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        Birding in St.Lucia

5th Annual Vogelfestival (Dutch International Bird Watching Fair), AUGUST 23 – 24, 2008

Jo Ann MacKenzie, ITBA


For the first time, the International Taiwan Birding Association and Taiwan Sustainable Ecology Society represented Taiwan at the 2008 Vogelfestival (International Birdwatching Fair). The outdoor Fair is organized by the Dutch State Forestry, SOVON (Dutch Centre for Field Ornithology) and Vogelbescherming Nederland (BirdLife Netherlands).  The event is held at the nature reserve Oostvaardersplassen (Oostvaarders Wetlands) near Lelystad, Flevoland.  A varied program includes attractive items for nature-lovers.  There are displays of products by over 160 exhibitors, from birding equipment, clothing, books and bird art, to birding tours.  A Wetland Watch viewing station, equipped with telescopes and closed circuit television, looks out onto Keersluisplas (Keersluis Wetland) and provides visitors with views of Eurasian Spoonbills, ducks, cormorants and other birds.


In addition, there are lectures on international protection projects, birding ecotourism around the world, workshops on birding optics and digital photography, and guided walks into the reserve.  Tourism is one of the world’s fastest-growing industries, of which ecotourism forms a very large part. The Birdfair indirectly promotes birding ecotourism.   (Ecotourism: tourism involving travel to areas of natural or ecological interest for the purpose of observing wildlife and learning about the environment). Ecotourism can bring economic benefits to local communities as well as incentives to conserve wild places.


The ITBA/TSES stand was situated in the Woudaapweide (Little Bittern Grassland/Meadow) section of the fairgrounds.  There was an aerial agility course above a mini-marsh for adventurous youngsters and teens, and a nature-oriented bicycle obstacle course for younger children.  Short bird-themed dramatizations by Theatre Seur were enjoyed by all ages.  Occasionally, migrating Barnacle Geese passed overhead.  This year, the fair was attended by more than 9,000 visitors over the two days. 


The lively International Taiwan Birding Association and Taiwan Sustainable Ecology Society team of 15 people (14 from Taiwan; 1 from Canada) included a member of the National Assembly of Taiwan: Legislator Ms. Chiu-Chin Tien.


The ITBA/TSES stand at the Fair featured paintings of Taiwan birds by Dr. Robert Butler (Canada) and general information about birding in Taiwan, including the latest news about the extremely rare Chinese Crested Tern, Thalasseus bernsteini, which in the year 2000, was found nesting in very small numbers on Taiwan’s Matsu Archipelago.  (It is the rarest tern in the world, with perhaps as few as 100 individuals.)   There were free maps and brochures about Taiwan, games and prizes; stand visitors were also “tattooed” with Taiwan birds.  During these activities, we were able to tell visitors about beautiful Taiwan and the opportunities for birding.  Dutch birders travel abroad often and were quite interested in Taiwan, past and present.  Our stand was one of the most popular at the Fair and we were very busy!


The ITBA/TSES stand was judged 6th Best Stand by the Fair organizers.


It is interesting to note that in the 17th century, the Dutch established a trading house under the Dutch United East India Company in Zeelandia, later named Anping (now a district of present-day Tainan city) in southwestern Formosa (“Beautiful Island”), as Taiwan was known then.  Subsequently, the Dutch played a significant historical role in the development of early Taiwan.


(Special thanks to John Vooys, British Columbia Field Ornithologists, Canada, for help with Dutch translation.)