At the Midwest Birding Symposium at Lakeside this weekend, birders met for seminars, to see the latest in equipment, to introduce young birders to one of the world’s fastest growing sports/hobbies, and, of course, to watch birds. The Big Birds of the birding world, as with most birders, were very accessible.
George Armistead, events coordinator for the American Birding Association, who has been a birder since he was 9 years old, emphasized that they “design events for all levels of birders, that it is all about community.” The ABA’s membership has grown by 25% in 5 years, and they are poised for more growth. Armistead talked about how the internet changed everything in birding, that the numbers of younger birders are thriving and growing, that people see birding as “one of the most accessible points to nature, that it can be done in urban, suburban or rural settings.” For many birders, the entry point is the competitive aspect, the striving to add the most birds to their Life List. He also pointed out that some people come to birding as conservationists, but that almost all birders become conservationists, as they see how birding is a great measure of the health of an environment.
Representatives of the Ohio Ornithological Society, Ohio’s birding network for communicating sightings and sharing information, offered that an excellent starting point for someone new to birding is to establish a backyard feeder.
Bill Thompson III, editor of Bird Watcher’s Digest, the bimonthly magazine that has been published by his family since 1978, lives near Marietta and worked at Lonz Winery on Middle Bass one summer. Thompson’s interest began with what birders call a “spark bird”, when he saw a snowy owl near his home in Iowa. Thompson credited Hugh Rose of Black Swamp Bird Observatory near Oak Harbor with starting the Young Birders Club whose model other states have copied.
Kim Kauffman, who with husband Kenn, the author of several birding books, have founded Black Swamp Bird Observatory and bring The Biggest Week in American Birding to our area each spring. Since moving to the Magee Marsh location four years ago, BSBO’s membership has quadrupled. The Kaufmanns travel the planet but call Ottawa County home because of “the birding, the businesses, and the caring compassionate people here,” said Kim.” People that live here often don’t appreciate this place because they live in it.” Kim talked of the Biggest Week in American Birding and the Midwest Birding Symposium as “bookends” for the birding season. “The community and businesses have embraced these events like in few other places.”
For more information on birding, www.ohiobirds.org, www.aba.org, www.bsbobird.org, www.birdwatchersdigest.com.