Tawas Point Bird Festival

Hey...does this website look different? Yep, we did a redesign. I hope it's easier for people to read. It's certainly going to be easier for me to maintain and enter content. 

The lighthouse at Tawas Point State Park.

The lighthouse at Tawas Point State Park.

I've run into Shelly Moses-Martinez at the Biggest Week in Ohio a few times. She also has started her own version of Birds and Beers in Michigan called Birds and Brews. She kept telling me that I needed to come to Tawas Point Bird Festival some year and we made it happen this year. 

Chestnut-sided warbler digiscoped with an iPhone at Tawas Point.

Chestnut-sided warbler digiscoped with an iPhone at Tawas Point.

This small festival was so much fun, it reminded me a lot of being in South Padre Island when the migrants come across the Gulf and warblers and tanagers are just everywhere. The only exception being that place was a bit cooler in temperature. Migrants tend to follow the shores of Lake Huron and many are low and easy to see. It's similar to the amount of warblers you can see at Biggest Week, but not as crowded. I had so many chestnut-sided warbles all around me.

A "slidey-backed gull seen in Tawas, MI.

A "slidey-backed gull seen in Tawas, MI.

The birding community is tight-knit and excited to show off this lovely lake town. I loved the gull themed slide near my hotel. You can stick around the point and bird the crap out of the area, but some of the field trips take you to some breath-taking Michigan habitat. One of the trips takes to see Kirtland's warbler, which if you don't have that species, this is the place for you.

View during the AuSuble field trip. 

View during the AuSuble field trip. 

Since I've already seen Kirtland's I opted for the AuSable River Valley field trip which was quiet, and yielded us lots of warblers. We were surrounded by pine trees and a lovely view from atop a bluff. Our guides was very good. He lives in Illinois but spends part of the year in Tawas. He even made a point to hang out with the back of the large group to make sure they were seeing and hearing some of the same birds. I have trouble telling some of my trilling bird species apart and he took the time to explain the differences between pine warbler and chipping sparrow. 

False morel aka "beefsteak" mushroom seen on our field trip.

False morel aka "beefsteak" mushroom seen on our field trip.

As some of you know, I like to forage for the occasional edible mushroom. I'm a big fan of the saying, "There are old mushroom hunters and there are bold mushroom hunters, but there are no old, bold mushroom hunters." I pretty much stick to the "fool proof four" or the "safe six" like morels, chicken of the woods, hen of the woods--the things you cannot mistake for anything else. I know there are false morels and we found quite  few on our trip.  I can tell by the fatter, squatter appearance what a false morel is but I always double check when slicing morels because an edible morel will be hollow and a false more will be solid.

I overheard one of the participants talking about eating "the beefsteaks." "You eat that? I never eat false morels because they are supposed to be toxic."

She informed that she eats them all the time. I clearly had to do some googling. Apparently, some people can eat false morels without consequence, while others can experience diarrhea, nausea, dizziness, headaches and in rare cases even death. You never know, it's a crap shoot (ha ha). I don't see myself trying a false morel anytime soon but I did learn something new.

Porcupine found on the AuSable River Valley Trip.

Porcupine found on the AuSable River Valley Trip.

No matter what trips you sign up for, make sure to spend time walking the point. Even if you are doing it after all the afternoon workshops and you don't know your warblers well, lots of people will be there to help you id birds and even make sure that you are seeing the birds too.

Baltimore oriole digiscoped with an iPhone

Baltimore oriole digiscoped with an iPhone

Make sure to find the fruit feeding station and just zone out for a bit at all the crazy amounts of orioles chowing down on oranges. There are so many and the amount of orange and yellow is bananas.

Orchard oriole digiscoped with an iPhone while carbo loading on some hummingbird nectar.

Orchard oriole digiscoped with an iPhone while carbo loading on some hummingbird nectar.

It's a popular photography spot but if you are new to digiscoping this would be a great place to practice. 

One of many scarlet tanagers outside the festival hotel digiscoped with an iPhone.

One of many scarlet tanagers outside the festival hotel digiscoped with an iPhone.

The birds do drip off the trees. Even right outside the main hotel where all the field trips met, we had quite the warbler and tanager wave...and a group of about 20 birders with scopes watching them forage for insects on the budding trees. But the town seemed to welcome birders with quite a few posting signs welcoming birders and business would ask if you were having a good time if you were wearing binoculars. They may not understand exactly why you animatedly talking about the killer northern parula you just saw in their parking lot, but they are just happy you are enjoying the town.

What happens when a parent asks if their kid can have their photo with me...I just can't take a normal photo. 

What happens when a parent asks if their kid can have their photo with me...I just can't take a normal photo. 

Shelly was kind enough to host a Birds and Brews and that was a lot of fun. There were even kids (who had root beer). I love having these in other areas, it's an informal way to meet other people and get a pulse on the local birding community. I'm really excited because a lot of the people involved in organizing this small fun event are going to be involved with hosting the 2015 Midwest Birding Symposium. It's been fun in Ohio, but will be cool to try it in a new state.

One final note, I was surprised through some weird occurrence that I was able to get a direct flight from Minneapolis to Alpena which is less than an hour from Tawas Point. Who knew? But the airport was SO tiny. How tiny? Check this out: 

Alpena Airport Signage

Alpena Airport Signage

That's their baggage claim sign. You literally got off the plane and walked inside to this sign. To rent a car, you had to call for an attendant because he works the grounds of the airport. Which was fun and much more relaxed than the usual airport experience. 

And you never know what you'll find while you're driving around. Who knew I'd see a Jesus statue and dinosaur cutout so close together?

And you never know what you'll find while you're driving around. Who knew I'd see a Jesus statue and dinosaur cutout so close together?

Digiscoping with Clay and Sharon, Episode 8, Contest Winner

As I sit at my open kitchen window this morning listening to urban bird calls and waiting for YouTube to upload the final episode, I have a mixture of relief and sadness. This series has been so much a part of my life the last six months, that I'm partially grateful to have some freedom in my schedule, but sad to not work on it anymore because it worked all the creative resources of my brain. As much as it was a puzzle for viewers to figure out the series clues and theme, it was a puzzle for me some days to figure out how to organize footage, edit something to make sense when a memory card decided a key scene I filmed was corrupt and choosing which bird footage to use. As my blog is turning 10 years old this year, it's very different than when I started in 2004. I don't just have a Minnesota audience anymore and how many times can I post "Hey, orioles are back" with genuine enthusiasm? Not that I'm not excited when I see the orioles are back, but writing about in the blog is not the same. It's more fun to post the first oriole's picture to Instagram. Speaking of Instagram, there are so many new ways and platforms to share information--sharing and discussing news is better suited to Facebook and Twitter than it is in the blog.

When I have a time consuming project like this series or writing a book, my brain will try to distract me by percolating 100s of great ideas. Ideas that require time, other people and organizations and money--but are still great ideas. One of the hardest things I've learned for me is that ideas are easy, followthrough is hard. I can have the greatest idea in the world (or hear someone else's idea and want to work on it) but if I don't have the time or resources, I have to let it go. Working on this series not only gave me the break of working on "the same old" blog posts I really needed, but has taken enough of my working brain, that new ideas for the blog have been percolating in the back of my head.

I'll be spending the next month implementing them and also I am excited to write again.

Will we do more videos? Yes!

Will we do another series...I hope so, but I'm not sure.

This was an experiment. I was in a reality tv show pilot last year (that has mercifully aired unnoticed) and though creatively it wasn't what I needed, I realized, "Is this all it takes to make a show?" And I used what I learned watching the crew as they filmed us to make Digiscoping with Clay and Sharon with mostly a couple of iPhones. I'd love for it to be a regular show--whether on YouTube or Netflix, or even Nat Geo, but that takes money, planning, writing (yes, reality shows have scripts), a better sound system, a crew and holy cow I could really use a continuity editor (I'm surprised no one ever emailed about my shirt changing colors in Episode 2).

If you enjoyed this series a big way to help is to let the sponsors know. For example, if you ever stay at the Alamo Inn, tell Keith that Birdchick sent you or that you enjoyed his cameo in the series. Tweet to Princeton University Press or Swarovski Optik Nature that you liked it (and especially let them know if you bought something). Check out the apps BirdsEye NA or BirdLog from BirdsEyeBirding. Go birding in South Texas either the Rio Grande Valley or Corpus Christi, you won't regret it. I'm half-tempted to run a digiscoping tour there (another great idea percolating in the back of the brain).

Thank you sponsors and friends for making this show possible. And now for the video, there are three winners. The first person our rabbit picked got the Swarovski Spotting Scope, the second person gets their choice of bird book worth up to $40 list price from Princeton University Press and the third person chosen gets a copy of my book 1001 Secrets Every Birder Should Know.


Birdchick Podcast #171 Owl Whisperer

Have you checked out the web series? You have until the end of the day on June 23, 2014 to send in your guess! Watch all 7 episodes (it's only about an hour and fifteen minutes to watch the whole thing). Sad tale of a Canadian woman who stopped on a highway to help ducklings and ended up causing a fatal crash has been convicted of criminal negligence causing death. She could get a life sentence.

Guy uses a Swiffer to rid his home of a big, scary screech-owl (warning, language).

Digiscoping With Clay and Sharon, Episode 7, Fun With SlowMo on the iPhone

Here it is! This is the final clue to the series theme! Have you figured it out yet? I tried to drop some heavy hints in this episode!

 

Be sure to check out the pages of our generous sponsors for this episode, especially if you saw something in the show you liked:

Swarovski Optik (the optics I've been using for years)

Princeton University Press (my favorite nature publisher and sign up for updates on their cook BirdGenie bird call identifier app that's coming)

South Texas Nature (because birding the Rio Grande Valley is a must do)

Alamo Inn (my favorite place to stay when birding the Rio Grande Valley)

Screen Shot 2014-06-19 at 8.23.10 AM
Screen Shot 2014-06-19 at 8.23.10 AM

If you are enjoying the series, please consider sharing an episode on your social media outlets. And remember, kids, birds shown in the first seven episodes have all been digiscoped by both Clay and me and are a clue to the series theme! If you correctly guess the series theme, you are entered into a drawing for a Swarovski spotting scope. Please read over the contest rules before entering.

All entries that deviate from the contest rules will be disqualified. The winner will be announced in the eighth episode airing on June 26, 2014. To make sure you do not miss an episode, subscribe to the Birdchick YouTube Channel.

Contest Rules (To make sure you do not miss an episode, subscribe to the Birdchick YouTube Channel. )

1. All entries for the Swarovski STS spotting scope need to be emailed to digiscoping@birdchick.com and must include the answer, your first and last name, mailing address and phone number (in case I need to contact you regarding shipping).

2. You can guess the theme more than once, but only ONE correct entry per person will count in the drawing. (You should probably watch a few episodes before you guess).

3. All entries guessing the series theme must be received no later than 11:59pm Central Time on June 23, 2014.

4. The winner of the Swarovski spotting scope will be chosen at random and the decision of the judges is final.

Digiscoping with Clay and Sharon, Episode 6, Discreet Birding

So...this episode got a little weird but I love that I got to work with some of our good friends and professional actors like Kelvin Hatle, Dawn Krosnowski and Birds and Beers regular Duck Washington! I love that this project allowed me to see some friends...even if I was ordering them around. Alright, we are in the home stretch of the web series...have you guessed the series theme yet? Enter your guess at Digiscopoing@Birdchick.com with your guess ( and please read all the contest rules below).


Be sure to check out the pages of our generous sponsors for this episode, especially if you saw something in the show you liked:

Swarovski Optik (the optics I've been using for years)

Princeton University Press (my favorite nature publisher and sign up for updates on their cook BirdGenie bird call identifier app that's coming)

If you are enjoying the series, please consider sharing an episode on your social media outlets.  And remember, kids, birds shown in the first seven episodes have all been digiscoped by both Clay and me and are a clue to the series theme! If you correctly guess the series theme, you are entered into a drawing for a Swarovski spotting scope.

Purple finch reach
Purple finch reach

Please read over the contest rules before entering. All entries that deviate from the contest rules will be disqualified. The winner will be announced in the eighth episode airing on June 26, 2014. To make sure you do not miss an episode, subscribe to the Birdchick YouTube Channel.

Contest Rules (To make sure you do not miss an episode, subscribe to the Birdchick YouTube Channel. )

1. All entries for the Swarovski STS spotting scope need to be emailed to digiscoping@birdchick.com and must include the answer, your first and last name, mailing address and phone number (in case I need to contact you regarding shipping).

2. You can guess the theme more than once, but only ONE correct entry per person will count in the drawing. (You should probably watch a few episodes before you guess).

3. All entries guessing the series theme must be received no later than 11:59pm Central Time on June 23, 2014.

4. The winner of the Swarovski spotting scope will be chosen at random and the decision of the judges is final.