May 04 2009
I’m just back from the New River Birding and Nature Festival, held each year near Fayetteville, West Virginia. It has become one of my favorite annual birding events, so much so that I was really bummed out when it appeared that scheduling conflicts were going to keep me from going this year. Fortunately, that issue worked itself out and I was able to rejoin the guide roster just a couple of weeks before the festival kicked off. Even better, I was able to talk my mother, Kathleen, into joining me for the trip. I knew she would love the place, the people, and the event, and I was right on all counts.
One thing that I was especially interested in this year was a gathering of bird and nature bloggers many of whom collectively refer to themselves as “The Flock.” Their presence certainly added a great deal of energy and camaraderie to an already energetic, friendly group. Meeting them and getting to spend time in the field was really cool. In fact, I’m going to largely direct you to their blogs to read about the goings-on at New River this year.
I won’t be making too many posts about this festival (perhaps 3), for a number of reasons:
1. There are going to be a lot of posts about it by other talented bloggers, many of them much more widely read than me.
2. I’ve got a couple of other birding activities coming up very soon I want to spotlight here. And I’m not even done with Ecuador yet.
3. I did a miserable, miserable job of recording the event in pictures.
When I speak or write about birds and birding, I try pretty hard to set the scene in a way that lets the audience see the context in which the birds are living and in which the birding is occurring. Of course, I love taking a good bird photo as much as the next person, but it’s so often the people pictures, the scenery shots, and other marginalia that I think make for a good story. And I just didn’t do it this time.
It wasn’t as if I lacked for opportunity. With the bloggers, my Mom, birding buds and celebrities aplenty, I could have done a lot. Ditto the scenery, the plants, the efts, and on and on. But my camera stayed in its case most of the time. Partly that was weather–it rained a lot. Partly it was having to lead trips, manipulate iPods, and so on. But mostly, I just didn’t keep up with it, knowing that the event was going to be so well covered.
I did get out to take a few pictures though. One day, after field trips had finished and then on the way home Sunday. Below are my favorites, which I hope that you’ll enjoy. But they are all pretty much just birds–there’s not much backstory. For that, I direct you to the list of other blogger-participants at the end of this post.
Here then, are a few birds. As always, you can see them bigger and better by clicking on any or all.
A male Scarlet Tanager inspects a stream pool where he is in the process of drinking and/or bathing. Unfortunately, he’s perched in a patch of Japanese Knotweed, an invasive exotic plant that blankets many roadsides and stream beds here.
Here’s a male Blue-winged Warbler, photographed in a more botanically pristine setting.
While Blue-winged is an OK name for this bird, I have to say it could be improved. Black-lored Warbler, maybe? I’d like something that highlights that nifty little narrow black mask.
If it’s blue wings you want, you can’t do much better than the Cerulean Warbler, which I think sports one of the coolest and most appropriate monikers of the whole tribe.
It’s just so, so wonderful to see and hear Ceruleans in good numbers. How good? Well, it’s easy to encounter half a dozen or even a dozen in the course of a morning’s field trip to proper habitats. Here’s the same guy, head on.
Also head on and also very blue: a male Northern Parula. His unusual name reflects a bit of taxonomic confusion. Linnaeus originally believed them to be kin to titmice and chickadees and placed them in the genus Parus with the old world tits. Yes, that’s right, he literally called it, “American Tit.” Whatever you call them, parulas are darn cute.
So that’s about it. They are lovely birds, aren’t they?
As I said, I’ll have a post or two more on New River coming, but for the big picture, I suggest that you check in with the following blogs and bloggers, who are listed in no particular order.
If I’ve left anyone out, please let me know and I’ll add you!
Thanks to all of those who participated in the week’s events and especially to the Heeter family, who put us up during our visit. Can’t wait for New River 2010!