Biggest Week Superstars!

From Black Swamp Bird Observatory's Secret Bird Cave, Kim Writes: There's been extensive coverage of nearly every aspect of the Biggest Week In American Birding, before, during, and after the event. From thousands of photos of warblers to blogs about the great restaurants in the area... our birding friends from around the world have helped share the magic of northwest Ohio in May. However, there's one BIG piece that hasn't received enough recognition, and I'd like to do my best to change that!

The Biggest Week was touted as something "a little different" from other birding festivals. Events like this differ in the species of birds, field trip leaders, featured speakers, local flavors, and so on. But, there is one extraordinary thing that they all have in common... VOLUNTEERS!

Without the time and talents of dozens and dozens of volunteers, The Biggest Week would never have happened. While we weren't able to capture every volunteer in a photo, we managed to get a bunch of 'em, (again, with the help of many volunteer photographers).

And here they are. The real stars of the show...

Many thanks to Dave Lewis and Laurie Boylan for having the presence of mind to photograph many of the people who helped make the event so great! Many of the photos in this post were courtesy of Laurie & Dave! Dave also has some wonderful (and hilarious) images and stories from the Biggest Week on his popular blog: BIRDS FROM BEHIND

It always helps when you have a secret weapon .. and here she is! Delores Cole is, without a doubt, one of the most remarkable people I've ever met. Her tireless commitment to BSBO, the Biggest Week, and many other bird-related projects and organizations in Ohio is both an inspiration and an asset to many. Delores spent countless hours on the Biggest Week website, coordinated registration, and assisted with every aspect of the event. We're lucky she uses her powers for good and not evil. (Well, mostly) ; ) We are so blessed to have her on our team.

If you visit the BSBO gift shop on the weekend you're almost sure to encounter this volunteer dynamo! Karen Zach pulls you into her orbit with her positive energy beam - and you're never the same. For the rest of your life you will be subject to outbursts of pure joy and happiness that you can't control! Karen's life was seriously threatened by a brain tumor 8 years ago. She was given a second chance at life and she makes the most of every second of it. BSBO is very blessed to know her and to share her enduring spirit with all of our visitors.

One of the country's leading birders and one of the greatest personalities in birding, Tom Bartlett. Each year on International Migratory Bird Day, Tom conducts a Big Sit fundraiser for BSBO. Over the years Tom has helped raise more than $30,000 to support BSBO's education programs. But more importantly, Tom has inspired thousands of individuals with his high energy passion for birds and birding. Tom was one of the first honest to goodness birders I encountered after I discovered birds and his excitement and enthusiasm hooked me good right from the start. Thank you, Tom, for all that you do for birds and birders. And thanks for inspiring me! Cheryl Harner, (seen here with Dave Lewis) is the President of Greater Mohican Audubon Society, a budding birder, talented botanist, Master Gardner, and a real friend to bird conservation. Cheryl helped with the festival in so many ways, leading field trips and pitching in behind the scenes. To learn more about Ohio's botanical bonanza visit her wonderful blog: Weedpicker's Journal.

See the lovely woman on the left? That's Paula Lozano doing what Paula always seems to be doing -- helping people! Every time I see Paula I think of John Denver's song Rocky Mountain High. You know that line where John says, "I know I'd be a poorer man if I never saw an eagle fly?" Well, I know I'd be a poorer woman if I'd never met Paula Lozano. She has enriched the lives of so many people with her unflagging , positive attitude, her outstanding birding skills, and her quiet loveliness. Paula brought all that and more to the Biggest Week and for that, I am eternally grateful!

Christine Lotenero was a volunteer whirlwind! During the several days she spent volunteering I rarely saw her slow down and there were no jobs too big or too small for her. Her hard work and wonderful personality made her a joy to have around!

Ruth Miller of, The Biggest Twitch, pauses just long enough to pose for a photo with Tamie Bulow. Ruth and her partner Alan Davies gave presentations and led field trips all "week," sharing their passion and enthusiasm for birds and birding with anyone fortunate enough to spend time with them during the Biggest Week. (Alan is pictured below.) Tamie traveled to Ohio from Colorado Springs to spend a week volunteering and graced us all with her megawatt smile and radiant personality. I love that birds bring people like Ruth and Tamie into our lives!

Laura Erickson joined us during the event to sign copies of her wonderful new book, The Bird Watching Answer Book: Everything You Need to Know to Enjoy Birds in Your Backyard and Beyond. Laura is another example of the kind of extraordinary people birds have brought into our lives. There's just something about her spirit and her special connection to birds and nature that draws you in. Learn more about Laura and all the outstanding work she does for birds at: Laura's Birding Blog.

Paul Baicich (left) is one of the country's leading bird conservationists and one of my personal heroes. Paul is pictured here with Josh Engel, one of the fabulous guides with Tropical Birding. The "Dudes in the Yellow Caps" were one of the keys to the success of the Biggest Week. (More about The Dudes below!)

Dr. Andy Jones, Curator of Ornithology at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History and BSBO Board member. Andy shared his time and talents leading field trips and giving presentations. BSBO (and Ohio!) are very fortunate to have someone like Andy! (and thanks to him we get to hang out with Michelle and Ivor Houndsworth too!)

Dan and Barb Myers volunteer many hours throughout the year in our songbird banding station, with our school programs, and in the BSBO gift shop. They were such great help with the bird banding demos during the Biggest Week!

Lisa Rock, a recent migrant from Maryland, was another volunteer dynamo. Lisa is great! She's always willing to jump in and help with any task and her warm and welcoming personality added so much to the event.

Jean Freidner (who came from Florida to help out!), and Anita Manzeck hand out information at the registration table at BSBO. Hidden behind Anita is Marcia McIntire. All three of these lovely ladies are long-time BSBO friends and volunteers. Their continued support makes such a huge difference for BSBO -- and for me!
Anita Manzeck assists Larry Fletcher with name tag preparation at the registration table. Larry is the Director of the Ottawa County Visitor's Bureau, Lake Erie Shores and Islands LESI (East). Larry's belief in and support of this event - start to finish - really gave us the confidence to see this thing through even on the toughest days. Ottawa County is very blessed to have Larry's talents! (He's a crazy-good drummer too, by the way!)
Amanda Smith and Jill Bauer from Lake Erie Shores & Islands (WEST) in Sandusky are joined by Jeff Burrows of LESI (EAST) in Port Clinton. Visit Lake Erie Shores & Islands for all the great things to do in the area this summer! The support from the local visitors' bureaus played a huge role in the success of the Biggest Week. It was also great to see the visitor's bureau staff bring their binoculars and go birding at the end of their shifts!

Ann Oliver (left), representing Ohio Ornithological Society, welcomes Biggest Week participant, Mike McCloy. Kenn and I met Mike during the Space Coast Birding Festival in Florida earlier this year. We told him he really needed to come visit us in Ohio and, lo and behold, there he was!

Tracy Marr, longtime BSBO member and volunteer, and Mary Ann Snider (another LESI staffer!), helped out at the registration table.

Now, here are some popular people! It's the Weekend Hotdog & Brownie Crew of Lois Rae Harder (left), Victor Harder (center), and Lee Garling (right). These three wonderful people have been BSBO members almost from the beginning and over the years have literally given thousands of volunteer hours to the Observatory. They make darn good hotdogs too!

John Robinson volunteered his time to lead field trips, give presentations, and autograph copies of his book, Birding is for Everyone: Encouraging People of Color to Become Birdwatchers. And, get this, John donated 1000 copies of his book to give to give out, free of charge, to all Biggest Week participants. THAT is how passionate John is about his work! If you don't already have this book in your library, please get a copy by visiting John's website here: ON MY MOUNTAIN.

John is pictured here with fellow volunteer, Kim Check. Kim was here visiting from Maryland and pitched in to lend a hand with several Biggest Week tasks. She's also the Education Director at the Ward Museum of Waterfowl Art. Kim and some colleagues were recently featured in a great video segment on WBOC 16

Many of the Biggest Week presentations and activities took place at the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge. The staff at the refuge are great and they're assisted with nearly all aspects of running this amazing wetland complex by the outstanding volunteers that form the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge Association. Pictured here are Diane Bowland (seated) and Janet Vollker. Janet and her husband Jack are co-presidents of the Association and Diane was voted the 2009 Volunteer of the Year. Diane, Jack, and Janet, along with fellow refuge volunteers, Al & Betty Schlecht, and Sharon Cummings, work with dozens of other refuge volunteers to give tremendous support to the refuge staff.

We'd also like to express our sincere appreciation to all of the volunteers with the Friends of Magee Marsh for their efforts during the festival and throughout the year. We'll keep you posted on their Boardwalk Garlic Mustard pulling schedule for next spring so we can all help out!

Judy Kolo-Rose donated a tremendous amount of time and expertise and helped plan and prep for nearly every aspect of the festival, including driving the BSBO Bird Bus! She and her husband Hugh also offered many volunteers food and hospitality at their nearby cottage during the duration of the event.

Laura Shelton traveled all the way from California to volunteer, and boy, did she ever. Laura was amazing. During the 11+ days she was here she never slowed down and never lost that beautiful smile. As I mentioned earlier, birds bring so many wonderful people into our lives. Thank you, Laura!

The Dudes in the Yellow Caps! From left to right: Christian Boix, yours truly, Charlie Hess (behind me), Iain Campbell, Josh Engel, Delores Cole (hiding in the back), Nick Athanas, Sam Woods, Keith Barnes, Michael Retter, and Rebecca Hinkle from Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge. Rebecca is a member of the staff at the refuge, but she's also a valued BSBO volunteer. She put in hundreds of extra hours on the event. She's a tremendous partner and we actually managed to have a lot of fun planning this thing.

We've run out of superlatives to describe the volunteer guides from Tropical Birding. Combine their collective birding skills, larger than life personalities, committment to bird conservation, and, perhaps most important of all, their fabulous Kareoke voices, and you end up with a tour company that will guarantee you a marvelous time on a bird tour -- with or without the birds! The Biggest Week would not be possible without them!

Question: Just how much personality can you cram into one photograph...

Answer: ENORMOUS AMOUNTS! This much charm and charisma should be illegal! Left to right, Iain Campbell of Tropical Birding Tours, Alan Davies of the Biggest Twitch, and Kenn "the Kirtland's Warbler Finder" Kaufman of Kaufman Field Guides. Kenn not only delivered NINE keynote talks during the event, he also wrangled up a Kirtland's Warbler! Man, I love that guy!

Had to throw in a picture of our awesome festival t-shirt, logo designed by Jen Brumfield. If you're like to rest of us and you just can't get enough of Jen's work, visit her website. One dollar from the sale of every Biggest Week t-shirt was donated to the Mindo CloudForest Foundation to support their CarbonNeg program.

So many people gave tons of time and effort before, during, and after the festival. A debt of gratitude is owed to the many volunteers not pictured here. We would espcially like to thank the following speakers and field trip leaders who helped make the event such a success: Elliot Tramer, Dana Bollin, Mike Bergin, Sharon Cummings, Randall Rogers, Jeff Bouton, Ashley Buchanan, David Kryska, Carl Edwards, Bob Faber, and Dan Donaldson. Thank you all, so very much!


  1. This is one of the nicest, most gracious thank-yous I've ever seen! Hope to get out to one of those weeks sometime--

  2. Great. Now me and the Doodles feel REAL guilty! We love to take pictures, especially from behind!
    The other volunteers deserve the most credit, it's amazing what you kids did!

  3. Kim, you are so sweet. I for one am grateful to have been a part of such an amazing event. Thank you!

  4. I am not sure what was a bigger delight - all the beautiful birds I saw that week (181 species) or the many, many wonderful folks I came in contact with! My thanks go out to all the people, pictured above, who made that week so very beautiful and memorable.


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