Monday, March 24, 2014

OOS Annual Conference - Shawnee!

The stunning Northern Parula is one of at least 20 species of warblers attendees can expect to see.

Mark your calendars for the weekend of April 25-27, if you haven't already done so. That's the weekend of the Ohio Ornithological Society's 10th annual conference, to be held at the state park lodge imbedded deep within Shawnee State Forest in the rugged hills of southernmost Ohio. If you've never been to Shawnee, you're in for a treat. This is the largest contiguous forest in Ohio at 65,000 acres, and it nearly connects with the sprawling 16,000 acre Edge of Appalachia Preserve just to the west. The biodiversity of this region is beyond incredible. Over 100 species of birds nest in the area, including specialties galore such as Chuck-will's-widow, Summer Tanager, and Cerulean Warbler. Want to see (or at least hear) Ruffed Grouse? This is the place. The sheer numbers of breeding warblers is staggering. A good late April morning might produce dozens each of Worm-eating Warbler, Louisiana Waterthrush, Blue-winged Warbler, Hooded Warbler and many more. Shawnee is THE hotspot for Cerulean Warbler, too.

The OOS launched itself with our first conference in 2005, at Shawnee. It was a hit, with some 200 attendees. Exposure to this magnificent forest and its never-ending biodiversity set many tongues to wagging, word traveled, and our encore there in 2006 attracted a whopping 250 people. Sign on RIGHT HERE, you won't regret it.

The conference is nice blend of programs and field trips. The agenda is RIGHT HERE.

I have spent countless hundreds of hours in Shawnee and the Edge of Appalachia; the area ranks very high on my list of all-time favorite places. Not only because the birds are so lush, but also because of the treasure trove of other flora and fauna. The gorgeous little Red-banded Hairstreak above is but one of a few dozen butterfly species that can be seen on a warm sunny spring day. There are around 1,000 species of native plants, which fuel plenty of animal life of all kinds. The flora is punctuated, rather liberally, by rare plants that are in some cases found nowhere else north of the Ohio River.

Shawnee field trips are an absolute blast, and never boring. I believe I am going to take a group of adventurers out Saturday night into the depths of the wilderness. We will especially be after Eastern Whip-poor-wills and Chuck-will's-widows, but there's no telling what one might find in the nighttime forest.

The OOS conference is a great way to get a jumpstart on spring. Down there, by late April, nearly all the breeding birds will be back in force - people in northern and even central Ohio will have to wait a few weeks to see most of these species, at least in any numbers.

To register and for the complete lowdown, CLICK HERE.

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