Across the Southern half of the United States, cold North winds and dreary gray skies of Fall bring in one of the most anticipated events of the year, a massive migration that will run from September until the birds head North again in March. From tiny buntings to majestic swans, Fall means the skies will be darkened by the original “snow birds.”
Hidden deep within this epic journey made by millions of fowl every year is a lesson that the entire outdoors community can take to heart. Behind all those pairs of binoculars pointed towards the skies are two ostensibly different groups of enthusiasts that come together to watch, listen, and learn. Here, the waterfowler and the birder stand shoulder to shoulder, excitedly watching over our preserved lands for a glimpse of their favorite species. Observing the fall migration proves that we are all chasing the same goals. To see the evidence, you need not go any further than your nearest observation platform.
The observation tower, interestingly, was one of the motivations for starting Outdoors By Owner. Recalling countless mornings sipping coffee in the predawn, chatting with birders and waterfowlers alike has always struck me as a unique, genuine experience. Foundationally, both groups are committed to seeing wetland habitats preserved, and donate generously to this end. Both groups are passionate about their avocations. Both groups travel countless miles for an opportunity to see new places and species.
In practice, the comradery continues. I cannot count the number of times that I have pointed out a stilt, wren, or heron to my birding companions. I cannot count the number of times they have reciprocated with a group of passing waterfowl. There is a sense of community on the observation tower.
And, I think, there is no animosity between the groups. Obviously, we have similar pursuits and motivations. Certainly, we appreciate each other’s passion. But there is an intangible connection as well. Writing from the perspective of the waterfowler here, I can confidently say that we are actually a subspecies of birders ourselves. Our experience means we must be. I know that when the gannets pass overhead the sea ducks are not far behind. When the bald eagles begin to show, the blue-winged teal have largely passed and their green-winged cousins will be moving in soon. When the swifts come through and mummerate over the marshes, we will have a push of migrating birds just behind. And, when the anhingas and cormorants appear, there are diving ducks to be found. Add in the countless hours spent watching not ducks, and it’s easy to see why a waterfowler can identify and appreciate all of the birds near their favorite haunts.
As we sit in the middle of another migration season, let’s take a look at the conservation landscape from a bird’s eye view–from the observation tower. Almost every group out there can find common ground in conserving our wild places, and we all have similar goals. But, like many things that have been hyper-politicized, we’ve been pitted against each other in many ways.
Let’s re-center on what matters most: getting people outside and preserving these opportunities for generations to come. At OBO, that’s our goal.