by Janice Lloyd
“It takes a village” is a well-known phrase about forming partnerships to protect someone or something dear to us. For people who love birds and their habitat, it takes a mighty strong village and a lot of partnerships.
That was the message of Matthew Jeffery to members of the Audubon Society of Northern Virginia and Friends of Mason Neck State Park on September 11 about the Lower Potomac River Important Bird Area. Jeffery is the deputy director of the International Alliance Program for the National Audubon Society and has led conservation efforts in Belize and other countries. He shared stories about his experience working in various IBAs and ways to help combat threats imperiling them. “IBAs are a great way to help prioritize conservation investments and efforts,’’ he said.
ASNV President Carl Kikuchi attended the meeting. “We hope our being able to partner with Friends of Mason Neck to host this meeting is an example of how we can work with land owners and organizations all through the IBA to protect this valuable habitat,’’ he said.
About 2,500 IBAs exist in the Americas. The Lower Virginia IBA stretches south along the Virginia side of the Potomac River from Alexandria into Stafford County. ASNV adopted the IBA several years ago. It has been identified by BirdLife International and the National Audubon Society as an Important Bird Area because of the habitat it provides for a number of species at risk, including Bald Eagles, a number of Neotropical migrants, and wintering waterfowl.
“Efforts in Mason Neck support a much bigger landscape,’’ said Jeffery. “IBAs are connected across the hemisphere offering homes and shelter for the birds at every step of their annual cycle, breeding, migration, and wintering.”
He discussed sophisticated tracking devices that showhow birds move through these areas and how long they stay in an area.
In addition to raising awareness and appreciation, ASNV is planning to take on conservation projects within the IBA in partnership with parks and other land managers, including Friends groups.
Jeffery also told the group the National Audubon Society is training bird guides in Belize to promote eco-tourism there.
“Traveling to see the birds in the wintering grounds has a great impact on the economics of the communities that live around the most important sites,” he said.
Stay tuned, Kikuchi said, to see if ASNV is able to offer a birding venture to Belize later this year.