(Washington, D.C., April 1, 2015) A 100-day, cross-country trip that conjures images of famed American naturalist, writer, and photographer Edwin Way Teale has been announced by another American naturalist, Dr. Bruce Beehler, whose trip will focus on changes taking place in the spring migration of billions of songbirds from the Gulf of Mexico to the Great North Woods of Canada.
As an ornithologist who has served on the Board of American Bird Conservancy (ABC) and has had ties to numerous scientific and conservation organizations such as The Smithsonian Institution and Conservation International, Beehler brings a substantial scientific and conservation background to this adventure.
Epic Adventure with the Birds
Embarking on a journey from the Gulf to Canada, Beehler left his home in Maryland on March 28 and headed to Texas for what promises to be a remarkable journey. His first major stop will be at High Island, Texas, where he'll spend the first two weeks of April. He will complete his northward journey on July 5 in Ontario, Canada.
Like Teale's first trip, Beehler will be traversing the U.S. from south to north, camping outdoors and following the migrating songbirds to the wilds of the boreal forest.
“This will be a story of one of nature's most compelling spectacles, the amazing songbird migration up the Mississippi Valley in the spring. I hope that by documenting this adventure, through frequent blog posts and eventually a book, I can help even more people understand the wonderous dynamic that unfolds annually in the backyards of millions of us living in the Americas,” Beehler said.
Teale, who undertook a series of trans-U.S. journeys and eventually covered 17,000 miles, penned a series of books tied to seasons and environmental conditions in the nation that culminated in his receiving a Pulitzer Prize in 1966.
“Teale's work became a benchmark on what was taking place environmentally with birds and other wildlife in our country,” said Dr. George Fenwick, President of American Bird Conservancy, which is supporting Beehler's journey. “I think a 50-year retrospective will be fascinating.”
Journey to 30+ Bird-rich Locations
High Island, Texas was chosen as the starting point, Beehler says, because it's a prime spot to witness the “fall out” of thousands of migratory birds that have just completed the exhausting trip across the Gulf of Mexico. Many of these birds will have just flown a 600-mile, 18-hour trip from the Yucatan Peninsula and the adjacent Mexican coast.
Beehler will spend 14 days in and around High Island and will then make stops in more than 30 other very special natural sites in 12 states along the Mississippi River: Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota. The trip will conclude in Ontario, Canada.
Traveling by car (and with a kayak and a bike for local transport) Beehler plans to connect with dozens of local ornithologists, conservationists, and naturalists along the way. His plan is to meet with one or more of them each morning and explore local stopover sites for the migrating birds.
“Without question, a key component of this trip will be to learn from local experts by spending time with them in the swamps and woodlands. Their special knowledge will be the thread that I hope to weave into an ornithological tapestry that tells today's story of the perils of trans-continental songbird migration in the 21st Century,” Beehler said.
A Tribute to Teale
On February 14, 1947, Teale set out on the first of several road trips that led to his writing North With the Spring. That was followed by three more books tied to seasons and based on environmental conditions across America – Journey Into Summer, Autumn Across America, and Wandering Through Winter, which won a Pulitzer Prize in 1966.
“His work was brilliant and absolutely inspired me to look at our landscape with the same view he might have had. I look forward to sharing that experience with the many millions of people who have an interest in what is taking place in the avian world around us,” Beehler said.
Beehler's journey will be tracked via a website and blog posts: northwiththespring.org
Supporters of the program include American Bird Conservancy and Georgia-Pacific, the sole corporate sponsor. Georgia-Pacific's long-standing commitment to being a good steward of natural resources and the environment is exemplified by the numerous initiatives it supports. These include wildlife management programs at Georgia-Pacific facilities; Wildlife at Work certifications that conserve and restore wildlife habitats on company land, including many bird species; and mapping of endangered forests and special areas.
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