Published on April 27, 2021

Bird-a-thon 2021 Team Spotlight: The Frost-O'Brien Family

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Jackson Frost, now 15, first became interested in birds on summer visits with his grandparents on Cape Cod. By age 3 he was studying his very own Sibley guide, and at age 5 he spotted something previously unheard of—a Brown Booby on a Dennis beach?! While this highly unusual sighting was unfortunately not credited to Jackson, it was confirmed and celebrated by the birding community.

Jackson & sister Fiona during Bird-a-thon 2020 © Frost-O'Brien family
Jackson & Fiona © Frost-O'Brien family

Jackson's parents and younger sister, Fiona, had never been particularly interested in birds, but Jackson's enthusiasm proved to be contagious. An outdoorsy family to begin with, the Frost-O'Briens were happy to spend their weekends visiting local conservation lands and birding hotspots.

While they enjoyed absorbing Jackson's vast knowledge of bird behavior, plumages, and habitats, these outings became much more than just bird-seeking trips. The family would take their time exploring different trails, visiting museums, and experiencing other local community attractions. When Fiona's interests broadened to include photography and art, both were easily incorporated into their weekend adventures.

Although Jackson's focus on birding ebbed a bit during his younger years, it was back in full force by age 12. Day trips expanded to weekend getaways and then longer vacations to Florida, Texas, California, and Canada. It all culminated in their 2019 family Big Year (an attempt to record as many birds as possible in a single year) which yielded an impressive 385 species. Read more on their blog >

The Frost-O'Brien family can attest that birding can be an incredibly rich and rewarding pastime. So many of the places they've visited, the people they know, and the memories they cherish are connected to birding. It's even paving a career path for Jackson that has so far included volunteer research and data collection work with organizations like Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary and Manomet.

If you're new to birding, they recommend investing in a good set of binoculars, and also taking the time to learn about what birds you're likely to find in a certain area before venturing out. Birding requires a lot of patience. You need to be still and listen well—to follow sounds and shadows—and to know the field marks, plumages, and movements you're looking for. Look beyond the skies and treetops—birds are often found in shrubs or hopping along the ground. And don't forget waterways—in addition to brooks, ponds, rivers, and saltmarshes, you can find lots of birds out on the ocean.

Bird-a-thon 2021

This year's event will be the Frost-O'Brien family's second Bird-a-thon. Read about their 2020 experience >

Bird-a-thon serves as a reminder of the variety and abundance of wildlife that surrounds us and our responsibility to preserve their habitats. This year, our family (Bruce, Maura, Jackson, and Fiona) is raising money for Bird-a-thon because we believe in the importance of protecting the nature of Massachusetts for people and wildlife. We support Mass Audubon's efforts to protect and steward the environment of Massachusetts through conservation, education, and advocacy. 
Frost-O'Brien Bird-a-thon 2021 page