Another season of festivals and community events has come and gone. This was a particularly robust one for this volunteer. I logged hundreds of hours exchanging emails with organizers, preparing for, transporting materials, setting up each display and packing up, storing materials as well as replenishing supplies. I met thousands of our neighbors and friends while advocating for our cherished birds. Each event offers different audiences so careful thought must go into planning for each one. I am an active participant at these events, always on my feet, stepping forward to engage people as they make the rounds of the displays. I guide activities for children and their families while discussing conservation strategies with the adults. I also network with the other participating organizations.

I have shared thousands of seed packets of Royal Catch Fly, an endangered prairie plant from my own garden, with folks I have met while continuing the grand and cherished tradition of gardeners everywhere: one that involves sharing seeds and in my case encourages planting native plants that support our birds and other pollinators.

I’ve given away beautiful books, magazines and field guides from the collection of Doreene Linzell that were generously donated to us from her family after her passing and brought to my attention and display table after obtaining them from Bill and Mary Heck. As a result of this bountiful gift, I have had the pleasure of seeing children interested in birds, carrying gorgeous coffee table sized books tightly in their arms, grinning from ear to ear about the gift that was bestowed upon them thanks to Ms. Linzell. Her love of birds is shared by these enthusiastic youngsters, their curiosity and interest nurtured and fed with her gift.

Another aspect of my work with the public on behalf of Columbus Audubon that I find particularly rewarding is meeting the youngsters that are barely tall enough to peer over the edge of my table. They play with the authentic calling bird toys offered to them, and or create their own “birds” with the art materials I often provide for them, while the adult family members accompanying them speak with me about other related topics such as native plants. The children are often more knowledgeable about birds and the environmental issues than the adults who accompany them. The kiddos can talk “bird” with me and quite frequently add to my own understanding of our avian friends!

One of my favorite conversations to engage in with the public is, “We saw this bird….” From their accounts I can usually offer an educated guess about the species they observed and its characteristics as well as its needs. I will also show them a picture of the bird on my Sibley app or in one of the field guides I keep on the table to confirm the name of the bird they have seen. Sometimes they will show me a picture they took with their phone, again seeking to learn what type of bird they saw. I often know the call or song and will share that with them too.

This past fall season brought hundreds of inquiries and ensuing conversations about the appearance of a flamboyance of American Flamingos in Ohio, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Kentucky as well as all along the west coast of Florida. Imagine my delight when a tiny child dressed as a Flamingo attended the Fall Family Fest Trunk or Tweet event last week! I could not stop smiling and enjoyed speaking with the toddler’s family about the Flamingos that had graced so many waterways in the Midwest.

This work is about promoting conservation, but your advocacy is offered to one child and each family one conversation at a time. It requires passion and love to communicate this message.

I love doing this work on behalf of our organization; however it is becoming more challenging for me with each passing season to meet the obligations of carrying materials and standing for hours, often on hot summer days and talking with the public. That said, it is really fun and rewarding!

If there is anyone interested in volunteering to do this work, please reach out to me so that I may begin to share the experience with a successor at Perhaps you could accompany me to some of the events and I could plug you into the vast network of contacts I have carefully mined over many years in Central Ohio? The work is tremendously rewarding especially when you see the light in the eyes of children when we talk “bird” together and the smiles of recognition on the faces of adults when I nail the answer in the “We saw a bird” game.