The Surreal Challenge of Making a Magazine During an Unthinkable Spring

Creating our summer issue meant balancing the desire for escape with a deeper need to face the moment.

For every birder navigating an unthinkable spring—one shaped by astonishing change and unspeakable loss—a quiet, constant salve was the familiar spectacle of migration. People suffered and died, yet new birdsong rang out. Job losses mounted, while warblers rained down. Zoom fatigue set in, but nests flourished.

Our staff strove to hold these dual realities. In early March we created a page called “The Joy of Birds” that collected our most diverting content and useful tips. We then set out to do substantive reporting, chronicling the changes COVID-19 wrought for conservation, avian science, and birding economies, and the political cover it provided for ongoing deregulation.

We also created space for writers and photographers to explore how the pandemic shaped their experiences. I, for one, saw myself in Leigh Abramson’s dashed dreams of orderly structure—plans thwarted by toddler nap strikes and endless cleanup, feeling weary, cranky, and guilty all at once. I recognized, too, the unexpected sense of hope she felt while birding with her child.

You’ll observe that dichotomy in our latest issue as well, because six months into our new normal, we need both to escape and to face this extraordinary moment. Let the Audubon Photography Awards transport you to a singular snapshot in time. Or try your hand at drawing a bird comic with tips from nature cartoonist Rosemary Mosco.

For deeper reflection, our special report on COVID-19 lends important context to a transformative event. And as protests spread around the nation, we asked field biologist Corina Newsome to share her perspective on the stubborn persistence of racism—and how the predominantly white birding community can root it out by listening to, and engaging with, Black voices.

While our team worked from home, we had one more surreal moment. We accepted, virtually, a National Magazine Award for our Fall 2019 guide to climate action. This award celebrates how journalism can be a powerful agent for change, guiding readers down a path to a more just, sustainable future. Audubon recognized that long ago, and it’s more true—and needed—today than ever.

This piece originally ran in the Summer 2020 issue as "A Season of Change." To receive our print magazine, become a member by making a donation today.​