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The Midwest Birding Symposium 2009, September 17-20, 2009 in Lakeside, OH

MBS Speaker Bios

Jane Alexander

Photo credit: Joan Marcus

Jane Alexander's distinguished acting career includes her Tony Award-winning performance in The Great White Hope directed by Ed Sherin (who later became her husband) and Tony-nominated roles in Honour, The Sisters Rosensweig, The Visit, First Monday in October, Find Your Way Home, and 6 Rms Riv Vu, all on Broadway.

A four-time Oscar nominee for the films Testament, Kramer vs. Kramer, All The President's Men, and The Great White Hope, she has appeared in over 50 screen roles among them Brubaker, City Heat, The Cider House Rules, Sunshine State, The Ring, Feast of Love with Morgan Freeman and the forthcoming The Unborn and Terminator Salvation.

On television, she won Emmy Awards for the movies Playing for Time and Warm Springs and a Television Critic's Circle Award for her portrayal of Eleanor Roosevelt in Eleanor And Franklin; The White House Years. She has been nominated for Emmys 8 times and recently starred on HBO's series Tell Me You Love Me.

Jane Alexander has been a birder for 40 years. She is a board member of the American Birding Association, and a former board member of the American Bird Conservancy.

2009 MBS Topic: Birding On and Off the Movie Set.

During her illustrious career on stage and screen, Jane Alexander has always kept bird watching as an important part of her life. In this presentation she will share some of her more memorable experiences as an actor who also watches birds.

Paul Baicich

Paul J. Baicich has been actively birding since his early teens in New York City. He co-authored (with the late Colin Harrison in 1997) A Guide to the Nests, Eggs, and Nestlings of North American Birds. He also was the editor for 14 ABA Birdfinding Guides. He writes regularly for a number of birding magazines and is also co-editor (with Wayne Petersen) of the popular monthly Birding Community E-bulletin. Paul has served as a consultant on birder visitation to the National Wildlife Refuge System where he currently serves as Coordinator for their Birding Team

2009 MBS Topic: National Wildlife Refuges: Great Birding Made Even Better

For birders, National Wildlife Refuges (NWRs) offer spectacular destinations where birds can often be found in lavish abundance or in spectacular diversity. Some of the best birding to be found in the country is to be found on NWRs; some of the "most-wanted birds" are also to be found on refuges. This presentation will remind us about this reality, but it will also stress some of the ways that refuges are striving to become better birding destinations. The Refuge System has recently identified 20 key characteristics to make visits by birders more enjoyable and productive. Not all these 20 elements will fit every refuge, but the 20 still provide a starting point for discussion, ways to address the unique needs of birders. (These 20 components are not exclusive to refuge use; most can be adapted by any natural public-use location, including parks, forests, and nature centers.)

Al Batt

Al Batt of rural Hartland, Minnesota is a writer, speaker, storyteller and humorist. Al, who was born and raised on a farm near Hartland, lives with his wife Gail. Al writes four weekly humor and nature columns for many newspapers, and does a regular radio show about nature on a number of radio stations. He writes a number of popular cartoon strips that are syndicated nationally and has written jokes for a former President of the United States. He has written for a number of magazines and books, including the Chicken Soup For the Soul series. He is a contributing author of the book, Minnesota Bird Watching.

2009 MBS Topic: Snippets from a Life Gone to the Birds.

You will not want to miss this presentation. Al is a delightful humorist, storyteller and birding enthusiast from Hartland, Minnesota. Al will appeal to everyone-avid birder or novice. His stories will tickle your funny bone. He has a "down-home" style that will bring back memories of your childhood and those wonderful times gone by. His talk will make you feel so good you'll want to sing like a bird!

Mike Bergin and Sharon Stiteler

Mike Bergin is one of the founder/owners of the popular birding website 10000 Birds.

Sharon Stiteler writes the daily blog BirdChick.com.

2009 MBS Topic: Blogging About Birds

Find out about blogging from two of today's most popular and successful bird bloggers. Mike Bergin is one of the founders and creators of the popular birding site 10,000 Birds (10000birds.com). He has been blogging about birds and about other bird bloggers for several years. Many people think that bird blogs are the new virtual bird clubs. Mike will explain what a blog is and why we bird watchers seem to be so taken by the plethora of bird blogs on the Web today.

Sharon Stiteler runs one of the most popular birding blogs on the Internet, Birdchick.com and has been in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and on NBC Nightly News. Her writing can be found in several publications including WildBird Magazine, Outdoor News, and Birding Business. She wrote the books "Disapproving Rabbits" and "City Birds/Country Birds."

Jim Berry

Jim Berry is the president of the Roger Tory Peterson Institute in Jamestown, New York.

2009 MBS Topic: Roger Tory Peterson: Yesterday and Today

Roger Tory Peterson was perhaps the greatest birder/naturalist of all time. His Field Guide to Birds, first published in 1934, is credited with launching the modern environmental movement and with moving bird study out of the shotgun era. Today Peterson's work and message are still as vibrant as they were in the mid-20th century. Jim Berry traces the influence of this great American and demonstrates RTP's impact on today's thoroughly modern birder.

Jeff Bouton

Jeff Bouton is the Product Specialist for the Birder/Naturalist Markets for Leica Sport Optics, USA.

2009 MBS Topic: The Digiscoping All-Stars

Jeff Bouton has been digiscoping birds and wildlife since before we knew what digiscoping was. He and a hand-picked few of his birding optics colleagues will do a tag-team presentation on digiscoping. We're calling this The Digiscoping All-Stars because these people are, quite simply, the best digiscopers in the world. Jeff and the DAS team will be outside on both Friday and Saturday mornings doing their digiscoping thing and helping you do yours.

Lang Elliott

Lang Elliott is a sound recordist, writer, and photographer. He is the author of The Songs of Insects, The Songs of Wild Birds, and many other book/CD packages. Elliott is the owner of NatureSound Studio, dedicated to the creation of materials featuring the sounds of nature.

2009 MBS Topic: Sound Quest: 20 years of Recording Birds and Nature

For a little over two decades, Lang has traveled far and wide in North America recording birds, frogs, insects, and mammals. In this presentation, Lang will tell stories about his adventures in the field and share a number of his favorite recordings, from habitat soundscapes to species portraits, nearly all recorded at the crack of dawn or in the middle of the night.

Jeffrey A. Gordon

Jeffrey A. Gordon is an author, tour leader, photographer, lecturer, and ecotourism consultant who lives in Lewes, Delaware. Well-known on the birding festival circuit for his entertaining programs and expert field-trip leading skills, Jeff leads tours for Field Guides, Inc., and also represents Leica Sports Optics. He was a primary contributor to the video podcasts which accompanied the new Peterson Field Guide to the Birds of North America.

2009 MBS Topic: How Technology Can Enhance—Not Clutter—Your Birding

Every week brings news of various digital doodads that are supposed to make birding easier and/or more fun. But how well do these things really work? Do you need a degree in computer science to operate them? We'll ask representatives from a number of companies that offer tech-oriented birding devices to demonstrate their products, then open a discussion on how ipods, cameras, or computers might just join binoculars on your list of must-have birding equipment.

Alvaro Jaramillo

Alvaro Jaramillo was born in Santiago, Chile, and raised in Toronto, Canada. He is currently a wildlife biologist for the Coyote Creek Riparian Station in San Jose, California. He also leads birding tours in North and South America, and is the author of several bird books.

2009 MBS Topic: Bird ID Outside the Box

We are trapped in a box when it comes to bird identification. What we try to do is match the colors and patterns of what we see in the field to what is in the field guide. Yet many of us have heard that experienced birders just "know" what a bird is, just the same way that one recognizes friends or family members practically instantly. Getting to this point takes experience, but there are various tips, tricks and voodoo that experienced birders use to recognize birds. Also there are field marks and ways to identify birds that are not in the field guides yet, or perhaps aren't given enough prominence - bits like wing lengths, timing of molt, behaviors, and aspects of voice. This workshop will aim to teach a little bit of birding voodoo and introduce other features to concentrate on while birding. It also aims to be fun and informative and certainly not above anyone's head. The hope is that you will come out of it aching to try out some of what you have learned and begin to claw yourself out of the birding box.

Dr. Andy Jones

Dr. Andy Jones is Curator of Ornithology at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. He is the first person hired as the William A. and Nancy R. Klamm Endowed Chair of Ornithology, thanks to a major donation from the Klamm's to the museum. Dr. Jones received his BS in Biological Sciences from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, and his PhD in Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior from the University of Minnesota. He originally hails from east Tennessee, where his passion for natural history began at an early age; his current research involves the evolutionary history of birds from the Appalachian Mountains as well as the Andes and the Philippines.

2009 MBS Topic: Who Keeps Changing My Field Guide? A review of what scientists are up to that causes field guides and checklists to be revised so frequently.

Not only is the market flooded with field guides by many authors and publishers, existing field guides are constantly being "updated" and sold as new editions, forcing birders to spend more money to stay on top of changing names and identification techniques. But this isn't a conspiracy by the field guide publishers! Instead, field guides are being updated to capture the changing worlds of identification and, particularly, taxonomy in ornithology. This talk will highlight several major reasons for why the common and scientific names of the birds are not the same today as when you first started birding (remember the Rufous-sided Towhee, the Slate-colored Junco, and the Northern Oriole?). It will also cover some of the prospects for future changes.

Kenn Kaufman

In 2008 the American Birding Association gave Kenn Kaufman its highest honor, the Roger Tory Peterson Award, for "a lifetime of promoting the cause of birding" (although, as he points out, he isn't finished yet). Kenn burst onto the birding scene as a teenager, hitch-hiking around North America chasing birds, an adventure later chronicled in his cult classic Kingbird Highway. He has since gone on to teach birding workshops in 45 of the 50 states and to lead birding tours on all seven continents. Kenn is a field editor for Audubon and a contributor to every major birding magazine. Most of his time, however, goes into writing books, such as Flights Against the Sunset, Lives of North American Birds, and the Peterson Field Guide to Advanced Birding. His own series of Kaufman Field Guides now includes volumes on North American birds, butterflies, mammals, and insects. He and his wife, Kim, make their home in northwest Ohio, keeping busy with the Black Swamp Bird Observatory (where Kim is executive director) and with their popular and acclaimed classic-rock band.

2009 MBS Topic: Flights Against the Sunset: Why We Need Birds

If you're caught in the grip of a birding addiction, how do you explain that to someone you love -- or to yourself? How do you make the lure of bird watching understandable for someone who has never tried it? No, Kenn doesn't know the answers to these questions, either. But in this wide-ranging and thought-provoking talk, he calls on a host of his unusual friends -- bikers, spies, monks, musicians, gourmet chefs, polar explorers, and more -- to help him look at the questions, and at the birds themselves, from a series of brand-new angles.

Ben Lizdas, Eagle Optics

Ben Lizdas is the sales manager for Eagle Optics.

2009 MBS Topic: The Basics of Birding Optics

Ben Lizdas answers loads of questions each day from bird watchers looking to purchase the right binocular or spotting scope. This experience, along with his many appearances at birding and nature festivals across North America, makes Ben uniquely suited to offer solid advice on optics for bird watchers. Bring your optics questions along and Ben will answer them.

Jim McCormac

Jim McCormac works for the Ohio Division of Wildlife, is president of the Ohio Ornithological Society, and author of Birds of Ohio, Wild Ohio: The Best of Our Natural Heritage, and the Great Lakes Nature Guide. He lives in Columbus, Ohio and regularly updates his Ohio Birds and Biodiversity Blog: jimmccormac.blogspot.com.

2009 MBS Topic: Birding Ohio's Lake Erie Shore

We're starting off the 2009 Midwest Birding Symposium with an overview of the birds of Ohio's Lake Erie region. There's no better person to give us just such an overview than Ohio's own Jim McCormac. Whether you're from the Buckeye State or from some far-flung corner of the bird watching universe you won't want to miss this entertaining and informative program.

Arthur Morris, Birds As Art

Arthur Morris is a freelance nature photographer and writer specializing in birds. He taught elementary school in New York City for twenty-three years. For eight years he conducted the shorebird survey at the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge for The International Shorebird Surveys, Manomet, MA. In April 1995, Mr. Morris became a Canon contract photographer, part of their "Explorers of Light" program. Four of his images are featured in the Canon "EF Lens Work II" book. He appeared in a Canon EOS 1N television commercial that aired worldwide, and has been featured in six episodes of the "Canon Photo Safari" television show. A gallery exhibit of his work hung at the prestigious Roger Tory Peterson Institute in Jamestown, NY in the summer of 1999.

More than 11,000 of his photographs have been published in American Birds, Audubon, Birding, Birder's World, Bird Watcher's Digest, Florida Wildlife and Nature, Living Bird, National Geographic, Natural History, Nature Photographer, Outdoor Photographer, PHOTOgraphic, Ranger Rick, Wildbird, and other magazines, as well as in hundreds of books and calendars. More than 100 photo-illustrated feature articles have appeared in a wide variety of publications worldwide.

Art now photographs, travels, speaks, and teaches extensively in North America.

2009 MBS Topic: Digital Bird Photography Basics

Few people are as focused on getting the perfect bird photograph as Artie Morris is. In this program he will show some of his best images and discuss how they were taken, and share some of the reasons why he loves bird photography so much.

Wayne R. Petersen

Wayne Petersen is Mass Audubon's Director of the Massachusetts Important Bird Areas (IBA) program. He has led trips and tours, lectured, and conducted birding workshops across North America for over thirty-five years. His tour-leading experiences have taken him from the Arctic to South America, as well as Iceland, Svalbard, Africa, Madagascar, Australia, New Zealand, and Antarctica. Wayne was a founding member of the Massachusetts Avian Records Committee, is a New England Regional Editor for North American Birds, and serves on the advisory committee for the Massachusetts Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Program. His writing projects include authoring the National Audubon Societyís Pocket Guide to Songbirds and Familiar Backyard Birds (East), coauthoring Birds of Massachusetts and Birds of New England, co-editing the Massachusetts Breeding Bird Atlas, and contributing to The Audubon Society Master Guide to Birding, The Sibley Guide to Bird Life & Behavior, and Arctic Wings. In 2005 Wayne was the recipient of the American Birding Associationís Ludlow Griscom Award for outstanding contributions in regional ornithology. He is especially interested in seabirds and shorebirds, and he derives great satisfaction from sharing his knowledge of the natural world with his fellow colleagues and traveling companions.

2009 MBS Topic: Tattlers, Twitchets, and Creakers: Getting To Know Inland Shorebirds.

Lots of birders typically associate shorebirds only with coastal regions, yet many species regularly migrate in large numbers through interior areas as well. Where appropriate conditions exist, sometimes hundreds of individuals of a variety of species can be found concentrated in appropriate habitats during both spring and fall migration. This brief workshop will offer some thoughts on where to look for some of these species and how to recognize them when they are encountered. Notes on behavior, feeding ecology, molt, and plumage acquisition will be included that collectively should be helpful in sorting out these often similar species.

Diane Porter

Diane Porter, along with her husband Michael Porter, runs the very popular website birdwatching.com. Diane describes herself as crazy about birds and birding. And when she's not watching birds, she likes to nudge other people along to start watching birds too. She believes it's a good thing. For the people. For the birds. For the planet. In addition to birdwatching.com, the Porters have written for a variety of bird publications, and regularly contribute optics articles and field tests for Bird Watcher's Digest. Diane is a passionate backyard bird watcher and takes great pleasure in closely observing the birds around the Porters' rural Iowa home.

2009 MBS Topic: The Joys of Backyard Birds

Some great bird watching can happen right outside your windows. Diane Porter will share some of her magical and fascinating experiences as an avid birder who rediscovered the joys of her own backyard.

David Allen Sibley - NEW SPEAKER, JUST ADDED!

David Allen Sibley is the author and illustrator of a series of highly acclaimed books about birds and birding. He is the recipient of the Roger Tory Peterson Award presented by the American Birding Association for a lifetime of achievement in promoting the cause of birding.

David is best known for The Sibley Guide to Birds, published in 2000, which many birders consider to be the best and most accurate of the illustrated field guides. His newest book is The Sibley Guide to Trees, covering more than 600 North American tree species. David lives in Concord, Massachusetts, with his wife and two sons. Photograph ©Erinn Hartman.

2009 MBS Topic: Trees, Birds & Birders

David Sibley's newest book is The Sibley Guide to Trees, covering more than 600 North American tree species. His MBS presentation will discuss the creation of the new Trees guide and the connections between trees, birds, and bird watchers.

David will be signing copies of his new Trees guide on Friday afternoon and also after his talk on Friday evening.

Dr. Amanda Rodewald

Dr. Amanda Rodewald is an Associate Professor of Wildlife Ecology in the School of Environment and Natural Resources at The Ohio State University. She received a B.S. in wildlife biology from The University of Montana, an M.S. in Zoology from The University of Arkansas, and a Ph.D. in Ecology from The Pennsylvania State University. Amanda's research has taken her from Alaska to Ecuador, where she has studied how land management influences avian populations and communities. Most of her current research focuses on avian ecology and conservation in urbanizing landscapes, forest-bird conservation in managed forests, and the importance of shade-grown coffee plantations to migratory birds.

2009 MBS Topic: Singing the Blues: The Challenge of Conserving the Cerulean Warbler

Amanda will discuss the challenges associated with conserving neotropical migratory birds. In her talk, she'll use the declining cerulean warbler as an example to illustrate how research and conservation efforts can be coordinated.

Bill Thompson, III

Bill Thompson, III has been called The Pied Piper of Birding–take a field trip with BT3 and you'll know why. As the editor of Bird Watcher's Digest, the popular bimonthly magazine that has been published by his family since 1978, he has helped to inform and entertain hundreds of thousands of bird watchers during his four decades of birding. Bill is the author of numerous books, the most recent of which is The Young Birder's Guide to Birds of Eastern North America, which he hopes will help get more kids outside and into nature.

2009 MBS Topic: No Child Left Inside: Birds as a Doorway into Nature

Bill Thompson, III's, kids love watching TV and playing on the computer. Like other parents, he worried that they weren't getting outside enough, that they were losing their connection with nature. Much has been said about "nature deficit disorder" as described in the recent bestseller Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv.

Fortunately, there are things we can do. Kids are fascinated by birds, which makes birding an excellent way to get kids out of the house and into the natural world.

Bill spent three years working with his daughter Phoebe's elementary-school class to create a new bird book for kids. Called The Young Birder's Guide to Eastern Birds, the book is intended to give young people ages 8 to 12 an introduction to the world of birds in a way they can appreciate and enjoy. It is a part of the Peterson Field Guide Series published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

He'll discuss how the book was created, how to get kids interested in nature, and will share stories about his own adventures as a young birder. Bill will also offer some insight into countering the growing trend of "nature deficit disorder."

Scott Weidensaul

Scott Weidensaul is the author of more than two dozen books on natural history, including the Pulitzer Prize-nominated Living on the Wind, about bird migration, Return to Wild America: A Yearlong Search for the Continent's Natural Soul, and his newest book, Of a Feather: A Brief History of American Birding. Weidensaul writes for such publications as Smithsonian, Audubon, Nature Conservancy and National Wildlife. He lives in the mountains of eastern Pennsylvania, where he studies the migration of hawks, owls and hummingbirds.

2009 MBS Topic: Of a Feather: A (Brief) History of American Birding

From the moment Europeans arrived in North America, they were awestruck by a continent awash with birds - great flocks of wild pigeons, woodlands alive with brilliantly colored songbirds. Join naturalist and author Scott Weidensaul as he traces the unpredictable history of bird study in America, from frontier ornithologists (one of whom barely escaped pursuing Apaches with a precious hawk egg hidden in his mouth) to society matrons who organized the first effective conservation movement; from luminaries like Alexander Wilson (a convicted blackmailer) and Audubon (an accomplished liar) to modern geniuses like Roger Tory Peterson.

Based on his new book Of a Feather, this whirlwind history shows how ornithology and birding grew from eccentric hobbies into something so completely mainstream they're now (almost) cool.

Chris Wood (Cornell Lab, eBird)

Chris began birding at age five and still gets into the field enough to make the rest of us jealous. His primary interests include bird distribution, identification, vocalizations and conservation throughout the Americas. In addition to his work at the Lab, Chris leads birding tours for WINGS to the U.S., Canada, Mexico and Central America. He is a editor for the Colorado and Wyoming region of North American birds and the departmental editor of the BIRDING photo quiz, as well as the online photo quiz for the American Birding Association. He has written and consulted on various books, popular, and scientific literature on North American birds. Before coming to the Lab, Chris was a research associate with Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory in Colorado. At the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, Chris is the Project Leader for eBird.

2009 MBS Topic: Do You eBird?

Chris Wood explains what eBird is and why so many bird watchers are using it to keep their lists and share their sightings.

Julie Zickefoose

Julie Zickefoose is a writer, artist, and naturalist at home in the Appalachian foothills of Ohio. Since 1986, she has made a living from natural history illustration and writing. She now writes and illustrates her own books, provides commentary for National Public Radio, and informs others with her daily web log.

2009 MBS Topic: Letters From Eden

Letters from Eden is a naturalist's journal, telling the countless small stories of the woods and meadows in flowing prose and lively watercolors. Copperheads strike; starlings battle and become prey; bullfrogs snap up hummingbirds in Julie Zickefoose's essays. Though firmly rooted in southern Ohio, this book has struck a powerful chord with readers nationwide, evoking the rhythms of the seasons and an awareness of natural events that many people long for in the age of "nature deficit disorder." Reading from her work while showing her paintings and photographs, Julie will reveal the deep connection with nature that keeps her walking her 80-acre Appalachian sanctuary outside Whipple, Ohio.