Category Archives: Midwest Birding Symposium

Images of Lakeside

I can’t believe the Midwest Birding Symposium ended nearly three weeks ago. One of the most charming things about the whole weekend was the location. I’d like to share some photos of Lakeside, Ohio, where the symposium took place.

Lakeside Historical Marker

Lakeside was founded as a private community in late August, 1873. Today Lakeside is an Independent Chautauqua, which is a sort of church-affiliated vacation resort. The season of the “Chautauqua on Lake Erie,” which normally runs 11 weeks, includes evening entertainment, educational seminars, and recreational activities for the whole family. The whole thing takes place in a most charming gated village full of well-preserved, historic buildings. The symposium occured about a week after the regular summer season.

The Lakeside Dock juts out into Lake Erie from the Pavilion. Close to here is Central Park, where the first meetings at Lakeside took place back in 1873. Today the park holds a playground, bandstand and even miniature golf. Along the lakeside at Lakeside, a small sitting area among shade trees and benches provided the idea circle for the symposium’s Big Sit.

Lakeside Pavilion

Lakeside Pavilion

Lakeside Dock

Big Sit at Lakeside

The venues at Lakeside, typically used for the Chautauqua’s programs and seminars, were ideal for the symposium’s line-up of speakers, as well as the weekend’s Bird Watcher’s Market and Artist Gallery. The 3000 seat Hoover Auditorium served as the main venue for symposium information as well as the keynote speakers.

Hoover Lobby

Hoover Auditorium

South Auditorium & Epworth Lodge

Birder's Market

Artists Gallery

The streets of Lakeside are lined by historic old cottages and were busy with not only cars but plenty of golf carts, which acted as shuttles between the venues. The cinema and several restaurants, coffee shops and souvenir stores are located in the small downtown area.

Street of Lakeside

Street of Lakeside

Downtown Lakeside

Lakeside has several lodging options; symposium attendees took over both Hotel Lakeside and the Fountain Inn early so we elected to rent one of the many cottages available for hire. It was great to be able to walk from our base to the venues throughout the day. Our cottage was probably suitable for nine or more people to share. The upstairs was a small maze of adjoining bedrooms and the large living areas had couches and chairs aplenty. Between the large kitchen and main living area there were two dining tables. The cute screened-in porch was also full of rocking chairs and benches, and I can image sitting there on a warm summer night must be very cozy indeed.

Our Lakeside cottage

Maze of bedrooms

Old cottage stairs

Porch seating

We enjoyed our brief time in Lakeside and look forward to attending the 2011 symposium there!

Lakeside welcomes MBS

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Birder license plates

Several shots of birder-themed license plates were shown during the great slide show put together by Jeffrey Gordon on the last day of the Midwest Birding Symposium. I managed to capture a few photos of these myself.





I started a Flickr group for bird- or birder-themed license plates. Do you have any photos you can add to the pool? Have you ever seen one of the plates featured in the group? Do you have a birdy license plate yourself (maybe in one of the above photos)? I’d love to hear about it!

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A taste of Symposium speakers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Jane Alexander

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

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

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.

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Skywatch at Marblehead Lighthouse

Friday morning during the Midwest Birding Symposium, we visited one of locations mentioned on the MBS program’s list of local birding hotspots: Marblehead Lighthouse State Park. We arrived before dawn and first watched the sun rise over Lake Erie.

SUNRISE at Marblehead Lighthouse State Park

SUNRISE at Marblehead Lighthouse State Park

SUNRISE at Marblehead Lighthouse State Park

The 9 acre park is home to the oldest lighthouse in continuous operation on any of the Great Lakes. Marblehead Lighthouse dates from 1822; the park became Ohio’s 73rd state park in 1998.

Unfortunately the park was not too birdy that morning, although we did see this Red-bellied Woodpecker and got one lifer (Carolina Wren).

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Before we left, I remembered to take a photo of the lighthouse itself. The sunrise at this lovely little park marked the start of another gorgeous day at the Midwest Birding Symposium.

Marblehead Lighthouse

Visit Skywatch Friday to see other stories of the sky from around the world.

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Emerging Monarch

Along with several of their resident raptors, the wildlife rehabilitators at Back to the Wild brought along some rescued, permanent resident snakes, turtles and frogs to the Midwest Birding Symposium. There was also a display with Monarch caterpillars, chrysalises and butterflies, representing various stages in the amazing life cycle of the Monarch. Several of the butterflies were tagged, and we learned about the process of monitoring Monarchs as they migrate south.

The neatest thing here was that several of the chrysalises were very dark, meaning the butterflies were nearly ready to emerge. I was very excited to be there to witness a Monarch coming out. I just missed it on the video, but you can see this is a very fresh little butterfly.

Before – just breaking out!

Fresh lady Monarch!

I don’t believe I have ever seen this before, and I was totally amazed. Have you ever seen a butterfly emerge from a chrysalis?

While at the BTTW display, we met a couple from California who asked if we could take their photo by some of the birds. They then returned the favor and captured the only photo of the both of us taken at the Midwest Birding Symposium!

Arthur, a Red-tailed Hawk, and me

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Gorgeous visitors at MBS

One of my favorite things at the Midwest Birding Symposium were the visiting raptors from Back to the Wild.

BACK TO THE WILD® is a volunteer, non-profit wildlife rehabilitation and nature education center located in northwest Ohio. Its primary mission is to rehabilitate and ultimately release into their natural habitat, injured, orphaned and displaced wildlife.

I loved looking at these beautiful birds. They are all permanent residents at BTTW due to injuries which would prevent them from surviving in the wild. Aren’t they gorgeous?

Long-eared Owl
Long-eared Owl

Long-eared Owl
Long-eared Owl

Red-shouldered Hawk
Red-shouldered Hawk

Peregrine Falcon
Peregrine Falcon

American Kestrel
American Kestrel

Great Horned Owl
Great Horned Owl

Saw-whet Owl
Saw-whet Owl

Saw-whet Owl
Saw-whet Owl

I was talking with one of the volunteers at the Back to the Wild stand and I learned that they do not name their birds. They do a lot of programs with children and decided not to name the birds so that the children wouldn’t get the idea that the birds are pets. I totally understand that reasoning, but I wonder if it isn’t very unhandy to have unnamed birds. How can you talk about them with someone else? You have to call them something, like “the blind eagle” or “the long-eared with the broken wing,” right? I know they give names to the birds at Barnswallow. If you work with education birds or at a rehab facility, do you name your birds? (Susan?) Why or why not?

Short-eared Owl
Short-eared Owl

Barred Owl
Barred Owl

Barred Owl
Barred Owl

Adopting a bird or purchasing a walkway paver are just two of the ways you can help Back to the Wild with their important work. Here are some more ways to help.

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Banding demonstration @ BSBO

In addition to the great speakers and the interesting workshops, other special activities were offered to attendees of the Midwest Birding Symposium. On Saturday morning we went to one of these, a songbird banding demonstration at Black Swamp Bird Observatory.

A good variety of birds were captured in the mist nets, and we got to see lots of birds in the hand.

Northern Cardinal
Northern Cardinal female with wispy crest

See the orange feathers on the Ovenbird’s head?

American Robin in the hand
American Robin

One neat thing was to see a House Wren and a Winter Wren side by side. Do you know which is which?

Two wrens
(ʇɥbıɹ ǝɥʇ uo sı uǝɹʍ ɹǝʇuıʍ ǝɥʇ)

Another cool thing was to see how they weigh the birds. At the MAPS banding station at Rollins Savanna, the birds are weighed by hanging the bird, still in the bag, on a hanging scale. At BSBO the birds were placed into a cone and then weighed in a cup standing on a scale.

Brown Thrasher being weighed
Brown Thrashed being weighed

At one point several different thrush species were being banded, and we were shown three of the birds up close to see distinguishing markings that are difficult to spot in the field.

Learning about a Wood Thrush by examining its tail feathers

The best part of this demonstration, for me, was releasing a bird. I was minding my own business, taking photos of birds in the hand, when suddenly Dana Bollin was standing next to me, instructing me to hold my fingers just so – in order to take a bird to be released. Well, it all happened very fast and I don’t even remember which thrush it was, but it was pretty awesome.

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Three strikes

If you’ve read other blogs from attendees of the Midwest Birding Symposium, you already know that a Kirtland’s Warbler was spotted at East Harbor State Park on Friday, and ended up being seen by a good many of the attendees. This was a life bird for many, and it would have been for us, too, if we hadn’t missed it. If you’re not sure why this was such a spectacular sighting, read Laura’s blog post here.

When Bill Thompson came to the stage after Jim McCormac’s talk, Birding Ohio’s Lake Erie Shore, he barely got out the words “There’s a Kirtland’s Warbler at East Harbor State Park” before people started trotting out to their cars. We hesitated, and then I fumbled when writing down directions which Bill kindly repeated a couple of times. I didn’t have to worry about finding the park though – there was a steady stream of traffic flowing from Lakeside to East Harbor. Where else was there to go, after that announcement?

“Follow trail to next marker for last sighting of Kirtland’s Warbler”

We followed the signs to a clump of about 20 birders clogging the trail. When we arrived, we learned that the bird had not been seen for the last 10 or so minutes. I overheard someone talking on the phone. He said that he was standing with “150 or so of my birding friends.”

Waiting for Kirtland's Warbler

I thought this was a funny bit of hyperbole, but didn’t think much about it until we walked further down the trail a few minutes later. Ah, there was everyone. There were groups of birders everywhere I turned. Far down the path, off the path in the bushes to the left, off the path under the trees to the right. I had thought 150 was an exaggeration, but it may have actually been conservative.

Waiting for Kirtland's Warbler

Waiting for Kirtland's Warbler

Waiting for Kirtland's Warbler

We searched for about 40 minutes before heading back to Lakeside to have lunch. During the afternoon’s first program, Arthur learned that the warbler had been seen once more. Again, foolishly, we hesitated, and again we arrived just minutes after the last sighting of the bird. All was not lost though, as this proved to be the one time I got to meet, extremely briefly, both Sharon (aka Birdchick) and John (aka Born Again Birdwatcher).

Favorite Tree
Checking the warbler’s favorite tree Saturday morning

We tried again for the Kirtland’s Warbler first thing Saturday morning, but the bird was not seen again after Friday afternoon, so that was our strike three. But the chase is part of the fun, and I don’t regret a moment of our search. We’ll see a Kirtland’s, some day.

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MBS Road Trip & Sunset Boat Cruise

Arby, Arthur and I hit the road for the Midwest Birding Symposium Thursday morning at 7:40am – a bit later than we aimed. When Arby reminded us ten minutes down the road that we forgot a few of his essentials, we had to turn back. Finally we were on our way for real at 8am, hairbrush and imported hairball remedy safely in Arby’s luggage.

After we dropped Arby off at camp (my parent’s house) we headed east towards Lakeside, Ohio. Lakeside is a six hour drive from our house, according to Google maps and our trusty TomTom GPS navigator. We meant to allow extra time for pitstops, but when we stopped for lunch at 12:20pm we realized it was 1:20pm and we lost an unplanned hour with the timezone change. A brief panic ensued but we were making good time and there was nothing to do but press on.

Lucky for us both Google and TomTom underestimated the maximum allowable speed for the final miles of the journey, so our last hour took only 15 minutes and we made it to Lakeside with time to spare. We picked up the key to our cottage at 409 Maple, fetched our registration packet, and even had time to walk out of the Lakeside grounds to pick up a half gallon of milk. We arrived at Lakeside’s dock to catch the Goodtime I for a two hour cruise on Lake Erie.

The Goodtime I approaches the dock at Lakeside

Birders boarding the boat

A Goodtime was had by all. Especially the Ring-billed Gulls.



More MBS to come…

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