The Importance of Birding & Community: Support Festivals, Support Conservation

Migration’s kicking into gear, and it couldn’t come at a better time. Who couldn’t use a little positive bird distraction right now, as we wait out the COVID-19 pandemic and its subsequent effects on our daily lives? Like you, we check in daily with our loved ones; balance work, family, and other immediate matters; and—most importantly—stay safe and informed.  

As hours of daylight lengthen, migrating birds make their way to their summer breeding grounds: arriving on territory, singing their sweet songs, and enriching our days. Now more than ever, perhaps, it’s essential to find solace and comfort in those sweet moments of immersion and communion with the natural world.  

Since becoming swept up in birding nearly a decade ago, we’ve also discovered the joy of attending spring birding festivals and special events. There is nothing quite like meeting new birders and reconnecting with friends while sharing the awesomeness that is spring migration.

This spring, however, many events that are scheduled to coincide with spring migration have been postponed or canceled due to recommended social distancing and restrictions on large gatherings. This is disconcerting on many levels, especially that we will miss out on sharing the joy of birding with others. Organizations that host these events will miss receiving vital financial support that enables all of us and future generations to continue doing what we all love—birding. 

Perhaps you, too, have been personally affected by a canceled festival or event this migration season. If you are like us, you want to feel connected and show support. Or, perhaps you are now curious to learn more about these events. Enter BWD’s Festival Finder. We have encouraged all birding festival organizers to use this as a “hub” to post updates and any other pertinent communication while many if not most of them have no choice but to cancel their event.  

If you had planned to attend an event, PLEASE consider donating to some of these affected organizations. Consider the money you would have spent on transportation, lodging, dining out, festival fees, souvenirs… Perhaps you could allocate some of that money toward some worthy organizations that are missing out on a marquee fundraising event. After all, they rely on our participation.  

To help you get started, here is some inspiration.  

One of the most-anticipated spring events in our home state is the Biggest Week in American Birding, in Oak Harbor, Ohio. The famed Magee Marsh boardwalk is currently closed, as is the Black Swamp Bird Observatory, which is the beneficiary of the funds raised by the BWIAB. Consider donating just $25 to the BSBO by May 1, and you will be entered to win a birding optics prize package valued at more than $6,000!  

Another event the staff at Bird Watcher’s Digest looks forward to annually is the New River Birding & Nature Festival, in Fayetteville, West Virginia. The cancellation of the festival means the loss of funds to support the nonprofit Leadership Fayette County as well as other nature-based programming for the community. To offset some of that loss, we made a direct donation to the organization, and we’ve booked an October getaway to the area in hopes that travel restrictions will be lifted by the time fall migration rolls around.  

We thought, too, about the area businesses we would have visited there, and saw that one of our favorite restaurants has temporarily closed but has set up a Go Fund Me account for its employees. Even from a few hundred miles away, we can help make a difference in a community we care about!  

We encourage you to think about the domino effect of these canceled events and how you can help support their nonprofit partners and their communities. Even the smallest gestures go a long way during uncertain times like these!  

Thanks to Rich Moncrief of Carl Zeiss Sporting Optics for his inspiration in spreading this message to the birding world.  

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