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Giving Tuesday: Klamath Bird Observatory

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For the past four years, the Rogue Valley Messenger has hosted the largest in-person Giving Tuesday event in southern Oregon, an opportunity to mix-and-mingle with local nonprofits. The irony! In a year that organizations and individuals most need support, we are not able to gather.

In the weeks leading up to Giving Tuesday, we will post interviews with local nonprofits—and urge you to give and support.


John Alexander is Executive Director for Klamath Bird Observatory

RVM: There has been a certain amount of talk about people hearing more birds during quarantine – in part, because there is less human traffic out there.  Can you talk about any of these silver linings?  Is there really a noted bigger presence from birds in southern Oregon during the past several months?

JA: In March and April, more than 90 percent of Americans were under stay-at-home orders, which meant millions of people were spending more time looking out their windows at a backyard, porch, or garden. Media headlines nationwide noted the rising popularity of birdwatching as a social-distancing pastime” (from All About Birds). “Bird-watching is having a moment,” proclaimed CNN. This is good news in this time of uncertainty, because there is a tie between bird watching and good health. It is well recognized that experiencing nature can improve physical health and decrease stress. In fact, listening to bird songs and calls can help improve a person’s mood and focus. KBO manages a regional portal of the Global eBird community science application called eBird Northwest. The app allows bird watchers to enter and track their observations. Recently, “more birdwatching activity translated into a surge in eBird checklists in April, with birders around the world submitting around 50,000 checklists a day” (from All About Birds, www.allaboutbirds.org). Social distancing is likely resulting in a drop in anthropogenic activities as well as a decline in outdoor concentrations of air pollutants associated with emissions from motor vehicles. Will this influence where birds will build nests, forage, and undergo other aspects of their biology? Using eBird Northwest, researchers at the University of Washington are launching a community science program to monitor birds in urban and suburban neighborhoods across the Pacific Northwest while social distancing measures are in place (from eBird Northwest, www.eBird.org/nw).

RVM: Much of your work is “field” work. Has COVID affected what Klamath Bird Observatory is doing?

JA: As the Covid Pandemic introduced many challenges into all our lives, KBO adapted to the novel circumstances. Keeping the safety of our staff, partners, and the rural communities where we work as our priory, for the first time in nearly 30 years we canceled the majority of our field season, however we were not idle with our time.  Our staff diligently worked from their homes, implementing some key nearby field studies, publishing a handful of conservation-relevant papers, producing several new strategic conservation planning documents, and engaging with partners through many hours of video conferencing, to ensure our science keeps informing and advancing conservation decision making and action. As we kept our heads down and focused on the core of our science-driven mission, we missed regular engagement with our community of supporters. In what sometimes felt to us like isolation, as we know it did for many of you as well, we stepped back from having fundraising events, and even sending our regular spring membership appeal, with the intention of offering our supporting community a chance to adapt and self-care as the pandemic hit. However, as the virus rages on, we are now reaching out through innovative outreach fueled by our new website, ventures into Covid-safe community education programming, and with an end-of-year appeal asking for financial support (www.KlamathBird.org/product/end-of-year-donation/).


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