by Eric A Thomas
Holding a record, co-authoring a book and publishing a second book before graduating college is just the beginning of accomplishments for one Jacksonville native. When it comes to measuring success in life, this guy has a great start.
Meet Colin Dobson.
Dobson became involved with birdwatching at the young age of 7. His grandfather Tony Ward got him interested and, along with his grandmother Sharon Dobson, the three would drive around the state on various birding excursions. Colin Dobson became a member of Illinois Young Birders, and at the age of 12, he held the record for seeing 300 species in a year in Illinois. “Around 325 species of birds are considered native to Illinois,” commented Dobson. “That would include winter, migratory, breeding or year-round.”
In 2018, he co-authored a book with Joseph Steensma that focused on birding around the Illinois River flyway. The name of the book is, “A Guide to Finding Birds along the Illinois River Flyway,” and it was published before Dobson entered his last semester at Routt Catholic High School.
In June 2023, following his graduation from the University of Illinois with a bachelor’s degree in natural resources and environmental science, he debuted as a solo author with the publication, “Field Guide to Hotspots and Birds in Illinois.” Dobson explained that his current publication covers all of Illinois in terms of where to bird, along with most bird species found in the state.
The current book was not an easy project. “I was a student, working, serving as president of the local Audubon Society, running a couple of research projects and writing this book,” recalled Dobson. “Managing my time to do field research, photographic cataloging of all species, creating range maps and pulling it all together was a two-year process.” Dobson continued that there were 15 other individuals who contributed photographs to the project.
One of his favorite highlights in working on this book was finding an adult long-tailed Jaeger in July 2022 at Chautauqua National Wildlife Refuge near Havana. This species is one of his favorite seabird species and it is also very rare.
“This find was my 300th bird for the year,” proclaimed Dobson. “This was a big milestone. It marked the 10th year in a row of recording 300 species in a year in Illinois.”
In addition to his birding in Illinois, he has been on excursions in Trinidad, Mexico, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Ecuador and Canada. “A couple of goals that I have are to visit 50 different countries and to see at least 5,000 species in the world,” Dobson said.” So far, I have logged six countries and around 1,500 species.”
In addition to his fascination with birds, he has also been an avid weather watcher. “I always loved watching The Weather Channel growing up and can remember saying I wanted to be a meteorologist when I was in the first grade,” Dobson concluded. “Then, birding took over until I was in high school, and I took up storm chasing.” He uses social media to regularly report on his storm chasing and weather predictions.
Dobson is beginning his master’s work in biological sciences at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro, Arkansas. The focus of his master’s degree is to look into Wetland Reserve Easements for better monitoring and assessment protocols, especially effectiveness of programs for wetland bird species.
Dobson’s book is available through Amazon, local bookstores throughout the state and via his own personal website, scissortailadventures.com.