With June more than half over, it finally feels like Spring has fully transitioned into Summer. In some ways, that’s a relief. When you’re in any sort of birding-related industry, you look at most of April and all of May with a certain level of near-panic. There’s just so much to do! And though you’re sad in many ways to see the warblers and shorebirds move on, there’s a measure of relief that comes with the relative quiet in the wake of migration.
I have to tell you, though, that there is one event that I just didn’t get enough of this Spring–one that I am truly already looking forward to in 2017. And that is The Biggest Week in American Birding, put on each May in Ohio by Black Swamp Bird Observatory and a huge cast of partners, sponsors, and volunteers. I’ve been to 4 of the 7 Biggest Weeks held so far, including the first one back in 2010, and I can tell you that though the event has always had a lot to recommend it, it has matured into something truly special. If you haven’t experienced it yet, you have to get it on your calendar. I mean that in the most literal sense: it will be May 5 to 14, 2017. Put it on your calendar now.
Spreading as it does over 10 full days, and encompassing thousands of people, it’s hard to neatly summarize the experiences to be had here. So I’ll share just a few photos of our ABA contingent and some of the birds and birders we saw this year. Come on out in 2017 and bird Northwest Ohio with us and we’ll make some memories of our own. See you there!
ABA’s Advertising and Marketing guy, John Lowry at right, snapped a selfie of the two of us together at the Magee Marsh boardwalk east entrance.
Liz at the ABA booth at Maumee Bay Lodge, before opening hours. Like many birders and vendors, we spend a lot of our mornings at The Biggest Week out birding and a lot of our afternoons at the various exhibits and tables. It’s a great formula for crossing paths with a lot of birds and a lot of birders…
…a LOT of birders! Is The Biggest Week crowded? Yes, at some times and places, it certainly is. But that is truly part of its charm and energy. And it’s easy to find solitude, too, if you need some relative alone time. And yes, that is Greg Miller at center there.
The Biggest Week is an unbeatable place to make new birding friends, hang out with friends of long standing, and to meet a huge cross section of the birding community and industry. Above, Liz (center) hugs it up with Heidi Trudell (r) and Michael Hilchey (l).
And Liz and I grab a pic with ABA member Felix Purdue. Indeed, there is a lot of socializing at The Biggest Week. But man oh man, is there ever birding, too.
Birds, like this Rose-breasted Grosbeak, are just about everywhere. And close. It’s true that things can get slower some days, as they do at migrant stopovers anywhere. But gosh, the birding is good there. And quite often, it’s astoundingly good, as is the photography.
Speaking of photography, mine at The Biggest Week was super exciting because of Canon having a strong presence at the festival, including the almost unbelievable opportunity to borrow lenses and other equipment at no charge. For me, and for many of us there, this was beyond exciting. Here I am wielding a 600mm f/4, as photographed by John Lowry. It was a blast shooting with this thing!
One of the pleasures of having a new toy to play with is that you tend to go right back to basics. I love American Robins. I think they are among our more beautiful birds and yet I take very few pictures of them. That 600mm gave me a great excuse to fix that.
Yellow Warblers, too, once you see a few dozen of them, tend to get a bit underrated. But they are simply gorgeous.
This Magnolia Warblers gave us an eyeful of pattern and color. It’s funny how some birds are so minimalist (think Warbling Vireo) and others just pull out all the visual stops.
And then there are the less common and/or more difficult to see species, like this Canada Warbler, which at The Biggest Week tend to be a lot more numerous and confiding than they are most places and times. We spent a great hour or so watching and photographing this male Canada, and especially helping several dozen other birders find and enjoy him, too.
Here’s Liz and me with Canon’s Chuckie Luzier, reluctantly surrendering that lens. Having Canon at The Biggest Week was just one highlight of 2016. There were so many more. Come on up in 2017 and see what I mean!
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