Ronan Nicholson birding at Cosumnes Nature Preserve.
Ronan birding at Cosumnes River Nature Preserve at dusk.

Hi. I’m Ronan Nicholson, a fifteen-year-old birder who lives in Sacramento, California.

When I was 9, I heard a noisy bird in our backyard. When I found it, I wanted to identify it. After researching backyard birds from a book at the local library, I discovered the bird was a California Scrub-Jay. This became the ‘spark bird’ that lead to many hours of observing, drawing, and photographing almost any type of bird. 

For her birthday, my younger sister got a twenty-five dollar pair of binoculars which I used more often than she did for spotting birds near my house. After a while, the lenses got blurry from constant use, so I knew I needed a better pair, but didn’t have enough money to buy them. My dad came up with the idea to rebuild and sell ten of my lego sets on eBay. I liked the idea, and it made me just enough money to buy a used pair of Nikon Monarch 7s (10×30) for two hundred and fifty dollars.

Living in Sacramento, a California flyway for migrating birds, and a few other trips south, I now have a life list of over 350 species. I have received 3 scholarships to attend week-long bird camps in California, Colorado, and Delaware with ornithologists and top birders. I post on eBird and NatureShare a lot, logging over 700 checklists and 1500 sightings respectively. I have also started journaling my bird observations. Some interesting birding trips I have been on include birding on Christmas Day at a riparian preserve in Arizona, helping my local birding club (CVBC) identify 120 species in one day, and partaking in yearly Christmas bird counts. I have been birding in lots of different habitats. 

I have had many mentors encourage me in my pursuits. At the Central Valley Birding Club David Yee, Keith Hansen and Steve Hampton have all inspired me in my goals. Also, I had the opportunity to bird with and talk to ornithologist Noah Stryker, and David Shuford, and California Fish and Wildlife waterfowl biologist, Dan Skalos. 

With a growing interest in ornithology and bird observation, my birding skills have been pushed to the next level in the ABA’s young birder of the year contest. Through photography, drawing, journaling, and writing I look to not only participate in the contest, but to explore birdlife with a deeper understanding.