Stephen started teaching birding as a way to share his enthusiasm for birds and as a vehicle to educate people about conservation. Conservation has always been a part of our birding “message”. Sound ecological systems require conservation of resources in our world of growing human population pressures. Conversely, the cascading degradation of unhealthy ecosystems eventually reaches all organisms in those systems, including humans. We like showcasing healthy ecosystems, but in order for these places to sustainably persist, we need to ensure they are conserved.
Conservation of bird habitats around the world is a gargantuan task. Our small company can only hope to have a small impact on the health of the global ecology. Below you will find descriptions of the conservation projects supported in part by Stephen Shunk of Paradise Birding.
One of the things that sets Paradise Birding apart from other birding tour companies is Steve’s knowledge and experience with woodpeckers, and woodpeckers are keystone organisms — critical ecological components — in forests and woodlands around the world. In 2015 we have begun developing a series of new tours focused on learning about and supporting conservation work on some of the world’s 20 species of threatened woodpeckers.
American Bird Conservancy
Stephen co-founded the East Cascades Bird Conservancy and served as its first President. The Conservancy evolved into the East Cascades Audubon Society chapter. Stephen donates to their annual fundraising auction and also led two Christmas bird counts in the region for many years for the National Audubon Society.
Our Caribbean scouting trip in November, 2014 was planned in association with, and was in part a benefit for Birds Caribbean a nonprofit membership organization working to conserve the birds of the Caribbean and their habitats through research, education, conservation action and capacity building. Founded in 1988, BirdsCaribbean is the largest single bird conservation organization in the Greater Caribbean region.
Institute for Bird Populations
Stephen worked for three field seasons monitoring Black-backed woodpecker populations in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California, as part of The Institute for Bird Populations’ Sierra Nevada Bird Observatory program, that also conducts field research on on a variety of threatened songbirds and owls.
The Institute for Bird Populations is dedicated to understanding the abundance, distribution, and ecology of birds, and facilitating scientifically informed conservation of birds and their habitats. They run seven major programs, the largest of which is MAPS (Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship), a bird banding effort at over 500 mist netting stations throughout North America. They also publish the peer reviewed journal Bird Populations and train future ornithologists through their many internship programs.
Oregon Birding Trails
Stephen co-founded the Oregon Birding Trails program and coordinated its flagship project, the Oregon Cascades Birding Trail (Download trail brochure). Today the program has completed five birding trail maps free to the public. Oregon has nearly 500 species of birds in spectacular landscapes ranging from sandy beaches to verdant forests, from desert playas to alpine meadows. Promotion of bird watching through these free resources not only educates the public about the diversity of Oregon birds but also contributes to the local economy.
Cavity Conservation Initiative
Steve has assisted the Cavity Conservation Initiative in educating citizens and land managers about the many values of tree snags to wildlife.Their goals include facilitating habitat conservation and restoration across the landscape, educating land owners and managers about the ecology of cavity-dwelling wildlife communities and engaging young people in the advocacy and conservation process.
Bonelli's Eagle Project
Sicily is home to the last Italian population of Bonelli's Eagle. Paradise Birding is a proud supporter of CABS, the Committee Against Bird Slaughter and their assistance with the Bonnelli's Eagle program on the Italian island of Sicily. The 2014 nest monitoring season came to a successful end in July; no eagle's nests were disturbed. At least 27 young birds have flown from the 54 known nests.
Learn more about CABS and their important work in protecting European birds from illegal hunting. Emptying the Skies is a movie that explores the problem of illegal bird hunting. Based on a magazine essay written by best-selling novelist Jonathan Franzen for The New Yorker, Emptying the Skies chronicles the rampant poaching of migratory songbirds in southern Europe. Songbird populations have been drastically declining in Europe for decades, and a number of species face extinction imminently. The film follows an intrepid squad of pan-European bird-lovers who risk their lives waging a secret war to save these endangered creatures.
Mono Lake Committee
The Mono Lake Committee is a non-profit citizens' group dedicated to protecting and restoring the Mono Basin ecosystem in the eastern Sierra Nevada mountain range of California. They work towards educating the public about Mono Lake and the impacts on the environment of excessive water use, and promoting cooperative solutions that protect Mono Lake and meet real water needs without transferring environmental problems to other areas.
Steve first got involved with the effort to save Mono Lake in 1990 when he participated in the Mono Lake Bike-a-Thon, a 350 mile bicycle ride to raise funds and awareness for the lake… and he’s been a “Monophile” ever since.
The Committee’s annual conference is known as the Mono Basin Bird Chautaqua, and Steve is a regular participant, speaker and bird walk leader for the event.
Italian League for Bird Protection
During Stephen's autumn 2014 trip to Italy, he realized a dream to visit the threatened Eleonora's Falcon in Sardinia. The species reproduces only on certain cliffs overlooking the sea islands in the Mediterranean Sea. Every summer, about 100 pairs arrive from Madagascar to nest on the cliffs of the tiny island of St. Peter off the sw coast of Sardinia. LIPU, the Italian League for Bird Protection has a long term nest monitoring and protection site there as well as tours and educational programs. Stephen donated funds in support of this project.
Learn more about Eleonora's Falcon .