Bird watchers to meet in Grand Bahama in July

More than 150 people from 30 countries will visit Grand Bahama in July to participate in the Society for the Conservation and Study of Caribbean Birds’ (SCSCB) 18th regional meeting, K. Nancoo-Russell reports.

According to a press release issued by the Bahamas National Trust, which is collaborating with the SCSCB to host the meeting, it will take place between July 21-25 at the Pelican Bay Hotel under the theme “Connecting with Nature through Birds.”

Delegates are expected to include natural resource managers, educators and scientists from all the Caribbean islands and other regions who all have an interest in Caribbean birds or migratory birds who winter in the Caribbean and their conservation.

There are reportedly more than 560 species of birds in the Caribbean region and about 72 percent of the approximately 208 resident island birds are found only in this region.

Hundreds of migratory bird species also spend winters in the forests and wetlands of the region, or use them as a refueling stop on the way to Latin America.

President of the SCSCB Dr. Lisa Sorenson notes that a better job must be done in educating the public about the value of these birds in order to ensure their conservation.

“Not enough people know about or appreciate them, and as a result, many species are threatened with extinction—victims of habitat loss, predation by introduced species like raccoons, rats, feral cats and dogs or unregulated hunting,” said Sorenson.

During this year’s conference, there will be presentations and workshops by internationally renowned experts in bird education and sustainable bird and nature tourism.

“These experts will share diverse strategies for engaging a larger and more diverse constituency more effectively by inspiring interest in nature and encouraging people to recognize and utilize the economic values of birds and habitats,” states the press release.

One of the keynote speakers is John Robinson, an ornithologist, environmental consultant and advocate for minorities in birdwatching and nature. He will share his work over the last 12 years on how to connect our youth and young adults to nature through the magic of bird watching. John Robinson is President of On My Mountain, Inc. “Your World of Birding and Nature” and author of Birding for Everyone, Encouraging People of Color to Become Birdwatchers.

Eric Carey, Executive Director of the Bahamas National Trust, which is partnering in hosting the conference, has expressed excitement about the upcoming conference, which he said would “provide a powerful interchange about habitat conservation, environmental education, and sustainable bird and nature tourism.”

Other topics that will be addressed during the conference sessions include building greater cultural value in birds, birding, nature and conservation, including citizen science, outreach, education and awareness initiatives. A new program to engage youth “Digital Photography Bridge to Nature,” is one of several featured workshops.

Birding and nature tourism will also be discussed, with presentations including successful case studies and best practices for entrepreneurs seeking to break into the industry. There will be a special workshop on ecotourism given by The International Ecotourism Society and a workshop to develop the “Caribbean Birding Trail.”

Carey, Minister of the Environment Earl Deveaux and lawyer-conservationist Pericles Maillis, will be among those giving presentations and participating in a panel discussion.

Priority regional conservation challenges, including climate change, species extinction, and habitat restoration, is another area that will be explored.

During the conference, participants will take a one-day break when they will go sightseeing and have the opportunity to see the island’s birds, local ecosystems, national parks and gardens.

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