The interest of young bird enthusiast Sarah Toner helped initiate the 2013 establishment of the Michigan Young Birders Club. Wendy Tatar, program coordinator with the Michigan Audubon, had been working to bring life to the program in Michigan when Sarah’s interest in the program jelled with Audubon’s.
The program is led by young birders with a focus on inspiring and educating middle and high school ages 12–18 about birds and conservation. Adult sponsors help with program scheduling and division of tasks but youth direct activities toward their interests.
I just presented a lecture at a local university where a young freshman new to college talked with me about birds. He was well aware of e-bird and mich-listers and the ease of tracking bird sightings in real time so people can find unusual birds. Another young man from Sand Lake attended the lecture where he introduced himself and said he lives five miles from the Howard Christensen Nature Center. He explores the natural world there. This past weekend two friends contacted me for the purpose of taking a field trip to see species that are not commonly found in Michigan. We headed out to locate a Little Gull and a Red Phalarope.
We found the Red Phalarope but did not locate the Little Gull. Check your field guides or internet to learn about these two species. Of interest here is a young birder we found searching for the birds. He had seen internet postings and was searching on his own. I introduced myself and immediately he told me about a Sanderling searching for food among the rocks along the shoreline. I let him look through my spotting scope at a Great Black-backed Gull that was nestled among Ring-billed Gulls.
It would be nice to have a Young Birders Club in this area where youth of common interest could get together with peers. I suspect the Grand Rapids Audubon, Muskegon Nature Club, or other area Audubon clubs would be supportive and help youth with club activities. I was in tenth grade when I joined the Saginaw Audubon Club and began a life long journey of bird study for fun and fulfillment. Like the young man at the beach, I had not connected with others my age that shared a common interest.
Today connecting with others through the internet makes it easy to learn about birds and their locations. Adult supervision should assist to offer guidance and safety. Young people might gather with others of common interest as seen with flash mobs but it would be good to have club organization and adults from the community present for support and direction. Bird enthusiasts have their own flash mob gatherings at locations where interesting birds are reported. It is a new age for club gathering opportunities but interaction with knowledgeable mentors for youth is important. My life is better for the guidance offered by adults at youth organizations to support my development. Encourage youth to invest in their lives to make them rich in experience.
The Michigan Young Birders Club will help youth discover bird nature niches. Learn more at www.michiganaudubon.org/about/mybc.
Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at the firstname.lastname@example.org Ody Brook, 13010 Northland Dr, Cedar Springs, MI 49319-8433.