Article and photos by Sean Roth, 11 years old

I recently took my passion for birding to the extreme and made a goal for myself. The goal? To see one hundred new species of birds in a year. My year was going great. I was exploring all over the place, checking more and more birds off the list.

It was November 2022, and I still needed 10 more species. Lucky for me, it was just the right time to go to Bosque Del Apache, considered one of the best birding locations in the whole state of New Mexico.

“Ring, Ring, Ring” went my alarm. My dad and I crawled out of bed at 4am, got dressed, grabbed our gear and we were off. My grandma was also along for the ride, as we gleefully listened to Christmas music in the car. One and a half hours of anticipation later and we had arrived.

Right off the bat, I saw something new. Snow geese that migrate there every year, along with a Sandhill crane. As I observed them with my huge Nikon binoculars, they took off. It had to be one of the most spectacular, beautiful things I had seen, witnessing the geese and crane takeoff in the painted morning sky.

After that striking sequence, I was off to see more. I went to a deck overlooking a large body of water and saw American white pelicans. I know it sounds absurd, but yeah, apparently pelicans migrate through here, and they were fascinating. On that same body of water, I came across a few killdeer, which are named that due to their call. Coming across more wetlands, I saw two ducks, a northern pintail and a northern shoveler, both of which I wanted to see.

We decided to chill and take a look around the visitor center. They had a window overlooking a feeder.  There I saw a Gambel’s quail, red-winged blackbirds, and a few towhees. I had also seen a northern harrier, which was very hard to see because it would never perch. But I saw it and it was beautiful. “I’m so happy for you Sean”, my grandma said joyfully. After I started getting addicted to birds, my grandma started liking them too, for which I was super happy.

I had seen so much that day, and I was incredibly happy and grateful. But I still needed one more to officially be at my goal of one hundred species. We had about an hour until we had to go back, so I rushed as fast as I could to find just one more. I was looking and looking but still no luck. I was honestly starting to lose hope.

We went to another nearby lookout deck over water. My grandma and I were concentrating on a Cooper’s hawk in a tree. It was cool, but I have seen many of those.

Still looking at it, my dad called over to me. “Sean, come look at this”. I walked to him as he was staring at a tree stump sticking out of the water. “I think it’s a bald eagle!”

My heart dropped. I had wanted to see a bald eagle for so long and promised myself I would see one this year. Quickly, I grabbed my binoculars from my chest. My heart pounding, I steadily raised them to my eyes and looked.

“I can’t believe it!” I said. I jumped up in the air, my hands above my head feeling absolutely accomplished.

On my way back, I thought of when I was younger. That little boy at his grandma’s house looking at birds at the window all day, and now, I have taken that little boy and made his hobby his passion and perhaps his calling in life. I learned that when you know and love your passion, you will never give up on it. And that was the day I reached one hundred!

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