Sunday, December 2, 2007

Winged things wild and free

The Ohio Bird Conservation Symposium

*Scott Weidensaul, author and bird scientist, rediscovers Wild America retracing Roger Tory Peterson's epic journey 50 years later.
*Jim McCormac, author and Ohio Ornithological Society president, shares new information in outdoor trends.
*Dr Amanda Rodewald explains the challenge of protecting the declining Cerulean Warbler.
*Paul Baicich, author and top bird conservation expert, suggests ten things YOU can do to conserve birds.
*Dr Dave Ewert shares models and visions for protecting the right habitat.
*Chris Bedel, preserve Director, introduces the amazing Edge of Appalachia.
and more. . .

Auspiciously, several flocks of migrating Sandhill Cranes flew over Deer Creek Reservoir in Pickaway County, Ohio Friday November 30 as conservation-minded birders and naturalists gathered for the Ohio Bird Conservation Symposium presented in partnership by the Ohio Ornithological Society and the Ohio Chapter of The Nature Conservancy. Great presenters and the dedicated event-planning team made this symposium a great partnership success for the OOS and TNC. See OOS President Jim McCormac's great blog (link below) for more details and pictures.

Friday evening, Jim McCormac, President of the Ohio Ornithological Society (OOS), met with generous OOS supporters and presented a new and insightful talk about trends among outdoor user-groups to illustrate the importance and the potential of bird enthusiasts pursuing their interests. Conservation dollars are scarce and habitat protection sometimes requires habitat purchase or easement--both expensive. Bird and nature enthusiasts can do much more to provide for their resource, beginning at home.

The economic impact of bird-related pursuits, from bird viewing and bird-feeding to chasing rare birds, is very much under-appreciated. We who love winged things wild and free must share the beauty, deliver the message, and participate in bird conservation, or continue to lose our resource. Ecotourism happens near home, not just in far away exotic locations. Tell the world and your local Chamber of Commerce how much we spend: It's their resource too.

Biodiversity is undervalued because we don't account for its value!

Late Friday evening (and again Saturday) a caravan of birders traveled to see the Northern Saw-whet Owl banding operation at the Earl H. Barnhart Buzzards' Roost Nature Preserve near Chillicothe, Ohio. Everyone making the trip enjoyed seeing these delightful little bundles of wonder. Some birds wake the child in us all regardless of age and bring us into touch with our sense of wonder, so often forgotten. The saw-whet is the grand champion of all avian wonder-wakers. See Jim McCormac's blog for several updates with pictures.

These OOS-partner events always draw great speakers and this one was no exception:

Saturday morning Dr Amanda Rodewald, The Ohio State University School of Environment and Natural Resources led the day with her presentation, "A Bird of Two Worlds: The Challenge of Conserving the Cerulean Warbler." The Cerulean Warbler is the OOS icon, its image the OOS logo. Dr Rodewald shared insights and research results to help fill in missing puzzle pieces for the picture of rapid Cerulean Warbler population decline. More work is needed and the OOS was pleased to present Dr Rodewald a research grant of $1500.00 to help fund continued research in both worlds, the cerulean's summertime home in Ohio and its wintertime home in South American.

Dr Dave Ewert, Director of Conservation Science for the Great Lakes Program of the Nature Conservancy presented, "Stopover Sites of Migratory Birds in the Great Lakes Region: Identification and Protection." Dr Ewert uses landscape-level modeling to identify and prioritize habitats used by migratory birds. Scarce dollars for conservation are used wisely when we use them where they make a difference. Important migration stop-over locations in the western Ohio and southern Michigan flatlands are coming into focus through the efforts of Dr Ewert and his colleagues.

Paul Baicich is a central figure in birding and bird conservation. He is author, instructor, guide, and consultant for all who love winged things wild and free. Paul's book (with J. O. Harrison, Princeton University Press), "A Guide to the Nests, Eggs, and Nestlings of North American Birds" came out in second edition in 2005. Paul presented, "The Ten Most Important Things You Can Do for Birds and Bird Conservation" beginning with the big five problems impacting bird conservation, and concluding with ten practical approaches to bird conservation beginning in your own backyard.

Making Paul's list; make your property bird-friendly (food--cover--water), drink shade-grown coffee (the real thing), buy a Migratory Waterfowl Hunting and Conservation stamp (duck stamps buy habitat), support inter-American equipment transfer (retire your old optics and nature equipment to a new life in a less developed country), support birding and nature festivals--start a family oriented local festival to help make the bird-curious bird-committed, be a friend of a local park or refuge (volunteer), take a child into the outdoors (their parents follow), count birds and make it count (CBC's, Ebird, Breeding Bird Atlas), develop a congressional relationship with a staffer (just writing your congressman isn't enough), lights-out (use efficient bulbs--only as you need them).

Bald Eagles made an appearance for lunch and were easily viewed from the lodge's Rafters Restaurant. A large raft of diving ducks bobbed in the distance too far to identify but close enough for a closer look. During the symposium participants used free time Saturday and group birding trips Sunday morning to explore for birds--no sign of the Northern Shrike that likes the location, but ducks were well represented, and Sandhill Canes trumpeted the beginning of the event.

Chris Bedel led the afternoon and kept the after-lunch crowd wide awake through a dazzling fast-paced tour of the extraordinary Edge of Appalachia Preserve system in southern Ohio, co-managed by the Ohio Chapter of The Nature Conservancy and by Chris, preserve Director with the Cincinnati Museum Center. "The Edge" is home to extraordinary diversity due to overlapping geology and biogeography. Professionals at The Edge pursue all-taxa biodiversity and share it with youth and adults.

Dinner-time is recognition time at OOS events and two powerhouse volunteers were recognized for their hard work in making OOS a success: Jen Sauter, OOS Executive Secretary and Board member, is always a big part of success and always in the background. Cheryl Harner, OOS Conservation Committee member, like Jen, works in the background to make everything happen, especially great vendors and exhibits at OOS events. Cheryl has set the bar high in conservation leadership through her work with Greater Mohican Audubon as well.

The OOS also recognized the birds by doing something for habitat: The Nature Conservancy, and all winged things wild and free, were beneficiaries of Ohio birder generosity. TNC's Pete Whan and Lucy Miller accepted a grant of $10,000 matching funds for acquisition of a great tract of neotropical migrant habitat with a globally rare white cedar plant community. This tract helps to fill an important gap in the huge and unique Edge of Appalachia Preserve system.

The evening keynote address presented by author and bird scientist Scott Weidensaul took us on a breathtaking tour of North America's wild places retracing the steps (30,000 miles) of famed ornithologists and authors Roger Tory Peterson and James Fisher in 1953 detailed in their book, Wild America (1955). Weidensaul's descriptive words and shared insights, more than his stunning images, carried his audience breathless through a fifty-year comparison of wild places tracked by Peterson and Fisher, then by Weidensaul. At the end of the journey we found a new beginning. There was no pot'o gold at the end of the rainbow; in its place we found a hope chest of mixed memories, on balance good memories, and reasons to be optimistic for conservation successes in the future. I bought Scott's book, "Return to Wild America: A Yearlong Search for the Continent's Natural Soul (Long Point Press, 2005).

Sunday morning breakout sessions offered something for everyone. Jim McCormac presented, Wonderful Waterfowl. Aarone Boone, Ohio Breeding Bird Atlas Coordinator, presented, "Sparrows 101". Paul Bacich presented, "The Five Best and Worst Things About the Duck Stamp."

Field trips Sunday mid-day canvased the Deer Creek area for birds. Look for reports on the Ohio Birds Listserve.

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