Friday, December 25, 2009

A Special Gift: Wildlife at the Bird Feeder

From Oak Harbor, Ohio, Kenn writes: I don’t often blog about bird feeder happenings, but in honor of the holiday season, I wanted to let all of our friends know about a major triumph at our feeders. Kimberly and I are interested in all wildlife, of course, and sightings of wild mammals can be particularly exciting. What a treat, then, to actually attract one of these elusive wild creatures into our own backyard, where we can observe it and begin to learn about its habits.

Imagine how thrilled we were when we looked out the window on Christmas morning and saw this:

Yes, it’s a squirrel. If you have spent any time in wild habitats with tall trees, you may have seen these wary acrobats climbing about in the branches, far above the ground. Getting a good look at one, though, that’s another story.

Kimberly and I had glimpsed these wily creatures around Oak Harbor, but we had hardly dared to hope that we could actually attract them to our own yard. But here was one of these elegant wild animals right outside our window.

Of course I should have been satisfied just to watch from indoors, but I couldn’t resist trying for a closer view. When I eased out the door, the squirrel was instantly on the alert:

These wary creatures are endowed with keen senses, with sharp eyesight and with hearing and sense of smell far superior to man’s. I had taken the precaution of eating some salted peanuts before I walked out the door, to try to mask my human scent, but the squirrel detected me immediately anyway.

It was thrilling to be able to observe this shy treetop creature without even using a telescope, but I knew I could not push my luck too far. The squirrel undoubtedly would flee if I approached any closer than about 13 inches.

Friends of ours have put out feeders and have failed to attract squirrels, even after trying for five minutes or more. So in the spirit of the season, we should share the secret of our success in attracting this wild animal. After much experimentation, we have found that squirrels are only likely to feed on items that have some animal or vegetable components. They seldom eat pure plastic or concrete or metal, although they may chew on these materials. Even some items with an organic basis, like wood, may be only chewed up and not actually eaten by these picky and fastidious creatures. So the items placed in the feeder should have some resemblance to something edible. Price has an impact as well; somehow these amazing animals can detect the relative cost of different bird feeder items, and feast upon only those that are most expensive. Finally, squirrels seem to require a certain level of irony in their diet. A so-called squirrel "baffle," or one of those feeders jokingly labelled as "squirrel-proof," may bring them in from miles away to sample your most expensive sunflower seeds or suet mixtures.

Alas, I must have approached too closely, or perhaps the squirrel noticed that I was banging on the side of the feeder with a large stick. Fleeing on the wings of the wind, the shy creature sought refuge up in tree branches at a dizzying height, a full four feet above my head.

I had violated that boundary between man and wild beast. The squirrel was truly terrified. It would not come back down to finish scarfing down all the black oil sunflower seeds from the feeder until I had been back inside the house for a full fifteen seconds.

Whether or not you are blessed with a visit from a wild creature such as this, Kimberly and I both wish you all the joys of the holiday season and a healthy and prosperous new year.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Riding the Edge of Winter

From Oak Harbor, Ohio, Kenn writes: In fall, most birds migrate south before they would have to. Most migratory birds in North America leave their northern nesting grounds and start southward long before the weather begins to turn bad, long before the food supply begins to dwindle. The birds apparently are keyed to changes in the length of the day, not to local conditions, so they fly away from their summer homes while resources are still abundant.

But there are exceptions. Not surprisingly, one of the exceptions is the surprising Sandhill Crane. Cranes are different from most birds in the nature of their migration anyway: their routes are learned, not instinctive. A baby Indigo Bunting, to cite an example of a typical migrant, is born with an instinct to migrate to Central America in fall without any help. A baby Sandhill Crane is born with an instinct to follow its parents in the fall. Cranes learn their routes and their stopover sites and their wintering sites, and they can change these traditions over time to cope with changing conditions on the ground.

The eastern population of Sandhill Cranes, nesting in the upper Midwest and around the western Great Lakes, has greatly increased in recent decades, with much larger numbers now nesting in states like Wisconsin. These birds traditionally migrated southeastward across a fairly narrow corridor to winter in Florida. But in recent decades, some of these birds have been wintering farther north -- regularly as far north as southeastern Tennessee -- and migrating both later in fall and earlier in spring.

Apparently in fall, many of the Sandhill Cranes don’t migrate until they have to, and this fall they didn’t have to go until December. It was an exceptionally mild season here in the Midwest. In northern Ohio, we had virtually no freezing temperatures before December 1st, and there were still dragonflies and butterflies on the wing in late November. Things changed abruptly in early December with the arrival of a powerful cold front. Temperatures dropped to the single digits, howling winds put the wind chill far below zero, deep snow covered parts of the upper Midwest, and most open waters froze quickly. And after the worst of the wind abated, Sandhill Cranes started to pour through the region, heading southeast.

Traveling by day in flocks, giving wild guttural cries as they pass overhead, Sandhills are likely to be noticed. And during the last few days they have been noticed all over Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee, as their flocks head south to warmer climes.

One of the best things about this era of internet communication is that it allows us to track such migrations as they are happening. Twenty years ago, even for a determined person making lots of phone calls, it would have been hard to guess the magnitude of this flight. Now we can look at the state birding listserves and see dozens of reports of flocks, totalling thousands of birds altogether, scattered over a broad swath between Wisconsin and Georgia. And if we live anywhere near the path outlined by the reports we can head outside, eyes and ears to the sky, hoping to catch our own glimpse of this great passage.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

iPhone Users: The App Is Out There

From Oak Harbor, Ohio, Kenn Writes: It’s finally out. We had a last-minute conference call yesterday afternoon -- involving Ithaca, Charlottesville, Philadelphia, Monterey, Singapore, and me in Oak Harbor -- making sure everything was set up, and then Todd told Apple to release it to the App Store. Within a couple of hours the app was available online, and reviews of it were appearing here and there on the internet.

If you’re just joining us -- if you have been out paying attention to birds, for example, rather than the latest in tech toys -- "app" is short for "application," but the millions of people downloading these applications for use on their iPhones just call them "apps." An iPhone -- well, that’s like a supercharged combination of a cell phone and an iPod, and it can do everything from place calls to navigate cross-country, to check the stock market, to send e-mail, to store photos, to play games, to play music (of course, just like an iPod). And an iPod is -- well, it’s a good demonstration of how fast the world has been changing recently.

But anyway, with the new app for iPhone, you can instantly find out what birds are being seen in your area, how recently, and exactly where, and you can go straight to the spot and see them for yourself.

The new app is called "BirdsEye," and it was developed by three certifiable geniuses named Todd Koym, Pete Myers, and Carl Coryell-Martin. Pete happens to be an old friend of mine (and a top-notch bird expert), which is why I got invited to take part in the project. Todd and Carl are relatively new to birding. But Todd had gotten the bug for birding in a big way, and he wanted to find new birds for his life list. He knew that he could report bird sightings to the big Project eBird, an online database (run by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society) that collects millions of sightings monthly. But Todd wondered: could he turn that around, extract recent sightings from eBird in a well-organized way, so that the information could become a powerful tool for bird-finding?

As it turned out, the people at eBird were all in favor of the idea, and they worked with us to develop the necessary software to pull reports out of eBird in real time and straight into the BirdsEye app. My role in the project was to write short species accounts for 847 species of birds -- not how to identify them, but tips on how to find them, in terms of their behavior and where they would be in the habitat. I also had some input on the overall design, with the occasional conference call involving Todd in Charlotteville, Virginia, Carl in Singapore, and Pete bouncing all over the map. It was a great privilege to be in on these discussions, to hear how these brilliant tech-savvy guys discussed what was possible in programming the application. I think it turned out great, and while I can’t take any credit for that, I’m happy to tell my friends all about it.

It’s not a field guide -- that is, not a guide to identifying birds, it’s a guide to finding them, and it runs on an iPhone or on an iPod Touch. I’ve got it on an iPod Touch in front of me right now as I type this. When I turn it on and open up BirdsEye, the opening screen gives me a number of options. Say I go into "Find Nearby Birds" -- it calculates my location (built-in GPS, you know) and takes me to a list of birds found near Port Clinton, Ohio -- I can look either at the 308 species reported to eBird from this immediate area so far, or just the 80 species reported recently. (Remember, this is winter; it would be a lot more species in late spring.) Say I go to the recent birds, and note that one of them is Lesser Black-backed Gull, and let’s say I want to go look at that species. I tap on the species name, and it takes me to a map, with pointers that indicate that the Lesser Black-back has been found recently at Huron Harbor, Findlay Reservoir, New London Reservoir, and several points farther east. Say I don’t know anything about the birding at New London Reservoir, so I tap on the name of that site, and it takes me to a list of birds seen there recently, including Northern Harrier. Let’s just say I don’t know anything about Northern Harrier -- I can follow the link from that and see a number of sites where harriers have been found recently, or I can go to three photos of the species (beautiful photographs from VIREO, the scientific collection of bird images at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia) and a recording of its voice (from the Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology). There's also a concise paragraph on the behavior of the harrier so I’ll know where to look for it once I get to the right spot.

Oh, yeah: that concise paragraph, I wrote that. I wrote such accounts for 847 species of birds, a total of more than 60,000 words, and I hope they’ll make the app more useful and more enjoyable for anyone who uses BirdsEye to find more birds.

For a link to the official BirdsEye web page, which has links to the App Store where you can get the app if you want it, click here.

For a press release about the app, which went out to thousands of media outlets and other contacts earlier today, and is also reproduced on the eBird website, click here.

Matt Mendenhall from Birder's World magazine interviewed me about the app; Matt is pretty tech-savvy himself and he was one of the beta testers for BirdsEye. You can read the full text of the interview here.
And if any of our readers try out BirdsEye, or have any questions about it, I hope that we'll hear from you!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

All I want for Christmas is...a Winged Journey

Kim Writes: Several months ago, one of my dear friends, Sally Deems-Mogyordy, came to me with an idea. Actually, it was more like a dream, and when she revealed that my beloved Black Swamp Bird Observatory was a part it, I was more honored than she will ever know.

The dream:
Sally was teaming up with her friend, Bryan Holliday, to create something that would combine their astounding talents and celebrate their mutual love of birds. And, whatever the vision grew into, they wanted to include some way to use a portion of the proceeds to benefit BSBO. Sally and Bryan are both BSBO members and they have witnessed, first-hand, the dramatic impact that the Observatory's work is having.

The Reality:
Fast forward to present, and the dream is now a stunning and inspiring reality called, Winged Journey: A 16-Month Calendar of Birds.

Positively maxing out the high-end capacity on the gorgeous meter,
the photos in this
calendar are courtesy of the incredibly talented,
award-winning photographer, Bryan Holliday!

Each image is enlivened and enriched by the beautiful
haiku of writer and poet, Sally Deems-Mogyordy.

Here's a sneak peek in to the winged journey you experience
when you hold this work of art in your hands.

Please share this celebration of birds and verse with everyone on
your holiday gift list and help support the Observatory's
research and education efforts with every gift you give!

Order your copies today by clicking here:

Sally will be making an appearance at the Observatory's Holiday Open House, taking place Sunday, December 6th, from 11:00 AM - 5:00 PM. She will be autographing copies of the calendar from 2-4 PM. Click here for more details: Holiday Open House!

Thank you, Sally and Bryan, for finding a way to combine your passion for birds and nature with your amazing talents, for sharing it with the world in such a beautiful and useful way, and for allowing BSBO to be a part of the adventure!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Giving Thanks

Kim Writes: This is Reginald Anthony Luzader, or "Reggie" as most people call him. I call him, Dad. He called me,"Kimmer Dukous."
My Dad has Alzheimer's.
Alzheimer's sucks.

Dad was diagnosed about seven years ago. He had been having a lot of difficulty with simple things, and my brothers and sisters and I insisted that he go see a Doctor. Dad didn't want to. I think he knew what they were going to tell him.

Here's Dad just a few precious years ago with his Great Granddaughter, Macy.

My Dad was kind of a hardass. He didn't see much value in reading or studying or anything like that. The way you won my Dad's praise was to work; hard. We lived on a farm. We grew row crops like soybeans and corn on the Luzader family farm, which had been in his family for a long time. It was a good fit; the thin soil on "the ridge" in Wyandot County and this stubborn family who didn't know any better than to try. More rock that dirt, the farm required all the family's stubborn determination to coax crops out of it's lackluster soil. As kids, my brothers and sisters and I spent a lot of time picking up rocks and pulling weeds. To this day, we'll still yell at each other to, "Get out there and pick up rocks!"

Dad and I didn't get along so well when I was a kid. I was a mouthy, rebellious, rotten little thing, and the last thing I wanted to do -- was what I was told. (If I had a nickel for every time I said "You're not the boss of me," I wouldn't have to write grants for BSBO).

I was such a brat. Something my Mom still teases me about is the time that I said some VERY bad cuss words in front of my VERY religious Southern Baptist Grandma at a family get together. Everyone heard it, including my Dad, who promptly hauled me over to the sink to wash my mouth out with soap. The reason for my outburst was my very tiny, very cute, very blond, very pink cousin, Wendy, who was quite a brat in her own right. As my Grandma was passing out cups of juice, she threw herself a good old "Wendy fit" and insisted that she MUST have the red cup NOT the green one, to which I (all of about 7 years old) declared, "Jesus, it's just a God@#~* cup!" When my Dad got me over the sink (in the kitchen--in front of everyone, btw) and picked up the bar of soap, I started bellering really loud in my best shrieking 'Wendy impersonation'. My Dad asked why I was crying before he'd even gotten the soap in my mouth, and I said, "You're gonna use the GREEN soap and I want the PINK soap!" Aghhh, good times, good times.

Dad whipped us if we messed up, cursed us if we disappointed him, and, somewhere underneath all that rough farmer exterior, he loved us too. My Dad gave me some of the greatest gifts I will ever receive in life. He made me a hard worker. He made me self sufficient. He also gave me these people.

Me and my brothers and sisters.
left-right: Me (god, check out those glasses!) Laura, Tony, Tina, and Aaron "AJ". Tony is gonna kill me if he ever finds out that I posted this picture!
He looks so totally different now, as you'll see.

We are not what you might call, "normal."
I don't have a recent photo of me with all my brothers and sisters.
This one was taken about six years ago.
god,..has it really been six years?!

Here's a more recent picture of me with Tony and AJ. Check out the change in Tony, on the left. He lost 40 pounds and started hitting the gym about three years ago; an amazing transformation. Tony lives in California, and this is a picture taken when he came for Thanksgiving a couple years ago. I wish he could be here this year...

It's a wonder that the five of us survived each other growing up. We fought like crazy, and with a Dad who had a penchant for things that went real fast, we always had dirt bikes, snowmobiles, and go carts to try and kill ourselves on. Of course, we always had to eat the cheapest crap (do any of you remember those big bags of 'Puffed Wheat' cereal? gaahh...!), and we always wore our cousins hand-me-down clothes. But, man-oh-man, did we have some fast stuff to ride!!
Even when we were just tiny little.

My Dad can't read this blog. He pretty much can't do anything for himself anymore. He doesn't really recognize anyone, and he hardly ever speaks at all. As I mentioned earlier, Alzheimer's really sucks. Dad's at home where hospice and the Alzheimer's Association of Northwest Ohio helps with his care. I can't bring myself to go see him anymore. A lot of people think that's terrible. They tell me that even if he doesn't show it on the outside, he knows you're there. But, ya know what, that's why I can't go. If he does know we're there, I think he'd hate it. I don't think he'd want anyone to see him in the shape he's in. In fact, if he could, he'd probably just tell us all to go out and pick up rocks...

I don't mean for this to be a bummer. It's actually just a vivid reminder to love your family today, and EVERY day. Don't wait for a holiday to be thankful and express your love and appreciation for the people in your lives. And, if you have a few extra bucks this holiday season, please consider a contribution to the Alzheimer's Association. They are astoundingly good people.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

We're gonna fly with a little help from our friends...

Kim Kaufman's recipe for starting a young birders club: Start with a bowl of love for wild birds mixed equally with love for kids, add money --to your personal taste (*note, it always takes more than you think!), mix in two rounded spoonfuls of excitement, an entire box of energy (the extra large one!), add a healthy dollop of a trusting and believing board of directors (BOD)--(add the BOD all at once before they change their mind!), mix in six outstanding young people to guide you as you get started, pound in a big fat dose of stubbornness, and voila! Ohmygoodness, I almost forgot... Here are some key ingredients that help make a young birders club successful. Just add friends...

The Nutty Birder

Indiana Audubon Society

Susan Gets Native

Jim McCarty's Cleveland Plain Dealer Article

Queen City Young Birders Club

Jim McCormac's Blog

Janet Creamer's Blog

Midwest Birding Symposium

WildBird Magazine

Donald the Birder's Blog

and these are just a few! Thank you all for sharing your support, belief, and encouragement. This is the kind of thing that money just can't buy!


Friday, November 20, 2009

Who Says Big Girls Don't Cry

Kim writes: I have been totally swamped (Black Swamped to be exact!) since the Ohio Young Birders Conference a week ago, and I feel really guilty for not posting anything about this amazing event yet. I'm working on a post to fill you in on all the great things that took up my time this week, and I hope it will explain why I haven't said a peep about this monumental event.

My friends Kevin Loughlin and Chad Williams have already posted great summaries of the conference on their blogs, and rather than duplicate efforts, I'll just share a link to their blogs and you can check them out. But, before I send you off to other eLands far away...
I'd like share some of my favorite things about the 3rd Annual Ohio Young Birders Conference.

I get so emotional on conference day. I had someone tell me once that I should be a less emotional public speaker, that when I got weepy it made me seem unprofessional. I have this tendency to want to please everyone all the time (my Mom calls it the "disease to please") and I couldn't get those remarks out of my head. So I made an effort to be more cool and controlled when I was doing public speaking. The first OYBC conference in May of 2007 completely crushed my 'play it cool' routine. In a world where the media force feeds us a constant barrage of bad "news", I just can't contain my happy tears on a day that fills every second with so much hope and joy.

The best parts of this conference are in this picture. From left to right, our conference speakers, Malkolm Boothroyd, (keynote), Sarah Winnicki, Lucas Padegimas, and Elliott Miller.

Malkolm's presentation was simply phenomenal. He spoke of the experiences he and his parents shared during their bicycle big year that took them over 13,000 carbon-free miles, tallied 548 species, and raised more than $25,000 for conservation. His talk was filled with his own stunning photographs, music, and humor, and it inspired us all to do more to reduce our own carbon footprint. I'll bet the Amish kids in the room were feeling very good about the way they roll!

Sarah Winnicki gave a talk on the conservation challenges of bringing back the California Condor. Sarah's talk was, quite simply, one of the best talks I have ever had the privilege of seeing. When she finished I told her that I'd be willing to bet that before the end of the day she'd be invited to give that talk again. (I was right!!)

Lucas Padegimas taught us all about the adorable and endangered Piping Plover. Lucas has such personality, and his presentation was peppered with his great sense of humor. It was informative and very entertaining. (especially the part about rescuing the blond who fell out of her canoe and, yeah, thought he was Australian. Hilarious!)

And finally, on the far right, our fabulous MC, Elliott Miller.
Elliott did a great job and it looks like he's on the schedule to give a full-on presentation next year! (you cannot escape, Elliott...)

Our great friends and neighbors at the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge provided the space for our conference in their beautiful visitor's center.

Kevin Loughlin, owner and operator of Wildside Nature Tours and the man who spearheaded the Pennsylvania Young Birders Club, drove a LONG way to be there with us. Kevin was so impressed and inspired by our speakers that he made an incredibly generous offer to all three of them at the end of the conference. You've got to visit his blog at: Notes From the Wildside to find out what that offer was.

I was so excited that Chad Williams, (center) the driving force behind the recently launched Indiana Young Birders Club (IYBC), was willing to make the long drive to join us! Check out his blog post about the conference at:
Birding: A Growing Obsession. Chad was accompanied by his son, Ceth, (left) and IYBC partner, Rob Ripma, (right). Doesn't Ceth look great in his Nikon cap, donated by our friends and OYBC supporters at
Nikon Sport Optics! Every conference attendee went home with one of these cool caps and a great lens cloth, courtesy of Nikon! Nikon also made a generous contribution that helped make it possible for us to fly Malkolm in from Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada. Our sincere gratitude to Mike Freiberg and Nikon Sport Optics for making our conference a smashing success! Check out the Nikon blog at: Birding to The EDG

Did you ever see such beautiful smiles?! Maddie, the proud winner of the Stokes Sandpiper Spotting Scope donated by Eagle Optics, poses with her Grandmother, Susan Evanoff. Get this...I invited Maddie up to help draw the winning ticket for the scope...and she drew her own ticket! The look on her face was priceless!

Another happy winner, Sara Werley, shows off her new Vortex Skyline Spotting Scope, also donated by Eagle Optics. While the tickets to win the Sandpiper scope were given to each student for free, we sold tickets for the Vortex scope and this helped raise $320 for the OYBC! Our heartfelt thanks to Ben Lizdas and Eagle Optics for their support of the conference! Check out the Eagle Optics blog here.

My adorable Goddaughter, Olivia Burton, came to the conference. I count every day that I get to see Olivia as one of my best days ever! She's 10 years old and is already an amazing birder. One of my favorite things about birding with Olivia is watching as the adults we encounter kindly ask her what birds she's been seeing. I love to watch their reaction as this 'kid' very articulately lists the species, how long ago we saw each bird, and pinpoints locations. Girls Rule!

The lovely Christine Lotenero poses with the Bird Bingo game she won in one of the door prize drawings. We were able to share a ton of prizes with conference attendees thanks to a whole host of generous donors. (see list at the end of this post). Christine created some great OYBC buttons and magnets and donated them to the club as a fundraiser! Buttons are $2 and magnets $3. They're available in the BSBO gift shop, and they'd make great stocking stuffers! She also created the Tony Hess Memorial Education Fund that helped make the conference possible. The fund will also provide scholarship monies to help members of the OYBC advance their knowledge of birds. Although I met Christine for the first time during the conference, I felt like I had known her forever. Thank you, Christine, for everything!!

My dear friend and one of BSBO's amazing volunteers, Judy Kolo-Rose, (left) did a wonderful job as the official OYBC conference photographer. Most of the photos in this post are Judy's handiwork.
I hate having my picture taken with Judy; she's so gorgeous!

Something that's becoming an OYBC Conference tradition is the great food, and this year was no exception. Julie Shieldcastle led the Lovely Lunch Ladies in preparing and serving a delicious hot lunch. Left to right - Julie Shieldcastle, Debbie Sawvel, Robin Tener, Christine Lotenero, and Jeanine Van Der Laar. Thank you lovely lunch ladies!

My husband, mentor, teacher, friend, and hero, Kenn Kaufman. Kenn put together a great photo ID quiz, and another of my favorite things about the conference was watching the students huddled around the 10 photos all day workin 'em out. The winner, Michael Miller, of Holmes County, was the only person who correctly identified a young Red-shouldered Hawk in flight. Michael went home with a four-volume set of Kaufman Field Guides.

Here are the two people who make everything we do at the Ohio Young Birders Club possible. Delores Cole and John Sawvel are two of the most remarkable people I have ever met. Their dedication, commitment, talent, and generosity are behind all the OYBC's accomplishments. Delores and John ~ when I count my blessings, I count you both twice!

And finally, thank you to the following list of volunteers and donors for their generous support: Karen Zach, Paula Lozano, Robert Hershberger, Laura Bonneau, Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge, Audubon Society of Ohio, Nikon Sport Optics, Eagle Optics, Tony Hess Memorial Fund, Kaufman Field Guides, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Jan Ranahan, Cheryl Harner, Greater Mohican Audubon Society, Barnside Creamery, Black Swamp Bird Observatory, Debbie Sawvel, Robin Tener, Northwest Ohio Behavioral Health Ltd., Time & Optics Ltd., Roots Poultry, Inc., Jeanine Van Der Laar, Wildlife Garden, The Wild Bird Center, Birdz-I Nature Photography, Community Market, Kirtland Bird Club, Wildside Nature Tours, Wild Birds Unlimited Toledo store, Black Diamond Inc., Titgemeiers Inc., Key Bank Foundation.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Naturalist of the Year

From back home in Oak Harbor, Ohio, Kenn writes: The Toledo Naturalists’ Association (TNA) has a proud history going back more than 75 years. This organization has always counted some of the finest field biologists in Ohio and Michigan among its membership -- not just bird experts, but experts on every aspect of natural history. Once a year, the TNA honors someone as their Naturalist of the Year. Tonight, at their annual banquet, the Toledo Naturalists’ Association presented the prestigious 2009 Naturalist of the Year award to my wonderful wife Kimberly.

I am so thoroughly bursting with pride at this point that I can hardly write a coherent sentence, but I wanted to let all our friends know about this. In presenting the award for the TNA, bird expert Greg Links acknowledged Kim’s background in natural history -- the thousands of hours observing and monitoring Bald Eagle nests, the volunteer work at Killdeer Plains in central Ohio, the tens of thousands of songbirds that she has banded as part of research projects, the waterbird surveys and butterfly surveys, the photography of so many different creatures and plants all over several countries -- but his main focus was on her work in educating people about birds and nature. And there is a LOT there to celebrate!

Kimberly with a European Robin at Falsterbo, Sweden, in 2005

Kimberly 100 feet above the ground in the Amazon Basin at Sacha Lodge, Ecuador, in 2006

On this blog we have talked about some of these things. As executive director of Black Swamp Bird Observatory (BSBO), Kimberly has been reaching out to the local community to educate them about the value of local bird habitats. She has arranged for school groups to come out, and hundreds of local students have come to programs at the observatory. And her brainchild of the Ohio Young Birders Club has been so successful that organizations in 14 other states have set up their own young birders’ organizations, directly modeled on the OYBC.

Although it made for a long and exhausting day, it was particularly fitting that today was also the third annual conference of the Ohio Young Birders Club! We had a packed house in the conference room at Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge, and once again we had remarkable programs presented entirely by these talented teenaged members of the club. Five of the young birders (and a lot of members and volunteers from BSBO) came along with us to the Toledo Naturalists’ Association banquet as soon as the young birders’ conference was over, and the presence of these enthusiastic young people and young-at-heart people made for a graphic demonstration of just how much Kim has done, and is doing, to educate and inspire people.

Kimberly with Mike Gordon, president of the Toledo Naturalists' Association. As part of the Naturalist of the Year award, TNA presented Kim with an original painting of a Bald Eagle done by artist Ann Geise, recognizing all of Kim's eagle work from a decade and a half ago.

It was a beautiful evening all around, with lots of good friends and good conversation and a fine banquet address by our friend Julie Zickefoose. But the high point for me was seeing Kim recognized for some of the wonderful things she has done. I know this post is totally inarticulate but I had to try to write something. Kimberly, I am so incredibly proud of you.

The honoree, with her insanely proud husband, after the banquet.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Ohio Young Birders Club Conference

From the Black Swamp Bird Observatory, Kim writes: Today felt like old times. When the Ohio Young Birders Club was younger itself I spent A LOT of time on the phone with parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles and neighbors -- trying to arrange transportation for students still too young to drive. Last January, I took the position as the executive director of the Observatory that founded the club, and since then I've had to dish many of those responsibilities off to the OYBC coordinators, John Sawvel and Delores Cole. John and Delores are great, and it's very rewarding to see the club continue to grow and reach more and more young people while I'm doing other BSBO business. But, I have to admit that sometimes it's hard to accept that the club is not "my baby" anymore. Well, for a few hours today, I got my baby back! I just happened to be the one available to deal with this, and it felt so good to be back in the business of making great experiences happen for young birders. Here's how it went...

E-mail comes in from the Aunt of one of our student members who REALLY wants to come to the conference this Saturday and then go on the observatory's pelagic trip on Sunday. This young birder lives in Parma, and his Aunt can't bring him all the way to Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge where the conference is taking place. Hmm...okay, I know that there are two OYBC members from Avon and their Mom is bringing them to the conference; Avon is about 40 minutes from Parma. Okay, call Avon Mom and see if Parma Aunt can get her young birder to Avon, could Avon Mom bring Parma young birder to the conference. Avon Mom is one of the nicest people on the planet, so of course she said yes.

The visitors' center at Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge

But, Avon Mom can only stay for the early part of the conference and then she has to go back to Avon due to a prior commitment. hmm...Now what? The boys really want to stay and go on the afternoon field trip (part of the conference), and then go on the pelagic trip on Sunday. But, that means they'll need a place to stay and something to do on Saturday night. hmm...okay, how about this.

Kenn and I (and the whole BSBO gang!) are going to the Toledo Naturalists' Association (TNA) banquet on Saturday night. The banquet is always a great time and this year Julie Zickefoose is the featured speaker!! We had already arranged for two of our conference speakers to attend with us, and I know the other boys would really enjoy seeing Julie's talk. Unfortunately, the deadline for banquet reservations was two days ago. hmm.. I wonder if...

Okay, call my friend Jan Dixon from TNA and ask her (and by ask, I mean beg) if she can still squeeze in three more people for the banquet. Jan being the total sweetheart that she is, said, "Oh, it will be so wonderful to have young birders at the banquet; of course they can come!"

So, we'll all go from the conference to the TNA banquet in the Bird Bus, then take the bus to Cleveland on Sunday morning for the pelagic, and the boys' families will pick them up at the boat dock when we return.

The BSBO Bird Bus

*Whew* And that was a simple one. Most of the time it involves a lot more kids and a lot more locations to get them from and to and then back again. It can take days to arrange to get everyone on the club's monthly field trips. But, it's totally worth it! We are richly rewarded for our efforts in ways that I cannot even describe.

This Saturday we will watch as four teenagers stand before a rapt audience and deliver presentations on birds and bird conservation. We will watch as people from five states come together to hear their message. We will watch with tear-filled eyes as those witnessing this for the first time have their faith in this great nation and the future of its natural resources restored. And every ounce of effort that it took to get us to this point will fade to insignificance--and we will be restored ourselves.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Pelagic Magic: When the gales of November are...absent?!!

From Terra Firma, Kim Writes: When Robert Faber, of Discovery Tours and Inside Outside Radio, contacted me last year to see if I was interested in BSBO partnering to host a Lake Erie Pelagic trip, I was very interested. But, I finally had to admit that, with all the other things BSBO had going on at that point, I just didn't have the time to do it and do it right. Now, I have some additional help in the office (volunteers make EVERYTHING that nonprofits do possible!)
I was thrilled to tell Bob to count us in this year!

And, I'm so glad we did. We planned two trips on board the HOLIDAY, and they sold out FAST! I think everyone on board yesterday felt blessed to be alive and outside! The trip really was marvelous. Great people, tasty food, phenomenal weather (almost weirdly warm...), a lake that looked like glass...flat calm, and some pretty special birds too--Kenn will fill you in on the birds in a later post.

And so, I give you, trip number one:

Our group, with the HOLIDAY (barely visible in the background).
Yes; We all fit comfortably on board! Our leaders down in front, John Pogacnik and Kenn Kaufman,
alongside our Captain, and Sherrie Durris from Toledo Naturalists' Assocation.

Port and Starboard views of a few members of our birding crew, 52 in all.

Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale of some birders on a trip.
They came to search for jaegers, scoters, loons, and fish...
scoters, loons, and fish...

(are you hearing the theme song to Gilligan's Island in your head...)

At first there weren't many gulls around. But we finally started feeding them the Walleye flavored popcorn from Great Lakes Popcorn Company, and the birds went wild. Thanks for the giant bags of popcorn, Bill! You can actually mail order flavored popcorn from the store and have it shipped anywhere you want. Imagine the joy your family and friends will experience when they break open their gigantic bag of walleye flavored popcorn on Christmas morning. mmm....agh!

Maybe we should shoot a Gulls Gone Wild video, and market it after spring break!

That's the King of Lake Erie Shores Birding, and one of our trip leaders,
John Pogacnik, in the center of the photo.

In the foreground, two of our favorite people in the world, Bob Hopp and Connie Workman,
on board the deck of the HOLIDAY.

Left - Right: BSBO Volunteer and all around fabulous person, Karen Zach, Sally Deems-Mogyordy, and one of our fabulous leaders, Kenn Kaufman, whose hat reads, Eat. Sleep. Bird.

Sally and her business partner, Bryan Holliday did a fabulous calendar for 2010. A portion of every Winged Journey calendar sold benefits BSBO. Please consider purchasing one (or many!) for yourself and as holiday gifts!

Andy Jones, a BSBO Board Member and Ornithologist at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, poses with Cheryl Harner, of Greater Mohican Audubon Society and Ohio Ornithological Society.

In this photo: left-right: Wesley Hatch, Sally Deems-Magyordy--(way in the back),
Kenn Kaufman, and Hans Clebsch.

The heart of any ship -- THE GALLEY!
The food was really tasty. That's Sheila Thorpe in the middle, sampling the fare.
And, the gentleman sitting down on the right is the ship's captain; what a character, and a real sweetheart, too! He had some amazing stories about the years he's spent on Lake Erie.
I can't wait to talk to him again next Sunday!

Thanks to everyone who came out to brave the brutal Ohio Lake Erie Winter with us! ; ) I'll see some of you next Sunday!