|Credit: US Fish and Wildlife Service|
Here in our mild winter climate of the South Carolina Lowcountry, we birders eagerly anticipate the beginning of the 114th Audubon Christmas Bird Count season, which begins December 14, 2013. As we enjoy counting and watching the wintering birds in our area, it is important to consider from whence they came. Many species of songbirds, shorebirds and waterfowl travel thousands of miles to spend their winters with us in South Carolina. On the other end of one of the possible routes is the Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge, where some of our Atlantic Flyway species co-mingle with other species from all over the world on this breeding ground. This 19 million acre Alaskan refuge, a final stopping point at the end of nearly every flyway in the world, serves as one of the most prolific breeding grounds for many of the planet's species.
With a goal of inspiring people to protect birds worldwide, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, partnering with the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), produced this film (below), Alaska's Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge, to highlight the importance of this refuge to international birdlife conservation. This awe-inspiring film, narrated by USFWS biologist Brian McCaffrey and produced by Cornell's multimedia specialists, Eric Liner and Gerrit Vyn, transports you over a delta that is as much water as it is land. The film provides glimpses into the private breeding & nesting moments of multiple species.
First debuted by the USFWS at an international meeting of the East Asian-Australasian Flyway Partnership in June 2013, this film is now being used by the US State Department in US embassies of the member countries of this partnership to promote international conservation for the birds along that flyway.
It appears that the goal of using this video to inspire conservation efforts has taken root abroad. Likewise, this video motivated me to share it with you via the blog. Most of us may never visit the Yukon Delta but we enjoy the birds which fly from there to spend winters with us. As we enjoy these birds, we too must work to conserve the lands that support our birds' stopover sites along the 4 major American flyways. If we do not protect these areas, the birds will not survive to return to the Yukon Delta to make more birds.
There are so many ways in which we as individuals can help migrating birds. Locally and nationally, we can join organizations such as the Sierra Club, the Audubon Society, Ducks Unlimited, the Coastal Conservation League, the Nature Conservancy and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Membership fees help to support the work of these organizations whose goal is the protection of our wild lands and wildlife. Consider giving a green gift at Christmas such as a membership to a conservation organization. Also, volunteer activities as members of these organizations allow you hands-on opportunities to support their mission on the local level. Another action you can take is to participate in the Christmas Bird Count and other such counts. These counts serve as citizen science endeavors that provide invaluable data to scientists on the viability of bird populations. By purchasing the Federal Duck Stamp, you can contribute directly to funds that support our National Wildlife Refuges. Since 1934, over $800 million has been collected and used to buy or lease 6 million acres of wetlands habitat. The list of ways in which we can support conservation efforts along our flyways could become quite long and is probably worthy of its own post. But I will say finally, that one of the most important actions any of us can take is to share our knowledge of and passion for birds, wildlife and wild areas with others. We know that life outdoors -- in nature -- is great! Now, more than ever, we need to share that passion with others. This passion is infectious. When we can instill it in others, we help elevate the importance of preserving our wild places for wildlife -- such as those birds that arrive from the great Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge!