How long have you been volunteering with HawkWatch International?
This will be our 6th year!
How did you get started volunteering with HWI?
I was looking for volunteer opportunities I could do with my son. When we saw that we could monitor nest boxes for the smallest falcons in North America, we knew this would be the perfect job for us!
What is your “spark bird?”
Liz: I can’t think of one specific bird, but I have fond memories of birding with my dad when he was a Park Ranger. I have one memory of sneaking down to the Hudson River in the cold winter to see a flock of Canada Geese or swans and being lucky enough to observe them for what seemed like hours. Currently, I am enthralled by Bald Eagles. I also always enjoy the magical zen-like moments when the Pelicans fly above me and could spend the entire day watching the dainty Juncos in my backyard.
Dylan: My spark bird is the Peregrine Falcon! I remember watching nature shows on tv like Wild Kratts where they talked about the incredible speed of the Peregrine Falcon, but it wasn’t until I saw them in my city that I became enamored by birds. Seeing how they adapted to big city life was really intriguing and it made me wonder what other adaptations animals could have. It seems like every day I learn something new about animals, whether it's the existence of a Spider-tailed Viper, a flightless parrot, or yet another cool fact about corvids.
What do you do outside of volunteering for HWI?
Dylan: I love chess, video games, studying zoology, and learning languages. I am excited to graduate high school in a few months and head to college at the University of Utah. Since I was nine I have enjoyed volunteering and educating the public about the natural world. This is entirely due to the fact that my awesome mom introduced me to the endless beauty and wonder that can be found everywhere in nature.
Liz: I am currently the Bookstore Manager at Westminster College. I enjoy being outside as much as possible and love hiking, birding, botany, snowshoeing, foraging, and exploring. I am also an avid volunteer for a variety of great organizations and am always on the lookout for fun and exciting opportunities for her family.
We are both certified master naturalists in the mountain climate from Utah State University. We have led Wildflower, Snowshoe, and fall kids watershed hikes since Dylan was 9. We also love traveling and are looking forward to the Red Cliffs Bird Fest.
What is your favorite moment from volunteering?
Liz: Was it the first incredible banding of the kestrels with Jesse? Was it helping Mike hang our own boxes on our Westside? Was it meeting all of the amazing staff and interns? Was it a bonus Screech Owl? Is it the way Dylan always makes a funny face at the beginning of every recording? No—it was our nemesis box. Where we walked amongst the horses and I seriously had a staredown with the 3 guard llamas and heard the lead llama hissing at me, and I pictured in my mind us being chased out, but I knew we were safe in the fact that we had a tall yellow pole. It always makes me laugh to picture us having to fend off the defenders of our kestrel box, the mighty llamas!
Dylan: My favorite moments volunteering are the unexpected appearances, like seeing a snake on the ground under a box, a pelican in the distance, or a Western Screech-owl holed up in one of our boxes. These just add even more fun to an already enjoyable time outside.
Why should people care about conserving raptors?
How can we not care about raptors? Watching the changes on the west side of the Salt Lake valley, with all the human development, is worrisome for this species. We have truly learned so much from HawkWatch International including the hope that raptors will continue to adapt.
Sidebar- how can people show they care? Show up. Volunteer. Learn. And share that knowledge and passion. Participate. Not surprising, but I feel we get so much more out of volunteering than what we put in. There are so many amazing Community Science opportunities in Utah! It has been an honor and a joy to watch HWI grow.