Back to Brinkley!

I love being at the airport and I love traveling. I had a conversation with a freelance writer friend who warned me to be careful what I wished for. He said it was hard being on the road in a cramped plane, sleeping in an unfriendly hotel and just trying to get things done. So far I have found the opposite to be true. I tend to get a lot of work done catching up on phone conversations (with my hands free headset at left) and doing some emailing while waiting at the gate. Once on the plane I get a surprising amount of writing accomplished whether it be blog related, catching up on emails, an article for Birding Business or something for Eagle Optics. No distractions. This trip I used the time on the plane to go over the packing list of product that will be waiting for me in Brinkley. I tried to make sure that I not only knew what was packed but try and memorize the weights, prices, etc.

Ever since I was a kid, I have loved airports, I love watching the people and I love the buzz of everyone off to destinations. You can see how excited some are to get to a vacation spot and other just off for work. I just like the energy. When I touched down in Little Rock, I got into my rental car and headed straight for the festival:

Welcome back to Brinkley! Okay, for the record, I am a safe driver, I do not snap photos while going down the highway, but about 15 miles from Brinkley one nasty traffic jam came into formation. When I got off the exit, there was a police officer directing traffic! Who knew? Could this be a sign that the festival is jammed packed full of participants? I was shocked. I was also a little concerned with the officer started using his cell phone while directing traffic. Call me crazy, but I want someone's full attention when they are directing vehicles of various sizes off of and onto highways.

Typically a traffic jam is not my first place to be, but there were so many snow geese moving that it was fun to watch swirling and descending onto the nearby fields as I sat in the highway parking lot. It was bird rush hour! As I got closer to Brinkley, I noticed hoards and hoards of red-winged blackbirds. I hadn't seen flocks like that since I was a kid in Indiana. I estimated one flock to be at least 2 million birds (that's a conservative estimate, not an exaggeration). I was super excited to notice that the flocks were heading towards the Brinkley exit like I was. Here is a photo of a flock (note traffic in the lanes heading away from Brinkley are moving quite fast):

When I arrived at the convention center, there was a young man with fireworks taking aim at the red-winged blackbird flocks attempting to roost in the trees (kind of like that scene early on Steel Magnolias when they boys are trying to get the birds out of the trees before Shelby's wedding--although in the movie they look to be rock pigeons with house sparrow calls dubbed over). The birds would land, and make the trees look like full foliage, the fireworks would zoom in the center, the flock would rise and then descend down into the trees again. I mentioned to the crowd watching that this a bird festival, the birds should be left alone. I was told, "This isn't a blackbird festival!" I was also told that we would want the birds gone because of the all the droppings the birds leave behind. I mentioned that birds tend to "evacuate" more when scared so all the fireworks were doing were just encouraging the birds to poop. At this point there was a loud bang, and the flock zoomed our way--we all hightailed it into the convention center.

Inside I found all the merchandise had been shipped, figured out where my booth was to be set up. The boxes were large so Steve Moore and Amy Hooper helped me move them. Boy, WildBird Magazine really is out to help! My boxes are in place, so I went to grab an Ivory-bill Cheese Burger and call it a night. Back at the hotel I fine tuned my presentation for Saturday: Birding 101. I love titles like that because it's open to interpretation, I can go several different directions...I just need to keep in mind that I only have 30 minutes.

Tonight, my booth looked like this:

Tomorrow, it will be a buffet of fine binoculars!