Great Wisconsin Birdathon 2020

Motmot Crew - RC/ST Sister City Project

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Thank you for donating! View our Motmot Crew report for our May 9th Birdathon and check out our team's species list

The Motmot Crew--joining the Great Wisconsin Birdathon for the first time--supports bird welfare in Nicaragua’s Rio Escalante-Chacocente Wildlife Refuge.  Chacocente has been designated an Important Bird Area (IBA) by Birdlife International, encompassing tropical dry forest that is the winter home to many North American species, including Wood Thrushes, Yellow-throated Vireos, Great-crested Flycatchers, and Yellow Warblers.

Our team is anchored by a group of birders associated with the Richland Center – Santa Teresa Sister City Project (SCP), linking communities in Wisconsin and Nicaragua.  In 2017, SCP birders helped to start a Monitoring Overwinter Survival (MoSI) station in the reserve, now led by a Nicaraguan bird bander who trains apprentices from the Chacocente villages.  The SCP bird project offers bird education to the village school kids, providing binoculars, bird classes, and bird walks, generating lots of enthusiasm for local birds.

On May 9 our Motmot crew will visit birding spots near our homes in the Driftless Area to find as many bird species as possible on a single day (while following recommendations for protection against Covid-19).  Half of the pledge proceeds will go to the many valuable priority projects of the Bird Protection Fund in Wisconsin, and the other half will directly support the SCP’s bird conservation work in the Chacocente refuge.  Please consider helping us with a pledge per species or fixed amount.  You can click the Donate Now button above to contribute on-line or by check.

So what’s a Motmot?  A beautiful Chacocente resident who makes our “motley crew” pale by comparison. 

  - Motmot (José Gabriel Martinez Fonseca)
  - Barbara Duerksen and a young Chacocente bird enthusiast (Jane Furchgott)
  - Alma Chavez and a group of students on a bird walk (Alfredo Pérez)
  - Jennifer Herner-Thogmartin bands a Wood Thrush at the MoSI station (Jane Furchgott)

About MoSI Monitoreo de Sobrevivencia Invernal (Monitoring Overwinter Survival) Is a cooperative network of bird monitoring stations within Latin Americathat encourages conservation efforts through population monitoring. MoSI stations gather data on migrants from North America to learn about migration, declines, and where the problems are most acute. The stations also gather important data on the resident birds. MoSI stations are run by independent banders, university scientists, Latin American government personnel, and non-profit conservation groups, such as our Richland Center - Santa Teresa Sister City Project. To learn more about MoSI stations, visit the Institute for Bird Populations website.

About the Sister City Project

Our 30-year-old sister city relationship connects two rural small towns, Richland Center, Wisconsin, and Santa Teresa, Nicaragua. Since 1998, at the request of its mayor, we have been focusing on the sea turtles and the remote villages in the Rio Escalante-Chacocente Wildlife Refuge, a 10,000 acre national reserve within the Santa Teresa municipality. Chacocente is known for its globally important olive ridley sea turtle arribada (mass-nesting) beach and Nicaragua’s largest remaining area of the deciduous tropical dry forest. This ecosystem once covered the Pacific slope from Mexico to Costa Rica, but only 2% is left.

The Chacocente families are subsistence farmers, and when we started working with them had few wells, latrines, and educational and money-making opportunities. Slash and burn farming was common, and selling sea turtle eggs was one of few cash income sources. Poverty and the struggle of local communities to satisfy their needs through an unsuitable use of their natural resources had negatively impacted Chacocente’s biodiversity.

An important focus has been basic health and sanitation, providing materials for village-built wells and latrines, water filters, and training village health volunteers. We support education by building schools, delivering school supplies, and giving scholarships to enable Chacocente students to attend secondary school. Ecological agriculture and gardening programs have helped protect the fragile forest. These, as well as grants for village women entrepreneurs, have bettered people’s incomes.

We have promoted sea turtle conservation, providing field supplies for community guards at the arribada beach, initiating a successful campaign to make sea-turtle egg-taking illegal, and supporting a leatherback sea turtle hatchery. Our Nicaraguan coordinator, biologist Alma Susana Chávez, gives environmental education classes in the schools and takes the lead in all environmental work.  The MoSI station was begun in 2017 in collaboration with the organization Paso Pacifico, as part of their USFWS grant to learn more about the life cycle of certain declining migratory bird species. This year SCP will be solely in charge of  the station.

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Donations and Comments

  • Karen Etter

    about 2 weeks ago

    All the best to the Motmots. You have THE best write-up of any of the Birdathon teams. Well done!

  • Sheryl

    about 3 weeks ago

    Thank you! Enjoy the bird relatives return!

  • Connie

    about 3 weeks ago

    Great event.

  • Susan

    about 3 weeks ago

    Hope you all see a species that is unexpected!!

  • Sonali

    about 3 weeks ago

    Naik Family

  • Mary and Neil

    about 4 weeks ago

    Good luck Jane. We hope you find your cerulean warbler!

  • Kath

    about 4 weeks ago

    Best wishes for a great day!

  • Joan

    about a month ago


  • Anonymous

    about a month ago

    Happy to support such a great cause!

  • Laura

    about a month ago

    Love and miss you guys. Have a wonderful day of birding for an important effort.

  • Matthew

    about a month ago


  • maggie

    about a month ago

    Best of luck to you all!

  • David

    about a month ago


  • Carl

    about a month ago

    A great -team, a great concept and a great captain! Thanks

  • Sarah

    about a month ago

    A great cause close to (and far from) home - thanks for joining the Birdathon!

  • Janet

    about a month ago

    Thanks for this opportunity to support birds around the world. . .Hope to see your birdathon list. . Go Motmots!

  • Deborah

    about a month ago

    Love your connections to Nicaragua conservation, our shared birds! Thanks to Asenath for letting me know!

Team Information

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See the Team Motmot Crew - RC/ST Sister City Project.