Stepping Stones

Stepping Stones of a Young Birder

By Fanter Lane

Hello, Washington Birders,

I have lived in Washington my whole life and have been able to explore all parts of the state looking for birds. One of the major ways I have been able to expand my skills as a young birder and explore different regions of the country is through youth birding camps sponsored by different birding organizations. To attend these youth camps requires a lot of preparation, and of course funding is necessary. I was fortunate enough to be awarded a scholarship by the Patrick Sullivan Young Birders Fund (PSYBF) in 2012 when I was 13 years old to go to my first birding camp, in Colorado, hosted by the American Birding Association. Since that experience, I have grown as a birder and continued to be intrigued and amazed by birds. That experience was the first stepping stone on a path that led to me being able to volunteer at the American Birding Association’s Olympic Peninsula Birding Rally la

The PSYBF helped me grow as a birder. The overall Washington birding community has supported me and taught me a great deal about birds and birding ethics throughout my childhood. When I think back on major points in my birding life, having Tom Mansfield suggest and push me (in a good way) to apply for the PSYBF and go to a youth birding camp definitely stands out as a major milestone in my education as a birder. Because the Washington Ornithological Society awarded me funds from the PSYBF to go to Camp Colorado, I was not only able to experience a whole new ecologically diverse area for birding, but I met other young birders, which is so important and fun! I also met and became acquainted with professional birders who greatly inspired me and taught me more about bird identification, songs and calls, photography, and bird conservation. Attending Camp Colorado in 2012 instantly got me hooked on other camps, and since then I have done youth birding camps every summer, allowing me to meet other professional birders who are living my dream careers. Going to these camps also let these professional birders see my skill and motivation, which gave me the confidence to approach the American Birding Association to volunteer as a leader at their Olympic Peninsula Birding Rally last September (2015).

Helping the American Birding Association was an incredible opportunity, as I was able to meet new people from all over the country and help participants see new life birds like Sooty Grouse and Rhinoceros Auklet. The Rally was 5 days, September 16-20, and encompassed much of the Olympic Peninsula. The Rally started in Port Angeles and ended at Ocean Shores. During that time we visited the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge, took a boat trip around Protection Island, explored the old growth forest around Lake Quinault and Hurricane Ridge, and ended in the habitat-rich Ocean Shores area. The rally was a blast, and we saw many of the Pacific Northwest specialties like Black Turnstone, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, and Townsend’s Warbler. Some of the more memorable moments of the trip include finding a family of Sooty Grouse below Hurricane Ridge, as we had missed them on the actual ridge due to wind, rain, and horrible visibility, so connecting with this species after giving up hope of seeing it was awesome. Also seeing a transition-stage Tufted Puffin around Protection Island on the boat trip was very exciting for our group.

It is amazing when one can trace an experience all the way back to a single turning point, and say that that one thing really helped them get to the place they are now. Well, for me, being able to help the American Birding Association (ABA) during their rally in Washington can be traced back to when I was 13 years old and received the a grant from the Patrick Sullivan Young Birders Fund to go to an American Birding youth camp. At that first camp I met the president of the ABA, Jeffrey A. Gordon. At a later ABA youth camp I met the Events Coordinator for ABA, George Armistead, so when I reached out to volunteer for the rally in 2015, the two people who needed to give the OK knew me, and they were happy to bring me on board to help. I want to thank the Washington birding community, the Washington Ornithological Society, the Patrick Sullivan Young Birders Fund, and the American Birding Association for helping me as a young birder. I am now heading off to Humboldt State University this fall, where I will study Ornithology under their Wildlife Management and Conservation program. I encourage birders to donate to organizations like the WOS, PSYBF, and ABA. Their commitment to bird conservation and their support of youth birders are not only inspiring; it is very critical, as so much of the natural habitat on this planet is changing and we need organizations to continue to stand up for it and get involved.

Good birding,
Fanter Lane