Monthly Archives: November 2015

Unpredictable Nature

by Helena Uber-Wamble

The joy of watching birds is a very relaxing pasttime. One sets out feeders with anticipation of local birds coming in for a snack and bringing their friends with them. Carolina chickadees and Tufted titmice seem to be the first birds to check out the feeders. Northern cardinals soon join in and then other birds receive the news through the happy chatter and tweets taking place as the birds eat. One can usually predict when birds will pop in to dine; early in the morning and – in the winter – again around five. Chickadees and titmice don’t mind sharing, and these birds that belong to the “welcoming committee” greet white-throated sparrows and juncos as they fly south for the winter season.

It is great how this system works, with birds announcing the available food source to those in need. Migrants who passed through earlier listen for the calls of these birds to stop and refuel. Rose-breasted grosbeaks, Indigo buntings and Blue grosbeaks are just a few of birds that unpredictably show up and dine. One day you look out and among the local feasting group is this colorful bird with a bright red chest and huge beak. This grosbeak is a beauty, but you know you won’t see him for long as he is in mid-journey to his wintering grounds.

What is so fantastic about birdwatching is that it is unpredictable! Birds don’t read books and therefore do not know that they are supposed to follow the Pacific flyway instead of the Mississippi flyway. They move on the wing with the weather patterns — sometimes this is not by choice and they end up a long way off from their regularly scheduled destination. When this happens, birdwatchers everywhere get really excited to have the opportunity to see a rare bird in their area.

Recently we had an unpredictable surprise here in Alabama of a white-eared Hummingbird showing up in the southern part of the state. This Mexican resident was trapped, banded and released near Mobile in the yard where it was feeding. This is a first state record for Alabama. Why is it here? Was it weather that threw it off course? Did it bring any friends? Can we come see it to check it off our life list too? Birdwatchers around the state were excited and were willing to drive a few extra hours just to get a glimpse of this beautiful purple-masked bird.

It is these rare occasional sightings that keep bird watching fresh and exciting. Migration makes each outing have the potential to stumble upon an unpredictable bird, such as this hummingbird. Up north, Snowy owls show up in various places that cause a stir for those who know they will never travel to the artic to see this beauty, and rare gulls mix in with the local flocks to feed. It is the patient birdwatcher who scans the entire raft of birds looking for the rarity among the masses; these may be the birdwatchers who are fortunate enough to find a Greater-black backed gull or other rarities. Scan that flock of blackbirds, you might find the one Rusty blackbird in the group. A group of sparrows? Better look again, there may be several surprises among the flock. Never miss an opportunity to scan and scan again. That second look might reveal that perfect unpredictable visitor.

Birds like the weather can be unpredictable, but true nature observers are helping to spot those birds and share their findings. That is why is so important. This network of nature lovers not only logs the local birds, they log the “unpredictable.” Birders watch weather patterns to see if a storm might possibly bring in a straggler from afar. Once, I had a pair of white pelicans show up at a small lake 2 miles from my house. With a quick click of the camera and an entry into eBird, those 2 birds were documented. Remember, birds cannot read books, and field guides are just that, a guide. Never discount the possibilities of a rare bird being right in front of you. Document what you see. Photos are always great, and remember, nature is unpredictable!

Happy Thanksgiving,


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Are we other-focused?

by April Varn Welch

Recently, I came across the term as I contemplated our collective call to serve one another. It reminded me of Tilden’s priceless ingredient and Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree. Even our next holiday, Thanksgiving, celebrates the concept.

John R. Wood wrote Ordinary Lives- Extraordinary Mission: Five Steps to Winning the War Within in which he challenged readers to give their everything; to imagine life as a marathon where the runner finishes with nothing left to give. He claimed that “we find ourselves by giving ourselves away” and that our “life is a gift and the gift only has value if you give it away”; therefore, let us continue to be other-focused in all that we do, as public servants and as audience savvy interpreters.

By Charles D. Meigs

Lord, help me live from day to day
In such a self-forgetful way,
That even when I kneel to pray,
My prayer shall be for “Others.”

Help me in all the work I do
To ever be sincere and true,
And know, that all I do for You
Must needs be done for “Others”.

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“LEED”ing the way….

by Brian Thill

Each day we have the opportunity at our centers to lead the way. It may come in the form of mentoring others, our educational programing, taking care of our staff and volunteers, or our facilities.

While attending the NAI National Conference today we saw an example of a facility that’s “LEEDing” the way (credit to Drew Heyward on that word zinger). The Brock Environmental Center in Virginia Beach is a LEED Platinum certified center that was on the Interpreters Road Show that showcased how they’re leading the way in efficiency and resilience.

They look at their building as an experiment, and vetted nearly every material or process that went into creating and operating it. Here are a few highlights of a center that uses what the sun, wind, water, and reusables give them to operate.

LEED photo

Brock Environmental Center, Virginia Beach

  • Car free site/No parking lot….when you access the site it requires a small hike to get to it.
  • Recycled materials throughout the building:
    • Recycled glass for donor wall.
    • Local high school bleachers recycled and used for the trim (complete with words carved in the wood from high schoolers and re-stained).
    • Recycled gym floors, sanded down, stained and reused as flooring.
    • Recycled fence posts from the Virginia countryside used as flooring.
  • Rainwater is captured and used as drinking water.
  • Compostable toilets, solid waste turning into compost and urine made into fertilizer sold to the public.
  • 2 wind turbines producing about 30% of their energy.
  • 100+ solar panels producing 70% of their energy.
  • “Vampire” settings that come on at night to reduce energy consumption from electronics that might be on.
  • Natural ventilation.
  • Natural lighting.
  • Elevated on pylons well above sea level to prevent damage from future flooding.
  • Landscaping the prevents runoff and promotes filtration.

Should you be looking into building with efficiency, balance, and resilience in mind this is one site to check out.
Check out their energy use dashboard at and the to learn more about this facility.
How will you lead the way?

Categories: Discussion topic, Technology | Leave a comment

Recognizing Region 3’s Accomplished Interpreters with Scholarships and Awards

As our next regional workshop approaches, it is time to recognize and reward interpreters for their accomplishments. The scholarship and awards committee is now accepting applications for scholarships and awards for the Sunny Southeast’s Regional Workshop Feb. 3-6, 2016, in Stone Mountain, Georgia. The deadline for both scholarship applications and award nominations is November 29th, so act soon! Applications and nomination forms can be found on the blog.


NAI bylaws now require recipients must be members before applying for scholarships. This year each scholarship will consist of a $500 award. Recipients will register online without the need to pay, and the remainder of the $500 will be disbursed as a check awarded at the workshop.

All scholarship applicants must submit a completed application form, a letter of recommendation from someone familiar with their qualifications for the scholarship, and an article suitable for publication in the region’s blog or newsletter – something which has not been previously published. See the blog for examples. This latter requirement is a blatant attempt to get more people to contribute to these important publications, and by submitting an application you agree to allow this article to be used in the blog and/or newsletter whether you win or not. Other materials that you feel will improve your chances can also be submitted.

Some people have said the requirements for the region scholarships are vague. This is not accidental. If one publishes exact requirements for a scholarship one gets applications that exactly match the requirements. Interpretation venerates individual approaches; so does this application process. Anything that can be emailed is fair game, including photos and short videos. Just keep in mind that, as in interpretation, more is not always better; it is often worse. The scholarship committee wants to see why you are a special interpreter. Interpret yourself!


Who’s that interpreter you just know needs some extra recognition for their amazing work? Please consider nominating them for an award, which will be announced at the Regional Workshop in Georgia! The award categories include Outstanding New Interpreter, Outstanding Interpreter, and Outstanding Service to NAI Region Three. To nominate, complete the award nomination form.

All materials for awards and scholarships should be submitted electronically to Steve Dimse at


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