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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Tropical Kingbird III: Feeding the babies

As we earlier posted, a pair of Tropical Kingbirds (Tyrannus melancholicus) produced three eggs this past Mother's Day in a vigorous courtship, which has now become three rapidly-growing chicks. Both parents spend all the daylight hours defending them and providing food for them. Here, we present more photos of this growing family, with special thanks to Rebecca Brown for camera donation.
The Tropical Kingbird watches over an open area from a high perch, in plain view of the nest where three chicks are in constant desire of food. Photo Jeffrey McCrary. 
Within a week of hatching, incipient wing-feathers became visible among the hair-like plumage characteristic of most nestlings. The Tropical Kingbird chicks have grown rapidly, but sleeping and eating are their only activities.

baby birds
A week after hatching, these Tropical Kingbird (Tyrannus melancholicus) chicks are beginning to show flight feathers. Photo Jeffrey McCrary.
One parental bird remains with the nest at night, but both parents are seeking food for the chicks all day long. They mostly catch items on the wing, capturing all kinds of insects in the sky, grabbing arthropods from leaves or even plucking tiny fruits such as hot peppers. Although little idle time remains for the adults, they communicate constantly, bicker, and they even occasionally perform a "dance"-each flying in tandem about four meters high, from a perch, while singing.
tropical kingbird
Once the Tropical Kingbird chicks awaken, only one thing can be on their minds-food. The parents feed them small insects and fruits, and even larger insects such as butterflies and dragonflies. Photo Jeffrey McCrary.
Both parents are near the nest during all daylight hours and nothing happens there of which they are not immediately aware. They squabble with other birds, especially Social Flycatchers which have a nest only some twelve meters away. The Tropical Kingbirds are adept flyers and fearless, taking on any animal that enters its territory, even humans, who will feel their presence from behind if lingering nearby.
birdwatching nicaragua
The orange flash colors in the crest of this Tropical Kingbird are visible when the bird feels threatened, although the chicks are all oblivious to any danger nearby. Photo Jeffrey McCrary.
Far from being free of danger, these chicks at one week of life after hatching would represent a merry morsel to most other animals. The parents must continue their protection aggressively, given that the nest and chicks are readily visible and accessible from land and air.
baby birds
Upon waking, the chicks immediately open wide and beg, expecting a tasty insect or fruit. Whereas in the first couple of days, all food brought was regurgitated, the chicks now must ingest their food items without as much prior treatment. Photo Jeffrey McCrary.
The Tropical Kingbird is not only valiant, it is also somewhat tolerant of humans, permitting some great opportunities for nature photography. While by no means the rarest or most spectacular bird in Nicaragua, it is nonetheless an interesting and somewhat willing subject, and an example of what a birdwatcher can expect beyond just seeing a lot of different birds. These birds are available to the observer in both forested and altered settings, and they can make a fine show.
Parental Tropical Kingbirds both deliver food in turn throughout the day. Photo Jeffrey McCrary.

tyrannus melancholicus
A parental Tropical Kingbird observes in loving contemplation of the chicks. Photo Jeffrey McCrary.
The chicks still have considerable growth ahead of them before fledging, and even then, dependence continues, as they learn to fly and feed themselves. This parental pair will continue to be busy for weeks to come. 
tyrannus melancholicus
Foods provided to the chicks include vegetable matter, as is shown in the bill of one of the parental units. Photo Jeffrey McCrary.
We at FUNDECI/GAIA organize birdwatching tours in Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve and elsewhere, and we would love to take you on a birdwatching excursion. Even common birds such as the Tropical Kingbird can make a marvelous camera model and give plenty to watch. This is only one of more than 220 bird species found in Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve and more than 700 species in Nicaragua. Please contact us if you would like to go birdwatching with us, or if you would like to participate in bird research or monitoring with us.

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Monday, May 11, 2015

Mother's Day present to a pair of Tropical Kingbirds

Although the selected day differs from country to country, May is the month in which our mothers are remembered. It is fitting that many birds in the tropics hatch in this month, too. The always-vigilant Tropical Kingbird has hatched three eggs successfully on the afternoon of US Mother's Day, 10 May 2015. All eggshells and debris have been removed from the nest, and the chicks are being fed regurgitated insects.

birdwatching Nicaragua
Three baby Tropical Kingbirds (Tyrannus melancholicus) in their first day since hatching. Photo Jeffrey McCrary.
The pair of Tropical Kingbirds have vigilantly guarded their three eggs since 24 April, against doves, grackles, and even squirrels. Nest parasites such as cuckoos and Melodious Blackbirds are abundant in the area, but the vigilance of these feisty flycatchers is rewarded by not being stuck with a parasitic egg. Both parents are continuously present and attentive to their nest.

Feeding time! Photo Jeffrey McCrary.
One can not always be in the jungle, but this small miracle of life is a reminder that even urban birdwatching can also bring some special rewards.
Tropcial Kingbird
Tyrannus melancholicus caring for eggs. Photo Jeffrey McCrary.
The female Tropical attentive mother, as the following video demonstrates:

And parents quarrel among all species, even on Mother's Day!

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Tropical Kingbird
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Sunday, May 10, 2015

Celebración de la Victoria

En la guerra más terrible de toda la historia del ser humano, perecieron hasta 85 millones de vidas. Y la nación que sufrió más, podria ser la Unión Soviética. En tan sola la Batalla de Estalingrado, las vidas perdidas podrían haber llegado a dos millones. Los rusos nunca se olvidarán. 

La comunidad rusa en Nicaragua, incluyendo numerosos nicaragüenses que han convivido con los rusos en momentos importantes en sus vidas, celebró la victoria sobre las fuerzas alemanas este pasado 9 de mayo, el septuagésimo aniversario de la victoria, en un pequeño acto cultural. Rusos recordaron las pérdidas en sus propias familias, y se aprovecharon la oportunidad de expresar su solidaridad con Nicaragua y convivir un momento de alegría. 

El Programa Gaia de FUNDECI participó en la celebración, y a continuación hay fotos y videos de diferentes momentos en el evento. 

Foto Jeffrey McCrary.

Foto Jeffrey McCrary.

Foto Jeffrey McCrary.
Foto Jeffrey McCrary.

Foto Jeffrey McCrary.

Foto Jeffrey McCrary.

Foto Jeffrey McCrary.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Catarina, Nicaragua

Tourism is finally happening to Nicaragua. What seems to us here as a lot of foreigners can be seen in a few places, particularly Granada and San Juan del Sur, which both don't even feel like Nicaragua any longer to the rest of us. Foreigners are also exploring the more uncommon places, so that it is not uncommon to see visitors from afar in Bluefields or Matagalpa, and sometimes even in the rural areas, for the more adventurous type.

One of the most attractive municipalities in Nicaragua is Catarina, and tourists from near and far are making pilgrimages to its "mirador". One of a handful of towns called Pueblos Blancos, this small town is perched on the edge of the Apoyo volcanic crater, giving it a fabulous view of the lake. The overlook has numerous offerings of restaurants, ice cream, horse riding, and lots of park-style space with benches just to sit and admire the incomparable views in the fresh breeze.

On a typical Sunday, Nicaraguans pour into Catarina from Managua, seeking a respite from the city life in family style. Most Nicaraguans have never actually touched the water of Laguna de Apoyo, but they have probably sat on the crater's edge and watched vultures soar in the breeze, with the lake before them, Mombacho Volcano to their right, and Granada plainly visible on the opposite side of the crater.

Family visits to Catarina may even include pets. Photo Jeffrey McCrary.
Although Estacion Biologica Laguna de Apoyo is not exactly a short walk from the urban center of Catarina, its municipal territory extends along the shore of the lake, to and beyond our place up to about a kilometer further to the east. The urban center of Catarina sits precisely on the edge of the Apoyo crater, which is also the limit to the conservation zone of the Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve. We are happy with being part of this lovely, dynamic city, where we can participate in programs to protect the environment and culture of the area and help our community to prosper. 

Volcano Mombacho lies immediately to the south of Laguna de Apoyo, part of the landscape of the town of Catarina. Photo Jeffrey McCrary.
Catarina offers more than just a gorgeous view of Laguna de Apoyo. Its history is rich, including being the residence of the first Liberal Party president of Nicaragua, Jose Santos Zelaya. A train carried him home to Catarina from Managua each weekend, passing along the base of what is now the Catarina overlook. In those days, the United States foreign policy often contradicted Liberal intentions, and Zelaya was eventually forced into exile by an invading US Marine force. Another historically important Liberal, Benjamin Zeledon, fought against the US Marines who were occupying Nicaragua, and was killed in battle in Catarina, where his remains now rest. The politics of Nicaragua are rich and very colorful, and a visit to Catarina should be accompanied by a review of the role of these heroic agents. 

Many plant nurseries are found along the roadsides of Catarina, using rustic bamboo and ceramic containers made by artisans from the area. Photo Jeffrey McCrary.
Nicaraguan mission architecture is epitomized in the churches of the Pueblos Blancos, including that of Catarina. No gold is found in these churches, but rather combinations of wood and adobe, with vaulted ceiling and natural colors. Many Nicaraguans take advantage of a weekend trip to Catarina to visit the many plant nurseries, which supply many gardens with ornamentals and even coffee, tomato and other production seedlings.

Gaia director Jeffrey McCrary making official donation of a motorcycle tire to support the Catarina Police. Photo Mar Espinoza Smith.

The Gaia Program at FUNDECI works closely with the government authorities in Catarina and other municipalities that encompass the Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve. The reach of the National Police for such a small town as Catarina must be wide, because much of the outlying areas of the town are completely rural. Extensive stands of forests in the area, filled with precious hardwoods, are the targets of wood smugglers. The Catarina Police take seriously their mandate of protecting the natural resource base, which requires mobility to enforce effectively. We recently donated from our funds a new tire for use on the only motorcycle assigned to the Catarina Police station. 

Gaia Program Director Jeffrey McCrary inspects timber and cut wood confiscated from illegal traffickers by the Catarina Police. Photo Mar Espinoza Smith.
Throughout Masaya Department, in which Catarina is located, numerous carpenters are found, many of whom work in remote locations. Illegal wood is trafficked through numerous informal carpentry shops, threatening the natural resource base of Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve and other areas nearby. The police are constantly vigilant to inappropriate movements of wood in the area, and they often capture vehicles with loads of wood lacking proper registry. FUNDECI/GAIA supports their activity by providing logistical support, including fuel and recently, we donated a tire for their motorcycle. By collaborating with the Nacional Police in Catarina, we work to make Nicaragua a better place for all, including those who wish to visit the Catarina overlook and see wild nature, not deforested spots where trees were cut and its wood stolen.

Cut and round wood of various precious hardwood species was recently confiscated from wood traffickers in Catarina. Photo Jeffrey McCrary.
You can help us work to keep Catarina and Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve beautiful and natural, with a small donation to FUNDECI/GAIA. We accept donations through PayPal and we can provide official receipts for your records, and documentation of the use of your funds for specific programs in conservation. Consider contributing and write us at Thank you!
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Tuesday, May 5, 2015

An education in the midst of poverty

Nicaragua is a remarkable country, with unforgettable landscapes and lovely people, pleasant food in comfortable settings for anyone on a budget.. However, it is tough being a child in poverty in Nicaragua. The world which can be so wide and deep for a child when the resources are available to widen the horizons, reduces microscopically for someone without bus fare, much less the spare change to purchase a soft drink in the street. For many children, the oppression of extreme poverty has driven their parents apart, leaving them in a state of abandonment among others in a similar plight, exiled inside a shanty town.

Kids without complete families, without anything approaching a full-time job among anyone in their household, without anyone with a high school education to mentor them, fill the neighborhoods of the poor areas of cities, towns and settlements throughout the country. The rules that middle-class people learn, that one does things right and expects to be rewarded for working hard, being honest and cooperating with one's friends and peers, just does not work for poor people. There are not enough schools, not enough teachers, and not enough lunches to ensure that all the children can participate actively in a creative, learning environment in a school, and learn what is supposed to be learnt in school. The presence of God or any spiritual values can be so invisible to people in these neighborhoods, where despair reigns over everything else.

Children of Nicaragua Christian School are provided classes, books, supplies, and uniforms as donations. Photo Brenda McCrary.
The schools in Nicaragua are universal, free, and even compulsory for the younger ages. But, funding is very poor, and teachers have poor salaries and poor training, so putting a good education to practice in a completely impoverished country is not at all easy. The public school system is so impoverished, that the great majority of students who make it to university study are products of the private school system. The public schools are relegated to handling the students whose families just can not pay to send their children to a better center to study.

Nicaragua Christian School
Children of Nicaragua Christian School wear uniforms to promote egalitarian values, so that no child be ashamed of not wearing the latest fashion. Photo Brenda McCrary.
A few visitors to Nicaragua from the United States have noted this deficiency and they decided to do something about it. What began as just an idea from a few folks on a mission trip with their church, grew as they developed their ideas in conversations with their friends and with people in Nicaragua, including the local mayor and officials in the Ministry of Education in Leon, the second largest city.

The mayor of Leon, Transito Tellez, aided these individuals in choosing an underserved neighborhood in which to develop their project, on the grounds of a former cotton farm which had lain fallow for decades and now was being developed as new housing for people of very limited means. The local schools were unable to keep up with the rapid increase in demand for school placements, and Mayor Tellez prudently recommended to these folks a project in the neighborhood now called, Barrio Ruben Dario. In 2006, land was chosen for a new, private school directed toward the impoverished residents of this neighborhood, and groundbreaking for the first buildings began.

Parents are deeply involved in the education of their children at Nicaragua Christian School, even when the parents may not be able to read themselves. Photo Brenda McCrary.
Today, there are children attending levels from pre-school to high school. The first class will be graduating soon, and young people will be going on to their new phases of life, some to college, many to work, and all with lots of life skills they learned from a environment filled with skilled and caring people. The students receive all the classes in the national curriculum from approved teachers, plus religion classes. An enriching spiritual environment is provided to children who may never feel love at home. A staff psychologist works with the teachers and students on the multitude of problems that children face in their homes, from physical and emotional violence, to special material needs for families in economic crises.

The school chooses its students on the basis of need, precisely the opposite of what happens at any of the other schools in Nicaragua. This is because there are folks in the US who are interested in sacrificing a small part of their monthly income to sponsor a child to attend the Nicaragua Christian School. Special donations from many groups and individuals have provided for a spacious auditorium, which provides space for parents and teachers to meet, community gatherings to be held, and even church services every Sunday. The school property is integrated into the lives of the students and their parents, and on any day, one can expect to see parents cutting grass, cleaning spaces, and providing other kinds of help to make the school run well. Many of the parents and their children attend church services and community activities on the property regularly.

Nicaragua Christian School
The children of Nicaragua Christian School learn cultural, spiritual and educational values with highly qualified staff. Photo Brenda McCrary.
The Nicaragua Christian School has received some of the greatest accolades for a school in Nicaragua. Its program has been very highly ranked by the Ministry of Education in Leon Department, and its students have recently won best student competitions on a municipal level, competing against even the schools of the wealthy in the area. But Nicaragua Christian School was not designed to win awards; the greatest award is to see a young person grow learn and grow in all the ways that would not be available otherwise, academically, spiritually and even physically.

The children of Nicaragua Christian School learn in a loving environment. Photo Brenda McCrary.
While on campus, the children of Nicaragua Christian School can sense the peace of a shaded campus with comfortable buildings, structural order, and caring staff who are guided by Christian values. For them, the school is a kind of oasis where they can forget about the difficulties at home, and even get a nutritious lunch without worries as part of their study program. In that way, their parents receive support in raising their children and hopefully, the order and peace that emanates from the school reaches their own homes and helps these families to find better ways to confront the challenges of life in a poor neighborhood.
Nicaragua Christian School
The simple, elegant architecture of the auditorium of the Nicaragua Christian School is the centerpiece of the Ruben Dario neighborhood of Leon today. School assemblies, cultural activities, and church services keep this building occupied seven days a week. Donors of all sizes made this building possible. Photo Brenda McCrary.

Nicaragua Christian School
Students and parents gather for an assembly in the new auditorium at Nicaragua Christian School. Photo Brenda McCrary.
Many churches, individuals and groups come together in making the Nicaragua Christian School work. Unlike any other school in the country, the children here do not pay for their education. The teachers and staff, the lunches and uniforms, the books and all activities are covered in complete scholarships. The students come from places where payment would be very difficult, but all the parents pay in other ways, by contributing in cleaning buildings and grounds and other activities, and learning to become better parents every day.
Agustin Jarquin Anaya, third from left, member of the Nicaraguan National Assembly, has supported the legalization of the Nicaragua Christian School and has been a visitor to the campus. Here, Dr. Jarquin poses with staff and board members. Photo Jeffrey McCrary.
FUNDECI/GAIA supports the Nicaragua Christian School, because we recognize its great vision in making a difference among the people who need it most in Nicaragua. Any visitor to the school will note the effects of this project on the neighborhood. Hope and faith are given space in the lives of people who face discouragement daily. It is no surprise that many important people in Nicaragua also recognize the special success that this school has had on the lives of many people and the fabric of their community.
Nicaragua Christian School
Staff and board members of the Nicaragua Christian School visiting with members of the Nicaraguan National Assembly, Gladys Baez and Agustin Jarquin Anaya. Photo Jeffrey McCrary.
Click here if you would like to contribute to the Nicaragua Christian School! Feel free to contact us with any questions or comments.
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Sunday, May 3, 2015

Aves de Nicaragua: El Tirano Tropical

De los cientos de especies de aves que se encuentran en Nicaragua, son pocas de personas que conocen a más de diez. Es una lástima que no hay más gente conocedora de las aves, los nicaragüenses van cambiando sus actitudes sobre la naturaleza, poco a poco. Ahora un pequeño grupo de biólogos con capacidad técnica para enfrentar los retos de identificación y estudios de aves en el campo, que sea a través de observación visual y auditiva o en la mano a través de captura de aves con redes. Estos biólogos van registrando cuáles aves se encuentran en cada hábitat en el país

Algo especial de Nicaragua es la gran cantidad de árboles en las ciudades y en muchas zonas rurales, con aves interesantes ocupando estos espacios diversos a poca distancia de los seres humanos. Hay especies comunes en las ciudades y zonas rurales que no son tan difíciles de ver, y ofrecen mucho para observar. 

Esta hembra (Tyrannus melancholicus) empolla sus huevos bajo un techo de una casa. Foto Jeffrey McCrary.
El Tirano Tropical (Tyrannus melancholicus) es una especie muy común a lo largo del Pacífico de Nicaragua. Es residente durante todo el año. Como los otros güises (miembros de la familia Tyrannidae), esta especie se alimenta principalmente de insectos que son capturados en vuelo. Tiene un pico algo fuerte, relativamente ancho y plano. Cerdas por las comisuras de su boca sirven para guiar los insectos hacia su pico para mejorar su capacidad de captura. Se puede escuchar el castañeteo de su pico en persecución de algún insecto. 

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La hembra de una pareja de Tirano Tropical es alerta a otros pájaros que quieren comer sus huevos o tomar su nido. Foto Jeffrey McCrary.
En abril, cuando el Pacífico de Nicaragua es caliente y seco, el Tirano Tropical forma parejas. Juntos, los dos pájaros construyen el nido de forma de tasa, de lianas y ramas secas. Son muy tolerantes a los seres humanos, entonces son capaces de elegir un sitio para poner el nido muy cerca a una casa o en un sitio donde pasan muchas personas. 

Tyrannus melancholicus
El nido del Tirano Tropical es de forma de taxa, expuesto a plena vista de otros animales que pueden devorar sus huevos o robar su nido ya hecho. Foto Jeffrey McCrary.
El Tirano Tropical es feroz, merecido de su nombre; agil volador y agresivo en defensa de tu territorio. La pareja se comunica mucho durante su tiempo de apareamiento, el macho y la hembra en comunicación constante. Los dos consumen insectos durante todo el día, capturándolos en vuelo en rápidos vuelos, volviendo a perchar con su presa para golpear el insecto contra una rama para matarlo y quitar sus alas antes de tragarlo. 

Tres huevos manchados tiene esta pareja de Tirano Tropical. Foto Jeffrey McCrary.
Aunque el nido es a veces desocupado por los adultos, ellos siempre se encuentran cerca, vigilando siempre contra la devoración de sus huevos, robo de su nido. Otra amenaza es de las aves parásitos de nidos, que ponen huevos para que otras aves críen sus pichones. 

Después de una breve salida para capturar y comer un insecto, la hembra vuelve al nido para empollar los huevos. Foto Jeffrey McCrary.
El proceso de reproducir y críar pichones exitosamente es arduoso y cargado de riesgos. Hasta las especies más abundantes como el Tirano Tropical muy pocas veces goza de ver a sus pichones tomar vuelo solos y liberarse totalmente de sus padres. La naturaleza trae muchos enemigos, entre enfermedades, depredadores, la competencia por los recursos disponibles, y para muchas especies, los atropellos a sus necesidades de vida por el ser humano. 

aves en Nicaragua
El Tirano Tropical se hace muy visible, perchando en sitios abiertos buscando insectos para devorar. Foto Jeffrey McCrary.
El Tirano Tropical no es una ave de particular necesidad para protección, siendo una de las especies de aves de Nicaragua de mayor extensión y población. Su rango, desde el sur de Estados Unidos hasta Sudamérica, y sus amplio ranto de hábitats, desde las ciudades hasta bosques, implica una especie versátil y populosa. Pero, es valiosa su presencia al ser humano, por el gran número de insectos que come, y por el placer de sus cantos al oido y su graciosa apariencia. Es una especie excelente para observar y disfrutar desde el jardín en Managua, y sirve de indicador de la calidad ambiental de un entorno urbano. 

La hembra rasca su bolsa incubadora, un espacio en el abdomen sin plumas y con mucha vascularización que se ocupa para incubar los huevos. Foto Jeffrey McCrary.
El Tirano Tropical puede disfrutar el observador con mucha o poca experiencia. Esta especie es presente en la Reserva Natural Laguna de Apoyo, especialmente en claros, por ejemplo en árboles en los bordes del camino principal. 

Agradecemos a Rebecca Brown por su donacion de una camara Panasonic Lumix que fue usada para tomar las fotos presentadas en este ensayo. 
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