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2011 Birder of the Year

A park ranger shares her passion for birds and receives a trip to Costa Rica.

BirdChannel News Division

In each November/December issue, WildBird readers crown one of their peers as Birder of the Year. The candidates appear as Forum Birders and Backyard Birders in each issue throughout the year. The contest is open to everyone who responds to the questions posed in the Birder’s Back Yard and Lister’s Forum departments in the magazine.

As 2011 Birder of the Year, Bonnie Clarfield-Bylin will receive a Swarovski 8x32 EL binocular and an expenses-paid five-day trip for two to Costa Rica with Swarovski Optik and WildBird hosts. She previously received a Swarovski gift pack and books from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt when she was named Backyard Birder in the July/August issue.

We’re pleased to introduce Bonnie Clarfield-Bylin, WildBird’s 2011 Birder of the Year!

Bonnie Clarfield-Bylin

Date and place of birth:
July 1959 in Long Island, N.Y.
Home: Thousand Oaks, Calif.

Occupation: district ranger, Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, National Park Service
Educational background: graduate of Stockton State College in Pomona, N.J., with a degree in environmental science

Marital status: married 20 years to Stephen Bylin
Children: Sage, Laurel and Skyler

Favorite time of day: sunset
Favorite author: Tony Hillerman
Favorite book:  "The Lorax” by Dr. Seuss; "Insects of the Los Angeles Basin” by Charles L. Hogue

Favorite nonbirding magazine: "National Geographic”
Favorite movies: "Dances with Wolves,” "Avatar,” "The Sixth Sense,” "King of Hearts,” "Like Water for Chocolate” and. most recently, "The Big Year”
Favorite television show: "Modern Family”

Favorite website:
 Wildflowers of the Santa Monica Mountains
Nonbirding hobbies: family, native gardening, health and fitness, hiking, music, reading, nature study 

Pet peeve: people who litter
Most prized possession: family photos; they are invaluable and elicit fond memories.

Favorite famous quote: "Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.” - John Muir


Year you started birding:
1967 as a curious child, 1977 with specific intent
Who got you started in birding: a college friend and shortly thereafter, my dedicated ornithology professors, Martha and Mark Pokras

Number of birds on current life list: 438+/-
Number of North American birds on life list: 408 +/-

Other lists you keep: I am not a committed lister. Over the years, I have left tick marks in field guides and on checklists for birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, insects, trees, and flowers. 
Most memorable sighting: A Wood Stork flew across the highway in front of my truck when I was en route to Everglades National Park in Florida for a seasonal job.

Rarest bird on your list: California Condors soaring over California’s Sespe Wilderness
Hardest-to-get bird on your list: Resplendent Quetzal in Guatemala

Most unusual backyard bird: Scissor-tailed Flycatcher in April 1994. The Zuma Canyon Trailhead in the Santa Monica Mountains was literally my back yard when I lived in park housing; the flycatcher remained for three days before leaving.
Favorite feeder and food: It is a toss-up between a large, mesh, shelled peanut feeder filled with unshelled peanuts and a hanging platform feeder with black-oil sunflower seeds.

Greatest birding adventure: birding from the top of the pyramids in Tikal National Park in Guatemala
Birding idol: Peter Thayer. Through his incredible computer software, he has indirectly mentored a multitude of birders, including me, since the release of his first version in the mid-1990s. 

Favorite conservation organizations: The Nature Conservancy, The Trust for Public Land, and National Wildlife Federation.
Favorite birding companions: my husband, Stephen, and my son, Skyler

Favorite place to bird: My back yard or at work
Favorite binocular: Swarovski 8x10 pocket binoculars. They are compact with quality optics, and they are always with me.

Favorite field guide: "Birds of North America” by Kenn Kaufman, but I also like and regularly use the National Geographic, Golden and Sibley guides.
Most valuable birding reference in your library: Thayer’s Birding Software, Guide to Birds of North America, Version 3.9

Most memorable birding moment: While working as a volunteer at the Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge in Georgia, I assisted with a Red-cockaded Woodpecker survey and observed two active nests.
Short-term goal in birding: pelagic birding in California’s Channel Islands National Park
Long-term goal in birding: to work abroad as a volunteer on a bird conservation project

Why you enjoy watching birds: I find them beautiful and entertaining, but more importantly, they reflect the health of our environment. I feel at peace when I am surrounded by birds and nature.
Advice for birders: Let birds and other natural resources "speak” for themselves. Be still, observe, and gather data; you can study the field guides later.


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Posted: February 6, 2012, 12:00 a.m. PDT

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