By Dottie Head
Meet Olivia. This fifth grader from Marietta upstaged the birds, including a rare American Bittern, at the Yellow-Crowned Night-Herons at Constitution Lakes bird walk as part of Atlanta Bird Fest 2018, which was Olivia’s and her father Randall’s first-ever bird walk. It was a birthday present for just turned 11-year-old Olivia.
Randall discovered Atlanta Audubon Society and Atlanta Bird Fest through an internet search while looking for the perfect birthday present for his bird-crazy daughter. Olivia’s youthful enthusiasm and exuberance for every single bird spotted was contagious. All of the attendees were completely enamored with her and were eager to help her spot birds just to see her reaction. From Northern Cardinal to Yellow-crowned Night-Heron to the warblers, Olivia was thrilled by them all.
“Olivia was an absolute delight and was so excited about every bird we saw,” says Linda DiSantis, immediate past board chair and an attendee on the trip. “She was an ace at seeing the birds with her rather basic set of binoculars, but when I offered her a better pair she responded, ‘No, I like my binoculars.’”
The bird of the day was a rare American Bittern. Olivia said it was her favorite bird of the day, not for its rarity but for its camouflage. “It was very hard to find because it looked just like a stick poking out of the water,” she said. Olivia says she came to love birds by way of the parrot. Her interest in potentially having a pet parrot led her to research parrots, their habitats, and behavior, which opened up the wide world of birds to her young mind. “I usually watch birds in my backyard or on Kennesaw Mountain,” says Olivia. “You can learn a lot by just watching them.”
Randall reports that he didn’t really know very much about birds at the beginning of the trip. “I was surprised and amazed at how much Olivia knew! I love her passion for learning about birds.” For now, Randall is helping Olivia upgrade her birding gear with a set of Georgann Schmalz bird song CDs. They’re also shopping for a better pair of binoculars. “We can’t wait to see our new birding friends on our next birding adventure,” he says.
Olivia says her favorite part of the bird walk was being surrounded by people who adore birds like she does. She’s considering two career options: avian biologist or actress. We’re pretty sure she will be successful at whichever one she chooses.