Sunday, February 24, 2013

Happy Camper

Birding is fun even if you do it alone, but you might be getting an itch to hang out with other like-minded people. That's where birding camps and conferences come in. There are a lot of these gatherings across the nation for people of all ages. If you are a young birder on the West Coast, there are some great opportunities coming up for you! (This post is going to focus on Western camps since those are the ones with which I am most familiar, but if you live in another part of the country or another country altogether, you could probably google birding organizations in your area and see if they organize their own camps/conferences.)

The American Birding Association has some lovely young birder get-togethers. This year they are offering Camp Colorado and Camp Avocet.  Camp Colorado is from July 21 to 27 in (strangely enough) Estes Park, Colorado. Camp Avocet is from August 11 to 17 in Cape Henlopen State Park, Delaware. They are open to kids ages 13 to 18 years old. These camps consistently get fantastic reviews from the attendees. The leaders are well-known members of the birding community, like Bill Schmoker and Jeff and Liz Gordon. Not only can you visit a new part of the United States, and hang out with birders your age, but you are guided through the tours by very experienced adults. This is a great chance to make new friends and see dozens of new birds. I'm not going to pretend that these camps are cheap. Both cost $1095 for registration and lodging, and that's not counting travel costs. But attending one of these camps could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. You're not going to be 13-18 forever! Maybe you could do a fundraiser at your church or school to help pay for it. I personally will be attending Camp Colorado, and I'm really excited! I was lucky enough to get a scholarship from the Central Valley Bird Club to cover my registration. It's possible that an organization in your area is offering a scholarship themselves. : )

Victor Emanuel Nature Tours is another stupendous organization that offers birding camps. In 2013, they are offering Camp Chiricahua and Camp Cascades. Camp Chiricahua takes place in Southeastern Arizona, which is such a great place for birds I can't even begin to describe it. Arizona gets a lot of birds coming up from Mexico, like hummingbirds and trogons. I highly recommend that even if you don't attend this camp, you go birding in Arizona some other time in your life. This camp is actually offered on two different occasions, July 30 to August 10, and August 6 to 17. Camp Cascades is up in Washington, and although I know less about Washington fauna, I'm sure the birding is spectacular up there. This one takes place from July 28 to August 9. The price for these camps has not been announced. If you're interested in them, you could probably check the VENT website every few weeks and the price will pop up eventually.

The Western Field Ornithologists are also offering a camp. It's a trip through Northeastern California led by Ken Able, Jon Dunn, Lena Hayashi, and Dave Quady, from June 24 to July 1. This trip intends to study the distribution of birds in less-visited parts of California. It is a bit more scientifically oriented than the other camps. This event is not just for young birders, but the WFO is offering a scholarship for one lucky young birder to attend the trip for free! If you're thinking of going into ornithology, this would be a great way for you to meet some scientists, hear their experiences, and see what it's like to count and study birds in the field. You can read more about the scholarship requirements here. I have been to a WFO event, and all of the adults were very kind and supportive of me. Don't worry about being the only kid there. I'm sure you'll have a good time.

I've also heard something about a Bird Banding Camp run by the Seattle Audubon Society, but unfortunately I wasn't able to find too much information about it. You might be able to rummage around their website and figure it out yourself. : )

I hope one of these camps piqued your interest. If not, there are plenty more out there that I don't know about. Good luck, and happy birding!

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