Looking back, looking forward
With the end of the year comes a time to look back at how far we’ve come and look forward to where we want to go.
Thanks to your support, the Southeastern Arizona Bird Observatory has had a busy and exciting year. Hundreds of people took advantage of our River Walks, Owls Prowls, Whitewater Wetlands Walks, Sandhill Crane Watches, EOP walks, and Fiesta de las Aves field trips. Over a thousand people visited our weekly hummingbird banding sessions on the San Pedro River, and another 800 attended the 10th annual High Country Hummers event at the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s Sipe White Mountain Wildlife Area. We’ve also helped hundreds of people from as near as Bisbee and as far as Japan with answers to bird questions and advice for planning trips to southeastern Arizona. Our team of dedicated, enthusiastic, and knowledgeable volunteers has been the backbone of these programs.
One project that we’ve been working on during the “fall lull” is SABO’s new Web site, which just debuted this weekend. If you haven’t visited in a while, please drop in and take a look around. The completely remodeled site integrates content from both our original site and the separate membership and events site with some new features in a more attractive, flexible, and user-friendly format. The new site is compatible with both large-screen desktop monitors and those tiny mobile screens we all spend too much time staring at. You’ll now be able to use SABO’s online birding guide and other features on smartphones and tablets wherever you can access the Internet.
The most important changes are in the interactive parts of the Web site. Memberships, donations, and event registrations are now handled through MemberFindMe, a service that gives SABO a better value for our limited budget and you an easier and more attractive online experience. Secure online payments through MFM and Stripe (a Paypal alternative) allow you to complete membership renewals, donations, registrations, and hummingbird adoptions without ever leaving SABO’s Web site.
This year also saw the initiation of the Cochise Master Naturalist program. Thanks to funding from the Friends of the San Pedro River and Southwest Wings Birding Festival and classroom space provided by Cochise College, we have begun offering 11-week courses in the natural history of Cochise County and southeastern Arizona. The curriculum is geared toward developing a well-rounded pool of naturalist volunteers to assist public lands agencies and nonprofit organizations with education, monitoring, and restoration. We took our inspiration from Master Naturalist programs in 31 other states, including Texas and California, as well as the glorious but threatened natural diversity that makes southeastern Arizona such an exciting place to live, work, and visit. Twenty students graduated in the first class last spring, and 17 are now in the final weeks of the second class.
Though travel to birding events was limited by local commitments, Tom Wood represented SABO at the Southwest Wings Birding Festival in August, and Sheri Williamson attended the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival in November as a speaker and field trip leader.
There are many exciting plans in the works for 2015 as well, including:
We also intend to continue upgrading the new Web site with members-only content and features, additional photo galleries, and expanded information and features in the online birding guide. Finances permitting, we hope to hire the services of experts in the fast-changing field of Web design and functionality to help us make the site a first-class resource.
We couldn’t do all of this without your help, and we hope we can depend on your continued support in 2015 and beyond. The last few years have been difficult for many nonprofit organizations, and SABO is no exception. The end of 2014 finds our financial resources stretched very thin, but this is also a time when we know that we can reach out to you and ask for extra support to help keep your bird observatory working through the coming lean months.
Since today has been declared Giving Tuesday, your inbox is probably filled with appeals from worthy causes. We hope you’ll remember SABO in your year-end giving with a membership renewal or upgrade, donation, or hummingbird adoption for yourself or as a gift. As always, we thank you for sharing our vision of a brighter future for the birds and other wildlife of southeastern Arizona.
Tom Wood & Sheri Williamson, Directors