Katie Kozak, June 2018 eBirder of the Month

By Team eBird July 12, 2018

Katie with a fledgling Ovenbird

Please join us in congratulating Katie Kozak of Stevens Point, WI, winner of the June 2018 eBird Challenge, sponsored by Carl Zeiss Sports Optics. Katie’s name was drawn randomly from the 2,136 eBirders who submitted at least 15 eligible checklists in June that had breeding & behavior codes. Katie will receive a new ZEISS Conquest HD 8×42 binocular for her eBirding efforts. Here’s Katie’s birding story:

My love of birds first took off when I was in the third grade back in 2003, when my parents bought a bird feeder to place outside of our living room window. I was fascinated by all the birds that visited. However, I wasn’t satisfied just simply calling all of them “birds”; I wanted to know their actual species names. Flipping through our one field guide at the time, I was amazed at the number and variety of birds that could be seen. Ever since identifying my first mystery bird as a Dark-eyed Junco, I was hooked on birding.

This female Mourning Warbler is one of the birds Katie found while atlasing—probable breeding! Photo ©Katie Kozak/Macaulay Library.

I was a casual eBirder until 2015, when the Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas II began its five year project. The goal of the atlas is to determine the distribution and abundance of Wisconsin’s breeding birds. The results will also be compared with the first Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas (1995-2000), to see how bird populations have changed within the state. This summer I was hired as an atlas technician to conduct point counts and field surveys in areas that haven’t been well-covered by volunteer efforts. Bird behavior has always fascinated me, and when atlasing, it is important to slow down and observe how birds are reacting to your presence and how they are interacting with the environment around them. It feels so rewarding to catch a bird in the act of carrying nesting material or food for their young, or most exciting—finding an actual nest with eggs or young!

Now, whenever I go out birding, I fire up the handy eBird app, entering birds as I go and applying breeding codes whenever I can. Using eBird has made submitting and reviewing data so much easier. I can quickly go back to my submitted checklists for the areas I’m surveying and keep track of the number of species I have confirmed as breeding in an area, so the next time I go I can have a clear goal of unconfirmed birds that I can focus on. A lot of my free time is spent looking through species maps or utilizing the explore a region function on eBird; both extremely valuable tools. I look forward to spending the rest of my summer eBirding and submitting breeding codes that will be used in important research to help Wisconsin’s birds.

Thank you so much to the eBird team for all the wonderful work that you do, and to Zeiss for the amazing new binoculars!