Laura Erickson's For the Birds

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Oh, wow--the Bronze Passenger Pigeon Award!

At some point in my 20s, I made a list of goals I wanted to attain by the time I got "old," which at the time I pretty much defined as hitting 50. I'm half a decade past that, but oddly enough, I've achieved a surprising number of these goals--and I don't even feel particularly old yet! One goal was to be published in Audubon magazine--I hit that when I wrote an article for them about the birding trail along the Mississippi River. One was to take a photograph of a bird that would be printed in a magazine--and the last issue of Birder's World had SIX of my photos!! One was to get my North American lifelist up to 600--this goal was inspired by Roger Tory Peterson's Bird Watcher's Anthology, which had an essay about the "600 Club." I accomplished that in 1999, and my Number 600 bird was a wonderful one--the Florida Scrub-Jay.

I think my biggest goal was to do something with my life that would be worthwhile enough that I'd one day earn the Bronze Passenger Pigeon Award from the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology, an award given "For significant contributions to Wisconsin Ornithology." I'd joined WSO in 1976, the year we moved to Wisconsin, and although we moved to Minnesota in 1981, I've always felt like Wisconsin is home in a very real sense. It's where my favorite birding spots in the world are--the places I've known most intimately and fondly: Picnic Point in Madison and Port Wing, where my mother-in-law lives and where I've made the same long hike over the same route year after year since 1975. And WSO has been my concept of the ideal state birding organization, whose membership runs the gamut from truly accomplished, top-tier birders (people who way more than me deserve to be included in Good Birders Don't Wear White: 50 Tips from North America's Top Birders) to novices. WSO members include those whose passion may be technical identification and/or distribution of birds, conservation, education, social birding, or birding at any level and angle. And many of my real heroes have been part of WSO--people such as Joseph Hickey, Sam Robbins, and Noel Cutright. As with every organization, there are strong egos, but overall WSO people don't boost their own egos by cutting down other people. It's an organization that is truly large enough for everyone. That's why when I finally had enough money, I became a life member of WSO. And it's why the one recognition I ever coveted was the Bronze Passenger Pigeon Award.

So imagine my shocked delight when Daryl Tessen called me last month to see if I was going to be able to attend the WSO Convention, and told me I was going to be honored! I couldn't make the convention--I was committed to the Manitowish Waters North Lakeland Discovery Center's annual birding festival. But today the plaque arrived, and I had to keep myself from floating skyward when I held it in my hands. Bettie Harriman from WSO asked me to get a photo with it for the archives, so here it is. And all I can say is, WOW. This is one mighty happy and proud 55.5-year-old woman!