Birder's Guide

MAY 2016

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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54 Birder's Guide to Conservation & Community | May 2016 Female Leadership in Birding inforced throughout time, and setting an example for the rest of society to follow. Looking to the future, I encourage women to serve as role models and mentors. A de- cade of experience working with the Ohio Young Birders Club has proven that there are many young women out there just looking for an entry point into the birding community. And all it really takes is some- one to give them a chance. J. Drew Lanham Seneca, South Carolina jos.drewlanham@gmail.com Women have been the igniters and inspira- tion for most of my 40-plus years of bird- ing. My second grade teacher, Ms. Beasley, gave me a mimeographed mockingbird to color. Dr. Patty Gowaty, a renowned avian behaviorist, gave me the opportunity to formalize my passion as a graduate stu- dent. And hundreds of present-day female friends and colleagues continue to inspire me as great birders and conservation-mind- ed kindred. Birding can be an awesome societal leveler—if we allow it to be. As a black American, I'm keenly aware of the bi - ases that can enter into everyday life. In my world, birding is an equality I es- cape to—not just for the birds, but for the people who accept me for my love of the same things that they adore. My ethnic- ity and culture, I hope, brings a favor to the mix that's value added—kind of like a different species in the fock. It should be the same with other aspects of diversity, in- cluding gender. So how do we encourage more women to bird? It's really the same question I get about diversifying the birding and con - servation feld. For most of us, every bird matters. Each individual has its own story of survival through the seasons. Each spe- cies has a unique set of traits that not only helps us identify it, but also to appreciate it. It's about acceptance and recognition. If we love birds for their diversity, then it would seem to follow that we'd want to see it in our human lives. Wings and feathers are wonderful things. When we gather to cel- ebrate them, wonderful things can happen. Think about it: Women gathering to talk about ways to save birds from the feather trade in the late 1800s were not only at the vanguard of bird conservation, but were also working towards securing the vote as suffragists. Fast forward to Rachel Carson, and environmentalism fedged on the pag - es of her masterpiece Silent Spring, as the country moved through the Civil Rights era and the fght for equal rights for all. A bet- ter understanding of the pivotal role that women have played in bird conservation provides the basis going forward. Inclusion begins with information. How many people truly know the historic and current role of women in the birding com- munity? We need more information to inspire the future. Want "modern" inspi- ration to bolster the historic? I only have to open my various social media portals to fnd hundreds of bird-loving female friends that run the gamut from super-hyped feld birders to backyard noticers. I love them all for the different elements they bring. That love includes a respect frst for them as in- dividuals. Emily Dickinson claimed birds as harbingers of hope. I think they make great social glue, too. Maureen Leong-Kee Salem, Oregon mleongkee@yahoo.com I have had the privilege of being in birding communities with very active and knowl- edgeable women birders and leaders. They have paved the way for other women to be welcomed and accepted as equals. While I was living in Savannah, Georgia, the lead- ers of the Ogeechee Audubon Society were women, as were some of the best birders I ever met in Atlanta. I never felt that they were treated as "women birders"; instead, the birding community simply revered them as the top-notch birders and knowl- edgeable mentors that they are. Male birders can support female birders without doing so in a way that is patron- izing. Sometimes when my husband and I are birding together, older male birders will address my husband and not really in- clude me in the conversation unless I speak up to show that I know what I'm talking about. With many of the senior couples I encounter while birding, the husband is the birder, while the wife hangs back and may be there just to be supportive. It can be a challenging adjustment, but if male birders approach both genders as equals in the feld, then they can create a sense of inclusion that makes all feel welcome. And when a female birder does make a mistake or a misidentifcation, it's impor- tant to kindly point out why rather than attributing it to her sex. It's also important for men to validate women's worth as bird- ers. Most seasoned birders are excited to be a resource for willing learners, and there's enough enthusiasm to go around. After about seven years of birding, what I have been pleasantly surprised to see is that more and more younger birders are out and about, and a good portion of them are women. It's really encouraging to see that there are others like me who want to trudge through the mud and spend hours searching for birds just as much as the next guy. Ann Nightingale Victoria, British Columbia motmot@shaw.ca I reluctantly concede that there are dif- ferences between how many (but not all) women prefer to bird and how many (but not all) men embrace the hobby. Most of the women birders I have met are less com- petitive than men. This casual approach is what drew many of them to birding. For some, it is an escape from other responsi- bilities, an opportunity to detach from their normal workaday world, and a pastime they can share with a few close friends. That said, it is puzzling to me that often n Matylda Lally watches a Red-throated Loon off the Chicago lakeshore. Photo © Tom Lally

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