By Mary McCarthy
There is a rare group of birders on the Eastern Shore who have at least one world birding championship under their belts.
What makes them so rare? They are barely older than 10. And this year, they are trying to win back the title they last held in 2012.
Called the Eaglets, the youth team is based out of Kennard Elementary School in Centreville near the Chesapeake Bay. Jim Wilson has been coaching the team for nine years.
“I really enjoy getting kids excited about learning,” says Wilson, 64, who retired from a 33-year career in international communications security at the National Security Administration. He was always a casual birder until his son became passionate about the sport in the late 1990s, then he became more involved. His car bumper sticker says it all: “Take a Kid Birding.”
Wilson’s popular after-school birding class at Kennard has as many as 30 kids between third and fifth grade who stay after school twice a week to learn more about birding.
The highlight of the year for these young birders is the World Series of Birding, held each spring in Cape May, N.J. Hundreds of birders from around the globe gather to compete, not only for a trophy, but also bragging rights in the international bird watching community.
The competition has been going on since 1984 when there were just 13 teams and only one youth birder. Now there are more than 100 teams, including several youth divisions.