I belong to several Rotary Fellowships, but recently discovered and joined the International Fellowship of Birdwatching Rotarians (IFBR).
I was visiting my daughter who was attending the Tring Park School of Performing Arts when, while birding on a canal boat in Cow Roast on the Grand Union Canal, I discovered the IFBR while doing a search for a local Rotary club meeting.
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Some of my best birding has been on the Marsworth Reservoir in Hertfordshire and adjacent canals.
I have been an IFBR member ever since and am now serving on the board.
I’ve birded or twitched around the world, but am now concentrating on a series called ‘Birding by Boat’ on the canals of the USA and elsewhere.
The Birdwatching Fellowship commenced in 1991 at the Mexico City convention, and the birding field trips started that same year.
Over the years, these trips have taken place the day immediately after the international convention.
The International Fellowship of Birdwatching Rotarians is a true representation of a passion that has, like the birds they study, no known borders or boundaries.”
With the aid of local leaders, such trips customarily locate about fifty local species. A lengthier trip occurred after the Singapore convention in 1999 and travelled through much of central Malaysia for seven days.
In May 2001, a 15-day trip was organised through Southern Africa, including Kruger National Park and much of Swaziland and Botswana.
Much of the transportation and accommodation in Africa was through the assistance of local Rotarians. IFBR newsletters are emailed to all members several times annually.
The fellowship currently has 77 active members in 15 countries who post on the Facebook page and participate in quarterly video presentations by IFBR members.
As birdwatchers who began the pastime with their myriad of woodland/ backyard birds, Steve and Susan Leonard were excited to find IFBR at their first RI Convention in 1997 in Glasgow.
They took their first trip with the group on the day after that convention. Ever since, they have enjoyed going on these “day after” trips and even planned two of them!
From nesting cliff-dwelling birds in Scotland to a bird banding demonstration in Sweden to waterfowl in New Orleans, USA, they have enjoyed the sightings, as well as getting to know fellow birders from all over the world.
This participation grew to serving as officers of the fellowship and helping IFBR to finance projects like a Vulture sanctuary in South Africa and production of a Spanish-language bird guide in the USA.
Current acting president, Julie West, has been a Rotarian since 1991 and enjoys meeting bird watchers from all over the world.
She explained: “I grew up seeing birds at our feeders and during hours spent outdoors. This casual interest continued into adulthood until the spring of 1988 when I was introduced to warblers.
“After that, birds became an integral part of my life. Vacations were planned around birding, and even family visits included some birding activities.
“Gradually I started leading bird walks, Citizen Science projects, and in 1996 started to learn how to band (ring) birds. In 2001 I started a spring and fall bird banding project at a local nature centre.”
Julie pointed out that the fellowship’s members include backyard/ casual bird watchers as well as those that do research or bird around the world. Another board member is Don Ripper, a member of the Rotary Club of Sale in Victoria, Australia.
He has been a Rotarian for the past 33 years and a keen bird observer. For 30 years, he has been a bird researcher and bander, as well as chair of the Rotamah Island Bird Observatory in the Gippsland Lakes in Victoria, Australia.
Rotary Fellowships unite members who share a passion. The International Fellowship of Birdwatching Rotarians is a true representation of a passion that has, like the birds they study, no known borders or boundaries.
While some members watch birds in their gardens and parks, others travel the world to add a species to their “life list”.
The IFBR motto is: “Until you spread your wings, you have no idea how high you can fly.”