Scott Deckelmann, January 2015 Zeiss eBirder of the Month

By Team eBird February 16, 2015

Scott birding with his dad at Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon

Please join us in congratulating Scott Deckelmann of Portland, Oregon, winner of the January 2015 eBird Challenge, sponsored by Carl Zeiss Sports Optic. At the end of December we posted our article about making eBird your New Year’s Resolution. As a follow-up of that post and sentiment, our under-the-radar challenge for January was to submit at least 50 complete checklists over the course of the month. Scott’s name was drawn randomly from the almost 1500 people who submitted over 50 eligible checklists in the month of January! Scott will receive new ZEISS Conquest HD 8×42 binoculars for his eBirding efforts. We asked Scott to tell us a little more about himself, his use of eBird, and his love of birds – check out his story below!

My name is Scott Deckelmann. I live in Portland, Oregon with my wife and birding partner Selena and our seven-month-old daughter, June. As a novice, I’ve found eBird to be an invaluable resource for me.

I became a serious birder only two years ago. My father had been a backyard birder for years, so it seemed harmless to steal his hobby. Within six months, I was logging checklists on eBird and dragging him out of his backyard and onto local wildlife refuges.

For years, my dad and I mostly talked football. Now we split our time between the Oregon Ducks and Oregon ducks. Conversations seamlessly transition from discussing the finer points of the spread offense to predicting when the Hooded Mergansers will return to the pond near his house.

In the early days, I started using eBird initially to log my checklists and find hotspots, using BirdLog and BirdsEye.  Last year I started using the Top 100 feature. I realized I’d need to see at least 200 birds to make the list for Oregon – so I made that my goal. I finished with 239 species on 241 checklists. The last was a Merlin I saw with my dad on a Christmas day walk around his neighborhood. It was feasting on sparrow.

That’s probably the biggest benefit I get from eBird – it helps me make goals. Last year, I did the February challenge – to work a patch for a month and try to log 25 checklists. I don’t know if I ever qualified for the challenge, but by the end, I’d converted my carpool buddy into a birder and I got the high count for Wilson’s Snipe for my favorite Hotspot. Even though I know I’m only really competing with myself, I think these kinds of features really make it fun and give your birding focus. Last spring, following an eBird tip, my friend and I spent hours on logging roads looking for warblers. The roads weren’t pretty but the views sure were.

I’ve been warned by more experienced birders that I should be careful, because birding is a gateway drug. Soon, they promised, I’d be interested in butterflies and beetles. While this is true, I think there is even more to it. As a lifelong Oregonian, birding has reintroduced me to my state and my community. It has generated in me a love for nature that I didn’t know I was capable of having, as well as a fierce desire to protect habitat.

My day job is as a high school English teacher. Over the last two years, I’ve made birders out of some of my colleagues and many of my students. We even started the first ever bird club for the school. About half of them are logging birds on eBird. There is something magical that happens when you start counting birds and I thank eBird for making it easier for newcomers like me, my family, friends and students to join the flock.