Bruce Beehler, an ornithologist at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History, made a stop near Zachary April 14 as part of a 100-day trip up the Mississippi River Valley to follow the spring migration of billions of songbirds from the Gulf of Mexico to the Great North Woods of Canada.
Beehler’s trip was sponsored by Georgia-Pacific and American Bird Conservancy.
“The amazing songbird migration up the Mississippi in the spring will be a story of one of nature’s most compelling spectacles,” Beehler said. “I hope that by documenting this adventure through frequent blog posts and eventually a book, I can help even more people understand the wondrous dynamic that unfolds annually in the backyards of millions of us living in the Americas.”
Beehler will make stops at more than 30 natural sites in 12 states along the Mississippi River.
His visits included three Georgia-Pacific facility sites in April: Port Hudson; Monticello, Mississippi; and Crossett, Arkansas.
Among the many topics he’s studying on the trip are Georgia-Pacific’s wildlife conservation efforts, as well as the company’s endangered forest mapping initiative, a news release said.
Ronnie Albritton, environmental manager at the GP’s Port Hudson operations, was able to give Beehler a tour through the Port Hudson Civil War site near Zachary.
“We’re excited to have Dr. Beehler as a guest of Georgia-Pacific. Sponsoring this trip underscores our long-standing commitment to being a good steward of the environment,” Albritton said. “We have many wildlife management programs across Georgia-Pacific facilities, several of which include preserving bird habitats. Several of our facilities have Wildlife at Work certification from the Wildlife Habitat Council, which requires commitments to conserving and restoring wildlife habitats on company land.”
Beehler’s undertaking is inspired by a similar trip taken by American naturalist and Pulitzer Prize-winning writer and photographer Edwin Way Teale, which took place 50 years ago, the release said.
“Teale’s work became a benchmark on what was taking place environmentally with birds and other wildlife in our country,” said Dr. George Fenwick, president of the American Bird Conservancy.
Beehler began his trip in High Island, Texas, the first week in April and is set to complete his journey July 5 in Ontario, Canada.
He plans to connect with dozens of local ornithologists, conservationists and naturalists along the way and explore local stopover sites for the migrating birds.
“Without question, a key component of this trip will be to learn from local experts by spending time with them in the swamps and woodlands. Their special knowledge will be the thread that I hope to weave into an ornithological tapestry that tells today’s story of the perils of transcontinental songbird migration in the 21st century,” Beehler said.
Beehler served on the board of the American Bird Conservancy and has ties to numerous organizations such as the Smithsonian Institution and Conservation International.