I got to spend July 6-12, 2015 in the field in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado with twenty-two young birders from across the United States and Canada. My “day job” is as a wildlife biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, but in the evenings and weekends I volunteer my time to the ABA to direct Camp Colorado; I take vacation from work to travel to Estes Park and lead the camp each summer. It is possible that working long hours directing a summer camp isn’t everyone’s idea of vacation, but it’s hands down one of the highlights of my year. I’m counting down the days until next summer, truth be told.
The campers are working on some essays of their own about this summer’s camp, but until then here are a few of my favorite memories. Special thanks to instructor Bill Schmoker, who put together the amazing video clips interspersed below.
Pre-camp scouting at Pawnee National Grassland with instructors Bill Schmoker and Raymond VanBuskirk. (Photo: Jennie Duberstein)
We were based out of the YMCA of the Rockies in Estes Park, Colorado, right outside of Rocky Mountain National Park. (Photo: Jennie Duberstein)
American Dippers put on a fantastic show throughout camp, including this young bird that we spotted while we were hiking at Wild Basin in Rocky Mountain National Park. (Photo: Jennie Duberstein)
Although it was unseasonably rainy during the first three days of camp, we were able to rearrange the schedule and still managed to have a fantastic week. (Photo: Jennie Duberstein)
The drive to the Pawnee National Grassland was long, but we were rewarded with views of Mountain Plover, Burrowing Owl, McCown’s Longspur, and even a family of swift foxes. (Photo: Jennie Duberstein)
By later in the week the weather cleared up enough to attempt a climb up Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park. In spite if terribly windy and bitingly cold weather, we spent time with a pair of White-tailed Ptarmigan and got great looks at Brown-capped Rosy-Finch, which made up for everything. As an added bonus, the wildflowers were incredible–it has been years since I’ve seen that much color on the tundra. In fact, as you’ll see in the next clip, it made us all feel like dancing, especially Bill Schmoker. (Photo: Jennie Duberstein)
Having campers who are over six feet tall helps when taking a selfie of of a group of 22+ people. (Photo: Angus Pritchard)
Maryland camper Owen Crise sharing the joy we all felt at the Forest Canyon overlook. (Photo: Jennie Duberstein)
The seven wonderful young women of Camp Colorado 2015. (Photo: Jennie Duberstein)
We were lucky to have 2012 Young Birder of the Year Marie McGee from Michigan and the incomparable Sarah Luca from Delaware as interns at camp this year. (Photo: Jennie Duberstein)
And of course Camp Colorado wouldn’t be any fun without a few silly faces and hijinks. Instructors Raymond VanBuskirk and Jennie Duberstein were too focused on making silly faces to notice that they were getting brilliantly and perfectly photo bombed by Ohio camper Ethan Rising. (Photo: Raymond VanBuskirk)
Throughout the week campers worked on improving their photography skills, guided by instructors Bill Schmoker and Raymond VanBuskirk. South Carolina camper Jack Rogers waited patiently outside of the YMCA dining hall to capture this spectacular image of a male Broad-tailed Hummingbird. We also spend some time watching hummingbird feeders at the nearby Fawn Brook Inn in Allenspark, Colorado.
Every year I can’t imagine that bird camp can get better. Every year it somehow does, or at least is just as wonderful as the previous year. This group was no exception. I’m already working on plans for 2016–stay tuned! (Photo: Jennie Duberstein)
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Jennie Duberstein has lived in southeastern Arizona since 2001, where she coordinates the Sonoran Joint Venture, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service program that works to conserve the unique birds and habitats of the southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico. She is the ABA's Young Birder Liaison, managing The Eyrie (the ABA’s young birder blog) and ABA Young Birders Facebook page and providing support to other young birder programs. She has worked with young birders through the ABA and other organizations since the late 1990s, directing summer camps, leading field courses, organizing conferences, and editing young birder publications. Jennie directs the ABA's Camp Colorado, co-leads VENT's Camp Chiricahua, and is a proud member of the Leica Birding Team.