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Face Time With Pat Bragg

Published: Sunday, July 27, 2014 11:28 p.m. CDT
(Monica Maschak – mmaschak@shawmedia.com)
Pat Bragg, 77, of Sycamore, sits on a bench Saturday in front of her house. Bragg considers herself a birder and a nature lover. Recently, she discovered a monarch caterpillar the swamp milkweed plant in her front yard.
Monica Maschak - mmaschak@shawmedia.com A monarch caterpillar chomps on a swamp milkweed plant in Pat Bragg's front yard in Sycamore on Saturday, July 26, 2014.

Pat Bragg has been birding for 20 years, moving from DeKalb to rural Sycamore about six years ago, partially to cultivate a habitat to support blue birds. The 77-year-old grandmother of four recently was excited to discover a monarch caterpillar on the swamp milkweed in her yard, spawning a new interest in watching it grow.

Both a conservative Republican and an environmentalist, Bragg spent a couple minutes recently talking with photographer Monica Maschak about her passions.

Maschak: Explain birding for me.

Bragg: About 50 million Americans are birders. They at least put up a bird feeder. Some of them have really gone into it big-time, as I have. I’m now interested in bluebirds. When I first moved out here, I wrote a letter to the editor, and I said: I really hate leaving DeKalb, but I’ve got to go where the bluebirds are, and I’m going to have a bluebird trail. It’s taken me six years, but the spring of 2015, I’ll be ready for my bluebirds. My houses will be up so they weather for the winter, because bluebirds seem to prefer something that fits into the environment.

Maschak: So birding is bird-watching?

Bragg: It’s my passion. It’s whatever you want to make of it. My dream is to have elementary school children come here and have a lesson on birds, how important they are to us and the enjoyment we can get from them. I’m going to start with Lincoln Elementary School, where my children went. I lived two houses north of there for 40 years...

Gardening and birding go hand-in-hand. There are certain plants that birds like. Monarch butterflies, the host plant is the milkweed. They can only lay their eggs on the milkweed.

Maschak: Why do you like nature and why do you think it’s important to conserve it?

Bragg: I’m a conservative Republican and here I am, an environmentalist and a conservationist. I think the older you get, the more important you realize it is that we take care of the Earth, anbirds tell you the state of the world very quickly. If they get sick and die, there’s something very wrong. Look at the canary that they took into the coal mines; it told those miners if there was gas down there. It’s the same thing here, if you have birds dying, there’s something wrong with the environment. I want to leave clean air, clean soil, clean water. I have four grandchildren, so you begin to think of posterity. I want, in my 80s, to be known as the bird lady.

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