Williamson's Sapsucker 

Williamson's Sapsucker, colored pencil, by Joel Such


Joel Such (Lyons, CO) is the ABA’s 2008 Young Birder of the Year. He found out about the contest through the ABA’s website (http://www.aba.org/yby/index.html ), where he found the sample work of previous contestants both helpful and inspiring. For those interested, the contest will start again in April. Congratulations Joel!

What aspect of the contest helped you grow the most as a birder?

I participated in the field notebook, illustration, and photography modules, and the field notebook was definitely the module that helped me grow most as a birder.  By spending lots of field time observing, sketching, taking notes, and photographing I learned and discovered more about bird identification, behavior, diet, and habitat preferences.


What advice do you have for future participants?

Spend as much time as you can in the field and keep up on your field journaling.  For illustration, be patient, take your time, and practice.  For photography, carry a camera in the field whenever possible… you never know when you will have a great photo opportunity.


What about the contest did you find the most challenging?

Keeping the field notebook was the most challenging (and the most rewarding) part of the contest for me.  I found that it took a lot of time and discipline.


Notes on American Robin 
sample from Joel's field notebook

How would you describe yourself as a birder?

Chasing birds and keeping lists is not my main interest in birding.  I consider myself more of a naturalist/artist.  I love spending a lot of time exploring my own backyard, finding and observing interesting birds that move through our property.  I am happy to spend all day out in the field, radio in when I’m hungry, and have my mom send snacks out with our dog (who carries them out in her doggie backpack).


What is your favorite bird and why?

That’s a difficult question for me, because the answer can change from one day to the next.  While the sky blue Mountain Bluebird and the water loving American Dipper have been long time favorites through the years, I’m always fascinated by whatever bird I’ve most recently had a close and magical encounter with.  In the past three months, I’ve answered the “favorite bird” question with White-tailed Ptarmigan, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, American Pipit, and Western Scrub-Jay, but today I’d answer the question with Canyon Wren.  Why?   A few weeks ago I heard the electronic buzzing of a Canyon Wren.  I approached the sound and spotted the calling wren on a big boulder near our house.  It was too far for a good look, so I pished and it disappeared.  A couple seconds later it popped up from under a rock at my feet and jumped up to an exposed perch in perfect lighting. The wren seemed to pose just for me.  It was so close that I had to take a few steps back to get the camera to focus.  I’m sure the Canyon Wren will be my favorite bird until my next special encounter with some other bird.


Notes on Belted Kingfisher 

Sample from Joel's field notebook