Trailblazing for Brushfinches

For over 15 years it has been a personal dream of mine to hike the Appalachian Trail through my home state of Virginia.  

This summer my boss at the American Bird Conservancy  has granted me permission to take a month of unpaid leave to pursue my trekking dream!  On June 15, I will embark on a 498-mile backpacking trip.  The journey will begin in Damascus, VA and I will hike to my doorstep in Linden, VA by July 15th.

I am blessed to earn a living investing mental energy to tackle complex bird conservation issues — while working with extraordinarily passionate conservationists in five Latin American countries (Bolivia, Colombia, Jamaica, Ecuador, and Chile). My job brings me to far-flung locales to better understand threats faced by some of the world’s rarest birds.  Being the passionate workaholic that I am,  forgetting about work for a month is IMPOSSIBLE.  Thus, one of my goals during this foot journey is to  raise awareness for the MOST THREATENED BIRD SPECIES in my work portfolio: the Antioquia Brushfinch.   

The Antioquia Brushfinch,  an orange -crowned Colombian songbird, eluded scientists until it was documented for the first time in the wild in January 2018 .  Little habitat remains for the Antioquia Brushfinch.  Remaining habitat is under severe threat of conversion for pasture and cropland. While four populations have been identified, fewer than twenty individual birds have been found so far. 

 In November of last year, I was blessed to see this bird in person.  However, since the day,that we visited the spot where  I first laid eyes on two magnificent brushfinches, this habitat (in the photo below) has been leveled for bean and corn production.


This is an URGENT appeal to not look the other way, and not give up when species numbers are in the double digits.  I am raising $5,000 USD so that our Colombian colleagues can conduct searches for more brushfinches.  Knowing where the birds occur will help American Bird Conservancy  choose the best site for our on-the-ground partners to purchase land to create a protected area for the Antioquia Brushfinch.

If my target fundraising goal of $5,000 is reached, I WILL DYE MY HAIR the  RUSTY color of the Brushfinch's Crest upon finishing my Appalachian adventure!!!!   

Life as a redhead could be very interesting.... THANK YOU.

Follow the journey through social media via Instagram (@wendycristinawillis)  or Twitter (@Wendy_C_Willis)!


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Wendy Willis 
Linden, VA
American Bird Conservancy 
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