It's a year for the colorful feeder birds on a gray day, for the mystical snowy owl that has irrupted into Upstate New York, and for the raptors that have recovered from DDT exposure to soar above the Chemung River.
I am excited that National Audubon Society, National Geographic Society, and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology have teamed up on behalf of the birds. As novelist and birdwatcher Jonathan Franzen observed, birds "are our last, best connection to a natural world that is otherwise receding."
Year of the Bird launched on New Year's Day. The 118th Audubon Christmas Bird Count occurred on January 1 in the Elmira area, with help from plenty of new participants. When participating in a bird count, you can count birds in an assigned area or in your yard.
New York State Parks had First Day Hikes throughout the state to launch the new year. Nature lovers went trekking together on January 1 at Taughannock Falls State Park near Trumansburg, at Two Rivers State Park in Waverly, and on the Catharine Valley Trail in Watkins Glen.
As you fulfill your annual New Year's resolutions, tweak them to include nature. Here are a few suggestions for improving your own health and having a positive impact on the environment:
- When a bird crosses your path, pause to think or learn about that bird and its life in nature. Each bird is a reminder that we are part of a magnificent and fragile ecosystem.
- Improving one's health is one of our most common resolutions. Schedule moments with nature into your calendar by making "appointments" for stress release at various outdoor locations. Scientists and physicians from around the world have documented the benefits of being outside in nature to fill yourself with its sounds, sights, and smells.
- Think about your food choices. Emphasize plant-based foods in your diet—especially locally sourced food from you-pick stands and farmers' markets.
- Help pollinators. Diminishing populations of pollinators threaten the future food supply for every creature. Plant native plants, minimize pesticide use, and help with projects that improve habitats.
- Support nature with a membership in the Chemung Valley Audubon Society and National Audubon Society. Our local Audubon group is active in education and habitat restoration, and because it is a National Audubon chapter, it contributes to a wide-ranging impact on national and international issues. Check out this website for updates about Year of the Bird activities, background on environmental issues, and beautiful photos and articles.
I hope that many of you increase your enjoyment of nature and become more knowledgeable about environmental issues. And, I hope that you share your experiences and knowledge with others. When we take action and talk about those actions, we have a huge impact. Our birds and our environment need each of us.
Mary Anne Perks
Member | Chemung Valley Audubon Society
Sign the pledge to build a better world for birds! Each month, you'll receive an e-mail from National Geographic about one simple action you can take to make a difference for birds and for the planet.
- January — Take the Pledge
- February — Great Backyard Bird Count | CVAS Bird Counting
- March — Native Plants
- April — Migratory Bird Treaty Act
Why Birds Matter in 2018 | Audio program hosted by Jonathan Franzen with guest host Jane Clayson.
Why Birds Matter, and Are Worth Protecting | Article by Jonathan Franzen.
Migratory Bird Treaty Act | U.S. Fish and Wildlife article explaining this important law, passed in 1918.
Jonathan Franzen on How to Get People to Care About the Environment: Show Them Birds | Audio from NPR show On Point.