Youth Gone "Wild"

From the home base of the Ohio Young Birders Club, Kim writes:
On November 14, Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge, Oak Harbor, Ohio, will provide the setting as student members of The Ohio Young Birders Club (OYBC), host their annual conference from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 pm.

If you don't have a really good excuse for not being there I'll show up in the BSBO bird bus, drag you out of your house, and take you to the conference!

The BSBO Bird Bus!
(We love you Lloyd & Norma!)

In May of 2006, I brought together six teens from across the state to start some kind of a birding organization for young people. With the help of several dynamic adult supporters, we simply tried to facilitate all the great ideas these young people generated, and the OYBC was born. Most of the original six members of what has became known as the club's "Youth Advisory Panel" have "aged out" of the club. Four of those six are now off to college pursuing, you guessed it, careers in avian / wildlife-related fields!

The line-up from our first conference

The OYBC is a ground-breaking club that puts youth in charge. In addition to the annual conference, student members provide content for the club newsletter, and help plan monthly field trips all over the state of Ohio. The OYBC is serving as a model program, and many other states are now following Ohio’s lead on this approach to nature clubs for teens. It’s an inspiring thing to see, so you should make plans to attend. Come see some of our best and brightest teens in action and experience hope for the future of conservation!

One of early OYBC field trips to Millersburg, Ohio. Robert Hershberger welcomed us to gather at Time & Optics LTD. There's no website since Robert is Amish, but you can call the shop at: 866.308.0727

The club was founded under the auspices of the Black Swamp Bird Observatory; if only every nonprofit board had the kind of guts that the BSBO Board of Directors had. There are risks involved with any venture like this, and the BSBO Board exercised a great deal of faith when they gave us the go-ahead. I'm so proud to work for this organization!

Neither rain, nor sleet, nor slippery tower can stop an OYBC field trip.
OYBC field trip to Kelleys Island

This year, the student panel planning the event selected 17-year-old Malkolm Boothroyd, from Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada, as their keynote speaker. Malkolm will present "A Big Year and Bird Conservation.” A birder since age seven, and an environmental activist since age eight, Malkolm has found ways to combine conservation efforts with birdwatching adventures. Last year Malkolm and his parents bicycled 13,000 miles to see how many birds they could see, in what birders refer to as a “Big Year,” and collected “per-bird pledges” to raise money for conservation. Twelve months and 548 birds later, they had succeeded in raising over $25,000 for bird conservation! Malkolm blogs about his adventures at: BIRD YEAR BLOG

Kenn had the great fortune of communicating with Malkolm during the Big Year adventure! Malkolm and his parents took a copy of Kingbird Highway on their journey and took turns reading it aloud when they camped each night. His parents encouraged him to contact Kenn to compare notes about their road trip adventures, so when they stopped to post to the BIRD YEAR blog in areas with WI-FI, Malkolm would eMail Kenn about their progress.

OYBC Field trip to Killbuck Marsh

Some of Ohio’s own inspiring teenagers will also be giving presentations.
* Sarah Winnicki, age 16, of Medina, Ohio, will present: "For the Love of Condors, a Conservation Story."
* Lukas Padegimas, age 16, of Cleveland Heights, will present: "The Piping Plovers of Cape Henlopen."
* Elliott Miller, age 14, will serve as our Master of Ceremonies
* Elliott will also assist Kenn with his ever-challenging Bird Identification Quiz.

During last year's conference our friend, and great naturalist, Steve "Funky Bottoms" Carbol, waded into Funk Bottoms Wildlife Area (it's the real name, no kidding!) to fish out a Barn Owl that, sadly, discovered that owls don't swim well. Funk Bottoms is located on the edge of the tiny village of Funk. Oh, I soooo want to move there. It would be so funky to live in a town called Funk. I'm just sayin....

The presentations will be followed by an afternoon field trip around the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge. Breakfast and a hot lunch are included. The event is just $10 for students (ages 19 and under), and $20 for adults over 19. THIS EVENT IS OPEN TO THE PUBLIC! You need not be a member to attend!

For more information and to register visit or call 419-898-4070.

We have been blessed with tremendous support for this event, and for the club in general. I'd like to offer our heartfelt thanks to:

Our neighbors, friends, partners, and all-around wonderful people, at Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge They have supported the OYBC from day one!

Jeff Bouton and Leica Sport Optics are on-board, offering their support and loaning us their best and brightest field expert, Austin Bouton! Austin attended our conference in Holmes County last year and really added a lot to the experience! Sometimes Austin brings his Dad along to give all the participants tons of free Leica goodies, and lead a digiscoping workshop! Austin has a regular column in Wild Bird Magazine. You should subscribe and read about all of his adventures!

Mike Freiberg and the crew at Nikon have also been great to us. Their support made this year's conference possible! Mike will also be leading one of our OYBC monthly field trips next year on May 15th. The walk will take place during the Biggest Week in American Birding. [teaser alert...]

A HUGE thanks to Ben Lizdas and Eagle Optics for their generous support. (Ben, you have NO IDEA how popular you are with young birders in Ohio right now!)

Each year the folks at RITE IN RAIN have given us these great little samples of their waterproof notepads -- we're all addicted to these things. This is a great product that every birder should know about!

To Robert Hershberger @ Time & Optics Ltd. Robert's unwavering support has made it possible for dozens of our Amish OYBC members to attend field trips and the annual conference.

The absolutely brilliant people at the Ohio EPA's Environmental Education Fund made a very smart decision when they selected the OYBC as one of their grant recipients last year. The support from that grant has really elevated the kind of things the club can offer its students!

There are many organizations across the state of Ohio who have supported the OYBC and we are so very grateful to each and every one. The following organizations have offered their support for this year's conference: Kirtland Bird Club, Ohio Ornithological Society, Audubon Society of Ohio, Clark County Audubon, the Tony Hess Memorial Fund, the John Gallagher Memorial Fund.

To Key Bank (and Delores Cole) for providing funding for the OYBC Conference through their employee match program!

To the following individuals. Without the support, generosity, patience, and guidance of the following people there would be no OYBC: Delores Cole, John Sawvel, Paula Lozano, Rebecca Hinkle, Julie Shieldcastle, Jim & Cindy Beckman, Auriel Van Der Laar, Phil Chaon, Ethan Kistler, Brad Wilkinson, Emily Rich, and Jena Jaskulski. I really do love you people!

And finally, to the amazing, handsome, generous, loving, incredible man behind the Kaufman Field Guide Series, for all of his tremendous support, for donating copies of his field guides to the conference, and for putting up with his wife and all of the madness she brings into his life. ~ Kenn, you are my hero!

See you on November 14th!


  1. Excellent news! I love to hear about things like this.

  2. Hey, great work guys! I look forward to reading about the great time these young people had birding and learning.

  3. That's definitely positive to hear....I wish an organization like this was around back when I was a kid! In general I think birders are really good about encouraging (the relatively few) young people who are enthusiastic about it, but having an organization in place is a great step forward.

  4. Very inspirational... you are my role model with these things!


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