Leica Stories: Matt Daw

by Jennie Duberstein


Although lately Matt is best known for his video of a photo bombing Rufous-necked Wood-Rail, here he gets photo bombed by a Reddish Egret.

Where do you live?

During the school year I live in Hoboken, New Jersey. During the summer and on breaks I’m either in Alexandria, Virginia with my family, traveling, or working somewhere.

Where are you a student and what are you studying?

I am studying Chemical Biology and am getting a minor in Entrepreneurship at Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey.

What do you hope to do when you graduate?

I’m not 100% certain of my plans after graduation but I definitely want to do some research with birds, preferably in the tropics. I am still undecided about applying for medical school, but I’ve decided to take some time off and work to see where that takes me.

How long have you been a birder?

I have been a birder since I was around eleven years old. I first started identifying birds at the age of nine with my grandmother in Idaho and she gave me my first bird book. When my family moved from Georgia to Pennsylvania, I started to explore our new backyard and found that there were numerous species of birds just outside in my yard and quickly became hooked. I also found a mentor in the form of an elderly gentleman named Robert Maly. He introduced me to a number of local birders and provided transportation to some local reserves and parks. This was integral in helping me expand as a birder and keeping my interest alive in the beginning years.

(Photo by Jeffrey Gordon)

(Photo by Jeffrey Gordon)

What Leica optics do you own?

I own Leica Trinovid 8×42 binoculars.

How long have you owned Leicas? Did you receive them as a prize for the Young Birder of the Year contest?

I received them in 2007 after winning them in the 2006 ABA Young Birder of the Year contest.

How did winning Young Birder of the Year impact your life, especially as a birder? Can you tell us about a few experiences you had as a result of winning the contest?

Winning the contest was definitely a very positive experience in my life as a birder. I quickly became connected with other birders in my area and became involved in the birding community instead of just birding alone. Winning the contest also gave me the opportunity to attend Camp Tejano, a young birder camp put on by Victor Emanuel Nature Tours. The camp involved ten days in the Texas hill country and west Texas and a whole ton of awesome birds. For the first time I was able to bird with other young birders and I realized that there were actually a lot of us! After getting back home from the trip, I managed to meet some other local young birders and I continue to bird with them to this day.

(Photo by Jeffrey Gordon)

(Photo by Jeffrey Gordon)

What is one of the most memorable birds or experiences you’ve seen through your Leicas?

My Leicas have been with me for seven years now, and the number of memorable birds and experiences I’ve seen through them is uncountable. I remember the excitement of watching gray wolves hunt elk at dusk in Yellowstone National Park, watching my first Baird’s Sparrow sing from a grass stalk in Montana, and scanning huge flocks of waterfowl in the winter in North Carolina. Another special encounter that comes to mind is the surprise of finding a Rufous-necked Wood-Rail in New Mexico. After catching it in my camera, I immediately put my binoculars on it and watched it until it disappeared into the cattails. It seems like every time I go outside with my binoculars, I find something interesting to look at, it’s just a matter of getting out!

On the off chance you missed it last summer, here is Matt’s once-in-a-lifetime video of the Rufous-necked Wood-Rail:

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