Birdwatching world record interview


This video says about itself:

Nerd Nite Amsterdam, Friday 23 November 2015

Arjan Dwarshuis speaks at Nerd Nite Amsterdam about his crazy adventure of trying to spot 5500 bird species in one year.

By the end of 2016 we may have a world-record holder among our Nerd Nite alums: speaker Arjan Dwarshuis will attempt to see over half of the bird species on Earth (about 5500) in a single year. This adventure takes him to 34 countries on 6 different continents; from the barren peaks of the Himalayas to the vast deserts of Southern Africa and the steaming jungles of Papua New Guinea. The motivation? To raise public awareness of the fast-vanishing ecosystems around the world and the endangered bird species that make these remaining havens their home. We have arrived at a critical point in history where we can either lose our natural heritage forever, or start building on global attitude change and commit to safeguarding our heritage for future generations. Come listen to this ultimate global birder share his plans for his “Biggest Year”.

Arjan is an archeologist by training and birdwatcher by passion. As long as he can remember he has been identifying birds. His mission is to spread the bird-watching virus, upgrading a walk around the park to an exciting new level, probably ending up in Cafe Wester where he works as a bartender.

From BirdLife:

This man has just broken the record for most bird species seen in a year

By Shaun Hurrell, 9 Jan 2017

Interview: Arjan Dwarshuis has just broken the world record for the number of bird species spotted in a single year. And he is doing it to raise money for BirdLife.

Despite birdwatching around the world almost non-stop since January 2016 for his “Biggest Year”, which is also being captured in a documentary film, Arjan has an excitement that does not seem to fade, and his infectious enthusiasm makes you feel like you are looking through the scope with him. From Amsterdam, Netherlands, Arjan is a BirdLife Species Champion supporting our Preventing Extinctions Programme. We caught up with him at a birding lodge where he had brief access to WiFi

First things first: where are you?

Behind me I can hear this incredibly loud ‘bell’ sound coming from three birds with snowy-white heads and bizarre pieces of skin dangling below their bills. I’m in Costa Rica and just saw these Three-wattled Bellbirds displaying on an exposed ledge at 60x zoom through my scope.

They must be loud at that distance. Sorry to drag you away, but how do you feel now holding this incredible new world record?

I feel fantastic. Yes, very excellent.

What motivated you to go for your “Biggest Year”?

I have been fascinated by nature for as long as I can remember. Aged nine, I started noting my bird sightings; at twelve, I started looking for rare migrants. At 15 I travelled on my own in Turkey and at 18 I made a hitchhiking trip around the world and came across a lot of threatened birds and ecosystems. I wanted to use a ‘Big Year’ of birding to raise awareness, and two and a half years ago I decided to go for the world record. I put everything aside, got guides and tour companies excited to be on board. But two days after I tweeted about it, someone told me that an American, Noah Strycker, was going to go for it too. Initially I was going to attempt it on a ‘hitchhiking budget’, but to get the record now I had to step up my game [laughs].

But I also wanted to give something back – with all this flying I cannot just raise awareness. The BirdLife Preventing Extinctions Programme is the best fitting charity, importantly focusing on the most threatened birds in the world.

You’ve probably got many great anecdotes to tell, where shall we start?

One story started before my trip began. I received a phone call from the very popular “RTL Late Night” talk show on Dutch TV, saying they wanted to do a feature, but under one condition: that the presenter, Humberto Tan, went birding with me. He was voted best-dressed man in the Netherlands, and one early morning near my house there he was dressed in full birding gear. We ended up staying for five hours looking at firecrests, treecreepers, etc. He loved it so much he decided to join me for seven days of hard-core birding in Suriname (his country of birth) instead of holidaying with his family! So here I was, driving through the forest with one of the most famous people from my country, when suddenly we slam the brakes on hard. A HUGE male Harpy Eagle flies over, just a few metres above us, showing its massive talons. Perhaps the best bird to see!

This Dutch language 4 August 2016 video is called The Birding Experience: Suriname. With Arjan Dwarshuis, Humberto Tan, Sean Dilrosun, Michiel van den Bergh and Fred Pansa.

You’re certain to raise awareness in the Netherlands then. What is the most extreme length you’ve been to for spotting a bird?

I was in Madagascar, in a very remote part of the Perinet Reserve, where a spectacular bird – the Helmet Vanga – is found. First we went down a very bad, muddy track. Then, not even a trail, hacking our way through the jungle with a machete. I’d forgotten to bring lunch, the temperature dropped by ten degrees, it rained, and I was very cold. We saw one bird every 2-3 hours and after 8-9 hours there was still no sign of the Helmet Vanga. I asked my guide how much longer: “Just four kilometres back to car,” he said, but my GPS clocked nine when we got back. Gruesome.

The one that got away…

You can miss some. You can see some. That’s the beautiful thing about birdwatching. Sometimes you get something very unexpected out of your efforts. Last week in Panama, on the Cerro Chucanti Ridge – very remote – we got up at 4AM to ride on horseback and saw a Beautiful Treerunner, and I took one of the first good photos of that species.

One in every eight bird species is threatened. Are you focusing on trying to see the most endangered birds?

Yes. Quantity is very important for the record, but I am trying to incorporate as many Critically Endangered birds and habitats as possible. These rare birds are very important locally.

We certainly think so too, but please explain…

Travelling so much is of course bad for the environment, but my biggest message is the importance of ecotourism for these birds. Here in Costa Rica, ecotourism is a big thing. In Malawi or Madagascar that is not yet the case, and in my opinion and experience the only reason some patches of forest still stand is because a local guide is engaging their local community in conservation. So eat local foods, stay at local places. This is why I like BirdLife’s Species Guardians concept – funding those trying to change things at a local level, that’s the key.

What is the rarest bird you have seen?

The Black-eared Miner in the Mallee Forests of southern Australia. This bird is threatened by hybridisation with the far more common Yellow-throated Miner. They live in complex, highly social family groups and I did not hear of a single 100% pure group of Black-eared Miners left. This means that soon they could be hybridised out of existence. For the bird itself this is not a bad thing, in fact he wouldn’t even notice. But for the ecological diversity of our planet it is a catastrophe since we lose yet another species forever.

Your most memorable rarity?

Sometimes an entire species can be found just in one tiny marsh, one tiny pocket of rainforest. In some places there are good conservation projects to boost the population, but sometimes nothing is happening. At a place called PICOP [Paper Industry Corporations of the Philippines logging area], on Mindanao, there is one last patch of lowland forest, home to the Mindanao Broadbill and spectacular Celestial Monarch. I was watching the birds when I heard chainsaws buzzing from 360 degrees around me. There is so much logging going on. I was crippled, wanting to cry. I still get a lump in my throat, as I know the bird will be gone from there. The army controls the area; no one can buy this forest.

Did you feel like speaking to the loggers?

Yes, but it is dangerous to get angry with them. My guide had been threatened multiple times. It’s a hard situation: it’s ruthlessly understandable that they log the forest, as it’s their subsistence.

That’s why community involvement is so important. You can show them they can benefit economically from ecotourism. Otherwise the forest is a supermarket.

Where was the best place for seeing many bird species?

Peru. Hands down. Miguel Lezama of Tanager Tours was an exceptional guide. With my girlfriend, Camilla, we saw 1,001 species in 24 days – a record within a record! 577 were new for the Biggest Year. Of those, we saw 70 really special endemics and criticals. It’s also the landscape, culture, people…

You have quite a unique perspective of the world’s 11,000 bird species. Any major changes you have noticed?

I had been to Africa when I was younger, and now you can really notice the lack of vultures. After just 10-20 years they are much harder to see. I can’t believe the speed of the decline.

What’s your favourite African Vulture?

Lappet-faced. They are huge and brutal. Beautifully ugly. [laughs]

Now, quick-fire on the technical stuff – what counts as a tick?

You have to hear or see it, recognisably. I always have somebody with me too, a local guide, a travel companion for that crucial second opinion. It’s impossible to do all on your own. My final list will clearly show which species were only heard and which were seen.

What bird tipped you over the record?

A Buffy-crowned Wood-partridge, and the best thing was that it was a thrilling moment. We had to really chase it for 15 minutes. Three best friends were present, filming the whole thing for our Biggest Year documentary film, which will be out in 2017.

Have you broken the record using the taxonomy of BirdLife and Handbook of the Birds of the World (HBW)?

My current record is based on the IOC [International Ornithological Congress] World Bird List, mostly because I use the Observation.org i-Obs app to record. But when I return home, I will put my whole list into HBW Alive too. The previous record used the Clements taxonomy, which is based too much on DNA in my opinion.

What do you think about the news that there are now more than 700 newly split bird species?

Fantastic, very happy to hear that. The more species there are, the better. This will only boost my list, and conservation. If a bird gets split, then a patch can have a previously overlooked species now recognised as endangered – so it can be far more interesting for people to conserve it. It’s important the splits are scientifically based too, there has to be a good reason. During my big year, I tried to see and record every subspecies as possible as well, so even in ten years my list can grow.

Why do you think about the human tendency to categorise things?

We cannot comprehend nature. It is so complex and so special that we have to categorise it. It is important for working with science, conservation, policy too. Categorising is the only way to communicate about these things.

What bird do you still want to see?

You can never see them all but I would love to. This year in Guatemala I hope to see Horned Guan, it’s a fantastic black and white bird with a huge red knob on its head.

The best bird of the whole year?

I was in a beautiful rainforest in Ghana with Ashanti Tours, my father and filmmaker friends. We had to be silent. Stuck underneath a boulder you could see this ‘cup’ nest. We waited and waited. Suddenly the bushes started moving and this amazing black, white and yellow bird hopped into view – a White-necked Picathartes. It was so special: you can easily get muddy in the rainforest but this bird is so clean and crisp, you can see different shaped feathers! For a full minute I watched with my mouth open. This time there were no high-fives or photos, just complete awe. Then it continued to show behind me whilst we captured it all for the documentary, it was my David Attenborough moment!

How do you feel about being a BirdLife Species Champion?

I am very proud, and very happy to help the Species Guardians – they embody what the programme stands for. I hope more companies and people will do the same – raising money for this fantastic programme to save the most threatened birds.

Anything else you’d like to say to our readers?

Please go to my fundraising page to support saving these birds from the abyss. I won’t stop until I have raised €100,000, so please relieve me from this burden!

Since this interview was written, Arjan has now completed the entirety of his record-breaking Biggest Year, so the final numbers are:

Biggest Year in Numbers

Total number of birds seen: 6,833
That’s averaging: 18 birds per day
Previous record: 6,042 set by Noah Strycker in 2015
Most birds seen in one day: more than 200, in Kenya
Countries visited: 40
Black-crowned Fulvetta: 6,833rd and final species seen
Money raised so far: nearly €20,000 of €100,000 target
Biggest Year documentary: due later in 2017, directed by Michiel van den Bergh, filmed by John Treffer
Age: 30
Job(s): 3 – The Birding Experience, Arjan’s company in the Netherlands, where he gives tours, talks, etc. He also has a weekly feature about birdwatching on the Dutch TV programme Binnenstebuiten, and is a bartender at weekends.
More on Twitter / Instagram: @ArjanDwarshuis

“The entire BirdLife family congratulates Arjan for setting this incredible new record, and are very grateful to him for doing so much to raise vital funding and awareness for BirdLife’s Preventing Extinctions Programme.”

Patricia Zurita, Chief Executive, BirdLife International

Surinamese Anansi stories, now part of Dutch heritage


This video from Jamaica says about itself:

Anansi and the Pot of Beans

19 October 2006

Anansi loves his grandma’s beans.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV:

Stories about spider Anansi on heritage list

Today, 02:27

The stories about the spider Anansi are from now on recognized on the National Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage in the Netherlands. This Caribbean storytelling tradition has its roots in slavery.

The Anansi stories have been told for centuries in West Africa. The slave trade spread them to Suriname and the Netherlands Antilles. The postwar migration brought them also to the Netherlands.

The Knowledge Centre of Intangible Heritage says the stories have a positive connotation, despite the dark past. They “contribute to strengthening the awareness and pride in heritage and culture.”

Dutch as frogs

The main character is a savvy spider which likes to fool other animals. Anansi is an ambivalent figure, a trickster, who also regularly harms his own wife or children.

In the days of slavery the narrators could also use the stories to embarrass the plantation owners. Dutch did not realize they were ridiculed in the fairy tales as frogs.

The stories were formerly told from parent to child, but now also through theater, schools and libraries. One of the most famous books about Anansi was written by the Surinamese former President Johan Ferrier.

Exotic

The Anansi stories are an exotic addition to the heritage list, because nearly all have a European origin …

Of the 93 traditions 6 have a multicultural background, like the Surinamese koto and angisa costumes and tambú drums from the Antilles.

The non-Western traditions in the list:

Indies rijsttafel: Indonesia
Maroon culture: Suriname
Anansi: Suriname
Angisa and koto clothes: Suriname
Henna art: Turkey, Morocco
Tambú: Antilles

The addition of the Anansi stories to the heritage list will be celebrated today at the new Anansi tree in the Open Air Museum in Arnhem. Twenty storytellers will keep the stories alive for the visitors the coming time.

This video from the Netherlands says about itself:

The Power of Stories – Performance Wijnand Stomp (official trailer English)

1 October 2014

Theatre maker Wijnand Stomp and documentary maker Jean Hellwig present a stand-up storytelling show for people from 10 to 110 years old. In a mix of theatre, comedy and documentary they bring the audience in a cheerful way in contact with stories about the history of slavery.

The flamboyant Mister Anansi (Wijnand Stomp) sits on his porch in what he calls his “Anansi Tree”. From the branches hang old shoes. The window of his house is a television. It reveals in mini documentaries the special encounters during his journey along the Transatlantic triangle of the slave trade: Zeeland – Ghana – St. Eustatius. Mister Anansi tells about the new stories he created and his energetic Aunt Jewel drops by for a game of domino. With her hilarious First National Slavery Quiz she confronts the audience in a humorous way with the traces of slavery, under the motto ‘Hats off to slavery’.

In The Power of Stories Stomp and Hellwig weave a web of slavery in the Netherlands with personal stories from overseas. At the end of the show Mister Anansi lets his audience in notes write about their personal links with slavery. He keeps these stories in the shoes on his Anansi tree and lets the wind take them traveling.

SUITABLE for theaters, festivals, schools, libraries and cultural heritage institutions.

New Suriname bird book, ruff not yet included


This video says about itself:

22 January 2013

Small birds in Suriname, Amazonia. This is a collection of footage of “small” birds in our part of Suriname (South America). 99% of the footage has been made in our own yard. I excluded the hummingbirds, parrots/parakeets, birds of prey, and pterodactylae, because I want to make separate videos about them.

Very recently, a new book, Field Guide to the Birds of Suriname, was published. Its publisher writes about it:

Suriname, located on the Atlantic coast of northeastern South America, is a relatively small country compared to most other South American countries. It nevertheless has a rich avifauna. By the end of 2014, 746 species (including 760 subspecies) were known to occur in Suriname. Most of the land area of Suriname is still covered with tropical rainforest and the country should be a must-visit for birdwatchers. Suriname is even mentioned as being the best country to spot certain neotropical species. Surprisingly, few birders visit Suriname. The main reason given is the lack of a handy pocket guide that can easily be carried in a backpack.

The Field Guide to the Birds of Suriname (with its 107 color plates) tries to fill this gap. In addition to species accounts, data on topography, climate, geology, geomorphology, biogeography, avifauna composition, conservation, and hotspots for bird watching are given. So, why delay your trip to this beautiful and friendly country any longer.

An electronic version of part of the book is here.

Arie Spaans, one of the authors, was interviewed this morning on Dutch radio.

He confessed the book was not completely up to date. As the book was already being printed, a ruff, usually an Eurasian bird not present in the Americas, landed on a ship near the coast of Suriname. Too late to be included.

This video is about ruff mating season in Europe.

Birds of Suriname, new book


Birds of Suriname, cover

There is a new book, called Birds of Suriname. The cover (provisional version) depicts great kiskadees. A common species in Suriname; the first species which I saw when I landed at the airport there.

Ber van Perlo will be interviewed on the new book on Dutch radio this Sunday.

There is an organisation Stichting Vrienden Natuurbehoud Suriname.

Annotated Checklist of the Birds of Suriname

Already in 2009, they had published Annotated Checklist of the Birds of Suriname.

The cover depicts a Guianan cock-of-the-rock, another one of the over 750 Surinamese bird species.

French Guiana archaeological discoveries


This 2010 BBC video says about itself:

11 August 2010

Michelle Jana Chan explores the heritage of Suriname before crossing the Maroni River into French Guiana.

Translated from Leiden University in the Netherlands, 25 August 2015:

Original inhabitants of French Guiana were not nomads

Archaeologically, French Guiana is still largely unexplored. “The work is hard,” says Martijn van den Bel, “but all you find is brand new. For example, that Indians really lived in the so-called virgin forest.” PhD on September 2.

Finds from unknown epoch

Van den Bel focused on the period from 3000 BC. until the present time. He discovered that French Guiana had already residents then and also that these Indians were not so primitive. He and his colleagues found shards which could be reconstructed into open, round bowls of 30 cm high with powdered quartz stone mixed into the baking clay. They can be dated to the Early Ceramic period (2500 BC.). “There was nothing known about that time,” says Van den Bel.

Saving sloths in Suriname


This video says about itself:

Field Spotlight: Monique Pool‘s Sloth Sanctuary | Conservation International (CI)

29 May 2013

Monique Pool, CI partner and founder of the Green Heritage Fund Suriname, finds herself “slothified” after an area of forest in Paramaribo, Suriname, is cut down. Monique rescued more than 200 animals, mostly sloths, and brought them to an emergency shelter, which also happens to be her home. Watch how Monique manages to feed, house, and release the sloths back into the wild.

From CNN:

When sloths are in trouble, she’s the one you call

By Kathleen Toner

August 7, 2015

Paramaribo, Suriname

Sloths. They hang from trees, move very slowly and make people smile with just one look.

In recent years, the Internet has helped these creatures achieve an almost cult-like status among animal lovers. But in the South American country of Suriname, one woman has been the sloths‘ passionate protector for more than a decade.

Monique Pool discovered her love for these animals in 2005. While looking for her lost dog, she called the Animal Protection Society and learned that a baby sloth had been orphaned. Pool offered to take it in.

“I didn’t know anything about sloths, but I learned a lot,” said Pool, who sought advice from international experts on how to care for the animals. “Now, when sloths are injured or in trouble, all the telephone calls come to us. The police, the fire brigade — even the zoo calls me.”

“Some people refer to me as ‘The Sloth Lady.’ I think it’s an honor.”

Today, Pool’s nonprofit, Green Heritage Fund Suriname, helps protect sloths and implement other conservation efforts in the country. Her home serves as a temporary sanctuary for the mammals, and she is now a recognized local authority on them.

Pool also takes in anteaters, armadillos and porcupines. To date, she and her volunteers have rescued, rehabilitated and released more than 600 animals back to the rainforest.

“When I release a sloth, I feel really happy because the animal is where he belongs. That’s the ultimate goal of my work,” Pool said. “Wild animals belong in the wild.”

CNN talked with Pool about life with sloths and her other environmental work. Below is an edited version of the conversation.

CNN: What kinds of risks are sloths facing here in Suriname?

Monique Pool: Suriname is 94% forested, which is the highest forest cover of any country in the world. Sloths that occur in this part of the world are not endangered, but that doesn’t mean that they are not threatened.

Here, the risk that sloths are facing is mainly in the urban area near Paramaribo (the country’s capital). I get an average of one call a week. As the city grows, the animals are losing their forest habitat really fast. So in the little bit that’s left, that’s where they all congregate. And they end up in people’s gardens, dogs attack them, they get onto people’s balconies. You name it, I’ve seen it, and I’ve rescued them.

My biggest rescue ever was in 2012 when we heard about this plot of land that was going to be cleared. I was told there were 14 animals there, but we rescued 200 — around 160 of which were sloths. We call this “Slothageddon.” Sloth Armageddon.

That’s what it was for them; it was the end of the world. During that time, it was really a bit weird to live here because there were sloths everywhere: in my living room, in cages, in my garage. Dozens of volunteers were helping. I was “slothified” — overwhelmed by sloths.

CNN: What’s it like living with sloths?

Pool: Sloths are not pets, but I do share my house with them, and it’s a very special experience. I can watch them for hours.

A sloth sleeps, it grooms, it eats and it sleeps a little bit more — that’s its whole life. They poop once a week, which is actually ideal. I don’t really like keeping them in cages, so some roam freely, but others I need to keep in cages outside.

Every animal has his very own personality. Some are more curious, some are more laid back. They’re very intelligent, deliberate animals. They will not just hop, like monkeys can, from tree to tree. They will touch the branch, see if it’s sound and only then will they start moving. And they’re very content to be with themselves. I think we humans could learn a lot from them.

CNN: Your ultimate goal with a rescue is to release the sloth back into the rainforest. How does that work?

Pool: I have two different locations where I release them, where I know they will be safe. We look for a nice tree, put the kennel up to it and let them go. Once the animal smells the forest, I can see how the energy changes and how it knows that it’s home again. For me, that’s the best part.

But I live in the middle of the city, so we are working to build a professional rehabilitation center in the forest, so we can give the animals an opportunity to practice their “sloth skills” before they are released. It will also be a good place to educate people about the animals and about how beautiful and important the rainforests are.

CNN: You sort of stumbled into caring for sloths. How has your conservation work evolved over the years?

Pool: I grew up in the Netherlands, and when I came back to Suriname, I ended up getting a job with Conservation International (an environmental nonprofit). Eventually, I realized that I wanted to work more in the coastal area, since that’s where the decisions are made and where people live.

Saving sloths is just one part of what we do. We also work on dolphins and ocean protection. We’ve taken more than 5,000 people out to experience dolphins on the Suriname River, a beautiful, intact mangrove river. Now others have started doing this, and we have created a tourism industry around the dolphins.

The sloths and the dolphins are a starting point for doing bigger things. They are really good animals to help people appreciate their environment more. If we want to protect them, we have to preserve the environment.