– by Shelby Thomas
I am sixteen years old, a junior at Hickman High School, and have been birding since 2015. After watching the movie The Big Year, about a year-long birding competition, I decided to look in our backyard to see what birds were outside. I saw a bird that wasn’t like our usual backyard birds fly to the top of a tree. I Googled its characteristics and discovered that it was a Great-crested Flycatcher! I was amazed that such unique birds could be in Missouri. Since then, I have been looking for new birds to add to my life list. I enjoy birding because it gets me out in nature and has taken me to places I would not have gone to otherwise, such as Wakulla Springs, Florida; Boulder, Colorado; and Port Aransas, Texas.
I enjoyed the Wakulla Springs Boat Tour where I saw neat wildlife, including alligators, manatees, and birds including the White Ibis and lots of herons and egrets. Nearby, we saw Seaside Sparrows, Clapper Rails and a Black Skimmer! In Boulder, we had fun hiking in the mountains, which brought a variety of birds including Virginia’s Warblers, American Dippers, and Broad-Tailed Hummingbirds. There were a lot of birding opportunities in Port Aransas; we even watched Roseate Spoonbills feeding in a little wetlands area in front of our hotel! I also enjoy keeping track of the birds I’ve seen through eBird and challenging myself to see more birds each year. Currently, my favorite birds are the Ruddy Turnstone and the Rufous Hummingbird. My favorite places to bird in Boone County are Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area and the Columbia Audubon Nature Sanctuary because both offer a variety of birds throughout most of the year.
– Editor’s note: this essay is based on a presentation given by Shelby at the spring 2018 Audubon Society of Missouri meeting, which focused on young birders.