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Contest-winning adult essay: By touch and by ear

Essay-contest winner Stephen Bouffard, Boise, Idaho.
Essay-contest winner Stephen Bouffard, Boise, Idaho.

Young birder Marcel Such, of Lyons, Colorado, and retired refuge manager Stephen Bouffard, of Boise, Idaho (above), will soon be birding with new binoculars.

Leica Trinovid 42 binocular.
Leica Trinovid 42 binocular.

They’re the winners of the essay contest we announced with Leica Sport Optics in our June issue. Looking to celebrate young birders, we asked birders age 21 or younger to write an essay about a memorable birding experience with an adult mentor, and we asked adult birders to describe an experience mentoring one or more young birders. We announced the winners in “Your View” in our October 2014 issue.

Such, 18, wrote about a neighbor who took him on a real snipe hunt and then became his mentor. Bouffard, 64, described the impact of a “feel and tell” encounter with elementary students from the Idaho School for the Deaf and Blind.

Bouffard’s prize is a new Leica Trinovid 42 binocular. Such also wins a Leica Trinovid 42, and what a prize it is! It was the same Trinovid used throughout 2013 by Kenn Kaufman, Pete Dunne, Victor Emanuel, and other expert birders, including Neil Hayward, who used it to break the ABA Big Year record. It’s lucky Leica Trinovid 42 Binocular No. 2002069 — the Traveling Trinovid!

Read the winning youth essay by Marcel Such.

By touch and by ear
By Stephen Bouffard, 64, Boise, Idaho

“MOM, MOM, this bird is bigger than me,” yelled the little boy, holding an American White Pelican wing. He was the smallest of 15 visually impaired elementary students from the Idaho School for the Deaf and Blind on a birding trip to Minidoka National Wildlife Refuge. The noise level grew during the “feel and tell” session, when several volunteers took study skins, wings, feet, and beaks to each student.

How do you comprehend how birds are built, how big they are, or the elegance of bird wings going from an open airfoil to compactly folded if you can’t see them? These kids did it by touch.

The excitement level was high; we had difficulty getting them out of the classroom. We finally broke into two groups and hit the paved trails in Lake Walcott State Park to bird by ear, winding through tall cottonwoods and willow riparian areas. We heard robins, orioles, wood-pewees, Yellow Warblers, Song Sparrows, several swallows, goldfinches, gulls, terns, and Western Grebes. We even heard non-vocal sounds, such as whistling Mourning Dove wings. We had a decent bird list by the end of the morning.

In that short time, some students learned to recognize several species by sound. They smelled the flowers and felt the texture of leaves and tree bark. For many, this was their first nature walk ever. As a group, visually impaired people are among the most sedentary, but they needn’t be. With a little help from friends and family, they can enjoy nature as much as anyone. The excited chatter continued through the picnic lunch and bus ride home. All in all, it was one of the most rewarding days on the job. — Stephen Bouffard, 64, retired manager of Minidoka NWR, Boise, Idaho

Read the winning youth essay by Marcel Such.

On the Traveling Trinovid Blog, learn who birded with the Traveling Trinovid last year and what birds they saw, and follow Athena, a Leica 7×42 Ultravid HD, as it travels the globe in search of birds in 2014.

Stephen Bouffard’s winning essay appeared in “Your View” in the October 2014 issue of BirdWatching. Subscribe.


Originally Published

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