Early Thoughts on Bird Watch America

Have I really been in Atlanta one day and am I already this exhausted? I love this show--so many great friends to catch up with, so many new people with new ideas to meet and so much new product to see. All this is on top of my actual duties that I have to perform here.

Non Birding Bill was kind enough to check out a laptop pc for me from the university he works at since Norbert was not ready from having his hard drive replaced. I can't get the darn thing to connect to the internet or hold a battery charge, but somehow I have landed a very spanky executive suite with office privleges. I'm currently tucked away in a quiet corner on the 17 floor of the Hilton using their complimentary computers and internet access. Incidentally, accessing in my room is $13.95 a day--nuts.

My lunch time presentation went over better than I expected. It's odd, I feel perfectly natural most of the time in front of a crowd, but I found myself incredibly nervous--my left leg and right hand were uncontrollably shaking for most of my talk. I think it was because I was debuting some new material (crazy customer stories--like the woman who used to call the bird store and tell us about the peewees she could communicate with psychically) and I get more nervous talking in front of peers than people I will never see again. The audience seemed to enjoy it, and I think I kept it brief--whew.

The best presentation that I observed today was by Peter Marra about urban ecology--he has been doing some interesting research on common birds found in urban areas. I think this is something that can be used in several major cities. One of his most interesting findings had to do with nest predation in urban areas compared to forested areas. I think the general thought is that nests are less safe from predators in urban areas because we think of raccoons, crows and cats. Marra's research found that urbans nest were preyed upon a little over 30% whereas nests in forested areas were preyed upon closer to 80%! The main reason appears to be that we have fewer nest predators in urban areas--sure there are crows, raccoons and cats but not nearly as many snakes or smaller predators because we can exterminate them more easily.

He also had studies of catbird survival rates once the young leave the nest. Interesting to note that in neighborhoods with more cats, had fewer fledging catbirds survive.

Tomorrow I get to go in to the trade show and see what's nifty and new. Some sneak peaks that I found today: solar powered squirrel proof feeders, newer ant moats for hummingbirds, suet pellets, and a new book from Houghton Mifflin with tips from 50 top birders (hmmmm, I wonder how many people are going to glance at the list of 50 top birders and then take offence that they weren't invited to submit an essay--incidentally, there are a lot of essays by women in the book).

More soon.