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Tykee James is the government affairs coordinator at the National Audubon Society, Co-Chair for the National Black and Latinx Scholarship Fund, and sits on the board of directors of the DC Audubon Society, Wyncote Audubon Society, Audubon Maryland-DC, the Birding Co-op, and the Academy of Natural Sciences at Drexel University.
After moving to DC almost two years ago, he became grounded in his special role: organizing bird walks with members of Congress and congressional staff! Tykee has built residency in this work from his experience in Philadelphia, his hometown. His first job was an environmental educator and community organizer in his own neighborhood. Tykee would also serve a State Representative as her environmental policy advisor. He continues to develop himself as a leader through his membership in the Environmental Leadership Program and the Green Leadership Trust.
Tykee has been part of the birding community for almost a decade. Most recently, he earned international recognition as one of the organizers of the first #BlackBirdersWeek in 2020.
In his personal time he is the audio producer for Wildlife Observer Network, a wildlife media project he started with some wildlife-friendly friends in Philly. Tykee hosts two podcasts: Brothers in Birding and On Word for Wildlife.
The East Clark Bird Nerds is birding club at East Clark School in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District. It is comprised of students in grades 6-8 with one alumni member still active. The purpose of the club is to learn about, and appreciate, birds and the great outdoors.
The club was started in the fall of 2018 by Richard “Buster” Banish who is a teacher at East Clark School. He has been a birder for 30+ years and in 1986 he started taking 4-5 students birding for a day each May during Cleveland’s Audubon Spring Bird Walk Series. He still keeps in touch with a few of the students who went on the first birding adventure, and many others from the years after that. Many have told him that it was the best day they had up to that point in their lives, and it created a lifelong love of birds.
In the fall of 2018, Mr. Banish decided to create a birding club for students at his school and named the club the Bird Nerds. He asked students who showed an interest in birds write an essay on why they would like to join the Bird Nerds. He selected 15 students to be in the club and they held their first meeting in October 2018. The club met every Tuesday after school for an hour. During club meetings, Mr. Banish taught the students about birds and had local birding experts come and speak to the club. He also took them birding around the Cleveland area so they could practice identifying birds in the field.
Mr. Banish sought, and received, a grant from a company that his brother-in-law works for to take students to The Biggest Week in American Birding festival in May 2019. Using the grant funds, Bird Nerd shirts were purchased for each student and the trip to the Biggest Week was planned. Mr. Banish is a field tech for Swarovski Optiks and asked if the club could borrow binoculars since none of the students had them. Swarovski generously provided binoculars for each student to use.
Mr. Banish asked the Ohio Young Birders to assist as guides on the trip and one enthusiastically agreed. This allowed the Bird Nerds club to divide into two groups for the day. All 15 students participated in the trip to the Biggest Week and after a long day full of adventures, the Bird Nerds returned back to East Clark School exhausted and thrilled to have been part of the group that netted 88 species, including a Kirtland’s warbler and 17 species of warblers.
Over the past two years, the club has been on many more birding trips all across northern and central Ohio including a pelagic on Lake Erie. Club members have spoken to many adult birding groups, were interviewed on a local television program, and have been featured in several social media posts and birding publications. The have enjoyed birding with many “expert” birders such as David Lindo and several of Cleveland’s finest. The local birding community has been very generous in supporting the Bird Nerds and raised significant funding for future birding trips, last count has them visiting 50+ parks and natural areas in search of birds and adventures.
The COVID pandemic and closure of the Cleveland schools, has required that weekly meetings be held via video conference for the past year, but Mr. Banish still takes small groups of students birding whenever possible. He and the Bird Nerds can’t wait until they can start attending birding festivals and meeting with other birders again.