Published on April 12, 2022

Meet Derek Allard: Avid Birder & Bird-a-thon Fundraiser

Derek Allard is a birder and Bird-a-thon fundraiser
How did you come to be such a passionate birder?

When I was a young boy, I built a bird feeder with my father for a Cub Scout project and that winter we had large flocks of Evening Grosbeaks visit that feeder every day. People talk about spark birds and these Evening Grosbeaks were mine. In the last decade I've become passionate about birding again. I'm someone who loves the outdoors and birds are a large part of the outdoors for me. I guess you could say I've become protective of these feathered friends as I'm more aware of the challenges they face. Just in my own neighborhood, we've had ongoing development and a row of spruce trees removed. Great Horned Owls used to be heard in those trees but I have yet to hear one since these trees were removed. This human impact makes me a more passionate birder. 

For the past four years you’ve been helping to grow the fundraising capacity of Bird-a-thon. What made you willing to take on this role?

Arcadia is only a few miles from where I live and I spend way too much time there. So that was one reason. But the other reason has to do with why I'm a passionate birder: those human impacts. When Jonah Keane became the new director at Arcadia it was clear there were more things, good things happening at Arcadia and I wanted to get involved and help in whatever way I could. Additionally, Mass Audubon’s work is wonderful and much needed, especially in the age of climate change and ever-rising population. How can you not want to take on this fight? There are days when I'm walking around Arcadia and wondering what would be here if Mass Audubon wasn't protecting this land. I'm certain that it would not be preserved land as development encroaches around it on all sides.  

You’ve been a very successful fundraiser for our team—thank you! What are your top tips and tricks to share with your fellow Bird-a-thon fundraisers?

The short answer is that I'm stubborn. I will ask and ask again and ask again. I'm lucky to have a number of generous family members and friends who are like minded and believe in the work that Arcadia / Mass Audubon does so that helps too. I think a personal request goes a long way. Just sharing the link to my fundraising page on social media doesn't usually get it done. A message to a specific person with that link will meet with more success. People are busy and skimming a feed of hundreds of other posts is easy to miss. During the year I also post a lot of bird photos and bird related things so people get that I am passionate about this work and are more likely to give because of this. Saying thank you is also very important. Don't forget that part!

You also teach birding skills and are working to bring new people into the field. What motivates you to do this outreach? 

I'm motivated to do this outreach because I see a need. Birding communities are historically older and, perhaps unintentionally, alienating to potential new members. When I was first getting back into birding about a decade ago, I remember going on a birding walk and being corrected for my pronunciation of Pileated in Pileated Woodpecker. The person who corrected me was condescending and that always stuck with me. The walks I lead are the exact opposite of that. They are inviting and I encourage questions and I'm happy to be corrected when I mess up an ID. Birding should not be an elitist event. It should be about introducing people to the natural environment through these amazing birds. It should be about all of us learning from each other. Nothing makes me happier than seeing someone new to birding see a new bird. Their eyes open wide and you can feel the joy of that moment. We need more of those moments.

Visit Derek's Bird-a-thon page

Join the West's Bird-a-thon Team