A curious Eastern Screech-owl peers out of it’s nesting box.


It’s Monday morning. You’re sitting at your desk, daydreaming about the previous weekends adventures. Relishing the thought of the birds you saw and the places you visited. Perhaps a smile comes to your lips as you experience the joy and excitement of that moment. Perhaps a warm feeling runs through you from head to toe as you remember the look on your friend’s or loved one’s face as they got to experience the joy of seeing the wonderful birds around you.


Atlantic Puffin stretching it’s wings after bringing a meal home to it’s Puffling.


Maybe you’re sitting at your computer in the evening, pouring through photos of amazing birds in exotic locations on Facebook and Instagram. Reading stories about newly discovered species, or learning about birds from afar or in your own back yard. Talking to friends through email or an instant messenger service about your day, and your excitement for another day delving into the depths of birds and birding.


A young Barred Owlet tests out it’s wings.


And then you come across a news article. “Proposed Wind Turbines Threaten Migrating Birds” or “27 Bald Eagles Die Of Lead Poisoning”. And your heart just hits the ground. Feelings of sadness and anger turn into questions of concern and importance. What can we do to stop this? How do I help? Can I REALLY make a difference?


A Bald Eagle flies off it’s nest to a nearby perch.


We’re a diverse group of passionate individuals, from all walks of life. Each of us face different challenges on a daily basis, and while many of us ask ourselves and others these same questions day in and day out, they are more often than not overshadowed by issues more central to our daily lives. The kids have basketball practice, or someone has to get to the doctor. Life is often unpredictable! But I’d love the opportunity to share with you one of my biggest beliefs and how I address these questions myself.


A Mallard Duckling strikes it’s best Jurassic Park pose!


I fully believe, with 100% of my being, that our youth will be what saves birds and our planet as a whole. While current conservation efforts are critically important right now, building the infrastructure for future generations to do the same is vital to the long-term goal of saving our birds and wild places. I place high value in nature and wildlife educational programs, mentoring programs, and local park initiatives to get youth more involved.


This Summer Tanager found me interesting enough to come in for a closer look at the Biggest Week in American Birding.


Thankfully, there are amazing organizations that also believe in these ideals, and people to support them going forward. I’d like to mention two of them here! The Black Swamp Bird Observatory does much more than organize and run the biggest birding festival in the country, The Biggest Week in American Birding, it performs important bird banding research and funds/runs multiple youth educational initiatives. The Ohio Young Birders Club includes youth from across the state of Ohio, and provides them with activities and education to propel them forward. It’s amazing what the work of this small yet powerful organization can do!


A female Rose-breasted Grosbeak peers into the early morning sunlight.


Secondly, the American Birding Association offers an amazing Young Birders Program complete with summer camps, a blog, the Young Birder of the Year contest and other valuable resources. The folks over at the ABA work tirelessly to enrich and connect youth to birds and conservation, and the depth of this program and it’s offerings are outstanding. Many of these young kids end up becoming ornithologists, artists, and writers that work daily to influence opinion and bring topics such as birding, conservation, and climate issues to the fore of peoples minds.


A Northern Saw-whet Owl peers bashfully at me from it’s perch at Magee Marsh Wildlife Area.


As a business, Wildside believes so strongly in building on these thoughts and initiatives that we’ve created a series of birding tours in which a portion of each tour goes directly to the ABA’s Young Birders Program. Last year, we helped the ABA raise $27,000 to benefit the program! On a personal level, I cannot tell you enough how much it means to me to work with a group of people who deeply believe in protecting our birds and wild places, and support initiatives that do such phenomenal work.


A Virginia Rail posed for me ever so briefly.


So what can we do to stop the destruction of birds and habitat? How can we help? Can YOU really make a difference? I’d say the answer is a resounding YES, and a wonderful way to start, would be thinking about supporting some of the great work that others are doing in the field every day to empower our youth. To teach them a better way forward than perhaps we were taught as children. Even $1 really does make a difference to these programs! If you’re so inclined, you can donate to Black Swamp Bird Observatory here, or donate to the ABA’s Young Birders Program through their 2017 Nesting Season Appeal here!


A Long-eared Owl surveys it’s territory on a cool winter morning.


There are also endless ways that we can donate our time and energy to a variety of local organizations and initiatives that provide youth services and mentorships. So tell yourself that you CAN make a difference, take action, and enjoy the feelings of contentment and satisfaction in knowing that you’re working to make this world a better place, while enriching lives in the process. Have a great week everyone!




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