Saturday, May 21, 2011

Review: The Great Salt Lake Bird Festival

For the first time, I attended a bird festival last weekend.  Being a family-man on a budget has precluded me from attending all of those wonderful events that I wish I could.  When I read their ads in birding publications, they all look so exciting and boast so many birds I've never seen, and they usually host some of the top names in the birding world.  Well, having the Great Salt Lake Bird Festival only a few minutes drive away from home and the affordable prices, the convenient schedule, and the guest lists, how could I resist?!

The excitement in the air at the Great Salt Lake Bird Festival was great!  As I arrived extra early (as I am known to do) for my Saturday morning field trip, I watched a couple other field trip groups gearing up and heading out.  They were all smiles, anticipating seeing the great birds of this region and being led by some of the top birders in the state.  Later that day, I watched as other field trip groups returned. They looked sweaty and exhausted, but they had huge grins as several people had added life birds!  There were neat booths and exhibits, some featuring live birds of prey and others, fine works of art.  There were programs for kids and plenty of carnival style food vendors.

It was great to meet other Utah birders in real life whose names I see frequently on the birding listservs, as well as several of my new Utah birding friends.  There was even a group of my birding friends from Idaho there!  High on the list of "cool-to-meet-people" were Marci Madsen Fuller, chair of the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival; Neka Roundy, chair of the GreatSalt Lake Bird Festival; and Jeff Bilsky, a great Utah birder, trip leader, and contributor to the Utah Birders blog, and Bill Fenimore, author, bird store owner, and the god-father of Utah birding.

Much of my excitement for this particular bird festival came from the possibility of meeting two of my birding idols who were featured guests of the bird festival...the wife of Non-Birding Bill, Sharon Stiteler - the blogger and Swarovski Optik rep...and the husband of Julie Zickefoose, and father of Phoebe and Liam, Bill Thompson III - editor of BirdWatcher's Digest, blogger, and musician.  What an honor to meet them both...and what's more...they are great people who were fun and engaging to talk to.  

Sharon gave a great workshop on digiscoping and made us all covet Swarovski equipment.  Her presentation was fun, well organized, and well delivered. She also has an impressive ability to handle tough comments and questions from the attendees.   My wife and I had the privilege of sitting with Sharon before dinner and chatted at length.  My wife, non-birding Jessica, commented that Sharon was not the typical birder..."she has cute hair and was fun!"  Sharon has a contagious laugh and is just as cool in person as you might imagine she is from her blog and podcasts.  My only regret is that Non-birding Bill was not there for the much anticipated wrestling match.

Bill Thompson III was awesome!  During the field trip he always went out of his way to make sure each person in our large group got to see and enjoy every species.  He showed great kindness, especially to the sweet elderly ladies and the kids.  A skilled, knowledgeable, and enthusiastic birder, Bill impressed everyone at how well he knew our western birds and recognized them so rapidly.  Bill's keynote address at the Saturday evening dutch oven dinner was very entertaining.  He played his guitar and sang, shared funny birding anecdotes, and even kept the non-birders engaged and laughing...the perfect speaker for a large general audience at a bird festival.

Bill Thompson III singing the hilarious hit song "Momma's don't let you babies grow up to be Cowbirds"
Yeah...I'm pretty much a shameless fan of BT3 and BirdChick, almost like a twitter-pated pre-teen girl fan of Justin Bieber. (Okay, maybe not that crazy!)
Though I was only able to attend one day of the Great Salt Lake Bird festival, my experience was very positive.  Most of all, it is fun being around a big group of people that enjoy birds in much the same way I do.    I even found a few people who claimed to be fans of this here blog.

Once my resources allow me to, I could certainly become a bird festival junky.

1 comment:

  1. Bird watching is a great recreational activity. My parents are fond of doing this in their retirement communities New York.