By Irene Perry
The Spirit of Skagit Audubon
I recently had the opportunity to volunteer at a local festival where I represented Skagit Audubon. It was of course a cold and rainy morning. This event attracted all birding skill levels, but particularly beginners. So with binoculars in hand and a scope set up nearby, I was ready to be enthusiastic for any birds, from the common Song Sparrow to the seldom seen American Bittern. Given the habitat, I wasn't surprised to see these two birds. What did surprise me were the many questions about Skagit Audubon.
A visiting millennial was the first to ask, “What makes Skagit Audubon different?” I didn't hesitate and answered, “It is the welcoming spirit of our chapter.” She asked me to elaborate. “Skagit Audubon welcomes all people who care about protecting habitats and wildlife. You don't have to be an expert birder to join. In fact, many of our members are not birders. Some are interested in hikes or monthly programs. We have members focused on conservation and legislative issues. Of course, if you are interested in birding, our field trips are a great way to connect with people of all birding levels who areeager to share their knowledge and experiences with you. That's what makes us a chapter and not a birding club.”
Having lived in seven different states and made a point of joining birding groups even when traveling, there is a big difference between a welcoming chapter and a bird club. First, a welcoming chapter makes you feel like you're part of something special. A club makes you feel like you need to know a certain code or pass a test to join. I've felt like an “outsider” with different groups and it's not fun. That's the difference. Skagit Audubon activities are fun, learning experiences where you have the opportunity to build friendships.
A gentleman nearby was overhearing the conversation. He turned to me and said, “Well I must confess, I used to be a duck hunter. Would Skagit Audubon welcome me?” After laughing, I replied, “Of course! Most duck hunters I've met are very interested in protecting habitat.”
I have a confession to make too. I checked out Skagit Audubon before I joined several years ago. I went on a field trip which the newsletter said was opened to nonmembers and all levels of birders. I felt the welcoming spirit of Skagit Audubon on that very first encounter. Okay, but how would I feel at a monthly meeting and program? Yes, that same friendly atmosphere.
I would like to thank this chapter for making me feel welcome and inviting me to join. I strive to extend a welcoming spirit to all members and visitors to Skagit Audubon. Even on cold, rainy mornings when I'm on a field trip looking at Song Sparrows, I smile and say, “Welcome, I am from Skagit Audubon.”