Please join us in congratulating Caleb Frome of Richarson, Texas, winner of the YBN eBirding Challenge sponsored by Carl Zeiss Sports Optic. Caleb submitted over 100 complete checklists between 1 January and 30 June to become eligible and his name was then drawn at random. He will receive a new ZEISS Conquest HD 8×42 binocular. To be eligible for the fall semester competition for young birders, enter 100 complete checklists into eBird between July 1st and December 31st, 2014. At least one of these checklists must be entered through the YBN portal. Additional checklists may be entered through any eBird portal and BirdLog. We will draw the winner from the pool of contestants who have submitted at least 100 complete checklists during the term. Winners must be under the age of 21 on July 1st 2014. But now onto this month’s winner. We’ve asked Caleb to tell us a bit about himself.
Birding is about more than just watching birds. It is exploring incredible places off the beaten path. It is meeting, teaching, and learning from other birders. It is the satisfaction and competition that comes from keeping lists. In each of these areas, eBird is making me a better birder.
I first heard about eBird from my grandparents in 2007. At 11 years old, I had just started birding; already my life list was beginning to grow. eBird was there for my first Downy Woodpecker and Carolina Wren, from my first Golden-cheeked Warbler to my 100th lifer: Cedar Waxwings. Less than 4 later, my life list grew to 400 species. But the price in “dollars per bird” for new lifers was growing exponentially, and my interest turned from my life list to my county and year lists.
I heard about the Texas Century Club – a contest between Texas birders to see 100 species in 100 counties in Texas – and I started keeping county lists. eBird kept track of everything. I reached 100 species in my home county, Collin, then pursued the farther corners of the state. Using eBird to research new locations and optimize trips, I discovered new places to visit and new birds to see all across the state. At this point I have birded in over half of Texas’s 254 counties and have seen over 100 species in almost 30 of them. But Collin County has always been my favorite. In 2012 I made a late December push and ended with 181 species in the county – a mini big year. I promised myself I wouldn’t try a for real county big year, but when I saw a Scarlet Tanager at my local patch in April 2013, I took it as a sign. I had to attempt a Collin County Big Year. I had the stamina, but I needed information. I went to eBird. Bar graphs, species maps, top 100: it was all there. I made Excel spreadsheets of target birds. And I went birding. Along the way, I put faces with names I had seen on eBird, and my network grew. At the end of 2013, I had seen 230 species in Collin County – a new record.
In 2012, I attended my first ABA young birders camp: Camp Colorado. For the first time, I was birding with people my own age. Once again, my birding focus changed – this time, from lists to people. I entered a new community of birders. Through the workshops, the days in the field, and the evenings comparing notes and celebrating lifers, I took birding to new level. In August 2013, I went to ABA’s Camp Avocet, and birding once again came to mean so much more to me. As great as the birding was, the friends I made eclipsed the lifers completely. The highlight was the formation of a birding band called Pish & Twitch. Inspired by a quip about the “Moves Like Jaeger,” Brendan Murtha and I started writing and performing birding-themed parodies of radio hits that exploded with success at camp and on Facebook. When he and I arrive at VENT’s Camp Chiricahua, I expect even greater things to happen.
For me, this summer marks both and end and a beginning. In May I graduated from Lucas Christian Academy, and this fall I will start my freshman year at the University of Oklahoma as a computer engineering major. This young birder from Texas is about to take on a new state, new friends, and new birds. Thanks to eBird, the ABA, and birders everywhere, I’m ready.