LOWER TOWNSHIP — The kickoff of an international initiative to get more people bird-watching will be held next week at Cape May Point State Park, with events to follow in at least 40 foreign countries.
It’s all part of a Global Birding Initiative program called “Pledge to Fledge.” The grassroots movement is using the Internet and other social media to get birders around the world to “fledge” new birders.
Events are set up in 40 countries on six continents from August 24-26, but the world kickoff is at the state park from 3 to 6 p.m. on Aug. 23.
“It’s like a big movie premiere on the night of the 23rd. When we get done, people will be waking up in China, Taiwan, and Korea to take part. People in Asia will be getting up to start taking their friends out,” said David Magpiong, one of the organizers.
Magpiong, a Bellmawr, Camden County resident, was one of five people who came up with the idea. West Cape May resident Richard Crossley, an internationally known bird photographer and author of birding books, was also involved. Crossley, a British native, said the idea came to them “over a pint of beer” during a birding festival in England.
All events at the park will be free. Crossley said all would-be birders have to do is show up. Besides the organizers, representatives with the New Jersey Audubon Society, Nature Center of Cape May and Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge will be there.
This is just the kickoff. Crossley said there will be birding events through the weekend, including birding trips on the water Aug. 24 and 25 in which children go free and adults have reduced prices. Birders are being encouraged to take non-birders out. Crossley is taking some of his neighbors on Pond Creek Lane and Steven Street out birding Aug. 25 and then inviting them to his house for a glass of wine.
Birding “ambassadors” have been set up in 40 countries to fledge new birders.
The actual pledge the new birders are asked to take is on the group’s website in 17 different languages.
The organizers do have a larger agenda as they figure more birders will translate into more conservation of bird habitat. They also say it will benefit the people discovering a new way to enjoy the outdoors.
One hope is to get more young birders. Crossley said in his native England one junior birding club has 190,000 members.
“They are older in this country. We want to make it younger and more fashionable,” Crossley said.
Don Freiday, a visitor services manager at the Forsythe refuge who will help at the hawk-watch platform during the event, said most people who take up birding become conservationists.
“We’re really aiming at kids and the whole nature deficit disorder. If we can hook them at age 6-12 we can change their life pattern,” Freiday said.
The New Jersey Audubon Society will have a booth at the park. While the society is used to hosting events during the fall bird migration, Sheila Lego, of the society’s Cape May Bird Observatory, said the timing is perfect to find new birders. August is the height of the tourist season.
“There are so many people in town, so many non-birders in town, the goal is to reach out to them,” Lego said.
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