September 22, 2014, Grand Case, St. Martin–Naturalists, birdwatchers, educators, artists, and other volunteers all over the island are working together to make the second annual Migratory Bird Festival a very special day for everyone. The Migratory Bird Festival is a free, public Wildlife Discovery Event created by Les Fruits de Mer as St. Martin’s celebration of International Migratory Bird Day, where residents and visitors of all ages can see, celebrate, and learn about the marvelous migratory birds that travel thousands of miles each year to visit or spend the winter in St. Martin. The annual Festival was designed to showcase these amazing avian voyagers that connect the Americas with their incredible journeys, and the important role St. Martin plays in their life cycle. The 2014 event will feature guided birding tours, bird education, migratory bird-themed art activities, a “Portable Pond” Observation Station for the aquatic creatures that feed many visiting birds, and the prize ceremony for the Birds of St. Maarten Competition. This year’s Festival will take place on Saturday, October 11th from 9am to noon at the University of St. Martin.
“The annual bird migrations are one of the most fascinating natural phenomena in the Western Hemisphere, and this island is a big part of that,” says Festival organizer Mark Yokoyama, Les Fruits de Mer co-founder and author of The Incomplete Guide to the Wildlife of St. Martin. “We’re extraordinarily lucky when it comes to migratory birds. St. Martin is in the Atlantic Flyway, a migratory path taken by millions of birds, and still has some very rich wetland ecosystems. These two factors make this island a very important resource for birds and a very exciting spot for birdwatchers.”
The beaches and ponds of St. Martin attract many species of migratory waterbirds, including sandpipers and plovers from North America, and the Whimbrel, a long-distance flyer that can fly here almost nonstop from its breeding grounds in the Arctic–over 3,000 kilometers. “When you think of how all these different birds from all these different countries come to this island every year, and the crazy distances they each travel to get here, it’s pretty mindblowing,” says Les Fruits de Mer President Jenn Yerkes. “This Festival is a fantastic opportunity to learn from local experts about these spectacular birds and the unique wetland ecosystems that bring them here. We’d like to encourage everyone to come out and have a great day celebrating these birds and their epic journeys to St. Martin!”
The location of the second annual Migratory Bird Festival, the University of St. Martin, is right in the middle of the Great Salt Pond, the seasonal home of many migratory bird species. “The Great Salt Pond is crucial ecologically, and it’s also very important in the culture and history of this island–for some of the same reasons,” points out Yokoyama. He explains that the characteristics that made the Great Salt Pond attractive to people for salt production–like being a large, shallow saline environment with a water level that rises and falls to leave exposed mudflat areas–also make it attractive to birds by providing the perfect habitat, food and foraging grounds. Festival organizers are planning activities to spotlight this connection between nature, culture, and history.
The 2014 Migratory Bird Festival will also host the prize ceremony for the Birds of St. Maarten Photo, Drawing, and Writing Competition organized by Sea Grape Tours, which is now underway for kids ages 7-12. Visit http://seagrapetours.com/competitionfor more information and full competition details.
The Les Fruits de Mer Association is currently seeking additional volunteers to help out at this year’s Festival, and sponsorship for event supplies including display materials, volunteer t-shirts, art supplies for the kids’ activity area, and drinking water. People interested in being involved can contact email@example.com.
The Migratory Bird Festival is part of International Migratory Bird Day (IMBD), which includes festivities throughout the Americas, from Canada to South America. The international organizer of IMBD is Environment for the Americas, and the regional organizer is Birds Caribbean, largest regional conservation organization in Caribbean. The Migratory Bird Festival was created by Les Fruits de Mer as St. Martin’s own local, annual celebration of IMBD, and the 2014 Migratory Bird Festival is brought to you by Les Fruits de Mer and the University of St. Martin.