ABA-Leica Sub-adult Wheatears


Our team initially started as a distant pipedream and yet has become a reality. Composed of three young birders from across the United States we are beyond honoured and excited to be able to participate for a third year in Champions of the Flyway.

In many ways we live in the golden age of young birders. Technology is allowing us to connect with each other and grow our birding skills as never before. The huge amount of talent exhibited by young birders from all around the world is awe-inspiring. We hope that we will not only be good representatives to the North American youth birder community, but will also demonstrate that young birders are a force to be reckoned with!

Join us this year in raising funds for BirdLife Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan in their efforts to combat the rapid decline of Steppe Eagles!


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Meet the Team:

Aidan Place

Aidan (21) started his birding career while growing up on farm in rural Pennsylvania in the United States. It was there that he first became entranced with nature and particularly everything to do with birds. Since then, his love of birding has taken him everywhere from the steaming jungles of Panama to the barren steppes of Kazakhstan.
Aidan’s particular birding interests include world birding as well as birding by ear and photography. He is also one of the editors of the American Birding Association’s young birder blog, The Eyrie, and writes his own personal birding blog, The Birding Place.
Aidan’s other interests include history, particularly that of the Balkans and former Ottoman Empire. To fuel this passion, he resided during a gap year in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina where he enjoyed learning the birds of the Western Palearctic on a deeper level. It was there that he was first inspired to participate in Champions of the Flyway.
Last fall he returned to the States and began college at Carnegie Mellon University where he is currently a sophomore pursuing a major in Biology and minor in Computational Biology with aspirations to take his love of birds to the next level: professional.
He has also given talks about his Champions experience at bird clubs across the Eastern US and this year is promoting the Subadult Wheatears, speaking, and guiding at the Cape May and Space Coast Birding Festivals.
It is a great honour for Aidan to be able to participate in Champions for a third year. He is particularly looking forward to raising funds for conservation in Central Asia as Kazakhstan is where he saw his first Steppe Eagle!

Gautam Apte

Gautam (19) is a birder and aspiring field ornithologist studying Forestry, Fisheries and Wildlife Science at The Ohio State University. Born and raised just outside of Cleveland, Ohio, his parents fostered a deep connection with the outdoors from an early age, which led to a strong interest in birds and the natural world. Since he started seriously birding after joining the Ohio Young Birders Club at age 12, he has developed a strong interest in not only birds, but also mammals, reptiles, and other wildlife. His primary interests include watching migrating waterbirds on Lake Erie in the late fall and winter, as well as searching local parks and preserves for migrant warblers and resident breeders in the spring and summer.

Gautam is the Vice President of Conservation for The Ornithology Club at Ohio State, and helps lead the Lights Out Buckeyes project, which collects data and specimens from avian window collisions on Ohio State campus. He is involved with several other ornithological research projects on campus. He enjoys not only birding, but also working with bird research and contributing to the scientific community. Gautam also enjoys rock climbing and watching football and basketball. He sees traveling to Israel for Champions of the Flyway as a fantastic opportunity to support conservation and experience different species, climates, and culture, and he’s looking forward to returning to the Eilat area and enjoying the fantastic migration Israel has to offer.

Johanna Beam

Johanna has always been a nature addict and has fond memories of hiking and camping with her family growing up. Her love of science and conservation has been growing since childhood when her father helped perform science experiments in their kitchen, and her mother gave her books on ornithology and botany at a young age. The 21 year old loves climbing mountains and finding White-tailed Ptarmigan in her home state of Colorado. She currently a senior at University of Colorado – Boulder where she studies Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. She has just defended her honors thesis focusing on evolutionary genetics of North American meadowlarks. She is planning on starting a PhD in evolutionary genetics for 2021.

While Johanna has only been birding for six years, she has already risen to great levels in american birding. She became the American Birding Association-Leica Young Birder of the Year in 2017, only three years after picking up binoculars for the first time. Her love of birding has taken her all across the United States, from Florida to Maine to California, where she most recently presented her research on Townsend’s Solitaire song use and structure. She dreams of far off places, like the Negev desert of Israel and the tropical rainforests of Nicaragua and Panama. Johanna hopes to travel around the world to promote conservation, spread the love of birding, and draw/paint as many of the world’s species as humanly possible.

Marky Mutchler

In the third year of her biology degree, Marky(20) is still as keen as ever on pursuing a career in ornithology. Upon graduating, she plans to start her PhD in evolutionary biology. Attending LSU, she has had many opportunities to work in both lab and field settings. She has recently returned from the very first all-women ornithological expedition which was located in the remote depths of the Brazilian Amazon. The expedition focused on honoring Emilie Snethlage, a pioneer in ornithology and exploration in the Amazon in Brazil.

In addition to joining this expedition, Marky is also currently working on several genetics-based projects and hopes to have much of this published for presentation at several international conferences in the near future. Marky has also been involved in several activities close to home. In addition to being the American Birding Association’s 2015 Young Birder of the Year, Marky has also spent the last several years guiding at multiple birding festivals around the US. She has even had the opportunity to work with and share the conservation success story of the once-endangered Kirtland’s Warbler. Marky hopes that the coming decade will bring even more opportunities to share her passion for birds with others and inspire more people, especially women in STEM.