Open Mic: Behind the Wisconsin Young Birders Club

Open Mic: Behind the Wisconsin Young Birders Club

At the mic: Ryan Treves
Ryan is a 15-year-old sophomore from Madison, Wisconsin. He has enjoyed birdwatching from age six, and hopes someday to bird in Australia. Ryan is looking forward to Camp Chiricahua 2016 as another opportunity to meet young birders. In his free time, he enjoys playing soccer, reading and playing trumpet with Wisconsin’s youth orchestra.

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As the child of a wildlife ecologist and a geographer, I grew up with a close connection to nature. My mother picked up birdwatching in college, but it didn’t go much beyond our backyard at that time. It wasn’t until she took a sabbatical (a work assignment abroad) in Uganda that I really opened my eyes to the incredible birdlife out there. As a 6-year-old, I wasn’t allowed much freedom to explore. Luckily, I was swept up in the massive bird field guides of East Africa and Ecuador, poring over them whenever possible. I was captivated by the notion that such amazing creatures like the Umbrellabird were actually out there, and it was just up to me to find them. Just like that, I fell in love with birdwatching.
What most captured my attention was birds’ brilliant variety in color, shape, and size. From the iridescent blue of the Woodland Kingfisher to the fiery orange of the male Blackburnian warbler, I have always been loved finding little flecks of color high in the trees. I hope this diversity will be visible for generations to come. While birds of the tropics can be flashy, my more touching experiences happen closer to home. The most memorable bird sighting that I’ve had in Wisconsin was definitely the Great Gray Owl that came to Middleton in 2014. I was lucky enough to observe it (alone) catch and kill two House Sparrows at once, and fly inches above me. The experience really embodied for me the independent spirit of nature and how beauty be so alive.

This owl attracted tons of attention from the Wisconsin birding community, even earning a spot on the news and its signature brew from the local brewery! (Photo: Ryan Treves)

This owl attracted tons of attention from the Wisconsin birding community, even earning a spot on the news and its signature brew from the local brewery! (Photo: Ryan Treves)


Recently, I began to appreciate the incredible birding community here in Wisconsin. I felt distinctly alone as a teenage birder, however. Yet I believed that there must be more enthusiasts out there like me. I founded the Wisconsin Young Birders Club (WYBC) to connect young birders in Wisconsin; to build a stronger community, and let others know that they are not alone. I hope that through peer interaction, those teens interested in birds will continue to pursue a passion in birds. In addition, I envision an established club drawing more kids into the realm of birdwatching as an activity for all ages, not just adults. In short, I believe the WYBC has the potential to establish a stronger framework for Wisconsin’s next generation of birders.
Birdwatching for me isn’t just counting species; it’s protecting the birds. Dozens and dozens of birders are working to preserve habitat, monitor populations, and conserve bird diversity in Wisconsin. We must ensure that there will always be people to do this. The youth of today with passion for nature and birds will be those who fight for the preservation in the future. Young bird lovers aren’t merely the birders of tomorrow, but the defenders of tomorrow.
Birding at Lake Michigan

Birding at Lake Michigan


I will be looking into collaboration between the WYBC and other organizations such as the Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative and the Madison Audubon Society to help ensure a better future for both the birds and the birders.
My advice to kids and teens interested in getting into birdwatching:
Set goals! Whether it is to watch the backyard feeders for 10 minutes a day or to see more species this month than last, goals of any level help you make birding a part of daily life. Also, sharing your sightings can be crucial in providing a sense of progress and accomplishment: Be a part of the community! Join the WYBC (contact me at [email protected]!), the Wisconsin Birding Facebook page, and eBird. Seeing people see awesome birds around you is a great push to go out birding.
Bookmark our website for details about upcoming events, or like our Facebook page for the latest news and updates!

2016-03-31T07:08:40+00:00