Well, barely off the plane and met up with booth buddies Katie and Ben and already have life birds. My new birds are Harris hawks (which I have seen several times but only in a falconry capacity, so this is a lifer) and white ibis.
There are great-tailed grackles everywhere singing into the night--they sound like dolphins in the trees. Katie and I were just settling into our room when Amy from Wild Bird Magazine called and asked, "Does it mean I'm a birder if I'm sitting in a parking lot of the HEB watching black-necked stilts?" The only answer Katie and I could give was to go directly to the HEB and join her. Sure enough a family group of four black-necked stilts were roaming the parking lot near a gas station for bits of food. I tried to take photos (above), but in the dim light they aren't the show quality. This was, hands down the best view of stilts I have ever gotten but incredibly odd at the same time since they were in such an unnatural environment.
I got to meet Bill Clark who co-authored Photographic Guide to North American Raptors with Brian Wheeler. Always nice to have a geek out moment at a bird festival. Bill Thompson did in fact make it in from Ohio and is busy organizing the parties for the rest of the week with Amy. Looks like karaoke Thursday night, general jam session Friday night and someone is kind enough to host a dancing party in their drive way on Saturday night.
Tomorrow Katie and I are up early to do some birding and then to work the booth. Can't wait to see the birds and to get to work talking to people about optics. Woo hoo!