Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Fall Warbler Symposium

We had a blast last weekend at the above-named conference devoted to one of our most interesting groups of birds. About 230 people showed up from all over the place - Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, California, and probably other far-flung places. In addition to the Ohio Ornithological Society, I really want to thank our partners, the Black Swamp Bird Observatory and the Toledo Naturalists' Association.

If you've never been to one of these affairs, you really must. We try and bring in the most knowledgeable and entertaining speakers that we can find, and provide not only a good time for all, but an excellent educational opportunity. Plus, you'll get to meet birders who share your passion from all over, including many whose names you may recognize from the Ohio Birding Listserve.

The next big OOS event is an important one, probably more so than any other conference we've done. The Ohio Bird Conservation Symposium will be held December 1st at Deer Creek Resort, just south of Columbus. The focus is on something that should be at the top of all of our priorities: protecting birds and their habitats. I hope to see you there.

Following are some pictorial highlights of last weekend's conference...

It was a packed house in the Danbury High School auditorium, which proved to be an excellent locale for conferences like this. We were only seconds from great birding places along the shores of Lake Erie. A HUGE thanks to Lakeside, which hosted us and was incredibly helpful. The OOS is planning on bringing the Midwest Birding Symposium here in 2009, and you'll be hearing lots about that before too long. At the lectern is Dana Bollin, who did an outstanding job of running the show.

Before Saturday's conference, intrepid birders gathered for early morning field trips. We ALWAYS make field work a big part of these conferences, even though it makes the logistical headaches much bigger. Phil Chaon, Karen Menard and I led this trip in some abandoned quarries on Marblehead. We had at least 100 individual warblers, most flying over in the early morning hours as they came in off Lake Erie. We weren't standing there very long when a Merlin flew over our heads, giving everyone great looks and providing a great lifer for a number of folks.
On a pre-conference field trip to Kelleys Island, we were able to introduce birding phenom Jon Dunn to the joys of Fox Snakes, which I believe was a life snake for him. This beautiful reptile only occurs in a limited area around Lake Erie, and is one of the most localized snakes in eastern North America. Although big, they are very docile and never bite.

Dr. Elliot Tramer was our first speaker, and gave an outstanding presentation on warblers in their Central American wintering grounds. Elliot has spent much time in Costa Rica studying them, and gave the crowd a big picture view of a group of birds we often think of as "ours", when warblers actually spend more time in the tropics.

Next came Bill Evans, guru of the night calls and founder of Old Bird, Inc.. Bill gave a fascinating program, punctuated with sounds, of the various calls that warblers give as they pass overhead in the dark. He did a great job of presenting the mysteries of migration and the strides that we've made in understanding bird movements.

Lunch was like being back in school again. In fact, we were - the first time I've eaten lunch in a high school cafeteria (actually gymnasium) since my days at Worthington H.S. several years ago :-)

Following lunch was Kenn Kaufman, always a treat. He gave a very creative look at John James Audubon and his work with warblers. One of the great things about Kenn is his imagination. He comes up with subjects and angles that no one else would think of, and creates fascinating talks, books, articles, etc.
Last speaker of the day was Jon Dunn, aka "Mr. Warbler". Jon is author of A Field Guide to Warblers of North America, among many other noteworthy accomplishments. He presented an overview of eastern warblers in fall plumage and how to ID them. Jon's talk was a big help to many in understanding a group of birds often largely wrongly thought of as "confusing".
That evening, the group gathered at one of Lakeside's fine lodges and enjoyed an excelent banquet. Our emcee was the inimitable Bill Thompson III, who warmed the crowd with a sing-along. Anyone who has been to a BT3-emceed affair knows he's good at this.
Our evening keynote speaker was Victor Emanuel, founder of VENT, one of the biggest and most respected tour companies in the world. Victor hadn't been to Ohio since 1965, and we were thrilled he'd come to be with us. His talk was more of a reminiscence about warblers from the perspective of one who has watched birds for a long time and is utterly passionate about them. Victor's global travels give him a perspective that few have, and that came out in his outstanding talk.
Sunday was field trip day, and my group went to Sheldon Marsh State Nature Preserve. My co-leaders were Paula Lozano and Ben Warner, and we had superb birding at this under-appreciated locale. At least 17 species of warblers wre seen, many in big numbers. The above is not a warbler. It is a bizarre-acting immature Green Heron sitting on phone wires. Warblers are too hard to get good photos of; this is the best that I could do. Wish I had gotten a pic of the Golden-winged Warbler we found, though!
In all, I've heard of at least 20 species of warblers that were found by all of the groups that were out in the field, with big numbers of many species. Lots of other interesting birds as well. Thanks to all who came, and special thanks to everyone that volunteered their time to make this a successful conference!



Andy said...

Glad to hear you had good warblers at Sheldon Marsh. i was there earlier in the morning that same day, sounds like more warblers came in after we left.

I wonder if that's the same Green Heron I got a photo of (currently on my blog)?

KatDoc said...

Had a terrific time at the OOS event this weekend. Great speakers and wonderful company made up for the weather (gray) and the mosquitos (hungry.) I didn't get many warblers, that is to say, I saw a lot, but didn't do so good at IDing most of them. I did spot the only Canada Warbler our group found at Metzger Marsh, so that was something.

Thanks for coming over to speak to our table at dinner on Sat. I got "cool points" from my tablemates for knowing the President (of OOS.)

Jim McCormac said...

Thanks for being a part of the weekend, Andy and Kathi, and Katdoc, it was a pleasure to meet your friends although I doubt I really scored any points on your behalf :-)

Julie Zickefoose said...

Sorry to miss this one, James. Thanks to a show in PA, I'll miss the December conference, too, and I'm taking BOTB with me. Hope to see you soon.

Anonymous said...

Should read "rarely bite." I had one bite me last Sunday and have seen it happen to someone else. They are very docile indeed...but every snake has a bad day here and there!