Birder's Guide

MAY 2014

Birder's Guide is the American Birding Association's newest publication. Each issue focuses on a key subject, providing tips from experienced birders on a wide variety of topics like Travel, Listing & Taxonomy, Gear, and Conservation & Community.

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Page 14 of 51

13 May 2014 | Birder's Guide to Conservation & Community Timothy O'Connell: Scissortail Celebration –––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––– In 2009, Timothy O'Connell, an Associ- ate Professor at Oklahoma State Univer- sity, became a tad jealous of how school- children in Colombia were celebrating International Migratory Bird Day. He posted a picture on his personal blog, showing a street procession of happy Colombian grade schoolers dressed as their favorite birds and holding a sign saying "Festival de las aves migratorias," and wrote, somewhat wistfully: "This is exactly the kind of thing we need to do with kids here in the States." O'Connell's wish was his own com- mand. In the fall of 2010, he visited his kids' school in Oklahoma to talk about Scissor-tailed Flycatchers—a beautiful, easy-to-identify, common but regional, international migrant, ideal for instill- ing local pride—and then took a group of 20 children and parents to a nearby park to see hundreds of Scissortails roosting in advance of fall migration. He described a small town in Mexico where the fycatchers spend their winter, and found himself answering a lot of enthu- siastic questions from parents who had never paid attention to birds before. See- ing 200 Scissortails "buzzing all around you," O'Connell points out, is pretty darned cool, and his inaugural "Scis- sortail Celebration" was an all-around success. So he kept up the tradition. In 2012, instead of saying adios to Scissortails in the fall, O'Connell held the event in April to welcome the birds back from their spring migration. Of the 18 people who showed up, only one was from the local Audubon Society chapter; the celebra- tion inspired a new group of people to enjoy their natural heritage. O'Connell planned another go at it this year, and, he says, "Someday, when I'm retired, I'm going to stage a Scissortail Celebration that'll knock your socks off"—which shouldn't be too hard, as Scissor-tailed Flycatchers are pretty good sock-knock- ers all on their own. Check out Timothy O'Connell's blog at . Tawna Mertz: A Little Slice of Bird Heaven –––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––– "Our 0.42 acres of paradise," says Taw- na Mertz, a scientifc writer and editor, "is on Kent Island, a large island on the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. When we moved here 20 years ago, my neighbors suggested we 'fll in the wet areas' in the backyard. No way! This was my chance to restore a wetland with native plants." With her husband, Mertz got right to work planting things their neighbors "never knew existed, like sweet bay mag- nolia, viburnums, swamp white oaks, river birch, Atlantic white cedar, and na- tive grasses like sea oats." She decided to let older trees and snags stand on the property, as long as they weren't threat- ening the house, to the occasional an- noyance of others in the neighborhood. One particular neighbor asked Mertz to remove a snag on the border between their two yards, but the snag had a pair of Red-bellied Woodpeckers nesting in a cavity about 20 feet off the ground. Mertz took him to the spot, pointed out the hole in the tree, and, on cue, the young woodpeckers peeked out- Noah Strycker Creswell, Oregon Inspired by the schoolchildren in Colombia, Timothy O'Connell stages his own Scissor-tailed Flycatcher celebration to welcome the birds back to Oklahoma. Photo © Timothy O'Connell Tawna Mertz has won over her neighbors to the joys of birdscaping—including a next- door neighbor who put up bird feeders in his own yard. Photo © Bruce Mertz 2-Conservation Milestones.indd 13 5/22/14 7:33 PM

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