Hope is the thing with feathers: Birding in Columbus with Jason Ward
Author: Nicole Jackson, EPN program coordinator
Winter in Ohio is usually a pretty cold and snowy month, but we've had some warmer than normal weather (and not much snow) since the end of 2019. I love nature and getting people outdoors to enjoy its beauty. I reached out to birder Jason Ward in early 2019 to see what he'd been up to since attending the Biggest Week in American Birding and filming more episodes of his web series Birds of North America. Birders of color do exist, but our numbers are few. Jason Ward is passionate, funny, competitive and engaging. It was a no brainer for me to ask if he could be our guest speaker for February's EPN Breakfast program. With no hesitation, Jason accepted and I'm glad he did. With that confirmation, I realized that I needed to consider his expertise, time and birding experiences as a person of color when plannig this event. Yes, I wanted him to experience Ohio from a birding perspective, but I also wanted people attending his talks and bird hikes to see us in these spaces, guarded sometimes yes, but happy because we should have the same opportunity to enjoy nature as anyone else. Although I knew it would be more work for me, I wanted his time to be special and worth the visit. I reached out to my birding friends, colleagues, environmental professionals, families and students to join in the festivities so we could build more support for birders, black birders and a more diverse and inclusive birding community.
With a background in Environmental Education, l've seen very few people of color that look like me doing this type of work. By that I mean, seeing someone that looks like me be able to share THEIR NARRATIVE in a way that gives them a sense of ownership and confidence to lead and teach. Jason had a difficult upbringing, but didn't let that define who he is now or get in the way of his love for wildlife. He does not have any degrees, but his knowledge and enthusiasm speaks volumes. From that passion and thirst for knowledge, he continues to build his skills and is now giving back to his community, today's future leaders.
Check out event highlights from Jason's visit below.
February 17, 2020
Bird walk with Jason Ward at Blacklick Woods Metro Park
Hosted by Friends of Metro Parks
About 30 attendees, both first-timers and avid birders, slowly hiked for about a mile through Blacklick's Buttonbush trail while listening and looking for birds to add to the park site's list. In addition to chickadees and cardinals, we also were able to point out four species of woodpeckers, bluebirds, and a few raptors, one who had just finished a large meal! At the end of the walk, we documented 24 species in eBird. After the hike, attendees spent some time taking photos with Jason and discussing his next birding destination, which was the San Diego Bird Festival.
For more on upcoming bird hikes and other events at a Columbus and Franklin County Metro Park near you, visit https://www.metroparks.net/
February 18, 2020
Environmental Film Series: Birds of North America with Jason Ward
Birds of North America, National Audubon Society birder, Jason Ward, narrated seven episodes on Topic.com, blazing a trail for children in under-served communities to love and understand the natural world and build justice, equity, diversity. Nicole Jackson, EPN Program Coordinator, and Naturalist Jim McCormac moderated a panel discussion on how people can get more involved in birding and conservation initiatives.
Check out the Birds of North America series online: https://www.topic.com/birds-of-north-america
Check out Jim McCormac's blog: Ohio Birds and Biodiversity here.
February 18, 2020
Bird walk with OSU Ornithology Club
Earlier in the week, Jason was able to join OSU Ornithology Club and a few Ohio Young Birders Club members for an evening meeting. They shared stories about their recent birding adventures, their favorite birds and nemesis birds. After a great EPN Breakfast program (view recording here), Jason and the OSU Ornithology Club set out to do a short bird hike on Ohio State’s west campus through the Olentangy River trail. There was a lot to see, including a pair of Northern shoveler ducks and a pair of Peregrine falcons spotted at the top of Morrill Tower. We then headed toward Tuttle Park and got an amazing view of a Belted kingfisher. On this walk we documented 28 bird species in eBird.
Ohio Young Birders Club: https://www.ohioyoungbirders.org/
February 19, 2020
A morning with Jason Ward
Hosted by Grange Insurance Audubon Center
We had an exciting morning with staff and attendees at the Grange Insurance Audubon Center. It was frigid, but a sunny morning of birding. Right out of the door…literally, we spotted two bald eagles! We also got a wonderful view through Jason’s scope of a pair of peregrine falcons on top of a downtown Columbus building. Some other fun sightings included Hooded mergansers, Killdeer and White-throated sparrows. We counted a total of 22 bird species.
Grange Insurance Audubon Center: https://grange.audubon.org/
Columbus Audubon: https://columbusaudubon.org/
February 19, 2020
EPN student networking event at Hale Hall
It was a hectic week of assignments and studying for students. For this gathering, we wanted students to find time to relax, chat about their interests, eat some good food and connect with our speaker, Jason Ward. Jason had a chance to talk to students more intimately about his work and journey. They watched a few episodes of Birds of North America and then asked Jason and his guest Deja Perkins, a Wildlife, Fisheries, and Conservation Biology graduate student at North Carolina State University about their interest in the environment. It was a fun and reflective time to join in on the conversation to get a different perspective on what students are interested in, want to learn more of and the importance of having mentors.
To check out photo gallery from the Environmental Film Series, click here
Photo gallery from other Columbus events, click here