance in the future of protected areas and conservation in Peru.

A few weeks ago I had the privilege of witnessing a historic event in Peru. On May 24 the Minister of the Environment, Lucia Ruiz; the Director of the Peruvian National Service of Protected Areas (SERNANP), Pedro Gamboa; the Director of the Fund of Promotion of Protected Natural Areas of Peru (PROFONANPE), Anton Delanoy; the director of the Andes-Amazon Program of The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, Avecita Chicchon; the CEO of the World Wildlife Fund, Carter Roberts; the program director Andes-Amazon Fund, Enrique Ortíz; and other top officials belonging to the mentioned above NGO’s gathered at the National Reserve of Pacaya-Samiria to signed the Patrimonio del Peru (PdP).

Signing the agreement. Right to left, Carter Roberts (World Wildlife Fund), Enrique Ortiz (Amazon-Andes Fund), Lucía Ruiz (Minister of the Environment) Pedro Gamboa (National Protected Areas Service of Peru), Aileen Lee (Andes-Amazon Program, Gordon & Betty Moore Foundation), and Anton Willems Delanoy (PROFONANPE)

On May 28, the president of Peru, Martín Vizcarra ratified the agreement which seeks the creation of new protected areas, as well as the management of the existing as well as their development and sustainability to ensure their protection and the well-being of local populations.The agreement has a fund of 70’000,000 USD destined to guarantee the sustainability of our protected areas.

It is finally very refreshing and healthy to see that our protected areas are going to have a much more proactive and decisive role in the conservation and economy of Peru. They will no longer be seen as areas that only require funds and do not pay anything back, like places that “can not be touched” to which “you can not go”, no! Finally, we are entering a stage in which people who live near these areas will have access to programs and possibilities of sustainable development where they can benefit from our protected natural areas and in the same way, our natural areas are protected by involving the inhabitants of way more active in this task.

This is great news indeed, something to rejoice and to thank for all the efforts of all the people and institutions that for almost 5 long years persisted and believed in this project, that in difficult and dark times they had the strength to move on and finally see the product of their efforts in this agreement. To all of them my deepest respect, admiration and gratitude. Many of them are friends of many years with whom I have shared field work and other unforgettable experiences which is a source of great pride for me. Finally, we are beginning to have people with the ability to influence policies and turn the direction of conservation in Peru in a somewhat positive and productive way!

Here part of the team. From right to left. Pauilna Arroyo (Moore Foundation), Aileen Lee (Moore Foundation), Meg Symington (WWF) Kurt Holle (WWF) Carter Roberts (WWF), Caroline Planitzer (WWF), Roberto Troya (WWF), Avecita Chicchon (Moore Foundation) and Cindy Vergel our host from SERNANP.

Regarding my participation as the birder leader and not to neglect “the birding component” of this trip, there were two very important moments in which we all experienced very gratifying sensations in relation to the birds.

The first was during our boat outing the afternoon we arrived. We had a fantastic moment when a couple of male Amazonian Umbrellabirds flew overhead and landed on a tree in front of us and gave us a spectacular display! Personally and after more than 20 years of leading professional groups of bird watchers, it was the first time I had the opportunity to observe such a unique display of behavior. As this could not be enough, one of the participants had been waiting to see this bird for many years! What an incredible way to see it…Good things take time!

Here casual, hanging out with my good friend the boto!

The second moment, no less spectacular was the afternoon of the day of the signing of the agreement. We had planned to divide the group in two, one to walk along a trail and the other to go for another boat outing. It turned out that everyone preferred to take the boat trip so off we went into two boats. As we cruised, the usual suspects appeared: White-winged and Dusky-headed parakeets, Orange-winged Parrots, Red-capped Cardinals, Yellow-headed Caracara, Amazon and Ringed Kingfishers among others. Suddenly someone in the boat asked me about a small group of swallows resting on a tree. They were Brown-chested Martins of the subspecies Fusca, an Austral migrant who spends the winter of South America in the Amazon. As we went forward, I began to notice more and more swallows, to the point of seeing hundreds of individuals perched on trees that looked like leaves and each time there were more and more. At one point I realized that these individuals were different: they were much darker and had different wings and tails so I observed them more carefully and noticed that they were Southern Martins … thousands of them who had just arrived from Patagonia to spend the winter Austral. They came after a cold front from Patagonia, known as friaje. When the southerly winds give them a boost of speed allowing them to save their energy to reach their wintering grounds safely. The most impressive of all is that they kept on coming while we were cruising along the Marañon river. In a conservative estimate we calculated that we saw about 5000 individuals without considering the thousands more that were arriving.

This was another magical and very significant moment that had a very positive impact on all of us, it was a metaphorical moment following such a unique event. As with the Umbrellabirds, for me, this was also a very special moment: throughout my career I never had the opportunity of witnessing something of this magnitude and I feel very honored not only of seen this but also that I have been able to share it with this group of remarkable and fine people. As Avecita Chichón from the Moore Foundation said, “it is very important to know that this agreement will help to ensure the existence of sites like Pacaya-Samiria, where we will continue to see thousands of Southern Martins every year to come to spend the Austral winter in safe grounds”

It is nice to know there are people working to reach initiatives like this one, to promote and ensure the existence and sustainability of our protected areas, where we will be having the opportunity to go visit and enjoy what we love, birding!!!

Stay tuned for my next article. In the meantime stay strong, bird a lot and be happy!!!

Love you all.


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