Weather happens…

I just got the call I was expecting but dreading: this year’s 20th anniversary Hummer/Bird Celebration is canceled.

Hurricane Ike is currently pounding on Cuba, and it’s forecast to hit the Gulf Coast on Saturday. Hurricanes being capricious creatures, exactly when and where Ike will make landfall and at what force remains to be seen. I’m sure our friends and colleagues up and down the Texas coast are battening down the hatches, but poor little Rockport is directly in the storm’s projected path.

As much as I was looking forward to reconnecting with old friends and making new ones (birds and birders alike), hearing some great presentations and giving a new one of my own, and of course indulging in some fine Lone Star cuisine, I’m relieved that folks in Rockport and environs have decided to devote their full attention to making sure they, their families, their pets, and their homes have the best chance of coming through this storm unscathed.

I’ll be thinking of you, friends. Here’s hoping that Ike deteriorates into nothing more than a soggy blowhard by the time he reaches Texas.

Stay dry.

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Brace yourselves, Texans…

I’ll be visiting my home state of Texas September 11 through 14 for the 20th anniversary of the Rockport-Fulton Hummer/Bird Celebration. The Texas coast is one of my very favorite birding destinations, and I hope to get out for a little face-time with shorebirds, wading birds, raptors, and songbirds as well as hummingbirds. If you’re a reader of Life, Birds, and Everything and plan to attend the festival, please hunt me down to say hello!

Hitting the road again…

BTTHvignette…this time to southern Sonora, Mexico. It’s not quite as exciting as Guatemala, but it’s still a pretty cool destination for birders and other nature lovers.

I’m leading a 6-day birding trip that will include the charming colonial town of Alamos in southernmost Sonora plus San Carlos on the coast of the Gulf of California. We’ll start out early tomorrow morning from Bisbee by van, drive through some magnificent Sonoran Desert, and end up tomorrow evening at a hotel by the subtropical banks of the Rio Mayo.

We should see some mighty fine birds, including northbound migrants as well as tropical “specialties” such as Bare-throated Tiger-Heron (above left), White-fronted Parrot, and Social Flycatcher and west-Mexican endemics such as Black-throated Magpie-Jay, Sinaloa Crow, Mexican Parrotlet, and Elegant Quail. Not to mention five species of giant cacti, leafless trees in full bloom over the tropical deciduous forest, and much more.

My stalwart husband and usual birding partner Tom has to stay home to mind the fort (in a more literal way than you might imagine), so I’ll be co-leading with our Sonoran colleague Eduardo Gómez Limón. Expect post-trip posts here and at Birders On The Border. (If I don’t post, nag me until I do.)

Homeward bound

I’m currently enjoying a longish layover with family in Texas on my way home from the Adams County Amish Bird Symposium. I’ll be home tonight, but it may take a few days to get my photos off the cell phone (without paying Sprint’s exorbitant monthly fee, that is). It was a fabulous event, and once I get those pics I’ll post a new entry on the experience.

A big, enthusiastic audience, great presentations, luxurious lodging and gourmet cuisine for us presenters, and more — those Ohio birders really know how to throw party! Not to mention the excitement of seeing old friends again: Blue Jays, Downy Woodpeckers, Purple Finches, Carolina Wren. What a treat!

Adams County Amish Bird Symposium

Interest in the 5th Annual Adams County Amish Bird Symposium is heating up! I’ll be sharing the podium with coordinator Chris Bedel; Robert Schlabach, a member of the Holmes County Amish Community; Ivory-bill hunter Dr. Geoff Hill of Auburn University; bird photographer Brian Zweibel; and naturalist/illustrator Jen Brumfield.

The symposium will take place Saturday, March 1 from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Yoder Log Homes, off Freeland Hollow Road near West Union, Ohio. The event brochure doesn’t include an online registration option, but it says that you can register using a credit card by calling the Cincinnati Museum Center’s Information & Reservations Department at (513) 287-7000 or (800) 733-2077. If you prefer to register by mail, send a check (payable to Cincinnati Museum Center) to:

Cincinnati Museum Center
ATTN: Information & Reservations
1301 Western Ave.
Cincinnati, OH 45203

The cost is $20 per person age 13 and older; children 12 and under are free. Be sure to include the attendees’ names, mailing address, day and evening phone, e-mail address, and meal preference (meat or vegetarian).

Hope to see you there!

Going (Pennsylvania) Dutch

The 5th Annual Adams County Amish Bird Symposium is where I’ll be on March 1, 2008, thanks to an invitation from Chris Bedel, Preserve Director for the Edge of Appalachia Preserve. Naturally, I’ve been asked to talk about hummingbirds.

This will be the first intercultural birding event to which I’ve been invited as a speaker, and I’m very much looking forward to that aspect of it. The Amish birding phenomenon has fascinated me since I first read about it. My closest encounters so far with the culture of the “Plain Folk” have been infrequent visits to Mennonite communities in northwestern Mexico and Belize. Mennonites are less conservative than the Amish and have adopted modern technology and culture to varying degrees. In Belize, many communities have abandoned horse and ox power for technological horsepower (pickups, John Deeres, ATVs, and even Jet Skis), earning them the nickname “Mechanites” from their non-Mennonite neighbors. With their blond hair, ruddy cheeks, gimme caps, and overalls, the men would look right at home among their non-Mennonite counterparts in the Corn Belt.

On my last visit to Belize, the birding group I was leading was approached in a restaurant by a grandmotherly woman in a traditional-looking long dress and bonnet. In perfect American-accented English, she invited us to come by her home for a look at her quilts and traditional handcrafts. When I politely declined with “maybe another time,” she handed me a business card with her e-mail and Web site addresses!

Of course, mechanization makes it possible to convert tropical forest to farmland at a far more rapid pace. This and their self-imposed isolation from mainstream society grate on many mainstream Belizeans, but the industriousness of Mennonite farmers contributes greatly to the country’s economy and quality of life.

So, how does birding fit into the more conservative Amish culture of Pennsylvania? And does it foster preservation and stewardship of natural landscapes untouched by ax or plow? I hope to see that first hand in March.

Capeward Bound II: Attack of the Bird Bloggers

When I wheedled and cajoled the nice folks at CMBO into letting me attend Autumn Weekend and The Bird Show, I was blissfully unaware that my blogger buddy Birdchick had been scheming since August to get all the attending bloggers together for the first-ever Bird Blogger Conference. And since some of us shyer types need the help of a social director, Sharon will also be hosting a “Birds and Beers” on Friday night, October 26, 2007 at 8pm at the Jackson Mountain Cafe.

My last (and also first) encounter with the Birdchick was at the 2005 ABA convention in Tucson, where she was blogging from a couch in the lobby of the Doubletree Hotel. Unfortunately, she had to leave the convention early and missed the wild karaoke party at the Javelina Cantina. No excuses this time, not if I have anything to say about it. And since I broke down and invested in a new laptop with wireless Internet capability, maybe I’ll follow Sharon’s example and blog during brief breaks from the Cape May festivities.