April 15, 2014
Article in: Birding
The Biggest Week in American Birding is one of the most popular birding festivals in the United States. It’s been growing every year and is wildly popular! It is also absolute proof that birders spend tourism dollars. So with 50 to 75 thousand people from all over the U.S. and other countries and millions of tourism dollars being spent is there room for serenity and peaceful birding?
In one word: ABSOLUTELY! Not everyone agrees. They would rather have the birding areas to themselves. Or think crowds are irritating and damaging. I hope to prove them wrong and to encourage more people than ever to attend the Biggest Week!
Although I love solitary birding – Magee Marsh is a special place that needs a birding crowd. More importantly, the birds need these crowds! What better way to help birds than to share how awesome they really are: IF YOU LOVE BIRDS, YOU WILL WANT TO CONSERVE THEM. The birds don’t care about the crowds: they are busy eating and resting. The boardwalk and paths show clearly the safe places to walk and there are many volunteers to help ensure the birds’ safety. It is seriously the most respectful and amazing crowd of people who attend this festival. The best thing: it is PERFECT for any age and level of birding.
So I will give you my account of the first time I was at the Biggest Week in American Birding. I am not good in crowds so I think this account will reassure anyone who might feel like this event is too big for them.
My first time at the Biggest Week:
I parked in the large parking lot – there were a lot of cars but still plenty of room – and began to walk towards the boardwalk. I balked when I saw that between me and the boardwalk was a large group of about 30 people all facing a tree in the parking lot. I noticed big cameras, fancy birding vests, Swarovski bins and felt nervous. Walking towards them I saw a couple young boys, some women with just jeans and t-shirts, a guy in a Pink Floyd sweatshirt. I stopped just behind the group and looked up. A man suddenly turned to me and whispered, “Cape May” and turned back to his giant camera. I scanned the tree and found the gorgeous migrant, calmly eating and flitting about. He paid absolutely no attention to any of us. Amazed at this group of collective bird watchers, I realized I was in a different crowd than the type that made me feel anxious and claustrophobic. I decided to head to the boardwalk. It wasn’t so packed you couldn’t get through, but there were people everywhere. What first hit me was the lack of noise. People talked and walked and made noise but it was muted and the air was buzzing with excitement. I had expected to be overwhelmed by all these people but – everywhere I turned I received a smile or saw someone enraptured by a Black-throated Green Warbler. A man walked by with a sound recorder and talked to me for a moment. Cameras clicked and a girl gasped as she found a bird in her bins. I smiled and realized the power of this event and how it could help conservation.
This was just one of many awesome experiences I’ve had at the Biggest Week festival. I really encourage you to come and try it out. You will be amazed at the people and birds – it’s way cooler in person!
There is so much to do at the Biggest Week: talks, guided walks, night events and even a special screening of the movie “A Birder’s Guide to Everything” which I strongly encourage you to see! (100% of the proceeds will benefit songbird habitat conservation!)
Check out the Biggest Week Visitor Guide HERE (PDF) and HOPE TO SEE YOU THERE AMONGST THE BIRDING CROWDS
February 28, 2014
Article in: Birding
This year will be bigger and better than ever and the birds benefit as much as the humans who get to watch them! Want to help save the Golden-winged Warbler? Right at registration, thanks to the American Bird Conservancy and the Black Swamp Bird Observatory, you can donate ten dollars (completely optional!) to help support the creation of a wintering habitat corridor in Nicaragua. This project will also help other overwintering migrants near El Jaguar, Nicaragua (such as the Wood Thrush).
Now Who wants to see a Prothonotary Warbler this May?
Returning for the second year is a unique even to the Biggest Week: the 2nd Annual Bird Tattoo Contest.
Last Year’s Winner!
Please check out the Registration Page and make some early May vacation plans. You will NOT be disappointed! There is not a better place to see migratory songbirds or a better place to meet awesome birders just like us! New birders are treated so well and experts are loved and appreciated. If you are a Black Swamp Bird Observatory member: the general registration is only $20. Nonmembers are only $35 and students over 13 only $10! Bring all your little ones under 13 for free. Workshops and field trips have separate costs but are optional and there is a complete list of all activities on the Registration Page.
Birders are Great People!
We really hope to see everyone there this May!
February 19, 2014
Article in: Book Reviews
My early anticipation of The Unfeathered Bird was that of a large book of beautiful works of art; a wonderful treat to page through in visual awe. The author’s background as “curator of the ornithological collections at London’s Natural History Museum” along with her expertise at taxidermy form the foundation for the book. Her ability to draw with minute and precise detail make the birds come to life, despite them being mostly skeletal.
The visual appeal of The Unfeathered Bird is immense: 385 illustrations of birds without their conventional beauty. Yet the book shows just how spectacular birds are and how their structure forms the basis for what we see in the field. “In fact, this is really a book about the outside of birds. About how their appearance, posture, and behavior influence, and are influenced by, their internal structure.”
I spent a great deal of time paging through the artwork and that alone makes this book valuable for birders. But the explanations of the “generic” bird parts along with sections specifically focusing on families of birds, makes The Unfeathered Bird an incredible learning tool.
I’ve often taken for granted why a certain bird behaves a certain way, hunts a certain way, or just lives a certain way. But Katrina deconstructs the birds in a poetic way with both prose and picture, that anyone with an interest in birds can read and understand the way avian creatures work. You won’t be bogged down with confusing terms but instead will eagerly flip to the next page or next family of birds.
The Unfeathered Bird belongs as an aid to anyone studying ornithology, biology, evolution, or art. And while the book is oversized, it isn’t some coffee-table book destined for periodic browsing. It beckons to be read in detail and studied intently.
February 7, 2014
Article in: Backyard Birding
This has been a wild winter and it isn’t over yet. We’ve had countless days of below zero temperatures and well above-average snowfall totals. The snow drifts along our driveway are deep enough to get lost in.
This cold weather, while limiting my birding, brought a wonderful surprise to our yard: Snowy Owls!
Yes, Snowy, and yes owls plural.
After hearing repeated reports of Snowy Owl sightings not too far from where we live, I was delighted to see one land in the “mailbox snow pile”. He blended in so well it would have been impossible to have seen him if I wasn’t already looking.
I took numerous shots from inside and then ventured out into the 35 mph winds to get a few more. He had moved to a perch on the power line pole.
Then, less than a week later, we were visited by a second Snowy Owl, a darker one that I assume is an immature female.
Unfortunately, she flew when a box truck rumbled down our usually quite road.
Here is a comparison shot of the two birds.
We have but a few new trees and are waiting until spring to plant a yard (and more) so our yard list is pretty sparse.
But with yard birds like this, I’m not complaining.
Please note: Flickr, where we keep a lot of our photos, has changed a bunch so hopefully these images show up all right. Feel free to click on them for a larger view.
January 29, 2014
Article in: Birding, Take Kids Birding, Travel
This year the Ohio Birdfreaks (Dakota and Jennie) will be attending the 14th Annual Shreve Migration Sensation with a few Illinois Birdfreaks (Susie, Sammie and Allison)! We are super excited!
This is the best Ohio event to show off migratory waterfowl and is perfect for all ages and every skill level of birder.
Shreve, Ohio has held this event for fourteen years now and it just keeps getting better. The cost is low, only 15 dollars a person or 20 for the entire family and includes six workshops, all events and a lot of cool birds!
Everyone Loves a Redhead!
Free maps are available when you register at Shreve Elementary School, where the workshops are held. The Birder’s Marketplace is located there – a wealth of all kinds of wonderful bird merchandise including optics and gorgeous artwork and groups like the Greater Mohican Audubon Society. There is an activity area, live birds from the Medina Rapter Center and a Wilderness Center Exploration Area.
This year’s speakers include celebrity author, bird experts and exceptional conservationists Kenn and Kim Kaufman (the most wonderful friends anyone could ever have), Jim McCormac author of the blog Ohio Birds and Biodiversity, Chuck Jakubchak and Ohio Certified Volunteer Naturalist, Cheryl Harner the co-founder of Flora-Quest and Lisa Rainsong, a Music Theory faculty member of the Cleveland Institue of Music and writer of the blog Listening in Nature.
Ohio’s largest inland wetlands complex Killbuck Wildlife Area is located here and it’s the perfect time to see migrating waterfowl! Covering 5,671 acres there have been rare sightings such as the Red-throated Loon and White-winged Scoter. There are over 133 typical bird species on the list of typical birds you may see near the end of March.
What’s new in 2014?
This year there will be a Storywalk at Wright Marsh. It’s a family event where you follow a story page-by-page along the path and at the end you will have the opportunity to search for waterfowl with other birders.
We really recommend this event if you can make the trip. It’s always a good time. Hope to see you there and we look forward to sharing our experiences there!
December 16, 2013
Article in: Bird Conservation
Wind power. It’s supposed to be good. Clean, healthy – sustainable. The Birdfreaks are very much on board with renewable energy. But there is a huge problem being overlooked when it comes to putting up new turbines: LOCATION MATTERS.
Unfortunately along the Lake Erie shoreline in northwest Ohio, the birds are in serious trouble due to a lack of research and responsibility.
Wind turbine projects at the Camp Perry Air National Guard facility and Lake Erie Business Park are in highly bird-sensitive areas. As good as wind energy is, it cannot be at the expense of our migratory songbirds.
The Lake Erie shoreline is GLOBALLY important to these migratory birds. It is also a major ecotourism area for bird watchers. During the Biggest Week in American Birding in May of 2013 over 70,000 birders from all over the world visited the area.
We need to start letting everyone know we are against this location for wind power. It is bad for the birds and bad for the image of the wind industry.
Environmental groups should not have to fight against each other.
Here is how you can help:
First please read the information gathered by the Black Swamp Bird Observatory. It clearly explains the issues with placing these turbines in highly bird-sensative areas.
You can also write, call or e-mail elected officials in Ohio and let them know. The Black Swamp Bird Observatory has a link to how you can contact these officials as well as a sample letter.
PLEASE HELP OUR VOICES BE HEARD
September 4, 2013
Article in: Bird Conservation, Young Birders
The Ohio Birdfreaks were so excited to attend the very first EVER Indiana Young Birders Conference on August 24th, 2013.
Rob Ripma (from Nuttybirder.com) and all the SUPER people who put the conference together did an amazing job and the young birder speakers blew us away with their knowledge and passion.
Young birder photo session
There was morning bird banding and a field trip to start off the event. We arrived a little afer those early events (it was around a three hour drive) and brought along a couple extras: a new birder (Jamie) and non-birder friend (Thomas). Both stated they had a wonderful time at the event!
Registering was easy and we checked out the awesome silent raffle and big raffle items. We were amazed at the large amount of donated items to give away to the kids. (you can see the list of sponsors here)
The Ohio Crew
Did I mention that the young speakers were AMAZING? They discussed various topics such as a birding adventure in Costa Rica, birding apps, a history of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker and bird conservation. We were moved to tears when young birder Matthias stressed the importance of taking care of our birds and their habitat so we could continue to enjoy them for years to come.
Eagle Creek Ornithology Center brought in some raptors (that could not be released to the wild due to past injuries) for a birds of prey program. Then Kenn and Kim Kaufman talked about youth birding and inspired the entire room. They graciously hosted an autograph session and as always were personable and approachable – Kim Kaufman’s passion for bird conservation and young birders moves me every time and I’m SO glad they were a part of it! (call us biased because we love them SO very much – but Kim and Kenn are the MOST loving, bird conservation minded people we have ever met and are always willing to share and spread the birding knowledge and love to all!)
The keynote speaker Andy Johnson gave a spectacular talk on shorebird tracking and studies. A student at Cornell University, Andy is doing great work to help learn more about the amazing migration of shorebirds and their populations.
The AMAZING Speakers!
This first Indiana Young Birder Conference could not have turned out better. I anticipate that each year will be bigger than the last and I cannot wait for next year!
Coming up….the Ohio Young Birder Conference (November 2nd) at the Toledo Zoo! Hope to see you there!
August 22, 2013
Article in: Book Reviews
Gardening for the Birds: How to Create a Bird-Friendly Backyard is a wonderful primer for birders who are just getting started with birdscaping (like us) to those who have an already birdy yard they wish to improve on.
The book begins with the basic steps to planning a wildlife-friendly garden and covers what birds need most: food, water, and shelter. Included is a lengthly list of plants useful to birds for nest sites as well as a table showing the dimensions needed for building nest boxes.
Special attention is given to attracting hummingbirds and butterflies including a regional “calendar” of flowers both find most useful. This chart includes pertinent information on light needs, hardiness zones, mature height, flower color, and most importantly, flowering months.
There are several other similar calendars that cover annual and perennial wildflowers, grasses, and a large section on fruiting trees and shrubs.
Further into the book you’ll learn about how to get to know your region and plant your garden accordingly. The author insists on using native plants found within a 100-mile radius of your location.
Information is provided on how to understand your current yard and develop a landscape plan with various habitats mixed in. The author suggests 7 different zones to consider for “an average suburban garden”.
Unfortunately, the book doesn’t include a variety of sample plans to help jumpstart ideas on what plants go well together. There is a basic drawing showing a yard with differing habitat zones, but full plans with lists of plants for each of the geographic regions would have been much appreciated.
The book does cover tips on caring for your bird garden with mulch, fertilizer, pruning, watering, etc. and also how to deal with problems that arise such as cats, nuisance birds, and glass strikes.
The final two sections of the book are plant and bird directories. Each includes wonderful photographs and loads of information. For the plants you will find out what birds are attracted to what as well as the distribution and cultivation of each.
For the bird directory, information on habitat, range, feeding habits, nesting and more is included. A cross-reference of plants the birds use for food and shelter makes it easy to go back to the plant section and read up on what you can add to your garden to help attract the birds you want.
Overall, Gardening for the Birds: How to Create a Bird-Friendly Backyard is jam-packed with wonderful information on a wide variety of plants you can use to attract various birds. While not a complete resource on gardening for wildlife, this book is a great stepping-off point to come up with ideas on planning your bird garden.
One thing I found irritating is the way the page numbers are laid out. They are printed in the spine of the book instead of on the outer edge making it difficult to refer to specific pages. Definitely a design oversight.
Disclaimer: we received this book from the publisher to review on Birdfreak.com. The links are to our Amazon Affiliate account.