In honor of Earth Day (and a really neat post), Team Pickle would like to present the following essay by Zoe McCormick. It was originally published on this blog in 2013.
My parents often tell the story about when I was four years old and they put up a hummingbird feeder. The first time I saw a hummingbird at the feeder I got so excited that I talked nonstop for over an hour about it. I talked so fast, nonstop, for so long, that my parents began to worry that there might be something wrong with me. They worried that I might be crazy. They were right. I am crazy—crazy about birds.
After seeing the hummingbird at the feeder, I insisted that my parents get some books about hummingbirds. I wanted to do research on hummingbirds so I could figure out what kind of hummers we had at our feeder, and learn everything that I could learn about hummers. Ten years later, I am still crazy about birds.
When I was nine, I joined 4-H because I realized that if I did the poultry project, I could talk my parents into getting me a chicken. When I was twelve, my grandmother took me to sit by the lake on her ranch. She brought a bird field guide and binoculars and we spent the afternoon identifying birds. For some reason, I loved seeing a bird and being able to look in the field guide, identify the bird, and learn all about it. Ever since then, I have carried a field guide and binoculars with me almost everywhere I go, and continue to work on bird identification.
Bird identification is an important scientific tool. Bird identification helps ornithologists (scientists who study birds) learn about the health of bird populations as a whole. Bird populations tell us about the health of our planet. Birds are the canary in the coalmine when it comes to climate change. Scientists who study birds are finding dramatic changes in bird populations. Birds are showing up where they are not supposed to be for a lot of reasons. Sometimes, because of climate change, the food they depend on is scarce, and birds have to leave their normal territory to look for food. All birds depend on water for their survival. When we destroy wetlands and dam rivers, we are destroying the water supply and habitat that birds need for survival. The thing is that it’s not just about the birds. We people need a healthy planet to survive, too.
I go birding every chance I get. I enter the birds I see in eBird, a huge online database of bird sightings from all over the world. Scientists use the data from eBird for various studies. I also work with other birders doing data collection. I enjoy meeting other birders and learning from them. I have been working on Waterbird surveys with the Richardson Bay Audubon Center. When my family travels, I do research on the birds in the area that we will be visiting, and plan where we will go birding.
There are not a lot of kids who are interested in birding. I sometimes wish there were other kids to go birding with, but the most important thing for me is to be doing something that I am passionate about.
What are you passionate about? How did your parents encourage your passion in a particular field? What are you doing to encourage your kids? Tell us in the comments section!