David Sibley. Sophie Webb. Richard Crossley. What do these names have in common? If you said that they've written and/or illustrated groundbreaking bird identification guides or been leading lights in the birding community, you'd of course be correct. But they're also volunteering their valuable time and invaluable expertise helping to mentor the next generation of birding leaders through this year's ABA Young Birder of the Year Contest.
Here's another set of names for you to guess a connection: Jen Brumfield. Noah Strycker. Tom Johnson. Yes, they're young leaders of the birding community, of course. But they're also all participants and honorees in previous ABA Young Birder of the Year contests.
With names like these involved, you can see why we're so very proud of this tradition at the ABA!
Late last year, 33 talented young birders submitted their entries in the categories of writing, photography, illustration, and/or field notebook. And right now, an astonishingly high caliber panel of judges is poring over them, not only trying to pick winners in the various divisions, but offering feedback based on centuries of collective birding experience. (I'm not trying to make our judges feel old, really. But if you add up the years they've all been birding, it's easily a couple of hundred!)
I know from personal experience, since I was a judge for the writing category a few years back, just how amazing these entries are. And I know from working alongside other judges just how much good advice these young birders are given. The judges and contestants all work really hard on this and it ends up being an educational and uplifting experience for all.
And here's another venerable name that has stepped up to make this year's contest even more exciting: Leica Sport Optics. Over the years, Leica has been a generous and invaluable supporter of the ABA's young birder programs. And they're donating two pair of their just-debuted Leica Trinovid 42's as prizes to the overall winners in each age division of this year's ABA Young Birder of the Year Contest. That's right, two of this year's YBY contestants will walk away with some absolutely wonderful binoculars, befitting their amazing talents and efforts.
We'd like to sincerely thank Leica Sport Optics for their support both this year and over the years. And speaking of liking, if you're on Facebook, have a look at Leica's new birding page there.
There's one last name I'd like to mention: Bill Stewart. He's not as well known (yet) as some of the names I've cited already, but that's changing fast. In addition to coming aboard late last year as coordinator of our Young Birder programs, including YBY, Bill has amassed a trail of successes and honors in the birding community that are testimony to his talent, hard work, and effectiveness.
Bill was given the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Citizen’s Award in 2010 for his "time, creativity, and spirit" in a private public-service campaign encouraging fellow birders to buy the Federal Duck Stamp. He is co-founder of both the Delaware Dunlins young birder program and the much-lauded Delaware Bird-a-thon, which raises money to purchase critical shorebird and horseshoe crab habitat along the Delaware Bay. He was instrumental in establishing both a Peregrine Falcon web cam and the Lights Out! campaign in Wilmington. He was on the steering committee for the Delaware Birding Trail. And he's just launched his own guiding service. Bill doesn't gather much moss.
In all I've said about Bill and the Young Birder of the Year contest, I'm of course just scratching the surface. Bill has many other achievements. We've got many other amazing judges and generous contest sponsors. And I haven't even gotten to the best part of all, introducing you to this year's contestants.
Those things, I'll leave for Bill. In the coming weeks, he'll be not only announcing the winners, but giving you an insider's view of a truly amazing program, one that I hope all ABA members take immense pride in supporting!
If you have a question, idea, or would like to help with ABA's young birder programs, you can reach Bill at [email protected]
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