Connecticut Audbon Society

Young, Gifted and Wild About Birds 2024: New insights on observation and conservation in Connecticut and beyond

Young, Gifted and Wild About Birds started its 4th year with two great January presentations: “The Glass Wall: Making Connecticut’s Buildings Safer for Birds,” with Viveca Morris and Meredith Barges, and “The Mystery and Magnificence of the Snowy Owl,” with Rebecca McCabe of Hawk Mountain and Project SNOWStorm.

February and March will bring discussions of urban bird conservation; coastal birds and the hazards of nesting on the beach; and the joys of finding and photographing new birds.

Since December 2020 this unique series has brought together some of the country’s most innovative, cutting-edge young scientists, conservationists and bird enthusiasts to discuss their work via Zoom.

The cost is $9 per presentation for members, and $12 per presentation for non-members.

All proceeds go directly toward protecting birds and improving habitats through Connecticut.

For that alone, the price is a bargain. But the hour-long programs are also fascinating, fun, and lively.

Here’s what people are saying:

“Well done! The Young, Gifted, and Wild About Birds series is both interesting and educational. A real treat to ‘meet’ such an impressive cadre of young scientists!”

“These programs have been really good! Amazing use of technology and dedication! So glad you are planning to continue this programming!”

Your generosity is making a real difference. Thank you!

Meredith Barges & Viveca Morris
Thursday, January 18, 2024, 7-8 p.m, via Zoom
The Glass Wall: Making Connecticut’s Buildings Safer for Birds


Up to one billion birds die each year as a result of collisions with glass in the United States. The problem is made worse by increasing light pollution.

Meredith Barges and Viveca Morris — co-authors of “Building Safer Cities for Birds” — will discuss the new field of bird-safe building and the consequences of window strikes for wild bird populations.

They’ll bring us up to date on current trends in bird-friendly building policies in Connecticut and the United States, and local efforts to improve buildings in Connecticut. Bird-friendly buildings have the added benefit of reducing carbon emissions and connecting us more closely and authentically to nature.

Meredith and Viveca have worked extensively and successfully in New Haven to reduce the number of bird fatalities. They will discuss the many actions residents, business owners, and governments can take to help make our cities, towns and neighborhoods safer for birds.

Viveca Morris (top photo) is a clinical lecturer and a research scholar in law at Yale Law School, and the executive director of the Yale Law School’s Law, Ethics & Animals Program, which she co-founded. She is a leader of the Yale Bird-Friendly Building Initiative.

Meredith Barges (bottom photo) is an advocate for protecting migratory birds and the night sky through improved public policy and public awareness. She brings years of nonprofit experience to her role as co-chair of Lights Out Connecticut, a nonprofit project of the Menunkatuck Audubon Society.

In 2021, she helped convince Yale Divinity School to join Lights Out and in spring 2023 she co-led a successful statewide campaign to pass Public Act No. 23-143, Connecticut’s Lights Out law. Meredith holds an MA in social theory from the University of Chicago and an MDiv in ecology and religion from Yale University.


Rebecca McCabe, Ph.D.
Thursday, January 25, 2024, 7-8 p.m. via Zoom
The Mystery and Magnificence of the Snowy Owl


Every few years the world of winter birding in southern New England is electrified by the arrival of Snowy Owls from the Arctic. These amazing birds have been studied extensively in recent years by the team of scientists at Project SNOWstorm, including Rebecca McCabe.

Rebecca will highlight her doctoral research studying wintering Snowy Owls and give an update on what she and the rest of the team at Project SNOWstorm have been learning over the past decade.

She will share her journey from undecided college student to a research biologist at the Hawk Mountain Sanctuary in Pennsylvania, the world’s first refuge for birds of prey.

Rebecca received a B.S. in Environmental Biology at Millersville University (2013), and then earned a M.S. in Biology at East Stroudsburg University (2016) studying the nesting behavior of Broad-winged Hawks in Pennsylvania. In 2021, she received a Ph.D. from McGill University in Montreal, where she studied Snowy Owls during the winter period. Rebecca joined the staff full time at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary in May 2021, serving as one of the sanctuary’s biologists.

She continues researching Broad-winged Hawks and Snowy Owls and is involved in the Hawk Mountain’s long-term American Kestrel project. She also assists with other aspects of conservation science, including the trainee program, advising undergraduate and graduate students and science-education outreach.

Diego Ellis Soto
Thursday, February 15, 2024, 7-8 p.m.  via Zoom
Separate and Unequal: Birds and Nature in Connecticut’s Cities


Do the parks and overgrown lots in Connecticut’s poorer urban neighborhoods have fewer birds or does it just seem that way because fewer birders visit those places? The question has important implications not just for birds but for neighborhood residents as well. 
In Connecticut, Diego Ellis Soto, a Ph.D. candidate in ecology and evolutionary biology at Yale, has been studying the correlation between the economic status of neighborhoods in New Haven and their bird populations and diversity.  
What he’s found is that racially segregated neighborhoods have fewer birds. Those neighborhoods also show up far less on eBird.  
His research could help bring attention to the need for more and better parks and sanctuaries throughout the city, for the benefit of its people and its birds.
Diego Ellis Soto is a Uruguayan Ph.D. candidate in Ecology at Yale University and a NASA FINESST Future Investigator. Working at the intersection of ecology, technology, conservation, and environmental justice, he researches how animals move across the world under increasing human threats and a changing climate. He is increasingly interested in how our access to biodiversity data is shaped by our socioeconomic status and how past and present social inequalities amplify current disparities in environmental sciences.


Stefan Martin & Beth Amendola
Wednesday, March 6, 12:30 – 1:30 p.m. via Zoom
Trouble on the Beach: Intruders at Nature Preserves are Driving Away Vulnerable Birds


The 2023 season was a good one for Connecticut’s most vulnerable beach-nesting birds, American Oystercatchers and Least Terns. Or it least it looked to be so at the start. Coastal rangers were diligent in their patrols, and a streak of good luck kept coastal storms away. 

Yet one persistent problem counter-acted the success. Throughout the season human visitors and their pets intruded on the roped-off beach areas where these species nest.

Instead of the spectacular season for Least Terns that 2023 was shaping up to be, “We observed a significant drop-off in estimated nesting birds after a particularly egregious disturbance regarding an off leash … dog and an ATV driving directly along the fence line.”

As for oystercatchers, there was a “large percentage of nest and chick losses due to predation and human disturbance.”

Stefan Martin, conservation manager for the Connecticut Audubon Society, and Beth Amendola, who as coastal program assistant has overseen Audubon Connecticut’s American Oystercatcher project for years, will review the results of the 2023 season for those two species and also for Piping Plovers and Common Terns.

They will outline the effort being made to protect these birds. They’ll discuss what can be done to instill a greater respect for wildlife among the few visitors who consistently ignore the state law and sanctuary rules.


Heather Wolf
Thursday, March 28, 2024, 7-8 p.m. via Zoom
Find (and Photograph) More Birds


Join Heather Wolf as she talks about her latest book Find More Birds: 111 Surprising Ways to Spot Birds Wherever You Are
Heather will share tips on bird-finding close to home and beyond, as well as ways to witness more of the fascinating bird behaviors and drama we all want to see!

Heather will also talk about her personal project of trying to photograph every bird that shows up at Brooklyn Bridge State Park, and will give tips on how to take photographs to help you identify the birds you see.

Heather is the author and photographer of Birding at the Bridge: In Search of Every Bird on the Brooklyn Waterfront and 2023’s Find More Birds: 111 Surprising Ways to Spot Birds Wherever You Are.

She also works as a programmer for the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, on projects such as eBird and BirdCast.

Heather served a judge for Connecticut Audubon’s Migration Madness photo contest in 2023. You can see her photos on Instagram (@brooklynbridgebirds) and Twitter (@heatherwolf).



 Want to know more about Young, Gifted, and Wild About Birds?
Click HERE to see the 2021, 2022 and 2023 presenters

Corina Newsome, National Wildlife Federation
Joanna Wu, UCLA
Allison Black, oceanic bird researcher
Mikko Jimenez, Colorado State University
Kathi Borgmann, Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Brooke Bateman, Ph.D., director of climate science for the National Audubon Society. “Birds Are Telling Us It’s Time To Act On Climate Change.” 
Sam Apgar, Ph.D., student, University of Connecticut. “High Tide for Salt Marsh Birds.”
Jenny Kroik, artist and illustrator. “How Drawing and Painting Can Help You Get In Touch With The Bird World.”
Shannon Curley, Ph.D., New York City Parks and Recreation; and Jose Ramirez-Garofalo, Ph.D. student, Rutgers University. “Grassland Birds Are Thriving In The Least Likely Place.”
Murry Burgess, Ph.D. student, North Carolina State University. “Barn Swallows Under the Light,”

Deja Perkins, #BlackBirdersWeek, North Carolina State University
Eliza Grames, Ph.D., candidate, University of Connecticut
Dennis Liu, Ph.D., Half Earth Project
Mariamar Gutierrez Ramirez, Ph.D., candidate, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Jordan Rutter and Gabriel Foley, Bird Names for Birds
Desiree Narango, Ph.D., University of Massachusetts, Amherst






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