Paying it Forward: Summer Camp is for the Bird(er)s

CTT's staff, including President and CEO, Mike Lanzone, regularly participate in various young birder summer programs. Not only is it something they all enjoy, but it's part of the DNA of the company that's constantly pushing the envelope of what's possible in wildlife research. Maybe it makes sense, then, that they look forward to spending time with the next generation of nature enthusiasts. Read on to find out more about their exciting times!

Camp Avocet, A Shorebird Bonanza on the Delaware Bay!

In August the American Birding Association's Camp Avocet (as of 2021 Camp Delaware), which is based out of Lewes, Delaware, visits Cape May for a day or two of birding in one of America's most iconic migration hotspots. CTT's Mike Lanzone and David La Puma have often joined the ABA's Holly Merker and her group of enthusiastic young birders for their Cape May visit. Moving between the TNC's South Cape May Meadows Preserve and other points around the island, the young birders learn about CTT's work tracking birds, as well as engaging with with Mike and David on personal levels, trading birding sightings and working through the finer points of bird ID.


Part of what drives me to help out with the ABA camps is helping to inspire our next generation of leaders. I grew up in an area without many young people that were into birds or even nature. Several of the of the local birding and research organizations took me under their wing when I was a teenager, I believe that really helped shape my future. To be able to give back some of my time doing the same and to spend some time getting to know these kids is fun and rewarding for me. I enjoy being able to share my story from a young birder- to young research scientist- to entrepreneur- to CEO of a wildlife technology company. Its hopefully an inspiration to some of them, and possibly it will spur them to investigate alternate career paths that they might not even be thinking of yet. For me this redefined what was ultimately possible. Part of my message- setting high but attainable goals, not setting artificial limits in what they think is possible, dreaming big and not limiting themselves to others expectations- all of these things will hopefully help them reach beyond their expectations. The groups of teenagers at these ABA camps always impress me, they are bright, very motivated teenagers and are already headed towards great things. I can't wait till next summer to meet the next group of our future leaders!

Mike Lanzone, President and CEO 

Mike discussing bird ID in Cape May with Camp Avocet campers. Photo © Holly Merker

Way out West: Victor Emanuel's Camp Cascades

Also in August are several camps out west, including Camp Cascades in Washington State. Our Glen Davis has headed out to co-lead the long-running young birder camp by Victor Emanuel Nature Tours, in partnership with Black Swamp Bird Observatory. Glen has a long history of bird camp, having attended Camp Chiricahua (also Victor Emanuel Nature Tours) himself as a teenager, and making lifelong friends that have, among other things, competed in the World Series of Birding for over 25 years.

It's always an absolute thrill and honor to spend quality time mentoring teen birders. To see their interests, knowledge, skill sets, and friendships expand whilst in an intensive nature camp setting sends my identity as an avian biologist back to its roots as a kid birder. Sharing this experience is a valuable reminder to us all that a continuum of topics, from the arts and cultural studies to STEM-based disciplines, has a most vital role in helping to study, conserve, appreciate, and save the natural world. In the minds and actions of the youth of today lives the realization of our dreams for tomorrow. Camp Cascades is brought forth with these concepts in mind and becomes an experience where real biophilia is fulfilled. The camp is a true encounter with the Pacific Northwest: from the outer waters of the Puget Sound where seabird rookeries and coastal rain forest communities abound; to the alpine meadows of Mount Ranier and the dramatic topography of the region where denizens of an intricate array of ecosystems are sought after. Puffins, whales, seals, and migratory waterbirds fill the first half. Then in the Cascades a myriad of wildflowers, butterflies, songbirds, and raptors are a huge part of the fun! 

Glen Davis, Production Technician and Staff Biologist
Glen leading a group of young birders at Camp Cascades. Photo © Michael O'Brien

From the Mountains to the Prairies: Camp Colorado Always Delivers!

Finally, in late July or early August David La Puma always recalls fondly his experiences assisting with the American Birding Association's Camp Colorado.  Based out of the YMCA of the Rockies, in Estes Park, Colorado, this camp exposes young birders age 13-18 to wildlife and wild landscapes across many life zones, from alpine tundra to shortgrass prairies, and everything in-between.


Every year I have the opportunity to co-lead one of these Young Birder camps, that week of my summer rises to the top of my annual highlights. Unlike these kids who are starting, or have started birding young in life, my journey was quite different. I didn't begin to pay attention to birds until an ornithology class in college, and birding in earnest didn't come for several years later. These teenagers are awesome; so tuned in, so excited, and so eager to learn something new during our week together. Talking technology with them is so exciting as well, since they're already very technologically inclined, and always bring new and fresh perspectives to our conversations. Honestly, I learn as much or more from them than they do from me. And while birding is definitely a focus during camp, the birds aren't even the best part. So many of these young people have few like-minded friends their age at home, but once they get to camp they quickly realize the critical mass of young birders. Watching them gel over the first 24-hours, and how they continue to form these intense friendships all while learning about some pretty amazing birds and habitat, is pure joy. Every year is different bird-wise, but I've never been to bird camp where the last day wasn't full of happy tears and plan-making for future contacts, meetups and birding trips.

I'm already looking forward to next year!

David La Puma, Director of Global Market Development

Big Camp Colorado Selfie. The future is bright, with these young birders at the helm! Photo by David La Puma
Interested in sending your young naturalist to one of these camps? Here are some links to get you started: