Bird Conservation Through Education TM

October 1, 2014 

In This Issue
Retiring Boomers
Connections in Rio Grande
Bird Study & Diversity
Billions to None
Thanks to our BEN Bulletin sponsors:
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The Bird Education Network (BEN) was created following the February 2007 National Gathering, hosted by the Council for Environmental Education (CEE). BEN is a CEE initiative that seeks to connect and support a community of bird education professionals.


Over 4,000 individuals representing 300 organizations receive communications and engage in professional dialogue through the BEN-run Bird Education Listserv. 


A BEN Committee has been established to provide advice and guidance for this important initiative, to advance "bird conservation through education."

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Another Look at the Retiring Boomers

 by Dave Magpiong


Photo Credit: Dave Magpiong

The youngest of baby boomers are turning 50 this year, a point that the media seem to be emphasizing today. These boomers are, perhaps, dealing with the issue of being empty-nesters, wondering "what next" to do, now that the kids are on their own.


In the October 2013 BEN Bulletin, Paul Baicich wrote about birding with boomers, outlining several reasons why this huge demographic is ripe for the attention of bird educators. It's also important to understand that bird study can be a very beneficial activity for this generation, especially the older portion born between 1946 and 1952, as they retire or consider leaving the world of work behind.


Retirement is a major life change and one which can potentially trigger anxiety and stress. According to, "work creates self-worth, physical and mental exercise, friendship, and sense of belonging." Leaving all of that behind often leaves people seeking more. Curiously enough, bird watching is a great way to build self-worth, get physical and mental exercise, build friendships, and discover a sense of belonging.  Therefore, birding is the perfect antidote to any threat of retirement blues!


At first, the challenges of bird identification seem insurmountable but it doesn't take long to tell terns from gulls, swallows from swifts, and vultures from hawks. With a good field guide and time in the field, one's identification skills will grow by leaps and bounds. Think back to your early bird-watching days, and you will likely remember that feeling of accomplishment as your identified new species on your own. Building self-worth? Check!


As people get pulled into birding, they find themselves walking local parks, trudging across beaches, and hiking trails more often in search of their feathered quarry - and getting lots of fresh air and aerobic activity in the process.  Once they find a bird to observe, their mind gets to work. Size and shape? Behavior? Patterns of color? Location? Date? Habitat?  Each of these mental questions and observable answers flips through potential species like a virtual old-style Rolodex until only a few possible birds are left. Physical and mental exercise? Check!


It doesn't take long to bump into other birders in the field or, these days, online. The shared interest in birds is a terrific social lubricant. "Did you see the Mourning Warbler? Oh, well let's see if we can find it again!" The quest to find "good birds" and, for many, to share those birds lays the foundation for birding friendships.  When that behavior translates to joining a bird club or a birding listserv or facebook page, people are often either encouraged to see their sightings appreciated by others or value the opportunity to learn from more experienced birders. Friendship? Sense of belonging? Check and check!


These are just a few of the many reasons why bird study for boomers is a worthy mission. Other major reasons include reconnecting with previously acquired outdoor experiences and environmental concerns that were an important part of this generation's early education.


Bird watching can be a life-changing experience for people of all ages. I will go out on a limb to say that discovering the new-to-them pastime of birding can be the single best investment of recently freed up time for those entering their valuable retirement years.

Making Connections in the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas

by Gisela Chapa             

Green Jay 

Photo credit: USFWS, Marvin DeJoung



Restoring 24 acres of school property at three elementary schools in the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas will be the focus of a new and creative effort to connect teachers, students, and communities with native south-Texas wildlife and habitat.


The Pharr-San Juan-Alamo Independent School District (PSJA ISD) has partnered with the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge to create schoolyard habitats at these three schools: Dr. William Long Elementary, Alfred Sorensen Elementary, and Jack McKeever Elementary.


The goal is to reconnect the community with nature by creating green spaces within easy reach. Since over 95% of native habitat in the Lower Rio Grande Valley has disappeared, every acre of native habitat restored really counts. The three schoolyards will become important sites for pollinators, migrant bird species, and resident South Texas bird specialties. Most importantly, it should set the stage for experiential learning for teachers, students, parents, and others - learning that goes beyond the confines of a classroom and out into nature.  This project will allow students to connect to the land while learning about science, math, reading, and even art!


Additionally, the should project provide training on environmental education and outdoor learning to at least 45 area teachers; it should create hands-on learning opportunities for almost 2,000 Kindergarten through 5th-grade students; and involve as many as 400 community members in habitat restoration, maintenance of schoolyards, and workshop training.


The project is supported by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services' Urban Refuge Partnership Program.


This is expected to be a two-year effort, and South Texas bird "specialties" will be front and center.


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Gisela Chapa is the refuge manager for Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge.

Thinking about Bird Study and our own Diversity 

There was a recent piece on the National Geographic News website on appreciating birds and on the presence of communities of diversity. The title captured the core message: "Colorful World of Birding Has Conspicuous Lack of People of Color."

The author, Martha Hamilton, did a good job to summarize issues of concern that have drawn the attention of many readers of the BEN Bulletin. The effort continues to make those who study and appreciate of birds look like the rest of America and to have that effort be a gateway to meaningful conservation.

You can access the National Geographic News article here.


From Billions to None: The Passenger Pigeon

From Billions to None: The Passenger Pigeon's Flight to Extinction reveals the compelling story of the unlikely extinction of the passenger pigeon.

This award-winning film follows naturalist and author Joel Greenberg, author of A Feathered River Across the Sky: The Passenger Pigeon's Flight to Extinction, scientists, artists and teachers who are drawn to this literal teachable moment, and its striking relevance to conservation challenges today. 

From Billions to None has been shown on Public Broadcasting Stations in August and September and will be shown during the upcoming American Conservation Film Festival in Shepherdstown, WV, Oct 30 - Nov. 2nd. DVDs are also available by visiting their website. 

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