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