Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Young Birders Unlimited!

In May of 2006, when I was working as the education director for Black Swamp Bird Observatory (BSBO), I brought together six teens from across the state of Ohio to start some kind of a birding organization for young people. With the help of several dynamic adult supporters, we simply tried to facilitate all the great ideas these young people generated, and the Ohio Young Birders Club (OYBC) was born. 

Student members provide content for the club newsletter and help plan monthly field trips all over the state of Ohio. The Club’s yearly activities culminate with an annual conference where all of the presentations are given by young people.  We invite a keynote speaker – also a young person – and all of the speakers receive an honorarium.  During the six-year history of this event, we’ve been blessed to experience some of the most articulate, dynamic, informative, and entertaining presentations we’ve ever seen at any bird-related event.  Seriously: they are that good!  Here are some scenes from last year's conference to give you an idea of what an outstanding event it truly is. 

We begin the morning with a field trip.  In 2011, the conference was hosted by the Grange Insurance Audubon Center in Columbus, Ohio.  Our field trip group birded some of the trails around the center. 

We also offer a songbird banding demo with the BSBO research and education staff. 

Many wonderful raffle prizes are donated and the
OYBC student members help sell tickets that raise funds
for the Club! 

Each year, we select an OYBC student member to be the Master of Ceremonies.  In 2011, Doug Whitman not only MC'd the conference, he also gave a presentation on the value of service projects.  Doug was an excellent MC and a tremendous speaker! 

Every year the number of participants has grown. In 2011, our speakers presented to more than 125 people!  If you've ever done public speaking then you know how intimidating it can be to get up in front of even a small group of people.  Many of these kids have never done any public speaking before the conference, but you'd never know it.  Looking around the room and seeing the faces of dozens of young people in the audience watching their peers as they stand before this big crowd and deliver these knock-out presentations is one of the most rewarding things I've ever experienced!  

The OYBC is not just about birds.  Our field trips explore all aspects of nature, including snakes!  Here, Kathleen Seeley presents a talk on the Lake Erie Watersnake and the research, education, and outreach efforts that helped get this critter removed from the endangered species list! 

Robert Reynard gave a presentation on the past, present, and future of bird banding.   His presentation helped everyone understand what an important bird conservation
tool banding research is.

The Kenn Kaufman Photo ID Quiz is a very popular conference tradition!  

Both adults and young people can participate, but only young people are eligible for prizes.

Each year, Kenn (left) is assisted in revealing the Bird Photo ID Quiz answers by a student.  Aaron Tayal (next to Kenn) did a great job as Kenn's assistant; however,  the winners were all girls!

Susan Williams with Raptor Inc. brings her very charismatic birds of prey to the conference.  Susan and her birds are always a major highlight. Raptor Inc. donates their time and travel as a sponsor of the conference. 

The registration fee for the event is just $10 per student and $20 per adult. In addition to field trips, banding demos, live birds of prey, and remarkable presenters, we also provide a really tasty lunch!  The conference is open to everyone; you do not have to be an OYBC member to attend. 

Lukas Padegimas presented a talk on his experience as a field technician on a shorebird research project in Alaska!  Ohio Ornithological Society (OOS) supported the conference and the OOS President, Jen Sauter, attended.  She was so impressed with Lukas's presentation that she invited him to give his presentation at their shorebird conference happening this fall in Lakeside, Ohio! 

Jessie Barry, from Cornell Lab of Ornithology, gave a presentation filled with opportunities for young birders! BSBO is working with the Lab on some exciting projects for young birders, so watch for announcements about that coming soon!  

Our keynote speaker was Rachael Butek from Colfax, Wisconsin. Rachael was the 2011 ABA Young Birder of the Year and she gave a FANTASTIC presentation on her experience participating in the program.  Her mother was there with her, and the image of intense love and pride on her face as she watched her daughter deliver her first public speaking performance -- and just smash it out of the ballpark on her first try -- will be forever imprinted on my heart.  

Part of our 2011 Ohio Young Birders Conference Speaker Line-up! (L-R) Kathleen Seeley, Lukas Padegimas, Robert Reynard, Rachael Butek, and Jessie Barry

Our 7th Annual Ohio Young Birders Conference is just around the corner.  This year’s event is November 3rd, and it's being hosted by the brand-spanking new Aullwood Farm & Discovery Center in Dayton, Ohio.  Our keynote speaker will be Benjamin Van Doren from White Plains, NY. Benjamin will be a freshman this fall at Cornell University, and he is already an accomplished researcher and author in bird studies. 

The conference is an inspiring, informative, and fun experience, and I hope you'll consider attending this year.  Come see some of our best and brightest young birders in action and experience hope for the future of bird conservation!

Registration will open soon, and you can get more information about the conference -- and about the OYBC -- at the Club's website.  www.ohioyoungbirders.org     Or, call Black Swamp Bird Observatory at (419) 898-4070. 

I hope to see you there.




  1. Hi there - great post. I did a teacher exchange in Ohio a few years ago - I'll pass this lank on to my contacts. I taught for a few weeks at Wickcliffe.

    Cheers - Stewart M

  2. Wonderful post. So amazing to see kids getting involved so young. We need more folks like you inspiring kids. Love it.

    1. Hi Dan,

      Thanks for the kind words. I'm so thrilled to see more and more groups and organizations implementing programs for young birders!

  3. Very cool Kimberly! This proves that we should never underestimate the abilities of the youth. They can and do great things.

    1. Thanks, Boss! It's true; if you just listen, facilitate, and stand back...they will knock your socks off every time!

  4. Great post! Good work encouraging kids!!

  5. As a retired biology teacher and now bird photographer I just love hearing about this kind of work being done with kids these days. Great work and wonderful post Kimberly!

    1. Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment, Ron! Words like that mean so much - especially when they come from a teacher!

  6. Felicitaciones....me alegraría mucho mas si existiera por estos lares algo asi, yo lo intente hace años y no fue posible......... admiro tanto su labor....Bravo...aplausos...desde mi ♥