LOOKING BACK: THE BIGGEST WEEK IN AMERICAN BIRDING
In my last blog, I wrote about the magic of the upcoming Biggest Week in American Birding festival. Looking back over that ten day span, it was a very big week indeed! From front to back it was an exciting, fun, and exhausting ten days.
While the Biggest Week in American Birding has a clear meaning as one of the largest birding festivals around, focused on the massive movement of billions of spring migrants moving through the area, I can think of a few personal reasons to put more meaning to the “Biggest” part of the festival’s name.
The festival marks the “Biggest” gathering of Wildside Nature Tours guides and employees throughout the year. Guides from all areas of the world come together to lead tour groups, educate, and enjoy birds. It’s a major part of what we love most about this festival. The connections made here often last a lifetime, which leads to my next “Biggest” piece.
This festival also represents the “Biggest” gathering of friends and family in one place, for many folks, all year round. It’s such a wonderful atmosphere to be a part of! Leading trips with fellow guides and friends make for wonderful days, and the social events that bring all parts of this industry together in one place. It’s certainly one of the brightest points in my year, and I’d wager it is for many of our other Wildside guides as well!
The first day of the festival was arguably one of the roughest days weather wise of any Biggest Week start. It was only 40 degrees outside, with 30 mph winds and driving rain. The Wildside team lead free guided walks throughout the week twice each morning along the Magee Marsh Estuary Trail. No one showed up for the first walk, but four brave souls stood waiting for us as we arrived to lead our second walk. Opting for the relative safety of the boardwalk from the wind, we set out and actually got some great birds! Yellow-throated Vireo, Yellow Warbler, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, and Swainson’s Thrush were a few highlights.
As the festival progressed, the weather vastly improved. Due to a heavy and lengthy wind from the north, many migrants were slow to arrive, but that didn’t dampen the spirits of many of the birders there to enjoy them! Each day brought a small but new wave of migrants, as well as a new wave of enthusiasm from the crowds there to see them. While leading the morning walks each day, many Wildside guides also lead day trips as well. From specific locations and routes to big day trips where anything goes, we were there. I co-lead a group to the Pickerel Creek area with Wildside guide Robert Straub, and it was such a wonderful experience. We had many great birds, including my “lifer” Clay-colored Sparrow! Orchard Orioles, Eastern Towhees, and many Bald Eagles also made appearances.
The high point of my week was working with Wildside Owner Kevin Loughlin and guide Roger Neckles teaching and advising folks that were new to photography how to get the most out of their cameras in our “Intro to Nature Photography” workshop. We led two workshops and both were wonderful experiences in their own right. As a photographer dedicated to my craft, it made me so happy to assist others in the first parts of their journey with photography! And having the students excitedly approach me, sometimes days later, to show me their photos and how happy they were was one of the most satisfying feelings I’ve ever had.
Another highlight was the contest that we ran for the festival. Entrants had the chance to really get interactive with all of the Wildside team. After entering, folks could get more chances to win a buy one get one trip to Belize by taking selfies with our team and sharing them to the pinned post on our Wildside Facebook Page. It was a hit, and the perfect way to have some fun with our clients and the friends we made throughout the week! Many people stopped guides for photos not only at the Maumee Bay State Park Lodge, but also along boardwalks, in parking lots, and on beaches. It was a free for all, and we’re so appreciative to all those that entered and stopped us for photos. We hope to see you on future trips!
What you’ve read so far is really such a small snapshot of such a HUGE ten days for not only myself, but the rest of the Wildside team. If I were to get reports from all of our guides of the goings on, I could most likely write a blog that would take you days to read! With that in mind, I’ll just sum up and attempt to put words to what this week meant for not only myself, but the rest of the team as well.
Festivals like the Biggest Week in American Birding give us a chance to see friends and loved ones, spend quality time with our clients, and to lead groups. We get to help educate folks while showing them some of the most beautiful creatures the world has to offer. We get to make direct and indirect contributions and impacts to conservation. We’re fortunate. I can’t tell you all, on a personal level, how much it means to me to have the opportunity to share what I love and am passionate about with others. There’s no better feeling in the world.
So from myself, and the rest of the Wildside team…THANK YOU! Without all of you many of us, myself included, would not be able to chase the passions and dreams that we do. Thank you for coming and visiting us, interacting with us, and doing your part to help save birds. We certainly had an unbelievably fun and memorable time spending it with everyone that crossed our paths!
As always, many thanks to all of you for following along. If you’d like to interact, keep up with our adventures, or chat with us please be sure to visit our Facebook, Instagram, or contact us through the Wildside Nature Tours Website!
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