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Open Mic: A Big Win for Birding Youth at the World Series of Birding

At the Mic: Brian Quindlen

Brian “BQ” Quindlen is an elementary school teacher in Garnet Valley School District and the Upper Main Line YMCA Earth Service Corps
coordinator. BQ is celebrating his eleventh year at the Upper Main Line YMCA in Berwyn, Pennsylvania, and has served as lead coach for the World Series of Birding teams for the last six years. An active birder in the northeastern United States, BQ is a member of the conservation organization Friends of Exton Park and leads bird walks for the Cape May Bird Observatory.

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New Jersey Audubon Society celebrated the 30th annual World Series of Birding on Saturday, May 11th and for the first time a youth team took home the cup! The Upper Main Line YMCA’s “B.B. Kingfishers”, comprised of three high school students from suburban Philadelphia, tallied 186 bird species for the historic win.

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Senior Director of Youth Development Brian Raicich (left) and birding coach Brian Quindlen (far right) stand with the B.B. Kingfishers and the Urner Stone Cup, won for achieving the highest bird count of the World Series of Birding. Center: Nathaniel Sharp, 17, Ben Bussmann (captain), 18, Austin Smith, 16 (Photo by Kriston J. Bethel)

The B.B. Kingfishers hail from the Upper Main Line YMCA Earth Service Corps, a teen environmental service-learning program in Berwyn, Pennsylvania. The team’s captain, Ben Bussmann, 18, and his teammates Nathaniel Sharp, 17, and Austin Smith, 16, participate in our  year-round YMCA program. In addition to the B.B. Kingfishers, the YMCA was also represented by the middle school team, Duck, Duck, Duck, Duck, Duck, Brant! Yusuf Romaine-Elkhadri, Liam Gallagher, Connor Simpkins, and team captain Tyler DiAndrea came in second place in the middle school division with an impressive 157 species.

Team captain Ben Bussmann, a senior from Conestoga High School in Berwyn, Pennsylvania, tipped his hat to all of the younger competitors at this year’s World Series of Birding awards ceremony. “I’m really proud of all the youth teams,” Bussmann remarked. “Of the top 12 teams, five of  them were youth teams.” He is a seven-year veteran of the World Series of Birding with many career highlights, including one middle school division victory, one high school division victory, and now, the coveted Urner Stone Cup. Ben will be attending State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry this August.

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Austin Smith, 16, Ben Bussmann (captain), 18, and Nathaniel Sharp, 17, scan the trees in Stokes State Forest (photo by Brian Quindlen).

 Nathaniel Sharp is a junior at Strath Haven High School in Wallingford, Pennsylvania, and his Urner Stone Cup victory marks his fourth year competing in the World Series of Birding. A meticulous and academic birder, Sharp is an active member in the Delaware Valley Ornithological Club and participates regularly in local Christmas and Spring Bird Counts. Last year, Sharp’s World Series of Birding team took home the high school division championship.

The third B.B. Kingfisher, Austin Smith, is a five-year veteran of the World Series of Birding. A sophomore at Great Valley High School in Malvern, Pennsylvania, Austin has captured one middle school division title during his years as a competitive birder. One of Smith’s most prominent mentors is his older sister, Dani Smith. Dani is an Ornithology Department intern at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia and a decorated YMCA Earth Service Corps and World Series of Birding veteran.

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Marsh Wren at Jake’s Landing, NJ (photo by Brian Quindlen).

This is my sixth year as the YMCA Earth Service Corps coordinator, and one of my responsibilities is to act as the lead coach for our World Series of Birding teams (in addition to my full-time commitment as an elementary school teacher). I began my career as a birder for the YMCA during its first year of competing in the World Series high school division eleven years ago. Once I graduated high school, I returned to the program to serve as its coordinator.

I was very lucky to have a strong mentor during my formative years as a birder. Brian Raicich, the YMCA’s Senior Director of Youth Development, has been my most influential birding mentor. He has been a leader and a visionary for my fellow birders and me, and my goal with YMCA Earth Service Corps is to provide the same experience for future birders and naturalists.

The dedication and work ethic of these students is absolutely astounding. Between weekly classroom sessions, weekend field trips, and their own independent time in the field, these students display a serious level of dedication and passion for birding. This victory shows what students are
capable of achieving when given the opportunity to display their talents!

Young birders have certainly been garnering more attention over the past several years. As young birders are becoming more visible in our bird
clubs and hot spots, I think it is important for the birding community to begin to recognize these individuals as birders first and young second. Veteran birders must speak with the younger generation as peers, not talk down to them simply because they are young. The birding community thrives when information is exchanged and positive connections are built between its members.

The Upper Main Line YMCA students and staff have been very fortunate to have veteran birders who mentored us over the last eleven years.
Specifically, the Delaware Valley Ornithological Club have guided us on Christmas Bird Counts, field trips, and World Series of Birding scouting trips, all while being our finest teachers. My hope is that more birding clubs around the nation embrace the younger birding generation as students, friends, and future club members!

Congratulations to the B.B. Kingfishers, Duck, Duck, Duck, Duck, Duck, Brant!, and all of the other youth division teams for representing the
new generation of birders! We look very forward to seeing everyone at next year’s World Series of Birding!

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The ABA Blog's Open Mics offer an opportunity for members of the birding community to share their voice with the ABA audience. We accept all and any submissions. If you have something you'd like to share, please contact blog editor Nate Swick at [email protected]