This weekend past, Columbus Audubon and the Ohio Ornithological Society jointly hosted a "Waterfowl Symposium" at the fabulous new Grange Insurance Audubon Center in downtown Columbus, Ohio. In spite of inadvertently choosing one of the winter's worst weekends for snow, everything came off fine and nearly everyone made it. We were greatly looking forward to hosting Jesse Barry and Chris Wood of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and hearing their presentation, but the weather and aircraft gods conspired to prevent that. Jesse and Chris made it to the Detroit airport, where multiple snafus prevented them from making the next leg - either by car or plane - to Columbus. We missed you guys, and hope you made it back to New York just fine. Paul Baicich drove in from Maryland, and reported that the drive was harrowing in places. Planning late winter events in Ohio is always a dicey proposition, and we are grateful that everything worked out as well as it did.
Following are a few photos of the event, but first a few much-deserved acknowledgments. Pulling off events such as this one are a ton of work, and both of the partnering organizations are indeed fortunate to have numerous talented and hard-working volunteers that are willing to put them together. Their work makes it possible for the rest of us to just show up, have a good time, and learn about birds. The planning committee deserves major props; they were: Ann Oliver, Peter King, Andrea Cook, Julie Davis, Warren Grody, Jen Sauter, Nadya Bennett, Darlene Sillick, Randy Rogers, and Barb Fate. Many other volunteers helped in various capacities, as did a number of field trip leaders. Thanks to all, and a special thanks to Heather Starck, Doreen Whitley, and Wade Walcuut of the Grange Insurance Audubon Center for graciously hosting us. We hope to do future events at this facility.
We sponsored six young birders to attend, and major kudos go to the sponsoring organizations for committing the funds to make that possible.
Not deterred by the elements one bit, the amazing Swinging Orangatangs swung up all the way from Marietta, Ohio, and rocked the house on Friday night. That's Bill Thompson on the ar left, his much better half Julie Zickefoose is to Bill's left. If you haven't heard the SO, you must. It was a great time, the acoustics were superb, and the sound was hot.
Paul Baicich came over from Maryland and spoke about birds, birders, and conservation, especially the role that waterfowl have played. Great stuff, as always, and if you ever get the chance to hear Paul speak, do it.
A real standout was Dr. Gwen Myers of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. She's been involved in a project on Spectacled Eiders (some of us call them "Spectacular" Eiders) on Alaska's north slope. Her program was incredible and filled with standout images and information. So much so that I'm going to try and slap up a blog about that later.
To say that Alwash is a passionate and knowedgable speaker would be an enormous understatement. He delivered a spellbinding program on one of the world's most significant wetland complexes, the vast marshes that flood the land where the Tigris and Euphrates rivers meet. Saddam Hussein did his best to drain the wetlands and nearly succeeded; Alwash is doing his best to put them back, and doing very well at it. Among many great photos, he shared a shot of thousands of Marbled Teal darkening the sky.
As part of our conference, we were able to raise $1,500.00 to donate to Nature Iraq. I believe that over $3000.00 has been donated by Ohioans over the past year. This is money well spent, and has helped Iraqi biologists purchase optics, field guides, and other essentials. Thanks to everyone who has helped to support this important work!
Thanks again to everyone who came out, and all who worked to make the event a success.