Society for the Conservation and Study of Caribbean Birds Conference a grand success on Grand Bahama

The BahamaIslandsInfo.com site reports on the recent meeting of the SCSCB. Follow the link below for additional photographs.

One hundred and sixty-two delegates representing thirty countries attended the recent 18th Regional Meeting of the SCSCB on Grand Bahama Island at the beautiful new conference centre at Pelican Bay Hotel, resulting in so many benefits for so many. It was the largest SCSCB meeting ever with the exception of the Cuba meeting of 2001. It was also the first offshore conference for the new state-of-the art Canal House at Pelican Bay and the staff went out of their way to make the delegates feel at home. Special praise is due to the culinary team of Isabel Allison at Canal House who prepared delicious meals from breakfast and coffee breaks to lunch for 150 conference participants over 6 days at the new restaurant on the fourth floor of the conference centre. They also worked their of magic to serve a gourmet meal to a capacity sit-down banquet crowd on the last day of the conference.

During the opening ceremony, Minister of the Environment, the Hon. Earl Deveaux, encouraged delegates to find ways to increase public awareness and influence planning decisions related to development that would ensure the preservation of natural habitats. He invited the scientists in the room to be more assertive in advising government. He stated that usually you get extreme views expressed by conservationists. But if you know, based on scientific research, that a decision you are likely to make, would have a negative impact on the environment, it would be healthier and more beneficial if you know in advance so you could make informed policy decisions.

Ms. Karen Seymor, Director of Tourism for Grand Bahama, welcomed the delegates and stated that Grand Bahama Island looks forward to expanding the already successful nature tourism product. She indicated that the Ministry of Tourism was delighted to host a conference of such calibre on Grand Bahama Island and that several of her staff members would be attending workshops and sessions in order to keep informed of new developments in the sustainable tourism sector.

The theme of the conference was “Connecting with Nature through Birds” and Dr. Lisa Sorensen of Boston University, President of the SCSCB, remarked: “I am particularly excited about our theme this year because it captures what we, who work in conservation, are realizing more than ever in recent years. Some of us who are here are scientists, some are natural resource managers, some are educators, some are birding guides. I think we are all motivated in our work because we find birds fascinating to observe and study. We are all working with the ultimate goal to conserve birds and their habitats that they need to survive … we need to engage more people in our efforts, partner with decision makers, politicians and businesses to find alternative solutions to the destruction of native habitats for development. We also have to encourage people to recognize and utilize the economic value of birds and their environment.”

The conference showcased a kaleidoscope of speakers such as Dr. Kelly Bricker of the University of Utah and chairperson of The International Ecotourism Society, who presented a workshop on Sustainable Tourism Business Development. John C. Robinson, Ornithologist and Environmental Consultant from Iowa State University, chose as his topic: Connecting our Youth to Nature. Dr. Pete Marra, Ornithologist at the Smithonian Institution’s Conservation Biology Institute spoke about his lessons learnt through the lens of a scientist, while Eric Carey, the Executive Director of the Bahamas National Trust (BNT) enlightened the audience about the unique partnership between the BNT and decision makers to achieve successful outcomes for the environment. Then there were the expert ornithologists and biologists conducting workshops on Kirtland’s Warbler Research, Cornell University’s e-bird Caribbean, Threatened Birds Working Group, Caribbean Flamingo Workshop, Birds and Media Workshop, Working with Decision Makers, Sustainable Bird and Nature Tourism Sessions and many more.

One of the highlights of the conference was a presentation and workshop by Ted Eubanks entitled “The SCSCB Caribbean Birding Trail (CBT).” Ted Eubanks has a BA in journalism from the University of Houston and has been promoting experiential tourism as a sustainable approach to community revitalization. He was instrumental in creating the Great Texas Birding Trail in 1990. Ted’s company, Fermata, has developed or provided guidance for additional trail projects in 17 states. He has been working with SCSCB for the past six years to develop an entirely new scale of birding trail in the Caribbean and the Bahamas.

The Caribbean Birding Trail will stretch over 2000 kms from the Bahamas to Trinidad that includes a stunning diversity of island nations, cultures, foods, arts, languages and birds. No one has attempted a birding trail anywhere near this grand scale – until now! The project will initially focus on inventorying sites, with interpretive materials, capacity building, public engagement and tourism marketing. Earlston McPhee, Director of Sustainable Development at the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism, has recognized the economic potential of this project and has committed to work with the SCSCB, the BNT and local tour operators to move the project forward in the Bahamas.

Jim Mallman and Carroll Henderson of “Watchable Wildlife Inc.” of Minnesota are experts in the field of producing manuals used around the world to protect wildlife and wild places while building economic bases to help support communities. They also conduct Wildlife and Nature Tourism Workshops to help community leaders better understand the process for developing nature based tourism programs. They presented their “Digital Photography Bridge to Nature Program” to a gathering of more than 40 local teachers and educators. Participants were taught how to capture the outdoor interest of children through “high-tech” digital photography. The photographs that children produce in outdoor settings are incorporated into science, geography, art, journalism etc. Carrol Henderson was approached by a representative of the Bahamas Ministry of Education and it was discussed that he might return to conduct future workshops in the Bahamas.

During the six day conference the delegates had the opportunity to experience the natural Grand Bahama on their “fieldtrip” day. More than a hundred delegates signed up for Birding and Nature Tours by kayak, jeep and buses. Fifty three persons had signed up for birding in the pineforest to observe one of the rarest birds in the world, the “Bahama Nuthatch,” which only occurs on Grand Bahama. The Nuthatches came out that morning and Jeff Gebracht of the Library of Sound at Cornell University was able to record their unique voices for the records.This was the largest accumulation of birders ever to watch a single bird species in the Bahamas! The group was also able to observe the Bahama Warbler which was recently recognized by the American Ornithologists Union (AOU) as a Bahamian endemic bird.

The trip included a visit to Peterson’ Cay where the delegates were able to admire the only Bridled Tern nesting colony with over 200 birds in the northern Bahamas. The group leaders who were succesful in finding the rare birds were Bruce Hallett, Woody Bracey, Larry Manfredi and Shamie Rolle. They were supported by guides from Grand Bahama Nature Tours who donated their time to host conference delegates on various tours for the day.

The SCSCB conference participants enjoyed dinner at the Garden of the Groves on Sunday night. The Garden was also the site of a silent auction, one of the very important fundraisers for the Society. The conference closed with a final banquet for the delegates where, after a week of hard work, everybody could relax and enjoy an evening of camaraderie and friendship. Awards were presented to deserving SCSCB members by the president and special appreciation went to the members of the Local Organising Committee, Predensa Moore, Chair, Lisa Wildgoose, Co-Chair, and members Rudy Sawyer, Rennamae Symonette, Erika Gates, Nakira Wilchcombe, Bruce Purdy, Rico Cargill, Shamie Rolle, Cecilia Bodie, Sharon Campbell, and Sarah Kirkby.

Dr. Lisa Sorensen presented Erika Gates of Garden of the Groves and Grand Bahama Nature Tours with the Lifetime Achievement Award from the SCSCB for her outstanding contribution to bird conservation on Grand Bahama Island.

For the original report go to http://www.bahamaislandsinfo.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=9569:society-for-the-conservation-and-study-of-caribbean-birds-scscb-conference-a-grand-success-on-grand-bahama&catid=33:News%20&%20Info%20about%20Grand%20Bahama&Itemid=146

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