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  • Thomas
    Activity 1:  I initially found birds interesting as a purely photographic subject.  My parents started putting out bird feeders around the time I left for college 20 years ago and whenever I would visit I would love to try my hand at photographing the multitude of birds in the yard.  Eventually I found myself living back at home for a few months after finishing grad school and one day while I was writing out a job application I heard a thud against my window.  I went outside and found a downy woodpecker on the deck below the window, stunned and breathing heavily.  Having had no real knowledge of bird strikes at the time, I figured he was a goner, but I picked him up and brought him to a safe spot on the deck railing to give him a chance, come what may.  I tried to go back to work on my computer but every time I'd start typing I'd lose focus - I would run back out to the deck every two or three minutes to check on him.  I worried so much about this poor little bird that I eventually just stood by him for a few hours, shooing away a few cats, blue jays and crows that started snooping around.  Thankfully, he eventually got back on his feet, tentatively hopped around on the deck rail, and flew off onto a nearby tree. My whole relationship to birds and the natural world changed that day.  I stopped just seeing birds and started caring about birds.  My bird education has been slow - I moved to NYC shortly after the downy episode and was/have been very disconnected from the natural world on a daily basis ever since - but the last few years I have really started diving into birdwatching and conservation.  I like to think that little downy, and that stupid bedroom window of mine, opened my eyes to a vast world of natural beauty that I only had a surface understanding of before.  I had seen plenty of amazing landscapes before that on vacations - Yellowstone, the American Southwest, national parks in Italy, etc, all stuff that's easy to immediately see as grand and beautiful, but after that downy I learned how to find the smallest or easily overlooked parts of nature just as grand as those big landscapes.  Even sitting here in my apartment in Brooklyn for months on end during the coronavirus lockdown there's beauty all around that I'd have missed in my younger days - seeing the sparrows gather nesting material in the backyard, noticing the male cardinal singing from the same perch every morning and every evening, knowing what the mourning dove pair is doing when they preen one another, and on and on.  Just like this course says, birds really are a gateway into the natural world and into the rhythms and cycles of that world.  And they teach you to care more about it. Hence, Activity #2: I'm an architect in NYC and now I have a chance to right that wrong done to that poor downy woodpecker and countless other birds everyday.  Just this year NYC passed a new law requiring bird safe glass on the first 75' of a new building (the law kicks in at a certain square footage I believe too, I don't have the text of the law handy at the moment).  Last year I asked the NYC Audubon to give a presentation in my office on bird safe architecture - everyone who attended was shocked by the scale of the bird strike problem and very moved to do something about it.  Flash forward to a few months later and the bird safe law was passed, thanks in large part to the NYC Audubon's advocacy and some local architects, among many others.  For my part, I have been and will continue to push the use of bird safe glass  and I'm working to convince the firm to write it into our construction specifications as a requirement on all projects, above and beyond the base requirement of the new law.  At each opportunity I discuss it with our clients not so much as an option but as an investment in sustainability (always an easier sell with our institutional and educational projects than with developers).  Eventually I'd like to become even more involved in the bird safe architecture movement and either work directly with a company producing new materials and systems to deter bird strikes or perhaps design a project as a test case to help develop new methods. Sorry for the long post, but this class got me thinking about so many topics and it's helped push me further down the road of advocacy and I just wanted to share that.  Thanks!
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