Sam Brunson and John Mark Simmons aren’t your average high school students.
While some teens might waste away their time, the two young birders have translated their passion for birding into a productive hobby that now includes managing a website they created called Two Birders and Binoculars.
Sam, a 16-years-old from Savannah, Ga., and John Mark, 15-year-old from Watkinsville, Ga., are cousins who have been birding for years. They have each participated on first place teams in the Georgia Youth Birding Competition.
I recently caught up with Sam and John Mark to ask them about how they became interested in birding, the vision of their website and why getting young people involved in birding is important.
Q&A with Sam and John Mark
When did you two first become interested in birding?
Sam: A few years ago, during the summer, my mom took myself and John Mark to the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge and some other popular birding spots in Savannah. Ever since then, we have been avid birders and have done competitions, big days and led bird walks.
In what ways have you fostered your love of birds and birding (painting, photography, traveling, etc.)?
Sam: Definitely through art. I have enjoyed painting and drawing birds for a long time. I have also recently been getting into photography.
John Mark: I have traveled to various places in the USA as well as out of the country to Costa Rica to bird, and I find it highly enjoyable and a great way to foster my love of birding.
I read that you two participated in the Youth Birding Competition. Describe how competitive birding is different than casual birding.
Competitive birding is much more intense and more rigorous strategies are always used. Casual birding involves more of a relaxed atmosphere and allows for more time to look at each bird as well as get pictures of them.
What inspired you to start the website Two Birders and Binoculars?
We wanted a place to record our birding trips, as well as somewhere to post our pictures.
What do you hope to accomplish with the site?
We want to help people become better birders and create a fun atmosphere in which to do so.
Do you think it’s important for younger people to get involved with birding?
Yes, we think that it is very important for young people to get involved with birding. If you start birding when you are young, then you can get good at it. It is a great activity for young people to be getting outside and enjoying nature.
I know you’re young, but do you foresee birding in your career paths or mainly as a hobby?
Sam: I see birding as being more of a hobby down the road than a career, but I will always keep it up and help others learn to bird.
John Mark: I plan to incorporate birding into my career. I will continue to improve my skill and hopefully and it will be able to play a part in my career.