For nearly three years now our team at BWD has been in a constant state of flux and transition. From the unexpected deaths of Bill, Elsa, and Andy Thompson in 2019 and 2020 to the unprecedented challenges of COVID-19 in 2020 and 2021, we’ve adapted, shifted, and reinvented ourselves again and again. We have a few staff mottos that have branded this challenging season, including, “We’ve got this!” and “Blessed are the flexible for they shall not be broken.” We’re learning how important it is to remain flexible, to work together, and to stay positive even during the most difficult times.
Although our talented BWD columnists and writers have remained steadfast, our full-time staff members have changed a bit over the past three years. We have added a new assistant editor, a new advertising sales director, a new events coordinator, a new controller, a new circulation assistant, and a new president and publisher, all since early 2019. That means that six of our twelve staff members have been with BWD in their current positions for less than three years. Of course, all organizations experience some degree of turnover, but the impact of transition is much greater when it happens within a small business. Having served in the corporate world, the nonprofit world, and now in the small-business world, I can say that whether I’m managing 500+ people or five people, my team management goals are the same: Unity, positivity, shared vision, and teamwork are the keys to success.
Many of our staff members are avid birders. Our fabulous editorial team, writing team, and tour/events team are all led by seasoned bird watchers who have a great love of both birds and birders. However, our valuable office staff includes several folks who are not birders per se, but they are interested and eager to learn. They also understand how important birding is to our subscribers and followers, and they get it. They understand why the rest of us are bird-crazy and always talking about our birding adventures.
Last week was the tail-end of fall migration in our area, so I decided to close the shop for a morning and enjoy a little team-building-birding-outing with our Marietta staff. Nine of our twelve staff members were able to join us, and we picked one of the last hot days to get outdoors and enjoy some fall birding!
McDonough Wildlife Refuge is located just 20 minutes from our office and is a wonderful place to hike, watch birds, and enjoy wildlife. This 277-acre wildlife refuge has miles of beautifully maintained trails and habitat that is home to many birds, deer, coyotes, red and gray foxes, squirrels, and waterfowl. We decided to visit McDonough for the morning, which is always birdy and never disappoints.
Since this particular outing was focused on teaching new birders how to hear, find, and see birds, we spent a lot of time in a large clearing along the trail that seemed to be a hotspot that morning. We saw Carolina chickadees, blue jays, red-bellied woodpeckers, downy woodpeckers, northern flickers, tufted titmice, Cooper’s hawks, northern cardinals, and more. The new birders were fascinated by the bird songs and sounds that they had heard before, but not known the source. Since we live in the Appalachian foothills of southeastern Ohio, all these birds are quite common, and so are their calls and sounds. It was such a joy to see the newer birders learn to identify a bird’s call, then follow the sound to the bird itself. Honestly, there is no greater joy for me as a birder than showing people birds and teaching them how to look and listen for them. There were many “Aha!” and “lightbulb” moments as we slowly made our way through the clearing, identifying 20-plus bird species that morning.
I keenly remember having this same experience when I was a new birder. I quickly realized that there was an entire world that existed all around me in nature, but I’d been missing it all my life. I didn’t even know it was there, right under my nose, and I didn’t know how to see it until other birders took the time to show me. I had never slowed down enough to see it, to learn from it, or to really appreciate it.
Our group also had great looks at a white-eyed vireo and a Blackburnian warbler, but the bird of the day was a yellow-throated vireo, which is not often seen in this park. In fact, our creative director, Bruce Wunderlich, who is also a fabulous bird photographer, had never photographed this bird before. Bruce’s “life list” includes only birds he photographs, so he added a “lifer” that day, along with most of our other staff members! And of course, we taught them the famous “lifer dance” that we always do on our Reader Rendezvous birding tours when we see a species for the first time. The lifer dance goes like this: You raise your hands in the air, and wave ‘em like you just don’t care, and scream “LIFER!” We enjoyed lots of wiggles and giggles as we drank in the gorgeous September sunshine.
Our outing ended with lunch at a fun local restaurant, The Boathouse, located on the banks of the Ohio River in Marietta. We caught up with each other’s lives, talked about the birds we’d seen, and had some laughs over drinks and barbecue. It’s hard to describe the amount of stress that our staff has been under for many months now. It felt so good to enjoy birds—and one another—that morning, and we really needed it.
I’m certain this won’t be the last time we enjoy a staff birding outing together, and I hope there are many more experiences like this in our future. I’m so thankful for this amazing, unique group of humans that I work alongside every single day. I’m so fortunate to call these folks my friends, and I appreciate them more than I can say.
About the Author
Wendy Clark is the president and publisher of Bird Watcher’s Digest, a career communications specialist, and an avid birder. She has three children and two grandchildren, and lives in Marietta, Ohio.