By John Rodgers
When I signed up for the ABA’s Camp Colorado, I was venturing into new territory—I had never gone to a camp like this before, and I had no idea what to expect. It turned out that I had made an exceptional choice. I really enjoyed every day I was there. Not only did I learn an incredible amount about birds but I also befriended young birders my age, became more interested in birding as a whole, and grew as a person because of this experience.
Our base camp was at the Catamount Institute close to Colorado Springs. Each day, we drove to surrounding locations. The places we went to and things we learned were many and varied. On the first day, for example, we went birding near a small pond in the morning, and in the afternoon we learned about wildfire ecology and trekked through a forest. Later in the week, I found myself hiking up a snowy mountain, looking for rosy finches while being pelted by an unexpected hailstorm. This was followed by a day at the bottom of a cliff face at Garden of the Gods, under a clear sky, watching Prairie Falcons soar above me. Sometimes after a trip there were arranged events, such as a guest speaker on bird calls, an evening owling trip, a lesson on bird sketching by the caretaker of the Catamount Institute, and others that made the camp experience even richer.
My personal favorite day was going Chico Basin Ranch, where I literally saw one lifer after another. Everywhere I went on the ranch, birds that I had never seen before appeared. So far, that has been one of the best and most memorable days of my birding life. Because we explored the many biomes that Colorado has to offer, I ended up seeing over 150 different bird species, as well as developing a stronger appreciation for nature.
Of course, this couldn’t have been possible without the great people at Camp Colorado. It was led by three instructors, Chip Clouse, Bill Schmoker, and Jennie Duberstein, who made everything fun and enjoyable. Their knowledge about so many different things definitely enhanced my experience at camp. Bird calls, photography, fun camp activities—these counselors knew it all. In addition to that, I met other birders my age from all around the country and beyond. The great thing was that no matter where we had come from, we all shared a strong passion for birding and adventure. This went hand in hand with creating lasting memories. One morning three campers and I woke up early to bird by a nearby pond. Though we didn’t see many of our feathered friends, we did see a massive black bear on the other side of the water! Throughout my week in Colorado, I had similar experiences with all the campers that developed friendships which still exist; I keep in touch with everyone on Facebook.
Because of Camp Colorado, I am now a more educated and avid birder. Before going to Colorado, I did not see the importance of learning bird calls. But now, because I learned about this major aspect of birding at camp, I can identify birds more quickly and appreciate them even more. The things that I learned and experienced have inspired me to keep progressing in this hobby. All in all, I had a great time at camp, from making new friends to learning lots of things and becoming a better birder.
About the author: John Rodgers is 14 years old and lives in Southern California. He became interested in birds at an early age—a hobby he shares with his paternal grandparents and aunt, Caroline. Because of this pastime, he enjoys traveling as well. His favorite bird is the Reddish Egret. John attended the ABA’s Camp Colorado in June.