Birds’ Views

Rebecca Field and her husband Ben discovered Saint-Barthelemy in 1990 and have been returning for a two-to-three-week winter vacation each February/March for 20 years. While they have always enjoyed the welcoming French ambiance, fine dining, and shopping, the opportunities for which are abundant, the main attraction for them has always been the natural environment - the flora and fauna - and the wonderful climate.

They live in the United States in Minnesota where winters are snowy, cold, and long, and coming to St. Barth where they rent a villa on the Saint Jean hillside is their idea of paradise. Having traveled to many of the Caribbean islands in the past, they have found none that compare with St. Barth.

After retiring from her 13-year career as a legal assistant which entailed legal research, drafting legal documents, and interviewing clients, in a small office with no windows on the 42nd floor of a downtown skyscraper in Minneapolis, Rebecca was thrilled to rediscover nature from which she had long been deprived. She took up gardening, bird-watching, and horseback riding, training in dressage, cross-country, and stadium jumping. After seven years of serious riding she was forced to quit because of spinal arthritis. While having to give up riding was very traumatic, it turned out to have been a "blessing in disguise." She quickly discovered digital photography and she and Ben have traveled far and wide to discover new places with various ecosystems where she could enjoy her nature and wildlife photography.

Their travels have taken them not only to Saint Barth, but also to England, Italy, France, Argentina, Chile, and a number of African countries including South-Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Tanzania, Namibia, and Zambia. They are accompanied on their safaris by their dear friend Jamie Thom from Johannesburg, a photography guide who has twice won the most prestigious "Wildlife Photographer of the Year" award sponsored by BBC and Shell Oil. Jamie continues to teach Rebecca the technical aspects of photography, both "in the bush" and via email.

Rebecca's nature photography has been widely published in books and magazines, she has exhibited her work both in Minnesota and Saint-Barth, and she has won several awards. Her images of birds photographed in St. Bart's (in the Saint Jean mangrove, at Petit Cul-de-Sac, in the Gustavia Harbour and islets just outside the harbor, and around the island) can be viewed on her website She is currently a member of the board of directors of Audubon Minnesota which is a member of the National Audubon Society, widely known and praised for work they do in the area of bird conservation. Audubon Minnesota publishes a variety of publications that feature news on its efforts to conserve and restore the natural ecosystems that are most critical to Minesota's 60"at-risk" native bird species. Rebecca's bird photography is used in their many publications. She does not "sell" her works but "gifts" images to people in exchange for their charitable tax donation to Audubon Minnesota.

The mission of the National Audubon Society is to conserve and restore natural ecosystems focusing on birds, other wildlife, and their habitats for the benefit of humanity and the Earth's biological diversity. It has a large network of volunteers and activists, a dedicated staff, and a highly respected name. The organization's higher calling is to create a culture of conservation and an environmental ethic. By inspiring individual and collective action, Audubon strives to make unsustainable exploitation of the natural world socially, politically and morally unacceptable. Engaging people in protecting birds and other wildlife is therefore the essential corollary of Audubon's mission.

After returning annually for 20 years, Rebecca is becoming increasingly concerned about the state of the environment of Saint-Barthelemy. She is hopeful that the year-round residents, with the help of frequent visitors, will focus on organization and activity to help preserve this gem of an island and its residents, whether avian, floral, reptile, animal or human. We are all interrelated and part of the incredible diversity of species on this earth.

Rebecca feels very strongly that if ever there was a time for a culture of conservation, that time is NOW. When she was young her parents instilled in her the ethic of "From those to whom much is given, much is expected" and it is her greatest desire that her work will help inspire more people to notice nature, to appreciate it, and to recognize the importance of conserving it. There is no greater indicator of the health of our planet than the birds and wildlife, water quality, and flora, and if we do not pay attention to it and preserve and enhance it, we humans will suffer greatly.

Source: Tropical Magazine n°189, season 2009-2010, page 61.

Photos: Rebecca Field, Jean-Jacques Rigaud.

Texte: Henri Masson.

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