Saturday, April 27, 2013

Giving back : A morning among the birds and volunteers at Drumlin Farm

Volunteers work to help clear alien invasive plant species beside a vernal pool at Drumlin Farm Wildlife Sanctuary as part Mass Audubon's 7th annual state wide volunteer day. Image copyright Daniel E. Levenson 2013.
The skies were clear and the air was warm this morning at Drumlin Farm Wildlife Sanctuary in Lincoln, Massachusetts, as dozens of volunteers turned up to take part in Mass Audubon's 7th annual Statewide Volunteer Day. With work gloves, shovels and a desire to help improve the landscape for native plants and animals, volunteers of all ages pitched in to help remove alien invasive plant species such as Garlic Mustard from sensitive wildlife habitat, to be replaced with native plants. When I arrived there today I found Drumlin Farm sanctuary director Christy Foote-Smith hard at work along with a group of volunteers from Biogen Idec, which had also supplied some of the native plants that were being planted today. She was kind enough to take a quick break from pulling invasives to show me and my girlfriend around the area where they were working, which includes a vernal pool.

Christ Foote-Smith, Director of Mass Audubon's Drumlin Farm Wildlife Sanctuary leads a group of volunteers from Biogen-Idec as they remove aline invasive plant species in an effort to make more room for native plants.
One of the interesting things about Drumlin Farm is that it is a working farm with sheep, goats,chickens and other assorted barnyard animals, while at the same time it offers woods, fields and wetlands to explore. It is fundamentally an interactive place to visit with a variety of programs designed to educate visitors about both wildlife conservation and agriculture, not to mention that the combination of farm buildings and fields, along with more wild habitat, makes for some pretty good birding. Having known this from many previous visits to Drumlin Farm I kept my binoculars close by as I walked along today taking photos of the landscape and managed to add two more birds to my year list - #117 was a Barn Swallow that had joined half a dozen Tree Swallows which were hunting in acrobatic aerial arcs over the farm fields. Pretty much anytime I'm outside my thoughts are never too far from my New England birding big year goal of seeing 300 species in 2013.

Bird #118 showed up a little later - we had actually just walked through the area where they have a collection of injured birds which can't be released into the wild, and I had spent some time studying the Broad-winged Hawk. About 20 minutes later I was standing outside the big red barn and looked up to see a hawk flying overhead and instantly I thought of the Broad-winged Hawk I had just seen. I got a pretty good look at it through my binoculars and was excited to confirm that it was a Broad-winged Hawk, species #118 for the year.

As I looked at the Tree Swallows in the field, the Broad-winged Hawk overhead, and a small group of Brown-headed Cowbirds foraging in the cow pasture I was reminded both of the agricultural heritage of New England as well as the legacy of conservation which is embodied in places like Drumlin Farm. Seeing the volunteers today also made me think of the importance of getting people outdoors to see, smell, feel and taste the outdoors, of making conservation a hands-on, concrete experience. This is how people will really come to appreciate the importance of not only preserving the natural world around us, but experiencing it, I firmly believe it is only through these kinds of experiences, of volunteering to help restore the native landscape, of taking the time to get reacquainted with the trees, flowers, birds and insects around us that will not only spark interest in the outdoors, but create stakeholders and advocates for environmental education and protection.

Kids playing in the spring sunshine at Drumlin Farm Wildlife Sanctuary in Natick, Massachusetts. Image copyright Daniel E. Levenson 2013.
As we walked around Drumlin Farm today, there were likely hundreds more volunteers working at other locations around Massachusetts, from one of the state to the other, from Felix Neck on Martha's Vineyard to Canoe Meadows in Pittsfield. While today was perhaps one of the more active for volunteers at Mass Audubon there are in fact many volunteers working for the organization year-round, helping visitors to discover the beauty of Massachusetts. If you'd like to learn more about volunteering for Mass Audubon, you can click here

The Massachusetts Audubon Society protects close to 35,000 acres of important wildlife habitat across the commonwealth. Image copyright Daniel E. Levenson 2013.

I would be remiss of course if I did not also mention in this post that yesterday, April 26,is the birthday of John James Audubon, who, if he were somehow miraculously alive today, would be some 228 years old. Much has changed in the world of natural history and the study of birds since his day - there are at least three or four fewer species birders to pursue in north America, for one thing, and now the majority of birders go afield with binoculars in place of a gun, for another. Nonetheless, the same commitment to, and passion for, wildlife is still very much alive today in the professionals and volunteers who spent their Saturday morning across the Commonwealth engaged in a range of projects which will surely make the woods, waters and fields I love that much better. I would say that's a pretty good present for Audubon's birthday, and a credit to this organization which bears his name.

Thanks for reading.

Copyright Daniel E. Levenson 2013.

No comments:

Post a Comment