Generally speaking, the birdwatchers and the backyard botanists fell into the nerd category. Cool kids didn’t even know what a chrysalis was much less have one in a jar in their bedroom.
But times have changed. Protecting the planet and all of its creepy crawly inhabitants is not only sociably responsible AND socially acceptable but it is also suddenly cool.
Sure, there are many different shades of ‘green’, and environmental responsibility takes many forms. Every day citizens and celebrities alike are proud to proclaim their passion for solar energy and hybrid automobiles. But how many of them are ready to come out of the closet when it comes to the more nerdish pastimes such as bird watching and butterfly gardening? How many of them are ready to admit that they not only hug trees, but they also fondle flowers and even caress critters from time to time?
Certainly we can imagine animal activist celebs such as Mary Tyler Moore and Ellen DeGeneres getting eye-to-eye with the bunnies and squirrels in their yard. And Martha Stewart must surely appreciate the serenade of songbirds in her flower filled gardens.
But what about other well-known environmental celebrities? Do nature lover Darryl Hannah and inner-city gardener Bette Midler welcome the wonders of wildlife to their backyard landscapes? Has Leonardo DiCaprio, Kevin Bacon or Ed Begley Jr. ever marveled at the metamorphous of a butterfly? Do Arnold Schwarzenegger and Pierce Brosnan hang nectar feeders to attract hovering hummingbirds? Has Ted Danson, Willie Nelson or Robert Kennedy, Jr. ever pulled out a magnifying glass to help identify an unknown insect?
If they haven’t, then perhaps they should. It’s a wonderful cause to want to save the planet but it isn’t a planet of asphalt and steel and carbon spewing monolithic factories that we are trying to save. It’s the miniscule miracles. The sights that, in the past, only the nerds have taken the time to notice. And it is there, perhaps, when one gets eye-to-eye with the birds and the butterflies and the creatures that visit our gardens and wander through our yards, that we realize what it is we are working so hard to protect.
So whether you are a star studded celebrity, a prima ballerina or a single parent , it’s time to admit your nerdiness to the world. Go ahead and get excited about the tadpoles in your garden pond and the butterflies eating your herb garden! Grab the magnifying glass and a good nature guide and share the great outdoors with the ones you love.
And if you still aren’t sure whether you want to admit that you are a nerd or not, here are a few questions to help you decide:
You may be a nature nerd if:
- You monthly bill for birdseed is greater than your TV cable bill.
- You feel bad for the bugs that splatter on your windshield.
- You have ever stopped traffic and played crossing guard for turtles, squirrels, ducks or other critters who are trying to cross the road.
- You have a birding Life List.
- You don’t mind when caterpillars eat all of your plants and are even happy to buy them more.
- You have funerals for the critters that die in your yard.
- Your neighbors have ever reported you for having an overgrown yard because you have let your landscape “go native”.
- You have ever reported your neighbors for cutting down trees that are protected.
- You have visited at least one of the stops on the Great American Birding trail.
- You know the difference between a lepidopterist and an ornithologist AND you know how to spell them both.
- You have suddenly become the “eccentric” neighbor who wants everyone to keep their cat out of your yard.
- The binoculars you keep by your back window are for bird watching, not people watching.
- You have given first names to all of the various critters that come to your property and you recognize them by name.
- You are one of the 70,000+ people who has had your yard certified as a National Wildlife Federation Backyard Wildlife Habitat.
- You’d rather capture a bug or spider and take it outside than squish it.
- You not only know what a chrysalis is but you have one in a jar in your bedroom.
According to the 2006 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associate Recreation, there are over 71 million bird and wildlife watchers in the United States. Rumors among various birding groups on the internet hint that Mick Jagger, Eric Clapton, Carrie Fisher and Paul McCartney may be among the many celebrities that dabble in this nerdish pastime.
For more information about how to become a nerd for birds and other backyard wildlife, visit these sites:
National Audubon Society - http://www.audubon.org/ - - For over 100 years, Audubon has been working to protect birds, other wildlife, and their habitats.
National Wildlife Federation - http://www.nwf.org/ - Founded in 1936, It’s purpose has always been to bring together individuals, organizations and agencies interested in the restoration and conservation of wildlife resources.
Cornell Lab of Ornithology - http://www.birds.cornell.edu/LabPrograms/citSci/index.html - The Lab is a nonprofit membership institution whose mission is to interpret and conserve the earth's biological diversity through research, education, and citizen science focused on birds. They believe that bird enthusiasts of all ages and skill levels can and do make a difference.
And if you are already a proud nature nerd, please leave a comment below to proclaim your nerdiness to the world!!
© 2007, Betsy S. Franz, All rights reserved
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