BCFO offers two parallel programs for the province’s young birders: the Young Birder Award, and the Young Birders Program.
The Young Birder Award, inaugurated in 2014, is given to outstanding youth birders, aged 11 to 18, in recognition of their accomplishments, contributions, and engagement with birds and birding in the province. The award welcomes these talented young birders into the birding community. Nominations are sought annually for qualified young birders.
Each recipient of a Young Birder Award receives a plaque, a stylish BCFO ballcap, and free BCFO membership (electronic) until age 19.
To be selected for a Young Birder Award, recipients must meet all of the following criteria:
• Be at least 11 years of age, and no more than 18 years of age as of January 1st of the year of the Award.
• Have demonstrated exceptional observational and birding skills well beyond the “novice” level.
• Have made significant contribution to activities in the birding community such as: posting to list-serves, entering data to eBird, or participating in local surveys, bird counts, bird banding, and field trips.
• Be sponsored and nominated by a BCFO member who has direct knowledge of the candidate, their birding skills, and their contributions to the birding community.
Note: To support the engagement of members from around the province, the nominator will preferably be a BCFO member from the young birder’s local community. When the nominator is from outside the local community, BCFO will attempt to solicit a local supporter or seconder for the nomination. We recommend that nominations specifically address how the young birder meets the criteria outlined above.
The Young Birder Program, the in-the-field component of the BCFO offerings for youth, is open to any young birder who shows a keen interest in getting involved with birding. Most participants are winners of a Young Birder Award (see above), plus other young birders who may be future nominees.
Participants are mentored by expert, adult birders to advance their ornithological skills and interests through field trips to exceptional birding locations in BC.
The program was designed and led by Melissa Hafting who started organizing field trips for young birders in 2014. In 2016 the Young Birder Program was adopted as an official program of BCFO, which provides financial support, and assistance from BCFO members.
The program is currently on hiatus and under review for restarting in 2022.
Congratulations to James Park.
In nominating James, Carlo Giovanella says: James Park is from Korea, and has been birding around the Lower Mainland for about two years. When I first met him, at age 13, he told me he came there specifically because he “wanted to be an ornithologist”. To that end his mother has brought him here so he can get Canadian schooling. Since arriving he has become known to most of the local birding community, as he shows up at all ‘rare’ sightings. In the field, James is exceptionally motivated and focused. He approaches bird-finding with skills that are well advanced for his age, and he can identify most birds immediately by sight and by sound. He understands when ID’s are difficult, and carefully tries to work them out, freely asking and accepting help from others. James usually birds alone, and submits many reports to eBird, (97 lists, 232 species in 2021) which demonstrates that he finds lots of ‘good’ birds.
I am taking the role of his sponsor/nominator because he generally birds alone, and does not have an on-going relationship with any BCFO member. I have met and interacted with him in the field on three occasions, and each time was impressed by his relative-to-age skills, and the rapid progress he is making. There is no doubt that this young lad has birding skills well beyond what we would consider a threshold for our Award.
Congratulations to Daniel Graca, Evan Larson, Cameron Montgomery, and Sage Pasay the 2021 BCFO Young Birder Award recipients. They join the ranks of a very talented and growing group of British Columbia young birders.
In her nomination of Daniel, Melissa Hafting says:
This amazing young man has been birding undetected in the local birding scene for far too long. He’s loved birding since he was a tiny tot. Birding with Daniel and his dad this fall I was amazed by his skill. He picked up a Blue Jay in flight, at a great distance, and described carefully why it was a Blue Jay and not a Steller’s or California Scrub-Jay. Daniel also identifies birds by ear. He follows the BC Rare Bird Alert closely, and with the help of his parents who do the driving, he successfully twitches many of the rarities. He also finds his own rare birds, such as the adult Sabine’s Gull he found and photographed in the Fraser Valley. In the past he’s gone with family to Europe, Mexico and the US to look at birds.
This talented young birder deserves the Young Birder Award for his commitment and his skill. He raises money for the CWF and OWL, and is passionate about habitat conservation for birds and wildlife. He’s also passionate about bringing awareness to the problem of window strikes and to making homes and windows bird friendly.
In his nomination of Sage, Allan Jensen says:
Over the past year or so Sage has been part of the Stanley Park Ecology Society (SPES) monthly bird survey of Beaver Lake and Lost Lagoon. This survey has historically been done by a group. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic such group activities have not been possible; Sage has kept the survey going by herself (her parents usually go along to help with spotting and filling out data sheets).
Sage regularly posts her sighting on eBird, often including photos. In the field she willingly shares sightings and information with other birders.
2020 is the seventh year of the BCFO Awards Program as we continue to find many young, keen, committed birders from around BC.
Congratulations to Nicholas Croft and Gaelen Schnare the 2020 BCFO Young Birder Award recipients. They join the ranks of a very talented and growing group of British Columbia young birders.
Nicholas Croft started birding in 2015 when he was eight years old. His favourite birding places include Tofino, Waterton Lakes and the Okanagan. He recently joined two Young Birder Program field trips to Kamloops and the Southern Okanagan. On these trips he saw many lifers, with the highlight being a family of Great Grey Owls. Nicholas has done one pelagic trip, which he loved and hopes to do more. Nicholas recently helped OWL release an injured and rehabilitated Northern Saw-whet Owl.
His passion for birds was rewarded at the Vancouver Island Regional Science Fair where he won an award for his project assessing winter bird use of the Hope Bay estuary. Nicholas has also contributed to citizen science through the annual CBC4Kids on Pender Island, and helps out with the BC Coastal Waterbird Survey, a program of Birds Canada and Environment Canada.
Birding for Nicholas also has an artistic side. Developing and honing his photography skills has resulted in four photo exhibitions on Pender Island. Nicholas hopes to experience a whole new world of birding when he goes to Australia next year.
Gaelen has a deep love for all things bird-related. He is an impressive young person and an impressive birder. Possessing a keen eye and unbridled enthusiasm, he is also very good with a camera; framing and selling his photos at various art shows.
As a citizen scientist, Gaelen contributes his bird observations through eBird, and also posts his natural history observations to iNaturalist. He regularly gives presentations about birds at the annual Creston Valley Bird Festival, and has led tours at that festival for young birders – a mentor already.
Gaelen also gives presentations to local Nelson schools, and participates in the Nelson Christmas Bird Count. This past summer, he and his father accompanied friends to Saskatchewan to bird the Grasslands National Park.
In 2019 we are very pleased to welcome Sasha Fairbairn, another talented and committed Young Birder to this very talented group of young people. Congratulations, Sasha.
Sasha Fairbairn, Surrey
In common with many of our award winners, Sasha is a committed volunteer. The Sunnyside Acres Heritage Society benefits from Sasha’s involvement in a couple of ways. She helps with their social media web pages, and not surprisingly, is also a birding guide for the society, which welcomes visitors to Sunnyside Acres Urban Forest Park near her home in Surrey.
This past summer Sasha attended the Beaverhill Bird Observatory Young Ornithologists Workshop in Alberta where she learned to band birds, and was able to greatly increase her knowledge of matters ornithological.
Sasha enjoys birding with others and participated in the Manning Park Bird Blitz, which she intends to make an annual event.
Previously Sasha lived in New Zealand and this is where her love of birding developed. And now she has even got her parents interested in birding! She participates in Project FeederWatch, and the Great Backyard Bird Count. She enters her sightings into eBird, and writes her own blog about birds and birding <https://bcbackyardbirds.wordpress.com/>.
Keen to promote conservation of the environment, Sasha is an accomplished writer too. In 2017 she won a youth contest called “A voice for animals” <https://www.hennet.org/docs/contest/winners/2017_Sasha_Fairbairn.pdf>.
She is a great birder with intense passion for the hobby and is a very welcome addition to BCFO’s Young Birder Award recipients.
Daniel first distinguished himself when he managed to see all three species of Ptarmigan: Rock, Willow, and White-tailed during a family vacation in Northern BC. Daniel has gone birding in several locations, including China, where he got fifty lifers in one day with his Uncle Tom. His favourite places to bird are Tuyttens Road and Cheam Wetlands Regional Park in Agassiz. He has volunteered at the Fraser Valley Bald Eagle Festival in Harrison Mills, and at Cheam Wetlands where he has helped clean the park after an ice storm, and helped in building the south entrance to the park. Every year he participates in the Chilliwack and the Abbotsford Christmas Bird Counts. His uncles Jim and Dave Beeke mentor him and help him with bird identification questions. He has been birding for six years and participates in the Fraser Valley Birding forum and enjoys posting photos to his Flickr acct. He uses eBird every time he birds, and is passionate about citizen science. His favourite type of birding is to scan a large flock of birds to find which species is different. He loves that challenge. His entire family are birders and have helped to inspire him to be the birder he is today.
Check out his Flickr account at: <https://www.flickr.com/photos/139279299@N04>
Zac has long been an enthusiast birder and been eager to learn about the natural world. Zac has developed and advanced his understanding of wildlife in his travel adventures, and his more local recreational pursuits. Zac is a promising and already talented young naturalist and birder, and he’s following a fulfilling path that will benefit himself and ensure the conservation of nature in general. This award will encourage him to continue on this path.
Zac says about himself:
I recently gave a lecture to a grade seven class to introduce them to birding, and I organized a one hour activity about birds with them. I am also returning to Costa Rica this summer for six weeks to do some research, hopefully on birds. As an active member of the global birding community, I have also been birding around the world (Costa Rica, Portugal, France, Spain, Israel, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Austria, Canada, the U.S., etc.), and have participated in birding tours in most of these places. As well, I have participated in Christmas Bird Counts, and in eBird’s Global Big Day. I have emailed sightings to Melissa Hafting for BC Rare Bird Alert. I have introduced birding to my family (close and extended), and to friends. All these things advance the birding community as I contribute to the global knowledge of birds and help spread this knowledge to others. By making connections and participating in birding around the world, I am also bringing the birding community closer together.
Cedar Forest, Tofino
Cedar first demonstrated her enthusiasm and knowledge of birds on the September 2017 Young Birders’ Ucluelet Pelagic trip when she was quick enough to spot the Manx Shearwater that hardly any adults were able to get on. She is a very intelligent, sharp birder with an engaging and humorous personality. Very good at species identification, she loves to bird with her best friend Toby Theriault (2017 Young Birder Award winner). However, she is also a fantastic solo birder, having found a Tropical Kingbird this year in her hometown of Tofino, and has a BC list that many adults could only dream of. She has done several pelagic trips with her friend Adrian Dorst and has seen many Black-footed and Laysan Albatrosses. Living in Tofino, a great migrant trap, she has spotted many of the rarities that frequently show up there. Cedar also loves to bird with her friend and mentor Ian Cruickshank, who has taught her a lot about birds. Cedar went on a trip to Manning Provincial Park with the Delta Naturalists in August 2017. President Tom Bearss commented that she was so good she became the leader for the group of 10 adult birders on the tour. She spotted all the birds and plants, and explained them well to everyone. Truly impressive at 13 years old. She is another young birder in the province who will make us proud for many years to come.
Kalin is a generous and helpful young birder. The nominator first met him while twitching a Little Gull in Penticton. As soon as she got to the lake to open up her scope, Kalin came running to show her where the bird was. He had also found an American Dipper there as well. As they looked at the Little Gull together, the knowledge he showed about the species and about all the birds present on Okanagan Lake was impressive. He knew the migration routes and nesting behaviours and other fun facts about the Little Gull. He loves to bird the ABA area and recently went to Baffin Island and Florida. He is an amazing photographer and his website is here: https://www.instagram.com/BIRDZ.OKANAGAN/ Kalin birds almost daily near his home in Kelowna and he is very passionate about bird conservation. Under every photo he posts to Instagram, he educates the reader about the bird’s plight and issues the species is facing. He also provides little known informative facts. He definitely is a future conservation leader and nature steward for the Okanagan and Province of BC.
Jason, whose favourite type of birding is owling, has a vast knowledge of birds. His volunteer work includes the Chilliwack Christmas Bird Count in which he has participated for 5 years. He has also volunteered with the Eagle Festival in Harrison Mills. Jason uses eBird every time he goes birding, and is passionate about citizen science. He loves to bird with his cousin Daniel (also nominated in 2018). His uncle, Dave Beeke, is his birding mentor, and has taught him a lot about birds and identification. His whole family loves to bird and is very supportive of his hobby. Jason will be a valuable contributor in the future to BC’s birding community.
Marnix loves to count birds and particularly loves to come on hiking field trips in the mountains. He volunteers to do trail clearing with the Langley Field Naturalists. A polite, helpful and respectful birder, Marnix knows a lot not only about birds and their identification but he is also proficient in the identification and habits of amphibians and mammals, usually the first one to spot a Pika or Hoary Marmot on hikes to spot ptarmigan. Marnix enjoys working on the farm at home where he raises calves, sheep and rabbits. He has found many uncommon birds on his property such as Townsend’s Solitaires, House Wrens and White-winged Crossbills. As a well rounded nature enthusiast, Marnix will no doubt continue to add to the understanding of BC’s wildlife and birdlife.
Willa’s love of birds evolved as she grew up in the John Prince Research Forest, in North-Central BC. She loves participating in citizen science projects, like FeederWatch, NestWatch, the BC-Yukon Nocturnal Owl Survey and the Christmas Bird Count. Willa began observing birds in earnest at the age of eight, but her favourites have always been hummingbirds. When she was four years old, a local Tl’azten Elder asked her what her spirit animal was and she declared, “Hummingbird!” The 2016 season was her third volunteering with Rocky Point Bird Observatory’s Hummingbird Project. It was an exciting season, because it was the first year she acted as scribe and began learning about morphological measurements. Willa also collected data on hummingbird feeder hygiene in the Fort St. James area, which will be presented at SD91’s 2017 Science Fair.
Adam has been birding for three years now. He loves to travel for birding and has already been to Japan, Hawaii and all over Southern BC. He hopes to get to Costa Rica and Australia next! At 11 years old he already has a life list of 300 species. Adam has told me that he loves learning about birds and getting to spend time with them in nature. Adam is a great photographer and loves taking photos of every bird he spots! He enjoys posting his photos on his Flickr site. He has great fun chasing local rarities with his dad. Adam likes to blog about his birding adventures on his website adamdhalla.com. Adam enjoys interacting with others in the birding community and appreciates all the help he has received from them. Adam has several favourite birds but his top 3 favourites are: The Steller’s Jay, Black Oystercatcher and Great Gray Owl. Adam enjoys creating bird art out of lego pieces and is always eager to ask me about where he should next plan his birding trip in BC. He particularly enjoys visiting Manning Park where he can feed and interact with the Gray Jays. Adam is an active contributor on the Birding in British Columbia forum at Birding.bc.ca. Adam is a keen, excellent birder who is never afraid to ask questions and learn from others. We can only expect great things from Adam as he continues to enrich the birding community with his contributions.
Matyas started birding 3 years ago. He loves to bird in the Okanagan with his friend, Logan, whom he has learnt a lot from. Matyas also has travelled to Europe with his family where he has done some birding as well. He likes to take part in discussing bird identification on the Birds in British Columbia forum at birding.bc.ca. Matyas is very eager to learn more about bird identification and likes to share his photos on flickr. His favourite sport is skiing and whenever he is outdoors in the mountains, he is looking for winter birds like Bohemian Waxwings and Northern Pygmy-Owls.
Katya is the most enthusiastic birder you could ever meet and her enthusiasm is infectious! To know her is to love her. She is great fun on all our field trips telling the other kids about her bird adventures. Katya has only recently started birding, since she is 11 years old, but her spotting skills are exceptional! Program leaders had never seen anyone pick out Black Swifts the way she did at Grant Narrows when they were distant tiny specs for the rest of the group. She has laser beam eyes. Katya has been really helpful in suggesting field trips and loves to take part in them with the other children. She first met the group at the Christmas Bird Count for Kids held at Iona Regional Park. She has been inseparable from the group ever since. As she gets older she will only continue to grow in her knowledge (which is already extremely impressive) and promises to be a great birder and twitcher. She absolutely loves chasing after local rarities in Greater Vancouver. Katya contributes to eBird routinely, the Birding in BC forum (Birding.bc.ca) where she enjoys posting her photos and sightings, Christmas Bird Count for Kids, and the Young Birder Program field trips. She also loves posting her great bird photos to her Flickr website.
Toby lives on a floathouse in Tofino. At age 12 she is already remarkably good at bird identification, as demonstrated by her accomplishments this year. She decided at the beginning of the year to do a Big Year, with a goal of seeing 120 species of birds. Up to today, she has seen 202 species. Most were seen on the Island but she also travelled with her family to the lower mainland and to Newfoundland and Nova Scotia. I should add that Toby is the bird expert in her family and the parents are learning from her. Toby and her close friend, Cedar, also a birder, founded a birding club called the Tough City Twitchers currently with four members. This summer she was interviewed on CBC radio about her birding passion. Her birding blog can be found at: <http://birdymcbirdface.blogspot.ca>
Viktor started birding when he was eight years old and is an avid hiker and naturalist. He joined the Young Birder program in 2016 and I have been very impressed by his great bird identification skills. He is never afraid to ask questions about birds and is eager to learn more about them. I was impressed by how fast he spotted birds during our field trips and how well he fit into the group with the other children. I have noticed how helpful he is to the younger children in the group and he behaves as a good role model. Viktor enjoys contributing to the British Columbia Birds Forum (Birding.bc.ca) and adding his photos to Flickr. He and his brother Marnix, who is also a birder enjoy watching the birds that come to their backyard, where they have had some uncommon birds show up. Viktor is a talented artist and enjoys painting and drawing birds.
14 year old Leo loves birding with his dad who is an active birder as well. He enjoys pelagics and is an excellent spotter. He has co-led bird walks at the Rocky Point Bird Observatory and has volunteered at the Pedder Bay Banding station for many years. When Leo is not birding he is busy enjoying his other hobby competitive rowing.
12 year old Jamie actively contributes to the Fraser Valley Birding Forum as a moderator where he has written an article on leucism and albinism. He is always eager to help out anyone who posts with identification questions. He submits to eBird and loves to bird with his dad especially in such events as the Christmas Bird Count.
14 year old Cole is a walking encyclopedia on rare birds in North America which are his passion. Cole enjoys reading everything he can to further his knowledge on birds. He is always eager to share information on birds (both common and rare) with other children, which is inspiring. He volunteers at The Vancouver Aquarium and specifically takes an interest in working with the Penguins.
16 year old Ian enjoys volunteering at Grouse Mountain’s Raptor Program where he specifically works with Barn and Snowy Owls. His work with these owls has sparked a major interest in conservation and wetland habitat restoration. Ian is an avid hiker and enjoys taking part in birding youth field trips especially when situated in the mountains. Now that he has recently turned 16, he plans to volunteer at Orphaned Wildlife Rehabilitation Society (OWL) and The Wildlife Rescue Association.
13 year old Liam from Victoria has been birding for three years and frequently conducts the census for the Rocky Point Bird Observatory’s Pedder Bay site. He leads Sunday walks at The Swan Lake Nature Sanctuary. In his 2nd year of volunteer work he has accumulated over 200 hours at RPBOs banding station in Pedder Bay. Liam also donates proceeds from the sale of his photos to RPBO. Liam helps out with the youth education program there and has begun training to be a licensed bird bander.
14 year old Bridget is passionate about having more young women in birding and has actively been participating in CBC’s for years in the city of Vancouver. She submits to eBird regularly and actively rescues birds of all sorts. Bridget has got her young sister into birding and is always eager to help out young birders and adults alike at the Birding in British Columbia Forum, where she is an active participant. Her knowledge of birds is astonishing and she enjoys travelling around the world to accumulate her life list which is ever growing.
12 year old Virginia quickly began birding after she saw how much fun her sister was having in it. Bridget has taught her a lot but now Virginia is a fine young birder in her own right. She is passionate about bird rescue and has rescued many window strike birds near her home and sick ducks. When she turns 16 she plans to volunteer at The Wildlife Rescue Association. She enjoys looking after the nesting Barn Swallows and Owls in her barn and takes part in Project Nest Watch.
17 year old Alice is a passionate bird photographer. She has used her love of bird photography to enhance her birding skills and pursue her love of birding. Alice volunteers with the Stanley Park monthly bird count and the bird banding program at Colony Farm with the Vancouver Avian Research Centre. Alice participates in stewardship events with Evergreen and has recently began participating in the Vancouver Window Collision Project with Bird Studies Canada. Alice plans to pursue her love of Birding in University with an Environmental Science degree. When she is not birding she is a competitive swimmer.
Joshua Brown, North Vancouver
Josh has been birding with his family for quite a few years, and has recently upped his game to an impressive level. He takes excellent bird photos, posts to birding lists, and submits copious records to eBird. Last May he was part of the ‘Western Teenagers’ team at the Penticton Meadowlark Festival. In August he joined up with two of last year’s Young Birder recipients Liron Gertsman and Logan Lalonde for a Vancouver Big Day when they found a real rarity, a Reeve at Reifel Refuge.
Isaac Nelson, Kamloops
Isaac is a very skilled and active birder in the Kamloops area and has also birded around the Lower Fraser Valley. He participates in virtually every kind of local bird survey – Christmas Bird Counts, Swan & Eagle Counts, Feederwatch – you name it – he does it. He participated as a member of the ‘Western Teenagers’ at the Penticton Meadowlark Festival. He contributes frequently to on-line birding forums, with over 400 postings to one particular list, often offering help with ID’s and hints for bird-finding. He has submitted well over 300 entries to eBird.
Emma Reader-Lee, Victoria
Emma has been attracted to birds ever since she could walk and talk. She is particularly fascinated by bird behaviour, and is considering a career in ornithology. She participates in numerous bird-related activities, including volunteering at the Rocky Point Bird Observatory, Christmas Bird Counts, Baillie Birdathon, and contributing to eBird. As evident in the photo, photography is yet another part of her credentials.
Rebecca Reader-Lee, Victoria
Despite her relative youth, Rebecca has already established herself as an exceptionally skilled and keen-eyed observer. She is very actively involved with the Rocky Point Bird Observatory, Christmas Bird Counts, bird photography and sketching, and eBird submissions. She was a member of the ‘Western Teenagers’ team of youthful birders at Penticton’s Meadowlark Festival last May.
Khalid Boudreau, Burnaby
Khalid has shown impressive field identification skills. His facility for making correct identifications for difficult, confusing, and challenging species is exceptional for his age. He is also a very careful observer, and because he reads widely in the literature he knows when he sees something important. In the summer of 2012 while vacationing in the Chilcotin on Puntzi Lake, Khalid recognized the significance of his observation of unfledged young pelicans on a small island in the lake. He had made a significant discovery: the hitherto unknown second breeding location for American White Pelicans in BC. Khalid is also a BC Coastal Waterbird Survey participant.
Liron lives in Vancouver where he has been birding since age 6. He says he has “been into nature pretty much since I could talk”. An avid poster to several of our local birding forums, including “Birding in BC,” he has posted over 800 items to date. Many of these are presentations of his bird photography, and others are responses to queries about bird IDs or advice on finding certain birds in the area. Liron’s photos are not just a series of images, but always have informative accompanying text. Since the end of 2011 he has regularly entered sightings into eBird, and has submitted over 328 checklists, including the 100th million eBird submission, for which he was widely acknowledged and interviewed. He has been a very active volunteer for the Stanley Park Ecological Society for the past three years, participating in several types of bird surveys and making short presentations.
Logan has already established himself as an active and familiar face in the Okanagan birding scene. He is well known for his sharp eyes, keen ears, and constant bird-related questions. Logan submitted close to 300 eBird checklists in 2013, and is a frequent poster on “Birding in BC”. He regularly summarizes and posts on the birding activities of the Central Okanagan Naturalist Club and shares birding stories and photos from his local patch on his personal blog. An avid amateur nature photographer, he is one of the most active birders in the Okanagan, spending hours in the field each week.