Michelle Reynolds: “Become a Backyard Conservationist”

By Michelle Reynolds

It is that time again for a birdcall to action.

Birmingham Audubon’s mission statement, to promote conservation and a greater knowledge of birds, their habitat, and the natural world, is a good one, and I know it is a statement members share and take seriously. Birmingham Audubon has a long and rich history of advocating for conservation in the state of Alabama and monitoring and protecting birds and their habitats. We share our knowledge, our enthusiasm, and our joy for the birds, and we combine our efforts with others to preserve public lands. We hold ourselves accountable to live up to the expectations and successes of our founders, and the Society collectively works to make a difference through programs, field trips, classes, and workshops.

We often think of conservation as a prodigious term — a conservationist works to save a forest, a river, someone who donates large sums of money to buy and save tracts of land. Yes, a conservationist is all of those things, and some Birmingham Audubon members are significant shareholders in the world of conservation and preservation, but there is a type of conservationist of vital importance and we all have the capabilities to strive to become, the backyard conservationist.

To become a backyard conservationist, you have to commit and work to build your own environment, create, conserve and preserve the biodiversity in your yard, your church yard, schoolyard, workplace, your neighborhood, community, and beyond.

In building an environment for birds, you need to provide food for birds, and sure, you can put up a bird feeder, but more importantly, you should provide natural food in terms of seeds, fruit, insects, and nectar. Adults need insects, fruit or seeds, and babies need caterpillars and other larva. The way to provide those food sources is to create habitat in your own yard, plant the native plants, stop using pesticides, use natural leaf mulch to encourage microorganisms, beetles and burrowing larva, and then expand those areas to create corridors. And if you work to do all of these things? Poof, you are a backyard conservationist!

Spread the news of your successes in welcoming and observing your backyard biodiversity. Gather with your neighbors to evaluate the nature in your neighborhood. Be the Johnny Appleseed of native plants. Plant borders of native plants in your yard and encourage your neighbors to do the same by sharing seeds, cuttings, knowledge, and by promoting local native plant sales. Good wildlife borders make good neighbors.

Work to close the gaps in the forests by connecting the dots with your home and workplace gardens, with your city parks and green spaces, and with each other. And in doing so, we can all lend to the economic impact of our communities by providing opportunities for exploration, recreation, and birding.

Affect change in your community. If you have land, use it. If you have money, spend it, If you have a voice, shout it. Start in your own yard and work your way outward. Work with your neighbors, your community, your city, county, and state governments. Fight for your rights of way, your roadsides, your parks, your state parks, your national parks, and beyond. Set out to make a positive impact and back it up with actions, state the facts, and work with others to implement change on a larger scale. Connect your work to other initiatives, and pretty soon you have made a larger impact than what you originally set out to do. Become the everyday environmentalist, the community conservationist, and the public land preservationist.

Photo by Bob Farley: Board president, Michelle Reynolds, creates a border by digging up the turf grass, adding organic matter to the soil, and using leaves from her yard to top mulch. Wildflowers, grasses, and shrubs make up a diverse garden to attract wildlife.