Who would win in a fight: A chicken or a Red-tailed Hawk? It’s probably no surprise that, at least in one particular case, it wasn’t the chicken. And it certainly wasn’t the group of Girl Scouts that found what was left of the loser strewn about a farm in Nassau County, New York. But what started as a dark moment in Claire Del Sorbo’s young life ended up being one of the reasons they got into birds.
“Looking back, it’s sort of what got me fascinated by birds in the first place because it is brutal, but the hawk still has to eat,” says Del Sorbo. “And I think just the sheer power of that really got me fascinated with nature and with birds, and just with being in the outdoor space in general.” Girls Scouts provided a formative experience for Del Sorbo, not just connecting them with nature and advocacy, but by connecting them to Audubon at an early age. Del Sorbo’s Girl Scout troop would go to events at the Theodore Roosevelt Audubon Center and Sanctuary near their home on Long Island and their parents were active supporters of the center. So, when it came time to find work after graduating, it felt natural that they would gravitate towards the non-profit sector.
“I found a lot of my more fulfilling work in the nonprofit sector,” says Del Sorbo. “Almost like Girl Scouts, we are all working towards a common shared goal, and you really learn how to work on a team.”
But what brought them to Audubon, and to the Walker Social Media Fellowship, was birds. When their classes at Fordham University went online in 2020, Del Sorbo decided to pick up birding as a hobby. They bought themselves a pair of binoculars, the Audubon guidebook, and discovered that there was way more to the hobby than just observations. At one point, Del Sorbo decided to look up Audubon and found themselves interested in the many ways that conservation can show up for communities.
“It was some of the Working Lands efforts and the partnerships with Indigenous governments, that really intrigued me at first. I had no idea that this kind of cross-cultural conservation work was being done,” says Del Sorbo. “And I was just like, that sounds like something I would love to be a part of. And that’s when I came upon the Walker fellowship.”
As the Walker Social Media fellow, Del Sorbo works with the social media team drafting and scheduling content for Audubon’s Instagram, creating engagement focused bird photos to transform articles produced by Audubon into educational posts. They also put their writing background to good use, covering the inaugural Audubon 5K Mural Run and profiling fellow Walker fellows Zakiyyah Madyun, Gaby Sotelo, and Bethany Chan.
But one of the most rewarding things they tackled while at Audubon was community engagement, answering questions that people pose in the comments and making sure that everyone keeps the conversation supportive and respectful. Community engagement, says Del Sorbo, is one of the things they love doing because they get to see how their work affects people.
“[Social media] is effective because you’re reaching a different audience on each platform. For Audubon, the people that we reach through Facebook are not the same people you find through Instagram,” says Del Sorbo. “You realize that each person is coming to each medium with different intentions, different motivations,” they say. “You can connect with what those motivations are.”
Sometimes those motivations are focused on climate action, while others are focused on protecting specific birds or habitats. And still others find that they’re motivated by the untimely demise of a domesticated hen. However each person gets there, Del Sorbo wants to make sure that they’re empowered to take the next step to protect birds and the places they need.