Audubon View

Charley Harper

Audubon View

From Audubon's deep roots, a modern social networking movement grows.

By David Yarnold
Published: November-December 2011

Audubon was a social network before the world ever heard the term. Audubon as a social movement goes back to the pioneering conservationists who influenced popular culture and took on an entire industry to save the birds they loved.

Each December the buzz from our social network goes up a few decibels as tens of thousands of volunteers take part in the Christmas Bird Count (CBC). The term "crowd-source" didn't exist when Frank Chapman led the first count in 1900, but Audubon had already cornered the concept: enlist a community of people with the knowledge and passion to provide what no organization alone can. With the CBC, that adds up to perhaps the longest-running wildlife census in the world. And the data CBCers gather is the backbone for land-use decisions, understanding the effects of climate disruption, and many other scientific and economic purposes. But whether CBCers are braving frigid days in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, or counting with the tropical breezes of Belize at their backs, one thing unites these "crowd-scientists": They love birds

In mid-October birds powered the launch of our unprecedented take on social networking. For 30 days the scarlet tanager, bald eagle, and dozens of other species are taking wing on the Web. Unsuspecting visitors to AOL, Facebook, Slate, YouTube, and Gilt, among other sites, are finding their attention hijacked, mid-click, by ambassadors from the avian world. And they are getting hooked--on competing for prizes in their own virtual "Big Years" on our Facebook page and on learning more about this organization called Audubon. I'm willing to bet that some will be leading Christmas Bird Counts some day.

Timed to capitalize on Fox's release of The Big Year, starring Jack Black, Owen Wilson, and Steve Martin, "Birding the Net" is injecting Audubon into the pop culture mainstream in a way not seen since the first Auduboners prevailed over fashionistas a century ago. 

Our national and field staff and chapters came together in a marketing and public relations mash-up designed to make birding cool and fun for people who love birds--and for people who are just discovering how birds connect us to the ecosystems that keep us healthy and spiritually whole. We're grateful to West Coast ad agency Goodby, Silverstein & Partners for their incredible vision, creativity, generosity, and commitment to our cause. 

If you're reading this early in November, there's still time for you to "like" us on Facebook and join the fun.

At this time of year, people make decisions about funding the nonprofits that help make the world a better place. I hope you'll click on or send a check to this energetic new Audubon. Whether you want to protect birds and ecosystems along the magnificent flyways or in your own backyard, Audubon's unique breadth can help you make a difference where it matters to you. Happy holidays from all of us at Audubon.

Magazine Category

Author Profile

David Yarnold

David Yarnold is the president and CEO of the National Audubon Society.

Type: Author | From: Audubon Magazine


I just came upon a page with

I just came upon a page with a Rufous Hummingbird floating about and in big letters the screen read:

In came addiction, and there go three weeks of my life. I still liked it, though. :) Gotta love digital birds.

I liked Birding The Net, and

I liked Birding The Net, and I got an app. I enjoy birds, and especially drawing them. I suppose I have nothing to do now... good grief, I hope Ms Maggie Pie and the gang come on back again.

The Endearing Artwork of Charley Harper and BirdingTheNet

I am a huge fan of Charley Harper's artwork, having first stumbled across one of his National Park posters in a random pile of old posters in the Visitors Center of Acadia National Park way back when I was an intern with the Park Service. Over the years, I have managed to track down and add several of the posters he made for the National Park Service to my collection. There's just something about them that speaks to me.

Flash forward to 2011. I simply adore the digital birds that have flown across my screen over the past month as a part of BirdingTheNet, and I know that I'm not alone. Fans of BTN have been all a'twitter about how much they will miss seeing their digitally feathered friends now that BTN has ended. Just like Charley Harper's iconic images, the BTN birds have earned a special place in our hearts. NAS should really consider finding a way to market and share these stunning and endearing creations with those of us that have grown to love them.

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