Posted on: January 31 2012

Connecting Birders with Battlefields: Where Nature and History Meet

By Jennifer Errick, Editor, Online Communications
It takes a special kind of person to wake up hours before dawn with a notebook, binoculars, and a field guide and go out in search of birds while the rest of us are warm in our beds. Still, NPCA Civil War Associate Nick Lund zealously trades bird sightings for sleep whenever he can. Nick comes from a long line of nature-lovers and sportsmen; when he spotted a bird guide in a used bookstore seven years ago, something clicked. He’s been observing and learning everything he can about birds–“literally every day since then.”
“It makes you look at the world differently than you would otherwise,” explains Nick. “There’s no such thing as ‘the environment’ as this place that is separate from the rest of civilization.”
Since birds make that connection for Nick between the natural world and the everyday world, it may come as no surprise that he’s been finding ways to combine his love of birds with his love of Civil War history (i.e., his “day job”). He put his two interests together into a Birding the Battlefields initiative earlier this month and last, organizing groups of bird-watchers around the country to take part in the National Audubon Society’s annual Christmas Bird Count, but with a specific focus on Civil War parks.
“So many of these Civil War sites are full of natural beauty, but a lot of people don’t realize it because they see them only as places for history buffs,” Nick explains. “They have a rich history—and they have abundant wildlife, too. Birds are a way for us to get more people interested in these parks who might not normally visit and enjoy them.”
An added bonus for Nick was getting to draw attention to Civil War parks in places like Nebraska and Texas, not just the better-known battlefields along the East Coast. A complete list of the 25 sites, along with counts, species found, and other notes, can be seen on NPCA’s interactive map.
Nick is hoping to continue the initiative with new programs in the spring and summer. He’s considering teaming up with a historian to put together a birding tour of Antietam and Harpers Ferry. He’s also considering Fort Monroe for a possible hawk watch. “Fort Monroe has a lot of shoreline and natural characteristics that people don’t know about,” he says enthusiastically. “People know it as a fort, but it has all of these beaches and open land. It’s a fantastic migration spot.”
Are you a bird-watcher, or curious about the birds you can see at some of these Civil War sites? Let us know, and stay tuned for future excursions while Nick brainstorms where to take his notebook and binoculars next.
You can read Nick’s own account of participating in the Christmas Bird Count at Gettysburg last month on the National Audubon Society’s blog.
Like this story? You can read NPCA’s tips for building a birdhouse or a bat house in your own backyard.

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