We recently heard about a great new initiative called Pledge 2 Fledge. The concept is simple—during one weekend in August, people around the world will pledge to share their love of birds with at least one new person…a child, your neighbor, a friend, etc. Richard Crossley (writer, photographer and birder) is one of the organizers behind this worthy effort, so we asked him to share a few more details about it. We hope you will consider taking the pledge yourself in a couple of weeks!
Who should be a bird “mentor” of sorts?
I often hear from people that they don’t feel qualified to be a mentor. I believe that anyone with an interest or appreciation of birds and the outdoors can be a mentor. Taking a friend or a neighbor on a short bird walk, pointing out the most common birds and sharing the enjoyment of the experience is being a mentor. My mentor was my schoolteacher, Mr. Sutton. He was a very casual birder and did not know many of the species that we saw. It didn’t matter. He opened my eyes to a world I had not seen clearly before. My life has never been the same since! I feel there are millions of Mr. Suttons. Our job is to empower them to make a difference. The reward of seeing a new birder’s eyes light up is well worth the effort.
Do you think birding is becoming more mainstream?
Yes and no. Statistics show that viewing and photographing birds is one of the fastest-growing pastimes in North America. However, I feel we have only scratched the surface. Due to the fractured nature of organizations in the US, we have been unable to polarize the population in the way RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) has in England. They have 190,000 members in the youth division and over 1 million members in total, the equivalent of 5-6 million in the US. In the UK, birding and the outdoors has been popularized by multiple household TV celebrities, some of whom are aired prime-time and live. Bringing birds front and center, whether through social media, TV or webcams and making it fashionable is something we have to focus on. Recent movies like The Big Year and HBO’s Central Park Effect are a step in the right direction but we have a long way to go. But we can get there and fairly quickly if we come together.
We believe there is a unique and easy way to make birding and the outdoors mainstream. We need Birds and Blooms readers to be part of this. If everyone were to invite a family member, a neighbor or a friend on August 24th-26th and take them for a short walk nearby or even in their garden (a glass of wine should be optional afterward!), imagine the impact. When people get to see your world the way you do, it’s been my experience they’ll be drawn into the wonders of birding and the outdoors.
What’s your advice to the newbie birder?
Birding is a voyage of discovery, which is more rewarding when you look really closely and question everything you see. This is not to work out right and wrong but to enjoy and understand the beauty of birds and nature. There are multiple reasons people are drawn to birds – behavior, ID challenges, bird feeding, photography or art. My main advice is to enjoy it.
Having a mentor can really help you see things that would take longer to discover alone. However, most people already have more knowledge than they realize. What Pledge to Fledge hopes to do is to share that knowledge with a neighbor, friend or family member on two weekends a year and hopefully beyond that.
Where did the idea come from?
A group of us (Keith, Danielle and Michelle) had a chance meeting at the huge Bird Fair in Rutland Water, England, in August 2011. Although we are all different ages, from different parts of the globe and have diverse birding interests, we all had one thing in common—our love for birds and the outdoors.Enjoying a good English pint at a local pub one evening, we quickly discovered that we all shared the same passion for popularizing birding with its resulting benefits for conservation and lifestyles. We agreed to continue the conversation once we returned home. Within a few months, Dave came on board… and the rest is history. With a dream of what the future of birding could be, and the hope that birders worldwide are as fervently committed to generating interest in birds, birding and by extension the natural world, a new global initiative (Pledge to Fledge) was hatched.
Is the initiative really going to be global?
In this day and age the world is a small place – it gets increasingly smaller. With the growth of the internet and social media sites as well as the proliferation of photographs and video, the world is not only connected, but literally at the touch of a keypad and seconds away. It seemed logical to make this movement global. By recruiting and empowering like-minded people as ambassadors, we felt an international team would spread the message further and louder. Teams also do better than individuals, particularly when there is so much to learn from each other.
Our team already consists of ambassadors in all six continents. Our goal is to have representation in every country in the world and give birders a global community with a loud voice. Traditionally, birding has been fragmented, both nationally and internationally. Our aim is to unite birders and organizations and give them a common forum for communication and a platform where every individual can make a difference.