Interview with Young Albertan Birder Ethan

Posted by Charlotte Wasylik, aka Prairie Birder:

For my post this month, I’m interviewing another young birder, Ethan from Alberta. I briefly met Ethan and his dad last year at the Edmonton Nature Club’s Tofield Snow Goose Chase, but unfortunately we didn’t have much time to talk, so we’ve been getting to know each other online instead.

PB: Tell us a little bit about yourself, please.

Ethan: I am a 10-year-old boy with three main interests – birds, books, and soccer. I am a committed birder – for life! I have a blog about birds (BirdBoy) and a younger brother and sister. We live in a mountain town in Alberta.

Photo provided by Ethan

Photo provided by Ethan

PB: When and how did you first become interested in birding?

Ethan: I was in Kindergarten, aged five. My school was running a “Bird Bonanza” – we all got a sheet with 12 bird species (pictures and names) and we had to try and find them. All could be found locally, but some weren’t easy. I found 17 species (not all 12 on the sheet, though).

Soon after that, we visited my grandparents in Ontario, in summer. We’re not allowed feeders in summer where we live, but they are and I started watching the birds there and trying to identify them. I also kept a list of what I saw. Some of the highlights were Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Northern Cardinal, Baltimore Oriole, and more. From then on I was hooked.

PB:  You have birded in the UK. How is birding in Alberta different?

Ethan: Difficult question! To start, the climate is very different – a moist, temperate climate in the UK, and a colder, drier climate here. As it’s an island, there’s a lot of seaside birding there.

Alberta is a bigger, less populated landscape – and more varied than I’ve experienced in the UK – with lots of space for wildlife. There are more lakes and sloughs here. Because of these differences, there are lots of different birds.

However, it’s very fun to look up Latin names and find birds that are the same in England and Alberta, but with different common names. For instance: Willow Tit (UK) is Black-capped Chickadee (CAN), Carolina Duck (UK) is Wood Duck (CAN), and Black-throated Diver (UK) is Pacific Loon (CAN).

PB: Are you hoping to see a specific species(s) this spring or summer?

Ethan: Definitely! My Dad just saw a Northern Pygmy Owl and I really want to see it too. I never have.

I’d also love to see and identify a Clark’s Grebe. I’ve seen lots of Western Grebes, but never a Clark’s for sure.

A Black-capped Chickadee, photograph by Ethan from his blog, Bird Boy

A Black-capped Chickadee, photograph by Ethan from his blog, Bird Boy

PB: Have you birded anywhere else in Canada?

Ethan: Yes. I mentioned Ontario already – both Eastern Ontario and Muskoka, where I saw Blackburnian Warblers and River Otters; also a Green Heron.

Also in BC – we took a two-week family camping trip out to Vancouver Island. Lots of different birds including different gulls (Western and Glaucous-winged) and guillemots.

PB: What is your most memorable birding experience?

Ethan: I was tracking an American Three-toed Woodpecker over multiple outings. We saw signs often and other people saw the birds, but I kept missing it. It became my Nemesis bird. Then one Sunday morning we made a quick stop to look again – and 20 minutes into our 10-minute stop, I finally saw it! I was really happy.

PB: What is your favorite bird or bird species?

Ethan: I’m going to stretch the question a little, because I love Falcons – several species. My favourites include Peregrine, Aplomado, and Red-footed, though of those I’ve only seen the Peregrine in the wild.

PB: Where is your favorite place to go birding?

Ethan: I don’t have one favourite, but I’m always excited to go to Weed Lake and Frank Lake in Southern Alberta, especially in spring and early summer.

PB: Do you have a favorite field guide(s)?

Ethan: The favourite that I own is the National Geographic Field Guide to Birds of North America (5th Edition). I find it’s a good source of information, and the drawings of birds are well-done and good for identification. I also like the thumb-tabs taking you quickly to different groups of birds, e.g. Hawks and Sandpipers.

PB: Your blog and the photos are wonderful. What made you start Bird Boy?

Ethan: I got it as a Christmas present from my honorary Uncle Paul! I’d thought about it a bit before that, but didn’t really know how to start. He set up the blog site and has helped me add new interesting things like BirdTrax.

I also had been reading Prairie Birder and the Alberta Birds Facebook page, and so you encouraged my interest in blogging!

A Pileated Woodpecker, photograph by Ethan from his blog, Bird Boy

A Pileated Woodpecker, photograph by Ethan from his blog, Bird Boy

About Charlotte Wasylik

Charlotte Wasylik is a young birder who lives on a farm in northeastern Alberta. She was delighted to be selected for a monthlong Young Ornithologists’ Internship at the Long Point Bird Observatory in Ontario in August-September, to help with fall migration monitoring. Charlotte’s blog is Prairie Birder, and you can also find her at the Facebook group she started last year, Alberta Birds, which welcomes all birders, bird lovers, and nature photographers.

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