Join the Wake Audubon Young Naturalist Club!

Started in January 2009, this group is for 12- to 18-year-olds who want to get outdoors and learn a little about the natural environment. Each month we take day trips to explore North Carolina's natural areas. So far this year we have:

  • Explored a swamp preserve in Johnston County. Highlights included spotting Prothonotary Warblers and the fact no one fell face-first in the mud.

  • Counted 100 species of birds in a 14-hour birdathon that took us from Raleigh to Fort Fisher and back. We saw Venus Flytraps, Painted Buntings, and pretty much every shorebird you can imagine.

  • Got to know the fauna of the NC Sandhills. We met 12 species of reptiles and amphibians, 3 mammals, a bunch of birds, and more than 50 different invertebrates.

Upcoming events include a paddle trip through Umstead State Park, banding birds at Prairie Ridge Ecostation, and a seining trip at Bald Head Island.

We also get together for pizza parties!

Sound fun? Then join us! Contact Sean Higgins.


  Operational Details

  • The leaders drive the participants in their personal vehicles.
  • The leaders will pay for gas.
  • Wake Audubon pays for any entrance fees.
  • Leaders provide an information sheet and permission slip a few weeks prior to each trip so that there is no confusion about any trip details.
  • Our usual pickup and dropoff point is Prairie Ridge Ecostation, off of Reedy Creek Road in Raleigh.
  • For trips that occur over a mealtime, participants are asked to bring their own lunches.
  • Below are copies of club guidelines as well as a health form and a general permission form that we require trip participants to fill out.


The Young Naturalist Club sponsored in Memory of Mary McCall. Wake Audubon thanks the Jack and Mary McCall Foundation for its generous support.



Forms for the Young Naturalist Club:

Young Naturalist Fact Sheet
Young Naturalist Club Guidelines
Young Naturalist Health Form
2010 Calendar



Thanks to the Jack and Mary McCall Charitable Foundation for funding the Young Naturalists Club



Our Fearless Leaders

Becky Holmes is and Education Specialist with North Carolina State Parks. She has always loved nature and loves sharing her enthusiasm for learning about the natural world with other people. She is originally from Ohio but decided to trade in the winter snow storms for the possible occasional hurricane of the Carolinas. Before settling for a while in NC she spent time working with black bears in Minnesota, black flies and other critters in the backwoods of Ontario, stomping through Four Holes swamp in South Carolina, and marveling at the critters at the South Carolina Aquarium. When she's not tromping in the woods Becky enjoys spending time with her husband, 2 mutts, and 2 cats.


Nathan Swick has been a birder since he was a 13 year old in Missouri and has traveled around the US following his interest. He now lives in Chapel Hill, NC with his wife, Danielle, and son, Noah. When not birding, he works at the Museum of Life and Science in Durham. He blogs about birds and birding at The Drinking Bird and the online nature community at the Nature Blog Network.




Rachel Harden Banyal grew up in the country and as such has always felt connected to the natural world. She discovered her interest and love of birds in college at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, where she majored in biology. She has worked as a bird bander and research assistant on various projects, from California to Costa Rica. She enjoys participating in local bird counts and is a board member of Wake Audubon.




Becky Desjardins began birding as a young girl, when her parents would bribe her and her brother to look for birds on long family car trips. While in school at Guilford College she discovered the world of bird field research, and after graduation in 1995 she worked seasonal research jobs throughout the western US. Becky was hired as the Research Technician at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh in 1998 and in 2005 became Bird Collection Manager. She has been on the Wake Audubon Board since 2007 and is the current President. When not watching birds, Becky likes cooking and gardening, and cheering on the Carolina Rollergirls with her husband.


Erik Thomas I'm a linguistics professor at North Carolina State University. I grew up in Ohio and I've been birding since I was six years old, when I took an interest in the hummingbirds visiting my mother's flower garden. Although I'm a pretty hard-core birder, I have an interest in other nature-related topics as well, such as botany, taxonomy, and environmental protection. Although I do linguistics now, my bachelor's degree was in botany, and I like having something else I can switch my mind to when I need a break from linguistics. I'm married and have two children.



Sean Higgins' interest as a naturalist started with catching fireflies and watching the bird feeder. After receiving his BS in Biology from Virginia Tech, Sean served as an Americorps member with the California Department of Fish and Game where he worked to restore federally endangered salmon populations. Sean received his Masters in Zoology from Miami University where he worked in a spider lab. He received many small wolf spider bites, but unfortunately he did not develop any superhero powers. While heavily involved in scientific research, Sean decided his strongest interest was teaching. Sean has since worked as a Youth Program Manager with the San Francisco Conservation Corps, an environmental educator with Audubon Mississippi, and a 4-H Youth Development Extension Agent in Granville County, NC. He currently serves as the Lead Education Specialist with North Carolina State Parks. Sean's favorite place in nature is floating down a river in a canoe. When not outdoors, Sean likes to sit on the couch and watch the Simpons with his wife Karen and their dog Ally.


John Connors
Education: NCSU with BS in Forestry and Wildlife Biology, MS Wildlife Biology with research on birds.
Work: Coordinator of The Naturalist Center @ NC Museum of Natural Sciences (since 1997); previous 17 years as the Naturalist and Adventure Program leader for Raleigh Parks and Recreation
Civic: Long-time Board member of Wake Audubon Society Member, NC Nongame Advisory Board with NC Wildlife Resources Commission. Coordinate Raleigh Christmas Bird Count and Wake County Butterfly Count
Family: Married to Mary Beth Tobin, with 3 grown children.



Ed Corey grew up an interest in the animal world. From an early age, he frustrated his family and friends with his recounting of various and sundry animals, from dinosaurs and dog breeds, to fish, reptiles and amphibians. In the 6th grade, Ed was introduced to a show called the Crocodile Hunter on Animal Planet. The passion that Steve Irwin showed for reptiles and amphibians stimulated his interest in herpetology, and would direct Ed's path in life for the next 16 years, leading him to North Carolina State University, where he would major in Zoology, Wildlife Sciences and Botany, with a minor in Forestry. While he picked up many areas of interest, herpetology still remains at the forefront of his natural history obsessions. However, over time, Ed has become somewhat knowledgeable of different taxa, including plants, birds, mammals, fish, insects, arachnids, crustaceans, snails, slugs, and freshwater mussels. This facilitates him well as the Inventory Biologist for the North Carolina Division of Parks and Recreation, where he coordinates research, and surveys new acquisitions for rare species. Ed is also on the board for Wake Audubon.



John Gerwin began watching birds at age 7, when his oldest sister would take him around the neighborhood identifying birds for a high school zoology assignment. He was heavily influenced by being a part of the Junior Zoologists Club at the Cincinnati Zoo during his teenage years. He went on to major in Biology at the University of Minnesota, where he participated in bird research trips to Peru, Mexico, and the Bahamas; and worked for a local bird banding project. He did his Masters in Zoology at Louisiana State University, studying genetic relationships of tropical hummingbirds. He is currently the Senior Curator of Birds at the Museum of Natural Sciences, where he has been lucky to spend 100's of days each of the past 20 years, in the field, studying a variety of birds in NC, SC, and a few foreign countries. He has served on the Board of Wake Audubon since 2005, and is currently Treasurer. He is the Chairperson for the NC Scientific Council on Rare, Threatened and Endangered Birds, and serves on the Important Bird Areas Technical Committee for North Carolina Audubon. He enjoys gardening, cooking, playing guitar and leading nature-watching field trips for all ages.



Steve Buczynski has had an interest in and participated in many outdoor activities over the years. Currently, he enjoys camping, hiking, bike riding, surfing, kayaking, and birding. He grew up in Northwestern Pennsylvania, earned BS and MS degrees in Biology at the University of Dayton in Ohio, and has since lived in Hawaii and Florida. He has been living in Durham, North Carolina since June of 2009. Steve initially took an interest in birds while discovering the rare and beautiful native birds of Hawaii. Birding became one of his favorite hobbies while living in Florida amongst the tremendous diversity of bird life there. Currently a high school Special Education Teacher, Steve also has extensive outdoor education experience as a youth counselor, educator, and director of a residential wilderness education program for boys while living in Florida. When not rambling about the woods in search of birds, Steve enjoys playing water-polo, practicing yoga, gardening, and baking.



Adrian Yirka received a Bachelor's Zoology with a minor in Botany in 2006 from North Carolina State University. He has worked in various capacities at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, including a position as the Curator of Youth Programs from 2006-2010 working directly with school-aged children in summer camps and in the museum's Junior Curator program. Within this capacity, Adrian has led educational, ecological excursion for the Junior Curators across North Carolina, as well as to Florida and Nicaragua. Personally, Adrian most enjoys spending his time outside, and is an avid naturalist with strong interests in reptile and amphibian conservation.