News & Features

A Conversational Recap of the 2016 Indiana Young Birders Conference

An early morning bird walk during the Indiana Young Birders Conference. Photo credit Chad Williams.

Matthias Benko was the 2016 recipient of the Indiana Young Birder of the Year award; Carlynn Berners was the receipt of the 2016 Conservation Awareness Award.  Both Matthias and Carlynn are Youth Editors to the Indiana Young Birders Club (IYBC) newsletter, The Warbler. Matthias also serves as a youth advisor to the IYBC. Both presented at this year’s IYBC conference, and Carlynn also served as the host of the event throughout the day.  As with all presenters this past August, they did a great job and were both very excited for a chance to talk with each other to summarize the amazing day.  

Carlynn:  The 4th Indiana Young Birders Conference at Cool Creek was amazing!  The day was packed full of great things from start to finish. I was so impressed!

Matthias: It was, Carlynn. You know, each year, I tell myself that this was the best year, but then the next year comes and I say the same thing. It really is amazing!

Carlynn: I know. The morning birding in riparian habitat in Cook Creek Park was great with the  Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Magnolia Warbler, and all the nuthatches.

Matthias: Don’t forget the Canada and Blackburnian Warblers! Personally, the latter is my favorite warbler species. What about you?

A fall Blackburnian Warbler. Photo by Dick Dionne/Macaulay Library.

A fall Blackburnian Warbler. Photo by Dick Dionne/Macaulay Library.

Carlynn: Ooh, I love Blackburnians, too, and also Kirtland’s.

Matthias: So, what do you think about the presentations? We had a talented line-up this year.

Carlynn: Indeed we did! Everyone who presented was so knowledgeable, and there were some really engaging topics! I especially enjoyed hearing our keynote speaker, Ethan Rising. I really want to go to one of those camps now. He talked about Camp Chiricahua in Arizona, Audubon Camp on Hog Island, Maine, and ABA Camp Colorado. There were a lot of speakers who talked about great destinations to go visit! I enjoyed your talk about Dauphin Island, Alabama, Matthias! You took some great photos, and I’m jealous that you saw a Painted Bunting. What other birding destinations do you remember from the conference?

Matthias: Well, Carlynn, we enjoyed a great presentation from Aidan Rominger and Nick Kiehl’s recent pelagic trip out of Hatteras. It was cool to hear how they and a bunch of other Indiana birders spent those two days off the coast of North Carolina seeing very cool birds like Cory’s Shearwater, a White-tailed Tropicbird, Wilson’s, Leach’s, and Band-rumped Storm-Petrel, and Black-capped Petrel. They also birded the Smoky Mountains on the way back and found great birds like Red Crossbill and Swainson’s Warbler. And, then, of course, there was your presentation about the Birds of Kauai, Hawaii!! It was so cool to see all the colorful birds of Hawaii from your point of view. You did a great job,

Juan Velasquez, the

Juan Velasquez, one of the youngest speakers, holds a woodpecker during a banding demonstration. Photo credit Chad Williams.

and I loved how you talked about the cloud canyons with Tropicbirds. That sounded really cool. And you even got to see the endemic honeycreeper! What species was that?

Carlynn: It was the Apapane, one of the most common honeycreepers on Kauai.

Matthias: Another great thing about the conference was the diversity of age groups in our speakers.

Carlynn: Right! There was a wide age range of speakers, the youngest being Juan, Catalina and Louise Velasquez, who were only nine years old! They did a great job of presenting and talking about the many bird activities that they have done at their school. It’s so neat that they love educating their classmates about birds and nature. The oldest presenter this year was Nick Keihl, who is nineteen. Landon Neumann, a past recipient of the prestigious Indiana Young Birder of the Year award, who is now studying at Purdue, as also present, and he recapped this year’s I.D. Quiz.

Evan Williams with a Venus Flytrap. Photo by Chad Williams.

Evan Williams with a Venus Flytrap. Photo by Chad Williams.

Matthias: I also appreciated the diversity of topics at the conference, which wasn’t only about birds. Evan Williams did a very cool presentation about carnivorous plants such as the famous Venus Flytrap! I enjoyed the pictures from his recent trip to North Carolina, where he went to Green Swamp, a bog habitat filled with all sorts of different carnivorous plants. It was great that he invited some of the kids to come up and trigger some Venus Flytrap traps! It was also great that he gave away some free plants! We also had Cool Creek Park’s head Naturalist, Amanda Smith, show off her turtles! The star of the show was Chumlee, a Sulcata Tortoise who did laps around the room!  She was great, and the turtles were awesome!

Carlynn: What did you think of the lunch?

Matthias: The food was great! You can never go wrong with tacos, and Moe’s Southwest Grill’s were good! What did you think of other activities?

Carlynn: I really liked the Fledgling Corner table for younger kids with coloring pages and other activities. This always helps with our most energetic participants!  There was also a Bird ID Quiz with beautiful photos donated by Ryan Sanderson, a very knowledgeable Indiana birder and great photographer!  Also, we had a fun field sketching activity and raffle prizes throughout the day!

Matthias: And, Carlynn, I definitely don’t want to forget to mention that you were awarded the 2016 Youth Conservation Award! Congratulations! It was well-deserved after all you have done for the IYBC.

Carlynn: Thank you so much! And congratulations to you for being awarded the 2016 Indiana Young Birder of the Year! You’ve been such an active and enthusiastic member and contributor right from the start!

Matthias (left) and Carlynn (right) with their awards. Photo by Chad Williams.

Matthias (left) and Carlynn (right) with their awards. Photo by Chad Williams.

Matthias: Thanks, Carlynn! We should also make sure to say thanks to all of our sponsors. We definitely could not have such an awesome conference without them!  They include Indiana Audubon Society, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Mr. Canary, Robert Cooper Audubon, Stokes Birding Guides, and Kaufman Field Guides. Readers should definitely check out our website to see the entire list and learn more about the Indiana Young Birders Club! Hope to see you all next year!

Introduction written by Chad Williams. The Young Birders Network keeps a list of young birder camps and conferences, including the Young Birders Event, a three-day event in July that introduces young birders to careers in ornithology.  

-Sarah Toner