Bird Conservation Through Education TM

February 3, 2015 

In This Issue
Pledge to Fledge & GBBC
Bird Feeding as Transitional Experience
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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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Pledge to Fledge with the Great Backyard Bird Count

by Dave Magpiong

What are you doing the weekend of February 13th through 16th?


Your best bet may be the Great Backyard Bird Count!


Since 1998, the idea behind the GBBC has been a simple 3 step process:
1. watch birds anywhere you like for at least 15 minutes;

2. count how many of each species you see; and

3. submit your results online

Pioneered by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology (CLO) and National Audubon Society, the GBBC was "the first online citizen-science project to collect data on wild birds and to display results in near real-time."  The information gleaned from the first 17 years of the program has helped us to better understand the wintering ranges and populations of various species.  Along with international partners like Bird Studies Canada, GBBC has grown considerably with over 100,000 participants through the years - including 144,000 checklists from over 135 countries in 2014 alone.


This year, CLO is incorporating the Pledge to Fledge into the GBBC.  All you need to do is invite someone new (family, friends, or acquaintances) to join you in your bird search and introduce them to the joy of watching wild birds.  These two programs are a natural combination, especially since studying birds at a nearby and familiar location can appeal to participants at all levels. Besides, it can be done at a leisurely pace.


With your enthusiasm and knowledge, you can use the Great Backyard Bird Count and the Pledge to Fledge to guide your family and friends down their own path to discovering bird appreciation. In time, this basic appreciation can grow, with a little more mentoring, into more support for, and engagement in, bird conservation.



Backyard Bird Feeding - 

a transitional experience 

by Paul J. Baicich


Photo Credit: Rennett Stowe

With the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) coming in a few weeks, it presents an opportunity to point to the "transitional potential" of the backyard scene, especially feeding, when it comes to bird study.


For bird educators, it is is ideal to take the observer - youth or adult - outdoors to study nature and birds. But that's often more easily said than done. Some circumstances make outdoor visits difficult. And, sadly, we just see too much unfamiliarity with the outdoors these days. What you and I may view as wide, inspiring, and adventuresome can be viewed by others as foreign, strange, and even threatening.


This is where bird feeders can come into play.


A quality bird-feeding station at home is a perfect intermediate tool or stepping-stone to bring the student to the outdoors. Initially, it is a way to bring birds close, simplify observation and identification, and easily examine bird behavior. And this is even possible without ever using binoculars!


Such home-based bird feeders allow for casual study. When placed by a window, say, near a kitchen or dining-room table, the observer can even sit and eat while also watching the birds eat! The circumstances are casual, comfortable, and familiar, all in a known setting. In fact, the preconditions for learning are almost ideal, except that it's indoors!


A "quality bird-feeding station," however, means multiple feeders, a variety of foods (seeds, suet, fruit) and appropriate placement. And don't forget the opportunity to engage in citizen science in the process, such as through Project FeederWatch.


Still, most regular backyard feeding stations will host a fairly limited variety of species. You certainly cannot expect waterfowl, shorebirds, long-legged waders, and most raptors at a backyard feeding station.


Presented correctly and with the right encouragement, a find spread in the backyard can start to pull the observer out the door to pursue those missing birds, beyond the backyard feeder. It's the "right encouragement" that may be crucial. Our task as bird educators should be presenting that very encouragement to make such a transition possible.


Indeed, another feeding station at a local park, nature center, or refuge can be an intermediate transitional experience, since the birds at such sites are usually different from the expected backyard crowd. The mere presence of such an away-from-home feeding station can have a ring of familiarity for the visiting observer - a recognizable layout, but attracting some different birds.


In either case, a good feeding station can be the perfect transition into bird study, literally opening the door to a wider world of observations, learning, and experiences.


All bird educators can benefit from such an approach, as can all potential student-observers, young or old. Indeed, it's something special to consider this month. 


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