THE EVOLVING TROPICAL BIRDING ETHOS
Tropical Birding’s efforts with respect to bird conservation, promoting youth birding, and generating money for communities living near important birding sites are well documented. In most respects we have contributed more in the eight years of our existence than many of our competitors have in their three-decade histories.
Conservation objectives can be achieved in many different ways, land purchase, habitat management and making conservation viable for communities living adjacent to them. Our efforts with the Mindo Cloudforest Foundation in Ecuador, with communities adjacent to Korup National Park in Cameroon, and with the promotion and development of new ecotourism products and opportunities in the earthquake stricken Sichuan Province in China continue. However, there is another method to achieve conservation objectives, arguably in a much more powerful way: by simply getting people outdoors and enjoying birds and nature. It is a very simple equation: once people develop an interest in the hobby, they have a good chance to become passionate about it, and passionate birders are almost always strong supporters of conservation.
While it might sound arrogant that just one tour company can achieve anything in this way, we have used our High Island project in Texas to good effect. This is a joint project with the Houston Audubon Society that is doing an incredible job with land conservation issues on the Upper Texas Coast. In 2008 our information centre and 42-ft high bird observation tower attracted thousands of visitors. Many of these enjoyed the free guided outings, (operated in conjunction with the Houston Audubon Society), between late March and early May. Others just loved interacting with our good-natured and helpful guides, getting accurate site information, and chatting about everything from the status of nearby reserves to international birding opportunities. The enthusiasm from folks both novice and experienced was amazing and infectious, with many telling us that they would now be spending more time birding, or joining organizations such as The Nature Conservancy and the Houston Audubon Society to support local conservation initiatives and causes. Most vowed to return and we look forward to seeing them again.
In the fall of 2008 Hurricane Ike garnered much publicity and several important birding sites on the Upper Texas Coast were badly damaged. Fortunately, High Island emerged relatively unscathed, but many thousands of people have been left homeless by the devastation in the Galveston and Crystal Beach areas. Therefore, the communities, shops and people in this area desperately need all the help they can get, so please head down there this year and support these towns. We will still be there; our enthusiasm and support is unmoved (as was our tower), so we really hope to see you there in the future.
Based on the massive success of our High Island project in 2008 we will be offering a similar experience at Crane Creek, Ohio between 5 and 25 May 2009 in conjunction with the Black Swamp Bird Observatory, and we hope to generate the same levels of enthusiasm and inject the excitement of birding and appreciation of nature to another huge group of people.
By supporting education initiatives, youth programs, conservation projects, and direct land purchase, we believe that we can help protect habitat, save birds, and promote birding for future generations using real and successful projects. In this vein, we are working closely with Leica Sports Optic on these and other projects to help inspire future birders. It’s amazing what an eye-popping view of a familiar bird through crystal clear, top-notch optics can do to get people more excited and interested in what we think is the coolest of all hobbies.å