Volunteer Spotlight: Mac Kincaid

23 February 2022

How long have you been volunteering with HawkWatch International? 

I started training as a docent in the summer of 2016.

How did you get started volunteering with HWI?

I happened to meet a couple of docents who were at an event with Kotori and Aymara, and I was psyched out of my mind when they told me I could learn to handle birds without a falconry license. My first training session with fellow docent Tana Hunter on handling Yaki was actually the same day that Galileo was rescued, and I ended up giving him a ride to the rehab center in Ogden. Needless to say, I was hooked. I started doing docent programs and then I jumped in feet first to whatever else I could get involved with, from nest boxes and surveys to bird care.

What is your “spark bird?”

I think the corvids will probably be my forever favorites. For a while, I lived on a horse property in the middle of the desert, and there were SO MANY crows that just hung around, scavenging horse grain and engaging in strange crow politics with each other. I was fascinated by everything they did, and they really had the place figured out. They'd sometimes sit in the tree outside my boss' house and make eerily accurate meowing cat noises until she came outside to put out more cat food, thinking it was her backyard cats crying for supper!

What do you do outside of volunteering for HWI?

I write short fiction (fantasy and fabulism, mostly). I'm often working on novels I never manage to finish, and I have a book called "The Writer's Guide to Horses." Like many people with ADHD, my hobby is basically collecting hobbies, so I've always got some kind of new art medium or project going. Right now I'm really into sculpting, and I'm working on learning digital 3D modeling. I also do a lot of 3D printing, both as part of my day job and for fun at home. Right now, I'm 3D printing each individual bone from a Great Horned Owl and working on articulating the whole thing.

What is your favorite moment from volunteering?

I don't think it's possible to pick just one! I think my favorite thing in general though has been doing fieldwork for the American Kestrel Studies and the winter surveys HWI used to conduct. Not only does it help me get outside, but it has really helped me notice so many more animals and interesting things when I'm out and about. Once you've trained your eye a little to spot perching raptors, you suddenly realize they're all over the place, and then you start noticing all the other wildlife around you that you've been missing.

Why should people care about conserving raptors?

I feel like it's really hard and exhausting right now to care about anything, and there's SO MUCH that we need to care about. The world's sort of on fire, sometimes literally, and it feels like no one's doing anything. The problems all feel too big and impossible, but we still have to tackle them, so I figure you have to pick the individual parts of the problem that you feel passionate about and have the energy for, and then you can try to spread that passion to other people. So many of the things we do that have a devastating impact on vulnerable species are things a lot of us never thought twice about, like using lead sinkers or rat poison or cutting down a deadwood tree that a bird might be nesting in. Sometimes all it takes to change people's minds and behavior is a little information and perspective. These birds have a real magnetism to them, they draw people in, and they're such an amazing way to spark the kind of curiosity that can turn into a passion for wild things.