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    Pledge to Fledge: The Best Thing You Can Do This Weekend

     

    P2F SA Barnes

    School children in Wilderness, Western Cape, South Africa earlier today participating in Pledge to Fledge. Photo courtesy Keith Barnes.

    It's August 24, the first day of the first Pledge to Fledge event. If you've somehow missed the buzz surrounding this event, take a look at Richard Crossley's post here from last week. Also check the P2F website and Facebook page, where there is already quite a bit of material up from last night's kickoff event in Cape May, as well as some cool shots of Keith Barnes' efforts to fledge some new birders in South Africa. No doubt there will be much more to come.

    I'm especially encoraged to see Pledge to Fledge emerge now, as I think it represents an important evolution in birding culture. Though I've often heard birders decry the lack of "new blood" coming into our community, I've rarely seen much in the way of focussed efforts to do something about it. Don't get me wrong—I know we've all stood at tables, gone to various events, and so on in hopes of minting some new birders. These are laudable efforts and they haven't been wholly unsuccessful.

    But I think what is needed is an almost complete overhaul in how we recruit and I see Pledge to Fledge as an important step in that direction. Putting it in birding terms, we have to get as good at finding, identifying and sparking new birders as we have gotten at finding, identifying and spreading the word of vagrant birds.

    Think how much time, effort, and ingneuity has been put into learing the habits, habitats, hotspots, weather patterns, and search techniques involved in ferreting out rare birds. Where these efforts have been most successful, they've involved shifting our frame of reference, dropping our old behavior patterns and learning to think like like the wayward birds we seek.

    When I started birding the Mid-Atlantic in the mid-1970's, early November was considered a sort of lull between the peak of hawk migration and the peak of waterfowl migration. Not too much to see then, the thinking went. Now, thanks to the efforts of Paul Lehman and dozens of others like him, early November is recognized as perhaps the most exciting, productive time of the year, if finding Mid-Atlantic vagrants is your thing. And our expectations of what's possible then, in terms of numbers and diversity have been exceeded time and again.

    What I'm really excited about in the coming years is helping the ABA get just that good at reaching and sparking new birders. There's much to be learned about where we can find them, how they behave, and what conditions set the stage for that magical conversion experience. I think we're not that far from a day when how good a day we've had in the field will be measured not only by how many species we found but also by the number of new birders we recruited.

    As a community, we have so, so much to learn about how best to do this. And there's no substitue for getting out there and just giving it a whirl, refining what works and sidelining what doesn't. And the fact that so many others will be doing the same thing this weekend, gives us all a great opportunity to share our triumphs and our tribulations.

     

    Liz GOG PRFA_3019

    Liz shares her bins, and a view of a Prairie Falcon, with a birder-to-be at Garden of the Gods.

    Liz and I have already got at least one spot picked out where we'll go birding for new birders this weekend: Garden of the Gods. It's a big tourist attraction, so there are plenty of people around, almost none of them there for birding. But there are nifty birds to look at, usually including Prairie Falcons. And a spotting scope set up in a place like that always draws a crowd, and the inevitable, "Whatcha lookin' at?," conversation openers. I think it's an ideal place to practice our recruitment skills.

    How about you? Where might you spend an hour or two this weekend and snag a new birder or two? A local park with a duck pond? Maybe a zoo that has wild but relatively tame birds wandering the grounds? Remember, you don't need rare birds to do this. You want close birds, preferably lots of them. Don't worry if it's starlings or magpies. They'll work.

    ABA board member Kenn Kaufman and Kim Kaufman, director of the Ohio's Black Swamp Bird Observatory, have a nice post on their blog with tips on taking new birders birding. It's worth a look as you're making your plans.

    Mainly, remember to be friendly and enjoy yourself. Birding is a wonderful thing. Let's all get as good as we can at securing its future by growing our ranks.

    So take the Pledge. Then get out there! Make sure your Bird of the Year stickers are in place and wear your ABA logo wear, if you have it. And be sure to tell us what you discover!

    P2F logo

     

     

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    Jeff Gordon

    Jeff Gordon

    Jeff Gordon is the president of the American Birding Association. There's very little about birds, birding, and birders that he doesn't find fascinating, though he's especially interested in birding culture and the many ways we all communicate our passion for birds, including this Blog.
    • http://www.BirdingIsFun.com Robert Mortensen

      Jeff, Thanks for your support of P2F. It really is exciting to see all the Facebook chatter and images coming from all over the world of people being introduced to birding.

      You comment about setting up the spotting scope is spot on. At Cape Meares on the Oregon Coast I set up a scope on a platform and had a dozen people come and ask me what I was looking at and I offered each a peek at some amazing birds. I am certain a spark was lit in their hearts and minds that may become a flame if they at all try to feed the fire of birding within us all.

      Well, I guess not everyone has a bit of birder in them. I was recently at an industry meeting and sat next to an older gentleman who is a former co-worker. I told him of my recent birding in Oregon in Arizona and he responded with slow drawl “I hate birds. When I get up in the morning, I hear them making noise. When I watch t.v. or movies, they always put in all those bird sounds. I hate it.” He’s kind of a bitter guy about life anyway. I can’t win them all over.

    • Dave Magpiong

      Robert –

      I LOVE your Cape Meares story!

      With respect to the bird hater, perhaps he would be interested in Accipiters, Peregrines, and other bird eaters – LOL

    • http://www.fledgingbirders.org/CFAB.html Dave Magpiong

      Jeff –

      Thanks for spreading the Pledge to Fledge word with this post and bit of frank introspection into our own birding community!

      ALL ABA members should sign on to this effort as this effort could lead to more ABA members, more rare birds being found in “under-birded” areas, more awareness of bird conservation issues, and, ultimately, more birds for all of us to enjoy watching!

    Birders know well that the healthiest, most dynamic choruses contain many different voices. The birding community encompasses a wide variety of interests, talents, and convictions. All are welcome.
    If you like birding, we want to hear from you.
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