Celebrating J. Drew Lanham and Jen Brumfield!

The 2021 ABA Lifetime Achievement Award Recipients

by Judy Pollock and Julie Davis

April 23, 2022

On behalf of the ABA Board of Directors and staff, we are delighted to share our two 2021 recipients of the ABA Lifetime Achievement Award, also called “The Tropicbird”: J. Drew Lanham and Jen Brumfield. ABA Lifetime Achievement Awards are given to birders who have completed a lifetime’s worth of exceptional work in promoting the cause of birding. Both of this year’s recipients have already done much to promote and spread the joy of birding, and we have no doubt they will continue to elevate birding and birders for many decades to come. The ABA appreciates and celebrates their tremendous efforts and talents.

The ABA Awards Committee encourages all ABA members to familiarize themselves with the many accomplishments of our awardees. Both awardees will be featured on an episode of the American Birding Podcast at a later date.

Serving on the ABA Awards Committee is a great honor. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the committee did not give any awards for 2020. We are thrilled to again recognize outstanding members of the birding community through our awards. While on hiatus, the committee restructured the awards program to make it more inclusive and welcoming to all. Awards are no longer named after individuals, but for the achievements they celebrate. The committee also discontinued a few awards and added others to better reflect the ABA’s mission to inspire all people to enjoy and protect wild birds. You can read all the details here.

J. Drew Lanham

ABA Lifetime Achievement Award

Place, identity, birds, and words. Firmly in the intersection of these powerful forces we find J. Drew Lanham. Lanham is a birder, naturalist, hunter, conservation ornithologist, and Alumni Distinguished Professor of Wildlife Ecology and Master Teacher at Clemson University.

Lanham is a native of Edgefield, South Carolina. Few people have described knowing a place through birding as eloquently as he has, most of all in his award-winning memoir, The Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Man’s Love Affair with Nature, but also in his book, Sparrow Envy: Field Guide to Birds and Lesser Beasts, as well as in many essays, articles, and poems appearing in publications such as Orion and Audubon.

From his 2013 essay, “9 Rules for the Black Birdwatcher,” to his recent reflection on John James Audubon as a namesake for a birding organization, he has challenged white birders and birding organizations to recognize racism and to rethink their practices. Throughout his work, Lanham explores the exterior and interior landscapes of what it means to be a birder with equal beauty and strength. Birders are fortunate that Lanham has devoted so much of his exceptional skill with words to writing about birds and birding.

Lanham is a past member of the ABA Board of Directors and either has served or currently serves on the boards of other conservation organizations. A wide-ranging interview with him was featured in the Apr. 2020 issue of Birding magazine. All of us at the ABA offer our congratulations and gratitude to Lanham for his extraordinary leadership in the birding community.

Scientist, scholar, author, birder: J. Drew Lanham is one of the great environmental thinkers of our time.

J. Drew Lanham is a native South Carolinian and recipient of a 2021 ABA Lifetime Achievement Award.

Jen Brumfield

ABA Lifetime Achievement Award

Jen Brumfield has been captivated by birds since they were young—to hear them tell it, since they were “in utero.” As you might expect, by now they have racked up such plaudits as “gull guru” and “birding prodigy, with encyclopedic knowledge and impervious enthusiasm,” as described in Belt magazine in Jan. 2015.

Birding benefits immensely from the efforts of people like Brumfield, who have a broad knowledge of birds, a thirst for field adventures, and a bucketload of great birding stories, but are also dedicated to exploring their local patch and sharing the love for their patch’s birds with one and all.

Brumfield isn’t just any bird guru: They are Cleveland’s bird guru. They know which patch of grass in Wendy Park, a tiny migrant trap near Lake Erie, a Grasshopper Sparrow is going to turn up in. JB used their particular local knowledge to blow the Cuyahoga County Big Year record out of the water. They also have introduced many local schoolkids to birding. JB’s dedication and commitment to outdoor education reaches thousands of students across the Cleveland area.

Brumfield works as a naturalist at Cleveland Metroparks and is an artist and a tour leader. JB’s expertise includes dragonflies, damselflies, and butterflies as well as birds. Their relationship with the ABA dates back to 1998, when they were chosen as Young Birder of the Year, which was followed by service as a Camp Colorado counselor, magazine cover artist, and speaker at ABA events. JB’s art graces the covers of the Nov./Dec. 2006, Jan. 2010, and July/Aug. 2014 issues of Birding magazine, and they were interviewed on the ABA podcast twice, in Apr. 2018 and Sept. 2021. Everyone at the ABA thanks JB for their phenomenal leadership and passion.

Jen Brumfield is a native Clevelander and recipient of a 2021 ABA Lifetime Achievement Award.

Jen Brumfield will bird anywhere, anytime.

Our heartfelt congratulations to both the awardees!

Judy Pollock

Chair, ABA Awards Committee

Member, ABA Board of Directors


Julie Davis

Interim President, ABA

Chair, ABA Board of Directors