19-year-old Ty Allen of Burleson has observed and logged 383 avian species. He is the featured speaker at the Fort Worth Audubon Society meeting Jan. 13 at 7 p.m. Photo by Cyrus Allen.
Jan. 3, 2022
In a birding career that has spanned more than half of his life, Ty Allen of Burleson has observed and logged 284 avian species in Johnson County, 371 throughout Texas and 383 in the United States. It’s a count that is continually being revised upward.
Not bad for someone who just turned 19.
“How I got interested in birding is still somewhat of a mystery,” said Allen, who lives in the Johnson County town of Joshua and attends Hill College. “My family has always loved animals, but there was no direct influence on my birding obsession. One day, when I was around eight years old, my older sister and I picked up a small pocket guide and started birding, and I've been hooked ever since.”
It’s become more than just a hobby. Allen’s birding and rigorous record-keeping constitutes an ongoing contribution to the body of scientific knowledge about North Texas bird species.
“I mainly bird in Johnson County because it is easiest and it’s also really under-birded,” he said. “So it helps fill in the data for the county on ebird.”
The ebird site, sponsored by Cornell University, describes itself as a resource to gather “information in the form of checklists of birds, archive it, and freely share it to power new data-driven approaches to science, conservation and education.”
This photo by Ty Allen of an Inca Dove landed in the pages of North American Birds, a publication of the American Birding Association. Photo by Ty Allen.
FEATHER IN HIS CAP
Allen’s passion and growing expertise have not gone unnoticed. A photo he took of an Inca Dove was published in the 2020 issue of the American Birding Association’s North American Birds, which he counts as one of the highlights of his birding career.
Fort Worth Audubon Society board member Jean Ferguson first met him in 2018 when Allen joined the Wildbirds Unlimited staff in Burleson.
“Since then, we have birded together often. He joins me for Christmas and spring birds counts in Fort Worth and Arlington,” Ferguson said, noting that Allen now leads his own birding walks, including a monthly one for Wildbirds Unlimited at Lost Oak Winery.
“He is very knowledgeable about birds, ebird, photography and shares with participants. He provides valuable information to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology through ebird. After attending the [Rio Diablo] camp for young birders in West Texas, he is now asked to participate in leading activities through the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.”
“Amazing” is the word Allen uses to describe the Rio Diablo Birding Camp, which is hosted by the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.
“It was a truly unforgettable experience,” he said. “On this trip, I got 47 lifers — species I hadn't ever seen before — saw a total of 177 bird species, got over 100 species in Val Verde County, saw tons of cool mammals, reptiles, and amphibians, got to bird 14 new counties, got to spend a lot of time birding with birders in my same age group and learned a lot about a large variety of topics ranging from geology to bats.”
At the camp, Allen said he got exclusive access to private ranches and properties, including Dolan Falls Preserve, which he describes as one of the highlights of the trip.
“Not only because we got the Tropical Parula (a bird that is rarely seen in the U.S. outside this sliver of West Texas), but we also got to jump off the rocks into the stunningly clear waters of the Devil's River.”
Campers also visited Big Bend National Park, which Allen describes as “one of my favorite places I've ever visited.”
Allen will give a Zoom presentation about his camp experience during the Jan. 13 monthly meeting of the Fort Worth Audubon Society, which sponsored his trip. The meeting is open to the public and starts at 6:45 p.m.
Ty Allen's birding adventures took him to Dolan Falls Preserve, a field trip that was included in a session at Rio Diablo Birding Camp in West Texas. The Fort Worth Audubon Society sponsored his trip. Photo by Ty Allen.
THE SKY’S THE LIMIT
Close to home, Allen says he likes to bird at Lake Pat Cleburne, Buddy Stewart Park and Cleburne State Park in Johnson County, and the parks around Benbrook Lake in Tarrant County. He intends to extend his range to more counties, with a goal of achieving Texas Century Club status, which requires observing and documenting 100 species in 100 different counties. He also aspires to raise his total to 300 species in Johnson County, up from his current tally of 283.
Allen’s favorite activities include participating in Fort Worth Audubon’s Christmas and late winter bird counts, and settling in for a woodcock watch.
“The American Woodcock is an uncommon and very hard bird to locate in the DFW area,” he said. “However, several could be found reliably at my residence during the winter, which led to numerous birders coming out to see them and watch their amazing breeding displays. These woodcock watches, as I call them, were my first real introduction to the birding community.”
Even when he’s not in the field, Allen’s ornithological bent remains consistent. In his job as a sales associate at a bird-focused retail outlet, he commits himself to “help people attract the most birds possible.”
This includes talking about the importance of native plants, the harm insecticides can induce, and other environmental issues they can help reduce, Allen said.
Looking ahead, he sees birds continuing to play a central role in his life, though they may not necessarily figure into his vocation.
“I haven't decided for sure yet, but I'm currently planning on getting a degree in business,” Allen said. “I don't plan to become an ornithologist, but I’m planning on staying active in the birding community and helping the environment where I can.”
Ty’s Adventures and Lifers of Rio Diablo Birding Camp
Hosted by: Fort Worth Audubon Society
About: 19-year-old Ty Allen of Burleson has observed and logged 383 avian species. He will share his experiences as an avid bird watcher.
When: Jan. 13, 2022, 7 p.m.
Where: Zoom. Join.
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