Tuesday, July 9, 2013

A Spring of Young Birders' Field Trips

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

I've enjoyed a whirlwind spring and early summer of travel to festivals in various parts of the United States. It's always fun to see old friends, make a few new ones, and experience birding in new and wonderful places. Lots of great birds have passed across my field of view. However, my favorite part of all these spring travels has been the opportunities I've had to get out in the field with lots of young birders.

Back in May I was up at Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge in northwest Ohio for International Migratory Bird Day where I've done family bird walks for the past few years. Though the weather was "iffy" we had a nice group of bird watchers show up and we were treated to a mini-fallout of warblers along the trail as well as a great horned owl nest with fledglings in it.

A birding mom shows her daughter the great horned owl nest along the Ottawa NWR walking trail.   

Later in May I was a speaker and guide for the Acadia Birding Festival in Maine. We did a family bird walk on Saturday, taking nice long hike along the sea cliffs in Acadia National Park. The birding was just OK but the scenery along the trail was breathtaking! I can highly recommend this festival, by the way, as being the best place in the world to see tons of warblers and tons of seabirds in the same day!

Our family bird walk group in Acadia NP.

Scanning for black guillemots and common eiders in the surf.

In mid-June my family and I were back at the Potholes & Prairie Birding Festival in Carrington, North Dakota. One of the other families attending included Abby and her mom who were from Indiana. While birding along the Sheyenne River valley, I got to show Abby a few life birds, including her first-ever common yellowthroat.

That's me pointing Abby's eyes to the common yellowthroat.
We got the bird and celebrated with a high-five!

At the end of June, I was back in Maine with my family for the Hog Island Audubon Camp, guiding, speaking, and contributing to a new week-long session there called "The Arts of Birding." My "art" contribution was teaching three songwriting workshops during the session. These were super fun and I'll plan to blog about them later. There was a teen birders' camp going on that week, too and we got to spend some time in the field with these fine young people. I even coaxed a couple of them to join me in the songwriting sessions! Our final day of birding was spent on the Maine mainland, birding some wet grasslands and pond habitat owned by the Damariscotta River Association. It was a drizzly, foggy morning, but the birding there was excellent! Nearly everyone got great looks at bobolink, American bittern, pine warbler, and Virginia rail.
Birding the DRA lands in Maine, just before the Virginia rail appeared!

All of us probably had a birding mentor at one point or another—someone who helped us get started as a new bird watcher, taught us bird identification tricks, shared the best birding spots, and—most importantly of all—took us out birding! My birding mentor, Pat Murphy, is long gone from this mortal coil, but I try to honor her memory by being a mentor to young/new birders whenever I can. The world needs more bird watchers! Consider "paying it forward" by getting involved in mentoring young birders. 

There are an increasing number of places/event/organizations that are geared to encouraging young bird watchers. Here are just a few:

Fledgling Birder's Institute

Hog Island Teen Birding Camps

Young Birders' Day at the 2013 Midwest Birding Symposium

Resources & Clubs for Young Birders

There are many statewide organizations for young birders, such as The Ohio Young Birders, Iowa Young Birders, Indiana Young Birders, and Illinois Young Birders. Try searching for a group in your state via the resources link above, or via a search engine.

Finally, if you know a young person who would benefit from a starter field guide specifically designed for young birders, please consider my Young Birder's Guide to Birds of North America.

I've written and edited a lot of books, but this one is closest to my heart and my proudest professional accomplishment. The book is available for sale at most bookstores—both online and off—but if you purchase from Bird Watcher's Digest, I will personalize the book with an inscription of your choice for the recipient.

Happy birding to all!


On July 10, 2013 at 7:48 AM ZielonaMila said...

Great post, fantastic photos:) Greetings

On July 14, 2013 at 8:45 PM Aidan Place said...

You guys got a bittern and a Virginia rail at the DRA?? And we thought our sora was good...

On July 17, 2013 at 11:50 AM Enim said...

WOW, that looks like a whole lot of fun, much more fun than the zoo (which is where most of my experience has been) lol! You've given me some great ideas for my kids the rest of the summer....looking forward to reading more of your blog.....thanx

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