Birder of the Year 2015

Each year, Bird Watcher’s Digest partners with Swarovski Optik to give out an all-expenses-paid birding trip to Costa Rica and new optics from Swarovski Optik for the grand-prize-winning entry! Here’s a letter from Mark Tower, the 2015 Birder of the Year:

Another update!

I just returned from Costa Rica with Clay Taylor and Alex Villegas from Swarovski. What a trip! Clay and Alex were the consummate professionals (and superb birders). Alex clearly has the respect, near worship, of all the other tour guides in the country. Wherever we went, everyone wanted Alex’s approval or opinion about something birdy. He has a collection of over 1,000 personally collected bird sounds for nearly all the native species. Additionally he can audibly mimic most of these songs and calls! Hummingbird chip notes heard from a moving car were correctly identified upon inspection. Predictions of exact locations of sought after species (ie. turquoise-browed motmot) were fulfilled within minutes. And this professional brilliance was combined with a thoroughly humane personality. Alex has a magnetism about him that is not explained by any technical skill.

Clay’s role in the trip was no less instrumental. Looking back on it, I don’t think Clay used binoculars the whole trip. We mostly birded in thick rain forest, and his chosen optic was a 95mm spotting scope! I probably don’t have to tell you how much practice it must take to be able to locate a 3in bird on a leafy limb 50ft above the ground. But Clay’s specialty was photography (through a scope), and he was master of it. Through Clay I learned the value of scope birding (beyond ducks and shorebirds). If you could learn to quickly find the bird in the scope (a big ‘if’), the views were far superior to anything seen in a pair of binoculars. This is a particularly helpful skill to have if I am ever on a bird walk with others who might appreciate such a view. At Clay’s urging I toted a 65mm scope around on our walks. With it I began learning the challenges and advantages to scope birding. Needless-to-say I’ll be using my scope at home more since my CR trip.

I should probably mention that I ended up travelling with my dad, not my 4-year-old daughter. In the end, this was a much better decision. My daughter did have one request however: that I see a scarlet macaw, her favorite bird, and take a picture of it! I was able to bring her home stories of several encounters with the macaws. And Clay did her photo request one better–he took a digiscoped video of one macaw feeding on some tree nuts.

Thanks again BWD for this wonderful opportunity,

Mark Tower

About Us

Bird Watcher’s Digest, a bimonthly magazine for birders, was founded in Marietta, Ohio, in 1978 by Elsa and Bill Thompson, Jr. BWD also publishes Watching Backyard Birds for backyard birders. Over the decades, BWD has expanded to include other modes and channels of content creation and distribution: websites, videos, podcasts, blogs, booklets, print and e-books, birding gear, and events, most notably the Midwest Birding Symposium, BWD Reader Rendezvous, and the American Birding Expo.

Client Testimonials

Bird Watcher's Digest and the Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival has enjoyed a  long-time working partnership. Both organizations experienced phenomenal growth while making the appropriate internal and external changes to compete in the world of birding and nature-based activities. The Thompson family and BWD staff are mentors who best promote your event or product. Each customer receives the same caring service whether first or long time advertisers.

Neta Harris

Celestron is proud to team with organizations like Bird Watcher’s Digest. Advertising and sponsorship efforts are integrated smoothly and our participation at their events like the recent American Birding Expo in Columbus, Ohio allow us to build our relationships with people in the outdoor enthusiast community.

Michelle Meskill

BWD has been a part of our promotional plan for several years. The team and Thompson family are wonderful partners, the readers are dedicated birders. BWD should be considered for the media plan of any brand, service or venue that needs to reach this target audience in a trusted, welcoming environment.

Bill Wilson

Our experience working with BWD is multifaceted. BWD is professional and trustworthy. We find them friendly and loyal. They know the birding business and have a strong following. Our advertising with BWD enhances our image and produces sales. BWD is a family business like ours, which we know works best with birders.

Keith Hackland

The BWD team makes things happen in a big way. Working with Bill, Dawn, Kyle, Mollee and the whole crew at the American Birding Expo was fantastic. As we've come to expect, the event flowed smoothly and seamlessly throughout. We're already looking forward to the next one!

George L. Armistead
Events Coordinator / American Birding Association

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Working with the BWD team has been great for our company, and we are pleased to see their magazine and online presence going from strength to strength. We are loyal fans of BWD!

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