JER, Bird Liaison

Someone(s) once commented that Pete Dunn is a writer who birds, while Kenn Kaufman is a birder who writes. (Both of these men are well known in the birding community and have published countless books each.)

I am in no means a writer. Or at least I don’t consider myself to be one. However, I think that if you substitute writer with educator, this phrasing might work for me. Thus, Jordan is a birder who educates, not the other way around.

JER giving a bird banding demonstration to a kindergarten class in Texas

JER giving a bird banding demonstration to a kindergarten class in Texas

I bring this up because several people (all of whom don’t know each other) have brought up the idea/suggestion that I be a teacher. While that’s always been an option and kept on the back burner list of possibilities, I just don’t see it being the vocation I make my life’s career out of. Being a teacher isn’t the job that I feel compelled to rush out and sign up for. Being a bird educator/outreacher of some kind though, that is something I can day dream about.

Why dismiss a traditional teaching position so quickly when it comes up? Well, to be honest, there aren’t any birds…or at least not enough. Yes, there are programs (some of which I’ve worked for and am connected with) that can be brought into the classroom. Yes, there are lesson plans and curriculum involving birds and bird information. But for me, that’s not enough.

Why not just be an ornithologist then? This situation is the complete opposite of teaching though. Where are the people to share the bird information with? Where is the opportunity to talk and engage with people from other backgrounds to get new perspectives and always push me/us to be the best, most scientific ornithologist as possible? Where is the ability to be continually re-energized by the excitement and questions and wonder seen in other people that are being exposed to birds and bird research.

A summer job I once had seems like a great match then. (I put on educational bird events for kids.) Here’s the only thing, the constant change in kids was basically the only thing that made it new and exciting. We had a set program that we did…every, single time. To be honest, after a while it started to get a little repetitive for me.

The issue I see with doing something that involves so much repetition is that I fear I might lose some of my enthusiasm or spark. This is why I need the balance of both worlds. What I may lack in terms of formal education background or training (as of now), I make up with passion. The research aspect keeps me learning and giving me the ability to always have new material to share with others. The outreach component gives me the opportunity to feel like I’m making a difference and doing my part for science and the environmental movement.

How do I describe the balance of ornithology and education/outreach? Liaison. That is what I want to be. I don’t know how else to describe it. I want to take the science and ornithological research and translate that for everyone else to understand.

I’m finding it very difficult to do this though. With the way things are today, it seems as though the choice is either classroom or lab. I’m not happy settling with only those two options.

This all probably sounds stubborn or greedy, but if I’m going to follow what I’ve been taught and stressed by countless people over my life, then I need to “love what I do and do what I love.” And birds and talking about birds is what I love.

JER at Bird Rock, Cape St. Mary's, Newfoundland

JER at Bird Rock, Cape St. Mary’s, Newfoundland

Moving Like a Bird

Bird’s flying. It’s something that has made people envious and jealous for thousands of years. As birder’s we watch the birds fly for hours on end. As ornithologist’s we study how and why birds fly. And yet I question if we will ever truly understand it.

In ornithology classes, the Bernoulli Principle and what physics has to say in regards to explaining how birds can fly is taught. And yet, personally at least, it never really made sense. Until recently that is.

I went sailing for the first time with a friend over the summer. On the lakeshore, she told me all about how the sails and boat worked. She told me the conditions wanted for the best and fastest sail possible. And yet she never told me what it would feel like once we were sailing at the fastest speed we could reach. She didn’t tell me how thrilling it would be or how fast things could change. She didn’t tell me that it would help explain bird flight to me.Bald Eagle

As we sailed, my friend tried to explain everything to me again now that things were actually happening. However, all I could do was realize that the things that were making us move thru the water were the same things that make birds fly. Suddenly, it all made sense as to why northernly winds were preferred for spring migration and southernly winds were preferred for fall migration. It had always seemed backwards to me. Weren’t those winds going in the opposite direction that you wanted to go? Isn’t a wind that pushes you more helpful? But birds fly and I was sailing, not riding a bike. The sails “sung” the loudest and we were going the fastest when we were going straight into the wind with hair in our faces and hands holding our hats down so they wouldn’t blow off into the water.Sailing

To be honest I don’t think I can truly explain the “how” of sailing or flying. Physics has never been my strong suit. But I can explain that the feeling was incredible. To move so efficiently and so swiftly all because of wind and only wind. It made the birds that can just soar endlessly in the air, the ones I’ve seen all my life, even more impressive to me. The buteos, the vultures, the gulls, the swifts and swallows and all the rest. They flap, they glide, they soar, they fly. And it is flight that will always be part of what makes birds so magical to me.

Taking a risk to fly

Connecting people with nature through birds. Bridging ornithology and birding. Making science available and accessible to everyone.

These are all things that are important to me. This website is intended to be another tool for me to continue working on doing this.

So here I am, taking a risk to fly…