Monday, December 30, 2013

Moving Pictures

Monday, December 30, 2013
We've added some new talent to the roster here at Bird Watcher's Digest—staff members Wendy, Kyle, and Dawn. And this is opening up some new possibilities for us as we collectively figure out the various ways to apply our skills, expertise, and energies to the best possible use.

I'm not sure that video is one of the "best possible uses" but we made the video below recently and, if nothing else, we had a lot of fun doing it.


The goal of the video was to help people to better understand the various ways they can enjoy their Bird Watcher's Digest subscription in our many print and digital options. We were especially targeting folks who received a new computer, smart phone, or digital tablet/reader as a holiday gift.
I think we accomplished this goal (and the numbers actually bear this out, which we're thrilled about) but we're not expecting HBO to come calling anytime soon—unless they are planning a mini-series on birding, in which case we're all-in!

I'm looking forward to working with these fun, talented BWD people in 2014, and beyond.
Now if you'll excuse me, I've got to go! Marty Scorsese is calling and you don't keep Marty waiting.

Wishing you and yours a happy, birdy New Year.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

New Podcast Episode: MBS Speaker Highlights

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Episode 44 of my podcast "This Birding Life" is now available for your ears and eyes. This one features short excerpts from seven different speakers at the 2013 Midwest Birding Symposium. I wish I could have shared ALL of the speakers' programs, but it's probably best that you appreciate these things in person. Featured in this episode of TBL are portions of presentations by Jen Brumfield, George Armistead, Sharon Stiteler, Sara Morris, Scott Shalaway, Mark Cocker, and Al Batt.

 I hope you enjoy it. And while we're talking about the Midwest Birding Symposium, you can get on the pre-registration list for the 2015 MBS which will be held in Bay City, Michigan, September 10-13, 2015. We'll be co-hosting the event with Michigan Audubon and, in case you were wondering, Bay City is a charming town with lots of great birding sites nearby.

Thanks for listening!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

My Upcoming Birding Events this Winter!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013
This year is the last year that our daughter Phoebe will be living full-time in the home nest. She'll be off to college somewhere fabulous in the fall and I was motivated to try my best to stay home more often this year to hang around with The Pheebster. I probably should have asked HER about this, since she's leading the never-stop life of a high-school senior and is rarely at home. Nevertheless, I turned down a number of opportunities to travel and a handful of speaking gigs at festivals.

But I'm STILL hitting the road quite a bit and here are some of the upcoming what's, when's, and where's, through January 2014.
There won't be any Philly vireos present when I'm in Philly speaking to the DVOC.
DVOC Annual Banquet • Philadephia, PA • November 21, 2013
I'm the annual banquet speaker for the Delaware Valley Ornithological Club (DVOC) on Thursday, November 21. This venerable Philadelphia-area bird club traces its origins back to the 1880s. Its list of previous annual banquet speakers reads like a who's who of American birding. It's an honor to give a presentation to this group. I'm giving the "Perils and Pitfalls of Birding" talk, so I hope I can get a chuckle or two from the crowd. Registration details are here.

Giant flocks of sandhill cranes will be filling the skies at Wings Over Willcox.
Wings over Willcox • Willcox, Arizona • January 15–19, 2014
I think I know why the acronym of this event is WOW. It's probably the thousands of sandhill cranes that winter in this region, plus all the waterfowl. Or maybe because, despite being held in mid-winter, Wings Over Willcox always has a bird list of about 140 species. I'm giving a talk and attending a wine dinner and I'm looking forward to helping out on a few field trips. Get WOW info here.

Limpkins are fairly easy to see at Viera Wetlands during the Space Coast Birding Festival.
Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival • Titusville, Florida • January 22–27, 2014
This down-home event along Florida's central Atlantic coast seems to grow larger every year in terms of programming offered, field trips, and number of attendees. It's become one of the must-do birding festivals because the birding is great, the vendor hall is filled to bursting, there's great seafood to be eaten, and let's face it, Florida is a fine place to be in late January if you live anywhere on the planet that still has winter. I'm not speaking at this year's event, but I'll be there manning the Bird Watcher's Digest booth and I'm a co-leader on a couple of field trips. If you've never been, perhaps this is your year:

Ibi in the sunset at Merritt Island NWR.

That's it people. I'll see you out there with the birds!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Fourteen Years Ago Today: Liam!

Friday, November 8, 2013
Fourteen years ago this morning, my son and namesake came into this world at 7:24 AM. He is William Henry Thompson IV, but we decided to call him Liam to avoid confusion. He is now and forever attached to the name Liam, and it to him. We'd never call him Bill or Billy or Henry or Hank. But we have about a billion nicknames for him: Shoom, Broski, Hotdog Brother, Li'l Buddy, Albino Spider Monkey...

In what has become a family birthday tradition, the following images and content are dedicated to Liam on his birthday. They will also embarrass him a bit I'm sure, which is just part of the reason why we do it. Julie's wonderful Liam Birthday Post is already up and working its magic.

Like his parents and sister, Liam bonds with all kinds of animals...
Soon after he was born, Liam donned his superhero cape and battled a rampaging dinosaur.
Every time we go to see the Pirates at PNC Park, the Pirate Parrot seems to seek out Liam for a photo.

Monkey see, monkey do.

A real silverback gorilla at the Columbus Zoo was completely fascinated by Liam. Likes attract.

At The Wilds, the baby rhino always walks right up to our sweet, gentle son.
But Liam's favorite animal pal is Chet Baker. They are playmates.

 Of all the people and things in the world, Liam loves his big sister Phoebe most of all. He is completely devoted to her and, to Phoebe's credit, she does not abuse this exalted status—at least not as much as she could.

It's hard for all of us to comprehend what life will be like when Phoebe goes off to college next fall—and it's going to be toughest on Liam. But he will make it, because he has sunshine inside of him.

A wonderful side-benefit of having a big sis is all the older chicks Liam gets to hang with. They all adore him.

 We're not sure what Liam will be when he grows up, but early predictions include artist, comedian, and rubber-faced man in a carnival sideshow. We're not sure where he gets his love of face making.

Escargot, anyone?

It's not all about the Benjamins with Liam.

Will he be a birder? Probably, but we're not forcing it.

Liam knows how to relax.
He is a deep thinker, a ponderer...
And given the chance, he is a wanderer.

We're so lucky to have you here with us, sweet boy. We can't wait to see where you'll go once you spread your wings and fly. Happy birthday, my son.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Has Social Media Killed Blogging?

Monday, November 4, 2013

Back about eight or nine years ago when I started this blog, blogs were exploding all over the place. There were celebrity blogs, food blogs, movie blogs, sports blogs, mommy bogs, humor blogs—you name it, there was a blog associated with it.  There were even blogs about blogs. Talk about standing in a hallway full of mirrors!

I got a charge out of writing my blog, Bill of the Birds. So much of the writing I do is very assignment- or info-delivery-driven that I had kind of forgotten how enjoyable it was to sit down and give yourself over to writing about something you were feeling or thinking or anticipating. I look back at some of the stuff I was writing about on BOTB and I see now that most similar things are being shared (by me and others) in the much more instantly gratifying social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter, and others. 

It's hard to keep up with everything online. Just ask my friend Bill.

This is perfectly understandable. After all, writing a blog post takes time. Posting to a social media channel takes almost no time at all, which is probably why there are daily news stories about social media faux pas. You barely have to think about it. Just click, tap a few words, and post. It's as easy as falling off a blog.

Blogging on the other hand seems to require more thought, deeper content, and images or links or something to augment the screen full of words. It takes time to create a blog post.
I'd like a clone who could help me keep up with my blog.

Thus it's no surprise that so many blogs are not getting the volume of consistent posts that they once did. Some bloggers are bucking this trend, of course. They are the folks who devote the time necessary to create meaty content, usually around a theme. And these bloggers are reaping the rewards of a larger audience hungry for solid content.

Has social media killed blogging? Yes and no. It's certainly killed off the blogs of the folks who think in quips and short, punchy posts. Those folks do better and gain a wider audience on Facebook and Twitter. And so their blogs are mothballed or cob-webbed or closed. On the other hand, social media has served to be an excellent audience builder, as a tool to point readers/surfers to longer-form content that interests them.

An old blog post from 2006!

For me (a self-admitted quipster) Facebook has stolen my mojo for blogging every day. I'm also a lot busier at work and at home than I've ever been (do you feel that way, too?) and most days the notion of writing a post for my blog is simply lost in the hailstorm of other, more pressing tasks.

But I miss writing for my blog! I miss the way my thoughts would form and shape-shift as I typed sentence after sentence while creating a post. Sometimes I'd get to the end and realize I needed to start all over! Other times I'd get going and, when I reached the end, I'd see that I needed to break this massive post up into several shorter ones. Yes I miss it.

Ara├žaris in silhouette. Shadows in the sunset.
I wish there were a way to tag all of your favorite Facebook posts over a period of a few weeks, to create a single massive blog post. I'm sure some plug-in or app for that exists. But I haven't got time to search for it—I've got to upload some Instagram photos of my fabulous lunch today (just kidding!).

Before I bemoan the death of the blog, I'm going to attempt to find the time to write for my blog more often. And I'll be sure to announce on Facebook and Twitter when I've got a new post up, since that is where all the readers are these days! People have such short attention sp...HEY LOOK A CHICKEN!

I'll see you out there with the blogs!


Friday, October 18, 2013

Midwest Birding Symposium 2013 Recap: Part 2

Friday, October 18, 2013
This is the second half of my 2013 Midwest Birding Symposium recap.

Some additional images and memories from the four days of birding, symposiating, and socializing at the 2013 Midwest Birding Symposium. There were welcoming signs everywhere for attendees. 

The main entrance to the Lakeside Chautauqua.

Many of the Lakeside businesses, like the Ohh La La Cafe, stayed open just for the MBS.

It was great to see old friends and to meet new ones. The MBS is a great gathering point for that.

Carlos Bethancourt from Canopy Tower Panama and Elsa Thompson, founding publisher of Bird Watcher's Digest.

Greg (left) and Tim outside the Birder's Marketplace.
Greg Miller of "The Big Year" fame, meeting Tim Appleton, co-founder of The British BirdFair, the world's largest birding event. The MBS is one of those events where you have an opportunity to meet people you know from social media or from their affiliations and accomplishments. In that way it's a lot like a birding family reunion.

The speakers during the MBS were talented, engaging, and fascinating. Twenty different presenters spoke on things as varied as gull ID, moth watching, pelagic trips, nature journaling, birding in the digital age, and phone-scoping!

MBS attendees during a morning keynote program in Hoover Auditorium.

We had an army of volunteers helping us with the MBS. More than 100 Lakesiders volunteered to help and about another 50 kind souls from the birding community stepped in to do everything from stuffing attendee bags to guiding bird walks to driving golf-cart shuttles and helping to direct lost attendees to their proper destination.

Lakeside volunteers at our pre-MBS luncheon.
Four of the gals on the Bird Watcher's Digest staff, from left: Michelle, Laura, Wendy, and Ann at the MBS closing ceremonies.

In 2011, the MBS attendees in Hoover Auditorium on Saturday night set a world record (recognized by The Guinness Book of World Records) for the most people doing a simultaneous bird call. We hooted out the call of a barred owl. This year we participated in The International Day of Peace by having a giant group Peace Hug.

Everybody enjoying a #peacehug and flashing the peace sign for The International Day of Peace.

The American Birding Association, Lake Erie WingWatch, Columbus Audubon, and The Ohio Young Birders Club helped us make Young Birders' Day at MBS eventful and enjoyable. Despite the icky weather, the birding was really good. So was the pizza.

Five designated birding locales were selected as "official" MBS birding sites and volunteer guides were there at each site just after dawn to lead small groups of birders. Lots of great birds were found, including two species of phalarope, red knot, merlin, and golden-winged warbler.

On Sunday morning we held the Roadrunner 3K Fun Run and about 20 brave souls did not let the cold temperatures and howling Lake Erie wind deter their desire to run. We even had the Blue Goose from Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge in the run. He (she? it?) finished surprising well despite never once taking to the air.

A very special thank you to our Ohio birding pal Ernie Cornelius for taking many of the images you've enjoyed here and on the MBS site. Ernie also coordinated getting images from a half-dozen other photographers and the he prepared a slide show which we projected on the giant screens each night in Hoover Auditorium. Thanks Ernie!

MBS Official Photographer Ernie Cornelius
And then it was Sunday afternoon and time for everyone to head home. It was another successful Midwest Birding Symposium and we owe that to all the support from our sponsors, co-hosts, volunteers, speakers, vendors, staff, and friends.

The next Midwest Birding Symposium will be held in Bay City, Michigan, on September 10–13, 2015. If you'd like to get your name and contact info on the pre-registration list, you can do so at

Bird Watcher's Digest is starting an exciting new series of birding events.

In February of 2014 we'll be hosting our first-ever Reader Rendezvous in Minnesota where we'll go birding with funnyman Al Batt. Follow this link for details.

And in early April we'll be back at the Grange Insurance Audubon Center in Columbus, Ohio for the second annual Birding Optics & Gear Expo. This sales-oriented event gives you a chance to "try-before-you-buy" choosing from among hundreds of optics and gear products for birders. 
Don't miss it!
We'll see you out there with the birds!