Wednesday, April 7, 2010
Nikon Youth Team Program (An insider prospective)
It seems like only yesterday when I wrote my first e-mail to Paul Guris suggesting the Nikon/DVOC Lagerhead Shrikes support a youth team in the World Series of Birding. In actuality that was over 6 years ago and I was purposing something that had never been done by a youth team; bird the entire state with the hopes of breaking the 200 species mark. This was a big change in strategy since most youth teams would bird strictly in Cape May, Cumberland and Atlantic Counties. I was able to assemble an amazing team of youth birders seen front row in the picture above (left to right): Andy Bankert from Florida, myself (Zach Baer) with a little more hair than I currently have, Ross Gallardy from Western PA, and Tom Johnson who now goes to Cornell for his undergraduate studies and is a member of the Cornell Redheads, but we won’t knock him for that! It wasn’t until our 2nd year of competing in the event that we were able to finally break the 200 species mark, totaling 212 species in just 24 hours and tying the Adult Zeiss Team for 3rd place overall. Sadly, this was the last year that I could compete in the youth division; I was heading off to college in the fall.
The Nikon youth team has continued to excel bringing in new faces each year and never falling short of seeing/hearing 200 species on the Big Day. Being a part of the Nikon youth team provided me with a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I will not soon forget. Tragically, due to the struggling economy Nikon cannot sponsor a youth team for the 2010 World Series of Birding, but that will not stop these kids from competing this year! The Nikon/DVOC Lagerhead Shrikes are doing everything possible to accommodate the youth team (sharing hotel rooms, lending vehicles, paying for registration, etc.). As a former youth team member I am so thankful for the generosity shown by the Lagerhead Shrikes.