by Ethan Rising
The Ohio Young Birders Conference is an event I look forward to every year. This year’s conference, held at the Aullwood Audubon Center in Dayton Ohio, was my third conference.
The dates for the conference worked out really well for me. I had the Friday before the conference off from school, so my family and I headed for Dayton a day early to help set up. I think the best part of set up was “having” to scout out the bird walk for the next morning. On this walk we saw several woodpecker species including Pileated, Red-bellied, and Downy woodpeckers. We also saw a Northern Flicker and a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. The conference was at a great facility that has a working farm. It was hilarious when we walked by the turkeys. They ran up to us, expecting dinner. I had never had the experience of seeing more than 50 turkeys running TOWARD me at such close range. They have a pretty goofy looking run! Mom bought some farm fresh eggs while we were there. If you’ve ever wondered if there is a difference between eggs at the store and fresh eggs straight from the farm- there is!
That night we enjoyed getting to know other conference volunteers at dinner, like the Parry family and Darlene Cole. I sat near Paula Lozano, Bob Finkelstein, and Kate Zimmerman, our new Ohio Young Birders Club (OYBC) coordinator. Paula started things off very formally by blowing a straw wrapper at me!! From that moment on she was my new best friend! I had a great time talking about birds and lots of other topics with her. Later that evening Kim Kaufman introduced me to Rob Ripma. Rob recognized my name because I’m completely addicted to the bird ID quizzes he posts at his website www.nuttybirder.com, and I almost always submit my guesses. It was really fantastic to meet the man behind the curtain!
The next morning we arrived early, got registered, and went on the “real” bird walk with Kenn Kaufmann. This time we saw Brown Creepers, a Red-breasted Nuthatch, a Winter Wren, more Pileateds, including 3 at one time, and some Cedar Waxwing, which we checked carefully in hopes of sighting a Bohemian Waxwing. No such luck, but it was interesting to learn about their appearances in our region this year. My friend from Cincinnati, Jack McSwiggin, stayed behind to enjoy the banding station run by the Mark and Julie Shieldcastle. There was also a great service project all prepped and ready to go. We were able to build Prothonotary Warbler boxes right there on site. I believe as a group we made 40 boxes. I LOVE Prothonotary Warblers, and I was glad to have a practical way to help them. Inside, my brother Josh was fascinated by the American Kestrel and the Great Horned Owl that Raptor, Inc. brought. Raptor, Inc. does great work in the Cincinnati area rescuing and rehabilitating raptors from around the region, and educating audiences of all kinds.
The speakers were great. It was really exciting to learn about the great experiences that young birders are having at places like Hog Island! I think the most important take away for me was learning how young birders are finding ways to make real contributions in the areas of research and conservation. It was empowering. I was especially impressed with Benjamin Van Doren’s presentation about his research on night migration. There was so much new information about how research is being done and what new information is being gained from it!
It wouldn’t be right if I didn’t mention the lunch. I mean, after all I AM a 5th grade boy! The food was great. Oh, and the conference always has amazing raffle prizes. There were two binoculars that were raffled off, donated by Celestron and Time and Optics, some very cool bird feeders and bird houses, amazing artwork, and too much more to list. I think the only possible way to top that next year is if someone donated a spot at one of those amazing summer camps! OK, yes, that’s a shameless hint. THAT WOULD BE REALLY COOL!
Of course, for me the best moment of the conference for me was getting to help Kenn Kaufman with the bird ID quiz answers. It was a good thing I was talking about my passion—BIRDS—because it was a first for me to talk to that many people about ANYTHING!
It was great to be a part of a chapter of OYBC and sit at a table with other southwest Ohio birders this year. Brian Herriott and Bill Creasey, with some help from Lester Peyton, have begun a southwest Ohio chapter, which meets at the Cincinnati Nature Center. If you know a young birder in the southwest Ohio area, definitely tell them about the new chapter! And speaking of southwest Ohio, I want to mention two of my favorite people, Drs. Dave and Jill Russell. They were doing a banding demonstration nearby that day and came to check out the conference. I want to say a huge thank you to them. They were just stopping in for a quick visit, but ended up staying through to see me give my bird ID presentation. That’s just the kind of people they are. Dr. Dave and Dr. Jill, that meant a lot to me. Thanks for the way you encourage an support me and other young birders every chance you get.
My conference blog would not be complete without also mentioning how Kim Kaufman manages to make everyone feel welcomed and important. If you haven’t had a chance to experience what I’m talking about, just attend the 2013 OYBC conference and you’ll know exactly what I mean.
About the author: Ethan began birding at the ripe old age of 4. He was initially interested in bald eagles. He was fortunate enough to have a preschool teacher who loved birds, and she nurtured his interest. It wasn't long before he was a fan of all raptors. He went on his first birding trip when he was five, when his grandfather hitched up the pop up trailer and took him to Hawk Mountain in Pennsylvania. Ethan's interest was once again encouraged in first grade. His teacher insisted he head back to Pennsylvania, this time to Powdermill Avian Research Center where her son, Dr. Andrew Vitz, was the ornithologist in charge of bird banding. Seeing and releasing birds up close catalyzed what has been an unquenchable passion for ALL birds in Ethan. Andrew Vitz encouraged him to find local birding opportunities, and soon he found Kathy McDonald and Drs Dave and Jill Russell, whose enthusiasm and knowledge have continued to encourage and grow Ethan as a birder. Bill McGill, Lester Payton, and more recently Bill Creasey and Brian Herriott have served as important mentors for him. When Ethan was eight he attended his first Ohio Young Birders Conference. This is his third conference!
Ethan is the youngest member of Raptor, Inc., is a proud founding member of the new Ohio Young Birding Club Southwest Chapter in Cincinnati, and is also an enthusiastic member of the Miami Valley Christian Academy's young birder's club. He is a fifth grader at the Seven Hills School in Cincinnati, Ohio. He has 265 life birds, and the first thing he does when he gets home from school is to scan the Cincinnati Birds sightings log to see what new birds have flown in. Ethan wants to get his banding license as soon as he turns 18, and study birds at Cornell University.