Tuesday, October 8, 2013

2013 IAS Fall Festival Weekend

Rob writes: I spent this past weekend in northwest Indiana running the Indiana Audubon Society's Fall Festival at Indiana Dunes State Park. We had a great line up of speakers and were hopeful that the weather would cooperate and that the birding would be excellent.

The event kicked off on Friday night with a presentation about the long shore flight at the new Bird Observation Tower at the state park. The volume of birds passing by the tower each year is absolutely staggering, and I would encourage all birders to bird from the tower if they have the opportunity.

The forecast did not look good for the field trips on Saturday morning, but I was pleasantly surprised to wake up to overcast skies with no rain and very little wind. My group made our way to Michigan City Harbor, with the sun coming out just as we arrived. Our most interesting find of the day occurred shortly after we arrived when a very dark-backed gull flew in and landed on the beach. This bird had been reported from the area for the last several days, and there is still a lot of debate about what species the gull actually is. Some birders feel that it is a pure Kelp Gull while others think that it is a hybrid Kelp/Herring Gull that is known as Chaneleur Gull. We spent the rest of the morning birding around Washington Park and Indiana Dunes State Park looking for passerines.

Our afternoon programs got off to a great start with Tiffany Conrad from the Gene Stratton-Porter State Historic Site talking about Gene's life and the historic site in Northern Indiana. It was extremely interesting to hear about one of Indiana's most famous writers and conservationists.

Next up was Sharon Sorenson to talk about her new book, Birds in the Yard: Month by Month. This book tells you everything you need to know about about attracting birds to your backyard, and her presentation was fantastic! As an added bonus, Sharon donated all of the money from the sales of her book over the weekend to Indiana Audubon Society's Mary Gray Bird Sanctuary.

John Kendall was our final presenter for the afternoon, and he spoke about his 15 day Costa Rican birding adventure. I think he made everyone in the room want to go birding in Costa Rica with his wonderful photos and stories.

Chad after receiving his award
Our keynote dinner and presentation took us just down the road to Woodland Park in Portage. After a tasty meal provided by Topperz Catering, IAS President Brad Bumgardner presented Chad Williams with the Earl Brooks Conservation Award for his work on starting and building the Indiana Young Birders Club! I cannot think of anyone more deserving of this award.

The evening concluded with keynote speaker Drew Lanham talking about "Connecting the Conservation Dots". His message challenged everyone in the audience to take a different perspective on conserving birds and their habitats and was very thought provoking. If Drew is ever presenting near you, be sure to check out his talk! He also has a wonderful blog, http://wildandincolor.blogspot.com/

Sunday was a day for birding, but the predicted rain finally caught up with us. It was pouring outside when everyone met up at 7 am and continued to rain as we made our way to McCool Basin to look for some special sparrows. Despite the weather, we all decided to get soaked looking for birds! I've always had great luck with Nelson's Sparrow on this property and this outing was no different. We had at least five individuals although the real number was likely more! Most participants also got great looks at Marsh Wren, Swamp Sparrow, and many other more common species.

Keynote speaker Drew Lanham with Rob
While my group was at McCool, some of the other participants were at Dunes State Park where Brad was banding songbirds. We were fortunate that the rain stopped there as well! The highlight of the morning was a Red-breasted Nuthatch.

Be sure to join Indiana Audubon Society for next year's festival in Evansville!

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