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by Laurel Zoff Pelton •

Flowing Funds to Reforestation: Earth Month | For the Birds

Happy Arbor Day and Earth Month! We think it’s no coincidence that Earth Month is April, when the world springs back to life. Just as we celebrate our planet, so do the birds with their joyous song. The sun comes earlier and earlier, and the birds greet us with the dawn and our morning cups. At Tiny Footprint Coffee, when you drink our coffee, we plant trees that help protect the birds of the cloud forests of the Mindo region, singing their own songs in Ecuador. To celebrate this Arbor Day, spring, and the closing of Earth Month, we’d like to share more with you about these specific birds, their journeys, and just how much good you help accomplish in protecting them with every sip.  If you’ve been following our blog series, Flowing Funds to Reforestation, you know that Tiny Footprint Coffee is partnered with the Mindo Cloudforest Foundation, and plants trees to rebuild cloud forest in one of the wettest most bio-diverse spots on the planet, northwest Ecuador’s Choco bioregion. This region includes four Birdlife International Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBA). That means in addition to sequestering massive amounts of carbon from the air, adding to river health and resiliency, and creating jobs that are in harmony with the environment, these forests create habitats for native bird species. One of these birds is the Crimson-bellied Woodpecker (Campephilus haematogaster), similar in form but a bit smaller than our Pileated Woodpecker only dipped in blood.    Crimson-bellied Woodpecker (Campephilus haematogaster) | Photo Credit: Andres Vasquez Noboa   One global heating truism is that as things get warmer, species move towards the poles and higher altitudes in the mountains to remain in their respective niches. While we’ve seen some anecdotal displacements of bird species over the last decade, last year we were worried that we’d been hit by a particularly painful case: The lovely, amazing and unique Club-winged Manakin (Machaeropterus deliciosus) wasn’t lekking at our Milpe Bird Sanctuary anymore! Club-winged Manakin | Photo Credit: Mindo Cloudforest Foundation | TI Thankfully, this proved to be a temporary anomaly.  Pre-2021, the best place to see this marvel was right here, our reserve and now they’ve finally returned. Now we’re back to hearing its trademark sound as it rubs its wings like a cricket to make the only pure-tone sound known from a vertebrate (1,500 hertz). If you’d like to learn more about these treasures of the forest, NHK, Japan’s state television, made a wonderful documentary on these birds back in 2013. They are world famous!  This past year the Mindo Cloudforest Foundation was also witness to another species movement. Pre-pandemic the Dusky-faced Tanager (Mitrospingus cassinii) was only found at lower-elevations, like at their Río Silanche Bird Sanctuary, an hour further on towards the coast and nearly 700 meters lower. But here they are in Milpe! This bird is also highly sought by the birding crowd, it’s a Chocó Bioregion endemic and all, but… They’re not subtle at all. They’re loud and travel in groups like Kiwanis Club conventioneers. When they are nearby you know it with all their chattering and obnoxious behavior. Still, a welcome addition to the list of birds protected by your morning Tiny Footprint Coffee. (Dusky-faced Tanager | Photo Credit: Galo Real) So how do we make sure that our coffee is bird friendly? According to Brian Krohnke, co-founder of the Mindo Cloudforest Foundation (and brother to our owner, Alan Krohnke), there are many ways to make sure your coffee is bird friendly. Perhaps the biggest is to purchase mindfully and find products like Tiny Footprint Coffee, who specifically work to plant trees that recreate native forest.  Even the shadiest coffee farms are really agro-forests that - while leagues better than deforested sun-coffee plantations - are sub-optimal habitat in comparison to native forest. That is why we seek and source from growers that go further, who grow shade trees for their coffee and maintain forest reserves or bio-corridors on their our friend Selin Recinos, proprietor of Finca Guadalupe in Honduras: In addition to this, consciously seeking full sustainability in your coffee’s journey to your cup is a way to ensure a bird friendly coffee experience. Organic and Organic Fair Trade coffees come from farms and cooperatives that are holistically impacting the environment, supporting the lives of the people and wildlife who share it.  Happy Earth Month, Arbor Day, and spring! When we look at nature, while there is much work to be done, we find there is so much to celebrate. Here’s to doing our best to protect the birds we love, while we listen to their songs and enjoy our morning sips.   Written by: Laurel Zoff Pelton with contributions from Brian Krohnke of the Mindo Cloudforest Foundation