An Avian Alphabet: How one Conservancy volunteer turned her love for birds into art

April 25, 2024

Maggie Dimon has always been an artist and avid nature lover. She moved from Atlanta, GA to Naples, FL seven years ago. She subscribed to the Naples Daily News and began reading Joanna Fitzgerald’s (von Arx Wildlife Hospital Director) weekly column about the happenings in the hospital.

After being introduced to our wildlife hospital through the column and then rescuing a Green Heron, Dimon decided she wanted to help with the native wildlife in more ways and signed up to become a volunteer. This was six years ago.

Maggie Dimon during her volunteer shift at the von Arx Wildlife Hospital

Her experience in the wildlife hospital through the years sparked her creativity and love for the various birds found in Southwest Florida. Published on June 20, 2023, Dimon combined her two passions, birds and art, into a 70 page poetry book.

For Dimon, this book is near and dear to her heart. She shares with me, “Everyone has unique gifts to share with the world. I believe that’s why we’re here. It took me decades to stop comparing myself to others – ”better” writers, “better” poets, “better” artists, “better” athletes – and to offer whatever it is that I can give from my heart. Please don’t hold back. No one else is just like you. You matter. This precious life is not to be wasted.”

I continued to ask her questions about her “why” and more about her recent book.

Q: How long have you been volunteering for the Conservancy of Southwest Florida?

A: I have been a volunteer at the von Arx Wildlife Hospital for six years.

Q: How did you learn about the Conservancy of Southwest Florida?

A: I subscribe to the Naples Daily News and each week I read Joanna’s articles about the happenings at the hospital.

Q: What is your favorite part about volunteering at the Wildlife Hospital?

A: My favorite part is learning from the staff about our native wildlife. Of course I also love getting to see the animals up close – holding a bird that’s being treated, feeding a baby squirrel, and grazing a gopher tortoise.

Q: What is your favorite story you can tell about working in the wildlife hospital?

A: My favorite story actually happened before I became a volunteer. Six years ago, I rescued a baby Green Heron and the staff nursed it for 11 days. I got to see the healthy bird released back into the wild where I had found her. I applied to volunteer the next day. This past summer a pair of Green Herons raised two broods in our Bottle Brush tree and I like to think that they are descendants of the baby whose life was saved.

Maggie Dimon’s book, “An Avian Alphabet,” in our Gift Shop

Q: You wrote and illustrated “An Avian Alphabet.” What prompted you to create this book?

A: I was amazed by the beauty and variety of our shorebirds and I created quite a few drawings and collages of them, mostly for friends and for my own pleasure. Then I decided to expand the collection to include the full alphabet. One thing led to another and I spent a year researching the birds and writing a poem for each one that highlights something special about them. I’m pleased that the book is attractive to all ages.

Q: What Southwest Florida animal is your favorite and why?

A: The Green Heron. This bird is an elusive, solitary hunter, so seeing one has a bit of a challenge to it. Green Herons are patient and skillful fishermen who even know how to use lures to attract fish. They fascinate me.

Excerpt of Maggie Dimon’s book in our Gift Shop

Q: When did you realize your passion for birds and art?

A: I have had a passion for art and writing my whole life, but the particular interest in birds began when I moved here.

Q: What makes this book special to you?

A: At the start of my book, I quote three lines of poetry by Mary Oliver: “Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.” I’ve always been adept at paying attention and being astonished, but not so eager to tell about it. This book is that important step – opening the eyes and hearts of others to the extraordinary creatures that live among us.

Maggie Dimon with her book

Q: Why should others get involved with the Conservancy of Southwest Florida?

A: The Conservancy is doing important work, not only at the hospital. There is surely some service everyone can offer. Four hours a week is a big help! Think about what drew you to SW Florida, or what keeps you here…that is worth preserving.

You can become a volunteer by visiting our website here. Order “An Avian Alphabet” on Amazon. Buy “An Avian Alphabet” in person at our Gift Shop.