Young Ancient Murrelets
It all started when…
A few years ago, I received a request from an adult student at Petaluma Adult School to allow her 14-year-old daughter to join the class. This is how I met mother and daughter Beverly and Danielle Dube. All the other class members and I fell in love with 14-year-old Danielle immediately. Her love of birds and her expressive drawings of birds impressed us all.
This inspired me to start a birding club for youth. So, I went on a search for young people with birding interests. It didn’t take me long to find Mario Balitbit, birding with his dad and Rob O’Donnell at Bodega Bay. I ran the idea by him, and I couldn’t get a more enthusiastic response. Bill Doyle recommended Luke Campbell, who regularly came to RROS field trips, notebook in hand, writing down all observations with his grandfather, Glenn.
So, on September, 2014, we had our first youth group birding field trip at the Laguna de Santa Rosa Trail. I was a member of the Point Blue Bird-a-thon Committee at the time. I decided that Point Blue needed more youth teams and I invited Mike Parmeter to co-lead this youth team. I wanted to connect the birding generations. I also drafted Nicole Bardon to help out as she does a fantastic job through the environmental education program at Pepperwood Preserve.
We did our first Bird-a-thon as the Sonoma County Youth Team on October 25, 2014. We had 3 youths – Mario, Luke and Danielle and several adults. We had a blast that day. We saw 121 species, and raised about $500 for Point Blue Conservation Science. We were all beaming at the end of the day. One of the highlights of the day was finding Gabriel Tarantino on Bodega Head, birding with his family friend Scott Sorby. The instant we met, I wanted to just throw Gabe in the car and have him join us the rest of the day. I got his contact information instead.
On our next field trip, we added Will Anderson (recommended by Sonoma County naturalist Dave Barry) to the group. We went to Bodega Bay. While we were on Bodega Head, we all observed Ancient Murrelets. It was a life bird for all of the youth members. As we were having lunch that day, we brainstormed different names to call ourselves. Names like "Sonoma County Youth Birders" and "Passerine Penetrators" were tossed around. Then, we all settled on "Young Ancient Murrelets". It was perfect. And "YAMS" was born.
Not long after, we added Lucas Stephenson. I met Mark (Lucas’ dad) and Lucas at Ellis Creek one day while I was teaching an adult birding class. Lucas was timid at first, but curiosity overpowered his shyness and he was soon asking dozens of questions about birds, and he just had to be invited into the group.
Since then, we have added Morganna, Beatrice, Aiden, Junco, and our newest members Nolan and Clayton.
Of course, the downside of forming a youth group is that youth don’t stay "youth" forever. It’s hard to let go of YAMS members as they grow out of our group. But I am so proud of each one of them. Stay tuned in the future to meet our YAMS individually.