Dear friends and supporters of Delta Wind Birds,
Happy New Year! 2015 was an exciting and productive year for DWB. I’m writing to thank you for your generous support, to give you an update on our progress, and to give you a preview of some of our plans for 2016. We have been busy in the past year working with landowners, organizing workshops, and connecting with the larger conservation community. Despite our small staff composed entirely of volunteers, Delta Wind Birds is growing in reputation as an organization with regional recognition and impact in the conservation community thanks in large part to your support. I hope you will take a few moments to reflect on our shared accomplishments and continued vision for shorebird conservation outlined in the paragraphs below.
- MISSION… an evolving vision
While our mission to promote conservation of migratory shorebirds is clear in its simplicity, our vision for accomplishing this mission continues to sharpen. Our vision has three emphases: assist declining populations, prevent decline of common species, and integrate bird conservation into broader conservation efforts in the region. Watchlist species passing through the Mid-South such as Stilt and Semipalmated Sandpipers are known to be declining in population. Our habitat provision goals directly address these declines by helping to ensure sustainable migrations for these populations. We also believe that bird conservation should keep an eye on the future through a commitment to ensure that the common species remain common. Audubon’s State of the Birds 2014 report listed thirty-three species of “common birds” believed to be in sharp decline. On our regular surveys of habitat created through landowner contracts, the common birds predominate, and we are happy to see it. The maintenance of common species such as the Least Sandpiper is an important part of promoting shorebird populations and significant benefit of our habitat provision. Finally, our growing relationships with other organizations and landowners in the region have highlighted the importance of integrating shorebird conservation with water and nutrient conservation in working agricultural landscapes such as the Delta. We are working to develop innovative conservation approaches to interweave our goals with those of working lands in the region to help shape a more sustainable landscape. Your support allows us to continue this work.
- HABITAT… 90 muddy acres and growing!
In 2015, significant financial and organizational support from our partners at Audubon Mississippi and Strawberry Plains Audubon Center, gifts from the Hummer Bird Study Group and the Memphis chapter of the Tennessee Ornithological Society, and the support of many individuals across Mississippi, Tennessee, and surrounding states, helped us to continue working with private landowners in the Delta to provide habitat for migratory shorebirds. During the fall 2015 migration, we contracted with two different private landowners through our Habitat Incentive Program, providing approximately 90 acres of high quality habitat for fall migratory shorebirds in Humphreys County, MS. Our on-the-ground surveys allowed us to estimate that this habitat was used by upwards of 8,500 migratory shorebirds, plus hundreds of wading birds, including herons, egrets, Wood Storks, and Roseate Spoonbills. These acreage and shorebird totals are more than double what we provided in 2014. Looking ahead to 2016, we plan to continue growing our habitat provision with the help of a grant awarded to us by Patagonia clothing company through their Environmental Grants Program, and through continued engagement from supporters like you.
- EDUCATION… training land managers across the Southeast
A second major way in which DWB helped migratory shorebirds in our region during 2015 was through significant shorebird management workshops for managers of both public and private lands. Along with our partners at Manomet, the Lower Mississippi Valley Joint Venture, and the US Fish & Wildlife Service, we co-hosted workshops (in Isola and Lambert, MS) for more than fifty managers of public and private lands representing six southeastern states. A three-day public lands workshop provided managers and biologists of National Wildlife Refuges and Wildlife Management Areas with information about the biology, conservation, and habitat management to benefit shorebirds. An additional one-day workshop introduced private land managers to these birds, and the potential of creating shallow water habitat on wetlands, aquaculture impoundments, and agricultural fields. Both workshops included field trips to local sites, where participants observed and learned to identify these birds using binoculars and spotting scopes.
…fostering appreciation and enjoyment of birds
As you know, another key aspect of DWB’s mission is general education for the Mid-South birding community. We want to spread the word about how amazing migratory shorebirds are, how they are in trouble, and how we can help them. We also want to promote birding and ecotourism in the Mid-South, particularly the Mississippi Delta, providing opportunities for birders to improve their skills and study a wide diversity of birds in a variety of habitats. During 2015, DWB conducted six bird identification workshops and guided field trips, including one on fall shorebird identification, two on sparrow identification, one on gull identification, and our annual winter birding trip to the northern Delta, plus our Woodcocks & Wine fundraiser. These events provided many birding highlights, and lots of fun—you can find some photo highlights on our Flickr page (and please also follow us on Facebook). Your participation in these events provides crucial grassroots support for our conservation activities. Our lineup of events for 2016 will be similar to 2015, but at each event we’ll try to do a bit of something new, so we hope we’ll see many of you as repeat participants. In the next two months, we have several events planned, about which you can find information (and register online) at our website (link).
- FUNDRAISING… emphasizing the “fun” on a Big Day
A fun highlight for us in 2015 was our fundraising effort to break the “Big Day” birding record for Mississippi. On April 29, 2015, the DWB team attempted to see as many species of birds as possible in a 24-hour period, starting at midnight at the Ross Barnett Reservoir and finishing in Jackson County on the coast. We ended up finding 170 species, just 5 short of the all-time record set in 1989, and through your support (in the form of pledges per species) we raised significant funds for shorebird conservation. You can read a bit more about our Big Day attempt on our website. We learned a lot from our 2015 attempt, and are determined to break the record in 2016. With your support, we’ll do that while raising even more funds for shorebird conservation, so stay tuned!
- CONNECTING… bringing the birding scene to the Mid-South
In 2014, DWB co-organized the Mississippi Ornithological Society’s (MOS) Fall Meeting, bringing in Kevin Karlson, author of The Shorebird Guide, as special guest. Later that year David Allen Sibley, author and illustrator of The Sibley Guide to Birds, produced a limited edition print to support our habitat programs. Mr. Sibley is generously donating to DWB a portion of the proceeds from sales of limited edition prints of this painting, which can be purchased on his website (link).
In a continuing effort to connect the Mid-South with the national birding scene, we are co-sponsoring the MOS Spring Meeting this year which will take place in Oxford, Mississippi, the weekend of April 29-May 1, featuring David Allen Sibley. We are pleased to continue our relationship with Mr. Sibley and are proud of his support for our organization. Mr. Sibley will be giving a talk, signing books, and leading bird walks over the course of the weekend. You won’t want to miss this event. Registration will be available soon, so watch for further announcements.
- SUPPORT… THANK YOU for making bird conservation a priority
If you’ve read this far, I hope you are as impressed as I am with what we have been able to accomplish in 2015 through volunteer efforts and grassroots financial support. On behalf of the DWB board of directors (myself, Philip Barbour, Gene Knight, Madge Lindsay, Nick Lund, Wayne Patterson, Nina Rifkind, and J.R. Rigby), I want to thank you for your financial support, for your help conducting field trips, and for your generous support in a variety of other ways.
We hope that you will continue to be a supporting member of the Delta Wind Birds community in 2016. Every dollar contributed, whether through purchase of a Sibley print, attendance at our workshops, or tax-deductible donation directly to our habitat fund contributes directly to shorebird conservation. If you made a donation in 2015 (thank you!), you should receive a receipt documenting your contribution by late January or early February, 2016. If you are expecting such a receipt, and you have not received one by then, please notify us so that we can issue another receipt immediately for your tax purposes.
We’re excited for what the future holds, and we look forward to seeing you soon.
President, Delta Wind Birds