Bird Conservation Through Education TM

September 4, 2015 

In This Issue
Birds? What Birds?!
Zombies & Birds
Boulder Bus Birding
Education in Action
Thanks to our BEN Bulletin sponsors:

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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Quick Links 
Barriers in Birding Education Series;
Birds? What Birds?!
by Dave Magpiong
Ruddy Turnstone, Cape May Point 
Photo Credit: Dave Magpiong
Sparrow. Eagle. Sandpiper. Owl. Seagull. Heron. Hawk. Robin. 

For more than 200 million Americans, the above list represents just about their entire understanding of our wild birds. How can we get more people to get involved in bird conservation if they have no appreciable interest in birds?

The sad truth is that most people are, simply and sincerely, unaware that so many different types of birds can be found in the United States, or even live in their own neighborhoods. It's perfectly innocent ignorance. With busy lives and other demands on their time, birds are just not on their radar.

It may sound unfathomable to us however I can remember such a deprived existence. That all changed one enlightening sunrise at the Avalon (New Jersey) Seawatch. The official migration counter gently corrected me about seeing "seagulls" and patiently pointed out differences between Herring Gulls, Ring-billed Gulls, and Great Black-backed Gulls. Then he totally rocked my world by showing me a bird which seemed to be disguised as a Calico kitten, all dapper in white, black, and rusty brown. That single Ruddy Turnstone has changed my life. 

It was the perfect recipe. An unexpected opportunity led to a moment of curiosity with an enthusiastic individual there to point my eyes in the right direction and open the door. Bird educators of all stripes can successfully prepare this same recipe without having any of Gordon Ramsay's skills.
Nature centers and bird clubs can give new people that first opportunity to learn about their local birds.  Likewise, "non-traditional" birding or nature programs that connect birding to other popular interest areas of the general public (see Javier's article below), can be a birding gateway for the unsuspecting attendee. For the "off-duty" bird educators, the task can be even simpler - invite people over for a backyard birds barbecue or leave a field guide on your coffee table. These guerrilla bird outreach strategies may sound silly or small but they will give you a chance to bring bird awareness to some new faces.

Thinking Outside the Outreach Box; Zombies and Birds 
by Javier Deleon, Park Superintendent
Estero Llano Grande State Park
The Lower Rio Grande Valley, a four county area located at the southernmost tip of Texas, is widely known as one of the top birding destinations in the United States. Few local residents, however, are aware of how special a place their part of the world is. There are 20 beautiful and unique nature centers in the Rio Grande Valley, but most centers struggle to attract the local community to their weekly programs or events. 

In recent years, several nature centers have adjusted their thinking when planning nature-related events. In 2007, Estero Llano Grande State Park began a small nature festival right before Halloween called Spooky Science Fest.

Each year, the festival continued by creating themes that integrated outdoor education with popular culture. "Bloodsuckers of the Llano Grande" (classic horror theme incorporating ticks and mosquitoes), "Heroes in Our Parks" (nature superhero theme) and this year's "Jurassic Estero" (dinosaur event featuring current-day reptiles).  Attendance at these events has grown over 30 times the original year attendance numbers.  

Other nature centers in the Rio Grande Valley have also featured non-traditional programs with good results. The Edinburg Scenic Wetlands and World Birding Center recently held a series of Zombie Survival Skills events where up to 250 participants per event learned about native plants, and basic camping techniques that could help them survive in the event of a zombie apocalypse.

Whether or not a zombie apocalypse will ever come to pass or not, participants at all of these non-traditional nature events get to enjoy their parks, enjoy the outdoors, and learn about the unique place they call home.

Breaking Birding Barriers in Boulder - 
Take the Bus! 
Special thanks to Warren Gartner, Indiana Division of Fish and Wildlife, for contributions towards this story
In 2011, the city of Boulder (CO.), introduced a new art-nature-transportation project which transformed buses and bus stops into bird watching sites for the bus riding community and novice bird watchers.
Hosted as a joint partnership among city mass transit, museums and arts councils, Boulder Bus Birding set forth to inspire people to ride the bus and to help them become better acquainted with the surprising number and variety of birds that live all around the city. 

Over the course of four months, rider/ birders could "hop" on scheduled birding bus routes to ride along with birding experts for an expert view out the windows. Riders could also hop off the bus for one of the many scheduled museum, cemetery or nature center bird presentations hosted over the course of the project. 

In addition, a special exhibition and corresponding lecture series was held at the University of Colorado Natural History Museum entitled "Bird Shift: The Anthropogenic Ornithology of North America". To add this to your potential outreach wish list or learn more visit the Boulder Bird Bus website.

Education in Action


Indiana Division of Wildlife 
State Fair Bird Blind
Photo Credit: Warren Gartner
This year the Indiana State Fair was for the birds. Warren Gartner, Indiana Project WILD/ Division of Wildlife Conservation Education Supervisor, assembled a bird blind where fair-goers could practice their binocular skills while spotting some native bird species (of the laminated variety). 

This creative exercise is a component of the Flying WILD activity "The Birding Beat" in which educators construct a "birding lane" for students to practice binocular and birding skills in search for bird residents. In addition to the full activity available above, visit the Resource Website to obtain these Indiana bird silhouettes and student bird checklist. To obtain a guide or locate a Flying WILD training near you, visit the homepage.





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