Nicholas Earnhart, who lives in Costa Mesa, California, is a ninth grader at Newport Harbor High School in Newport Beach, California. Meeting Jon Dunn on an Orange County pelagic trip in October of 2021 and learning about WFO’s student programs prompted him to become a member.
Fast-forward to 2023: Nicholas and WFO Board member Teresa Connell are working together to create a podcast called “The Word Is Bird” for WFO. The first phase is a series of interviews with students to introduce the next generation of birders to WFO. The project will expand into video podcasts and webinars for all ages and levels of experience. Look for “The Bird Is Word” this spring.
In the meantime, get to know Nicholas.
How long have you been birding?
I have been birding for a little over two years now. It started when a Cooper’s Hawk flew into a tree in my backyard in Chicago, where I lived until I was 13. I then started going on local Audubon bird walks. After moving to California, I truly started birding.
What drew you to be interested in birds?
I hate to be clichéd by saying this, but part of what fascinates me about birds is their freedom. As someone who depends on two other people for close to everything in life, I aspire to freedom. Birds can take off flying (not to mention the fact that they can fly) and not stop until they need to get food. Crossing over borders, mountains, oceans, all without trains, planes, cars, passports, airport security. Complete, untamed freedom!
What are your favorite places to bird?
My favorites are Upper Newport Bay and Bolsa Chica, with my favorite being Newport Pier. I enjoy Newport Pier, because I can spend four or five hours birding, with about 5 percent of the time spent looking at birds and the other 95 percent talking to the others I’m birding with. My favorite birds are shorebirds and seabirds. And whenever I am not birding, you can find me surfing, cooking, or playing guitar.
How would you describe “The Word Is Bird,” and how did you decide to get involved?
“The Word Is Bird” is an online audio podcast focusing primarily on bridging the gap between young birders and adults. Each episode will contain an interview, discussion of bird news, current events, the WFO conference, and recent papers in Western Birds.
I first came up with this idea after meeting Teresa Connell on a puffin chase pelagic (without any puffins) in May of 2022. The pelagic was fairly short so afterward several of us headed to a park where there had been a few rarities. She told me that her primary goal as a WFO board member is to focus on bridging the gap between young birders and adults and asked me about any ideas I might have. We set plans to talk again at the WFO conference in September. I told her about how a podcast would be a good medium to spread this information.
What conference activities did you like?
All of them! I obviously enjoyed the field trips, but the presentations and keynotes were amazing, and everyone loves the bird ID challenges!
Do you have any advice for young people like yourself who want to get involved in birding?
Get out as much and as often as you can, and build a community. Whenever you’re out, make a point of spending a few minutes with some of the more well-known birders in your area to build a reputation in your community. This will help you immensely!