A symposium is defined as a meeting or conference for discussion of a topic, and so a main part of the Midwest Birding Symposium was the great lineup of speakers. Over Friday and Saturday I attended several keynote speeches as well as four separate, smaller break-out sessions.
Here are just some of the dynamic guest speakers in action.
Alvaro Jaramillo‘s talk was called “Bird ID Outside the Box.” As a new birder I thought this might be too ‘advanced’ for me but the description intrigued me and I’m really glad I attended. The MBS program said of Alvaro’s speech: “This workshop will aim to teach a little bit of birding voodoo and other features to concentrate on while birding.” Part of Alvaro’s thesis is that we should get all we can out of birding, and enjoy the hobby in our own way. If you don’t like listing, for example, don’t do it. You don’t have to be a lister to be a birder. Want to watch the birds in your back yard? You’re a birder, too. He also presented some really neat research being done around brain function, memory and facial recognition and suggested we can apply some of those techniques to learning bird identification. Birding voodoo indeed!
Kenn Kaufman spoke on “Flights Against the Sunset: Why We Need Birds.” He shared lots of reasons why we need birds (yes we do!) along with a fair dose of humor. He even impersonated a Mourning Dove at one point. Don’t believe me? See the video below!
Bill Thompson, III introduced the keynote speakers who appeared at Hoover Auditorium, sometimes in song. He also spoke about the process of creating his book The Young Birder’s Guide to Birds of Eastern North America.
David Allen Sibley spoke Friday night about his new book, The Sibley Guide to Trees. He also generously spent two sessions signing books for legions of fans. It was fun to see that many people brought him several books to be signed: a pristine new copy of the tree guide along with a hopelessly tattered copy of The Sibley Guide to Birds or another of his field guides.
Lang Elliott has been recording natural sounds for over 20 years. He shared a great collection of bird calls, songs and hoots during his presentation.
Wayne R. Petersen spoke about inland shorebirds. This was an information-packed talk featuring slides with lots of shorebird ID tips, trivia, photos and data.
Actress Jane Alexander spoke on “Birding On and Off the Movie Set.” She shared a series of amusing anecdotes on the birding adventures she’s had while traveling the world, acting in movies, television shows and stage performances.
Al Batt‘s program was titled “Snippets from a Life Gone to the Birds.” He had an auditorium of birders laughing in the aisles with his tales of growing up in a big family on a farm, birding with children as an adult, squirrel troubles and more. Apparently a bat or two makes its home in the Hoover Auditorium of Lakeside and one made a rather dramatic flight across the top of the stage during Al’s talk. It was two Batts for the price of one.
Jim Berry was the final speaker on Sunday morning, giving a program called “Roger Tory Peterson: Yesterday and Today.” This included two older videos of Peterson which were very interesting.
Unfortunately I didn’t manage to take any photos of two other speakers I saw during the MBS. Mike Bergin of 10,000 Birds spoke on bird blogging. He shared 80+ of the best bird blogs (I was very excited to get a shout-out). Author Scott Weidensaul gave a presentation called “Of a Feather: A (Brief) History of American Birding.” This was very entertaining, especially considering I had just read the book.
Finally, here’s a video montage of Bill Thompson III, Kenn Kaufman, Jane Alexander and Al Batt.