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Meet the Birder: Dave Mull

NOVEMBER 4, 2021

Artist Profile: Greg Kozatec

JUNE 7, 2021

Meet the Birder: Dave Mull

NOVEMBER 4, 2021

Meet the Birder: Dave Mull

NOVEMBER 4, 2021

Dave Mull is a skatebirder — he’s been skateboarding for 22 years, and birding for 11. He grew up in Vermont and now lives in Los Angeles, where his love of nature and adventurous spirit continue to grow. He jumps out of trees with his skateboard and climbs trees to watch birds.

Dave Mull in a tree

How did you get into birding?

One night while in my grandparents’ cabin in Maine, I picked up a book about Common Loons called “Voice of the Wilderness,” by Joan Dunning. I was captivated by the intimate details of loons: how they overwinter on the sea, pair up on lakes, host communal gatherings and hunts, and then rear the most adorable chicks that hitch rides on their backs.

When you’re not skating, how often do you take out those binoculars? And now that you’re living in Los Angeles, what are your favorite places to go?

Well, I usually take my binoculars with me while skating. If I’m going skating somewhere new or particularly birdy, I’ll lug my scope and bins along with all my skate gear, probably weighing over 40 pounds each time. A few favorite birding spots in California are Griffith Park, Morongo and Yucca Valley, Bolsa Chica Wildlife Reserve, Angeles National Forest, Sequoia National Park and simply outside my apartment. Last year I got to witness four Cooper’s Hawk chicks being reared outside my apartment window! All four successfully fledged, and I got so many great looks and intimate glimpses into their lives.

Dave Mull holding a bird

Is there anything about birds or nature that has an influence on your skating?

Whenever I see raptors carefully walking on power poles and light posts, I imagine balancing up that high and then jumping with my skateboard. The last thing I think of before jumping from something scarily high is my partner Lauren or a raptor leaping for prey.

You’re not shy about your passion for birding – how does this fly in the skating community?

The last thing any birder needs is to be shy about birding. We need to show our appreciation for the natural world and help protect it by spreading the love. A handful of other skaters have reached out to me over Instagram and shared their bird experiences and photos. It’s such a trip! Birding is the necessary future of our world. And it’s so damn fun that I can’t help sharing it with people anyway!

Dave Mull jumping from a roof

Skateboarding photos by the late Joe Hammeke, may he rest in peace. Bird banding photo by Tania Romero.

How did you get into birding?

I’ve always had a general fascination with birds and wanted to answer questions like “How do they fly?” and “What are their feathers made of?” After getting into the University of Georgia and studying wildlife science at Warnell [the university’s school of forestry and natural resources], I had the opportunity to pick a focus course and naturally I chose ornithology. After gaining a good level of background knowledge I went on my first bird walk in 2018 and found out that I adored observing bird behavior—but also sparking a birding interest in others!

Can you tell us about how Black Birders Week started?

Black Birders Week was orchestrated by a group of young Black professionals who could sympathize with what happened to Black birder Christian Cooper in Central Park. While sharing our own stories of discrimination within our respective fields, we decided an event should take place that truly showcased the greatness that Black people have provided to the birding world. It was a week of activities that highlighted the authenticity of Black experiences in nature, and necessity for diversity in STEM [fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics].

What do you love most about your birding community? What would you like to see change, either in your own community or other aspect of birding?

I love the ability to discuss the wonders of birds with people of all ages, races, and creeds. Birds are an amazing way to bond with strangers and get others stoked about the outdoors, even if they don’t have an initial interest in wildlife. I would like to see more opportunities for birding clubs and minorities to interact with one another, whether in schools or community entities, like libraries and camps.

You lead a lot of bird walks for kids and youth. How do you think younger generations connect with nature and each other?

One thing I love about youth walks is the sheer fascination with EVERYTHING. They are just learning about the world around them, and I think it’s important to incorporate nature into that exploration. The outdoors can not only help children learn about themselves but also facilitate healthy coping mechanisms and an understanding of behavior and interactions as they are navigating their own ever-changing developments. 

What's next for you and birds?

My future hopes for birding and me involve reaching out to schools and community programs to provide structured learning through bird exploration. I would love to continue sharing the knowledge of the outdoors with youth and families so that they may continue to carry and teach future generations. 

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