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Congratulations to David Fees, winner of the Trinidad trip

Congratulations to David Fees, the winner of a trip to Trinidad including two nights at the Asa Wright Nature Centre, complimentary roundtrip airfares for 2 people on JetBlue from either JFK (New York) or Fort Lauderdale, FL, tours of the Asa Wright Nature Centre property in Trinidad. and two birding field trips with Caligo Ventures. Thanks to the Asa Wright Nature Centre, JetBlue, the Trinidad and Tobago Tourism Board, and Caligo Ventures for their generous sponsorship. David’s name was drawn randomly from among all eligible checklists submitted between 15 Sep-31 Oct 2016. We asked David to tell us a bit about himself—this is what he had to share.

Imagine the look on my wife’s face when I told her I had won an all-expenses paid trip for two to Trinidad & Tobago just for using eBird. She (not a birder) grabbed me by the shoulders, shook me, and exclaimed, “All that birding has finally paid off!” I was happy that she was so excited, but I had to chuckle, thinking to myself, “all that birding has already paid off in a lifetime of joy and inspiration, ever since I was a young kid looking at the birds coming to the family feeder.”

I was fortunate to have grown up adjacent to Nockamixon State Park (an eBird hotspot) in rural Bucks County, Pennsylvania. At all seasons—including winter, my favorite—I would hike and explore the fields, forests, streams, and lakes observing nature. Since birds were the most obvious and observable species, I naturally became a birder at an early age. During the college years and in my twenties I found other pursuits, such as backpacking, mountain climbing, highpointing (visiting the highest point in each of the 50 states—lots of opportunities to see rosy-finches!), and traveling abroad. I got back into birding in 1993 when I took a long-distance bicycle tour from Key West, Florida, to Canada. It was after that trip I started to organize my life list, combine birding with business trips, and to keep eBird-worthy records of my outings.

I have resided in Sussex County, Delaware, for more than two decades now and have come to appreciate the diversity of habitats Delaware offers despite its small size. When you’re a Delaware birder, shorebird identification becomes one of the challenges to master. I continue to improve this skill, thanks to the many talented and giving birders from the Delmarva Ornithological Society and the Sussex Bird Club. As a scout leader in the local Troop, I serve as the Bird Study merit badge counselor, and along with other nature-related merit badges and camp activities, I try to instill in the boys an understanding and appreciation of nature in all its forms.

I had heard of eBird over a decade ago but hadn’t ever contributed or used it until I volunteered for the 2nd Delaware Breeding Bird Atlas. It was my participation in that project that sparked my interest in the value of field data to understand trends, habitat association, and species distributions. Reviewing distribution maps from the atlas gave me an appreciation for the value of spatial data. It was then I became hooked on using eBird.

I enjoy posting and sharing my observations, and I appreciate learning and benefiting from the checklists of others. I appreciate how eBird continues to increase in sophistication, features, and ease of use. The Species Maps on the Explore Data page is my most used feature. I manage county, state, and life lists through eBird and take advantage of several alerts.  Here are several recently submitted checklists to some of my favorite birding locations in Southern Delaware.

Nanticoke Wildlife Area

Cape Henlopen State Park

Prime Hook NWR – Fowler Beach

My wife and I are very excited about visiting Trinidad and Tobago. I look forward to submitting checklists from the trip. Thanks to Cornell and all of the sponsors for this unique opportunity!