Michael Molina – Birding and Wildlife Professional Guide
I was born in Palestina Huila in 1998, my parents are Marco Antonio Molina and Melida Cruz Beltran, I have 2 sister Anyela Molina Cruz and Helina died when she was little, I was born in a small town and my parents work like at coffee farmers and then my older sister Heliana dies of leukemia my parent change theirs live of traditional farmers to sustainable farmers and change all our lives. My city is a very special place in between to the National Park Cueva de los Guacharos the first national park in Colombia and very famous place for naturalistic people, many people another country comes here since many years for enjoy the amazing forest and ecosystem that can find here.
Before 2000 this region was very dangerous because there were different guerrillas but after 2002 all change here and the first tourists came to visit the national park, my parent’s farm is in the way to the national park and my parent work in very hard and had beautiful gardens and coffee plantations and some tourists arrive at our house and they want stay with us and enjoy our farm, at the same time people the another towns comes here for learned about my parents and theirs sustainable work in the farm, I was 5 and my sister 3 years old and remembered that I had to accompany my parents in the trails and teach the visitors about the nature, gardens and plants.
My mother was very good teacher, she teaches me to read and write at 6 years old, we read books about the adventures and the nature and my father teaches me about the nature, the field, the animals and the plants, in my house we have a little forest and cross the Guarapas river every weekend we went to the river and had lunch on the shore and then my dad taught us to swim.
Through my parents’ work I can meet many people who traveled a lot and who loved the nature and I learned to love the nature, with my parents traveled to different forest areas around my town and went to the Guacharos National Park when I was 8 years and that experience it is one of the most beautiful memories that I have.
In the school I was a very good student, I started the school at 8 years old and finished its at 11 years old, in the secondary I was very good student and I Had the second place in the state test (ICFES) in my region, at the same time my family change our farm at ecotourism project and we have a small hotel and restaurant and tourists came who went to the national park, when I finish the secondary I help to my parents in the tourist project for 6 months and then I started my university career in Popayan city in 2014. I chose to study tourism to promote my parents project and I love travel, I learn many thing and I made my first trips backpacking in Colombia and south America at my parents farm is declared nature reserve because there are many important species of great value.
But in 2017, due to a strong economics problem and my parents’ health problems I have to drop the university and manage El Encanto Nature Reserve the banks were going to take away our reserve and the national park was closed and there were no tourists to visit us, and my little sister had a baby (Martin) they were very hard days.
I didn’t have money I had a sick team with many problems, I only had a very old smartphone and a little laptop, but I wanted to get an ahead and I started looking for solutions, some years before some people had come here to watch birds, there was a person named David who told me about bird watching tourism and made the first list of El Encanto birds and I decided to study more about bird watching and it seemed like an excellent business and a request to my money problems, almost every day I went to town to an internet cafe and looked for information on birding in Colombia and met Luis Ureña, Pablo Flores, Angela and Luisa and Diego Calderon for YouTube videos talking about the incredible power that we had to exploit but I needed to know a lot about bird of my region First I had some toy binoculars and then they lent me some 40×10 busnell binoculars and a Hilty and Brown field guide and I went out to explore my reserve I would take some photos with an old camera that a tourist gave us and I would upload the photos to facebook for us. people came to see birds in El Encanto (I remembered that the local people looked at me and told me that I was crazy), actually for me bird watching was silly but it was a promising business, but with the time, I learned more and more, and someday the Inga trees had many flower and I can watch a Indigo capped Hummingbird very shining and I fell love with the bird, all day I went for El Encanto trails looking for new birds for my and in 2018 I watched 200 deferments species in my farm there were very special birds Golden eared tanager and Huila bush-finch two iconic birds from my house with my post in facebook and Ebird some people came here for birds and some companies pay attention at our birding project, in 2018 came again David and both went to birding in El Encanto and the Mocoa area and he gives me hos field books and binoculars Eagle optics ranger ed 10×42 I was so happy I had real binoculars, I remember that I told him that he could see the soul of the birds.
But I did not have much knowledge and decided that the best way to improve the birders’ experience was to paint signs with birds on the roads they visited, since I did not have money, I had to learn to draw the birds and with a lot of practice I managed to do it. By 2019 many birders were visiting us and with the help of my parents and especially my sister we were able to take our farm away from the banks and we even bought a new nature reserve called “La Drymophila”, I learned a lot about birds and began to teach children of the region about birds.
I improved a lot as a bird painter and sold my designs, I also started guiding local bird watching tours for different companies and traveled a lot in southern Colombia looking for birds, in the same year Manakin Nature tours let’s bring birders to my reserves and I started worked with them and with them I can meet Stiven Hilty I was so happy I love his bible. During these years observing birds I have occupied the first positions in GBD in my region and our two natural reserves are very famous hotspot in the Huila department, we have re found species of birds lost for many years and the expansion of the distribution of very rare species for Colombia.
At present I study business and marketing, teach local kinds about birding and nature, manege El Encanto Nature Reserve and work with Manakin Nature Tours because they have the same mission to contribute to the growth and sustainable development of Colombia hand in hand with nature.