Ivory-bill Celebration Observations

Here is a photo of ivory-bill rediscovers Bobby Harrison and Tim Gallagher visiting the Eagle Optics booth. It was fun to finally see both guys at the same time. I told Bobby that I was beginning to think they were the same person since you never see both of them at the same festival. I need to give a big Thank You to the Brinkley Chamber of Commerce and to Bobby Harrison for directing people to my website and to Eagle Optics website. While working the Eagle Optics booth I would get one of three comments:

1. "Are you that birder chick? The Chamber told me to check out your website, it's nice to meet you." 2. "I need to get some new binoculars and that Bobby Harrison fellow said that I needed to get them through you." 3. "Oh, Eagle Optics, I've purchased my binoculars through you, I love them."

For a first time festival, Brinkley did a pretty good job. Sure there were a few rough edges, but that was mostly minor details that you learn as you do a festival. I was so amazed by the number of people who just dropped in from neighboring towns because they heard about it on the news or because they saw the sign off of the highway.

I was asked to give a talk on Birding 101 at the festival. I kept it informal and light humored and the response was favorable afterwards, I had never done one trying to describe what birding is all about.

I started my talk with a monologue from Play on Birds about one person's journey to birding. In the talk I make a reference to pishing. At the end of my talk, I opened it up for questions and a lady asked me, "Can you tell me what 'pissing' is?"

I haven't had a line served to me on a silver platter like that since my last visit to my mother.

I answered, "I can tell you what that means, but I think what you really want to know is what 'pishing' is, spelled P-I-S-H. If it's not, I'm certainly happy to oblige on the other word."

She quickly covered her mouth when she realized what she asked and all of us, including the lady who asked the question, got a good giggle out of it.

Pete Dunne had given a talk the day before on the art of pishing. For the non birders that check this blog, pishing is a noise birders make to get birds attention. Say the word 'pish' in a whisper while keep your teeth clenched together, that's a basic pish. You will find each birders has their own technique and for the most part is can be a useful tool to get a birds attention and getting it closer to you. Usually, in a performance I will include a demo of pishing (especially when doing it in a regular theater setting, however since this was a bird festival and Pete had just talked about pishing and the audience laughed loudly at the reference, I continued on. Mental note, from now on, always define pishing, even at bird festivals. Friday and Saturday were an action packed days, helping people with binoculars. I was so excited, June Osborne purchased a pair of Zeiss binoculars at the booth, it was an honor to help her. She told me the story of how she and her husband of 53 years met--in jail! They were both part of a church youth group in high school that would go sing to guys in the drunk tank. Her husband Harold said he was smitten right away. I hope I'm lucky enough to reach half that number with Non Birding Bill. That's June wearing her signature purple between Amy Hooper and me.

Speaking of Amy, she got a little weird on this trip. Bless her heart, she's from California and just not used to chilly temperatures. Granted, the air did get a bit crisp and I even broke out some earmuffs at one point, but she was really affected. Saturday afternoon I had to pack up the booth, which is the hardest part of the job for me. If I sell anything, it's not going to fit in the boxes the same way as it arrived, so I have to carefully repack to make sure everything is cushioned and secure for the trip back to the Eagle Optics headquarters. It's kind of like a game of Tetris. Well, I was tired and a bit of mess when I finished and the banquet was going to start soon. I decided to head back to the hotel room and try and clean up for the dinner. Amy came along and on the way we stopped for some super sugary gas station cappucino to reawaken me. When we got to the room, I checked messages on my cell phone. I heard Amy mumbling in the back ground, but didn't pay too close attention. Something about "feet and hot water". I got off the phone and went to the sink to wash my hands and found her standing in the tub, fully clothed with her feet sitting in hot water while drinking her gas station cappuccino. I looked at her quizzically and she replied, "I told you, happiness is cold feet in hot water." I'm always happy to be of service to my warm weather friends in cold temperatures.

We freshened up and headed to the banquet. As we eat we listened to all those involved with the first search from Tim and Bobby, to David Luneau who shot the famous video, to Gene Sparling the kayaker who got ivory-bills searchers attention when he spotted an odd woodpecker while on the Cache River. All of the guys involved in that early initial top secret search are deeply affected by what happened to them, but I had never really heard Gene talk about it in person before. All the speeches were great and all but Gene's involved Powerpoint, but Gene got up, and spoke from his heart. He still hasn't quite deciphered what all this means in his personal grand scheme of things. And as much as I enjoy listening to Tim and Bobby recount that fateful day and as interesting as David Lunneau is, I was touched deeply by the refreshing, soulful honesty of this naturalist who truly loves the Cache, ivory-bill or not.

The city of Brinkley itself is overwhelmed by this situation but they opened up their arms to welcome birders and charmed us with their hospitality. I love all the places I've been so far with my job, but Brinkley is becoming a favorite with the friendliness of the people who are not only curious about why someone would travel hundreds of miles to their town for the slimmest of chances to see a bird, but are also grateful for the business.

The number of participants certainly exceeded my expectations and those of the organizers. I heard on Friday that there had been 157 people at the Fish Fry and that didn't include people who just popped in for the activities during the day or who were to show up just for Saturday's activities. Our hotel was certainly packed Saturday night. I had a tough time finding parking when I came back after the banquet. I hope the festival continues to grow in the future.