At the mic: Sebastian Casarez is a 14-year-old young birder from Texas. He is the Founder and Coordinator of The Texas Blue Jay Project.
When I was seven years old, an Audubon bird book at a bookstore changed my entire life. I was in awe of all the beautiful, colorful birds photographed in the book and I was amazed how these birds even existed. I wanted to know more about them. Thankfully, I convinced my mom to buy me the book. Every morning, afternoon, and evening (sometimes late at night) I would study and read the book. In one month, I had memorized the entire thing. I was determined to know more about bird behavior, bird migration, and birds in other countries. My parents were not birders. At that time, my parents could only identify maybe two or three bird species. They were not able to mentor me, so I ended up teaching myself about birds and birding. My parents constantly took me to bookstores to purchase bird books. As I got older, I spent time enjoying my two favorite hobbies: reading books and birding. I learned a lot about birds and wanted to share with everyone around me. So I started teaching my friends and community about birds and birding. I knew as a nine-year-old that I loved teaching my fellow Texans and others about birds and birding. By the time I got to 9th grade, I decided that I wanted to pursue a career in ornithology. I was on the search for a birding mentor to help prepare me for a career as an ornithologist. In 2017, I met my birding mentor, Dr. Keith Arnold, an ornithologist and Professor Emeritus at Texas A&M University. Dr. Arnold gladly offered to mentor me. I always look forward to my lab visits with Dr. A. I have the most supportive parents, as they don’t mind driving me two hours to College Station, Texas. With every lab visit to Dr. A, I learn something new about birds that only experience could teach you. He taught me about taxonomy, classification, identification, specimens, Texas bird records, bird behavior, and so much more. Dr. A motivates me to work harder in my school studies and to challenge myself to think outside the box. Not only is Dr. A my birding mentor, but he has also become my friend. I hope that one day I will be as great of a person and ornithologist as Dr. A. He is the nicest and most-talented ornithologist/birding mentor ever! Thank you, Dr. A!