Iowa Young Birders is grateful for the leadership of our Board Members, and we want you to meet them! In the coming months, we'll interview each of these amazing folks to learn more about them and their interests! Up first - Board Chair Kathy Solko-Manternach.
Name: Kathy Solko-Manternach
Position with Iowa Young Birders: Board Chair
Current town: I live in Nevada, Iowa with my spouse Steve
Home town: Mankato, Minnesota
Kathy with grandson Jonas
What sparked your interest in birds/nature?
While growing up in Mankato, Minnesota, I often went traipsing through the woods with my dad as he hunted or just to take a walk. I was also lucky enough to spend long hours on various Minnesota lakes while growing up. We took family vacations to northern Minnesota and I was Dad’s early-morning fishing partner. I remember seeing my first eagle on one of those lakes. The north woods were the perfect venue to fall in love with the out of doors and the birds that surrounded us. In addition, Dad was an avid backyard birder and I was his partner in keeping the feeders clean and filled. Even after I left for college the various seeds and suet would be waiting so that dad and I could spend time feeding the birds and catching up. I helped him shovel through many a large snow drift to replenish the feeders.
What is your favorite bird?
My favorite bird is the Common Loon. I love the wailing call, the stark black and white coloring and their antics as they dive. I suppose that is why my favorite birding and outdoor space is near or on the water, whether that be a lake, the ocean or a river.
Do you have young birders in your family?
Grandson Ravi (13 years old), granddaughters Indira (5 years old) and Anjali (3 years old).
How did you first learn about Iowa Young Birders and do you remember your first IAYB field trip?
I first learned of IAYB through our daughter who suggested this might be a fun activity to take our grandson to. Steve and I ended up getting grandson, Ravi a membership for Christmas when he was 9 years old and we went on our first birding adventure with him in January. Even though we were on the banks of the Mississippi in a snowstorm, we had a great time counting eagles and identifying gulls. That first trip was the start of many IAYB adventures with our grandson who is now 13.
What has been your favorite IAYB trip thus far?
It is difficult pick a favorite IAYB outing because each has its own special highlights and memories. Ravi helped me spot a Burrowing Owl through a scope in the grasslands of Colorado. Funny how I thought that little owl was a lump of dirt (insert eye roll from grandson)! We all loved the cacophony of sound as the Tundra Swans gathered near Harpers Ferry. We could barely see them through the snow but we could certainly hear them. There has been many an Iowa park that we would not have visited if not for our IAYB adventures.
What motivated you to become an IAYB Board Member?
With several years of involvement in IAYB it became important to me to support the Iowa Young Birders Program whether that is through being a board member or through monetary donations. Any organization needs active member involvement to remain viable. IAYB is a program that gets kids and families outside together; meeting other kids and families while having a fun learning experience. Kids can not only learn about birds through sight and sound but we all learn about habitat and conservation as we wander over Iowa’s beautiful country side.
Why do you feel exposing kids to birds and nature is important?I believe that respect for nature is a life lesson that IAYB members begin learning at an early age. Respect for nature; respect for others in the group are life lessons that IAYB members will carry throughout their life.