POOLER, Ga. (WSAV) — As Isaiah Scott strolled through Tom Triplett Park, sharing his plans to study at Cornell University in the fall, he excitedly interrupted himself.

With binoculars hanging from his neck, the 17-year-old bird enthusiast pointed up to the sky and exclaimed, “Wow! That’s a great blue heron!”

Scott, who’s finishing his senior year at South Effingham High School, says he’s appreciated nature and the outdoors from a young age.

It was a trip to Ithaca, New York, that uncovered his passion for birds three years ago. 

“I had a chance to visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology with my brother on a college visit,” Scott told WSAV NOW

“Visiting that place really opened up my interest in birds, just to see the diversity of birds, their beauty and how beneficial birdwatching and identifying all the species is,” he said.

Since then, the ornithologist has amassed a following on Instagram through his Ike’s Birding Hikes page.

“I’ve been able to be a part of organizations and I’ve even made friends and found some friends in my local area who birdwatch, as well,” he shared.

Scott says he initially started leading the hikes to help those in his community connect with nature.

“I had a desire to bring people outdoors, especially younger people, to disconnect them from technology and video games and just go outside and experience the beauty of nature,” he said, adding that he’s only held virtual, socially distanced hikes during the pandemic.

The internet and social media have also helped the young birder connect with other ornithologists who look like him.

“That was something I really wasn’t used to coming into birdwatching three years ago, it was mainly an all-white-dominated field,” Scott said, adding that he’s found value in being part of a community of other birders of color.

The Effingham County student has also blended his artistic skills with his love of birds. Scott started his own art business, called The Rookery Collection, last summer.

“I draw and paint birds and nature, so I saw a way to combine my interests with birds and art, and then had an idea to start the business,” he explained.

“I paint designs, I mainly use watercolor and gouache, and I’ll get them scanned and we can put them on canvases, mugs and on different products,” Scott said. 

The Ogeechee Audubon Society recently recognized the talented young birder through the Eckelberry Fellowship, which supports the work of wildlife artists through small grants.

Scott explains that the grant allows nature artists to develop a special project while sharpening their skills.

His project will involve studying and researching the Lowcountry’s African history.

“It’s called the Gullah-Geechee cultural heritage corridor, and I’ll be pretty much connecting the Gullah-Geechee culture to birds and nature,” Scott said.

“The Gullah-Geechee is my heritage, so I’m just really trying to learn more about it and discover where I came from,” he said.

Scott plans to study environment and sustainability at Cornell University.