This year Iowa Young Birders offered our first scholarships to attend one of the American Birding Association Young Birder Camps in either Delaware or Colorado. Applications were due April 1 and we are pleased to announce our second scholarship awardee for 2015, Walt Wagner-Hecht of Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
Walt, age 16, is a member of Iowa Young Birders and has taken part in more than 30 of our field trips. He also volunteers to track all of our field trip checklists in eBird. He is registered to attend the ABA’s Camp Avocet in Delaware this coming August. Iowa Young Birders will make a $500 award toward Walt's camp tuition. If a scholarship winner is not able to attend their camp of choice, Iowa Young Birders will award him or her with a three-year student membership in the American Birding Association.
Each scholarship applicant is required to submit an essay describing his or her most memorable Iowa birding experience and how it has changed their thoughts, ideas, or outlook on conservation.
Here is Walt’s essay:
Last week I went birding at our family’s cabin in Washington County. As soon as we arrived at the cabin, I put on my jacket, boots, and binoculars and began my search for woodcocks. It was still a bit early for them to be displaying, but that would give me time to find an area of good habitat. I decided that the best area to see woodcocks would probably be the large central prairie bordered on one side by the riverine forest of Long Creek and on the other by a forest of white pine. As I climbed a prairie hill towards the pine forest I disturbed a flock of pheasants and noticed savannah sparrows popping in and out of the grasses.
I arrived at the prairie in time to see a gigantic flock of robins gathering before flying over to the marsh to roost. As they arrived, my presence disturbed a pair of Canada geese, who began honking continually for half an hour. I sat down to calm the birds and looked out over the prairie. As the sky darkened, the frogs began to croak and a great horned owl in the pine forest hooted. It was almost time for the woodcocks to begin displaying.
I positioned myself in an area of burnt prairie between two large grassy areas. Suddenly a highpitched twittering sound echoed down from the sky. I knew that the woodcocks had begun their dance.
A minute later, a “peent” coming from the grass below preceded another flying leap into the air. This time I had my binoculars ready, and followed the woodcock as he spiraled into the air then fell back to the ground. Soon, there were multiple birds peenting at the same time. I sat in wonder for a while before realizing that my mom would probably want me back at the cabin soon. I walked back down the prairie hill trail towards the cabin as the woodcocks continued to fly and sing. I counted seven woodcocks in total before saying goodbye and taking off my binoculars on the cabin shelf.
Coming to one of the Wagner farms is always fun and there are plenty of opportunities for birding. Whenever I come, I remember that this was only here because my family worked to restore the forests, prairies, and wetlands that were once here. I think about what I could do to help protect birds and their habitats, and how when I’m older I can help keep places like these full of amazing wildlife.
For more information about the Iowa Young Birders Camp Scholarships including how your support can helps us encourage more young birders like Walt, click here.