Bringing Nature Home: Supporting Native Food Webs in Maine, with Eric Topper

July 18, 2017
7:00 pm - 8:00 pm

broken egg in nestLike many places, the landscape of coastal Maine has changed dramatically. Today, gardens, yards, neighborhoods and towns are playing increasingly critical roles in supporting native food webs for birds, pollinators and other wildlife.  Our individual efforts to support wildlife can be both intimately rewarding and broadly beneficial. 

Eric Topper, Director of Education for Maine Audubon will introduce what individuals and groups can do, including what plants to choose and how to manage and maintain our gardens for their full ecological function and benefit. Topper will also discuss the large selection of beautiful native flowers, shrubs and trees we can incorporate into our yards to attract and support a multitude of birds, butterflies and other interesting native wildlife. Offered in partnership with the Cape Elizabeth Garden Club.

More Information about “Bringing Nature Home”

Bringing Nature Home” is Maine Audubon’s new community engagement initiative around restoring native plants and wildlife food webs.  The initiative is named and modeled after the best-selling book of that title by Doug Tallamy, an entomologist from the University of Delaware.  Dr. Tallamy studies the number of insects attracted by various plants and trees, particularly those common in urban and suburban landscapes.  The real focus of Tallamy’s efforts, however, are the birds and other wildlife which depend on abundance and diversity of those insects to feed their young.
At its heart, this project is about restoring native plants, shrubs and trees, as well as the natural genetic biodiversity.  Whether on an apartment balcony in Portland, a backyard, a city park or a large woodland owned by a land trust, some of the simplest planting and maintenance choices people make can have profound impact on the local food web.  We need pollinators to help produce our food just as a pair of Black-capped Chickadees need thousands of caterpillars to fledge chicks.  In addition to our backyards and local green spaces becoming opportunities to recruit and train new naturalists, they become potential refugia for species of plants and trees facing real challenges across broader landscapes.
(“Bringing Nature Home” has also been a rich opportunity for Maine Audubon to energize new partnerships, find ready relevance for all ages and demographics, and for bringing to life our new strategic plan.  The broad applicability of this area of focus to different landscapes also makes it accessible for all ages and developmental levels.  Preschool children and their families have planted milkweed at Gilsland Farm and learned about pollinators.  Students at Hall and Presumpscot Elementary schools in Portland have studied insects and their relationship to plants and birds.  80 students at King Middle School have embarked on a Bringing Nature Home learning expedition, during which each has adopted a species of Maine bird to study deeply and identify what we can do to improve its habitat locally.  Dozens of adults have participated in native plant walks and seed sowing workshops this fall, and we’ve met hundreds more conducting outreach presentations to garden clubs, nurseries, our volunteer chapters.  We are also working closely with several land trusts, city officials and retirement communities to engage their communities in restoring and monitoring native plants and habitat.)
Maine Audubon’s new strategic plan formalizes our four-pronged approach to wildlife conservation and education.  Our fullest opportunities and work at the project level provide and impel education, stewardship, citizen science and advocacy.  Thus, “Bringing Nature Home” is a perfect programmatic vehicle.  People learn new direct connections within the habitats and ecosystems immediately surrounding them.  Activities such as native planting and invasive species management can be done alone at home or as part of larger organized efforts like we’ve had at high-profile locations such as Deering Oaks and Fort Williams this fall.  Digital applications such as iNaturalist are being used to inventory species of plants and animals and establish trackable projects.  Maine Audubon allies with town governments, conservation commissions and community groups to educate leaders, inform ordinances and support forest management plans.
(Our key partner thus far has been the Wild Seed Project.  This new and highly innovative organization is gathering and propagating native seeds, from the tiniest wildflower to the tallest oaks.  Wild Seed Project sells seeds, teaches propagation techniques and leads tours, mostly through a very informative website and beautiful publications.  Maine Audubon has cherished the generous technical support and seeds Wild Seed Project has provided thus far, and we look forward to a long and deep partnership.)
Maine Audubon looks forward to producing new materials, developing additional programs and engaging new program partners in 2017.  We are deeply appreciative of the immeasurable support we’ve received from so many thus far.  Special thanks go to Jim & Ann Hancock for their founding support for this project, as well as to Doug Tallamy for his inspiration and support.

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