By Kerry Wilcox
Sanctuary Manager, Richardson Bay Audubon Center & Sanctuary
When you think of birders, how do you usually picture them? Do you normally think of a retired person with time and money to travel the world looking at rare and unusual birds? Maybe you think of a seasoned biologist that is studying the nesting behavior of toucans in the Amazon? Or do you think of a 14 year-old girl who is enrolled in the Master Birder Program at the California Academy of Sciences; learning about birds on trips and camps in the Sierra Nevada, Alaska, and Delaware; and attending the Western Field Ornithologists (WFO) Conference in Washington?
Zoe McCormick is that girl! Her interest in birds started when she was just four years-old. Her family had just put up a hummingbird feeder and as soon as the first bird arrived, she was hooked! Her mom, Alexandra, says that she talked non-stop about it for an hour straight and asked for books on hummingbirds so that she could identify them.
When she was nine, she joined 4H inspired, in part, by the idea that she could have a real, live chicken!
In 2012, Zoe started volunteering with the Richardson Bay Audubon Center & Sanctuary’s waterbird and shorebird surveys, taking down data with other volunteers and helping to count rafts of birds.
When she found out about the WFO conference, it didn’t take her long to decide she wanted to attend. At the time she was taking an ornithology class at City College in San Francisco and the instructor Joe Morlan encouraged her to apply for a youth scholarship. As a result, she was awarded a Pasadena Audubon/WFO scholarship covering her complete expenses at the conference, including food, lodging and activities such as a full day field trip to Mt. Ranier. The conference takes place between August 22-25, and Zoe couldn’t be more excited.
Zoe is an inspiration to all of us birders and an encouraging example of the new generation of young birders and ornithologists out there, ready to take the reins, learn new information and create new conservation opportunities.