|The President’s Hoot|
by Richard H. Baker, Ph.D.
Bird watching is fun and addictive, as you can tell from the movie “The Big Year.” Some birders travel the world just to see one bird. There is even a great website http://www.birdingisfun.com/. Moreover, birding also benefits our economy, personal health and even science.
Birding is Big Business! In 2011, Florida’s wildlife-viewing activities generated $4.9 billion, and 72 million U.S. wildlife watchers spent $54.9 billion. More enthusiasts come to Florida to view our great birds and varied habitats than visit any other state (http://floridabirdingtrail.com/index.php/business/birding_economics1/).
Birding keeps you healthy: Makes you happy, makes friends, keeps you physically active, takes you places, feeds the brain, and leads to new experiences (http://www.birdsandblooms.com/birding/birding-basics/birding-health/). Furthermore, exposure to nature improves wound healing, blood pressure, tension, depression, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Unfortunately many adults and children do not spend time outdoors. The average child spends only 15 minutes daily outside, usually waiting for the school bus, but spends 7-8 hours/day with computers, games, and TV. Two generations of kids and adults have Nature-Deficit disorder, which makes them prone to obesity, depression, and lower grades. Unfortunately, parents are often frightened of nature and wildlife! In Florida, just 16% of African-American students taking the American College Test for college-readiness assessment met the benchmark in math; just 10% in science; with girls, just 35% met the benchmark in math, 29% in science. Research shows that learning about and being out in nature improves these scores and increases minority and female student participation in science and math. Learn about “medicalizing nature” and “ecotherapy” at http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2015/10/the-nature-cure/403210/.
Birding contributes to the Science of Climate Change. Christmas, Backyard Bird, and eBird counts around the world have provided strong evidence for Climate Change. Of the 588 selected bird species in North America, 314 species are threatened or endangered (Audubon.org/climate). Locally, PIAS volunteers are monitoring certain bird species in our county: Eagle Watch, Jay Watch, Breeding Bird Atlas, and Osprey Watch at Blue Cypress Lake. PIAS member Joe Carroll received the 2015 Audubon Florida Jay Watch Volunteer of the Year Award.
Our new Audubon House provides opportunities to protect, advocate, and increase public awareness for wildlife and environment by:
- Exposing people to nature.
- Serving as an eco-tourism destination.
- Providing a class and meeting room.
What is PIAS doing to encourage wildlife viewing and birding?
- With A Florida Outdoor Center (AFLOC), ran a five-week summer Adventure Camp, using a $5,000 Indian River Community Foundation grant to provide scholarships for underserved children.
- Expanding this collaboration to a new outdoor-adventure program for women with AFLOC.
- Partnering with Vero Beach, Citrus, and Glendale Elementary Schools and Indian River Academy to provide a 22-week, Life-Changing Lagoon-Changing after-school program, Audubon Advocates, for Title 1 fifth graders, supported by a $18,000 Impact 100 grant and $4,000 in donations.
- Teaching birding and eBird classes.
- Organizing wildflower workshops.
- Publishing “Bird of the Month” photos to foster bird appreciation.
- Providing nature field trips, monthly speakers in Sebastian and Vero Beach, and an active website (http://www.pelicanislandaudubon.org/) and Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Pelican-Island-Audubon-Society/365598263599458) attracting us to get out in nature.
- Sponsoring the UF/PIAS Nature Stewardship Class for volunteers to lead tours and remove exotics in our county’s conservation lands.
PIAS received Two new exciting National Audubon-funded pilot projects:
- “Spreading the Word: Impacts of climate change and sea-level rise on Treasure Coast birds and their habitats” focusing on Roseate Spoonbills moving north from the Everglades into our region, how climate change affects our “backyard birds,” and what actions we can take to reduce impacts ($5,000).
- A Florida Scrub Jay education program with Pelican Island Elementary School and Indian River Academy fourth and fifth graders, both in the classroom and at Scrub Jay habitats ($500).
Our students and their parents are key participants in understanding what is happening to lagoon wildlife and the effects of climate change on their habitats.
So join us for birding fun! I hope you will become addicted and volunteer for the above projects!