At the mic: Chloe Walker
Chloe Walker is a 14 year-old , homeschooled birder from Tennessee. She has been birding for nearly four years now. Chloe’s favorite birds are among the most challenging: gulls, sparrows, shorebirds, and especially tubenoses! You can read about her birding adventures on her blog


So you did it. You completed your work for the 2015 ABA Young Birder of the Year Contest. Now what? You’re likely a little over-anxious to see the results. But relax. Enjoy your time outside the contest period.
While you’re waiting, get involved with “Citizen Science” activities. Christmas Bird Counts are at their peak as I write, and if you have never participated, I strongly recommend that you do! Not only is it a fun day of birding but it can even be a fantastic learning experience. Also, the Great Backyard Bird Count is just around the corner. Scheduled for February 13-16, 2015, this four-day count is as simple as tallying all the birds that you see for at least fifteen minutes. More information can be found here.

Every bird, including this Merlin, counts for "citizen science." (Photo by Chloe Walker)

Every bird, including this Merlin, counts for “citizen science.” (Photo by Chloe Walker)

Many of you likely saw Aidan Place’s excellent post “Nine Tips for Leading Bird Walks” here on The Eyrie. If you are interested in leading a field trip for your local Audubon chapter or ornithological society, why not ask to do so now? Leading a hike is an excellent experience and an easy way to take your mind off your eagerness to see the contest results.
The majority of those reading this post have probably heard of or used eBird – the unmatched, online checklist database. Despite the incredible amount of data already contributed to this site, there are still lots of gaps in species information in certain areas. How fun would it be to do a little birding foray and try to collect data for these roads-less-birded?! To me, hands down, it would be awesome! This would not only be a great method to fill up time but also a fantastic way to help scientists, conservationists, and ornithologists learn more about species occurrences. And speaking of conservation…
Start your own conservation project, or, if possible, continue the one you conducted during the contest. An easy project that could be done in any season is creating a bird-friendly habitat in your own backyard. Build a brush pile; maintain a safe, clean, bird-feeding station; clean out nestboxes; and so on. Other conservation projects might include: giving educational and inspirational presentations to the public; setting up a bird-feeding station at a local park; or even starting a young birders club. The possibilities are endless when it comes to conservation.
I find reading bird-related books the best solution for my impatience. Of course, I love reading books in general. The most worn books in my “library” are Petrels, Albatrosses & Storm-Petrels of North America by Steve N.G. Howell; The Shorebird Guide by Michael O’Brien et al.; David Allen Sibley’s Birding Basics; and several other identification guides. There are also many wonderful books containing birders’ adventures. One of the more well-known tales is the renowned Kingbird Highway, authored by Kenn Kaufman. By reading, you gain knowledge, and this will benefit you greatly in the future.
Also, why not prepare for next year’s contest? Although your most helpful and effective advice will come from the judges’ comments, reviewing the works of past winners can provide inspiration. Why did the judges admire this essay? What is it about this illustration that they favor? Careful preparation will certainly bring success.
Lastly, as I mentioned in the first paragraph, just relax. After much hard work throughout the summer, you deserve a break! Share your experience in the contest with others. Take a shot at tackling gull ID. Go pick up a lifer or two! No matter the outcome, applaud yourself for your dedication and perseverance, and strive to do even better next year.