Retired Doctor Works to Improve the Health of the Environment

By Elizabeth Bergstone

After a lifetime of caring for patients at the family medical practice where he worked, Dr. Don Lendle is spending his retirement caring for the birds in our environment in Winston-Salem.

It sounds like a big switch, but not really. “Birds are an indicator of the health of the environment,” says Don. “If the birds are healthy, that’s an indicator of a healthy environment, and if the environment is healthy, then the people in it survive better.”

Originally from Wisconsin, Don received his bachelor’s degree in medicine from the University of California in San Francisco. He completed his internship and residency at the University of NY – Rochester, but chose to settle in Winston-Salem because his wife’s family lives in this area.

Don’s interest in the environment, and bird conservation, was inspired by the work of Douglas Tallamy, a professor at the University of Delaware, whose book “Bringing Nature Home” has been affecting change in the way gardeners and landscapers look at the need for native plants. “Over the last ten years, there has been a fifty percent drop in bird habitat, due to the use of pesticides and the ever-spreading use of non-native plants,” Don explains. “Birds feed primarily on insects, but the insects don’t like to feed on plants that aren’t native to this area, so the native insect population gradually decreases, and that leaves the birds with a vastly diminished food supply.”

Don volunteers as the Conservation Chair at the Audubon Society of Forsyth County, the local branch of the international conservation organization which was founded in 1905. He also volunteers for Habitat for Humanity at its 14th Street campus, where he has been instrumental in establishing several landscape features, including a flower border planted in native flowers and grasses which stretches the full length of the organization’s warehouse. He also tends and maintains several bird feeders and bird houses dotted around the extensive bog garden. The bog garden is a haven of tranquility and home to many species of birds. It is also an important flood control feature, skillfully shielded by hedge plantings from the busy traffic on the adjacent University Parkway.

The Audubon Society partners with Habitat for Humanity in working with new Habitat homeowners to help them establish their own environmentally-friendly and sustainable garden. Habitat’s long-range plan is to not just enable individual people to achieve home ownership, but to develop complete neighborhoods that have less lawns, use less fertilizer and pesticides and that are bird-friendly.

Some people spend millions of dollars bringing beauty into their homes, but anyone can share in the beauty of nature by simply putting up a bird feeder and enjoying the visits from the birds in their neighborhood.

Another way to become part of the bird friends community is to join some of the local bird walks organized by the Audubon Society. Visit for information on upcoming events that are open to non-members and members alike.

Elizabeth Bergstone is the former editor of the Downtown Winston-Salem newspaper. She has written for numerous local publications and currently works as a voiceover actor and an audio book narrator.

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