Birds are environmental indicators and The Messenger offers the opportunity for dialogue and action on the issues raised by the film. Screenings of The Messenger are now happening all around the world, and everywhere we go people are moved by the film and inspired to take action – for birds, for our eco-system, and for human kind.
In Canada we are at a critical stage. We are ready to launch a nation wide screening tour, and need your support to make it happen. Will you help us raise the funds we need to run a successful impact campaign and spread the important message of The Messenger? Your contribution today ensures more Canadians from coast to coast can experience the film. Your support also helps to generate the tools and resources we’ll need to empower people to take action for birds.
Your actions are a vital component of change, and it’s through collective effort that we’ll make the biggest difference.
If you live in the US or another country, we appreciate contributions to the International Outreach Campaign via Indiegogo crowdfunding.
We were very lucky to film this Golden-winged warbler in Central America. Golden-winged Warblers have declined sharply and now have one of the smallest populations of any bird not on the endangered species list. The North American Breeding Bird Survey estimates an overall decline of 76 percent.
People may tell you “You can’t have your cake and eat it too.” But when it comes to coffee, it is possible to have it both ways.
Superb coffee can be grown by using sustainable agricultural methods that provides a home for birds, free labour for farmers, and a delicious bird friendly product for coffee drinkers around the globe.
Our documentary team filmed at the CATIE Tropical Agricultural Research Centre where ornithologist Alejandra Martinez-Salinas showed us the benefits of pesticide-free shade grown coffee. The diversity of shade trees provide a natural habitat for migratory songbirds and the birds’ appetite for the destructive coffee berry borer, provides an alternative to agro-chemicals. This is truly a win-win situation for us all.
To learn more about “bird friendly” coffee we have created a short web exclusive video featuring Robert Rice from The Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center in Washington DC. Robert travels around the world certifying bird friendly coffee farms. He explains why we should all consider bird friendly coffee as a wise consumer option.
Help us finish the film and save a songbird at the same time.
Want to try bird friendly coffee? We have certified bird friendly coffee available as a perk for making a contribution to our Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign for our feature film THE MESSSENGER.
Special thanks to Ernesto Carmen and the Café Cristina farm in Costa Rica, where in one day we filmed more than a dozen different species of migratory songbirds including Golden-winged warbler, Wood Thrush, Rose Breasted Grosbeak, Wilson Warbler and many more.
Çağan Şekercioğlu, who we filmed with in Turkey, became the first biologist, ecologist and the youngest person to win the TÜBİTAK Special Science Award recently. The University of Utah professor, photographer, and ornithologist received the award (which is Turkey’s highest science award and equivalent to a USA National Science Medal) from Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a ceremony held in the new Presidential Palace. While receiving the award, Şekercioğlu had a single Eco-Message request: “The biggest award you can give me will be to save from destruction the eastern Turkey’s richest wetland for birds, the Aras River Bird Sanctuary I discovered and where I do my science”. At the same time Sekercioglu gave President Erdogan over 55,000 signatures and 4000 comments he collected with his petition to www.savearas.org.
At the awards ceremony apparently President Erdogan replied to Şekercioğlu, “Putting 55,000 signatures aside, your word is enough, professor. I will talk to Forestry and Water Affairs Minister Veysel Eroglu about this.” He also asked Sekercioğlu to return to Turkey to teach.
The Aras River Bird Research and Education Center, founded by Șekercioğlu in 2006, is one of the few long-term ecological research sites in Turkey. With over 65,000 birds ringed (banded), it is the one of two most productive ringing stations in the country. It is also at the meeting point of Aras River and Iğdır Plains Key Biodiversity Areas and Important Bird Areas, none of which have official government protection.
Şekercioğlu is campaigning to stop the proposed Tuzluca dam project and save the Aras River Bird Paradise. The Aras Valley provides critical ecosystem services such as clean water, fertile soil and abundant resources to the area. Şekercioğlu says “This is one of the world’s most important wetlands for birds. If the proposed Tuzluca dam is constructed in the Aras Valley, the feeding, breeding and wintering areas for at least 258 bird species and nearly 100 mammal, reptile and amphibian species will be destroyed.”
The valley has 37 animal species threatened or near threatened with extinction. With more research, it is thought that HALF of all land animal species in Turkey will be recorded in the valley. Birds ringed (banded) and satellite-tracked at this wetland by the conservation group, KuzeyDoğa (founded by Şekercioğlu) were recorded to migrate to and from three continents and dozens of countries, including Cyprus, Ethiopia, Georgia, Hungary, Iraq, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Kenya, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Syria, Ukraine, Yemen, and Zambia.
Şekercioğlu, who has already received international awards for his work, including becoming a recognized National Geographic explorer is determined to have Minister Eroğlu keep his word to ensure the immediate cancellation of the Tuzluca Dam project. View some aerial footage and find out more about the campaign here.
Special thanks to www.change.org for their contribution to this post.
Alejandra Martínez-Salinas had her first experience monitoring songbirds in mist nets in 1999. Her life changed from that moment on. In The Messenger, she says “ I fell in love with the migrant songbirds because they are so small, but also strong. They are really determined to get somewhere”. We filmed with Alejandra in Costa Rica last February.
Alejandra is an ecologist/ornithologist and a PhD candidate in the Joint Doctoral Program between the University of Idaho and CATIE, the Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center (CATIE) in Turrialba. When she was still in college in her native country of Nicarauga, Alejandra had the opportunity to assist a group of ornithologists from the Smithsonian Institute doing field work. Back then, she only learned how to set up and take down mist nets just prior to going into the field, and she didn’t have much experience releasing birds from the nets. Today, fifteen years later, Alejandra leads the Bird Monitoring Program at CATIE.
Martinez-Salinas arrived at CATIE in 2006 to pursue her master’s degree in forest management and biodiversity conservation. Soon after graduation, with Fabrice DeClerck, one of her Master’s thesis advisors and Rachelle DeClerck, an environmental educator, she began discussing the possibility of setting up a bird monitoring program that could cover different types of agricultural land uses. It was clear from the moment they set it up that a monitoring program was not going to be a small task but they decided to give it a try. Seven years later, the bird monitoring program is a huge success.
Since 2008, they have been trapping and banding birds in six different agricultural land uses within the CATIE campus. They band and release wild birds in forest, pastures divided by live fences, cacao, multistrata and simple agroforest coffee and sugar cane plantations. To date, they have banded 9,000 birds, including 56 species of neo-tropical migrants.
Our crew filmed a wonderful scene with Alejandra handling a Mourning Warbler, which had come back to CATIE after being banded in the same site the year before. Most common migratory songbird species visiting their mist nets are the Yellow and Chestnut-sided Warblers, Northern Waterthrush, Mourning and Tennessee Warblers, Alder Flycatcher and Swainson’s Thrush. Some of the rare or one-time visitors include Blue-winged and Golden-winged Warblers, Bay-breasted and Blackpoll Warblers.
Alejandra is very concerned about how monoculture farming is affecting diversity and habitat on coffee farms. She is currently conducting experiments to prove that birds can have a significant effect on reducing harmful insects, like the crop damaging coffee berry borer. She says if they can convince the local farmers that the birds can do just as good a job as chemical pesticides, it will be really good for the birds, because more farmers will want to have more diverse crops to attract more birds to their farms, and the farmers will in turn save money on pesticides. Reducing pesticides benefits the whole ecosystem in many ways.
In the last seven years, hundreds of visitors from many different countries and backgrounds have come to visit CATIE. Each of the visitors leaves the bird banding stations knowing a little bit more about songbird conservation in agricultural lands and the importance of saving all species for a balanced ecosystem.
The SongbirdSOS film crew ventured to New York City to film with Andrew Farnsworth, a Research Associate of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology during the annual 911 Memorial Tribute in Lights. While there with some volunteers from the New York City Audubon , we also found out more about the exciting and ambitious Bird Cast project, which aims to provide a window into the world of migration at a scale previously unimaginable.
Farnsworth is hopeful, as are his collaborators, this new vision of migratory behavior could ultimately be used to prevent the deaths of millions of birds. In this video clip, Farnsworth explains how cool 21st technology is changing migratory bird research.
Andrew Farnsworth grew up in the greener and quieter suburbs of the city where he now lives, watching the seasons – and weather and most importantly birds – change. Throughout his childhood Andrew says he would wonder about the calls of passing nocturnal migrants, fully aware of the identities of some species and be completely befuddled by others.
As did many students of migration, he read with great interest about the ways to grasp the otherwise unfathomable magnitudes of birds migrating under the cover of darkness, occasionally seeing glimpses of their shapes while watching the moon or by the lights of tall buildings.
When we caught up with Andrew at the 911 Tribute last year, he and members of the Audubon Society were situated on a parking garage roof in Manhattan, at the base of the lights, observing and monitoring the powerful beams for bird action. Our director Su Rynard and the SongbirdSOS crew documented the evening, filming from dusk until almost dawn.
While the powerful lights provided a spectacular opportunity to observe and film migratory birds, the dangers were also apparent. That night they had to shut the lights down several times, which allowed migratory birds that became trapped and circling in the lights, to disperse.
Andrew said the prospects for this year’s Tribute in Light were intriguing. Unlike many previous years, a frontal boundary was approaching the region and generating potential for a large flight of migrants to coincide with the memorial. Thankfully, the passage of the front did not occur until several hours after sunset, and the potentially large number of migrants getting caught in the light did not become a reality that evening.
According to Andrew, “Some birds did fly through the beams on the night of the Tribute, though mostly at high altitude and without stopping and circling. Of interest was the peak in numbers after the winds strengthened with the arriving air mass behind the front. Many seemed to hold off and made their migratory passage through the city the following night, long after the tribute lights had been extinguished.”
Andrew’s also been working on another pilot project that many who track birds will recognize as a long standing goal to create a device to record, detect, classify, and post to a website flight calls of migrating songbirds.
He is doing that in collaboration with other scientists at the Cornell Lab and he encourages volunteer citizen scientists to get involved by contributing their recordings from low-cost but effective microphones like those designed by acoustic monitoring pioneer Bill Evans.
Farnsworth continues to post weekly BirdCast forecasts for four regions of the US based on forecast weather and previous eBird data to give birders a sense of what species will be on the move and in what numbers. There are also weekly analyses for these same regions, highlights from eBird data of which what species actually occurred and what the radar looked like at a typical peak hour of nocturnal movement
The scenes in SongbirdSOS at the 911 Memorial Tribute site are quite beautiful. If you’d like to know when the film is screening near you, please join our community.