Conserving Habitat is for the Birds
Updated: Dec 29, 2021
This piece was cross-published in the Spartanburg Herald-Journal and is published here with edits to include additional resources.
It’s winter and getting outside might not be on everyone’s mind. We’re all probably a little stuffed from the holiday extravaganza that falls between November 25th and January 1st and don’t have time to think about much else than doing (or denying) the mental math of how many calories we’ve consumed in the past 30 days. To give your mind a respite from the terror of how much you’d have to work out to burn off a stick of butter, take a moment to consider the home, neighborhood, and larger community you’re in right now.
Spartanburg County has grown at a rapid clip, doubling its growth rate in the past five years compared to the first half of the 2010s. We seek to house about 5,000 to 6,000 new people every year -- and for good reason. We live in a large, beautiful county with opportunities and a quality of life that is very attractive to others around the country and world. New folks mean new homes, and as we make accommodations to our new neighbors, we sometimes forget that there are others who get displaced. While 700 words wouldn’t even begin to touch on the displacement of local human communities, I’m here today to talk about the natural communities that also bear the brunt of new development.
The wildlife we see in our day-to-day, giving us a sense of excitement and meaning, needs a variety of habitats, just as we do. We build apartment homes, townhouses, and even gated communities to serve our various needs, privileges, and lifestyles. Animals and plants also need a variety of landscapes to be comfortable and thrive. Balanced growth in Spartanburg County should provide a variety for both us and the creatures who call this place home, whether or not they grasp the deliciousness of cornbread dressing.
The wildlife we see in our day-to-day, giving us a sense of excitement and meaning, needs a variety of habitats, just as we do.
As Executive Director of the Tyger River Foundation, I can say with confidence that our group is doing all we can to protect, promote and restore the natural and historic resources of the Tyger River Basin and encourage an active outdoor lifestyle. We blend resource conservation with opportunities for human enjoyment. While some lands should generally be left alone, others are great for balancing the needs of natural communities and the people who call this land home as well. We believe the more we can welcome our neighbors to enjoy beautiful natural spaces, the more they’ll want to preserve them. In the words of Aldo Leopold, “We only grieve for what we know.” If I didn’t know about CrockPot macaroni and cheese, I would never know to miss it.
The Tyger River Basin makes up about half of the area of Spartanburg County and includes a majority of people who call the county home. If you’d like to get a taste of this great resource which, statistically speaking, you are probably sitting in right now, I urge you to take a trip to Tygerberry Landing. It’s not a huge park, there’s good parking and it’s surrounded by water on three sides. Even in winter, there are great stands of last summer’s cattails, calm flat water, and a forest line that comes down to the banks on the north side of Berry’s Pond. Really, it’s the perfect place for birds to call home all year long. Populations naturally wax and wane with the season. I had the chance to meet up with Dr. Vince Connors this past fall. He’s an Ornithology Professor at the University of South Carolina - Upstate and he mentioned there are a handful of birds that would gladly call Tygerberry Landing their winter home. He passed along a list to me and we’ve made a fun checklist for you. Click the download button below for a printable checklist of the common winter birds. There are pictures and
common names. It’s a great way to get outside this time of year and find a little wonder in the world. Take the kids, take your neighbor, make a friend, who knows, maybe when you put a name to a (bird)face you might feel more connected with your backyard. Maybe you’ll even work up a sweat and feel better about that last helping of creamed potatoes.