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Prince George’s Audubon Society celebrates ‘the coolest thing in the world’

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Posted on: October 12, 2022

By Lilly Howard

Nature lovers flocked to Lake Artemesia on Sept. 24 to celebrate both the Prince George’s Audubon Society’s (PGAS) 50th anniversary and migration season, the time of year when many birds are heading south. Ginger Deason, a PGAS volunteer supporting the event, said she thinks “migration is the coolest thing in the world.” PGAS, which is headquartered in Bowie, was established in 1972 and is the local chapter of the National Audubon Society.

PGAS Director Teresa Watson said “I’ve been walking this park for decades. … I was bird watching in 2009 with binoculars and met one of the most wonderful and welcoming groups of birders.” Following that chance encounter, Watson joined the chapter and said she values being part of the organization. “[I] learn so much from spending time with them,” she said.  

Kenneth Cohen, president of the chapter, noted that Maryland is “an area rich in conservation science … the level of involvement and commitment in this area is just tremendous.” He also stressed the chapter’s need for new and younger members and urged young people to educate themselves about birds and the importance of habitat conservation. “The toughest thing is to get more young people active. We need their help to spread the word on social media in order to publicize Prince George’s Audubon Society’s bird walks, talks and monthly meetings,” he said.

Cohen, who hails from Buffalo, noted that the Chesapeake Bay watershed is home to many bird species and is also an important way station for migratory birds. Since moving to Maryland, he has added many new species to his bird life list.

Paula McNeil from Watkins Youth Birding Club showing visitors at Lake Artemesia a broad winged hawk
Courtesy of Lilly Howard

Paula McNeil is a professional bird trainer with the Watkins Youth Birding Club, which is sponsored by the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission. McNeil offered a  birds-of-prey presentation featuring a broad winged hawk, a barred owl and a red tailed hawk at the event. McNeil uses her expertise as a bird trainer to engage youth in educational activities about birds.

The College Park Aviation Museum participated in the event, as well, highlighting connections between birds and humankind’s passion for flight. Peter Roustson, an educator with the museum, appreciated the parallels. “The Wright Brothers took a lot from the animal kingdom. … We built planes like birds because their principal operations connect,” he noted. 

Lisa Garrett, PGAS vice president and coordinator of the event, has been a naturalist for 20 years and tags monarch butterflies to track their migration. 

In addition to offering a comprehensive range of educational resources about birds, PGAS has an active program staffed by about 50 volunteers to help homeowners create bird-friendly habitats. The program launched in 2021 and has already supported about 200 homeowners. Karin French, a native habitat advisor with the program, advises homeowners who are just starting out.  

“People are interested but don’t know where to start … if you don’t have plants, you don’t have birds, because there is no food,” she said. 

Prince George’s Audubon Society hosts monthly walks at Lake Artemesia and at two locations in Bowie, the Fran Uhler Natural Area and the Governor Bridge Natural Area. For more information about PGAS, go to pgaudubon.org, and for information about Audubon’s habitat program for homeowners, email au********************@gm***.com.

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