Please visit The Eyrie over at our new home: http://youngbirders.aba.org!
Please visit The Eyrie over at our new home: http://youngbirders.aba.org!
In the two years since I took over the management of The Eyrie, I have been helped by a stellar team of young birders--the Student Blog Editors. Sarah Toner, Alexandria Simpson, Eamon Corbett, John Shamgochian, and Tristan Weinbrenner have been an essential part of the blog, doing everything from writing many of the excellent posts you read on these pages to recruiting posts from other young birders. After two years, we've made a few changes to the editorial team, and over the next week I'm thrilled to share with you the new team of Student Blog Editors for The Eyrie, as well as our new Featured Bloggers, whose work will be appearing on The Eyrie in the coming year. (And, of course, if you are intersted in writing for The Eyrie, feel free to contact me (jduberstein at aba dot org) or any of the Student Blog Editors.)
Hello! My name is Sarah Toner. I’m 16 years old, and I have been birding for over eight years, ever since I decided to try to identify a local hawk and discovered the wonderfully varied lives of birds.
I’m from Ann Arbor, Michigan, but I’ve traveled to many spots around the country looking for birds and other cool things in nature. These wonderful experiences have been to Arizona, Florida, Maine, Colorado, and many other places in between. While I love traveling to all places, I particularly enjoy spending time in northern Michigan, where I can see some of my favorite northern birds such as Clay-colored Sparrows, Rough-legged Hawks, and Boreal Chickadees.
I’m interested in bird banding, photography, and illustration, but my strongest skill is my writing. I love good writing and literature, particularly related to the natural world, natural history, or history. I’ve won the Writing Division of the Young Birder of the Year contest twice, and I enjoy writing about birds and birders.
I’m currently working on starting the Michigan Young Birders Club for young birders in my home state. I usually go to school in Ann Arbor, but last semester I attended a semester school Wisconsin called the Conserve School. Conserve is a school for high schoolers interested in the natural world to learn about environmental stewardship. At Conserve, I introduced several teenagers to birding, and we had lots of adventures there. I hope to inspire more teenagers to explore the natural world, and I aspire to become a bird bander to document populations and discover new aspects of bird biology.
I’ve been a Student Blog Editor for two years, and I look forward to sharing more stories and connecting more young birders on the Eyrie!
Saturday, September 21, 2013 is Young Birders' Day at the MBS. All activities in the Rhein Center, Hoover Auditorium and The Birders' Marketplace and birding at our local birding sites on Saturday September 21 are FREE for young birders that are 18 years of age or younger. [Please note: Talks in Orchestra Hall and the Fountain Inn on Saturday, September 21 have limited seating and require a registration]. For young birders wanting to participate in activities on other days (Thursday, Friday, and Sunday) during the 2013 MBS, there is a $30 registration fee.
The American Birding Association, Columbus Audubon Society, the Ohio Young Birders Club, and Lake Erie WingWatch are teaming-up to offer a full-day of birding fun for kids of all ages and levels of interest. The Rhein Center on the Lakeside Chautauqua campus is going to be the Young Birders' Clubhouse during the MBS and on Saturday it will be filled to the rafters with stuff to do and see. Morning birding around the Lakeside grounds is sure to generate a few life birds. Later in the day a gull and tern ID session down at the Lakeside Pavilion will help young birders gain identification know-how. We'll have talks from young birders, a special optics session from some of our vendors, and a Big Sit circle to join for some casual, on-site birding.
For the younger birders (ages 8 and under), we'll have activities from the Flying Wild curriculum and a special, up-close session with the rehabilitation birds from Mona Rutger and "Back to the Wild."
All activities for young birders and their families on Young Birders' Day are free. Meals and lodging are not included.
You can register online here. And did we mention it is FREE?
Compiled by Aidan Place
August is a hot month. As such, it is the time of year that makes you want to sit inside all day and blast air conditioning in your face. Or at least that’s what it makes me want to do. Regardless of the sometimes unbearable temperatures, August can still produce some good birds. The first passerine migrants are starting to pass through on their way to their wintering grounds; and shorebirds are starting to appear at a mud flat near you. August can also produce some good blog posts. Following is a compiled list of young birder blog posts from the month of August.
John Mark Simmons at Two Birders and Binoculars discusses how to understand the concept of a subspecies:
This week we will be discussing a somewhat confusing topic for many birders. Understanding how subspecies work and how they come about is great knowledge to learn and to spread to other birders.
Charlotte Wasylik at Prairie Birder talks about how best to pack for a birding trip:
One of the most important things to do when it comes to packing your optics is to keep them with you in your carry-on luggage. Don’t take the chance of your cameras, binoculars, and scope getting damaged, stolen, or lost in your checked luggage. Last year when I went to Long Point for the workshop and again this year, I packed my scope, cameras, binoculars, and new iPad in my backpack. There’s just not enough room in my backpack for my tripod, and it’s pretty sturdy and not as desirable to thieves, so I packed it in my suitcase with my clothes.
Jacob Cooper at Zugunruhe visits Puerto Rico and experiences some bad roads and good birds:
A far cry from the steep rainforest laden hills of the northeast, the southwest was a nice mix of mangroves, montane dry forest and deciduous tropical lowland forest. By looking at the books and comparing the maps, we could tell that this was the place for most of the Puerto Rican endemics we were still missing. Getting there, however, was far less simple.
Sam Brunson writes a post at the ABA Blog about his experience at Camp Colorado:
The moment the plane's landing gear touched the runway, a seemingly 144+ hour birding marathon began. I had never birded in the western bastion for birds of Colorado, and couldn't wait to start seeing all the birds, going to all the amazing locations, and getting to know all the leaders and my fellow campers. I knew before going that the trip was going to be amazing; however, it turned it out to be more than just amazing. Camp Colorado was the experience of a lifetime.
VENT’s Camp Chiricahua, sponsored by the ABA, took place in early August in southeastern Arizona. Thirteen campers from across the U.S. and as far away as Panama arrived in Tucson on Tuesday, August 6 to join leaders Michael O’Brien, Louise Zemaitis, and me (Jennie Duberstein). After a welcome to Tucson cookout in Madera Canyon, we spent the first few days camping up on Mount Lemmon at Rose Canyon Lake, getting an introduction to the Sky Islands and seeing great birds like Zone-tailed Hawk, Olive Warbler, Greater Pewee, and more Red-faced Warblers than you can shake a stick at (seriously, we had 17 on one hike). From there we headed in Portal, Arizona, where we stayed at the American Museum of Natural History’s Southwestern Research Station. Over the next four days we got our first glimpses at the birds of this part of the state, including highlights such as Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher, Bendire’s Thrasher, Greater Roadrunner, Mexican Jay, Cassin’s Sparrow, and Scaled, Gambel’s, and Montezuma quail (yup, we had the Quail Trifecta in one day. It was a very good day.)
Campers this year weren't just interested in birds, though, and we also really been enjoyed dragonflies, butterflies, insects, mammals, plants…basically if it moved, we wanted to learn about it. One of the highlights of camp was one evening in Portal when we were out owling and herping and instead came across a ringtail clambering up a tree near Sunny Flat Campground.
Stay tuned for a more detailed report from some of the campers!
By Caleb Frome
5:00 am. My wake-up alarm song blared electric guitar into the chill predawn. It was time.
Half-sitting, half-lying in the passenger seat of our minivan, I squeezed myself out of my sleeping bag and sat up, rubbing my eyes. Across the console in the driver's seat, my dad was already up. But there were no signs of life from the bundles of blankets in the back where my mom and 15-year-old sister slumbered on. It was only after several minutes and some hot chocolate that we were all feeling awake.
Sunrise was only half an hour away; the trail was calling us. White-crowned and Lincoln's sparrows sang from the brush at the edge of the gravel parking lot. We shouldered our packs and turned our faces uphill. It was time.
The sun rose behind us, illuminating the Grizzly Gulch Valley, where we had spent the night. A popular base camp for hikers, the valley was surrounded by several of Colorado's giants: the fourteeners. At 14,000 feet (or higher) of elevation, their treeless tops towered above the trailhead's 10,600 feet. Handies Peak, located in the San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado, was our goal for today: our first fourteener.
The trail climbed steeply, as it would for the entire trek; we would gain 1000 feet of elevation for each of the four miles to the summit. But the beauty of the hike took our minds off the work. We hiked along a creek through a beautiful aspen-fir forest where Hermit Thrushes whistled their ethereal notes and Pine Siskins zhreeeed at each other. Cordilleran Flycatchers called out greetings, and Wilson's Warblers popped up in the tops of bushes and sang us good morning. Squirrels and pikas raced across the rocks, yelling in their unintelligible but joyous voices. Massive crags towered above us on every side. It was a Rocky Mountain morning.
I stopped walking.
A piece of bark almost hit me in the head. There was a scurrying in the thick branches of a pine tree just above me, and a dark shape flew to the next tree over- to the backside, of course. I ran up the trail toward it. For a few agonizing seconds, nothing moved. Suddenly, a dark shape appeared among some dead branches. I raised my binoculars and...yellow? Yellow! Perched happily on a dead branch sat an American Three-toed Woodpecker, his bright crown shining in the morning light. I had seen one of these scarce forest dwellers before, but this bird was so cooperative, it felt like a lifer all over again.
An answering pwuok sounded from the distance, and the woodpecker flew off to find his mate. I was in awe. This called for a break and some celebratory canned peaches.
We hiked on, now to the trills of Gray-headed Juncos. A Gray Jay squawked from a group of pines, but they were some of the last trees we would encounter. We had left the aspens behind us, and even the huge stands of evergreens were beginning to thin. We were almost to treeline.
Finally, after a particularly steep section of the trail, we came to a ridge. To our left rose a steep talus slope that formed the flank of Handies. Irregular patches of snow lay about on the sides of the trail, which ran heedlessly up the rock-strewn side of the peak and disappeared. We were almost there.
I looked up and picking its way down the trail toward us was mountain goat. It wagged its head, bobbed its two black horns, and shook its white beard impatiently. We climbed up; he climbed down. We were at an impasse. With a goat. At 13,700 feet. When he was close enough that I could have reached out and touched him, he grudgingly stepped aside and let us pass before continuing down the edge if the mountain.
Another 10 minutes of climbing, and we found ourselves on a wide, flattish slope that ran for a hundred yards, turned to the right, and ended at the summit. We had made it.
A small, dark bird flew to a rock on the edge of the trail. Brown-capped Rosy-Finch! Dull pink feathers ruffled by the alpine breeze, it hopped on the loose stones of the precipice, not ten feet from where I stood. The transition from nemesis to lifer was glorious.
11:00 am. Colorado was drenched in glorious sunshine as I stood on top of Handies Peak. As far as I could see, there was nothing but mountains upon mountains. The Rockies stretched out in front of me for miles and miles, their treeless tops shining in the mid-morning light. Behind me, I traced the trail that had brought me here. It was the longest, toughest, most fun 4 miles I had ever walked. It had brought the oddest, closest, best nature encounters I had had in a long time.
I had just birded my first fourteener.
About the author: Caleb Frome is a 17-year old birder living in Dallas, Texas. Since his first eBird checklist over six years ago, he’s been chasing birds wherever and whenever he can. Anywhere in the mountains could be considered his favorite place to bird, but he’s also spent a good deal of time near his home in Collin County, where he’s attempting a Big Year this year. In other news, Caleb doesn’t like writing, unless he can work birding into it somehow. He has a tendency to go off the beaten path and explore, which is a good thing unless he is by some chance writing, in which case he rambles. No, he doesn’t know what he wants to be when he grows up. No, he doesn’t know where he’s going to college. Yes, he gets asked that a lot. In the unlikely event that he has any free time, and in the still unlikelier event that he has free time and isn’t birding, you might find him playing the piano, drawing, or working out…complicated number theory problems. Not working out.
Anyway, he’d always rather be pishing.
By Sam Brunson
Sunday, July 21, 2013, I landed in Denver, arriving with a group of young birders from Georgia to attend the ABA's Camp Colorado 2013. The moment the plane's landing gear touched the runway, a seemingly 144+ hour birding marathon began. I had never birded in the western bastion for birds of Colorado, and couldn't wait to start seeing all the birds, going to all the amazing locations, and getting to know all the leaders and my fellow campers.
I knew before going that the trip was going to be amazing; however, it turned it out to be more than just amazing. Camp Colorado was the experience of a lifetime.
Camp Colorado was the experience of a lifetime for a plethora of reasons, but three things will always shine bright in my memory: the birds I saw, the places I went, and most of all, the people I met.
About the author: Sam Brunson, 17, lives in Savannah, Georgia and has really gotten into birding in the past four years. He and his cousin run their blog, Two Birders and Binoculars, a website dedicated to helping others become better birders.
Compiled by John Shamgochian
The icy winds of night are gone, this is not their domain.
Sun, sweat, purring fans.
Hades churning Lethe,
Sun chair, sleep.
Dogs in the shade, lemonade, boredom.
there is (for now) still snow on this crumbling little orb.
Bald Eagles lined the nearby river flats, watching wigeon flocks swimming around the marshy areas. The roadside ponds and meadows were home to the abundant residents of the region that welcomed us as we passed: Trumpeter Swans, Black-billed Magpies, small flocks of Pine Siskins, and Northwestern Crows.
Perhaps slightly too old to be classified as a young birder, Neil Gilbert (being twenty) writes on his blog Not Just Birds about his experiences birding with famed birding duo the Such brothers:
We began in the solemn douglas-firs, serenaded by saucy kinglets and their out-of-control whistles and warbles. As our elevation ticked upward, the trees shrunk until they tempted abduction as house plants. The kinglets gave way to White-crowned Sparrows as the dominant species. Finally, vascular plant life all but surrendered, leaving us exposed among rock and lichen, the domain of Pipits and Ptarmigan that we did not see.
Guest writing for Bird Canada, Charlotte Wasylik talks about ethics:
Last summer when I started exploring Facebook, I found that most provinces and states had dedicated birding groups. There wasn’t one for Alberta, so I decided to start one. For the most part, being a group administrator is pretty easy. But every once in a while, something comes up that requires more attention and especially a good deal of thought, especially in a fairly large and actively growing group (more than 500 members now).
To end this list on a high note below is Craig Reed's description of a mega on his blog, Midland’s Birder.
Twitchers running past, legs whirring, swearing and sweating...
Here's another quick update from 2013 Camp Colorado in the field! Yesterday we drove down to Phantom Canyon, a TNC-owned and managed property located north of Fort Collins. After a beautiful hike down into the canyon, we had wonderful views of Lazuli Bunting, Cordilleran Flycatcher, White-throated Swift, darking beetles, dragonflies, and all kinds of groovy stuff. Here are a few pictures to give you an idea of how our day went.
After our hike we had lunch at the visitors center and then had a great discussion where campers were able to ask questions to a panel of adults with a variety of different careers relating to birds, from wildlife biologist to author to magazine editor to tour leader to marketing and partnerships director to foreign service employee to Wild Birds Unlimited franchisor (yep, the couple who started Wild Birds Unlimited joined us to share their experience).
Today is our last full day of camp and campers are headed in two directions--one group is looking forward to a beautiful hike at the Cow Creek Trail in Rocky Mountain National Park, while the other group will go to the WIld Basin area of the Park. Stay tune for a few more pictures, and some posts about Camp Colorado coming directly from campers!
Camp Colorado is in full swing this week in Estes Park, Colorado. Twenty campers from around the country are enjoying the beautiful birds and habitats of the Colorado Rockies and Grasslands. We are having a bit of Internet connectivity trouble and I am writing this from my phone's tiny keyboard (which should explain any typos!) so for now here's a picture of some campers checking out a lizard yesterday at the Pawnee National Grassland in northeastern Colorado. Other highlights includes Golden Eagle, Mountain Plover, McCown's Longspur, and the ABA Bird of the Year, Common Nighthawk. (That's not to mention the prairie rattlesnake, of course!)
We're headed up to the alpine tundra today with dreams of White-tailed Ptarmigan, Brown-capped Rosy-Finches, Clarks's Nutcracker, and maybe some elk. Wish up luck, and stay tuned for more pictures and camp stories to come!
By Eric Hughes
When I was asked to write a bit about my experiences with the Young Birder of the Year contest, I was thrilled. There is so much to write about! The YBY contest was not only engaging and educational, but, most importantly, fun. I will begin with a little background about myself, and then proceed to explain the wonders of participating in the YBY contest!
The Young Birder of the Year competition was not the start of birding for me. In fact, I have had an interest in birds for ten years, since the age of four. I attribute this interest in birding largely to my father giving me an old copy of “Birds: A Golden Guide.” I would sit in my living room for hours paging through the pocket-sized guide, occasionally marking with a star the birds that I felt to be especially attractive or extravagant in appearance. I would then begin to connect the names of the birds to the illustrations, allowing me to identify the birds strictly by memory at a young age. This was the foundation for a passion that has lasted ten years, and hopefully the rest of my life.eBird for nearly seven years. Doing so has really given me a good idea of the bird population fluctuations on my property and really made me wonder why that happens. But enough about me – now on to the good stuff.
At the time, I had four modules to choose from: writing, photography, illustrating, and field notebook. I chose field notebook as the major category and writing and photography as the minor categories. When the results came back, I was very pleased. I had taken first in writing (writing about birds is one of my favorite things to do), third in photography, and I had not placed at all in the field notebook module. I knew from the beginning that the field notebook category was going to be difficult for me. Although the artwork in your field notebook did not have to live up to the standards of the illustration module, I tried to make my bird sketches perfect. Obviously they were not, but I figured as much. I tried art lessons and practicing drawing on my own year after year to no avail; artwork was just not my strong spot.
Shortly after the contest ended, I received a package full of judge comments in the mail. The point of all of this is that the comments sent back at the end of the contest by the judges are incredibly important and, in my opinion, the most valuable thing one will get out of the competition. As I was feeling disappointed in my illustration capabilities, I pulled out one of the judge comments and found that it was for the field notebook module. The exact words were, “Your drawings are excellent and your detailed notes show that you are a careful observer.” It turns out that the judge who made those comments was David Sibley. Receiving these comments from an idol of mine was amazing. Someone who has made a living off of his bird illustrations said that MY drawings were excellent. Not only was it a major boost to my confidence in my sketches, but it was also a motivation for me to keep drawing birds. This year, I placed first in all of the modules I participated in, and I attribute that success 100% to the feedback the judges gave me for my work last year.
Skipping to 2013, the ABA introduced the Conservation/Community Action module. Rather than participate in the field notebook module, I chose to give this new category a try. I had always been interested in the relationships within an ecosystem, especially that of birds and plants. I never quite thought of incorporating that interest into conservation efforts, but that is just one of the many things that I have learned through the YBY contest. For the module, I worked with my local park to eradicate non-native plants, get the property certified as a wildlife habitat by the National Wildlife Federation, erect bird houses around the field, and start working towards an Audubon Bird Town certification. This contest has opened my eyes to a whole new aspect of birding: conservation.
My advice to young birders who have entered the contest this year is simple: I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to exhibit enthusiasm and devotion. I have found that judges look for that as well as how well you follow the guidelines for each module. Put in 110% with everything that you do, and your scoring will reflect the extra effort. Also, if it is your first year participating in the contest or you are new to birding and you do not do place as well as you had hoped, DO NOT GET DISCOURAGED!! The comments for improvement from the judges will help you not only in future years competing in the contest, but also outside the competition in everyday bird watching!
Overall, I think the YBY contest is a great way to learn more about birds and to have fun doing so. Give it a try; there are so many possibilities, and maybe you will spark an interest in something you have never dreamed of enjoying before.
Best of luck and good birding!
About the author: Eric Hughes is a 14-year-old birder from Pottstown, Pennsylvania who has been birding for ten years. His love of birds has taken him to many places far from his hometown including Arizona, California, and Costa Rica, among other major hotspots. His interest in nature is not limited to birds, however, and he is currently working with his township and local parks to remove invasive plants to benefit the native wildlife in his area. He can't pick one favorite bird, although his two favorite families of birds are Thrushes and Warblers. Aside from birding in the field, Eric enjoys writing, photographing, and taking videos of birds. In the future, he hopes to pursue ornithology and a bird-related career.
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Editorial Advisor and Blog Manager Jennie Duberstein.