Well, I'm pooped. Yesterday morning I woke up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. This wasn't a surprise; I was staying with friends and visiting family where I grew up. There had been a report of a Connecticut Warbler at the Beechwood Farms Nature Reserve the day before, so Sarah and I tried to squeeze in a visit there on our getaway day from our brief vacation in the Keystone State.
Beechwood is the headquarters of the Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania, and it turns out it's a pretty awesome place. The Connecticut didn't make an encore appearance while we were there, but we got plenty of other nice migrants on the short trails that cross a nifty variety of habitats. I highly recommend this as a birding stop for your next trip to Pittsburgh. For that matter, I highly recommend it for MY next trip there, since we could spend only an hour there (we pushed it to 80 minutes) and still have time to get home for Cranefest.
Cranefest is an annual festival for my home Michigan Audubon Society. As you may have gathered, it has to do with cranes - lots of 'em. This is the time of year that thousands of Sandhill Cranes gather to discuss and consider their imminent migration to warmer pastures. It may not exactly be Grand Island, Nebraska, but it's a great spectacle nonetheless. The sounds where a thousand or more cranes have gathered is the sweetest ear candy to me.
This year our guest speaker was none other than Richard Crossley, master of producing books that make people go, "What the......?" The Shorebird Guide was revolutionary. The Crossley ID Guide: Eastern Birds made us wonder what this British character was thinking and how far he was going to take this crazy idea. The Crossley ID Guide: Raptors made us realize he was serious and wasn't going away.
|Richard Crossley and Sarah at the Bernard W. Baker Preserve in Michigan. Two awesome people with whom you should bird if ever given the chance.|
You all know about these books by now. Let me just say that after hearing Richard passionately relate the story of his life (with liberal attention to the genesis of the idea for the ID Guides), I'm glad he and his books are here to stay. The guy has some points, and the more I use those books, the more they grow on me. I have to admit when I first purchased the Eastern Birds guide, I put it on the shelf like a souvenir baseball. A nice novelty to have, but not something you'd ever actually play with. By the time I was writing reviews for the Raptors guide, I was convinced Richard was onto something.
|I dream about looking out of a plane window someday and seeing this. (From The Crossley ID Guide: Raptors)|
But I'm not here to sell books. There were cranes at Cranefest. And eagles. And lots of non-birders. That was the coolest thing about the festival: it was packed with potential converts! Sarah and I had a ball getting the scope on a nice Belted Kingfisher, a showy drake Wood Duck fresh into breeding plumage, and a pair(?) of male Eastern Bluebirds that were flycatching from some dead snags.
|Sandhill Cranes on a sunny, warm, October day in Michigan. Life is good.|
The highlight for our outreach work toward to the non-birders were the pair of Bald Eagles. Scope views of eagles on a sunny fall day may be old hat to birders, but is there a better advertisement for birding as a hobby?
|Phone-scoped Bald Eagles. Not much of a photo, but great ambassadors for birding!|
The morals of this story are:
1) Bird you local Audubon preserves. There are some hidden gems there!
2) Buy and study Crossley's books. There are hidden gems there, too!
3) Don't procrastinate, especially when your Birding is Fun fans are waiting for something good.