Bird Lady Blog

June 14, 2012

Birding Heaven


I describe birdwatching in Munds Park as heavenly.  We sometimes spot the very rare Red-Faced Warbler, we enjoy the beautiful blue Steller’s Jay of the mountains at our feeders, and we can catch a view of a soaring Bald Eagle over Lake Odell while golfing.  That is exactly what Andy and Gary did during the Pinewood Country Club Stockholder Golf Tournament on May 20th as they were hitting their shots on Hole 12 – they spotted a Bald Eagle right here in Munds Park.

But I have to report that I encountered another birders’ heaven when I participated in the Horicon Bird Festival in Wisconsin over Mother’s Day weekend.  This was the first bird festival I have attended, and I was not disappointed.  That weekend I saw 26 species of birds I had never seen or heard before – “lifers” in birding terms.

The whole idea of attending the Festival originated with my sister Liz and sister-in-law Sally.  Sally and my brother live on 40 acres of farmland just 20 minutes from Horicon Marsh.  We women periodically take a ladies-only trip – like renting an RV and fly-fishing in Colorado or rafting down the Colorado River and hiking out of the Grand Canyon.  This year we chose Horicon Marsh in southern Wisconsin to focus on family and birding.  I flew to Chicago, picked up my mother and my high-school birding friend, Thelma, and off we drove to Wisconsin.

Liz, Sally, Thelma, and I signed up for two guided tours and left the rest of Saturday and Sunday open to attend workshops or presentations.  Saturday morning’s tour started at 6 a.m., meaning I had to rise at 4:45 a.m. (2:45 AZ time!).  We drove to the south visitor center for our first tour.  Thirty-five of us birders got on a school bus with two birding guides and headed to various stops to primarily find song-birds.  We hit the jackpot.   We saw and/or heard 97 species of birds in those six hours.  Highlights for me were Baltimore Oriole, Orchard Oriole, Bobolink, Barred Owl, Magnolia Warbler, Northern Parula, and the Ruby-Throated Hummingbird.  The Ruby-Throated Hummingbird is the only hummingbird found regularly east of the Mississippi and one I had really wanted to finally see.   The Barred Owl was amazing – it flew right over us about 9 a.m. and then stayed and called to its mate for a few minutes.

After that tour, my brother and mother met us all for lunch at the visitor center, watching Purple Martins and American Robins and Barn Swallows.  Then we attended a humorous talk by Al Batt, who has many bird-related activities and honors, writes columns for Bird Watcher Digest, and has a radio show about birding.  After that we attended a presentation on how to select and get the most out of our binoculars and spotting scopes.  Then we headed back and took naps!  At dinner time on the farm, we could hear Sandhill Cranes, Pheasant, and Common Nighthawks.  To cap off the day, we all stayed up to 11 p.m. and watched “The Big Year”, a 2011 movie starring Steve Martin and Jack Black about a real-life contest among birders who can spot the most species of birds in North America during a single calendar year.

Sunday was Mother’s Day, so after a lovely restaurant breakfast we headed to the Bird Festival again.  Then it was more exhibits and tours, joined again with many others from the age of 10 to people in their 80’s.  It was not crowded, the weather was perfect, the sky was clear blue, and not a mosquito or black fly was in sight.  We were very lucky to have such ideal conditions among the birds, family, and friends.

I have hired birding guides before but had never been to a bird festival.  Now I would like to attend at least one a year.  If you wish to learn more about Bird Festivals, go to www.birdwatchersdigest.com and click on the Festival Finder.  You will be amazed at how many heavenly birding festivals there are throughout the country and throughout the year.

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