Meet Dagny, a member of Mount Diablo Audubon’s Young Birders Club

The Young Birders Club is dedicated to all things birding, by and for young people. Dagny is one of the founding members of the club and shares how she became interested in birds.

Dagny and Mia prepare to feed an American Kestrel held by Lindsay trainer, Brittany Buenvenida. Photo: Tracy Farrington

In June 2013, the Mount Diablo Audubon Society created a Young Birders Club dedicated to all things birding, by and for young people. The club, led by Mount Diablo board member Tracy Farrington, meets regularly for field trips in the East Bay and surrounding area. Through the club, young birders meet peers who share their enthusiasm about birds and are excited to learn about bird behavior, field identification marks, and citizen science. For the past two years, the Young Birders Club has participated in the Christmas Bird Count by surveying Heather Farm Park as part of the Central Costa County count circle.

Dagny has been with the Young Birders Club since the beginning, and was one of the reasons Mount Diablo Audubon’s President Jimm Edgar wanted to create a Young Birders Club. Jimm saw that there were not many opportunities for young birders like Dagny to participate in bird walks in the East Bay, and recruited Tracy to form the club.

The Mount Diablo Audubon board asked Dagny to describe how she got into birding, and what inspires her to protect and care for birds. Here’s what she had to say:

"My interest in birds began when I was very, very young because we always kept a flock of backyard chickens. Even though my parents had horses, I was actually much more in love with my chickens and the baby chicks. My mom remembers me reaching into the cage and they would peck my hands until I cried, but then I would just do it again.

I expanded into wild birds with backyard feeders, and then one fateful day I saw a Sharp Shinned Hawk take a mother house sparrow off a nest. The next day, I found one of the babies hiding, and we took it to the Lindsay Wildlife Hospital. I just felt so good about helping that baby sparrow I wanted to do it more and more. That was around the time I first decided I wanted to become an Ornithologist and go to Cornell University School of Ornithology – except that because I was only about 6 yrs old, for at least a year I kept telling people I wanted to be a “Bird Geologist.”

Every year my life has become more and more filled with birds. I read field guides cover to cover (my favorite is Sibley’s because I feel it has the best organization and explanations), and I have spent many long hours memorizing and practicing the calls recorded in The Bird Songs Bible so that I can imitate them. I draw birds, my bedroom is full of birds, and all the teachers and kids at school call me The Bird Nerd and come to me with all of their bird questions.

My most memorable trip was in 2013 when my mom took me on a special adventure, just the two of us, to the National Aviary in Pittsburg PA. For four days she let me know there were many other cool things we could do in Pittsburg, but every morning I said “I just want to go back to the Aviary.” The staff pretty quickly realized that I was not just some annoying kid there to bother the birds, so I was privately invited back behind the scenes a few times to do some amazing things like hold an Eastern Screech Owl on my arm with a glove. I absolutely loved everything about The National Aviary; it’s so amazing that you are not just looking at the birds, but actually walking among them.

Now that I am 11, I am not sure whether I still want to become an Ornithologist, just because I am beginning to think I could do more to help birds by being an Avian Veterinarian. I started middle school last week and was really excited to discover that there is a “Bird Club”; hopefully some of those kids will want to join Young Audobon with me, and for the first time I might meet someone else my age whose favorite movie is also The Big Year!

Adults joke with me sometimes about my “eagle eyes” because it seems that almost every day, everywhere we go, I find some kind of a bird in trouble. I always tell them that it is not because my eyes are so much better; it is because I look."