Saturday, June 20, 2015

Midwest Birding Symposium 2015

Saturday, June 20, 2015
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Even if you're not a birder from the Midwest, you've probably heard of the Midwest Birding Symposium. It's a biennial (every other year) birding event held somewhere in the middle of the United States. Its origins are in DuPage County, Illinois, about an hour west of Chicago, but the states of Iowa, Michigan, and Ohio have also hosted the Midwest Birding Symposium (MBS).

Bird Watcher's Digest has been the host of five different Ohio-based MBSs—in 1997, 1999, 2009, 2011, and 2013. We have a special fondness for this event. The symposium is like no other birding event. While some events are built around rare birds, or a spectacular conglomeration of birds, the MBS is more about connecting bird watchers to one another, about the experience of birding and learning together, and about offering exceptionally entertaining and edifying content to attendees. In that way, BWD and the MBS are almost twins. We both aspire to be purveyors of wonderful, content- and context-rich experiences for birders.

We've become the de facto keeper of the MBS and, in the interest of keeping things new and fresh, we found a new location and set of partners for the 2015 MBS, taking it back to Michigan. We'll be in Bay City, Michigan, this September 10 to 13, working with Michigan Audubon, the Saginaw Basin Land Conservancy, and the Great Lakes Bay Regional Convention & Visitors Bureau to put on the 2015 MBS.

http://www.gogreat.comhttp://www.sblc-mi.org/http://www.michiganaudubon.org


A quick visit to the MBS website will give you all you need to know about the 2015 event, so I won't recapitulate that here. But I will say that the event's slogan is true: it's "The World's Friendliest Birding Event." 

If you don't believe me, ask around, among your birding friends, about the Midwest Birding Symposium. Or ask the question online on one of the social media channels. I'm fairly sure you'll hear from some folks out there with first-hand MBS experience. If you can make it to Bay City (a charming town on the Saginaw River, near Lake Huron) this fall, please join us. We'll make sure you have a great time.

The early-bird deadline for registering is June 30. After that it'll cost you another $25 to register for the entire MBS.
Northern harrier, the logo bird for the 2015 MBS.

I hope to see you there. It's going to be a hoot.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

This Birding Life Episode 50!

Thursday, May 28, 2015
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Bill and Ted's excellent birding adventure is captured in episode 50 of "This Birding Life."
Funny how you're just chugging along through life and all of a sudden you're 50 years old! Geez! Half a century? Really? Well, I turned 50 a few years back—can almost remember it, too.

The number 50 is one of those milestone numbers, which is why I'm kind of chuffed that the new episode, just posted, of "This Birding Life" is EPISODE 50!

Now, these 50 episodes did not take 50 years to post, though my frequency of producing new episodes has been irregular—and frustrating to some listeners. That is something that I'm trying to correct, by the way. I'm giving up the image-hungry M4a format in favor of a pure stream of MP3s. I'll still post an M4a version, but without all the embedded images. That image sourcing, selection, and placement is what takes so long and is the primary reason that I'm not currently celebrating episode 60, or 75, or 100!

Episode 50 is an interview with my friend Ted Floyd, who is the editor of Birding magazine, flagship publication of the American Birding Association. Ted and I met up for a bit of birding this spring while I was visiting Boulder, Colorado, where Ted and his family live.

Ted birding, not editing.
I've known Ted for as long as he's been working at the ABA and I find him to be intensely curious about the natural world. He's one of the more knowledgeable field ornithologists I've ever met and a pretty funny guy, too.
--> He’s the author of the Smithsonian Field Guide to the Birds of North America published by HarperCollins and the senior author of the Atlas of the Breeding Birds of Nevada. He's also quite a maven on the night flight calls of migrant birds in the West. And he took his two kids out birding—and started their life lists—when they were only hours old. Respect.
I hope this piques your interest enough that you'll listen to our conversation in Episode 50 of "This Birding Life": An Interview with Ted Floyd.
We enjoyed excellent birds and words while hiking this Colorado canyon.

Incidentally, on our morning of birding, we swept the nuthatches! We got white-breasted, red-breasted, and pygmy all within minutes of one another in the mountains above Boulder, Colorado. That's not something you get to do every day! Except if you're Ted Floyd.

Enjoy! 

 This Birding Life 

Monday, May 18, 2015

The Master of Crappy Warbler Photos

Monday, May 18, 2015
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'Tis the season when our in-boxes and social media accounts are flooded with gorgeous bird imagery from our shutter-buggy friends who are sharing their most recent photographic tours de force. From well-known migration hotspots like High Island, Magee Marsh, and Central Park, an almost constant stream of bird photographs (usually of male warblers in their spring finery) floods your world. 

At first it's wonderful to see these striking images—they whet the appetite for your chance to get out there for a swim in the river of spring songbird migration. Then your reaction transitions slowly to one of envy, even jealousy. And by the time the final stages (grief and anger) hit you, you're thinking about giving up birding, photography, and social media for good.

Why do THEY (your talented photographer friends) get to spend endless days frolicking through the woods, marshes, and parks snapping away to their hearts' content while you have to sit here in your cubicle at work, cursing yourself for not taking the entire months of April and May as vacation/sick/personal emergency days.

But the joy keeps building. When you finally get out there with the birds, it's rainy and cold and the migration is pretty much over. You get some dark shots of American robins and red-winged blackbirds and one shot of a Canada goose family. But that's it. Maybe you're like me and you're struggling with an older camera that's not as easy to use [idiot-proof] as some of the newer DX/FX Mark XXVIII with the 800 fixed and a 1.4 converter with the Beamer thingy and a 'roided-up battery pack that lets you take 2,750 frames per second. I've got a Canon 30D with a 300mm fixed lens that has a mind of its own. Its auto focus takes longer than the 17-year locusts. When the shutter finally clicks, it sounds like one of the doors slamming shut in the intro to Get Smart. Canon keeps e-mailing me saying they want it for their exhibit at The Smithsonian Museum of Ancient Technology. It will sit right next to the cotton gin and the rotary phone.

It's at this point that you know—in your heart of hearts—that if one more person says "You shoulda been here last Saturday! It was a HUGE fallout" YOU. WILL. MURDER. THEM.

Rest easy, fellow non-traveler. I am here to assuage your feelings of being left out and left behind. To wash away that bitter taste left from seeing the 347th stunning shot of a male Blackburnian warbler, in deep tones of black, white, and Valencia orange, making duck lips at the camera. 

For I am just like you. I am a taker of crappy bird photos. I am a misser of migration. I am a gainfully employed, never-gonna-retire, working-for-the-weekend, gazer at the passing parade of nearly pornographic bird images as they drift past my open digital window. And I feel your pain.

Here is my antidote. I am posting, below, my crappiest warbler photos from two days this past week when I walked the boardwalk at Magee Marsh. During the past 10 days the photos coming out of Magee and The Biggest Week in American Birding have been stunning. And I took none of them. You perhaps did not either. 

So, like Jamie Lee Curtis proudly showing off her middle-aged, unretouched body and face, I am sharing these unedited images as a way to strike a blow for us normal bird photography folks. This is how OUR photos look. And they are realer than real, man. I only hope the world can handle them.


Male blackpoll warbler, imperfectly backlit.

Male Cape May warbler, butt-only. Shout-out to my buddy Dave, who specializes in burdbuttz.

Please Mr. Autofocus, focus on the stick, NOT on the bird. Thanks! Cape May warbler male.

This would be a perfect shot of sunlit ash leaves but for the blurry chestnut-sided warbler that photo-bombed it.

Magnolia warbler, fleeing the frame.

Beheaded magnolia warbler.

Yes, that's a male northern parula. Trust me.

Black-throated green playing hide-n-seek.

Perhaps the first photographic evidence of the ghost of an male American redstart.

So there you have it, friends. My photographic tour de farce. And I give you my word that none of these images was processed or tweaked in any way—because I'm sure you were wondering.

Peace, my brothers and sisters, and I'll see you out there with the birds (and without my camera).

BOTB

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