For Habitat and Wildlife Keepers, the Matthews chapter of the NC Wildlife Federation, education and awareness go hand-in-hand – something the group strives for in increasing their membership, working closely with the town and finding community and commonality in all their endeavors.
Five years ago HAWK worked with the Town of Matthews to register and certify the town itself as a Wildlife Habitat through the North Carolina Wildlife Federation – the 64th such community to do so in the nation and the first chapter in North Carolina. To date, there are 13 such communities in NC and approximately 200 across the country. To add, “tens of thousands of supporters and activists are currently members in the statewide organization,” said Tim Gestwicki, CEO of the NCWF.
According to Daniel Jakobovits, avid “tree hugger, wildlife/naturalist,” former vice-present, now new -president of HAWK, education and awareness go hand-in-hand – something the group strives for in increasing their membership, working closely with the town (government) and finding community and commonality in all their endeavors.
“Part of our mission is to continue to educate the public,” said Jakobovits. “You can’t care about something unless you understand it……and there is the intersection of what we do. We (intend to) continue down our mission to educate folks,” he said, adding that people don’t necessarily need to kill the spider or bee or snake they see. “All of these (are) wonderful things - to have folks understand this and have that sense of wonder and engagement for things that are all around us, but (that) we don’t know about.”
There are 4 elements required for a backyard habitat:
a place to raise young.
On the first Tuesday of each month (during the body of the school year), HAWK holds meetings on topics ranging from deer and coexistence in the community to native plants and wildlife. From moss workshops, owl and frog walks to worm composting classes and foraging. They’re often attended by up to 100 interested audience-members. In addition, the group hosts annual events such as Earth Day and Kids in Nature Day (KIND) with the Town of Matthews, and hosts a table at the Farmer’s Market twice a year.
Annually, HAWK follows through on their mission to help increase awareness and membership and help homeowners and businesses certify their properties. Said Gestwicki, “The community wildlife certification would never have occurred without the full involvement of HAWK – they came up with the game plan, the objects, the goals and followed through to inform the constituents of Matthews, and implement a plan. This could not have happened without HAWKS’ past, present and future dedication to all local wildlife and its habitat.”
At the heart of this work is the commitment made by individuals. “The value of becoming a member of our group as well as the value of certifying their property doesn’t take an act of great magnitude,” said Jakobovits. “Certifying your yard – the idea is that you are making some level of commitment for a habitat – food, water and shelter, and a place to raise their young. It doesn’t need to be for larger creatures – bear or deer. But, if we can connect all these habitats, we now have a corridor for wildlife.
People who have a birdhouse or bird feeder are already two steps down that path. All they need is a birdbath or source of water and they can get their property certified.” In effect, he said, “you are doing this with purpose – how can I do this better?”
It is a message not lost on Jordan Vardon, who recently certified his property on Willow Brook Road – 1/3 acres in the middle of a subdivision. According to Vardon, the father of two young children, this is not only a way to learn about birds, which he is clearly passionate about, but also teach his two young children how to identify and enjoy them, as well.
“This is a way to bring more birds into the back yard,” he said, “while creating an oasis for (some) of the birds in decline. (We’re) giving birds the space to come back.” To date, he’s seen 30 different species in his yard - a few of which have chosen to nest in two carefully hidden bird houses - “hidden by design to give them cover – the birds want to feel safe,” Vardon said. He likens his pursuit of bird-watching to a treasure hunt.
In his case, despite a small yard surrounded by nearby houses, his surroundings have created a joyful space for his family to enjoy - his poured concrete antique birdbath was purchased after a six-month hunt; his bird feeders are hoisted in the trees nearest the bedroom to allow the family to watch the various species more closely. This is a shared experience - “the kids love it,” he said.
In the end, it is that same experience which brings many Matthews individuals together. “We’re for all wildlife – small and big and everything that is part of that web,” said Jakobovits. “Part of the crossover involves people interested and passionate about bees. We’re a….cross pollination of people (whose interest) extends from bees to wildlife to humans,” he said. “We work very well together; we don’t compete with (other organizations) – we want people to enjoy and connect with nature at whatever level they want to.”
For more information or to join HAWK, visit their website Habitat and Wildlife Keepers.