Birdingpal.org was started year 2000 by Knud Rasmussen, a Canadian birder, who found himself alone in British Columbia, Canada with a day to spare for a little birdwatching.
Spending most of the time driving around trying to find good birding spots, he realized that if there had been an existing website, he could have contacted a local birder via the internet from his laptop. The day would not only have been more productive, but also a good chance to meet a new person with the same interests as himself. This gave him the seed of an idea for a birdwatching website.
Within a month, he launched Birdingpal, a global site for traveling birders.
Today, Birdingpal has more than 3200 contacts in 156 countries including all the US states and Canadian provinces, and provides an important source of information for the traveling birder.
Birdingpal is ideal for business/conference travelers, who like to take a day or two for their favorite hobby while in a new place, but who do not have the time to do extensive research before they leave.
Many birders are retired people, who like to travel, and Birdingpal is the perfect tool to assist them in planning a trip that gets the best out of birding and provides an opportunity to meet local people.
It is not unusual for birders, who have met each other on Birdingpal, to become good friends and even visit each other.
How does Birdingpal work?
Knud with help from Vince Murray my website Guru felt that the site had to be user friendly and easy to navigate, so a clickable world map on the front page prompts a birder to simply select a continent and then a country they are interested in traveling to.
A page then opens, listing local birders with their name, availability, location, languages spoken and a note about themselves and/or birding in their area.
A birder can then email one or more pals for information and ask about the possibility of a being taken out to the local hotspots.
Although Birdingpal is an English website, he soon discovered the multi-lingual abilities of the local Pals. Many are now listed with the languages they speak, and a short note about themselves and/or local birding.
He has also added Links to local clubs, nature parks hot lines etc. supplying additional information for traveling birders.
He later added links to birder-friendly lodging, and bird information, creating a one-stop website for traveling birders.
Local professional guides soon began to contact Knud, asking to be part of Birdingpal, and so he added a section for them, listing a resume and experience for each of them. A website devoted to promoting local professional guides around the world is now also part of the Birdingpal group.
For his next step, Knud thought of adding a blog for traveling birders, providing lots of information.
What is a Birdingpal?
Someone who signs up to be a Birdingpal is a local birder, who, regardless of his/her experience, is prepared to answer email inquires to the best of his/her ability, and possibly agree to show a visitor around.
Many Birdingpals are highly skilled birdwatchers with many years experience. Some are keen photographers, and others are heavily involved with habitat and wildlife protection. Many members have been Birdingpals for years.
A professional Pal will charge a fee, but whether or not to bird with a professional is, of course, entirely up to the person contacting them.
Birding with a local Pal, not only makes birdwatching more productive, but also safer, since they are familiar with their own customs and environment.
What is expected from a birder, who contacts a local Birdingpal?
Most Birdingpals are serious birdwatchers. It is a privilege to contact them, and any message should reflect it. A local Pal
does not get paid, but should he/she offer to take someone out birding and use their own vehicle, it would be courteous to pay for the fuel. A lunch and/or a small gift would also be appropriate, something as simple as a souvenir of your country, or a pin from your local birding club.
Birdingpal tours were designed for small groups of independent birders (2 to 4) and are available all year round.
For anyone who prefers guided tours, a professional Birdingpal guide can customize a tour, and assist in finding the desired birds.
Enjoy the safety of traveling with a knowledgeable local, who knows where and how to find the right habitat for all the wildlife.
Select the preferred date for a trip, and consult in the planning of it. The selected guide will be a travelling companion, who will ensure the experience consists of information about the local people, scenery, culture, history and food.
Enjoy the advantage of all the attention received in a small group, for the same price or perhaps even less, than that of a larger group.
If you do not mind joining a small group, check out the "Fixed Date Tours" where you get excellent value for money and you will bird places that only the local Pal knows about.
Boosting the local economy by hiring a local guide through Birdingpaltours also promotes the importance of protecting birds and their habitat in many countries around the world.
Remember not to miss the joys of birdwatching when traveling. If one or more travelling companions are non-birders; a local guide can be flexible, and will easily accommodate other needs too.
Birdingpal Blog (www.birdingpal.org/BBS/)
The birdingpal blog has four forums.
Birdingpal forum is dedicated to the birder who travels alone and/or in small groups and prefers to meet the local contacts.
Tell us about your experiences traveling, ask advice about your next trip or maybe just tell us about the great birding spots in your back yard and invite birders to visit your part of the world. Tell us about the great B&B or resort you stayed at and found friendly people and great birding. It does not have to be only about birdwatching but also about environment, nature, local culture, history and food etc. Birding Pros.
Birdingpal Pro-forum is dedicated to professional birding and nature guides. Here you can discuss your special services and upcoming trips. Answer questions from potential clients and tell us about the things that make traveling in your part of the world unique. If you, as a client, had a memorable trip with a guide, why nor tell us about it? Birding Lodgings.
Birdingpal Lodging-forum is dedicated to birder-friendly lodging. Here you can discuss why your establishment is the place for birders to stay. Tell us what you have to offer and about the birding hotspots near your place. Anyone is welcome, from the five star resorts, B&B's or a simple camp ground in the jungle; we would like to hear from you. Birdingpal Trips.
Post upcoming trips you are planning. Find one or two companions or a group for the trip. Tell us about your experiences with organized birding trips.