Making a difference…

22 07 2014
Part of the gang - Luke Tiller

Part of the gang – Luke Tiller

One of the things I look forward to very much every spring is the chance to go out with a group from a retirement community near to where I used to live in Wilton CT. In fact I enjoy it so much I even made the trek all the way down from Braddock Bay, New York just to make it happen this year.

The main reason I enjoy the walk is the group of great birders that join me for the day. Sun or showers (and in the last few years it always seems to be showers), I always get an enthusiastic group out to join me for the morning. The other reason is that they have such a great piece of property to explore. It’s mainly made up of a couple of ample meadows, some second growth woodland and a bunch of edge habitat that attracts some of the awesome species associated with that: Indigo Bunting, Eastern Towhee, Blue-winged and Prairie Warbler.

Bobolink - Luke Tiller

Bobolink – Luke Tiller

Over the years, as well as the regular residents we’ve tallied some other nice migrants and a few less expected breeding species like Hooded Warbler. More importantly, in a state with diminishing open country birds, ever since my first walk with the group, we have had tantalizing views of Bobolinks on site. The first year I excitedly said to the group that maybe they might be encouraged to stay on and breed, but the next time I visited the meadow had been mowed and the Bobolinks appeared to have been long gone.

Over the past four years or so the community’s birding group has gently cajoled the management and caretakers of the property into changing the mowing schedule and encouraged them to mow more selectively. This year it seems like everyone has been rewarded for their hard work. When I visited in late May there were Bobolinks all over the meadows and males and females darting about seemingly actively getting ready to nest or in the process of nesting there. It’s great to see even little successes like this won. Generally when it comes to conservation issues it’s pretty much all doom and gloom and without these little wins it’s often enough to make you want to throw your hands in the air. Part of the reason that I like raptors, beyond the obvious, is because we actually have some genuine conservation success stories to share when it comes to talking about Peregrine Falcons or Bald Eagles.

Bobolink - Luke Tiller

Bobolink – Luke Tiller

It also made me think about the import of encouraging people to get involved in birding and conservation whatever their age. It often feels like organizations fetishize encouraging younger birders. It seems like whatever line of business I have been involved with there has always been a panic about aging demographics and how to encourage participation of younger people and yet fifteen years on there still seems to be people going to the theater in good numbers, non-profits still find new supporters and young birders clubs seem to be going from strength to strength.

That’s not to say that we should be complacent about creating the next generation of birders and conservationists, it’s something I’m passionate about myself, but rather that maybe we should spread the love around a little bit. After all it’s mainly not the kids that are joining organizations, funding non-profits or making today’s important environmental decisions. In fact the way it looks right now, if we wait for them it may all be too late.

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