Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Regular readers of this blog know of my passion for the stars and have read of my journeys to and adventures at various star parties, including the Winter, Mason-Dixon, Black Forest and Cherry Springs, and Delmarva Stargaze Star Parties. It's also obvious that I enjoy birds and other wildlife.

I went to my first birding festival this past weekend. It's like a star party except you look at birds. And you do it during the day.

At the suggestion of my friend and birding buddy Laura (and on a bit of a whim), we went to the New River Birding and Nature Festival in Fayetteville, WV.

I was surprised at the similarities between star parties and bird festivals. First, at both you're always tired; up through the night for star gazing or up much too early for birding. Second, both have unique challenges, identifying faint fuzzies or LBJs through a scope; observing through clouds or leaves; battling dew or gnats. Third, much of one's time is spent looking through, (often expensive), optics. Fourth, at both there is a group of foolhardy souls who attempt, with varying degrees of success and frustration, to photograph the natural wonders of what they are seeing (I fall into this group). Fifth, there are the speakers and vendors (often one and the same), although at star parties the talks are during the day while at this festival the talks were after dinner.


Except for  a brief drive through during a cross country trip years ago, I'd never been to West Virginia, and I wasn't sure what to expect. Mountains and hillbillies came to mind. And while the mountains are those of the east, they were covered in beautiful lush green forests.

And yeah, there were places which made feel that I was back in New Jersey in the middle of the Pine Barrens.

 Curious that they want you to stay out of their garbage.


The Festival is a week long event, but we were only there for the last day and thus only one of the field trips. Just like the stars in their courses, birds are predictable in the timing that they arrive and depart each year. The festival is timed for the annual spring migration of warblers, and we saw plenty. I picked up three life birds, warblers all, Cerulean, Kentucky, and Swainson's (alas, I managed photos of only the last).

We also saw plenty of wildflowers ...

... and the occasional small creature.

I had hoped to see a bear, and there were bears with cubs in the area, as well as "tree and release" hunters, but it was not to be. I've yet to see a bear in the wild


But the measure of any event such as this really comes down to the people. The organizers, who at this event were more like hosts. The trip leaders and speakers, who on my trip did an excellent job. And of course one's fellow participants. 

Fortunately for me, Laura is a member of the group known as "The Flock". Bloggers who have met over the web and have become friends in the real world. 

They made me feel welcome in what was a new experience for me, allowing me to share in the joy they found in each other's company. And their booze.

So thank you to the hosts (Dave, Geoff, and Keith), for staging a fun event; to The Flock for your hospitality; and to Laura, for inviting me on a surprisingly wonderful weekend adventure.


Susan Gets Native said...

I'm so glad my Jersey Girl was able to talk you into it. It's hard to say no to her, isn't it?

And you really weren't annoying. I just like to yank chains. Come along next year, okay? Your photos are fab. You made us all look so purdy.

Chesney said...

This looks like a great day...not only did you capture some fabulous images, you made some new friends, best kind of day in my book!

Vickie said...

Great post and glad to read your take on things. Can't believe the Blackburnian image. Nice. Great to meet you and you take some awesome photos.

LauraHinNJ said...

: )

(Just that.)

Anonymous said...

Steve, this sounds like great fun. I love the images you shared (especially the slug) and the story too.


Murr Brewster said...

Oh well shoot, I remember you now! Thanks for getting in touch. Your Swainson's shot was terrific. As are the rest. I knew your name was familiar...