Volunteers, Rare Birds, and staff enjoyed a summer evening together at the annual Appreciation & Awards event at the Center for Urban Horticulture. Photo by Kim Starke. 

The 2022 Appreciation & Awards Dinner held on August 18, 2022 honored the many Seattle Audubon volunteers and Rare Birds (members of 20+ years) who sustain this organization’s work all year round. The garden courtyard at the Center for Urban Horticulture provided a beautiful late-summer setting for an evening to celebrate each other and to reconnect over a shared love of birds.  

Each year, a few volunteers are recognized for their exceptional service. The words below were shared during the event to illuminate each of their contributions.  

Brett Eaton serves on the NextGen Council. Photo courtesy of Brett Eaton. 

BRETT EATON | Education Award
Presented by Hanae Bettencourt, Education Manager 

The Education Award recognizes an individual in the greater Seattle community whose work inspires students of all ages to love, respect, and protect nature. 

I am honored to present this year’s Education Award, as Brett has, on several occasions, made my job just a little bit easier.

Over the past year, Brett has been our go-to volunteer whenever we needed an inclusive leader, who had the bird knowledge when needed, but more importantly, a generous personality that is welcoming to everyone, including the newest members of our community.

I think Brett’s favorite word is YES, or some derivation thereof.

Can you lead a team for Christmas Bird Count? Sure!

Are you interested in leading a few young adult bird walks? Yeah!

Will you set up and arrange our first Beers for Birds event in three years? Of course!

Would you like to chaperone a cross-state camping trip with a group of teenage Young Birders? Sounds fun!

As a dedicated member of the NextGen Advisory Council, Brett is a committed member of our community and I am excited to acknowledge his work with this award. 

Judy Bowes, founder of Birdphilic LLC. Photo by Kim Starke. 

Presented by Josh Morris, Urban Conservation Manager 

The Science and Conservation awards were combined this year to honor an individual who has made—and is making—a significant contribution to understanding threats to birds in our region and applying her work to protect birds. 

Judy Bowes is an architectural researcher whose main research interest is preventing avian bird deaths from collisions with buildings. She studies how materials, lighting, landscaping, and building design can increase or reduce the risk of bird collisions. She has examined the effectiveness of collision deterrent products like window decals and ultra-violet patterns in glass panes. She is also the founder of Birdphilic LLC, through which she consults for public and private clients, including Seattle Public Schools, to incorporate bird conservation as a component of sustainable building design.                                                                                                                                 

Judy was a scientific consultant on Seattle Audubon’s bird collision monitoring project, which is now in its second year collecting data. She played a role at every level, from research design to participating as a volunteer herself. She is also running her own collision monitoring project on the University of Washington campus, where she is working on her PhD. Judy spearheaded the University of Washington’s Bird-safe Campus Working Group, which is developing and advocating for policies that will reduce glass, lighting, and pesticide hazards to birds on campus. 

Over the past two years, as Seattle Audubon has become more active in working on bird-window collisions, we have found a close ally, a partner, and a friend in Judy Bowes. 

Etta Cosey leading a youth Christmas Bird Count. Photo by Wendy Walker. 

Presented by Andrew Schepers, President, Board of Directors 

The President’s Award honors a special individual within the Seattle Audubon community who has provided exceptional dedication and service to the organization.   

Etta Cosey started birding as an adult, 18 years ago. Originally from Louisiana, Etta never considered birds as a hobby, and didn’t grow up with bird books or knowing anyone who called themselves a birder. It all started with a trip to Fort Worth, Texas and daily walks with her young grandson. They started to notice all the ducks and got curious about what they were. Etta bought her first book and became passionate about it, so much so that she graduated from Seattle Audubon’s Master Birder program in 2017.

In over 18 years as a volunteer, Etta has engaged 3rd graders through Finding Urban Nature, supported membership events, contributed to community science through the Neighborhood Bird Project and Puget Sound Seabird Survey, led Christmas Bird Count routes, tabled at outreach events from Queen Anne to Beacon Hill, partnered with groups including Outdoor Afro and Duwamish Alive! Coalition to create custom bird walks, and recently served on the Equity Task Force. Her talent for connecting people with birds seems to have no limits. And once people are connected, and catch the spark for birds, they too might become part of our collective strength. That’s the future we want.   

In Etta’s own words:  

“That’s the beauty of birding, you have experiences you never, ever imagined you would have. Encounters with people, not necessarily with birds, but with people. I love it, I recommend birding to everyone. The younger, the better.” 

Grace Rajendran, Equity & Justice Committee Chair and board member. Photo courtesy of Grace. 

Presented by Katie Amrhein-Dang, Vice President, Board of Directors

This annual award honors a peer-nominated volunteer who has inspired other volunteers through their service to Seattle Audubon. Though she is a new volunteer, her contributions over the past year have been profound and are a significant part of the progress we’ve made toward becoming a more diverse and inclusive organization. It is my honor to announce this year’s Hero of the Flock, Grace Rajendran.  

In addition to joining the Board of Directors in 2021, Grace participated in the Equity Project Task Force and Core Team led by the consulting firm Point B to help us understand Seattle Audubon’s current state of equity, diversity, and inclusion maturity and to provide expert recommendations on how to improve our efforts in this space. Out of the recommendations from that work, Grace also developed and launched an entirely new Equity & Justice Committee. Grace now leads a racially diverse group of volunteers and staff in navigating complex issues through the committee. Grace is so inclusive and thoughtful in her leadership, and she inspires me to explore my own relationships with EDI much more deeply.  

And her influence doesn’t stop there: Grace has guest authored blogs for the Seattle Audubon website, helped fundraise for us through a presentation she moderated with popular science communicator and cartoonist Rosemary Mosco, and just this past weekend, led a fantastic Birding 101 workshop at Refuge Outdoor Festival that incorporated, in her own words: “some of the things about birdwatching that were important to me, such as art and creativity and moving mindfully and intentionally through nature by recognizing that we are part of this balance and vital stewards of its care.” 

Grace, thank you for everything you have done and continue to do to inspire me, our fellow board members, and now, everyone here.

Click here to see the historical list of volunteer award winners.