Junior has a bird’s-eye view of nature

Junior Caleb Jordan-McDaniels was introduced to nature at a very early age. He spent his childhood immersed in the countryside, attending a Waldorf school and living on a farm in Sonoma. Since then, Jordan-McDaniels has created a daily routine in Tiburon centered around wildlife so he can always be in the outdoors and observe what it has to offer. These habits include birdwatching on his regular hikes, making him one of the only bird watchers at Redwood High School, according to Jordan-McDaniels.

Courtesy of Ellen McDaniels Sanford-Caleb practices his photography skills

Courtesy of Ellen McDaniels Sanford-Caleb practices his photography skills

Every day, he explores or learns something new about the environment, whether it is on his morning bike rides, night walks or canoeing out in the bay. Jordan-McDaniels notes what it is like to be one of the few highschool bird watchers at Redwood.

“Not too many people here like birds a lot so when I do find someone who does it’s very easy to connect … its just something to do whenever I’m anywhere that there’s  birds. I’ll always have fun identifying them and learning new calls,” Jordan-McDaniels said.

Until Jordan-McDaniels was 11 years old he spent his youth fully immersed in nature attending Summerfield Waldorf School and Farm in Sonoma county.

“I went to a school that was against technology for young kids, so I did a lot of playing outside, going up the creek and catching frogs and snakes, just having fun,” Jordan-McDaniels said.

On any given school day Jordan-McDaniels rides his bike up Ring Mountain, stopping to explore anything interesting off his normal path. Jordan-McDaniels spoke of some of the wildlife he gets to see is during his daily routine riding to school.

“I have a nice bike ride to school: I go over Ring Mountain and there I get to see birds. This morning I saw a White-Tailed Kite, a Merlin and some Doves,” Jordan-McDaniels said.

 Juvenile White-tailed Kite perched on a tree branch.

Juvenile White-tailed Kite perched on a tree branch.

Ellen McDaniels Sanford, Jordan-McDaniels’ grandmother, spoke about how her grandson’s personality traits led him to have a strong fascination in nature.

“He has always been very quiet, reserved, thoughtful and observant. He started noticing the patterns of nature and what happens with birds and animals through the seasons from the time he was four or five years old,” Sanford said. Jordan-McDaniels has shown that he is very observant and he has always been into making sculptures or tools.

Ever since Walter Sanford, Jordan-McDaniels’ grandfather, can remember, Jordan-McDaniels has been intrigued in engineering by constantly building different tools and contraptions with his hands. He has created different tools for the poison dart frogs that he keeps as pets to make it easier for him to feed them when he is away. Recently, he made a self-dispensing machine to feed his frogs.

Jordan-McDaniels’ family is frequently traveling from as far as Ecuador or short weekend trips to Sonoma. Since Jordan-McDaniels is constantly traveling he wanted to have a way to properly feed his frogs with no one to do the job. This problem led to him creating a feeder that will automatically give the frogs fruit flies automatically on a timed basis according to Walter.

According to Jordan-McDaniels, he enjoys observing nature working together in various ways, as it gives him a sense of peace in a stressful society, and he gets to experience different things that other people don’t usually see in the outdoors. Being in nature helps calm Jordan-McDaniels and gives him a feeling of security.

Townsend’s warbler awaits low under a leaf.

Townsend’s warbler awaits low under a leaf.

“It’s a great way to get away from the stress of school. It’s nice to go out and look for birds. I get to do a lot of things that other people don’t do, [such as] finding new places,” Jordan-McDaniels said.

Because of the positive role nature has played in Jordan-McDaniels’ life, he decided a few years ago to do volunteer work within the community to assist in an area that he knows alot about.

Jordan-McDaniels has done so by working with wildlife at the Richardson Bay Audubon Center and Sanctuary where he helps sort through different types of vertebrates and assists with projects. Jordan-McDaniels has also learned how to bird band through a class he took two years ago, a skill where one catches a bird, individually identifies the bird, then attaches the given band around one leg and then releases it back into the wild.

Additionally, Jordan-McDaniels has volunteered at the Tiburon Salmon Institute for over a year, where he has cared for the salmon and completed maintenance work in their warehouse.

Jordan-McDaniels’ enthusiasm for the environment has led him to pursue nature photography, something he has received local recognition for.

“Recently, he has gotten really excited about bird photography, so he will go up on to Ring Mountain with his camera. He has been invited to be in an exhibit at the Corte Madera Library and display his photographs there,” Walter said.

Jordan-McDaniels hopes to take his love for the outdoors to the next level and pursue this appreciation by helping wildlife when he is older. According to Jordan-McDaniels, he hopes to study biomimicry, a field that involves finding sustainable solutions for environmental damage caused by humans by studying patterns found in nature. The beauty in nature is evident through its amazing features, as Jordan-McDaniels noted the beauty and harmony found in wildlife.

A Bewick’s Wren Bird resting on a tree branch.

A Bewick’s Wren Bird resting on a tree branch.

“There’s so much about it, just being away from people and everything seems to go more smoothly… of course there [is also] beautiful scenery, and everything works together and is efficient,” Jordan-McDaniels said.

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