I always collected things. I started with coins, stamps... got bored with that pretty fast. I was always playing with Legos and Playmobil. My mom generated a love for nature for me by taking me out in the field. I loved animals. I loved going to the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago. I saw a Wood Duck in an enclosure at the zoo, and my life goal was to see one of those in the wild. [One day] I saw some photographers taking pictures of something in a pond. I got out of the car in a pond and it was an adult male Wood Duck. I was like, "Oh my god, this is the best thing I've ever seen in my life!
I went back with a camera. I wondered how many birds I could take a picture of- that was the start. I had a cousin who was a birder and she suggested I go on a bird walk. I started doing that. This is now my 8th year birding.
You mention eBird- how do you use technology in the field while birding?
I didn't really start eBirding until 2011. I ended up getting both [eBird and Flickr]
I used to eBird pretty diligently. I
Once I got to Cornell University, I learned how to do eBird properly. Submit complete eBird checklists, if you're doing a stationary count- stay for at least 5 minutes. I used to submit incidental lists, but now I submit complete checklist. I use eBird to county list, which is a huge passion of mine.
What advice would you give to other young birders?
Find a mentor. Though it might sound daunting, you want to get out locally, and meet the local birders. You're going to meet people that are better than you, especially if you've just started birding. The only way to learn what you don't know is to be exposed to what you don't know. Keep an open mind and actively seek to learn as much as you can. Never think you know it all, because you don't!
Birding is a passion that I hope will stick with me for life, take me to new places, and show me the world through a completely different perspective than I ever would have expected.
Is there anything that makes you unique or different from other birders?
I think a lot of people have these preconceptions about what a birder is, what a birder looks like, how they should act, and that's just completely wrong- in my opinion.
I'm in a fraternity, I listen to electronic music. I think a big thing for birders is if you think you know a birder because you know one birder, I guarantee that there's five more people that are completely different.
I met Nathan on a Shearwater Journey's Pelagic out of Half Moon Bay, California. He was familiar with The Birding Project and had heard of me through a mutual friend from Chicago, who I'd interviewed earlier this year. We had a great trip, seeing many marine mammals, and most importantly- two Craveri's Murrelets. After spotting them, I looked at them hard with binoculars while Nathan intelligently took photos of them- really great photos! I'm glad he did, as those were my first Craveri's Murrelets of the year (before I knew I'd photographed some earlier on the trip) I'm sure we'll cross paths and bird again together again!