St. John’s Antigua- All this month, conservation and environmental groups throughout the Caribbean will be hosting events and activities aimed at raising public awareness of and appreciation for our region’s high endemism and rich birdlife. The 11th Caribbean Endemic Bird Festival kicked off a couple of weeks ago and, through a variety of events across the region, has been spreading the messages of this year’s themes, “Connecting People to Bird Conservation” and “20 Ways to Conserve Birds.”
Here in Antigua, The Environmental Awareness Group (EAG) hosted the first of several events for the festival with an exciting Bird Art Competition for primary school children on Friday morning, May 4. Tents and tables were set up in the lovely outdoor setting of the Botanical Gardens in St. John’s. The clouds parted and bathed the gardens in sunshine, setting up a beautiful morning for a wonderful event.
With our special guest wildlife artist Martin Aveling on hand to give advice and inspiration, the students got straight down to drawing and painting endemic birds from around the Caribbean. A selection of promising artists and environment enthusiasts had been chosen to represent a variety of primary schools from around the island — Urlings Primary, Grace Christian Academy, Villa Primary and TN Kirnon Primary.
It was clear from the get-go that there was some real enthusiasm and talent amongst the students. Several of them had done research before hand and practiced sketching some of the birds in their notepads in anticipation of the event.
The Caribbean islands have a rich variety of endemic birds – birds that are found in this geographical region only – and the EAG had decided to focus on six species. One of these species, a Zenaida Dove, flew down and landed a few feet from the tables, giving the children a brief moment to draw inspiration from the real thing.
While they were engrossed in their art, our team took this opportunity to sit with each table and talk about bird conservation. We were delighted to have such insightful responses from the children to questions about how birds are being threatened and how we can help protect them.
The morning flew by and before long it was time to start wrapping up. Splashes of paint and colour had transformed blank pages into works of art, with many of the students taking their own initiative by writing little messages of bird conservation, including: ‘The birds need their homes so stop burning down the trees.” Clearly, the message had gotten through.
Highlighting the theme of connecting people to bird conservation, the EAG decided to open up the voting for the competition to the World Wide Web. Facebook and Twitter users were invited to vote on their favourite paintings, therefore spreading the message of bird conservation not only in the Caribbean, but also around the globe.
All the images from the event are already on EAG’s Facebook page (www.facebook.com/EnvironmentalAwarenessGroup) and the voting is live right now, so please have a look and cast your vote. Voting ends May 16 and the winners will be announced May 17 on OBSERVER Radio’s Our House programme, when we will also have our second competition of the month, the “Whistle Like a Bird” competition.
It is extremely important to instil the message of bird conservation into the minds of Antigua & Barbuda’s future politicians, environmentalists, artists and other professionals, but the day was also about fun. Getting children outdoors is a great way for them to experience the beauty of birds first hand. Combine it with an activity involving paints and colours, and it can lead to, as one student described it, “…the best day ever!”