RANGELEY – The 4th Annual Rangeley Birding Festival wrapped up with the John Bicknell Award for Birding Conservation presentation at the Rangeley Inn on Saturday evening. The 2022 John Bicknell Award for Birding Conservation was presented to Leslie Clapp of Blue Hill, president of the Downeast Chapter of Maine Audubon.
Under Clapp’s direction, the most significant conservation effort of the Downeast Chapter of Maine Audubon has been the Bluebird Trail. The trail was started 15 years ago with just 20 houses in two locations. Under Leslie’s direction, it presently has over 400 homes in 117 areas. Leslie oversees this process, sending out data sheets, instructions, and visuals for the monitoring process, getting GPS coordinates for all houses, and compiling the data sheets. Last year on the Blue Bird Trail, there were 337 bird houses monitored by citizen scientists.
From those 337 monitored houses, six house wren, 229 black-capped chickadees, 393 eastern bluebirds, and 572 tree swallow chicks fledged. Clapp was the grandmother to the 1,200 in just one year.
Clapp’s birding trips are unique and famous, and the field trip that everyone—birds and non-birders alike-waits for is the one that involves her property in Blue Hill village. Encompassing 10 acres, her gardens, fields, woods, pond, and apiary area is not only beautiful but is also managed as prime wildlife habitats. Feeders, shelters such as brush piles—both casual and structured, water features, and natural food sources for both birds and pollinators abound.
The National Wildlife Association has formally recognized her yard as Certified Wildlife Habitat. When she opens it to Audubon or the public, she does so not simply to share the beauty—she will also explain the why and the how of what she does. When you see the sign out in Blue Hill that says “Garden Open Today,” stop in and learn.
“Leslie does her work quietly and without fanfare or need for recognition, which makes her the ideal candidate for the John Bicknell Award,” said Chrissy Beardsley Allen, who nominated Clapp.
The John Bicknell Award for Birding Conservation Excellence honors the legacy of John Bicknell. He became a Rangeley resident in 1973 with his wife Martha and raised a family until his passing in 2018. Rangeley’s natural beauty spoke to Bicknell’s soul profoundly and powerfully. This connection to nature led him to design and care for the Mingo Trail & Bird Walk and to create many rock gardens and the annual and perennial flower gardens throughout Mingo Springs Golf Course. He led the effort to get sanctuary designation on the Mingo Springs golf course and was also recognized for his environmental stewardship by Audubon International.
Throughout the weekend, world-class guides explored the boreal forest of Rangeley with festival participants, sharing their knowledge of the birdlife and more that flourishes there. Birders checked Bicknell’s Thrush, Boreal Chickadees, Northern Parula, Swainson’s Thrush, Bay-breasted and Blackburnian Warblers off their life list.
For more information about the festival, visit RangeleyBirdingFestival.com.