Kay and Audubon

I’m Kay Hawklee, I’m the President of Northern Arizona Audubon Society (NAAS).  I was a birder before I knew I was one – kind of an accidental birder. In late 2014, I was on a trip to Hawaii; and instead of taking photos of the landscape, I took pics of birds. I was a closet birder.

The next month during my move from Colorado to Sedona, I listened to the book “The Big Year” and thought that I was moving to a really good birding state.  An hour after I arrived in Sedona, I saw an advertisement in KUDOS for an Audubon talk by Brent Bitz at the Sedona Library entitled, “Birding With My Closest Billion and A Half Friends.”  I went to the meeting and during the rare bird section, a lady behind me mentioned something about seeing an owl in a barn. After the program, I turned to her and blindly asked where could I see this owl?  It turned out to be Deena Greenwood, who worked at Jay’s Bird Barn, and she was reporting her sighting of a Mexican Spotted Owl.  Deena became my birding mentor and I went from a closet to a full-fledged bird watcher.

Birding can still feel somewhat accidental – will I see a bird, when I see it, will I know what the heck it is?  And the answer is… sometimes.

Birding as Social Connection:

At AZ Legislative Day

Through the years of being a member at NAAS, I’ve found my flock.  A fun group of women who bird together. We call ourselves “Birding Broads”.  These are my peeps!  We may bird just for fun or during the early-morning hours conduct bird surveys that help inform conservation policy. I moved to Sedona without knowing a soul. Now I have soul connections that will last forever.

Watching Wildlife:

The first time I’d ever thought of birds as wildlife was when I heard Brent Bitz call birds “watchable wildlife.” I’d always thought of wildlife as deer, bobcats, coatimundi, etc. I had never thought of birds as wildlife?  But they are and I can see lots of them at my feeder right out my back door.  I enjoy having coffee while watching birds in the early hours – to the last light when I switch to listening for owls.

Birding with a Purpose:

However accidental my induction into birding as a hobby, my participation in Audubon has become purposeful. Once I found out how imperiled birds are “listing” just wasn’t enough. Somehow in 2017, again accidentally, I attended an Arizona Bird Conservation Initiative (ABCI) meeting. I had no idea what it was and what they did. What I found was hope!  Hope for the future of birds. There were very knowledgeable folks from AZ Game and Fish, National Forest Service, Conservation Organizations (such as Audubon) and volunteers from the community who conduct surveys to gather information about bird species whose habitat is threatened for one reason or another. This is birding with a higher purpose.

The balance between all these different types of active birding and passive bird watching is a good one for me and fills most days.

My wish is that every member of NAAS who wants to will:

  • Find their flock,
  • Watch migration in action through the changing species at our feeders,
  • Bird with a purpose, or
  • Just treasure a moment outdoors enjoying nature and birds

Taking Action:

But, the main reason I became President of NAAS is to speak up for birds.  Our mission is to protect their habitat and that is central to who I am as an environmental activist.  While I lived in Colorado, I began fighting contamination of waterways by uranium prospecting, mining and milling. This prepared me to fight for birds.

Hopefully not one Action Alert, from Regional or National Audubon, goes by without my hitting the buttons to take the action requested of me by the Audubon organization of professionals who’ve studied bird species’ needs. I’ve gotten it down to an art. Takes me less than one minute on my phone or computer to send a pre-written letter to Legislators asking that birds be protected. The responses are counted by legislative staff and constituents’ wishes are tallied and taken into account. Had we not eliminated DDT, the Bald Eagles of Dead Horse State Park may not come and breed here every year.  It works!

I’d like to help others who may want to, but don’t know how, sign up and take action for birds. NAAS has four great bird Sanctuaries and Stewards who care for those places. It’s our most direct means of helping birds; for instance, Kachina and Sedona Wetlands are feeding grounds for migrating Shorebirds. It’s important to protect those sanctuaries, but I believe it’s equally as important to speak up for all feeding grounds necessary for bird migration no matter the location. It’s my view that we need to protect places where those birds are coming from and going to.

John Fitzpatrick, “The Father of eBird,” said if you save the world for birds, you save it for all. Sounds right to me.

NAAS has contracted with a savvy team of Social Media geniuses to help our Conservation Organization maximize our outreach and impact. Check out our Facebook page (and Instagram) so that you will know when it’s time to take action, see outstanding photos, and stay connected.

We are already ramping up our use of Facebook and Instagram (nazaudubon) and are ecstatic that we will have the chance to share your content as well!  We’ll be posting content from our members; such as, photos of birds, short videos of birding adventures, etc.  More info on how and what to send will be coming.

Together we can all have fun while using our voices to make a difference for birds!

By Kay Hawklee

Kay Hawklee