I became interested in birds when I was four because my mother volunteered with the local Audubon, but I wasn't really serious about it until six or seven years ago, due to experiencing fall migration on the California coast.
I attended session II of the ABA's Camp Colorado this year because I had already been to Camp Avocet in Delaware and I knew the quality of the ABA camps: I knew I wanted to learn more from this incredible organization.
The entire camp was just one continuously good experience for me, and I would say a huge part of camp experience is about the people. As much as I loved seeing ptarmigan, woodpeckers, and longspurs, it is really immensely important to me additionally to connect with other young birders and to learn from leaders with years and years of experience. Now for my three favorite things; I used two of these at camp when we shared our experiences, and I led up to it by observing that, while I wasn't getting that many lifers, my friends from the east were getting lifers left and right, and each lifer for a friend was like getting it again for me. These three small experiences to me sum up the overall camp experience. A) While at Wild Basin, it was raining. We saw black swifts in the parking lot, which was a lifer for many, and, despite many people being very ill prepared for rain, we still walked the trails. Birdwise, there wasn't much, but there was something else: moose. A young male, a female, and her calf, extremely close. They were enormous, but what I'll remember most was sharing this with my friend. He looked at me and smiled, showing all the awe, happiness, and wonder that coursed through all of us. To share that with someone... you can't put a price on that. B) The last full day, after birding around the YMCA all afternoon with a couple other young birders, we were about to head inside for the afternoon session, when we spotted a pygmy nuthatch flycatching. They aren't really supposed to do that, so it was failing pretty miserably, and it was hilarious. The three of us just started laughing. Not a word was spoken. Not a word needed to be said. C) At the end of the Pawnee day, a very long day, we still wanted to bird. We had to wait until after the downpour though. The earth was still draining the water from the downpour, so our feet got very wet. Somehow, my friend and I decided we would just sit in some chairs and wait for a goshawk to fly over (we failed to see one throughout the camp, so it became a running joke). We knew full well we would not see one, but we maintained artificial optimism. I didn't need a goshawk; to sit in the growing darkness with a good friend, scanning the skies for goshawks is more than I could ever dare to ask for.
I think the most surprising thing to me was how quickly I could make friends. I'm not particularly outgoing (normally quite the opposite), but I grew close enough to my new friends in just a week that it felt like I had known them for years. Having a common interest really helps, but the kids at this camp really were extraordinarily special. Some of the friendships I made that week will last a very long time.
At this point, I'm not entirely sure what direction my career will take, but I know that birds will always be a huge part of my life, and possibly my livelihood. I think my experiences at camp have shown me steps I can take to become a better birder, observer, and person in general. I am deeply indebted to the CVBC for giving me this opportunity to learn and improve myself that has and will continue to shape my life and who I am.