By Guest Blogger Caressa Wong
Alvaro Jaramillo, I jumped at the opportunity.
I quickly found that I was among good company. Among the attendees there was a surprisingly wide range of experience: from seasoned birders to absolute beginners. Alvaro himself was always polite and clearly loved sharing his knowledge about the birds. Sirena also helped moderate the workshop very well, making sure that everyone in the chat was heard and that everybody had access to links shared. I felt absolutely comfortable, included, and welcome. As a nonbinary person of color, this was important to me. Some birding spaces can come off as a bit elitist, or in other cases can be a bit of a “boy’s club.” That was absolutely not the case here, and so the environment was very conducive to learning!
The workshop itself was extremely well rounded, and definitely went above and beyond a field guide. There were tips and tricks passed on that field guides don’t delve into, as well as more detailed explanations of behavior and direct comparisons of similar-looking birds. The ability to directly ask questions was also extremely helpful.
To be quite honest, I think attending this workshop taught me far more than just how to identify waterfowl. It gave me tools that could be expanded to the identification of any bird. As a beginner birder, this was absolutely priceless to me. A lot of advice I had been given on bird identification was “just get out there and do it.” While that works, the workshop gave me a detailed crash course on what characteristics to look for and where. Alvaro is wonderful at explaining, and yet somehow easy to follow at the same time.
Now, when I pass a nearby lake, no longer will I pass right by these birds like I did before. I’m now privileged to be able to step into the world of waterfowl. For that, I thank the wonderful donors who contributed to the scholarship and who made this possible for me.
Caressa Wong is a biology major at Pasadena City College who plans to transfer in 2021. They have plans to pursue ornithology and currently volunteer on projects involving Western Snowy Plovers, Least Terns, and White-throated Swifts. When they’re not birdwatching, they like to spend time in the arts: photography, drawing, etc.
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