Conserve Birds this Global Big Day
Our resident bird watcher and wildlife photographer, Nina, captured this gorgeous shot of a Tree Swallow taking up residence in a birdhouse we built at Stonehurst. He’s just one of many birds we’ve spotted on the property.

On May 9, 2015, the team at The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is calling on bird lovers around the world to spend some time birding and then recording their findings in eBird–making it truly a “Global Big Day.” eBird is as global tool for birders, providing critical data for science. With eBird you can record the birds you see, keep track of your bird lists, explore dynamic maps and graphs, share your sightings,  join the eBird community and make a positive contribution to science and conservation.

What is a “Global Big Day”?

According to the American Birding Association, A Big Day Count is a single-team effort in which the primary objectives are (1) to identify as many bird species as possible during a single calendar day and (2) to strive to have all team members identify all species recorded.

What your support means:

Your support will help ensure that the Cornell Lab can continue to advance bird conservation, including:

• The eBird project and the scientific data it produces to make smart land management decisions that benefit birds in your region and across the world;

• On-the-ground research and conservation across the full life-cycle of birds as they cross hemispheres between nesting grounds and wintering habitats;

• Powerful opportunities that inspire people of all ages to learn about and protect birds, including the BirdSleuth K-12 curriculum in the U.S. and Latin America; live Bird Cams; webinars with experts; free Merlin Bird ID app, and a wealth of information on the All About Birds website.

A purple finch enjoys his lunch outside of the Marketing office.

Why you should help:

Pledge For Passion: By helping to protect birds, you’ll protect the natural places needed for the health of our planet, people, and wildlife.

Conservation: Your gift makes possible on-the-ground conservation programs to protect birds such as Cerulean Warblers, Golden-winged Warblers, and other long-distance migrants.

Research: You’ll enable the best research scientists to inform conservation management and policy to help birds and protect nature.

Motivation: Every cent you pledge motivates the top birders in the world to find every possible bird species in 24 hours to raise funds for conservation.

Education: Your support also funds conservation through education–such as conservation workshops for Latin American biologists and training for undergraduates, giving them the skills they need to make a difference.

Citizen Science: You’ll help engage the most active corps of conservation-minded citizen scientists in collecting millions of records needed to monitor and protect birds.

Web tools: The Lab reaches out to hundreds of thousands of people, promoting conservation though our All About Birds website, eBird citizen-science project, online NestCams, and much more.

Efficiency: The Cornell Lab of Ornithology receives only 1% of its funding from Cornell University. Friends and members make their work possible.

How to get started:

The first thing you should do is register for eBird, so on May 9th you will be all set to post your bird observations! Then you should clear out a time in your day on May 9th to get outside and get spotting! If you can’t get outside this Saturday, you can still help contribute to Global Big Day by making a donation to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology!

This blog is written by your friends at Vermont Woods Studios. Check out our Vermont made furniture and home decor online and visit our showroom and art gallery at Stonehurst, the newly restored 1800s farmhouse nestled in the foothills of the Green Mountains.

This post is one in a series about Vermont Woods Studios’ mission of rainforest conservation and our support of Bolivian environmentalists dedicated to reforestation and ecotourism in the AmazonPart 1Part 2Part 3Part 4.

Conservation through ecotourism. Monkeys everywhere in the Serere Reserve of the Bolivian Amazon Rainforest
A troop of about 50 of these yellow squirrel monkeys visited the Casa Grande at Serere on our second day there.  For such small primates, they sure made a lot of noise as they come crashing through the canopy, leaping great distances between branches. They’re amazing to watch.

Serere Reserve:  Most Bio Diverse Place on Earth

My son Riley was volunteering last month at the Serere Reserve, a rainforest conservation project in Bolivia’s Amazon Basin.  Serere is part of the Madidi Mosaic, the largest and most bio-diverse protected area in the world.  Kendall (my other son) and I joined Riley for a week and although our “mission” was to learn about rainforest conservation, I have to say the highlight of our trip was living with Serere’s monkeys.

Spider Monkey with Riley | Volunteering at Serere | Conservation through Ecotourism
The best part of volunteering at Serere?  I think Riley might say it was getting to know the orphaned monkeys, tapirs and capybaras. Serere functions as a sanctuary for rescued wildlife, some of whose mothers have been shot and eaten by illegal loggers.

Monkeys Everywhere

Globally half of all primates face imminent extinction, as they face threats from loggers, hunters and smugglers.  But Serere is different and here monkeys abound. That’s thanks to the efforts of owner/operator of Serere, legendary environmental activist Rosamaria Ruiz.  Clearly, humans aren’t the only ones who’ve noticed her painstaking work in restoring the natural flora and fauna to the reserve.  Monkeys are everywhere!  During our short stay, we saw 5 different species of monkeys in the wild.  We also had the privilege of getting to know the resident spider monkeys.  After losing family members to illegal loggers these monkeys have found a safe sanctuary at Serere.  The area is constantly patrolled to protect wildlife and habitat– an activity that volunteers and guests often participate in.  It’s part of a “conservation through ecotourism” strategy.

Diego caring for an orphaned spider monkey | Conservation through ecotourism
Diego is the hospitality manager at Serere but his duties occasionally include giving a little TLC to orphaned spider monkeys. I’m guessing he never had to do that at the Club Med resorts he’s managed!

Serere’s Monkey Species

Here’s a run down on the types of monkeys we saw at Serere along with a few fun facts I learned on LiveScience:

  • Yellow squirrel monkeys (Saimiri) mate for life. We watched them grooming each other, intertwining their tails, holding hands, cuddling, and kissing.
  • Spider monkeys (Ateles) are named for their long tails and lengthy spidery limbs. They’re amazingly agile and can quickly walk on two legs across a tree branch.
  • Red howler monkeys (Alouatta seniculus) When a troop of howler monkeys yell, they can be heard for up to three miles.  We woke up to their calls every morning. Great alarm clock!
  • Capuchin monkeys (Cebus) use tools. They can smash nuts with rocks, insert branches into crevices to capture ants for food, and use large branches to club snakes.
  • Nocturnal Owl Monkeys (Aotus) spend most of their time foraging and sleeping in the high canopy, above ten meters. They sleep in tree holes or thickets of dense foliage which may be shared with other nocturnal animals like bats.
Conservation through ecotourism at Madidi Travel in the Bolivian Amazon
Madidi Travel has posted many professional videos about their work with monkeys and rainforest conservation including several done in association with National Geographic magazine.

Voluntourism Helps Protect the Monkey Kingdom

Students, have you ever thought of taking a gap year to volunteer in conservation-related work?  Young professionals, maybe you’ve considered spending your vacation “voluntouring”? Families, are you looking to teach your children that they can change the world?  Teachers & guidance counselors, do you have students interested in primates or rainforest conservation? Researchers and primatologists, are you studying one of the monkeys listed above?

If so, consider supporting, visiting and/or volunteering at Madidi Travel’s Serere Reserve.  Here you’ll find a wonderful group of dedicated environmentalists using ecotourism to fund rainforest conservation.  Volunteer and guest programs are tailored to meet your needs and interests.  Check out the Madidi Travel website, follow Madidi on Facebook & Twitter and watch these videos about their work.  Then contact Rosamaria Ruiz to join the many scientists, artists, photographers and film makers from all over the world, who have volunteered their time and talent to conserve the wonders of the Serere rainforest reserve.

Rosa Maria Ruiz | Madidi Travel | Serere | Conservation through Ecotourism
Rosamaria Ruiz of Madidi Travel, owner and operator of the Serere rainforest reserve in the Bolivian Amazon basin.

This blog is written by your friends at Vermont Woods Studios. Check out our Vermont made furniture and home decor online and visit our showroom and art gallery at Stonehurst, the newly restored 1800s farmhouse nestled in the foothills of the Green Mountains.

April 22, 2015 is “Earth Day”, a time when many people stop and think about what they can do to make the world a better place. At Vermont Woods Studios, we believe that businesses have a responsibility to do this- not only on Earth Day, but every day. We believe in being real, active global citizens that work hard to make the world a better place. We believe in giving future generations (of both humans and animals) a better world to live in!

So this Earth Day, we’d love to share some of our current Earth efforts: 

1. Benefit Sale for VCE:


For one day only, we will be donating $25 from every sale to the Vermont Center for Eco Studies. This organization is dear to our hearts, and our mission, as they promote wildlife conservation across the Americas using the combined strength of scientific research and citizen engagement. We support them every year and are happy to do this special promotion for them!

2. Salamander Crossing:
For more than 10 years, Peggy has been going out on rainy April nights and helping salamanders and other amphibians get to the vernal pools where they congregate to breed. All of these amphibians are abundant in Vermont (if seldom seen)—but that will change in places where they must cross roads to reach their breeding pools!  Volunteers are needed to help these little critters get to where they are going safely, in order to conserve their populations.

3. Preparing our Garden Sanctuary:
For the second year in a row, we are preparing our butterfly and bee sanctuary garden. Earlier in the year we went out and planted milkweed for Monarchs, and now we are preparing a garden that will be a safe haven for bees, butterflies, and other critters! Dennis and Nina are hard at work today, tilling, cleaning, and prepping the area.

We hope that this Earth Day you will take some time to think about your own environmental impact and what you are doing to help protect animals and the planet. Even if your actions are small, they are important! What will you do for the Earth this year? Let us know in the comments section!

This blog is written by your friends at Vermont Woods Studios. Check out our Vermont made furniture and home decor online and visit our showroom and art gallery at Stonehurst, the newly restored 1800s farmhouse nestled in the foothills of the Green Mountains.

This post is one in a series about Vermont Woods Studios’ mission of rainforest conservation and our support of Bolivian environmentalists dedicated to reforestation and ecotourism in the AmazonPart 1Part 2Part 3Part 4.

Protectors of the Amazon | Madidi Travel | Eco Tourism at Serere
Our tour guide, Severo navigating the waters of the Beni River in the Bolivian Amazon.  Severo is one of a team of dedicated environmentalists who protect and defend the Serere Reserve against illegal loggers and other predators.  Rainforest conservation through eco tourism is their strategy & 100% of their profits go to conservation work and the local community.

Why Does the Amazon Need Protecting?

We talk a lot about rainforest conservation at Vermont Woods Studios and I’m sure many people wonder why we’re so fanatic about it.  Part of the reason for our forest conservation mission is is my love of animals and wildlife.  And part of it is that humanity is destroying a precious resource (that took billions of years to evolve) at a rate that surpasses any previous mass extinction. Consider that:

Forests have completely disappeared in 25 countries and another 29 countries have lost > 90% of their forest cover.

Madidi Travel: Protectors of the Amazon

We’ve written before about who’s responsible for destroying the rainforest.  Today I wanted to tell you about people who are dedicating their lives to conserving the rainforest.  Last week Kendall and I visited Riley, who was volunteering for them at Madidi Travel in the Serere Reserve in Bolivia.  Ecotourism supporting conservation is Madidi’s strategy.  They are a team led by the legendary environmental activist, Rosamaria Ruiz (featured in this National Geographic article).

Diego and M Tapir | Rescue Sanctuary at Serere | Maidid Travel
Diego manages many aspects of hospitality at the Serere Reserve.  I imagine this job is rather different from his previous experiences managing Club Med facilities!  Here he and Monsieur Tapir are having a moment.  Madidi Travel uses responsible ecotourism to fund rainforest conservation in the Bolivian Amazon.  The Serere Reserve functions as a sanctuary for rescued wildlife, many of whose mothers have been shot and eaten by illegal loggers.  Kendall, Riley and I had an amazing time getting to know the orphaned tapirs, monkeys, chonchos and capybaras.

After decades of conservation work in the Bolivian Amazon, which resulted in the creation of the Madidi National Park, Ms Ruiz purchased a 4000 hectacre reserve known as Serere.  The land was severely damaged by illegal logging and other unauthorized exploitations but Ms Ruiz and her team have brought it back to life.  It is now one of the most beautiful and biologically diverse places on the planet (as you can see in this Serere video).

Can Eco Tourism Help Save the Rainforest?

With much of the reforestation already in progress, the job of patrolling the rainforest and protecting it’s inhabitants now takes center stage at Serere.  That’s where the strategy of ecotourism comes in.  Guests can join local guides on daily hikes and canoe rides throughout the reserve.  Thus the land is patrolled while visitors enjoy the amazing biodiversity of life in the forest (we saw 5 different species of monkeys in one day).  Learn more about ecotourism supporting rainforest conservation on this Madidi Travel video.

Having lunch with Rosamaria Ruiz and Madidi Travel team members
Having lunch with Rosamaria Ruiz,  Madidi Travel team members and volunteers.  We were in Rurrenabaque, the launch point for Amazon rainforest ecotourism adventures.  Now is the time to go, if you’re thinking of visiting the Amazon.  The US dollar is currently very strong in Bolivia and the need for your support of ecotourism is urgent.



This blog is written by your friends at Vermont Woods Studios. Check out our Vermont made furniture and home decor online and visit our showroom and art gallery at Stonehurst, the newly restored 1800s farmhouse nestled in the foothills of the Green Mountains.


At Vermont Woods Studios, we believe that businesses have a responsibility to make the world a better place–not only on Earth day, but everyday. We realize that the planet is precious, and that both businesses and consumers have the power to protect it. The five companies we are highlighting in this blog are ones we believe do their best to protect our planet, both socially and environmentally. From organic and eco-friendly materials, to trade cycles that benefit indigenous populations, we are happy to support the unique missions of these Earth friendly companies:

1. Boll & Branch: Boll & Branch describes their products as “linens with a mission.” Their 300-thread-count sheets & cable knit throws are made exclusively from Global Organic Textile Standard-certified organic cotton, and made in fair-trade farms and factories in India. They ensure that the factory conditions are safe, and workers are paid a living wage. Boll & Branch uses only low impact, fiber reactive dyes that do not contain any known toxins or heavy metals. Their linens are beautiful, luxurious, and most importantly, eco-friendly!

2. Yellow Leaf Hammocks: Every Yellow Leaf Hammock is 100% handwoven by “hill-tribe artisans” in rural northern Thailand. The opportunity to weave hammocks and earn a good living wage is transformative for the weavers and their families, many of whom previously worked in back breaking slash and burn agriculture. Instead of going to school, many children would end up working in the fields alongside their parents, stuck in a cycle of poverty. Yellow Leaf Hammocks empowers these people through job creation– giving them the tools they need to escape poverty and join the middle class.

3. Badger: Badger is a small, family-owned company nestled on the banks of the Ashuelot River in rural Gilsum, New Hampshire. They blend organic plant extracts, oils, butters and beeswax to make eco-friendly healing balms, lip balms, mineral sunscreens, and other personal care products. Everything they make is healthy, and promoting environmental responsibility is one of their core principals. Plus, they use only USDA Certified Organic ingredients in their products!

4. Deans Beans: Deans Beans encourages you to look in your kitchen and ask yourself, “where do your beans come from?” They believe in a progressive trade system where social and environmental consciousness plays an integral part in every step of the cycle (from production and distribution, from the farmer to the consumer). They believe in building a better future through business and hope that other coffee companies follow their lead. They only purchase their beans from small farm cooperatives, largely made up of indigenous people working hard to maintain their culture and lifestyle. Dean, the company’s founder, has a long history of activism for indigenous rights, and it’s one of the reasons he started the company in the first place.  They believe that the quality of their coffee includes the quality of respect for the environment and for their southern partners in the coffee world.

5. Seventh Generation: Seventh Generation is a Burlington, Vermont based maker of environmentally friendly laundry detergent, trash bags, and diapers. They took their name from an Iroquiois law that says, “in our every deliberation we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations.” To make good on that pledge, Seventh Generation sells a line of products that includes biodegradable, vegetable-based cleaning products, chlorine-free tampons and paper towels and natural lotion baby wipes. They even have an employee bonus program that awards workers who figure out ways to make their products even more sustainable!

We hope that these companies have inspired you to take a look around your home and think about the products you bring into it. Where are they coming from? Who makes them? What are the consequences? Who am I supporting? These are all important things to consider when buying consciously and ethically. We invite you to join us in promoting some of your own favorite Earth friendly companies! You can leave a link and what you love about them in the comments section, or write to us on Facebook or on Twitter.

This blog is written by your friends at Vermont Woods Studios. Check out our Vermont made furniture and home decor online and visit our showroom and art gallery at Stonehurst, the newly restored 1800s farmhouse nestled in the foothills of the Green Mountains.