Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Playing States and Plates at the Biggest Week in American Birding

Let's play "States and Plates" for the birds!

This is a fun game for kids! And anyone who birds will know it is also a great - and much easier - game for adults as well! It is sure much easier to spot and record license plates than trying to spot warblers flitting in trees or lurking in the underbrush on the forest floor! And, if you choose to take pics, your chances are much better that the object of your photograph will still be there when the shutter fires! :)

Judy and I started going to the Biggest Week in American Birding (BWAB)  in 2010. It was our first birding trip to Ohio, and I think coincidentally, the first official "Biggest Week". We had no idea there even was a Biggest Week thing for birding. We just knew as newbie birders (we started birding in 2009) that everyone had told us to go to Magee Marsh to see birds. We did so. I think we just made it a day trip - plus maybe one more. For us it is only about two hours each way. Then we went back and stayed overnight. Now each year, it seems we add more overnight stays for the spring migration in northwest Ohio. Yes, indeed, the birds do bring our money into the local economy! By now everyone we met in Ohio knew why we were there and welcomed us! And, yes we met some local people who had never birded their local spots, but now (yes, we answered their many questions ...), they all want to check it out just to see what "the flap" is about!! Gotta be something about birding to bring folks from across the world there, right?  Kimberley Kaufman and Black Swamp Bird Observatory have done an incredible job of getting the local business community into appreciating birds and their conservation! We love it! This place and season are SO special!

And we are not alone in our quest for birds! People come from everywhere! It was so fascinating seeing all of the out-of-state license plates in the parking lots on our first visit, we started recording them every year.

I remember that over five decades ago - as a kid on trips with my parents - long before birding - I was recording license plates. It kept me amused, and may have a been a start to my "listing"! We never really went too many places, but we lived in California, and the world came to us. I know I had at least a mental "life list" of plates, and still remember my best plates were from Hawaii and Guam and Washington, D.C. - in addition to a few foreign countries! I challenge anyone to now get plates on cars that were bought in from some place where driving to the mainland USA is impossible! I have not seen any for years. Yes, economies change, and the world is now a global marketplace, and it is probably possible and cheaper now to buy a car here in the USA than to import a special car from wherever someone was stationed on assignment.  But, it happened then. Hey! Maybe I would have had the record - had I just kept my "field notes"? ... :)  Geez! I wonder if there is an e-Plate like e-Bird! ;)   OK, just "rambling" ... but maybe I would be in the top ten!

Back to story. We recorded 29 states, two Canadian provinces, and a US government plate in just 3 days. It was first most special to think we had all four corners of the main US covered - California to Washington, Florida to Maine   Then on our last day, we picked up Alaska!!! Cool!

States        Provinces    Other
Alabama     Ontario         US Government
Alaska        Quebec
New Jersey
New York
North Carolina

West Virginia

Here is a fun thing from the BWAB registration area at the conference center. I think it shows only the "home nests" (cute term!) of people who registered. I took a cell phone pic of this map (I thought it was SO cool!) when we registered on Sunday, May 5. I just found another map on the BWAB Facebook page (hey, just search on FB and "like" The Biggest Week) taken on May 9. Geez!!! What a national and international event!!! Yes, we sure missed a lot of plates! But many people flew in ...
Nest map taken from  FB - 5/9/2013
Map of  home "nests"
at BW registration on Sunday 5/5/2013

Our personal list of plates does not count the many wonderful people who flew in, including our two new friends of New Mexico women (Linda Rockwell (a blogger like me)and Donna Simmonetti) and a real "migrant" Gunnar Engblom (Peru) who we so much enjoyed meeting at the Birding Ohio Facebook Meet and Greet! It also does not count so many helpful people we met on the boardwalk speaking with such lovely accents, dialects, and languages! Yet, everyone "spoke bird"!

BTW, I recently put up my first-ever You Tube videos of Gunnar singing two original birding songs at the Meet and Greet. It is fun to think that a guy from Peru arranges to have a borrowed local guitar to sing a song. Cool songs - check them out!


And Linda and Donna brought home-made tamales and a whole New Mexico dinner to share with bloggers at the BWAB. So sorry I missed that one because we went home early. It is just SO amazing that people come from all over the USA and world, not only to share birds, but to share themselves! I cited two personal examples, but I really suspect it is the norm for the Biggest Week. The more we get to know each other, the more we understand and appreciate our birding bonds! 

Anyway - back to story - it is also so much fun to see the personalized plates and stickers that some birders put on their cars.  We remember we saw many more personal plates last year, but we did shoot a few this year.

Self explanatory - obviously a local

I like figuring out special messages ... don't tell Judy, I think she is still working on this one ...

Obviously the driver is what we in the Midwest call a "snow bird". Summers here, migrates to Florida for winter.

Not personalized, but I love this special plate from PA!
And I think I remember this one from last year. Not too many folks care about the endangered Vulfinch. So sad ...
Yes, I guess we are "listers". We record/list license plates. And for sure birds. And we also "list" birders. It has been fun this year learning that others besides us keep a "life list of birders". We know many  people from their exploits, publications, and postings and it is really exciting to meet them in person! We met several more "lifers"!

But it really does not matter what "floats your boat" - or, better here - what "flaps your wings". What really matters is that you have fun! I guarantee that a trip to NW Ohio for spring migration, and especially the Biggest Week, will keep memories flapping for you and your kids for a very long time!

And be sure to check out the plates! Fun for all !

-- "Dr. Bob"


Steve Finnell said...

you are invited to follow my blog

Linda Rockwell said...

It was wonderful to meet you! Next year you'll have to stay for the New Mexican dinner at Casa de Nuevo Mexico en Ohio.