Friday, September 7, 2007

Please don't chase the birds

Dogs make great companions. Along with the companionship come responsibilities. Exercise is part of those responsibilities. Now-a-days as we crowd out wildlife, part of our responsibilities is to understand where and when it is good to allow our dogs to run free. Your dog on the beach running free is a beautiful sight to you. But when a dog runs through resting flocks of migrating birds, it ceases being about the dog’s game. It is a matter of life and death for some of those birds who have already traveled miles and have miles still to go.
I looked forward to a quiet morning of studying swallows and terns. There I stood on the last boardwalk over one of my favorite spots watching a few swallows when I saw the shorebirds well up out on the beach. My heart sank. I headed immediately out to the beach. There was a couple with their lovely spaniel. Well the dog was bounding thru the birds. If I had been a few minutes early I could have been in position to engage this couple with their dog in conversation. In this conversation, I explain why it is important to allow the birds here to rest. I find that most folks have no idea what these birds are doing there. Once they hear & understand, they gladly help the birds. Education is the key to understanding and cooperation. We need to get the word out that the Southend of Jekyll is a very special place. It can be a place to watch, study, and learn about birds and wildlife. There is a comment book at the Jekyll Island Campground Bird Sanctuary where folk can write comments about the sanctuary. Many of the comments are thanking the Jekyll Island Authority folks for having this quiet place of reflection. The south end beach is a similar place of rest and quiet.
Today the dog bounded by me. The birds were gone. I turned to see that part of the flock had settled down east of me. I picked up my scope and walked there. It was hot and the tide was going out which meant that a lot of the birds were heading out to other resting places. While studying the flock I found several species I wanted to draw and record. Caspian, Royal, and Sandwich Terns were present. Working away I didn’t find any Common or Forster’s Terns but I was content to get some contour drawings of the mixed flocks. These contour drawing are what I use to get a “feel” for the birds. I call this excise tactile learning. This excise makes you pay attention to the details that are important in creating a work of art. My excise was interrupted again when the dog came back bounding through the flock. The birds were gone again. The couple walked by me waved and smiled totally oblivious. I had missed my opportunity to engaging them in conversation. I turned around and headed back west. I did find three Black Terns but they were extremely jittery. The whole smaller flock remained jumpy.

I turned and went to the Campground Sanctuary. There it was quiet and the birds were enjoying the food and water. There were Northern Parula, Summer Tanager and White-eyed Vireos as well as the ever present of cardinals, chick-a-dee and titmice. The Amphitheater area had resting night-herons and Anhingas. It was a productive morning but I will apology for the rant about the dog on the beach. It just shows me we have to do more to educate Jekyll’s visitors about Jekyll’s wildlife. What a wonderful opportunity we have to educate in a uniquely Jekyll way which is fun and enjoyable!
Thanks Lydia

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