Meet 12-year-old Adam Dhalla from Coquitlam, British Columbia, one of the 2018 Young Birders of the Year!
Want to learn more about how you could be the next Young Birder of the Year? Registration is open for the 2019 contest now!


Q: Were you a birder before you started the ABA Young Birder of the Year contest? How long have you been birding? How old were you when you began birding?
Yes, I started birding around five years ago when I was seven. The bird that really got me started, or my ‘spark bird’ was definitely the majestic Snowy Owl. It was December 2012, and after hearing about the huge Snowy Owl irruption in Vancouver, especially around Boundary Bay, my mom, dad, and I headed out on a cold morning to look for one. Armed with a tiny point-and-shoot camera and a pair of binoculars in need of replacement, not only did I find one Snowy, I found at least six. With all the birders around and all the excitement in the air, that was the day I got my first taste of real birding.
Q: Did you already keep a field notebook, take photographs, write, draw, and/or participate in conservation projects before the YBY contest? Tell us about that.
In addition to birding, bird photography has been a strong passion of mine for several years (please visit my Flickr account). I try to keep learning new techniques and upgrade my gear whenever possible. I also enjoy drawing and used an Android tablet to create digital illustrations of some of my favorite birds for the contest. Writing is another of my hobbies. I like writing short stories, blog posts for my website, and even the occasional protest letter to the government!

Swallow-tailed Gull (digital illustration by Adam Dhalla)

Q: Tell us a bit about your experience over the course of the contest. What things did you especially enjoy? What parts were challenging?
I found the contest very challenging. I had to push myself regularly, so I didn’t procrastinate. It definitely helped that I love to go birding! The illustration module was great because it pushed me to draw more and got me into digital illustration. I also got to practice my PowerPoint skills. Overall, I thought the structure was excellent. I’d like to thank the ABA, the judges, organizers, and sponsors for their hard work on this amazing contest!
Q: What was your favorite module? Why?
I would say that the photography module was my favorite because I always enjoy taking photos, but it was hard to narrow them down to just a few entries for the contest. I was super happy to win Gold for this module!

Black Oystercatcher (photo by Adam Dhalla)

Clark’s Nutcracker (photo by Adam Dhalla)

Q: How has participating in (and winning) the contest impacted you?
Placing first overall in the contest has been a dream come true! The Leica binoculars I received for winning are a big upgrade from my old ones. My family was thrilled when they heard the news and lots of local birders have congratulated me. My win was even mentioned on Ray Brown’s Talkin’ Birds radio show!

Adam and his Leica Trinovid binoculars

Q: What are your bird and conservation-related plans for the coming year?
In August, I’ll be giving a presentation at the 2018 International Ornithological Congress, which is being held in Vancouver, Canada, very close to where I live. My topic is the benefit to birds of shade-grown coffee, which is based on a trip I took this year to Costa Rica, where I visited a coffee plantation.
Q: The start of the 2019 contest is right around the corner, and many readers of The Eyrie are getting ready to enter. What words of advice do you have for them, based on your own experience?
Start early and don’t procrastinate! Enter as many modules as you can, as it gives you a better chance of winning one, as well as a shot at the overall prize. Don’t put yourself down. I was not confident about my drawing ability, but I worked hard on that module, improved my skills, learned a new technique, and ended up getting Silver! And don’t forget to keep calm and bird on!