Call to Artists: Common Grounds

 Common Grounds

A Call to Artists from the Birds of Vermont Museum
in recognition of 100 years of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and its conservation consequences

Birds link us.  We need the same things: food, water, air, places to live. We humans have sometimes used laws to protect those needs we have in common. In 1918, the US Congress put into place the Migratory Bird Treaty Act—one of the first laws setting limits on what we could and could not do specifically with respect to migratory birds. Since then, we’ve asked new questions, discovered new ramifications, and come to new understandings about what the work of conservation entails. In order for the Migratory Bird Treaty Act to be successful, people have to work together across geographic, political, socioeconomic, and ecological boundaries. We need to find—or create—common ground. What does that look like? Continue reading “Call to Artists: Common Grounds”

The Four Phases of Bridges to Birds

B2B-Banner

Bridges to Birds incorporates disaster recovery, resilience, and prior long-term plans to make outdoor experiences at the Museum accessible to all visitors, including people with limited abilities and families with small children. This four-phase project also expands conservation and educational opportunities and increases the number of locations available for quiet appreciation and contemplation of the natural world.

Connecting to People:
Bridge and Walkway

$104,000
(still need $56,500)

This phase means

* New wildlife observation areas
* Fully ADA-compliant access from parking to Museum
* Protected riparian areas and stream bank stabilization
* Publicly visible donor acknowledgments
* Improved bird habitat
* Resistance to future flooding and precipitation events

We are working with the State of Vermont, the Town of Huntington, and civil, structural, and hydrological engineers to design and build a bridge and walkway after installation of a larger culvert under the road. Interpretive signs, plantings, and welcome information will follow.

Connecting to Nature:
Interpretative Trails

$17,000
(still need $9,000)

This phase provides

* Outdoor exploration
* Citizen scientist access
* Routes for monitoring and birding walks
* Integration with and protection of woodland, meadow, and near-pond habitats
* Peaceful retreats
* Well-maintained trails

Volunteers, staff, and interns repair trails, footbridges, and handrails. We continue to work routing water away from trails, and providing sturdy footing where needed. New maps, signage, and guide materials will be created.

Connecting to New Perspectives:
The Treehouse

$30,000
(still need $2,500)

This phase showcases

* An accessible (ADA-compliant) treehouse, reached by a gravel ramp
* Opportunites to observe birds in the forest canopy
* An outdoor classroom /exhibit space
* New nature-focused programs and activities

The treehouse is already open! We completed the construction thanks to a generous partnership with Center for Technology Essex, Evergreen Roofing, and dozens of volunteers. A grant from the Vermont Community Foundation helped with treehouse-specific programming. The last donations will fund educational signage and seating.

Connecting to Conservation:
Bird-friendly Gardens

$6,000
(still need $2,000)

This phase includes
* Demonstration gardens
* Native plants
* Quiet contemplation spaces
* Habitat and foraging diversity for native birds
* Inspiring and encouraging Vermont gardeners and would-be gardeners

The Gardens phase integrates previous work by staff, interns, and gardeners on local, bird-friendly plantings, garden layout, and native species. Garden beds, paths, booklets, informative signs, and short education tours all extend the experience.

 

Bridges to Birds: where we’ve been

How it All Began in July 2013: Flash flooding at the Museum
Plus photos.
Last Year’s Update: Bridges to Birds: Connecting to People
More about the Treehouse: A New Point of View (from our Treehouse)
A booklet about it: Bridges to Birds (1Mb PDF)
And the collected posts (tagged “Bridges to Birds”)

Donate to help! We happily accept donations online through JustGive, NetworkForGood, and PayPal. You can also call (802) 434-2167 with your credit card info, or send a check in any amount at any time to

Birds of Vermont Museum
900 Sherman Hollow Road
Huntington, Vermont 05462

A BIRD’S EYE VIEW: Mapping the territory (Day Camp)

IMG_4166Kids! Dive into acres of fun and constructive activity as you become a field researcher, engineer, and map-maker!  Join us for three days of exploration on the Museum grounds as we examine, record, and create maps of different parts of our bird-rich habitat.  Open your eyes to new ways of looking at the terrain; see and think like a returning migratory songbird or hawk soaring high overhead. Learn how a scientist gathers and uses information to understand a bird’s eye view of the landscape.

Grown-ups! During this three-day summer session, we will explore, document, and model the rich habitats which attract and sustain our summer nesters. We will immerse ourselves in creating 2D and 3D maps, which will utilize and reinforce engineering and math skills, the use of technology, and the science supporting a bird’s selection of an appropriate nesting site as well as issues related to environmental sustainability. This program is designed to align with the newly developed Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) for science educators and their students nationwide. A Bird’s Eye View: Mapping the Territory will appeal to both the creative and analytical thinker in each participant.

Experience a whole new outdoors.

For: Kids ages 8-12

Bring: your own water bottle, and lunch. Afternoon snack will be provided. Wear weather-ready clothing and shoes, bug repellent, and sunscreen.

When: Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, July 1-3 at the Birds of Vermont Museum from 9:00 am to 3 pm.

Fee: $120 for members, $135 for non-members.

Pre-register at 434-2167  or museum@birdsofvermont.org. Limit: 10 (Still a few spaces!)

The Bird Carver’s Daughter (Part 6: Habitat Shots)

Guest post by Kari Jo Spear, Photographer, Novelist, and Daughter of Bob Spear

“Take a shot in that direction.” My father pointed down toward the brook through some hemlock trees. “Good ruffed grouse territory.”

“Okay,” I said. My job was to take an interesting photo. So I crouched down, trying to get into ruffed grouse mode, going for an eye level perspective. If I was a grouse, I’d lay my eggs right under the trees. Of course, I wasn’t a grouse, and this was another of my father’s crazy attempts to get me into his “carve all the birds in Vermont” project. He thought it would be helpful to have a plastic sleeve hanging from each display case with some facts about the bird and a photo of its nesting habitat. I thought all the leaves and flowers and stuff he was putting in the cases would be enough to clue people in, but he wanted photos, too. Wouldn’t it be nice if I took them?

Well, I liked taking photos, and my father’s fancy Nikon with interchangeable lenses was pretty cool. But nesting habitat was not exactly an exciting subject to photograph. We’d been hiking for hours, and I’d been dutifully taking shots of deciduous trees, evergreens, moss, and even dead stumps. That part wasn’t really so bad. The real problem was that habitat shots had to be taken in the spring when the birds were nesting. The birds needed to take advantage of insects, who were also doing their multiplying thing. Right now, every black fly in Huntington was taking advantage of their favorite food source—me. They didn’t care about my artistic endeavor, they didn’t care that I reeked of insect repellant, and they didn’t care that I was allergic to them. My eyes were going to be puffed shut tomorrow, I knew it.

I am a grouse, I thought. I snapped two more shots down toward the brook, even climbing into the brush to get a nice, curving limb to frame the top.

“Okay,” my father said. “Now I want to go to a farm up the road. There’s a pair of cliff swallows building under the eaves of the barn. We can get barn swallow habitat inside. And all the apple trees are in bloom. They’re real pretty, and they’d be good blue bird habitat.”

Anything to get away from the buggy brook. I swatted my way out of the woods—flies never seemed to bother my father—and scratched my way up the road to an old farm that looked as thought it had been there since the glaciers moved out. I liked the way the buildings nestled into the hillside. Sure enough, there was a small colony of cliff swallows building their funny little jug-like nests under the eaves. I didn’t even ask how my father had known they were there. While he chatted with the farmer, I photographed the eaves, then some rafters inside where some barn swallows were busy irritating the cows, and then I wandered around the apple trees in full bloom and thought about how nice a big bee sting would look right between my puffy eyes. Maybe some poison ivy to set it off. Then I tripped over a branch buried in the new spring grass and landed in a woodchuck hole, twisting my ankle.

My father got the car and drove me home. Fortunately, I wasn’t bleeding—my father was not good with blood—and the camera was okay, so there was no harm done. “An old war horse,” my father said, seeing me looking at it on the seat between us.

I didn’t think he was referring to me. A young warhorse, maybe.

“You may as well keep it,” he added.

“Until next weekend?” I asked, wondering if my ankle would be up to more traipsing around.

He kind of shrugged. “Till whenever. If I need it for something, you can bring it back.”

“Oh,” I said, it slowly sinking in that he’d just given me a really nice camera. On a kind of permanent borrow.

“Might as well take the lenses, too.” I noticed that they were in the back seat. A 300mm lens and a wide angle.

“Thanks,” I said, meaning it.

“It’s a good camera,” he said. And that was that. Then he added, “But we need to get the film developed right away.”

“What’s the rush?”

“Montpelier.”

Right, I thought. The state capital.

“Library,” he added.

“You’re going to carve books next?” I’d believe anything.

He shot me a look. “No. Going to have the carvings there next week.”

“What?”

“There’s an art gallery upstairs in the library,” he said patiently. We’re going to have a big opening. Newspapers will be there.”

I looked at him, wondering how he’d known how to set up something like this. He’d probably enlisted Gale. He didn’t even look nervous. I’d be frantic.

“We’ve got to start getting people interested in the project, you know,” he went on. “Need to find someplace to house them.”

At the rate he was carving, he wasn’t going to have room to breathe in the shop much longer.

“There’ll be a reception. With food.” He looked at me hopefully.

“Of course I’ll be there,” I said. And not just for the food.

“Good,” he said. And then he smiled, just a little. “It’s upstairs. Your ankle will be better by next weekend, right?”

Of course it would be. Who wouldn’t want to get all hot and sweaty lugging bird cases to an upstairs gallery? I heaved a sigh. I’d never figure out how he managed to talk me into getting deeper and deeper in this project of his.

The next morning, I limped into school with my eyes puffed mostly shut, my arms and legs sunburned and dotted with red spots, and my left ankle wrapped up.

“What happened to you?” my homeroom teacher asked. All around us were kids with honorable injuries, acquired by heroically sliding into home plate or after bursting through a finish line. Everyone turned to me, waiting to hear my glorious tale.

I dropped into my desk with a sigh. “Wood chuck hole.”

Everyone’s eyebrows went up.

I nodded wisely like this was a big deal. Lowering my voice, I said, “Okay. Let me tell you guys about… habitat shots.”

Author’s Note: Visitors to the museum will notice that there are no photographs hanging from any of the cases. My father finally realized, as someone had tried to tell him, that people would get the idea where the birds nested from all the leaves and flowers and stuff in the cases. The habitat shot phase passed quickly, but to this day if I take a photo with no apparent subject, my father will look at it, smile a little, and say, “Looks like a habitat shot to me.”

And I still have the camera, tucked away somewhere safe. Permanent borrow: thirty-five years and counting.

Kari Jo and Bob Spear, examining "Habitat Shots"  1981,  Photographer unknown
Kari Jo and Bob Spear, examining “Habitat Shots”
1981, Photographer unknown

Kari Jo Spear‘s young adult, urban fantasy novels, Under the Willow, and  Silent One, are available at Phoenix Books (in Essex and Burlington, Vermont), and on-line at Amazon and Barnes and Noble

Previous posts in this series:
Part 1: The Early Years
Part 2: The Pre-teen Years (or, Why I’m Not a Carver)
Part 3: Something’s Going On Here
Part 4: The Summer of Pies
Part 5: My Addiction