“Look! Cooper’s Hawk!” The group of children, teens, and adults swiveled to find a small, striped hawk perched in a tree, deterring songbirds from using the bird feeder they were so eagerly monitoring.
Led by Jeremy Spool, a Massachusetts birder and ornithologist, the socially distanced team was watching the new feeders at the Holyoke Boys and Girls Club, hoping for a songbird or woodpecker to make an appearance. Their efforts to tally birds on this cold December morning were part of the annual Springfield Christmas Bird Count.
In partnership with the Eagle Eye Institute and the Holyoke Boys and Girls Club, this outing was one of the first official events of the revitalized Massachusetts Young Birders Club (MYBC) with Manomet as its parent organization. Spool, who studies bird neuroscience and behavior at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst (UMass Amherst), is one of three co-coordinators for the club and a lifelong birder.
“For me as a kid, birding was a gateway to connect with nature,” Spool says. “Not only is it good for physical and emotional health, but life on this planet is facing some extreme challenges, and it’s important that people of all generations get to experience first-hand what nature has to offer.
The global community of birders is diverse and growing incredibly fast, with people of all ages and backgrounds discovering birding during the pandemic. But often, younger birders feel alone in their hobby and wish to connect with their peers.
“Being a young birder can be isolating,” says Evan Lipton, co-founder of the original MYBC. “Especially when other kids around you aren’t into it and most other birders are at least three times your age.”
Some young people who have an untapped passion for birds and nature don’t have regular access to the outdoors or don’t have friends and mentors that can share knowledge and enthusiasm about birding. With a guiding principle of ‘birding is for everyone,’ the MYBC aims to provide a place for young people of all backgrounds to discover and share a new passion alongside a community of their peers.