Crossing the tumultuous Strait of Magellan by ferry a few days ago, at the southern tip of South America, I thought of the great challenge it’s been to carry out the project of establishing the Bahía Lomas Center, which I was en route to visit. The Center was designed to be the platform for promoting and implementing actions involving science, education, and local development related to the conservation of the Bahía Lomas. This WHSRN Site of Hemispheric Importance is the most important wintering site in South America for the Red Knot, a highly imperiled shorebird species.
The wind was gusting at almost 100 km/h, and the ferry shook frantically against the waves on this gigantic stretch of sea connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Juggling a cup of coffee, I thought too about Dr. Larry Niles, the Red Knot scientist from Delaware Bay, New Jersey, in the United States. He had this bold idea of developing such an environmental education and research center in Tierra del Fuego, Patagonia, literally at the end of the world.
As I gazed across the water, I could see in my mind’s eye those old photos and maps from books about sailors who ventured to cross this Strait in ancient times, looking for new worlds. Eventually, my eyes began to focus on the land appearing ahead and I could see the silhouette of an impressive building—it was the Center. At that moment I realized that this was no fluke. This is the third such center to become a reality in Patagonia thanks to Manomet’s Shorebird Recovery Project and partners, not only those in this region but from everywhere else along the Red Knot’s hemispheric path.
The first center, Vuelo Latitud 40, is in the Rio Negro Province of Argentina, home of the San Antonio Bay WHSRN Site of International Importance. This magical space started with the vision of a few women scientists with a passion for shorebirds and education. The second center, located further south in the Province of Santa Cruz, is the Rio Gallegos Environmental Interpretation Center. It likewise started as a dream, by the shorebird scientists and educators involved in the Estuary of Rio Gallegos WHSRN Site of International Importance. Now, it’s Bahía Lomas’ turn.
When at last I reached tierra firme, that strong Patagonian wind pushed me across it until I was standing at the door of the new Bahia Lomas Center. In that moment, with my hand on the door, I thought of the great opportunity that the grand opening on April 20th will bring. I thought, too, of it being a symbol of conservation for Bahía Lomas and the challenges inherent in that over time.
For a moment, I sensed the sound of those flocks that move so acrobatically in the eternal twilight of Bahía Lomas each summer, and I thought about the dreams for conservation we hold –how they also can migrate, reproduce, and become realities.
– Diego Luna Quevedo, Southern Cone Program Coordinator, Shorebird Recovery Project