There are a total of five modules that make up the contest to accommodate a broad range of interests in young birders. Winners are selected for each of the five modules in two age categories. In addition, we will award a Grand Prize for the Young Birder of the Year 2019 in each age division. You do not have to participate in the Grand Prize Young Birder of the Year category to participate in the contest.

ENTRY SUBMISSION INSTRUCTIONS: The following group of instructions, requirements, and guidelines have been established to best serve both the participants and judges. Due to the ever-increasing popularity and increases in enrollment for the program, any module entry deviating from the submission requirement instructions will be eligible for disqualification. Slack is your friend to ask questions to avoid problems.

Click on the tabs below to go directly to more detailed instructions for each module.

The Field Notebook is one of the two major modules for earning the title of the Young Birder of the Year. To try your hand at being the Young Birder of the Year, the young birder will need to participate in both major modules, OR one major module and two supporting modules.

Instructions, Encouragement, and Gentle Exhortations

Talk to any birder above a certain age, and that person will tell you it’s utterly essential to keep a field notebook. Rachel Carson and Roger Tory Peterson kept field notebooks. The field notebook is as indispensable for birding as binoculars and a field guide. Sure, you can enjoy birding without a field notebook—in the same way that you can do so without binoculars and a bird book. But if you ever want to get “good,” if you’re ever going to get “serious” about birding, you absolutely, positively must keep a field notebook.

Um, no.

That wasn’t even true “back in the day.” And it’s a problematic assessment, at best, in the digital age. Keeping a record of what you see and hear is indeed a good idea, but we at the ABA believe that the wisest approach is to chronicle your birding experiences in a manner that is well suited to your own inclinations and aspirations as a birder. To be sure, you owe it to yourself to experiment in diverse mediums of note-taking. And it is in that spirit that we offer the following three major guidelines for participants in the Field Notebook Module.

Field Skill #1. Get in the habit of recording your observations in the field. The most obvious way is to write things down. But in this day and age, a perfectly acceptable alternative is to use a voice recorder app on your smartphone.

Field Skill #2. Your eyes and ears are good, your gear is great. You don’t have to have a fancy camera; simply holding your binoculars up to your phone (“digibinning”) can yield impressive results. So can point your phone at a singing bird and pressing the red “record” button.

Field Skill #3. Share! Of course, you’re already sharing your observations with the judges, and that’s great. But we also want to encourage you to share your observations more broadly, via eBird, social media, and more.

We’ll sum up the preceding field skills like this: (1) Write it down, (2) Use technology, (3) Share with others. And with those three big ideas out of the way, let’s turn to the actual requirements for this module:

1. Submit a written record of one (1) excursion afield. Basically, go birding—and write your notes down, while you are in the field. The entry in your physical notebook should be at least three to five (3-5) pages long. It should be in your own hand, and, again, it should not be improved on or embellished when you get home. It should include all of the following:

• A written description of the visual appearance of one (1) bird species that you saw.

• A written description of some aspect of a bird other than its visual appearance—basically, what it was doing.

• A written description of the song or other vocalization of one (1) bird species that you heard.

• A sketch of at least one (1) bird species that you saw in the field.

• Notes that would allow anybody to figure out where you were, when you were there, what the weather and habitat were like, etc.

• At least one (1) new thing you learned.

• At least one (1) question you asked while out there—and whose answer you still don’t know.

2. Once you are home, write an overview, one (1) page in length, that more formally summarizes the excursion that you documented in the 3–5 pages while in the field. Describe patterns you saw, lessons you learned, anything like that. This is to be an overall summary—ie how many species, high or low numbers, etc.—would be great.

3. Then go to eBird and submit an annotated eBird checklist from your time afield. Be sure to use the “comments” section—both in the “Date and Effort” section and for the individual species. Try to upload at least one photo, one sound recording, and one link to an external site. Submit some media to some source other than eBird. Possibilities include but are not limited to: Xeno-Canto, Flickr, and iNaturalist.

4. Share your experience via social media of your choice: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. If you and your family are uncomfortable with social media, consider sharing via your state, provincial, or other regional listservs.

5. REPEAT THE STEPS ABOVE 3 on three field excursions over the course of the contest period.

An Example of what an Annotated Checklist looks like:

Check out this eBird checklist by Birding magazine Editor (and longtime Young Birder of the Year judge) Ted Floyd:

Examples of eBird checklists:

ebird.org/view/checklist/S46776303

ebird.org/view/checklist/S11166994

ebird.org/view/checklist/S40468876

There aren’t any particularly rare birds on this checklist. Most of the photos and audio are so-so (and a few are terrible). But that’s all beside the point. Note that brief notes are provided for each species, including, in some instances, photos and audio. Ted wasn’t certain of everything, and you’ll see questions in a few places (age of the Blue Jay, relationships among the Canada Geese, type of call given by a Red-winged Blackbird, etc.).

Ted also posted a photo to Facebook, audio to Xeno-Canto, and a video short to Facebook. Actually, the video was made by his son, Andrew Floyd, which is fine—as long as credit is given.

The steps above fulfill the requirements for steps number 3.

What about requirements for #’s 1 & 2? If Ted had been a participant in the mentoring program in the Field Notebook Module, he might have done the following:

• Described the facial pattern of one of the Killdeers. The Killdeer is a distinctive bird, but try describing the pattern on its face. It’s not easy!

• Described the complex social interactions among the Cliff Swallows—direct interactions between individuals, as well as the general behavior of the flock.

• Described the song of the Sora, perhaps by including a field sketch of the spectrogram of the bird’s simple, endlessly repeated song.

• Sketched the male Hooded Merganser, emphasizing “female-like” characters and pointing to evidence of molt. Given the “artist,” this would have been a terribly crude sketch, but, still, it would have shown the bare parts (important!) and coarse plumage patterns.

• Reported the basic coverage—start time, finish time, mileage, weather, habitat notes, etc.

• Mused on the size differences between the Black-capped Chickadee and the Bushtit, something he hadn’t fully appreciated beforehand.

• Asked just how fast the Mallards molt at this time of the year and wondered whether there is variation between males and females.

The preceding would definitely have taken care of #1!

And, finally, as to #2, Ted would have typed out a clean, proofread, spellchecked, one-page summary of each of the three excursions, citing some highlights (especially the rare dragonfly) and putting the checklist in the broader context of summer birding in the area.

SUBMISSION REQUIREMENTS for Field Notebook Module:

Field Notebook files to be properly labeled loaded onto a thumb drive and mailed to the ABA and must be postmarked by September 30, 2020

                          

Please submit all entries for the Field Notebook Module in two parts: 1. a Powerpoint or Keynote presentation, and 2. the same presentation exported as a PDF document. Basics of each submission are below with the details of what is included explained in the text above..

  1. Combine all the following elements into a single Powerpoint or Keynote:
    1. Slide Set #1, labeled {In The Field Observations}. Submit scans of your field notebook excursion–these are your notes done in the official notebook, while in the field. This series of slides should be a scan of the 4-6 pages of observations and sketches while in the field. Each page gets its own slide. A page = 1 page.
    2. Slide #2, labeled {Formal Write Up – Field Observation}. Submit a document of the overview, only one (1) page in length, which more formally summarizes the excursion that you documented. This write-up is more formal and not written in the field; 1 page typed and single-spaced and submitted on the slide as a word document.
    3. Slide #3, labeled {Annotated eBird Checklist – Field Observation}. Include a slide that contains a live link to your annotated eBird checklist on the same field excursion. Include a link to any other media submission to the source other than eBird. Example: iNaturalist, Xeno-Canto, or Flickr, etc.
    4. REPEAT THE STEPS ABOVE for each of the three birding excursions over the course of the field season.
  2. The final step is to export the Powerpoint or Keynote presentation, complete with all the scanned pages, text slides, and links, as a PDF document.

File label for the Field Notebook Module entry should follow this format:

YourName-Age-FieldNotebook for example: ChrisBirder-16-FieldNotebook

When you’re ready to submit your Field Notebook, make sure to complete this checklist:

  • 1. Submit your Powerpoint or Keynote presentation.
  • 2. Submit a PDF of your Powerpoint or Keynote presentation.
  • 3. Attach a one page PDF personal biography which includes a photo, brief history of your birding, why you entered the contest, and who has helped you along the way. (Only one biography needed per YBYC participant. You do not need to attach multiple biographies if you participate in multiple modules.)
  • 4. Transfer files to a thumb drive and mail to the ABA Headquarters

ABA–YBYMP

P.O. Box 744

Delaware City, DE 19706

Failure to follow all submission requirements, especially file-naming protocols, may be a cause for disqualification. If you have questions, don’t be afraid to ask for clarification in the SLACK workplace before the submission date. We want you to succeed and to enjoy participating.

CONSERVATION AND COMMUNITY LEADERSHIP

The Conservation and Community Leadership module is one of the two major modules for earning the title of the Young Birder of the Year. To try your hand at being the Young Birder of the Year, the young birder will need to participate in both major modules, OR one major module and two supporting modules.

Pick a project that will involve time in the field and will either a) further the conservation of a bird species or community and/or their habitat, or b) a project that will improve birding opportunities, or educate and inspire other birders. Here are a few possibilities, just to spark your imagination:

  • Create and monitor a nest box trail and give a talk about your findings to a local bird club or garden club
  • Create and monitor a bird-friendly habitat on public property, a public park or schoolyard or a community area give a presentation the maintenance workers to make sure it is maintained properly in the future
  • Create a printed or online site guide or similar materials for a birding area and show it being used
  • Offer field trips or fun classes designed to inspire and educate birders or inspire non-birders to enjoy birds
  • Participate in a leadership capacity in a young birders’ group, developing the program in a meaningful way
  • Participate in an ongoing conservation or community action project, documenting your experiences and contribution
  • Set up and maintain an online bird club or similar group
  • Start a YouTube channel and produce videos or start a podcast with the goal of inspiring enjoyment and/or protection of wild birds in others
  • Write a curriculum on birds and submit to a local school to teach as an online course
  • Write, illustrate, and submit a publishing plan for a book on birds or bird conservation
  • Illustrate a graphic novel featuring the ABA’s Birding Ethics

*Submit a brief written description of what you intend to do no later than June 15, 2020, direct message Liz Gordon in the YBY SLACK Workspace. Conservation/Community Leadership projects must be approved by ABA staff before you proceed.

Approval and/or tweaks and/or suggested changes will be given within the week of a proposal being acknowledged as submitted. 

You should expect to spend about 40 hours on your project, not counting the time involved in putting together the presentation. The presentation of your project should include writing and imagery that captures what you aimed to do, your experiences during the project, notable successes or failures, and what you learned or skills you developed along the way. Tell the story of your journey and how you feel you impacted the greater community.

SUBMISSION REQUIREMENTS for Conservation and Community Leadership Module: Files to be mailed to the ABA and must be postmarked by September 30, 2020

Your entry is to be uploaded in TWO formats:

  1. A thorough Powerpoint or Keynote presentation detailing step by step your project and how and what you did and what you accomplished. Your presentations may include photographs, video, audio, charts, graphs, text*, links to websites, and/or other graphics and media. The goal is to tell us the story or stories of your project: how you planned or imagined it would go, how that matched the reality, what you learned, who or what was impacted, challenges you faced, people you met along the way and helped you out, and so on.
  2. The same Powerpoint or Keynote presentation exported into a PDF.
  3. Attach a one page PDF personal biography which includes a photo, brief history of your birding, why you entered the program, and who has helped you along the way. (Only one biography needed per YBY participant. You do not need to attach multiple biographies if you participate in multiple modules.)

*A special note about the text in your PowerPoint and Keynote presentations: presentations are not designed to present large amounts of text. A good rule of thumb is not to use any font sizes smaller than 30 points, maybe 24 in a pinch. If you have supporting or explanatory text that needs to be included, you can either put it in the Presenter Notes or just include a “text slide” or two where needed. Please, even for a text slide, do not use fonts smaller than 18 points.

We encourage and would like you to acknowledge adult mentoring and are curious as to how and from whom our young birders are getting such help. Please include a slide with thank yous and credits letting us know about any help you received.

Sample Community & Conservation presentation >>

File label for the Conservation and Community Leadership entry should follow this format:

YourName-Age-ConCom for example: ChrisBirder-16-ConsCom

When you’re ready to submit your Conservation & Community Leadership project, make sure to complete this checklist:

  • 1. Submit your Powerpoint or Keynote presentation.
  • 2. Submit the PDF of your Powerpoint or Keynote presentation.
  • 3. Attach a one page PDF personal biography which includes a photo, brief history of your birding, why you entered the contest, and who has helped you along the way. (Only one biography needed per YBYC participant. You do not need to attach multiple biographies if you participate in multiple modules.)
  • 4. Transfer to a thumb drive and mail to the ABA Headquarters:

ABA–YBYMP

P.O. Box 744

Delaware City, DE 19706

Failure to follow all submission requirements, especially file-naming protocols, may cause your entries to be disqualified. If you have questions, don’t be afraid to ask for clarification over email or Slack before the submission date. We want you to succeed and to enjoy participating.

Hummingbirds, by Rosemary Kramer.

The Illustration module involves rendering birds that you see. You should be regularly sketching birds, at least every other week, and completing a detailed drawing or painting of a bird at least once a month. Any illustrative medium is acceptable and may include ink, pencil, colored pencil, paint, scratchboard or another medium of your choice. Try to do a few drawings while you’re watching a cooperative bird in the field or at bird feeders. You may also include illustrations of captive zoo or pet birds, but your submission should include at least 75% wild, free-living birds.  All submitted illustrations must be your own original work. Though you may refer to works of others as inspiration and research material, you must not violate copyright law. Minimum entry is 6 illustrations, paintings, etc. with a maximum of 10.

The Illustration Module is one of the three supporting modules for the Young Birder of the Year Grand Prize Award. To be a contender for the title of Young Birder of the Year, do both major modules, OR do one major module, and two supporting modules.

SUBMISSION REQUIREMENTS for Illustration Module: Physical Art Mail date starts Sept. 15 to arrive before Oct. 1.

The Illustration Module should be submitted in three parts:

  1. Submit the 6–10 originals and your thumb-drive by mail to the ABA Headquarters. We suggest you use priority mail or FedEx or UPS and get a tracking number. Your submission must be postmarked by September 30, 2020. Mail to:
    ABA-YBY
    93 Clinton Street #744
    Delaware City, DE 19706
  2. Scan or photograph the originals and submit them as a single Powerpoint or Keynote presentation. The illustrations must be scanned or photographed as hi-res jpegs and inserted into a Powerpoint or Keynote program. In other words, make a slideshow of all 6 to 10 of your illustrations you are submitting for the judges to review. Please include a single slide as an introductory slide to tell the medium used and title of each piece before each art slide.
  3. Export the Powerpoint or Keynote presentation complete with all the text slides to a PDF document.
  4. Transfer your presentation and PDF and bio to a thumb drive and mail to the ABA.

Sample Illustration module presentation >>

Please submit all entries in the Illustration module on artboards or paper within the size range of 4” x 6” up to 14”x 18”. If you would like to submit sculpture or some other medium or size please call for special permissions and instructions. We are happy to accept other sizes and mediums, as long as we consider the shipping and handling of these items they may require extra return shipping costs to submit.

We encourage adult mentoring and are curious as to who is giving you help and how much you help you are receiving. Please include a sentence or two informing us if you had adult help if any, and how much on this module.

File label for the Illustration Module entry should follow this format:

Illustration-YourName-Age  for example:  Illustration-ChrisBirder-16

Please make sure your name and age are on the back of each piece.

When you’re ready to submit your artwork, make sure to complete this checklist:

  • 1. Submit your 6-10 originals by mail to the ABA office. Please, get a tracking number. Mail starting September 15th to arrive before October 1st.
  • 2. Submit your Powerpoint or Keynote presentation.
  • 3. Submit the PDF of your Powerpoint or Keynote presentation.
  • 4. Attach a one page PDF personal biography which includes a photo, brief history of your birding, why you entered the mentoring program, and who has helped you along the way. (Only one biography needed per YBYC participant. You do not need to attach multiple biographies if you participate in multiple modules.)
  • 5. Transfer your presentation and PDF to a thumb drive and mail to the ABA.

ABA–YBYMP

P.O. Box 744

Delaware City, DE 19706

Failure to follow all submission requirements, especially file-naming protocols, will cause your entry to be disqualified. If you have questions, don’t be afraid to ask for clarification over email or Slack before the submission date. We want you to succeed and to enjoy participating.

“The Eagle” by Sierra Glassman, 94 Words

Write about birds, birders, birding, and personal experiences with any or all of them. Your writing can take the forms of poetry, short story, essay, or other prose. You should write at least once a week, completing an essay, story, or poem at least once a month. Essays should be relatively short; no more than three pages. Write about your favorite birds, a special or significant birding experience, an unexpected encounter or insight, or your thoughts on birding. Use your powers of observation and description to their fullest! Be creative in your word use and make your writing reflect your own thoughts. Read a variety of literary styles on birding and other subjects for examples and inspiration, but strive to develop your own voice and style. Non-fiction, fiction, and poetry are acceptable, so feel free to stretch out and experiment. Minimum entry is 6 pages of writing samples and a maximum of 10 pages.

The Writing Module is one of the three supporting modules for the Young Birder of the Year Grand Prize Awards. To qualify for the Young Birder of the Year Grand Prize Awards, do both major modules, OR do one major module, and two supporting modules.

SUBMISSION REQUIREMENTS for Writing Module:

Minimum entry is 6 pages of writing and a maximum of 10 pages. Each piece should have a title page and word count. The page count does not include the cover pages. The Writing Module should be combined and submitted as a single PDF document. Postmarked by September 30, 2020.

Each entry should include a cover page with:

  1. Your name,
  2. The title of the piece, and
  3. The word count

on a cover sheet before each writing piece submitted.

This cover page does not count as one of your 6-10 pages of writing.

When you’re ready to submit your writing, make sure to complete this checklist:

  • 1. Combine your entries into a single PDF with a cover page in front of each individual entry.
  • 2. Submit your PDF online.
  • 3. Attach a one page PDF personal biography which includes a photo, brief history of your birding, why you entered the contest, and who has helped you along the way. (Only one biography needed per YBYC participant. You do not need to attach multiple biographies if you participate in multiple modules.)
  • 4. Transfer to a thumb drive and mail to the ABA Headquarters

ABA–YBYMP

P.O. Box 744

Delaware City, DE 19706

File label for the Writing Module entry should follow this format:

YourName-Age-Writing for example:  ChrisBirder-16- Writing

We encourage adult mentoring and are curious as to how much and how our young birders are getting such help. Please include a sentence or two informing us if you had adult help if any, and how much on this module.

Look here for some expert advice offered by Birding magazine’s Editor, Ted Floyd on writing:

http://youngbirders.aba.org/2015/09/the-aba-young-birder-of-the-year-contest-advice-from-a-writing-module-judge.html

Failure to follow all submission requirements, especially file-naming protocols, will cause your entry to be disqualified. If you have questions, don’t be afraid to ask for clarification over email or Slack before the submission date. We want you to succeed and to enjoy participating.

Photographs for this module must be digital. All of the images of birds you submit should be of wild birds, though they may be interacting with people or man-made structures. For example, backyard and feeder birds are allowed. Photos will be judged on overall artistic merit, creativity, and technical skill as well as labeling. Minimum entry is 6 photographs, with a maximum of 10.

The Photography Module is one of the three supporting modules for the Young Birder of the Year Grand Prize Awards. To cqualify for the Young Birder of the Year Grand Prize Awards, do both major modules, OR do one major module, and two supporting modules.

Photography submission by Max Nootbaar.

SUBMISSION REQUIREMENTS for Photography Module:

The Photography Module is to be submitted in two formats:

  1. A single Powerpoint or Keynote presentation uploaded onto a thumb-drive and mailed between  September 15  and October 1, 2020.  Make a slideshow of all 6 to 10 high-resolution photos that you are submitting for the judges to review. After each photo slide, please include a single slide as a summary slide. Make sure to include on that title slide:
    1. The title of the piece,
    2. The name(s) of the bird(s),
    3. The camera and settings used to take the photo, and
    4. A short two-to-five sentence commentary for each photo. Please, do not use fonts smaller than 18 points.
  2. Export your Powerpoint or Keynote presentation as a PDF, upload your files to a thumb drive.

We encourage adult mentoring and are curious as to how our young birders are getting such help. Please include a slide with a sentence or two letting us know if you had adult help if any, and how much on this module.

Sample Photography Module presentation >>

File label for the Photography Module entry should follow this format:

YourName-Age-Photography  for example:  ChrisBirder-16-Photography

When you’re ready to submit your artwork, make sure to complete this checklist:

  • 1. Combine your entries into a single Powerpoint or Keynote presentation, including a summary slide with each photo.
  • 2. Export your Powerpoint or Keynote presentation as a PDF.
  • 3. Attach a one page PDF personal biography which includes a photo, brief history of your birding, why you entered the contest, and who has helped you along the way. (Only one biography needed per YBYC participant. You do not need to attach multiple biographies if you participate in multiple modules.)
  • 4. Transfer your files to a thumb drive and mail to the ABA Headquarters:

ABA–YBYMP

P.O. Box 744

Delaware City, DE 19706

Failure to follow all submission requirements, especially file-naming protocols, will cause your entry to be disqualified. If you have questions, don’t be afraid to ask for clarification in the Slack workspace before the submission date. We want you to succeed and to enjoy participating.