March 30, 2017
I went to a presentation by Michael John Jaeger, current president of the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology (WSO) the other night and his primary message was "Get Outside!" He was speaking to the UW-Stevens Point Student Chapter of The Wildlife Society…within a 250-seat auditorium…on campus…indoors. In a way, he was lamenting that by being indoors, we couldn't be enjoying the great outdoors.
Winter is waning and the telltale signs of spring are starting to appear. The robins have returned, maples are budding, and ponds are full of ducks of all shapes, sizes, and colors. The other morning I was out splitting firewood and was treated to the melodic calls of approaching tundra swans. I had to stop and run out into the open pasture for look. Before I could even set my feet, a wave of swans flashed overhead, so close that I could have hit one with a stick of kindling if I had a mind to. Then another wave flared overhead, followed by a mix of smaller groups of over 500 individuals. The wind whooshed through their wings as they banked, broke up, mixed, and mingled. Such wonders of nature must be experienced personally to get the full force of all sensations. You can't get this secondhand on a TV, computer screen, or smartphone. You must "Get Outside!" to enjoy nature.
The WSO is an organization established in 1939 for the enjoyment, study, and conservation of Wisconsin's birds (https://wsobirds.org/). They currently have about 1,500 members and notable projects have included prairie chicken restoration, maintenance of bird records across the state, and publishing of The Passenger Pigeon journal and the Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas. Past presidents of the WSO include Joseph Hickey, Robert McCabe, and Fran and Frederick Hamerstrom, all protéges of Aldo Leopold. I was fortunate to meet and know all of them while working as a graduate student at UW-Stevens Point and UW-Madison decades ago. The memory of them lives on. I just became a member of the WSO and it feels good to be following in the footsteps of these giants of conservation. Keep up the good work, Michael John, and keep telling people to "Get Outside!"
Scott Hygnstrom, Director, WCW