Native goldenrod and cat tails decorate the shore in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Native goldenrod and cattails decorate the shore (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

For many of us, the name Audubon is synonymous with birds and wildlife.  We think of the well known Audubon magazine, brimming with information and fabulous images of avian members and their habitat.  We’re inspired by Audubon’s mission: To conserve and restore natural ecosystems, focusing on birds, other wildlife, and their habitats for the benefit of humanity and the earth’s biological diversity.  Founded in 1905, the National Audubon Society has created a legacy of preservation successes with help from almost 500 local chapters and their passionate members.  After a recent visit to my local Audubon in Sharon, Connecticut, I wondered how this wonderful watchdog organization began.

Audubon's garden pathway in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Audubon’s garden pathway (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

From a young age, John James Audubon was interested in birds and nature, and he continued studying and drawing birds as a hobby when he came to the United States as a young man.  Once married, with a wife and two young sons to support, Audubon suffered a series of business failures leading him to make a life changing decision to leave their home and pursue his dream of capturing America’s fauna on paper.  Though their existence was meager as they traveled the Mississippi River seeking intriguing subjects within its swamps and bayous, Audubon’s spirit soared with enthusiasm as he created portrait after portrait.

A peaceful resting spot in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

A peaceful resting spot (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

By 1824 Audubon, then known by many as the “American Woodsman”, had amassed a portfolio of watercolor (and colored pencil) bird portraits in natural wilderness scenes, which he tried unsuccessfully to market in America and then brought to England in 1826.  The Woodsman was well received in England, and went on to create a stunning series of over 400 life sized avian prints known the world over as the Birds of America collection.  Greatly inspired by Audubon’s art and what it represented, one of the early founders of the Audubon organization, George Bird Grinnell, chose to name the organization after the talented, self-taught artist. Although John James Audubon never played a direct role in the organization, his life was greatly influenced by birds and nature, ultimately cultivating a deep appreciation for conservation efforts and protection of wildlife habitats.

Sharon Audubon's calm wetland in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Sharon Audubon’s tranquil wetland (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Fast forward to the present day National Audubon Society and its ongoing efforts to introduce us to the wonders of nature, while educating us about the value of conservation.  With eleven locations within a fifty mile radius of my home, there are multiple opportunities for me to learn more about living harmoniously with the local fauna.  Each center or sanctuary offers something different, such as: miles of trails to explore, natural gardens lush with native plantings, spectacular marshes and wetlands, even birds of prey and various reptiles to observe.  The Sharon Audubon sits on 1500 acres with a series of walking trails, a lovely planted garden, a beautiful wetland area with plenty of great views, an indoor area with observation points to watch local bird activity and an aviary which houses over a dozen birds.

Mourning dove at Sharon Audubon's front door in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Mourning dove at the Sharon Audubon’s front door (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Most of the birds in captivity at Audubon are there due to injuries that prevent them from being released into the wild.  Some do heal and are released, others become permanent residents.  Such is the case with Princess, an American crow I met during my last visit to Sharon Audubon.  Princess was raised by a human family, so she doesn’t realize she is a bird.  And she loves people so much, it quickly became a problem when Princess would fly over to strangers to greet them.  Fortunately, Princess now resides permanently at the Sharon Audubon where she can talk to whomever, whenever she wants.  Even as I left the building, there was a mourning dove perched on the bench beside the front door, looking not the least bit perturbed by my presence.  Indeed, Audubon’s atmosphere is welcoming to all, whether man or feathered friend.

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