HW3D Vice President & Queen Bee
John James Audubon, born on April 26th, 1785, was the United States dominant wildlife artist for half a century. His seminal work, Birds of America, a collection of 435 life-size prints, is still a standard by which bird artists are measured. In his later years, Audubon sounded the alarm about the destruction of birds and their habitats. After his death, the Audubon Society was formed and carried his legacy into the future.
Today, Ken Gilliland carries the spirit of JJ Audubon’s work into the 3D digital age by promoting avian artistry and environmental awareness through his Songbird ReMix series. While his contribution to the bird conservation community is an ongoing thing, once a year he hosts a special sale event to bring awareness to the world of birds and raise funds necessary to protect them and their habitat.
2016 marks ten years of this highly anticipated 3D bird event. The 10th Annual Songbird Remix Audubon's Birthday Sale celebrates the third year the sale is being hosted at HiveWire 3D, the new home for the Songbird Remix 3D library. Audubon California has a promotion that coincides with the Audubon Birthday Sale called “Give $5, Save 5 birds”, paying the farmer to leave their crops standing which saves endangered Tri-colored Blackbird chicks from being “harvested” along with the crop that is their home.
Each year, Ken has donated 25% or more of proceeds from the Audubon Birthday Sale to Audubon California. Over the years, the sale has generated thousands of dollars for Audubon. This year, 30% (or more) of Ken’s proceeds on the 2015 Audubon's Birthday Sale will be donated to Audubon California who is directly responsible for preserving many of the birds featured in his Songbird Remix series. The annual Audubon’s Birthday sale has saved almost 20,000 endangered birds to date.
In anticipation of this annual Audubon Birthday sale event, we asked Ken some questions to find out more about Audubon, what else we can do and why saving birds is something everyone should care about.
[HW3D] Why should we care about birds and their habitats?
[SBRMKG]Apart from the economic benefits birds provide, they are predators, pollinators, scavengers, seed dispersers, seed predators, and ecosystem engineers.
Theodore Roosevelt wrote, “Birds should be saved for utilitarian reasons; and, moreover, they should be saved because of reasons unconnected with dollars and cents... The extermination of the Passenger Pigeon meant that mankind was just so much poorer... And to lose the chance to see frigate-birds soaring in circles above the storm, or a file of pelicans winging their way homeward across the crimson afterglow of the sunset, or a myriad of terns flashing in the bright light of midday as they hover in a shifting maze above the beach— why, the loss is like the loss of a gallery of the masterpieces of the artists of old time.”
But birds are very important to our own survival; both environmentally and economically. Birds provide 17 different ecosystem services - such as pollination and water catchment. If we were to pay them for these services, the amount required is estimated between $16- 54 trillion per year worldwide, which is around twice the entire world's Gross National Product.
When someone says saving birds or their environment is bad for business and jobs, they are ignoring a huge customer base. There are over 50 million birders in the US (conservatively defined as having taken a trip a mile or more from home for the primary purpose of observing and identifying birds or tried to identify birds around the home). Birdwatchers spent $32 billion in 2001 that in turn generated $85 billion in economic benefits, produced $13 billion in tax revenues and 863,406 jobs. In addition, US Birders spend $3.1 billion on food for birds and other wildlife; $733 million on bird houses and feeders; $2.6 billion on cameras and associated photographic equipment and $507 million on binoculars and spotting scopes, all in one year (USFWS Study 2001).
[HW3D] What else can we do to help?
[SBRMKG] Audubon recently reported that based on the last 45 years of data, even common species will not be so common tomorrow. Since 1967 the average population of common birds in the United Sates have fallen 70% from 17.6 million to 5.35 million individuals. Certain areas, such as California, are showing declines as much as 95% in some species. So the threat of extinction isn’t limited to obscure and rare species in someone else’s yard-- it’s the jay in your yard, the hummingbird working your flowers, the finches chattering in your tree… and their survival is your responsibility.
Making Easy Choices…
[SBRMKG]Do great art. This one’s real easy. The primary idea behind the Songbird ReMix series is that artists will be able to create imagery using the included bird species and help spread awareness. Use them and make a difference. Post your artwork featuring the birds and tell your audience of their plights. Use the text in the Field Guide or write your own. I guarantee you someone will be moved, and perhaps, moved enough to also make a difference.
[HW3D]Yes, that's not only easy but creating imagery using your birds is fun, too! The entries in the Songbird ReMix Open Rendering Season Contest are a great example of how art, inspiration and the plight of birds can come together beautifully.
[SBRMKG]Heal the earth one garden at a time. One of the primary causes for endangerment and extinction is habitat loss. While few of us can purchase tracts of land to protect and save habitat, almost everyone can garden. Here’s your opportunity to give back to the planet. If you have planting space, whether it be acres or a couple pots on your balcony, use it and plant native plants. You know, the ones that actually belong there. If you’re not aware of what’s native to your area, contact your local native plant society or do internet searches. Native plants and the birds, insects and other wildlife have ancient relationships. Once you start planting the right plants, the wildlife will rekindle these relationships. From my own experience, our bird count when from 40 different species a year to over 100 within a three year period. The types of butterflies tripled and the native mammals and insects I didn’t even know existed in our area now are frequent visitors.
Provide water sources on your property. Whether it’s a bird bath, a mister, a pond or stream, a water source is probably the most important feature you can put on your property for birds. Feeder, nesting boxes, or secluded cover (trees, shrubs, thickets) are also important. Don’t rake away all the leaves. Natural mulch is important to the health of native plants. For many birds, mulch is their forage area. The National Wildlife Federation and Audubon have home wildlife habitat programs. If you have native plants, shelter, food sources and water for wildlife you can be certified as a NWF “Backyard Wildlife Habitat” and for a small fee even get a placard to display out in your yard or on your fence saying so. If neighbors pass by and look at your garden, wondering why it looks a little different (native plants), tell them why. That too, has the snowball effect.
Shop and live green. This is easy to do. If you drink coffee, buy shade grown coffee. Buy organically grown products. Yes, there a little more expensive, but they’re generally better for you. If your city has a recycling service, use it. Also, many power companies offer “green power” options, sign up and if they don’t have one, ask why. Use water, power and gas more wisely. Get energy saving bulbs and water saving toilets and shower heads.
When car shopping, consider less polluting vehicles, hybrids or an EV. Drive less by planning and grouping your stops ahead of time.
If you dabble in the stock market, consider a “green” mutual fund and if you own stock, demand at shareholder’ meetings that the company become more eco-friendly. If a company is known to exploit the environment, don’t buy their products and let them know why you’re not. Write them. Call them. Email them. Believe it or not, they are concerned about losing your business which hurts their bottom line.
Pets… Before everyone starts with the hate mail—I do not hate cats. The average well-fed outdoor housecat kills over a dozen songbirds a year. The housecat being well fed, cared for, with a safe place to sleep has a much clearer advantage than real predators (such as coyotes or hawks). While housecats are predators, they are not endemic (meaning they are foreign to the ecosystem). Let me put it another way… what if lions or cougars were let loose in a shopping mall? Would that be “nature taking its’ course”? No, big cats are not endemic to shopping malls or cities; they’re dangerous and don’t belong there. They belong in their natural habitat or locked up in a zoo. So why are domestic cats treated differently? Simply said, cats are a domestic pet that belongs indoors.
Be aware what goes on in your community. Of all the government layers, the local levels are the most accessible to you. Hearings regarding important decisions in your community happen all the time. Attend some, and make a difference. I attended a hearing regarding the re-landscaping of a local park. Now they’re going to be planting native plants in the park. My wife, neighbors and I commented on a housing project asking for radical zoning changes on an area, which is currently wilderness. Now the city has to consider whether it wants to rubber stamp the developer’s vision or face the wrath of the community. Let your community leaders know you want “smart growth” and expect them to obey their own zoning laws. Building should occur in places where it’s appropriate to build, not because it’s the place where maximum profit can be achieved.
Vote Smart. When deciding whom to vote for, don’t trust the mailers or the candidate’s lip service. Just because they may title initiatives “Clean Air” or “Healthy Forests” doesn’t make it so. Check their records. How did they really vote? The internet is great for that. The League of Women Voters even has environmental score cards. The National Audubon Society has an “Advisory” newsletter it emails out that states what going on in the Capital and even provides links to your elected officials along with editable form letters to express your concerns.
Even more important is phone calls and letters to your elected officials expressing how important environmental issues are to you. Consider this, PR firms, lobbyists and others make daily contact with your representatives “helping” to explain the “needs” of their constituents. I’m sure your representatives hearing this day in and day out might start to believe that’s what you want. Call them and set them straight. If they say helping the environment costs jobs, set them straight with the facts.
Yes, you can make a difference, if you want to…