Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Spring Birding Festivals 2013!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013
I love traveling, especially if I know where I'm going.
I had a momentary lost of cranial pressure a few minutes ago. I was sitting in an airport terminal, waiting on a plane, and I suddenly realized that I could not recall where I was about to go. I checked the gate screen and saw it was a flight to Detroit. No bells were rung by this. Then I walked my mental fingers through my recent travels. I'd been twice to Florida in the past two weeks, so not likely going there again. And then it came to me. I was not going to a birding festival, but to a business conference for publishers: more work-like and completely indoors. No chance to go birding. No wonder I'd forgotten it.

I can look forward to much great birding travel and adventure this spring and summer, however. Let me share some of the highlights with you.

In just a few weeks I'll be one of the speakers at the San Diego Bird Festival. This event takes place on scenic Mission Bay from February 28 to March 3, 2013. The featured speaker is Dr. John Fitzpatrick from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. I am listed as a special guest and I'm leading a birding trip along the border with Mexico as well as giving a couple of presentations and playing some music for one of the evening receptions. 

The San Diego Bird Festival features many activities for young people and families.
The birding at this fest is excellent (including several pelagic trips), as is the vendor hall. There's even a post-festival tour south into the Baja Peninsula of Mexico. Find out more here:
Vermilion flycatcher (male). Photo ©Karen Straus

Later in March I'll be representing Bird Watcher's Digest as a host for the first-ever Birding Optics & Gear Expo in Columbus, Ohio March 23-24, 2013. Nearly all the major optics manufacturers will be on hand, showing and sharing their products. Ben Lizdas from Eagle Optics will be there selling optics. And we'll be joined by several other companies, too: Midwest Photo Exchange will be selling cameras and other photo gear, Clintonville Outfitters will bring outdoor gear such as boots, packs, and so on. Manfrotto will be there with their excellent tripods. Optics companies at the Expo include: Swarovski Optik, Leica Sport Optics, Carl Zeiss Sports Optics, Celestron, Kowa Optimed, Minox, Vanguard, and Vortex. Best of all, this event is FREE to attend. All outdoor enthusiasts are welcome, so I hope to see you there.

One spring event that I've been invited to in the past but have never been able to attend is the FeatherFest in Galveston, Texas scheduled for April 11-14, 2013. It might win the contest for longest birding festival name, since it's officially known as: The FeatherFest Birding and Nature Photography Festival. I've been birding along this part of the Texas coast and can attest to its appeal as a place where you get great, close-up looks at wonderful birds. Easy access to diverse habitats means you'll likely run up a huge list of birds. This year's speaker is Mark Obmascik, author of The Big Year. More details are available here: Galveston FeatherFest. One of these years I plan to get back to Galveston (cue the Glenn Campbell soundtrack).

In late April I'll be back down in south-central West Virginia at the New River Birding & Nature Festival, which is held in Fayetteville, WV from April 29 to May 5. This small event specializes in wood warblers, including cerulean, Swainson's, and golden-winged—and about 20 other warbler species, too. Mornings are spent birding the hills and hollers amid breathtaking mountain scenery of the New River Gorge. Late afternoons are a time to rest up for the evening, which might include a cookout, a cafe meal, or a stop at a nearby ramp dinner before the evening program and check list review. 
Life bird wigglers after finding a golden-winged warbler at the New River Birding & Nature Festival in West Virginia.
It's fun, friendly, a little wacky, and a must-add event to your bird-festival bucket list. On the festival's final night, The Rain Crows, the most-famous band ever to emerge from Whipple, Ohio will be playing a show at Opossum Creek Retreat, where the festival is based. Oh yes, and there is local microbrewed beer on hand, too. More info: New River Birding & Nature Festival.

At the end of April I'll be speaking and guiding for the first time at The Acadia Birding Festival on Mount Desert Island in Maine, which runs from May 30 to June 2. I'm giving two talks and guiding on two walks and a pelagic trip for the festival. Marshall Iliff is the other speaker booked this year for Acadia—a festival which is gaining quite a reputation for its combination of great boreal and coastal birding. Who doesn't like a birding event that can give you both warblers and alcids? For more info, head here:

Mid-June usually find me and my family out on the Missouri Coteau in North Dakota for the Prairie and Potholes Birding Festival. If you've been a reader of my blog or Julie Zickefoose's blog over the years, or a subscriber to Bird Watcher's Digest you'll know about "Potholes." Our dear friend Ann Hoffert serves as the de facto den mother for this festival which, despite its small size (about 80 people max), offers world-class birding. Highlight species we see most every year include Baird's, LeConte's, and Nelson's sparrows, chestnut-collared longspur, Sprague's pipit, and ferruginous hawk. 
Birders at the Potholes & Prairie Birding Festival looking for a Sprague's pipit.
Add to that alluring list the vision of nearly every breeding species of waterfowl, skeins of American white pelicans, and you get a feel for the wonderful birds we see. But there's more: hot lunches at cafes in tiny prairie towns, a prairie ramble that includes sites where Native American tepee rings are still present, and the biggest sky you've ever seen. There are even rumors that there will be a bit of squatchin' this year with Al Batt and Liam Thompson. We've been out there for 10 years running and we'll be back again: Visit Birding Drives Dakota for details.

Late June will find my family back at the Hog Island Audubon Camp in Bremen, Maine for a course we'll be helping to teach called "The Arts of Birding." Julie and I and our fellow instructors (including...) will lead sessions on nature journaling, field sketching and painting, writing about birds, bird photography, and perhaps even a bit of nature songwriting, too. Hog Island is legendary for its setting along the rocky Maine coast, its proximity to birds such as black guillemot and Atlantic puffin, and its history of teaching people of all ages about nature. We hope you'll join us June 23 to 28, 2013 for The Arts of Birding.
A sunset view of Hog Island Audubon Camp in Maine.

It's time to board my plane to....ummm.....uhhhh......HOME! Yay! What a long strange trip it's been! Hey, I hope to see you out there with the birds one of these days at one of the events I've listed above. Until then, stay birdy, people!