A Transformative Year

This week’s blog was written by Mary G., a Bucktails alumni. Mary would like to study wildlife conservation in college and go on to become a wildlife biologist. She attended the academy because she wanted to meet wildlife biologists and learn what their jobs are like. Mary also wanted to learn about our state animal, the white-tailed deer.

2021 was a transformative year for me. I discovered amazing hobbies, learned incredible things, and got to be a part of awesome experiences. This was the year I joined eBird. I had started to watch birds at the end of 2020, but I soon discovered that there was a whole world of birds beyond my feeders. With the help of the internet and my field guide, I began to identify the unfamiliar species I saw. I also participated in some walks with experienced birders, who shared their knowledge with us beginners. Now my life list is at 79 birds (including a Great Horned Owl!!). I still have much to learn and much to see, but I’m happy with this first year of birding.

A downy woodpecker rests on the window by my bird feeders.

I also started iNaturalist this year, and this really changed my life. I had been birding for a couple of months already and then I heard about a different app where you could observe anything, not just birds. I submitted observations of everything I found: fungi at the park, spiders on my deck, deer on the road. This added up to 582 observations. By researching the species I came across, I learned more about the plants, fungi, and animals that live in my area, like tan jumping spiders, Virginia creeper, and common snapping turtles.

A tan jumping spider tries to take down a fly at my house.

Wildlife Leadership Academy had a big impact on my year, too. I learned so much from both the online and in-person classes, and also from the outreach projects I worked on. I hadn’t ever done public speaking outside of school before, but this year I led programs at the local library. Another large part of my outreach was learning. I attended events at nearby parks, where I got to hear about local history, invasive plants, and wildlife. I also enrolled in online classes about ecology and entomology.

One of my outreach presentations that I made for the library.

Before this year, I never expected to be interested in these topics. Birds were nice, and bugs were fine, but I didn’t think I would want to study them. Now I can see that wildlife is really important and really fascinating. I hope to discover even more in the coming year and to never give up on these interests.

The photos in this blog belong to the author.