They started out at 5:30 a.m.
Seventeen hours, 12 stops and eight counties later, Bobby Walz and Kadynn Hatfield didn’t hit their goals, but who’s counting, anyhow?
The young birders recently staged their own Nebraska “Big Day” and set out to see at least 125 species and, in particular, a Hudsonian godwit.
That’s a large shorebird in the sandpiper family, for all of you non-birders.
“We didn’t get either of the goals, but we still had lots of fun getting 116 species,” Bobby said.
Bobby said the most interesting birds he did spot were a Wilson’s phalarope and an eared grebe. Kadynn liked the American golden plover he viewed at the Tamora Waterfowl Production Area. Horned larks and an upland sandpiper were also a surprise.
Not to mention bats, deer, coyotes, squirrels, a turtle, rabbits and a raccoon.
They birded in Douglas, Sarpy, Cass, Clay, Fillmore, Hamilton, Seward and Lancaster Counties. Spring is the best time, because birds are migrating.
One of their favorite stops was Fontenelle Forest, which Kadynn said is the perfect spot for finding breeding woodland birds and tired migrants who are passing through the area.
“Over the course of the day, we headed west to marshes, grasslands and flooded pastures, all of which have different types of birds.”
The two buddies aren’t your usual birders.
Bobby is a 12-year-old who attends Plattsmouth Middle School. Kadynn, 17, is home-schooled and lives in Silver City, Iowa. Both belong to the Iowa Young Birders.
Bobby became interested in birding after watching the blue herons in his backyard. A book about birding further fueled his passion. Kadynn said his interest in nature took flight when he stumbled across a bird website called WhatBird, where he learned about identifying the species.
“Most birders are adults, with the few young birders spread across the country, but it is becoming more and more popular each year,” Kadynn said. “Especially with websites and social media where you can keep track of all your lists and compare species and sightings with others.”
Both have big plans.
They hope to find a lot more species this summer, and Bobby hopes to go on a birding trip to Ecuador next year. Kadynn wants to explore the under-birded parks or habitat areas where birders don’t usually go.
“By exploring these new areas we can hope to find unusual bird species or to help scientists with population numbers by submitting our sightings to ebird.com,” Kadynn said.
They don’t have the same experience as older birders, but people at the Audubon Society of Omaha and the Nebraska Ornithologists’ Union have been great mentors.
“I am really lucky, because there are lots of really helpful birders that support me in birding,” Bobby said.