Birdathon Beyond Arizona: Support Tucson Audubon from Around the World!

By Maia Stark

Will you find a Palestine Sunbird on your Birdathon? photo by Michael Garber

I first participated in the Tucson Audubon Birdathon when I was eight years old. I was fortunate enough to have David Bygott and Jeanette Hanby as neighbors and ready mentors, my mom’s support, and family friend Sandy Elers who first introduced me to it. One of my most amazing birding experiences was on a Birdathon when we glimpsed an Elegant Trogon deep in Sycamore Canyon. The fundraiser also gave me the opportunity to develop valuable writing and technology skills as I reached out to donors.

I participated for five years, raising over $14,000 before my family moved to Kuwait (for my parents to teach at an international school). Living in the Middle East was an amazing experience that exposed me to foreign languages, cultures, and birds like the Eurasian Hoopoe and Palestine Sunbird. However, it was difficult to get to nature very frequently from the center of the city. After two years there, we have relocated again to a Swiss boarding school within view of the Alps. Living in the forested Bernese Highlands makes birding much easier—it’s hard to not pick up a pair of binoculars when I hear something out of the window! Just walking between classes I am surrounded by Alpine Accentors, tits, Eurasian Wrens, Greenfinches and a recently returned Red Kite. 100 feet off campus into the woods there are nuthatches, thrushes, several types of woodpeckers and the occasional Firecrest. Although I miss the birds of the Sonoran Desert, an unfamiliar biome presents an exciting challenge.

Firecrest, photo by Pere E.R.

So, with help from a local birder, this spring I am once again fundraising in Tucson Audubon’s Birdathon—this time from Europe in the Birdathon Beyond AZ category! Our situation in a mountainous area makes it possible to quickly traverse a wide range of altitudes. One idea we have is to start at the top, taking one of the gondolas up the mountain to see alpine species and make our way down through subalpine scrub, forest, then farmland and end at the nearest lake, Brienzersee. Being in a new habitat, my goals this year aren’t as high as in the past—30 to 40 species would be a successful day. I’m looking forward to putting my new knowledge of Swiss birds to work in order to help those back home! You don’t have to live in Tucson to support Tucson Audubon’s work, either. Wherever you are, you, too, can pledge to a Birdathon team or start your own!

Learn more about Tucson Audubon's 2020 Birdathon at 

At fifteen, Maia Stark is a long-time member of the Tucson Audubon Community. She has participated in 5 previous Birdathons and is the recipient of a Tucson Audubon youth grant to participate in a Cornell Lab of Ornithology online course: Comprehensive Bird Biology. Her family is currently living in Switzerland.