From Outrage to Action

Bubba got this unusual title for this week's story from an old document in my mother's attic. It told of an ornithologist who had taken a stroll through Manhattan in 1886 and counted 542 exotic birds, all of them stuffed and mounted on top of women's hats.

In 1896 this account, and many like it, incited Mrs. Augustus Hemenway to collect a list of names from her "BOSTON BLUE BOOK." The list of names was of the women most likely to wear feathers, plumes, and even whole birds on their heads. Within a few weeks, circulars had been mailed asking Boston's most fashionable ladies to join a society for the protection of these fashionable animals.

By 1899, this action on the part of Mrs. Hemenway had fueled alliances between concerned socialites, sportsmen and ornithologist who met and agreed, "To discourage the buying and wearing, for ornamental purposes, of the feathers of any wild birds except ducks and game birds; and to otherwise further the protection of native birds". Mrs. Hemenway's letter-writing caused a movement that grew into an organization that has 7 million members and over the years has expanded their concerns to protection of eggs, nests and habitat, resulting in thousands of inland and coastal sanctuaries with strict laws to protect them.

Today in Belize this same group is largely responsible for the creation of our countries many reserves. Their work is seen in a stately heron stalking its next meal outside your window, in a flock of terns diving to catch small fish that swim just below our clean waters surface and majestic pelicans gliding effortlessly above San Pedro.

The source of strength for this organization for 100 years has come from the same source, "Someone has to decide to take some action and write a few letters!"

I'm not sure Bubba truly understood the message or this story, all afternoon he's been designing ladies hats made entirely of cat fur.

People wishing to write letters with questions or comments about birding or the enviroment should contact either or both of these offices: The Belize Audubon Society, 12 Fort St., Belize City, Belize; The Department of Environment, Chief Environmental Officer, 1012 Ambergris Avenue, Belmopan, Belize.

Birds of Ambergris Caye

This page, and all contents, are Copyright © Elbert Greer