Make a Commitment to Conservation in 2017

Share your Conservation CommitmentThe threats to birds are many and the trajectory for some of our most beloved Michigan species is not positive. Nearly everything that threatens our birds is human-driven: urbanization; invasive species; windows; lights; unsustainable consumerism; and, perhaps worst of all, nature deficit disorder. These human-driven threats have human-driven solutions. No matter your background, interests, or experience, there is an action you can take to make the world better for birds. Your action may inspire a friend, a family member, or your neighbor to take action as well. We at Michigan Audubon invite you to make 2017 a year for conservation action – let’s each make a pledge for birds!

You won’t be alone in your conservation-minded pursuits; we’ll help you. We’ve put together 5 broad categories of pledges for you to explore, each containing a variety of actions for every type of bird aficionado. Get inspired by our suggestions or feel free to customize your own pledge for birds.

I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do. —Edward Everett Hale

Create better habitatCREATE better habitat

The greatest threat to birds is habitat loss. While we often look to preserves and protected lands to support wildlife, there are millions of acres with great potential that we consistently overlook—urban spaces. Backyards, curbsides, ditches, urban parks, and suburban lawns are bursting with opportunity; but we must terminate our love affair with turf. Put on your habitat-tinted glasses and re-imagine that “hellstrip” between the curb and sidewalk. Replace that swath of manicured lawn with a strip of sunset orange butterfly milkweed, swaying little bluestem grass, and delicate foxglove. Think of that ditch you awkwardly mow (when it isn’t sopping wet) and imagine dark purple asters, pink swamp milkweed, or a burst of red cardinal flower. Imagine your workplace, church, or school—is there a place where butterflies flit and birds find refuge?

Explore the links below for a variety of resources to help you create better habitat in 2017!

 

Pledge to Maintain Healthy Habitats

Pledge to maintain healthy habitats in your backyard or neighborhood:

  • Plant native plants
  • Remove invasive plants
  • Create a brush pile
  • Provide clean bird feeders
  • Add a water feature
  • Reduce lawn chemical use
  • Prevent bird window strikes
  • Keep cats indoors and dogs leashed
  • Volunteer to improve your local nature preserve

Books for Native Plant Inspiration

Beautiful No-Mow Yards: 50 Amazing Lawn Alternatives By Evelyn J. Hadden
While not all of the gardens are native or Michigan-specific, there are practical tips on transforming turf into gardens, maintaining different types of gardens, and photographs for design inspiration.

Bringing Nature Home by Doug Tallamy
If you’ve ever wondered what the big deal is about native plants, this book is an essential introduction. Tallamy gives real-world examples of the role native plants play in natural and landscaped settings. Once you read this book, you’ll never plant another Burning Bush again.

Garden Revolution: How Our Landscapes Can Be a Source of Environmental Change By Larry Weaner and Thomas Christopher
Garden Revolution shows how an ecological approach to planting can lead to beautiful gardens that buck much of conventional gardening’s counter-productive, time-consuming practices. Instead of picking the wrong plant and then constantly tilling, weeding, irrigating, and fertilizing, Weaner advocates for choosing plants that are adapted to the soil and climate of a specific site and letting them naturally evolve over time.

Hellstrip Gardening: Create a Paradise between the Sidewalk and the Curb By Evelyn J. Hadden
While there isn’t an emphasis on Michigan plants or even on native plants, there are practical tips on gardening in the spaces between sidewalks and curbs, including information on navigating city ordinances and other unexpected pitfalls.

Landscaping with Native Plants of Michigan by Lynn M. Steiner
What many consider a must-have for native gardeners, Landscaping with Native Plants of Michigan answers a wide range of practical gardening questions, gives species lists for every growing condition, and provides a full appendix of plant species accounts complete with beautiful photographs sure to inspire.

The Living Landscape by Rick Darke and Doug Tallamy
Many gardeners today want a home landscape that nourishes and fosters wildlife. But they also want beauty, a space for the kids to play, privacy, and maybe even a vegetable patch. Sure, it’s a tall order, but The Living Landscape shows how to do it.

Planting in a Post-Wild World: Designing Plant Communities for Resilient Landscapes By Thomas Rainer and Claudia West
An inspiring call to action dedicated to the idea of a new nature—a hybrid of both the wild and the cultivated—that can flourish in our cities and suburbs.

Healthy Habitat Elements

Invasive Plant Removal
Midwest Invasive Plant Network – Provides information on invasive plant identification and tested control methods.
Midwest Invasive Species Information Network – Great resource for mapping invasive species observations via the website and a mobile app. This site also provides invasive plant identification training modules.
Brush Piles
Tips from Cornell’s YardMap
Tips from BirdWatching.com
Snags
Tips from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife
Tips from Cornell’s YardMap
Water
“Wild” shoreline tips from Cornell’s YardMap
Discouraging mosquito tips from Cornell’s YardMap
Providing water for birds from The Cornell Lab of Ornithology
Lawn
Low mow turf alternatives Prairie Moon Nursery and Michigan Wildflower Farm
Herbicide use tips from Cornell’s YardMap
Pre-planned native garden layouts from Prairie Moon Nursery
Pets
Avoid creating an ecological trap from Cornell’s YardMap
Cats and birds from the American Bird Conservancy
Protecting Piping Plovers from the US Fish and Wildlife Service
Glass
Curbing collisions from the American Bird Conservancy
Reducing bird collisions best practices from the US Fish and Wildlife Service

Volunteering for Healthy Landscapes

There are numerous places to volunteer and make a big impact towards providing and maintaining healthy landscapes. Here are just a few suggestions.

Michigan Audubon

Michigan Nature Association

The Nature Conservancy

Michigan Department of Natural Resources

Local land conservancies

Local parks departments

Any place there is (or needs to be!) a native garden

 

Share knowledge + timeSHARE knowledge + time

We each have experience, knowledge, and passion to share with others. At a time when nature deficit disorder is a concern for both children and adults, it is more important than ever to share our appreciation for nature and engage others to explore the natural world with us. If you have children, grandchildren, nieces or nephews, or other young people in your life, introduce them to birds. Whether through coloring books, stories, feeder watching, or nature walks, there are many ways to engage young people in birding. Even if you aren’t an expert birder, just sharing your appreciation for nature with others is incredibly valuable. Organize casual bird walks at a local park, start a coffee or book club for bird and nature lovers, gather a volunteer group to adopt a native garden or nest box trail, or offer your skills as a writer, illustrator, orator, or filmmaker to a nonprofit. We each can make a unique contribution to bird conservation.

Explore the links below for helpful tips regarding how to share your knowledge and time for bird conservation.

 

Pledge to Engage Your Community in Birds

Pledge to engage your community in birds:

  • Mentor a new young birder
  • Get your local school, scout troop, or youth group involved in birds
  • Organize bird walks at your local nature preserve
  • Contribute to a birding trail
  • Write an article for your local Audubon chapter newsletter or local news source
  • Organize a team to adopt a native garden or nest box trail

Mentor a New Young Birder

Young Birders Club Toolkit by eBird

15 Resources for Young Birders by BirdWatching Magazine

Tips for Mentors by New Jersey Audubon

Lead a Bird Walk

Leading a Bird Walk tips by Environment for the Americas

Manual for Bird Walk Leaders (pgs 7-9) from the US Fish and Wildlife Service

Contribute to a Birding Trail

Michigan’s Birding Trail Network on the Michigan Audubon Website

Montana Birding Trail How-to Guide

North Huron Birding Trail Development Guide. Email birds@michiganaudubon.org for a copy.

Organize a Team to Adopt a Natural Area

Joining a Garden Club by National Garden Clubs, Inc.

Michigan Chapters of Wild Ones

 

Observe for citizen scienceOBSERVE for citizen science

Citizen science has opened up a world of science and discovery to millions of observant people. Our curious nature drives us to take note of which birds we are seeing, where, when, and how many. These local observations piece together to form a full, landscape-wide picture of the status of bird species. The opportunities to contribute to research and conservation by gathering data from the world around us are endless. No matter the season, location, age or experience level, there is a type of citizen science project fit for everyone. Researchers have utilized results from these citizen science projects to detect long-term population declines, range expansions, migration shifts, and much more. Your contributions are valuable for bird conservation locally, regionally, and worldwide.

Explore the links below to learn about a variety worthy citizen science efforts.

 

Citizen Science Projects

Participate in the Christmas Bird Count

Adopt a Breeding Bird Survey route

Report feeder observations to Project FeederWatch

Count winter birds for the Great Backyard Bird Count

Count roosting chimney swifts during fall migration

Monitor your “patch” with eBird

Install and monitor a nest box in your yard or a local natural area with NestWatch

Report invasives online or by mobile app via the Michigan Invasive Species Information Network

Map your bird-friendly yard on YardMap

 

Consume wiselyCONSUME WISELY choose bird-friendly products

As consumers, we make a statement with our wallets. Where we choose to invest money reflects our personal values. We focus many of our conservation efforts on issues here in Michigan, mostly regarding breeding birds, but many of our actions as consumers impact migratory birds on the wintering grounds or birds that we may never interact with, but also need our help. Shade-grown coffee plantations support a significantly greater diversity and number of birds compared with aggressive sun-grown plantations. Pelagic species are consuming bits of algae-scented plastic and filling the bellies of their young with indigestible refuse. Making well-informed purchasing decisions sends a clear economic message – birders are willing to invest in sustainable, bird-friendly products and markets.

Explore the links below for suggestions about choosing bird- and eco-friendly products.

 

Bird- and Eco-Friendly Products

Purchase shade-grown coffee from Birds & Beans

Buy sustainably certified wood products

Purchase sustainable seafood, grass-fed beef

Buy local

Bring reusable bags to the grocery store

Shop at nurseries registered with the Michigan Native Plant Producers Association

Purchase a duck stamp

 

Be a voice for changeBE A VOICE for change

We live in an ever-changing world where many of the governing bodies are out of touch with nature and the needs of the environment. It is our responsibility to inform decision makers that we as constituents value birds, nature, and the environment and their protection is important to us. The birds cannot write to their congressmen and women; we must speak up for them. There is no need to grab a sign and picket, but it’s important to be informed about the issues at hand. Get involved with policy at the local, state, and federal level and be an informed voter or write letters, op-eds, or statements to present at planning commission meetings. Give a voice to birds in a respectful, engaging way to be a successful advocate for birds.

Explore the links below for actions you can take to be a voice for birds.

 

Be an Advocate for Birds

Be aware of climate issues

Advocate for renewable energy

Learn about properly-sited wind energy

Support bills for habitat conservation, preservation, and restoration

Promote implementation of Great Lakes Safe Passage

Support bans on selling invasive plants in nurseries

Support bird conservation advocacy issues highlighted by the American Bird Conservancy

 

 

Share your Conservation Commitment