Dear Members and Friends of BirdsCaribbean,
What a start to the year! I am excited and honored to be serving you as President of BirdsCaribbean as 2017 gets under way. It is a wonderful opportunity to work with so many passionate and experienced conservationists in the region and beyond. I hope you will support our organization’s efforts to protect the Caribbean’s amazing birds and their habitats.
Let me tell you a little about myself, and my passion for the islands’ birds. My relationship with BirdsCaribbean began in 2002, when I attended the international meeting in Cuba. As my interest grew, I wrote a Birdwatching Guide to Bermuda in that same year. From 2005 – 2008, I served as President of the Society for the Conservation and Study of Caribbean Birds, which is now BirdsCaribbean. I have served on the executive of the Bermuda Audubon Society since 1990 – including many terms as President – and published the Society’s newsletter for a number of years. I have been a regional editor for the journal North American Birds since 1995. In Bermuda, where I live, I have enjoyed coordinating BirdsCaribbean’s outreach programs, such as the Caribbean Endemic Bird Festival and International Migratory Bird Day
My love of birds began as a small boy in England. My parents maintained nest boxes in the garden. We didn’t own a car, so weekends were spent on local family walks, which led to a growing appreciation for nature. When I landed my first job, I bought some binoculars; and when I went off to university I was fortunate to meet a birding mentor. Similarly, since I arrived in Bermuda, Dr. David Wingate has been a great inspiration. While I have had a lifetime career as a high school teacher, I have also immersed myself in the world of birds. I am continually fascinated by the variety of bird species in the Caribbean. I especially enjoy getting out in the field, running birdwatching courses and leading field trips – including an annual bird camp. And like many of you, bird photography is something I love to do.
The Caribbean is a biodiversity hotspot, with an impressive 172 endemic species found in the region. It is home to more than 560 bird species. The region is also a vital seasonal home for over 180 migratory species that winter in the region or pass through on migration. However, there are so many threats to our birdlife, such as habitat loss, invasive species, hunting, the pet trade and the effects of climate change.
BirdsCaribbean is leading efforts to reduce these major challenges through a series of innovative programs and projects. Through our new BirdSleuth Caribbean program we are training teachers in the Caribbean to get young people involved in exploring the natural world and in building their science skills. The Caribbean Waterbird Census Program was set up to study, monitor and conserve these birds and the habitats they need to survive. The Caribbean Birding Trail is an exciting initiative that aims to promote birdwatching as a tool to facilitate the conservation of the birds and habitats endemic to the Caribbean, one of the most biodiverse regions of the planet. By promoting birding, showcasing the best birding sites, and training and equipping guides, the program creates jobs and other incentives to preserve habitats.
We appreciate your support for our important programs in raising awareness of and halting threats to birds; and we need your continued help to build the capacity of local organizations to tackle these problems. These local organizations are BirdsCaribbean’s lifeblood: they advocate on behalf of birds, and boost Caribbean citizens’ avian knowledge as we seek to advance science and conservation. If we are going to look after our special Caribbean birds, we need to continue to foster an appreciation for the natural environment and the need to protect bird habitat. Above all, we need to get young people on board – not only interested, but also actively involved in the organization, to ensure a future generation of conservationists.
So how about a New Year’s resolution to take some young people birding? I was thrilled when both of my daughters asked for binoculars as birthday presents without my prompting. They now record their sightings in eBird Caribbean. When they were home from university at Christmas, they once again insisted on helping me with the annual Christmas Bird Count. We discovered the first record of a Common Eider in Bermuda – how cool was that! Special moments like that can inspire a lifetime interest in birds.
I look forward to working with you all to save our region’s magnificent birds and their habitats.
p.s. With your support, together we can build a future where the Caribbean’s unique natural heritage can flourish and form the basis for a future rooted in sustainable relationships between people and the environment. I encourage you to become a member of BirdsCaribbean today. If you are already a member, please consider donating your time, efforts and financial gifts to our cause, contact us about volunteer opportunities, come to one of our meetings or training sessions, go on one of our trips, participate in one of our programs, and encourage others to join in our efforts. I promise you will find it one of the most rewarding experiences in your life.