The Midwest Birding Symposium 2011: Welcome!

Among the speakers we have confirmed for the 2011 Midwest Birding Symposium are:

Workshops will be presented on these topics:

MBS Speaker Bios

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.

2011 MBS Topic: Why Is That Bird Laughing?

Listen to stories from a man of whom the President of the United States once said, "Who?" Find a tee-hee's nest with a ha-ha's egg in it as you listen to Al Batt's talk. You will learn why Al has never been asked to bring the potato salad to the Association of Normal People's Picnic. Some people claim that Al is a storyteller from Minnesota, but he's just a guy who loves birds.

Dr. David M. Bird

As a full professor of Wildlife Biology and Director of the Avian Science and Conservation Centre of McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, Dr. David Bird has published more than 175 scientific papers on birds of prey, and has supervised more than 40 graduate students. He has written and/or edited several books, the most recent being Birds of Canada and The Bird Almanac: A Guide to Essential Facts and Figures on the World's Birds. He is a past-president of the Raptor Research Foundation Inc. and the Society of Canadian Ornithologists, an elected Fellow of the American Ornithologists' Union, a former member of the Board of Directors of the American Birding Association, and an elected member representing Canada on the prestigious International Ornithological Committee. Besides his innumerable public lectures and radio and television appearances, Dr. Bird has been a columnist on bird behavior for Bird Watcher's Digest magazine and its newsletter, Backyard Birds Newsletter, for a dozen years.

2011 MBS Topic: "Watching Birds Naked"

Are birds really "bird-brains"? Do they taste "good"? Can eagles really see farther than humans? Why are most owls as blind as we are on a dark night? How does a kestrel use ultraviolet light to catch mice? Which birds smell the best?

These are just some of the questions that Dr. David Bird will answer in his humorous but educational slide show on the sensory ecology of birds. Remove those beautiful coats of feathers and you'll discover that birds have some of the most incredible physical and physiological adaptations to keep them in tune with their environment and with each other. You'll never look at birds in the same way again!

Kevin J. Cook

Kevin J. Cook is a naturalist/writer/tour leader who lives in Colorado. He has been the author of "The Bird Watcher's Question Box" column in Bird Watcher's Digest for many years.

2011 MBS Topic: Answers for Your Bird & Nature Questions

Kevin Cook loves to answer questions about birds and nature. But he's not known for simply offering up a standard short answer—even if it's to a question he's been asked hundreds of times. Instead he enjoys exploring the inter-connectedness of nature and applying the things he discovers to the answers he provides. For this session, we encourage you to bring your nature questions to Kevin and listen to how he answers them. Just don't be surprised if he sends you off on an exploration of your own.

Pete Dunne

Chief Conservation Officer, New Jersey Audubon Society and Director Cape May Bird Observatory

When he was seven years old, Pete Dunne was presented with two instruments that would define his life. One was a pair of binoculars; the other a book—a book about birds. One brought intimacy; the other understanding and through them the woodlands behind his suburban home became a portal that opened a world of discovery and wonders.

Now 59, Vice President of the New Jersey Audubon Society and Director of the Society's Cape May Bird Observatory, Pete Dunne uses his talents and energy to make the natural world real for others. Through books like Prairie Spring, Bayshore Summer, Pete Dunne on Bird Watching, The Wind Masters, Hawks In Flight, The Feather Quest, and Dunne's Essential Field Guide Companion; regular columns that have appeared in Birding, Winging It, Bird Watcher's Digest, Wild Bird, Birder's World, American Birds, Living Bird, the "New Jersey Sunday Section," the New York Times and frequent speaking engagements in the United States, Canada and abroad, he weaves information, insight ad even fantasy into a net that captures minds and hearts. When not working, writing, traveling, or birding Dunne spends his time with wife Linda in the riverside village of Mauricetown, NJ.

2011 MBS Topic: The Old Man and the Plover

He was an old man, who birded alone, and he had gone 84 days, now, without finding a good bird. And then he saw the strange dark-backed plover. "He can't be that good," the old man thought, but the bird WAS that good...and it is what happens next in this bird-watching parody of Hemingway's classic story, that will keep you engaged, keep you guessing and then, make you ponder the future of birding and two of its core provisions. A birder's skill and a birder's word. Following, Pete will read from and offer background insights into his newest book: ARCTIC AUTUMN--A Journey to a Season's Edge.

Mark Garland

Mark S. Garland runs his own company, Garland Cunningham LLC, organizing and running a variety of nature-oriented tours, workshops, classes, and lectures for organizations and individuals. Birds are the primary focus of most programs. Mark is based in Cape May, NJ, where he leads workshops for the Cape May Bird Observatory, field trips for the Audubon Naturalist Society, and courses for the Road Scholar program of Elderhostel. He has led more than 200 tours to locations throughout the US, Canada, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Tanzania, and other countries. He has written hundreds of articles and one book, Watching Nature: A Mid-Atlantic Natural History. He regularly provides nature commentaries for the Metro Connection radio program on WAMU, public radio in Washington, DC. He has twice captained winning teams in the World Series of Birding. He holds BS and MS degrees from the University of Maryland. Visit his website at

2011 MBS Topic: The Joys of Ecotourism

The word ecotourism describes nature-based tourism that benefits environmental protection. When the resources of a region have greater economic value intact, by attracting tourist dollars, than the potential value of the harvested resources, environmental protection makes economic and moral sense. Traveling birders are among the most consistent and important ecotourists. Vicariously visit parts of the world where traveling birders are having a huge positive impact on the environment, and see many of the birds that lure travelers from around the globe. Examples range from Costa Rica to East Africa and many parts of the USA.

Jeffrey A. Gordon

President, American Birding Association

Jeffrey A. Gordon is an author, tour leader, photographer, lecturer, and ecotourism consultant who lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Well-known on the birding festival circuit for his entertaining programs and expert field-trip leading skills, Jeff now serves as the president of the American Birding Association. He was a primary contributor to the video podcasts which accompanied the new Peterson Field Guide to the Birds of North America.

2011 MBS Topic: What's New with the ABA?

In recent years The American Birding Association has experienced many changes. As the newly elected president of the ABA, Jeffrey A. Gordon is eager to attract new members to the organization, as well as bringing back former members to the ABA fold. His talk will discuss the new direction for the ABA and why birders everywhere have reason to be excited about the new ABA.

Keith Hansen

Bird Artist/Photographer, Owner of The Wildlife Gallery in Bolinas, CA.

Keith Hansen is a wildlife artist who specializes in the imaginative and accurate portrayal of birds. Coming from a large family of artists and naturalists, Keith began birding in the 6th grade. Following his older brother through the woods of Maryland, a single cedar waxwing changed his life forever. He began to illustrate birds in 1976 and has not looked back, (unless there was a bird behind him). He has illustrated 13 books, innumerable birding articles, logos, and even a 128-foot long mural. He and his wife Patricia operate Sacred Monkey Tours, a tour company specializing in nature and cultural trips to the Central American tropics.

2011 MBS Topic: A Year in the Life of a "Carbon-free Birder."

The name of the game is a year of birding without the use of any motorized transportation. That is to say that you can count species you find while on foot, bike, canoe, hang glider, surfboard, roller blades, and/or pogo stick. You may not count species seen while driving a car, motorcycle, motorized yacht, jet ski, jet boots, or space shuttle. The end results are that you stay fit, cover your local patch, as well as, travel to distant spots that are reachable without adding to your carbon footprint. Keith will also include images from the book that he is currently illustrating: Birds of the Sierra.

Brett Harper

2011 MBS Topic: Artist Charley Harper: He Counted the Wings, Not the Feathers

Brett Harper, son of Charley and Edie Harper, was born in 1953 in Cincinnati. He grew up in Ohio before departing to earn his English degree from Brown University. He worked in agency and corporate advertising, art, and publishing until 1995, when he came back to Ohio to run the family studio. Today he is studio director and executor of the Charley and Edie Harper estates, living half the year in Lebanon, Ohio, and the other half on St. Simon's Island, Georgia, with his wife Sandy.

In this presentation Brett will share the unique perspectives of his artist parents, with a particular focus on his father's amazing work and legacy in the world of art and illustration. Charley Harper claimed to be the only wildlife artist who "had never been compared to Audubon." Charley's art distilled the subject to its most basic form but with great style and a heavy dose of humor and whimsy.

Alvaro Jaramillo

Alvaro Jaramillo was born in Chile but began birding in Toronto, Canada, where he lived as a youth. He was trained in ecology and evolution with a particular interest in bird behavior. Research forays and backpacking trips introduced Alvaro to the riches of the Neotropics, where he has traveled extensively. He is the author of the Birds of Chile, an authoritative yet portable field guide to Chile's birds. Alvaro writes the Identify Yourself column in Bird Watcher's Digest. Among various projects he is currently finishing part of the sparrow chapter for the Handbook of Birds of the World, and is writing a photo guide to the birds and wildlife of Patagonia. He runs the birding and nature tour company Alvaro's Adventures, where the focus is to have fun, learn a thing or two, and truly enjoy nature. Alvaro lives with his family in Half Moon Bay, California.

2011 MBS Topic: Birding outside the Box Part II—Birding identification like a Pro!

Most bird identification lectures focus on field marks, and the specifics of separating Species A from Species B. Few ask exactly how we identify birds. What is our brain going through in order to do this? How does our brain get tripped up during bird identification? Have you ever encountered the "leaf bird" the "branch bird" or, worst of all, "the plastic bag snowy owl?" Why do experts identify birds almost without thinking, while the rest of us need to struggle? Are they different from the rest of us, or are there tricks?

The truth is that bird identification is pretty tricky stuff, but our brains are wired to shortcut much of the thinking involved in doing it—the trick is training yourself to do it like a pro. That is the aim of this presentation: a lighthearted but informative explanation of how the heck the pros do it.

(Affiliation: Alvaro's Adventures, Birding and Nature Tours)

Kenn Kaufman & Kimberly Kaufman

Kenn and Kimberly "banded" each other in 2005 on the roof of a hotel in the Rio Grande Valley, and then celebrated by going birding! These two "lovebirds" love birds, and have devoted their lives to promoting bird conservation. A lifelong naturalist, Kenn pursued one of the first really big “big years” while still a teenager, as chronicled in his cult-classic book Kingbird Highway. Much of his focus now is on the Kaufman Field Guide series, including guides to North American birds, butterflies, mammals, insects, and the brand-new Kaufman Field Guide to Advanced Birding. Kimberly spends most of her time promoting research, education, and bird conservation through the Black Swamp Bird Observatory (BSBO), where she is the executive director. She is also currently the president of the board of the Visitors’ Bureau for Ottawa County, the county in which the MBS is being held. The Kaufmans' blog, Birding with Kenn and Kimberly, shares their adventures as they travel the world and explore their own backyard in a perpetual quest for birding excitement. Even their cat gets into the act! Kirby (aka Kitty Meow-Meow Head) maintains the “Cats Belong Indoors” Facebook page, as a self-described "advo-cat" for keeping cats indoors.

2011 MBS Topic: Birding Ohio's North Coast

Kenn and Kimberly Kaufman are thrilled to welcome you to northwest Ohio, the place they choose to call home. In this lively presentation, Team Kaufman will share some of the birds, people, places, and things that make northwest Ohio a great place to live, work, and GO BIRDING! They will also share some insight into some of the ways that YOU are supporting bird conservation - simply by being here to celebrate the Midwest Birding Symposium.

Ben Lizdas, Eagle Optics

Ben Lizdas is the sales manager for Eagle Optics.

2011 MBS Topic: Answers to Your Optics Questions

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 works for the Ohio Division of Wildlife, and prior to that, he was a botanist with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. He was inaugural president of the Ohio Ornithological Society, and was the 2009 recipient of the Ludlow Griscom award, given annually by the American Birding Association to individuals who have made significant regional contributions to ornithology. He is author of Birds of Ohio; Great Lakes Nature Guide; and Wild Ohio: The Best of Our Natural Heritage. The latter won the 2010 Ohioana Book award. Jim writes a column, Nature, for the Columbus Dispatch, and is at work on a book about the warblers of eastern North America. He lives in Columbus, Ohio and regularly updates his Ohio Birds and Biodiversity Blog:

2011 MBS Topic: Birders Going Beyond Birds

Birds don’t operate in a vacuum. It takes plants, insects, mammals and more to stoke their fires. The intricacies of ecology that cascade up to a gorgeous yellow-throated vireo or fiercely predatory short-eared owl are often so incredible it verges on fantasy. Knowledge of these relationships fuels the imagination and adds wonder to even the common. Learning bird ID and names is great, but it’s just the beginning – learning what makes birds tick opens an entirely new dimension.

Greg Miller

Greg Miller has been birding for about 50 years and has birded in all 50 states. He was formerly on the board of directors for Southern Maryland Audubon Society and for the Ohio Ornithological Society.

In 1998 Greg did a Big Year in an effort to see as many species of birds as possible in one calendar year. Greg and two other birders broke the 700-species mark in 1998. The individual stories of the three birders were documented in Mark Obmascik's 2004 book, The Big Year. The book made the USA Today's Best Books of 2004, and was a New York Times Best Seller.

The Big Year has been made into a feature-length film, starring Jack Black, Steve Martin, Angelica Huston, and Owen Wilson. Filming was completed in the summer of 2010 and the birding community is eagerly awaiting news of the film's official release date.

The Midwest Birding Symposium is hoping to offer a preview/extended trailer of this film during the 2011 MBS. Details will be posted on the MBS website soon.

2011 MBS Topic: The Big Year

Greg Miller not only did a Big Year in 1998 (seeing more than 700 species!) he also was written about in a book called The Big Year AND his experiences are being made into a film, titled The Big Year. Greg served as a birding advisor to the film and spent a lot of time on the set, hanging out with the movie stars. His talk will cover his Big Year birding adventures from 1998 as well as his experience with the film.

Michael O'Brien

Michael O'Brien is an artist, author, and VENT tour leader living in Cape May, New Jersey. He has a passionate interest in bird sounds and field identification, and a serious addiction to migration and nocturnal birding. When not traveling, Michael serves as an Associate Naturalist for Cape May Bird Observatory, for whom he conducts numerous birding workshops. He is co-author of The Shorebird Guide and Flight Calls of Migratory Birds, and his illustrations can be seen in the newest National Geographic and Peterson field guides.

2011 MBS Topic: Things that Go Seep in the Night

When autumn winds blow from the north, the nighttime sky can be filled with high-pitched seeps, zips, dzrrts, and tsews of migrating birds. Attempting to identify these sounds is one of those esoteric, fringe elements of birding that most bird watchers all but ignore. However, this fringe is gaining popularity as identification criteria become more clearly understood. This program will provide tips on how to listen to nocturnal flight calls and learn to identify some of the more frequently heard species.

(Affiliation: Victor Emanuel Nature Tours

Ohio Young Birders Club

Wyatt Miller

Wyatt is from Avon, Ohio. His interest in birding was sparked on a visit to Sandy Ridge in North Ridgeville, Ohio in 2007. One of his favorite birds is the fascinating Greater Prairie-Chicken. Wyatt enjoys all aspects of nature. He is a member of the OYBC's Youth Advisory Panel. At the 2010 Shreve Migration Sensation, Wyatt and Sarah Winnicki gave a presentation to young people called Birding Basics 101. Besides birding, Wyatt also enjoys playing the violin, swimming, playing football, fishing, hunting, and traveling.

Sarah Winnicki

Sarah is from Medina, Ohio. She has been bird watching for as long as she can remember, but she never really got obsessed until the first OYBC January Gull Walk. Since then, she has traveled across the U.S. in search of birds, including a trip throughout the West that included a day spent falling in love with California Condors at Grand Canyon National Park. More recently she has been trying to extend the joy of birding to others in her area through her work at the county parks and societies such as Envirothon. In October 2009, her article Diary of a Young Birder was published in the American Birding Association’s Newsletter “Winging It.” Besides birding she also enjoys Academic Challenge, art, band, and volunteer work. Sarah is a member of the OYBC's Youth Advisory Panel. Sarah presented at the 2009 OYBC conference about the California Condors. She also presented at the 2010 Shreve Migration Sensation festival and at a Kelley’s Island Audubon Society meeting.

2011 MBS Topic: Birding With Your Family: Tips to Get the Whole Family Out Birding!

Join student leaders of the Ohio Young Birders Club, Sarah Winnicki and Wyatt Miller, as they present this lively, informative, and interactive program covering all the tips you need to get the entire family out birding. Sarah and Wyatt will cover the basics of choosing optics field guides that will work for all ages; where, when, and how to look for birds; and also provide the youth perspective insight into why they believe birding is the PERFECT family activity!

Nicole Perretta

Nicole Perretta has been birding and bird calling for 30 years. She can imitate 158 bird calls and has performed on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and The Ellen DeGeneres Show. Nicole teaches bird calling workshops throughout the western United States, has worked professionally as an aviculturist, and is a bird illustrator. Her work has been published in a variety of books and ornithological journals.

2011 MBS Topic: Bird Calling Workshop with the Bird Call Lady!

In this workshop we will learn the tools of imitating birds vocally so you can interact with wild birds and enhance your bird watching experience. We will discuss where and when to use calls and which calls get the best responses. You will be stretching your vocal chords beyond their normal limits, so bring drinking water and laughter.

Diane Porter

Diane Porter, along with her husband Michael Porter, runs the very popular website 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, 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.

2011 MBS Topic: Deep Birding Your Local Patch

No room in your budget or schedule to take off for Belize? Well, peak birding experiences await you in your local area and even in your own back yard. Study the year-round life cycle of your resident birds, become aware of the seasonal changes in birds' appearance and behavior, and enjoy the local tides of migration. Learn how to start seeing your bird neighbors as individuals, each with its own personality and habits. Beyond merely identifying bird songs, begin to understand what your birds are saying. Contribute to the scientific record, in the tradition of Margaret Morse Nice, who studied song sparrows near her home. Become the world's greatest bird expert on your own spot on Earth. Deep-birding expands your vision and make your everyday observations profound and fun.

Marie Read

Marie Read is an acclaimed wildlife photographer from near Ithaca, New York, who specializes in birds and bird behavior. Her numerous photo credits include Bird Watcher's Digest, Living Bird, Birds & Blooms, Nature's Best, National Wildlife, Ranger Rick, and National Geographic as well as many other magazines, calendars, and books worldwide. During her 25-year photography career, she's traveled to Australia, East Africa, and Central America in search of subjects, but has taken many of her most memorable and beautiful images in her own backyard.

She is the author of many articles and photo essays about birds and bird photography, as well as two books Secret Lives of Common Birds: Enjoying Bird Behavior Through the Seasons, and Common Birds & Their Songs (with Lang Elliott).

2011 MBS Topic: Photographing Birds' Secret Lives

Follow Marie (by the way, her first name is pronounced MAH-ree, not mah-REE) as she takes you on a journey inside the lives of many of North America's most photogenic birds. She'll tell you the inside story of HOW she captured her stunning images. She also shares images from her latest photo projects, and offers a wealth of tips everyone can use to improve their own bird photography.

Bonus workshop: MBS registrants attending Marie's program will have the opportunity to sign up for a field workshop with her on Saturday morning.

John Robinson

2011 MBS Topic: Birding for Everyone: The Top 10 Ways to Successfully Connect Our Youth to Nature

What happens when it is no longer just species or unique habitats, but environmental conservation itself that is endangered? This is the concern raised by award-winning ornithologist and author, John C. Robinson. In this presentation based on his latest book and years of interactions with environmental educators from around the world, Robinson explains why minority involvement in environmental issues will become ever more vital to long-term conservation efforts and the preservation of our natural resources. In particular, he will identify the top barriers environmental educators and ambassadors of nature face when attempting to connect inner city and minority youth or young adults to bird watching or the exploration of nature. Robinson has worked as a wildlife biologist and professional ornithologist for over 30 years, including stints with the USDA and US Fish & Wildlife Service. He is the author of numerous books, including Common Birds of Mount Diablo, Secret of the Snow Leopard, and the comprehensive North American Bird Reference Book CD-ROM.

Bridget Stutchbury

Bridget Stutchbury was born in Montreal and raised in Toronto. She completed her M.Sc. at Queen's University and her Ph.D. at Yale, and was a postdoctoral fellow at the Smithsonian Institution. She is a professor and Canada Research Chair in Ecology and Conservation Biology at York University, Toronto. Since the 1980s, she has studied the behavior, ecology, and conservation of migratory birds. She is author of the books Silence of the Songbirds (2007) and The Private Lives of Birds (2010).

2011 MBS Topic: The Bird Dectective: Investigating the Private Lives of Birds

Bridget Stutchbury will speak about her recent book, The Private Lives of Birds, and will explain why some birds readily divorce their partners, why females sneak copulations with neighboring males, and why mothers sometimes desert their babies. She will reveal her latest research that uses geolocators to track individual wood thrushes and purple martins as they migrate to Central and South America for the winter.

(Affiliation: Dept. of Biology, York University)

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 Hummingbirds & Butterflies, which he co-authored with his co-presenter, Connie Toops.

2011 MBS Topic: Attracting Hummingbirds and Butterflies

Author and nature photographer Connie Toops has been designing backyard wildlife habitats for two decades. There's a rumor Bird Watcher's Digest editor Bill Thompson III was born with binoculars in hand. Thompson & Toops teamed up to produce the new Bird Watcher's Digest/Peterson Field Guide Backyard Birding Guide: Attracting Hummingbirds and Butterflies (Houghton-Mifflin, April 2011). They offer a lighthearted tag-team presentation to answer questions about luring these fascinating creatures into your backyard.

Connie Toops

Connie Toops is an accomplished nature writer and photographer with more than three decades of experience documenting natural history subjects. She is the author and principal photographer of nine books, including Hummingbirds: Jewels in Flight, Bluebirds Forever, Great Smoky Mountains, and Florida Everglades. One of Connie's essays appears in the popular Houghton Mifflin book, Good Birders Don't Wear White: 50 Tips from North America's Top Birders.

Since 1978 Connie's articles and photos have appeared in dozens of conservation-oriented magazines. Her stock photography has graced trade and textbooks, advertising, annual reports, calendars, cards, and museum exhibits. Connie writes and provides photos for several birding magazines and travels the country speaking on birding, wildlife gardening, and nature photography subjects.

Connie is also a skilled naturalist. Before beginning her career in photojournalism, she worked at Colonial, Rocky Mountain, Shenandoah, Everglades, and Crater Lake National Parks. Her husband Pat was a career park ranger for 28 years. Connie and Pat landscaped several former suburban yards to attract backyard wildlife so she could photograph birds, butterflies, and other wild creatures in natural settings. In 2002 the Toops moved to Lost Cove Farm, a 128-acre mountainside in western North Carolina, where they grow much of their own food and invite wildlife into their big backyard.

2011 MBS Topic: Attracting Hummingbirds and Butterflies

Author and nature photographer Connie Toops has been designing backyard wildlife habitats for two decades. There's a rumor that Bird Watcher's Digest editor Bill Thompson, III, was born with binoculars in hand. Thompson & Toops teamed up to produce the new Bird Watcher's Digest/Peterson Field Guide Backyard Birding Guide: Attracting Hummingbirds and Butterflies (Houghton-Mifflin, April 2011). They offer a lighthearted tag-team presentation to answer questions about luring these fascinating creatures into your backyard.

Louise Zemaitis

Louise Zemaitis is an artist, naturalist, and leader for Victor Emanuel Nature Tours. She lives in Cape May, New Jersey, where she is a popular field trip leader teaching birding workshops as an Associate Naturalist with New Jersey Audubon's Cape May Bird Observatory. She also enjoys leading birding groups and lecturing at birding festivals, and is known for her enthusiasm for all natural history subjects. Louise and her husband, Michael O'Brien, have been guiding young birders at birding events and conferences for many years. In addition to leading, Louise is coordinator of the Monarch Monitoring Project in Cape May, compiler of the Cape May Christmas Bird Count, and member of the Cape May Artists' Cooperative. An honors graduate of Temple University's Tyler School of Art, she enjoys working as a freelance artist, and her illustrations have been widely published.

2011 MBS Topic: Birding by Habitat

Birding can become a lifelong pursuit. One can easily focus on the finer points of identification or the quest for life birds without seeing the big picture. In this presentation, Louise will talk about birds within their natural habitats, shared with other organisms. Learning more about the context within which we see birds will heighten one's awareness of how birds live and improve birding skills.

Julie Zickefoose

Julie Zickefoose is an artist, naturalist, and writer who specializes in natural history. Her writing is based on keen observation of animal and human behavior, and she likes to interweave solid natural history information with larger philosophical themes to challenge and inspire the reader. Julie contributes three-minute natural history commentaries to National Public Radio's All Things Considered. She illustrates her books and magazine articles with her own sketches and watercolor paintings. Letters from Eden (Houghton Mifflin, 2006) will soon be followed by a memoir about the birds she has raised, healed, studied and followed throughout her life. She lives at Indigo Hill, an 80-acre wildlife sanctuary in Appalachian Ohio with her husband Bill Thompson, III, their children Phoebe and Liam, and their dog Chet Baker.

2011 MBS Topic: The Bluebird Effect

Theodore Roosevelt said that to truly know someone, you had to share a tent with them. If Julie Zickefoose can claim nothing else, she is intimately familiar with a number of different species of birds. In many cases, this is because she has cared for them when they are orphaned or injured. Her upcoming book, "The Bluebird Effect: Uncommon Bonds with Common Birds" is an illuminated memoir of a lifetime spent living with, healing and nurturing birds. In this illustrated talk, she'll share the experience of being a mother to hummingbirds, chimney swifts, waxwings and bluebirds, among many others. The job is not in high demand—the dawn-to-dusk hours and monotony, with feedings every half-hour—rule out many applicants. But the rewards are rich. The reward is in understanding how a bird thinks, how it develops, and how it might react to any given situation. It's an understanding so deep that it goes beyond words. That empathy with wild birds is her pay for a job very few choose to take on. That, and the stories that come out of the experience—stories begging to be shared.