McHenry County Audubon: A Brief History
McHenry County Audubon was established in 1961 as the McHenry County Bird Club. Four officers were elected including Mrs. Kenneth V. Fiske who served as secretary and treasurer. Mrs. Fiske is better known today as our good friend -and still a member* – Darlene Fiske. Arthur Baker was appointed president and Larry Stout was program chair. Mrs. Wm. Carroll, Jr. was appointed Publicity Chairman. Anne Carroll and Darlene Fiske were the main engines behind the club’s establishment. They “recruited two gentlemen,” as Darlene puts it, “to give us some legitimacy.” Women were just getting started as the doers in our county! The early days of the club were dominated by field trips, with Volo Bog and Barber Fen being among the early destinations. Ryder’s Woods, Wonder Lake for water birds, and the Cold Springs Schoolhouse (the Fiskes' home), were also popular. Dues were set at $1.00 per year to cover the “cost of postage, stationery, occasional coffees, other incidentals.”
In 1965, the group voted to join Illinois Audubon Society (IAS) and became the second
chapter in the state organization. The name changed officially to the McHenry County Chapter of the Illinois Audubon Society but was and still is often simply called McHenry County
Audubon or MCA.
In 1971, the club “campaigned” in support of the creation of the McHenry County Conservation District which was established that year. Darlene's husband Ken Fiske was part of that original movement to create MCCD. MCA had only 98 members at the time – “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has,” Margaret Mead. Membership soon topped 100 and dues were $6.00 annually where they remained until about a decade into the next century!
In 1980, with the energy crisis looming, the club president urged members to take on a more active role in environmental protection. He wrote in the newsletter “Throughout its existence we have worked to promote measures that would protect birds and their habitat. Today there is a need to be even more active in this and other issues… it is important that an environmental organization such as ours be ready to meet these challenges. Participation is the key. If we all pitch in and help, we can make progress.” By 1982, MCA was up to 119 members.
By the 1990s MCA topped 150 members. The goldfinch-on-thistle was adopted as the official logo and t-shirts were made to show members’ pride and affiliation.
By 2001, MCA had an eleven member board of directors, plus three non-board committee members. Members programs with guest speakers were being held at the Crystal Lake Nature Center and field trips remained popular.
In 2011, McHenry County Audubon celebrated 50 years by hosting the fall gathering of IAS.
In 2016, MCA moved its members' meetings to McHenry County College to accommodate a growing attendance. Three years later, MCA moved again, this time to the Dorr Township Community Room in Woodstock where the kitchen facility and location in town were both a good draw.
We are happy you have found us as we grow into the age of social media, work to become more relevant in our community and among our neighbors, and strive to play a growing role in protecting habitat for birds and other animals in beautiful McHenry County, Illinois.
*Most of the above was written in 2012. Darlene Fiske passed away in 2016 and her husband Ken passed in 2017. The Darlene and Ken Fiske Memorial Birds in the Classroom Grant keeps their memory alive.