Watch out, world. If the Kasper brothers of Western Springs, Illinois have anything to do with it, the future of birding is in good hands.
Accompanied by their parents, Ed and Kelly, these two young men visited the Eagle Optics store a few weeks ago. At first glance, they resembled any ordinary young store visitors. Except, instead of looking bored, (or checking their phones), they were the ones keenly interested in optics. And, the older one, I noted, carried binoculars of his own. Noses pressed against the glass cases, Eddie and Brett searched, absorbed, while their mom explained: they were shopping for a spotting scope.
I brought some scopes out of the case, set them up on tripods, and handed Brett a binocular like his older brother's. Looking out our store window, the boys began to reel off the names of every species of bird they saw. Now, granted, we don't get a huge variety of species outside our store in a business park on the edge of town. But these boys knew every one, knew male from female, and could even differentiate types of finches and sparrows. Oh, and have I mentioned the boys are 7 and 9 years old?
The brothers, who are home schooled, told me they are members of Illinois Young Birders back home in the Chicagoland area. Outside the store, after a few minutes with the Vortex Razor HD spotting scope, 9-year-old Eddie asked about taking photos through it. Glad to oblige, I set up a camera adapter on the Razor for him. Kelly helped with the focus, and before long, 9-year-old Eddie was digiscoping.
Eddie got these photos of an American Robin and Brown-Headed Cowbird:
Then, 7-year-old Brett snapped one of this Downy Woodpecker:
I was having so much fun with this family. When we came back inside the store, Eddie asked me to ID a recording of a bird song he had heard in their yard in the Chicago suburbs. I deferred to my coworker, Mike, who identified the song as a catbird. When I told Mike about the boys' bird ID skills, he decided to test them with some photos of birds on his iPod Touch. Mike clicked through 50 photos, and with little hesitation, the boys checked them off with correct answers, one after the other. Each time, Mike's eyebrows raised a little higher. These boys really knew their stuff. They only missed one, which was an immature, but got it right when shown another photo of the same bird. We were duly impressed.
While the boys were being quizzed, Kelly secretly purchased Brett's very first binocular (the Vortex Raptor 6.5x32) and hid it in her bag for his upcoming birthday gift. About a week later, Ed Sr. called and had me ship a binocular to Kelly for Mother's Day.
Keep on birding, Kasper family. You're an inspiration.
Eagle Optics Staff
Binoculars: bring them. See what they bring you.