The Lost Tinamou

This month we’re spotlighting a birder who’s doing wonderful things for bird conservation in Central America. Heidi Pasch de Viteri, born and raised in Guatemala, manages The Lost Tinamou, a nature preserve that takes up one-third of her family’s farm, Finca La Gracia.

Located on the Pacific slope of Guatemala, The Lost Tinamou sits on what was once a coffee plantation.  This land was set aside for conservation thirty years ago by her husband, Pedro Viteri.  The preserve is now a humid secondary growth forest that experiences both rainy and dry seasons throughout the year.  It’s nestled among the rubber tree copses, hay fields, and grazing dairy cattle of Finca La Gracia, and surrounded by the pineapple and sugarcane fields of neighboring farms.

Because of Heidi and Pedro’s efforts, the preserve has become an oasis for a wide variety of wild animals amidst many hundreds of surrounding acres of sugar cane plantations that blanket the countryside. And the birds? They’ve flocked to the Lost Tinamou for refuge during migration, nesting during mating season, and even year-round roosting. 

Birders can visit Lost Tinamou by making reservations for a day visit. The preserve offers visitors spectacular looks at birds that are otherwise hard to get in the area. Plumbeous kites, groove-billed anis, numerous orioles, and white-throated magpie jays have all been discovered nesting on the property. Yellow-naped parrots roost in the trees at night. Ferruginous pygmy-owls call out, and Bat falcons and lesser nighthawks put on excellent aerial-acrobatic shows as they glean the nearby fields for meals at dusk. Colorful birds, like turquoise-browed motmots, rose-throated becards, long-tailed manakins, green-breasted mangos, masked tityras, green shrike-vireos, and gartered trogons (among many others) paint the forest. And after nightfall, northern potoos and mottled owls can be heard calling across the reserve. To check out a complete list of the ever-growing number of species sighted at the Lost Tinamou, check out the Finca La Gracia eBird hotspot and checklists.

If you’re visiting Guatemala and looking for a unique birding experience hosted by a genuine lover of birds and conservation, visiting Heidi at the Lost Tinamou is just for you. For more information, please see the Lost Tinamou Facebook page.

A few birds mentioned in this post:

Snapping My Dream Shot

By Shiva Kumar

My passion for photography grew to extreme levels when I moved to the forest. I knew right away that I wanted to live my life as a full-time nature photographer. Nature photography is an art, but it is also about education: An image graphically captures a decisive moment in time and helps explain the world in which we live. I want to tell a story with my pictures to help preserve the wonders of the natural world—I feel blessed by nature when I get my dream shots.

I captured one of my dream shots recently when I found an Indian peafowl (Pavo cristatus), the Indian National Bird, at Osman Sagar, a lake in the Indian city of Hyderabad. I was working during the golden hours—early morning around sunrise—and was wondering if I could capture a picture of the dawn. Then I saw the peafowl. I was mesmerized and captured this shot. The photograph tells a story of how a bird interacts with its natural surroundings. And shortly after that, nearly 150 of the birds settled at this sacred place!

Shiva Kumar explains how he photographs birds and wildlife in India. He discusses how he captured his dream shot of an Indian peafowl (Pavo cristatus)

An Indian peafowl (Pavo cristatus) at Osman Sagar, a lake in Hyderabad, India, at sunrise.
(All photographs courtesy of Shiva Kumar)

Tips on Wildlife Photography

Knowing the habitat helps us understand the birds we see in them. Try and visit as many different habitats as you can. Forests, farmland, scrub, lakes, reed-beds, rivers, coasts—all have their own characteristic birds. The edges of fields, streams, and rivers are all excellent spots to see birds. The best time to see birds is sunrise to early morning, and then again in the mid and late afternoons; birds tend to rest during the day.

At places like lakes, we can observe birds throughout the day. While it is possible to watch birds at any time and any place, it is helpful to know when and where to look. When I shot the peafowl, most of the bird activity occurred in the opening and the edge of the forest near human habitation. Most of the species in the area were either insectivores or omnivores feeding mainly on the ground in open patches. The birds preferred the forest edge, which provided them with mixed habitats, open spaces to feed in, and suitable perching points to capture the aerial prey.  

When we think of bird photography, we think of tight-cropped, detailed pictures of birds. However, using silhouettes in wildlife photography can provide beautiful and artistic photos. Bird photos created using silhouette photography techniques can produce stunning images, especially at sunrise or sunset.

Shiva Kumar

Shiva Kumar is a professional wildlife photographer & Wikipedian from India. He uses innovation and technology to achieve fresh perspectives in his work and is passionate about wildlife conservation. You can follow Shiva on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Birding and Birdwatching Festivals and Events

From coast to coast and from Mexico to Canada, 2019 is filled with exciting birding festivals and events. We have compiled all that we could find for the year in the hopes that you can find an event near you to attend. Happy birding!

September 2019
October 2019
November 2019
December 2019

2020 Events
January 2020
February 2020
March 2020

SEPTEMBER 2019

Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris) by Josh Haas
Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris) by Josh Haas

20th Annual Hummingbird Migration and Nature Celebration
September 6-8, 2019  Strawberry Plains Audubon Center, Holly Springs, Mississippi

Join us for the Hummingbird Migration and Nature Celebration, one of the Southeast’s biggest nature festivals. Highlights include renowned guest speakers, guided nature walks, live animal shows, kids activity zone, wagon rides, nature-themed arts & crafts vendors, native plant sale, and up-close views of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds being banded and released!

Puget Sound Bird Fest
September 13-15, 2019 — Frances Anderson Center, Edmonds, Washington

This acclaimed three-day event includes keynote speakers, guided walks, land and water-based field trips, exhibits, and educational activities for children and adults. Plan to spend the weekend in Edmonds, birding and meeting other birders, naturalists, photographers, and people engaged in fascinating bird research projects.

6th Annual Seatuck Long Island Birding Challenge
September 14, 2019 Long Island, New York

Join Long Island’s only island-wide birding competition to help promote bird watching, wildlife conservation, and open space preservation across the region. The event is open to all levels of experience, from expert birders to complete novices. Bird anywhere on Long Island (including Brooklyn & Queens). Register as a team or join one of ours (family and student categories available). Checklist submitted by 5 pm. All participants meet for dinner at the historic Scully Estate (5-8 pm), 550 Bay Avenue, Islip, New York. $50/person, $20/student. Fall migration promises large numbers of birds and a great diversity of species. The Birding Challenge generates critical funding for Seatuck’s conservation and education work, including efforts to protect bird habitat and important bird areas.

Princeton Whooping Crane Festival
September 14, 2019  Princeton Public School, Princeton, Wisconsin

Festival includes activities for all ages: Kids can paint birdhouses, have their faces painted, and learn about frogs, snakes, and other critters with the ever popular edutainer, David Stokes! Spend time in the artisan and vendor area to get a jump on holiday shopping! Enjoy a pancake breakfast in the cafeteria or lunch at one of the food vendors. Take in one or all of the speaker sessions.

Wings Over Willapa
September 27-29, 2019  Ilwaco, Washington

The festival celebrates Willapa National Wildlife Refuge with a day full of classes, workshops, guided tours and more. We’ll be birding by bike, barge and boat, creating feather raku pottery, learning about our local avian diversity, and hunting for animal tracks. Our tours will take you all over the Refuge and beyond. Whether you’re an experienced birder or just getting acquainted with the great outdoors, nature lovers of all ages are sure to find plenty to do.

OCTOBER 2019

Kailua-Kona, Hawaii
Kailua-Kona, Hawaii

Alabama Coastal Birdfest
October 2-5, 2019 — Bay Minette, Alabama

Join us Oct. 2 – 5 for the 16th annual Alabama Coastal BirdFest, a birding and nature festival, and experience many opportunities to see birds, alligators, wildflowers, dolphins, and other wildlife. And learn about their habitats! Plus, we will offer workshops at 5 Rivers Delta Center.

Bridger Raptor Festival
October 4-6, 2019 — Bozeman, Montana

The Bridger Raptor Festival is an annual event held in early October in and around Bozeman, Montana. The festival, which is free to the public, centers around the largest known Golden Eagle migration in the United States. Since 1991 a raptor migration count has taken place every fall at the Bridger Bowl ski area in the Gallatin National Forest just north of Bozeman. Festival activities center around raptor viewing and include nature walks and talks, educational and entertaining programs and activities for people of all ages.

BirdFest and Bluegrass Festival
October 4-5, 2019 — Ridgefield, Washington

BirdFest and Bluegrass is the main event every year that the Friends puts on to bring awareness to Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, and all that is has to offer. We celebrate the Sandhill Crane returning to the Refuge, a huge stately bird that is endangered in Washington State, and we celebrate everything the Refuge is and what it brings to the community. With endangered species, hundreds of migratory species, an auto tour route, photo blind, walking trails, the Cathlapotle Plankhouse, education and habitat restoration programs, and so much more – there is a lot to celebrate, and a lot to learn. There are workshops, hikes and walks all catered to teach you how to use the Refuge. You can learn how to listen for bird species, identify plants, about the geology of the area, the peoples who came before us and still tend to the land, how to take photos of it all, paint the landscape, and much more.

Birding the Hills
October 7-11, 2019 — Fredericksburg, Texas

Join us in Gillespie County in the heart of the Texas Hill Country for three full days of birding in the Edwards Plateau eco-region! Three days will be FULL of birding on the most beautiful private ranches in a variety of habitats in the Texas Hill Country! Several ranches will have great photography opportunities! Contact: Emily Grant 830-774-7591, emily.grant@ag.tamu.edu. –

Portugal Birdwatching Festival & Nature Activities
October 10-13, 2019 — Beliche Fortress, Portugal, Algarve, Vila do Bispo Municipality

Sagres, Portugal, is one of the best hotspots to see bird migration. Birdwatchers gather to see rarities, marine birds, passerines, and birds of prey that converge to this region preparing the long journey to Africa. In addition to birdwatching, there will be other activities including field trips, boat tours, workshops, hiking, sightseeing, geology, flora, and cultural heritage tours. Most activities are free, and some offerings include a fee. The festival is promoted by Vila do Bispo Municipality and co-organized by the Portuguese Society for the Study of Birds and Almargem Association. Contact: Vila do Bispo Municipality, +351 910 547 861 or festivalbirdwatchingsagres@gmail.com. –

Cozumel Bird Festival
October 11-13, 2019 —  Cozumel Island, Quintana Roo, Mexico

Come join us at the 11th Annual Cozumel Bird Festival where not only you will be introduced to the island endemics, but also to an enthusiastic and friendly gathering of local, national, and international birders. Among the activities are two bird walks at the top birding locations on the island, Punta Sur Ecotourism Park and the Cozumel Country Club golf course, where the closing breakfast will take place. The festival is famous for its congenial atmosphere. The cost is $400 pesos (approx. $25 US) and includes the inaugural reception and conference, entrance fees, and two bird walks with breakfasts. If interested, email cozumelbirdingclub@gmail.com or visit our Facebook page. –

Sandhill Crane & Art Festival
October 12-13, 2019 —  Bellevue, Michigan

CraneFest features family-friendly activities such as guided nature hikes, live animal displays, kids activities, and fine art vendors. In the evening, watch thousands of Sandhill Cranes “fly-in” to Big Marsh Lake. Contact Lindsay Cain, lcain@michiganaudubon.org, 517-580-7364. –

Festival of Flight and Flowers
October 11-13, 2019 — Eustis, Florida

Returning again this year, the Festival of Flight and Flowers weekend will provide visitors and local residents access to professionals and experts that specialize in native plantsoutdoor recreationwildflowersbird and butterfly watching, and much more around Lake County Florida.  This year we are lucky to have Birding by Bus join us as our Keynote Speakers and special trip leaders.

Wings Over Water Wildlife Festival
October 15-20, 2019 —  National Wildlife Refuges Visitor Center, North Carolina

This annual refuge fundraising wildlife festival includes over 90 trips & programs involving birding, paddling, photography, art, and natural history. Activities take place in six northeastern North Carolina counties and six national wildlife refuges. Keynote speaker is Julie Zickefoose. WOW Encore session is all birding trips led by expert birders and is held December 6-8, 2019. Contact: Steve Brumfield, 252-216-9464, wow@coastalwildliferefuge.com. –

Florida Birding & Nature Festival
October 17-20, 2019 — Tampa, Florida

Come celebrate the wonders of the birds, wildlife, and natural lands that we benefit from in West Central Florida! Join us to enjoy and learn from renowned professionals, experience peak migration, and shop unique products. A four-day festival offering field and boat trips, presentations, a special one-day turtle symposium, and a nature expo of vendors and exhibits. This year’s keynotes will be by U.S. FWS Historian Dr. Mark Madison, international owl expert Denver Holt, and originator of the Kaufman Field Guides, Kenn Kaufman. Contact: Andee Richards, Ann Paul, info@fbnfestival.org, 813-444-0115. –

New Jersey Audubon’s Cape May Fall Festival
October 17-20, 2019 — Cape May, New Jersey

Join New Jersey Audubon’s Fall Festival – the longest running birding festival in the country! The Cape May Bird Observatory has its finger on the pulse of fall migration. Cape May is a bird funnel for migrating songbirds. Legendary Higbee Beach offers front-row seats, with the opportunity for seeing 20 species of warblers. Keynote speakers: Michael Lanzone and Trish Miller, “Golden Opportunity: Our Journey Studying the Ghosts of the Eastern Forests”; Amanda Rodewald, “Making your cub count: how coffee can fuel migratory bird conservation in the tropics.” There is no better way to immerse yourself in the storied birding experience that is Cape May than attending this festival. Birding hotspots are within about a 35-mile drive. For more information visit our website or call 609-246-3581.

31st Annual “Ding” Darling Days
October 19-20, 2019 — Sanibel Island, Florida

Conservation Art Day on Saturday, October 19, kicks off the “Ding” Darling Days weekend with Federal Duck Stamp winners, other artists, cartooning, and nature art — a day devoted to Jay Norwood Darling’s legacy as the first duck stamp artist and Pulitzer Prize-winning political cartoonist. Family Fun Day on Sunday, October 20, brings a grand finale of eco-activities with all-free Refuge tram tours, live wildlife presentations, hot dogs, archery, kids crafts, and other family activities. Birding, boating, tram, and kayaking activities fill the weekend. Contact: Toni Westland, 239-472-1100 ext. 237, Toni_Westland@fws.gov. –

Belize Birding Festival
October 19-20, 2019 — San Ignacio, Belize

The Belize Birding Festival welcomes local and international birders and wildlife enthusiast to enhance their appreciation of the spectacular beauty of the natural habitat, throughout the length and breadth of the country, that the almost 590 resident and migratory birds of Belize live in. Enjoy the day strolling through vendor booths, attending workshops, join a group for a birding tour, share photos and experiences about your birding adventures.

4th Annual Hawaii Island Festival of Birds – CANCELLED
October 24-28, 2019 — Kailua-Kona, Hawaii
2019 FESTIVAL CANCELLED
FIELD TRIPS STILL AVAILABLE

We’re very sorry to report that we are unable to run this year’s festival as planned. Please see this link for more information. We will be offering alternative birding tours/field trips and discounted hotel rates October 24-28, 2019 for those of you still hoping to catch a birding tour or book a trip to Hawaii during this time. If we miss you this year we are looking forward to seeing you at our full festival in 2020.

11th Yellow Rails and Rice Festival
October 30 – November 3, 2019   Jennings, Louisiana

This annual event is a unique venue to view Yellow Rails in the heart of Cajun Country in Louisiana’s SW prairie region, an area known for great birding, local cuisine, and a rich history and culture. Enjoy birding the “working wetlands,” or join trips to the piney woods or Cameron Parish coast to search for other Louisiana specialty species. The event is casual with fun in mind: attend all field days (weather permitting) or come and go at your leisure. A banding workshop is also offered. Registration opens on 1 August 2019. Contact: Donna L Dittmann, 225-642-5763 (leave message), yellowrailsandrice@gmail.com. –

NOVEMBER 2019


Photograph by John M. Pratt. The photo was captured at the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, New Mexico, during the annual Festival of the Cranes.

Fall Migration Celebration
November 3, 2019 Augusta, Michigan

The W.K. Kellogg Bird Sanctuary was founded in 1927 and deeded over to Michigan State University in 1928, so we are celebrating more than 90 years! The Sanctuary is an important migration stopover for waterfowl and the best place to view Trumpeter Swans in Michigan’s lower peninsula. Join us from 1 to 4 pm and look for migrating waterfowl on Wintergreen Lake, meet our education raptors, make crafts to take home, create enrichment for the resident birds, and learn about how and why birds migrate. There will be a decoy exhibit by local, award-winning decoy carver Willy McDonald of The Duck Blind, who will also be helping the kids with their crafts! Cider and donuts will also be available. Contact: (269) 671-2510 or birdsanctuary@kbs.msu.edu. –

26th Annual Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival
November 6-10, 2019 Harlingen, Texas

See why birders have been flocking to this festival for the past 25 years—great birds (at least 30 new ones if you’ve never been to the Rio Grande Valley), fantastic professional guides, reunion-like socials, keynotes, workshops, huge trade show, and lots of goodies in the silent auction. We are TEXAS FRIENDLY! Visit our website in July for details and for registration dates. For more information, contact (209) 227-4823 or (956) 423-5565; info@rgvbf.org. –

5th San Quintín Bay Bird Festival
November 8-9, 2019 Baja California, Mexico

This is an annual event organized by local communities together with Terra Peninsular, a Mexican nonprofit organization that works on land protection. The San Quintín Bay Bird Festival is an opportunity for participants to enjoy activities focused on birds and nature, such as hiking, guided bird walks, boat tours, and photography. Adults, families, and children are welcome! Also, this is an event that has an economic impact on local communities. San Quintín Bay is located 4 hours away from San Diego, California, and between October and December, the bay provides an amazing backdrop for the Bird Festival, with the opportunity to witness the fall migration. Contact: Mirna Borrego, Education and Community Outreach Officer, Terra Peninsular, festivaldelasaves@terrapeninsular.org, 52-01-646-177-68-00 or 52-01-646174-02-86. –

California Swan Festival
November 8-10, 2019 Yuba City, California

The festival honors the return of tens of thousands Tundra Swans to their winter home. In close-knit family groups, the swans make a spectacular show for bird watchers and photographers. This three-day event offers more than 35 guided tours by experts, exploring a wide range of waterfowl habitats and other natural assets of the beautiful Yuba-Sutter region. Field trips include Swan Sighting, Ag/Wildlife Educational Tours, Historic Tours, Nature Hikes, and trips to the region’s National Wildlife areas. Registration for field trips (at affordable rates) begins online August 28, 2019. Free Junior Naturalist program, led by Shady Creek Outdoor School naturalists. Children of all ages will enjoy hands-on learning. Activities include crafts, games, live animal presentations and much more. A vendor fair is held all day Saturday and Sunday in the Swan Central building. Parking and entry to the Swan Festival are FREE, as are a wide range of workshops and presentations on wildlife education, natural sciences, ecosystem management, and photography. Visit our website or contact Yuba-Sutter Chamber of Commerce, 530-743-6501, info@yubasutterchamber.com. –

Black-necked Crane Festival
November 11, 2019 Gantey Valley, Bhutan

The Black-necked Crane is the last discovered of 15 species of cranes in the world. This majestic bird is endemic to the Tibetan Plateau and migrates to lower altitudes, including several areas of Bhutan, in autumn. In Phobjikha Valley, one of the major habitats in Bhutan, the arrival of the cranes signals the end of the harvesting season. The Black-necked Crane festival was first initiated with the objective of linking conservation of the graceful birds to the improvement of livelihood of the community. Over the years, as the festival gained popularity among the community people, visitors from the nearby Dzongkhags (districts) and international visitors, it became an annual event to welcome the cranes and to celebrate the centuries’ old relationship between the cranes and people of Phobjikha. Among the events is the popular Black-necked Crane dance performed by school children in crane costumes. The local community also performs folk dances and mask dances. The Black-necked Cranes have a sacred identify in Bhutanese culture and often appear in folklore, dances, and historical texts. Since 1987, Royal Society for Protection of Nature has been working to protect and rebuild the population of the Black-necked Cranes. Contact: Karma Jamtsho, info@incredible-bhutan.travel/birdcutia@gmail.com. –

Festival of the Cranes
November 20-23, 2019 Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, San Antonio, New Mexico
Join us as we come together in celebration of the return of the sandhill cranes to their winter home. Rated among the top wildlife, birding, and photography events in North America, this nationally recognized festival offers over 130 events in four days. Regardless of your birding or photography skill, Festival of the Cranes offers an extraordinary opportunity for premiere photography and birding classes, as well as guided tours and hikes. Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge offers expansive vistas, exquisite light, enchanting bird songs and unique proximity to the wildlife. 

Waterfowl Weekend at Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge
November 28 – December 1, 2019 Chincoteague Island, Virginia
Fall heralds the return of thousands of waterfowl from their northern breeding grounds to the milder climate of Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge. Enjoy a variety of overwintering ducks, geese and swans by joining the flocks of visitors who celebrate Thanksgiving Weekend in this special place. Visitors will enjoy extended hours on the Wildlife Loop Trail, open to vehicles from 9am to dusk on November 28 – December 1, 2019. Please drive cautiously, as this trail is also a hiking and biking route. During these four days, extended access is also available for visitors to drive on the Service Road (admittance from 12pm – 2pm only). For the special drive, visitors must enter the Wildlife Loop Trail and follow the one-way traffic pattern to the road’s entrance. This may take 10 or 15 minutes, due to high volume. All vehicles are expected to completely exit the Service Road by 4 PM. Contact: 757-336-6122 or fw5rw_cnwr@fws.gov. –

DECEMBER 2019

Azores Birdwatching Arts Festival
December 11-21, 2019 Açores, Pico Island
In the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, the Azores, islands sanctuary for sea and land birds, there is a one-week festival dedicated to birders and culturally avid individuals with a need of one more excuse to come to paradise. Events happen in Pico Island in English and Portuguese languages. Arts programming, talks, tours to various locations for birders, and much more. Contact: Terry Costa, abwafestival@gmail.com, (+351) 963639996. –

A New Year!
Birding Events in 2020

JANUARY 2020

North Shore Birding Festival
January 16-20, 2020 — Mount Dora, Florida
The North Shore Birding Festival is perfect for birders visiting Florida or locals wanting to learn more from knowledgeable birding guides. Add to your life list at an amazing birding area, the 20,000-acre Lake Apopka North Shore, where 360+ species have been sighted, more than any other inland location. Four full-day trips and 16 half-day trips are offered, along with keynotes and dinners. For details and registration, call Orange Audubon at 407-637-2525 or visit our website or Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/northshorebirdingfestival.

Everglades Birding Festival
January 16-20, 2020 — Davie, Florida
Explore the unique Everglades ecosystem while searching for 150 plus species.A focus on gaining advanced birding skills with daily mini-workshops, small groups, and expert guides. Keynotes, Dinners, and Evening Programs. Full-day field trips to Corkscrew, STA 5, Upper Keys, South Dade, Everglades National Park, and more. Target species: Snail Kite, Short-tailed Hawk, Limpkin, Painted Bunting, Red-whiskered Bulbul, Gray-headed Swamphen, Common Myna, Egyptian Goose, Burrowing Owl, Wood Stork, Roseate Spoonbill, Prairie Warbler, White-winged Parakeet, and Nanday Parakeet. Contact: Paddy Cunningham, 754-201-1141, (954) 805-6810, birdpaddy@yahoo.com

Morro Bay Winter Bird Festival
January 17-20, 2020 — Morro Bay, California
Morro Bay is a Globally Important Bird Area, located halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco on the Pacific Flyway. Over 200 bird species have been seen during the festival weekend! The festival includes keynotes, field trips, workshops, bazaar, and family day. Saturday and Sunday keynotes to be announced. Registration opens early November. Contact: 805-234-1170, registrar@morrobaybirdfestival.org.

FEBRUARY 2020

Galt Winter Bird Festival
February 1, 2020 Galt, California
The 13th Annual Galt Winter Bird Festival advances public awareness of the conservation of the region’s wildlife. This area is a critical stop for many important species of birds commuting on a diverse chain of habitats called the Pacific Flyway. In addition to these magnificent migrating birds, hundreds of bird species call Galt and its surrounding cities home. The festival brings tours, vendors, programs, and presentations for guests to enjoy. There will be wildlife entertainment for all ages, art, food and more! Over 1,200 attendees enjoyed our last festival. Contact: Jackie Garcia, jgarcia@ci.galt.ca.us.

8th Laredo Birding Festival
February 5-8, 2020 Laredo, Texas
The Laredo Birding Festival highlights over 200 species of spectacular birds. Laredo is a dynamic city that bridges two cultures and plays host to pleasant winter weather; while also being the crossroads of eastern, western, and neotropical birds. Birders will encounter lovely vistas along the Rio Grande; access to nearly two dozen historic South Texas ranches; and experience quality field trips in small intimate groups led by professional field guides! The upcoming Festival kicks off on Wednesday, February 5, 2020, at the Laredo Center for the Arts, during the Birds, Beer and Cheer mixer and Birds of the Brush art exhibit opening. The festival is hosted by the Rio Grande International Study Center, the Monte Mucho Audubon Society, and the Laredo Convention & Visitors Bureau. For more information, visit our website or call (956) 718-1063.

High Plains Snow Goose Festival
February 6-9, 2020 Lamar, CO
Come see the Snow Geese as the migrate through Colorado! Tours, silent auction, trade show & craft fair, programming, banquet, and more. Great change to meet other birders. Contact: highplainssnowgoose@gmail.com

MARCH 2020

SOAR With the Eagles
March 1-29, 2020 Wabasha, Minnesota
SOAR With the Eagles is the National Eagle Center’s annual festival that celebrates the spring Bald Eagle migration along the Mississippi River. During weekends in March, visitors enjoy a variety of special programming hosted by the National Eagle Center. The festival includes animal presentations, nationally renowned flying bird shows, environmental exhibits, demonstrations by the DNR and US Fish and Wildlife Service, Native American crafts, wild eagle viewing, and much more! There is programming for all ages and exciting opportunities to experience and learn new things about the natural world! Contact 651-565-4989 or info@nationaleaglecenter.org.

Friends of Goose Pond Marsh Madness Sandhill Crane and Migratory Bird Festival
March 6-7, 2020 Linton, Indiana
The festival will kick off Friday night with a social hour and dinner, live/silent auction, and guest speake Saturday festivities are at the Linton Humphrey’s Park from 8 am to 4 pm with Guided Bus Tours, Education Workshops, Craft Vendors, Art Exhibit by the Indiana Wildlife Artists, Birds of Prey Exhibit, Amphibian Exhibit, and Food Vendors. Contact: mail@friendsofgoosepond.org or visit our website or Facebook page (Friends of Goose Pond).

International Festival of Owls
March 6-8, 2020 Houston, Minnesota
Immerse yourself in owls at the only annual, full-weekend, all-owl festival in North America. Highlights include seven species of live owls (including a Snowy Owl and a flying Barn Owl), owl prowls to call in wild owls, a birding and natural history bus trip, and learn from owl experts from around the world. Families can build an owl nest box, dissect an owl pellet, make a variety of owl crafts, buy owl merchandise, enjoy owl art and photography, and have a hoot eating owl-themed food. The whole city of Houston gets involved! Contact Karla Bloem, 507-896-6957, karla@internationalowlcenter.org.

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Tips To Complete A Successful Big Year

Birders take part in a bird walk led by the Fort Indiantown Gap (PA) wildlife staff, May 27, 2015.

The beginning of a new year brings hope, the setting of resolutions—and a fresh opportunity to complete a Big Year. A Big Year, in birding parlance, can be either a formal or an informal challenge among birders to identify as many species as possible in a single calendar year. According to the American Birding Association, a Big Year officially begins at 12:00 AM on January 1st and ends at 11:59 PM on December 31st of that same year, based on the local time of the location of the birder at each time threshold.

Many people complete a Big Year for the fun and challenge. Others participate more formally in events hosted by local birding organizations. The Audubon Society of Greater Denver (Colorado), for example, is hosting a Big Year competition in 2019 to celebrate their 50th anniversary. The event challenges local birders to spot as many birds as they can in their local county and also provides field trips and support for beginning birders. Many birders track their progress on eBird, which also serves as an unofficial leaderboard for national Big Year participants. (Our BirdsEye app can be synced to eBird accounts to help you achieve your goals.)

To kick off 2019, we interviewed three birders who have recently completed a Big Year. These birders offer their tips and advice for successfully completing a Big Year in 2019. Our birders include:

  • Tom Ford-Hutchinson (TFH), who accomplished a Big Year in 2013 in Orange County, California.
  • Betty Glass (BG), who is running and promoting the Denver Audubon Big Year competition across six counties in Colorado.
  • Aija Konrad (AK), who completed a Big Year in the lower 48 states in 2018 and spotted an astounding 577 species! You can view some of her husband Ed’s photos of her Big Year on Flickr.

Aija Konrad chasing her Big Year along the Strait of Juan de Fuca in Washington.

Why should somebody try to complete a Big Year?

BG: If you can keep at it and commit for the full year, you will learn so much about birds, conservation, habitat, other species (mammals, insects, etc.), and ecology. You will become a more involved and aware person.

AK: Doing a Big Year was so rewarding and exciting! We never expected to get to 500 species and finished the year on New Year’s Eve in Portland, Maine, looking for a Great Black Hawk. We saw a lot of the country and visited 36 states and 35 national parks and wildlife refuges.

TFH: That’s the million dollar question, and I feel like most people who have done one would say you shouldn’t, haha. There’s no prize or plaque at the end of it, so if you’re going do it, do it for yourself or use it to promote something you care about.

What kind of time commitment is required for a successful Big Year?

TFH: A big year is whatever you want to make of it and can be whatever sort of time commitment you want to make it. Proper planning and local knowledge can significantly decrease the amount of time you spend on it. In the end, I missed a bird because I went to Coachella for a weekend, and I was still working full-time. So you make it what it is. If you aren’t enjoying it, what’s the point?

BG: If you want to win, you’ll be out birding every day. If you’re going to participate and learn more about birds in your area, you can go out two to three times a week, and you’ll be successful. You can also just watch your backyard every day.

AK: It takes commitment, serious drive, and lots of time to do a national Big Year! And you have to be a little bit crazy. We ended up taking 10 major trips, drove 30,000 miles, flew many more, were away from home for 110 days.

What essentials do birders need to have a successful Big Year?

AK: Once we made the commitment, we looked up festivals and birding trips around the country. Ebird was our biggest source for what to go after. We would often recreate itineraries of tour companies. It also helps to have a partner—I could not have done it without my husband, who was as committed as I was. When we traveled, we would almost always bird from dawn to dusk. That was essential for making the most of our time. It was exhausting but exhilarating.

BG: First of all, think about the birds you are likely to see nearby, find places in your county that you can find them, and research when they are likely to arrive in the area. The other part is to be aware of when new species come to the state and know where you can find rare species. The Denver Audubon Society is putting together resources that discuss 50 birds you can see without binoculars, 50 sights you might want to check out in the region, and 50 things you can do to make Denver more bird-friendly. Resources like these can help you plan your year.

TFH: Equipment-wise, a good pair of binoculars goes a long way, as does some sort of digital camera to document your sightings. A good spotting scope (or a friend with one) can also be critical to find seabirds or shorebirds. The number one thing that birders to need to succeed in a Big Year, however, is an understanding of the status and distribution of species. This couldn’t be easier now with all the data available on eBird. Birding apps (like BirdsEye) can help someone discover what birds to look for during a specific week of the year based on previous records and/or bird sightings in surrounding counties. They can help you be in the right habitat to find them when they show up in your area. Also, being aware of the weather can also help you predict where and when to be somewhere. Lastly, the saying that the early bird gets the worm really is true—birds are most active from right before dawn to an hour after the sun rises. This is by far the easiest time to find most rarities as they search for food.

What kinds of things to birders need to plan in preparation for a big year (timing, location, etc.)?

TFH: Stakeout and find winter rarities early. Plan on May/June for Spring Migration, Late July/August for shorebirds, Late August/Sep/Oct for Fall migration, and December for anything that is found on the Christmas Bird Counts.

BG: Right now (winter), get all the waterfowl. All the ducks are out and in breeding plumage and are easy to see. Get ready for spring migration, which starts the end of April and goes through the beginning of June (in Colorado). Summer is really great for breeding birds in Colorado because you see them in their nest, and see juveniles. Fall is the reverse migration—it is exciting because you see Alaskan birds in Denver sometimes. Participate in a Christmas Bird Count toward the end of the year.

Plan carefully to capture hard-to-find birds, like the Greater Prairie Chicken. Photographed by Ed Konrad in Nebraska.

From your experience, what were some unexpected challenges during your Big Year?

AK: One unexpected challenge we faced was when we were driving to Florida for the American Flamingo in November. I was driving on a rural road in Georgia, and a large log flew off of an oncoming truck and hit my windshield. It was horrifying…I had 30 surface cuts to my face and was taken by ambulance to a hospital, but thankfully released after treatment. Our car was totaled from the glass damage. But I got right back out there and 2 days went back for the bird and got it!

BG: You can get tired by the end of the year, but remember that you’ll complete it just by definition unless something drastic happens. Even with illness and injury, you can keep it going. It’s easier to do a Big Year when it’s local because you’re not killing yourself doing field trips, camping, traveling long distances.

TFH: My first challenge was sleeping through the January pelagic trip and missing a couple of birds that wouldn’t show up again for the remainder of the year. A couple of stakeouts were particularly boring. It can also be challenging when you’re hiking through the full summer heat looking for a yellow-billed cuckoo or sitting on a distant island waiting for Lucy’s warbler to show up.

Any other words of advice?

TFH: Birders are inherently helpful and friendly. Many people like to live vicariously through others’ Big Year journeys and are more than happy to help out. Use this to your advantage to help promote and advance birding. Document your journey on eBird, share your experiences through the local birding listserves (http://birding.aba.org/), or better yet, create a blog and share your own story through blog posts. And remember to pay it forward yourself after it’s all over.

BG: One of the things I want to stress is that this is a friendly endeavor. If you find something spectacular, text other people and let them know. Be friendly, be helpful, and don’t be too competitive. Encourage others to participate.

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Photo Contest Winners

Biomimicry: Emulating Birds & Nature

Image: Pixabay

By Avery T Phillips

Many companies are turning to nature for inspiration for tackling the world’s challenges. By mimicking natural designs millions of years in the making, we are learning how to reduce energy consumption and resource depletion, implement self-regulating cleaning methods, and advance technology in new and creative ways.

Innovation based on the designs found in nature is referred to as biomimicry. Biomimicry is a relatively new field of study that is enticing engineers, biologists, and conservationists to work towards a common goal of overcoming technological challenges and maintaining global sustainability.

When attempting to solve a problem, such as the booming sound caused when a Japanese bullet train blasted away from the station, researchers sought solutions in the animal kingdom. In the case of the bullet train, engineers reshaped the nose of the train to emulate a kingfisher, which allowed it to enter the station soundlessly, like a kingfisher diving into the water after its prey. This modification to the structure of the train also reduced the energy use of the train by 30 percent.

A Shinkansen 500 series train pulls into Japan’s Tokyo Station. The shape of the train’s nose was inspired, in part, by a kingfisher’s bill. Credits: A belted kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon), courtesy of Michael Liskay via birdseye.photo. A Shinkansen 500 series train, via Wikimedia Commons.

Another example of how birds can offer insight into reducing energy use is happening in the world of aeronautics. Scientists have discovered that birds flying in a V-shape reduces the amount of energy that is being exerted by each individual bird. When a bird towards the front of the V flaps its wings, it creates an updraft, lifting the bird behind it. The birds within the group rotate so that each has the opportunity to work harder for the group by being in the front while also having a chance to rest in the back of the formation.

A group of researchers at Stanford University are planning a study that will follow commercial airliners on transcontinental flights while they fly in a V-formation with other airplanes. Their hypothesis is that the jets will use 15 percent less fuel when they simulate the pattern of birds, as opposed to flying alone.

Biomimicry can also be built into our architectural designs by nurturing mutually beneficial relationships found in nature. Birds have symbiotic relationships with many different animals, including horses. Birds feed on the insects that plague horses, while horses offer a safe resting spot and nest building materials for birds. Sustainable barns that offer numerous natural entrances can benefit both domesticated animals as well as the wild ones with whom they interact.

By implementing changes such as the Japanese bullet train and jetliner examples, humans are creating change that reduces fossil fuel consumption and improves industrial design. However, there are always problems with innovation. Humans are bound to make errors in our attempts to mimic nature. Wind turbines, a valuable renewable energy resource, imitate the shape of an owl’s wing to improve energy efficiency, but the reduced noise and ease with which they slice through the air have made them more lethal to bird populations. As we move forward in our innovation and face technological challenges, we must look further into the future and the impact that biomimicry may have. We must support innovation that benefits from nature, but more importantly, we must support innovators that benefit nature.

The ways in which we can learn from birds could be endless and found in the depths of remote places like the tropical rainforests of Asia and South America. During your next birding session be sure to look for other ways we could be using knowledge about birds to solve technological challenges.

Read more by Avery Phillips on Medium and follow her on Twitter.