Monday, September 29, 2008

Raptor Symposium

We had a whale of a good time this weekend at the OOS/BSBO-sponsored Lake Erie Raptor Symposium, held at Maumee Bay State Park. Major props are due Karen Menard, who conceived the idea for this symposium and was key to pulling it together. As always, a wonderful group of volunteers did all of the heavy lifting and made things happen. These affairs are a ton of work, and all of our paychecks are very small; basically invisible. Thanks to everyone involved, as well as our excellent slate of speakers and field trip leaders.

The lodge stuck this sign out front to welcome us. Helped draw about 140 people into the lodge, but no buteos, accipiters, or caracaras.

It was a full house for both daytime and evening festivities. Our Saturday morning speakers did an outstanding job covering the raptors of the western Lake Erie region. First up was Mark Shieldcastle, with the Ohio Division of Wildlife, who gave an excellent overview of Bald Eagles and their recovery. Then came Paul Cypher with a fascinating program about southeastern Michigan's hawk migration through Lake Erie Metropark, which we visited the next day. Steve Lauer followed up with a talk about all the work he has been spearheading to document nesting raptors in the Oak Openings, and we concluded with Mark Shieldcastle, this time wearing the hat of the Black Swamp Bird Observatory where he serves as director of research. Mark offered up a fine overview of the spring raptor surveys that BSBO has been orchestrating for many years. Emcee Dana Bollin was her usual stellar self.

Then it was off for some short afternoon field trips. Anyone who has been to one of the OOS shindigs knows that, logistic headaches aside, we always get attendees out in the field to experience birds firsthand. All four trips reported interesting sightings and good times.

The Man himself, Mr. Brian Wheeler, author of the famous North American raptor guides and our evening keynote speaker. Brian lives in Colorado, and has tremendous field experience with North American birds of prey. He is also an extraordinary artist and photographer. BSBO had dozens of Brian's books available, and sold 'em all! The autograph line was a lengthy one, and Brian said it was the longest line he has yet had at a signing. Brian is one of the coolest people you will ever meet, and exceptionally generous with his time and knowledge. We were honored that he accepted our invitation to come to Ohio.

The scene Sunday morning at the hawk-watch site at Michigan's Lake Erie Metropark. This is one of the country's great raptor migratory funnels, with as many as 250,000 Broad-winged Hawks passing through each fall, along with scores of other birds of prey. It was great to see some 130 birders gathered here as part of our conference.

Sunday was not a huge flight day, but there was plenty to look at. This distant speck is pretty much what you see in many cases. It was great to have some extraordinary birders dispersed throughout the crowd to help newer hawk-watchers. I remember looking around once, and there was Brian Wheeler, Paul Cypher, Kenn & Kim Kaufman, Andy Jones, Ethan Kistler, Dan Sanders, and other stellar birders that I'm forgetting right now. The two primary hawk-watchers - and I am forgetting their names - were also there and both are extraordinary talents, picking out and ID'ing at extreme range the dots such as is pictured above.

Of course, we all have optics and that helps bring those faroff specks into focus. This is the bird shown in the previous photo, magnified a bit. A Sharp-shinned Hawk, the most common raptor that we saw this day. There were also several Cooper's Hawks, and a smattering of Red-tailed, Broad-winged, and Red-shouldered hawks, Osprey, Bald Eagle, and American Kestrel.

It was a gorgeous day with sunny skies, and in addition to watching raptors pass overhead, hanging out with the crowd of birders was great.

The Ohio Ornithological Society regularly hosts events such as this one, and being a member is the best way to stay informed about upcoming happenings. We need you! To join, please go RIGHT HERE.

Thanks to all who came, and hope to see you again soon.


Paul said...

I never thought I would see the day when Brian Wheeler, Kenn Kaufman and I are mentioned in the same sentence. Thanks!

BTW, the counters are Calvin Brennan(paid) and Josh Haas(Sunday volunteer)


Jim McCormac said...

You deserve the recognition, Paul! Thanks again for being a part of our event, and for speaking. Your talk was outstanding!