If the question is why,

the answer is fun.  

By Kathy Morrell 

Distinguished members of the YFBTA - Robert and Sheila Lavender who now reside in Saskatoon.    (Photo by Rob Wilson)

 “Now, why did you do this – join yet another organization?” I berated myself.  “Yah, so you think you’re an environmentalist or some such, but a birder – give me break”

And then my mind did a flip-flop.  “Well, yes, but I can learn something about the birds.  I can meet all those folks from the Yellowhead Flyway Birding Trail Association – those I count as friends already, and those who are friends in the making.  It adds another dimension to my life.”

 “Hmm,” I thought.  “Anyway I’m in and committed to writing.  Maybe this venture won’t last too long…”

And then I met the Lavenders – Sheila and Rob, founding and enthusiastic members of the YFBTA.

“Walter – Walter Farquharson that is – invited a speaker from Chaplin Lake to come and talk to us in,” Rob commented.  “That was really the start.”

Farquharson reported that Ken Kessler had come to Saltcoats in January or February of 2003.  Kessler , a coordinator with the Saskatchewan Birding Trail Association, was involved in the organization of a birding trail association in the Chaplin/Quill Lakes area.  He came at Farquharson’s invitation to look at the formation of a similar organization along the Yellowhead.

 “Birding,” said Yorkton’s mayor Phil de Vos at the Third Annual General Meeting of the Association held recently, “is one of the most popular outdoor activities in the world.” As a result of this appreciation, SaskTourism has supported the new birding association hoping to “cash in” on tourism dollars, expecting that stores, restaurants, hotels and bed and breakfasts would benefit from the increased traffic flow.

“Twelve or fifteen people came to that first meeting,” Sheila reported, “including Kim Wondrasek of the Yellowhead REDA located in Esterhazy.  Clearly, there seemed to be enough interest to continue.”

“Wondrasek was a big help,” Rob continued.  “She directed us as to how do things, how to form a non-profit corporation.

“The highlight was our first annual meeting held in Langenburg,” Sheila said.  “We realized we worked together well.  There was and is an unwritten respect.  Everyone does what he can.  There is laughter and teasing and fun.”

Association includes the communities of Yorkton, Saltcoats, Langenburg, Esterhazy, Spy Hill, and Good Spirit Lake.

The YFBTA extends from the Manitoba border west to #9 Highway.  It is bordered on the south by the Qu-Appelle Valley and on the north somewhere along #10 Highway. The area tends to be somewhat elastic.

“In the fall of 2004, we hosted Nature Saskatchewan,” Rob added.  “We took a big breath and we did it.”

And yes, they did it.  A new retiree from the teaching profession, I attended parts of the weekend event.  It was fun and for a complete non-birder a real eye opener.

It was wonderful to see the enthusiasm, the commitment.

I remember waiting beside a fifteen passenger van as seventeen or eighteen people waited to climb aboard.  I remember when Walter Farquharson came along and said three or four people would have to travel in a car because there were simply too many for the vehicle.  What a wonderful problem to have!  I remember sitting in the back seat as two birders in the front entered into a very considered discussion as to whether the bird on the telephone pole was a Swainson’s Hawk or a juvenile red-tailed hawk.  Me – well, I saw a bird.  Next time, though, I would definitely see a hawk.

“The highlight this year,” Sheila said, “was the increase in membership. We now have eighty individual memberships and seven corporate sponsors.”  A very modest statement from the chair of the membership committee.

“To start with we gathered together representatives of the seven trails that already existed in the area,” Rob explained.  “Then we had to see that each trail had a pamphlet showing its location and a map of the trail itself.”

“Then, we needed to improve the trails and provide signage,” Sheila continued.  Discussion at the last meeting proved this is an on-going venture.

“We built one viewing stand along the Leflay Trail in Saltcoats,” Rob said.  “Money came from Nature Saskatchewan.”

“At the last few meetings, the Association has branched into other initiatives,” explained Sheila.  “Rob Wilson has started a loon/grebe study at Madge Lake.”

“He and Lauretta McInnes have started a youth group at the Yorkton Regional High School,” Sheila added.  “We want to reach out to children and young adults.”

Rob Lavender, an avid birder, grew up in Nova Scotia where he learned to love the outdoors and nature.  Rob is a wood carver widely known for detailed depictions of birds.  Sheila claims her enthusiasm comes from Rob.  Rob and Sheila Lavender share their commitment to nature and the YFBTA.

I’ve learned to appreciate the commitment I feel from the members of the Yellowhead Flyway Birding Trail Association.  I smile at the enthusiasm of Rob and Sheila Lavender.  The YFBTA is about the birds, but it’s about the fun, too.  Information about membership in the YFBRA  is available on our website http://www.yfbta.com/   Come join in the commitment, the enthusiasm and fun.”


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