What Really Happens at Birding Symposiums

Who says birders don't know how to get down and party? For those curious, that is Alicia Craig shaking her money maker in the front row.

Well, the Midwest Birding Symposium was a blast. For me that birding wasn't that exciting, most of the birds in and around the Quad Cities I can see easily here, but the workshops were interesting and the opportunity to ham it up with fellow birding nuts from around the country was just loads of fun. A really cool moment for me was getting a hug from Lillian Stokes congratulating me on getting a job with Eagle Optics. I also got to meet Mike and Katie who I will be working with at EO. Mike (of Mike's digiscoping blog) was kind enough to let me sit in on one of his optics talks. We did manage to drag them out for karaoke, but could not get them to sing...I'll have to work on that. Another highlight was getting to meet Julie Zickefoose. I have always been a huge fan of her writing and discovered that she's a mischievous woman who could probably out sing a wood thrush if she tried. When we went out for karaoke, she brought down the house.

Other Symposium Highlights:

Don Kroodsma author of The Singing Life of Birds proves that he's not just a fantastic author, but also isn't a stick in the mud. He was kind enough to let me sit on his lap and give him a kiss. This is a fascinating book on the how and why of bird song and includes a cd that accompanies the text in the appendix.

Bobby Harrison was certainly a popular attraction at the convention, women were lining up for miles. He was like Sting for birders. It was very cute, one woman walked up and said, "I just want to touch you, you've seen an ivory-billed woodpecker."

It was a nature writer's dream, editors of the major birding magazines on a river boat loaded with alcohol--what better time to pitch a story? From left Eldon Greij founding editor of Birder's World, Amy Hooper editor of WildBird Magazine, Bill Thompson III editor of Bird Watcher's Digest, and Chuck Hagner editor of Birder's World.

I discovered a kindred spirit in Eldon Greij. He knows his birds and is quick witted and likes an occasional naught joke. Plus, he likes reading Bent books and I love any guy who loves Bent.

Yes, that's Bill Thompson dressed like Bubbles of the Powerpuff Girls (or is it Penny from in Inspector Gadget?) And of course, that's his lovely wife Julie Zickefoose next to him. Looks like she's the one who wears the hats in the family.

Bill Thompson rocks the crowd at the Commodore Tap's karaoke night. He sang a really rockin' version of I'll Stop the World and Melt with you. This bar was up and ready for karaoke. They had a table of wigs, hats, scarves and percussive instruments for everyone to use. The bar regulars thought our group was a traveling choir. When we revealed we were birders ie people who travel around and watch birds, an older gent next to me nudged my arm and asked, "No sh!t?" When we closed the bar, we were applauded and hugged and told that we rocked the place.

Jeff Bouton of Leica Optics wowed the crowd with My Maria. He also does one heck of a Wicked Game by Chris Isaak. I discovered that not only do Jeff and I share a similar sense of humor, we also shared a job--we used to dress up as Chuck E. Cheese. We both have much better jobs now.

Here's a prey's eye view of the coolest bird to be seen at the symposium! Neil Rettig's education harpy eagle.

Amy Hooper looks to be involved in suspicious activity at an eagle nest. Is she raiding the nest?

More photos will probably come soon. I took 230 this weekend and haven't sifted through them all, but all this weekend has worn me out and I need to sleep. All in all it was a great time.