In Your Words is a regular feature of Mass Audubon’s Explore member newsletter. Each issue, a Mass Audubon member, volunteer, staff member, or supporter shares his or her story—why Mass Audubon and protecting the nature of Massachusetts matters to them. If you have a story to share about your connection to Mass Audubon, email firstname.lastname@example.org to be considered for In Your Words in a future issue!
One day in April 2011, we four Eckerson brothers— Jonathan (then 12), Matt (then 10), Joel (then 9), and myself, Andy (then 11)—started listing as many bird species as we could in a small notebook. This began our unofficial town bird club.
Growing up in a rural area in southeastern Massachusetts, we were lucky to have 500-plus acres of woods behind our house to explore and roam. But it wasn’t until that spring day that our interest in birds and wildlife really took off.
From there, we attended walks at Mass Audubon’s Oak Knoll and Attleboro Springs Wildlife Sanctuaries led by an amazing guide, Jack Lash. He poured out his seemingly unending knowledge of the natural world, which ignited our love of all fauna. After a year, our enthusiasm for birdwatching turned from a hobby into an obsession.
The four of us were always birding together in our yard, in the woods behind our yard, and on our neighbor’s farm (with permission). If we could offer any advice to young people, it would be to find someone to share your passion with. Whether it’s your mom, dad, sibling(s), mentor, or someone you just met, enjoy this world’s beauty together.
Then, learn all about the living creatures around you. When we started, we knew nothing. We read a lot and got involved with Mass Audubon. Jonathan and I conducted breeding surveys for Oak Knoll and Attleboro Springs Wildlife Sanctuaries and became Mass Audubon interns. We now regularly attend the Birders Meeting and look forward to connecting with fellow birders and hearing the great speakers.
We especially enjoy entering the annual Picture This Mass Audubon Photo Contest. When our family purchased a point-and-shoot Canon SX50 HS PowerShot camera with a 600mm zoom lens in 2013, our birding entered a new phase, now with the “power” of a camera added to our arsenal of optics. We have all entered the contest over the years, and Joel and I have been fortunate enough to have several winning photographs.
Getting the four of us out together is a little harder now that Jonathan and I are attending college. But when we can, we make a group trip to the southern part of Bristol County to do some birding—just like old times.
Written by Andy Eckerson on behalf of the Eckerson family, members since 1990.