I have some stellar readers and sources.
Whenever I ask for help, they always pull through. I’d like to think it has something to do with me — they trust me, they respect my work — but I’m pretty sure it’s really because they are passionate about the environment.
A recent example was when I wrote an article about how ospreys returning to the Chesapeake Bay are a sure sign of spring, as they generally arrive by St. Patrick’s Day. (I was dying to write a story about spring after our dreadful winter.)
For those who don’t know, ospreys are migratory birds that summer in the Chesapeake and winter in South America. They are distinctive-looking brown-and-white birds. They usually mate for life and nest in the same spots year after year — making them attractive to bird-watchers and nature-lovers.
I’ve done versions of this story before, so I tried to make this one special. I decided to include a box listing good spots for osprey-watching as a little something extra.
I started listing the places I know, but realized I was likely leaving out some great spots that I’d never been to or heard of. My newspaper covers a large geographic area, after all.
I got one or two responses apiece on Twitter and Facebook. I really hit the jackpot on e-mail, where I got 17 (!) responses.
Some were quite detailed, such as this one from David Prosten of the local Sierra Club:
A good spot is at the South River Overlook in Quiet Waters Park. Go all the way down to the water and take a right, walking upriver on the promenade. Near the mouth of Harness Creek there are at least two seriously-used Osprey hangouts, one on a dead tree in the creek not far from the shoreline, and another, across the creek, in the water on a man-made platform.
I couldn’t ask for better help than that!
I guess the new-fangled term for this kind of experience is “crowd-sourcing.” Despite my embrace of new technology, I’m still an old-fashioned newspaperman at heart, so I hate using words like that.
But whatever you call it, I’m happy it worked for me, and I think it made the story a little bit better.