Sunday was a busy day. I went to Eagle Creek Park for their Sunday Morning Bird Walk and afterwards, I gave a digiscoping presentation. My mom and sister Terri came along with me so mom could see the talk (but in reality, this was a ruse to get her out of the house so the rest of the family could set up a surprise 70th birthday party for her). When I got up, it was raining and the rain continued on our drive to the park. I wondered if anyone would show to the bird walk.
If I learned anything today, it's that Hoosier Birders are hardy! It was a huge group for a rainy day (above is only part of the group). People arrived with rain gear and umbrellas (some from as far as 40 miles) to keep up the Sunday morning birding tradition started years ago by Bud Starling. Our guide was Larry Peavler who led the group in search of early spring migrants.
Rain doesn't make for the best birding conditions, but great spring birds were around. This towhee above was doing his "Drink Your Tea!" song. We also saw ruby and golden crowned kinglets, fox sparrows, swamp sparrows and heard a hermit thrush singing (any time a thrush is singing, it's a treat in my book).
After the bird walk, the group gathers for some coffee and treats. I thought it would be informal, some coffee and maybe waxy chocolate donuts from a convenience store--this was practically a tail-gate party! This nice man above had a huge umbrella covering his pot full of bean soup, heated on his portable gril. As he served us his homemade soup, he even provided cornbread! The soup was amazingly flavorful and very welcome on this cold damp morning.
And it didn't stop there! Look at this basket of homemade cookies (four kinds: oatmeal raisin, chocolate, snicker doodle, and chocolate chip). There were also brownies, pumpkin bread, popcorn, coffee, tea, hot chocolate. Bottom line: Indiana Birders don't play around. They bird hard, they eat well. I was stunned at the dedication of the birders and generosity of the group. I hated to eat and run, but I had to set up for my digiscoping workshop. The group gathered around their food and went through the morning checklist. This is a very friendly and fun group of birders. If you live in Indianapolis, you should check it out.
When I made arrangements with Eagle Creek to have the digiscoping workshop there, they told me that the naturalist on staff that day would be "Frog Dawn." She turned out to be someone I knew--we went to the same church growing up. Her little brother and I were in the same Sunday School class (and eventually the same high school). She has her own Frog Dawn Blog (with some great footage of spring peepers) that shares her nature observations at the park. She was kind enough to bring out an education skunk to the program--what a treat and totally a first for me--a skunk at birding program. I started to take photos and someone asked if I was "digi-skunking." Nice.
We had quite a group show up to my powerpoint on digiscoping, some from the walk and some who decided to stay out of the rain and just come for the talk. Afterwards, we played with scopes and adaptors. All went well and we got mom home and surprised her with her party (but not too much, she is 70 after all, can't take those big shocks like she used to).
I did manage to get some fun footage of a male pileated doing some excavating in the rain during out walk. He was right on the side of the road out of the parking lot, many people walked right under him and he chiseled away with nary a care in the world. Definitely one of the more mellow pileateds I've seen in life.
Someone asked if I had another digiscoping workshop planned. Right now, my next digiscoping workshop is in North Dakota in June at the Potholes and Prairie Bird Festival. I'm REALLY excited about this one. I'll give a powerpoint the night before on some basic tips, then we'll go out the next morning on a field trip just for digiscoping. Our goal will not be to rack up lifers, but to just go out, find birds in great light and get shots of bobolink, hawks, western meadowlarks and if we're lucky maybe even Baird's sparrow or chestnut-collared longspur. We'll practice techniques for getting closer to birds without freaking them out as well as camera techniques.
Should be fun.