General Information: Frequently Asked Questions

Common Questions About the MBS

Aerial view of the dock at Lakeside, Ohio.

Q: What exactly is the Midwest Birding Symposium?

The Midwest Birding Symposium (MBS) is a non-profit birding event held every other year in the Midwest. It features speakers, workshops, seminars, a robust vendor area, and birding at nearby hotspots.

The MBS has been held in Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, and Iowa. The first symposium was held in the Chicago suburbs of Illinois in 1989, and repeated there in 1991. The event then migrated to southwestern Michigan in 1993 and 1995; Lakeside, Ohio in 1997 and 1999; Green Bay, Wisconsin in 2001 and 2003; and Quad Cities, Iowa/Illinois in 2005 and 2007. In 2009, 2011, and 2013 it returned to Lakeside, Ohio.

In 2013 the Midwest Birding Symposium will be held in Lakeside, Ohio. In 2013 the MBS will be hosted by Bird Watcher's Digest, The Ohio Ornithological Society, and The Lakeside Association.

Each year the MBS donates a portion of the net proceeds to environmental/birding-related causes.

Q: What does my MBS registration fee cover?

Your registration fee covers entrance into Lakeside and access to programs offered during the Midwest Birding Symposium, except as indicated. It also covers entry into the MBS vendor area. The MBS meal plan, lodging, and fees for special events, such as the Lake Erie Islands Sunset Boat Cruise are not included.

The MBS fee is $125. Register now »

Q: What are the "Special Offerings" listed on the schedule for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday mornings?

Special offerings will be activities such as Back to the Wild Exhibit, Kelleys Island Birding Excursion, etc. We will post more details about specific activities as we finalize them. Click here for details.

The MBS is a great event for beginning birders.

Q: I'm a beginning bird watcher. Is this event only for advanced birders?

Birders and bird watchers of all levels of interest and experience are welcome. One of the best ways for new birders to improve their skills and enjoyment is to spend time with other enthusiasts. That is one of the goals of this great event.

Q: Why should I attend the Midwest Birding Symposium?

We plan to have a whole lot of fun at the MBS. You won't want to miss the chance to learn from experts like John Acorn, George Armistead, Rue Mapp, Jen Brumfield, Scott Shalaway, John Schaust, and Alvaro Jaramillo; or to hear the entertaining programs offered by Al Batt, Sharon Stitler, Jen Sauter, John and Cathy Sill, and Julie Zickefoose. The vendor area at the MBS is going to be filled to the walls with companies offering the very best in products, services, and merchandise for bird enthusiasts.

Lakeside's charming grounds make the MBS feel like Bird Watching Camp.

Q: What is Lakeside and where is it?

Lakeside is a private community in northern Ohio, on the shores of Lake Erie. It was formed in 1873 by members of the Methodist Church and remains a church-affiliated vacation resort. It is one of only a few continuously operating independent Chautauquas that persist in the 21st century. It is located in Ottawa County's Danbury Township, near the town of Marblehead. For more information visit Lakeside's website.

If you are using a GPS or an online map-search program, please make sure you've got the correct Lakeside, Ohio (there are two!). The correct address is 236 Walnut Ave, Lakeside, OH 43440.

Q: Will the birding be good during the symposium?

September along Lake Erie can offer some excellent birding. Herons, egrets, terns, and gulls are still common; fall songbird migration is in full swing, hawk migration is tuning up, and the very first waterfowl are beginning to come into the area. The 2009 MBS even featured an appearance by a very cooperative Kirtland's warbler! During the 2011 MBS a red-necked phalarope flew past the Lakeside pavilion! For more information, see the section on our local birding hotspots.

The MBS is an excellent opportunity to sample a wide array of optics.

Q: I'm looking to upgrade my optics. Will there be someone at the symposium selling optics who can help me make the right decision?

Yes! We will have many of the major optics manufacturers in our vendor area as well as several optics retailers. In addition, we'll have a number of vendors selling everything a birder could want: from gift items to bird feeders, from field guides to trips to foreign birding destinations.

Birders Giving Back

We are encouraging all MBS attendees to bring their old, but still usable binoculars to donate to The Birders' Exchange, a bird conservation program of the American Birding Association. Birders' Exchange collects used and new birding equipment and redistributes it, free of charge, to researchers, conservationists, and educators working to conserve birds and their habitats in the Neotropics. These donations help our Latin American partners to develop local conservation strategies and to educate local citizens about bird conservation and ecosystem-wide habitat protection.

Through the cooperation of birders across North America and bird-oriented organizations, conservation groups, and corporations, Birders' Exchange has aided over 350 groups in 30 countries. By donating such items as binoculars, spotting scopes, field guides, cameras, and laptop computers, you will help to empower grassroots research, conservation, and environmental education in Latin America and the Caribbean.

September along the Lake Erie shore is a
beautiful time of year.

Q: What will the weather be like along Lake Erie at that time of year?

Mid-September along Lake Erie is often sunny, warm and beautiful. However, as a bird watcher you know to be prepared for any kind of weather. Nearly all of the symposium programming will be inside. Field trips and outdoor workshops will be conducted in part outdoors, and you should plan to dress accordingly.

Plan on cool mornings and evenings, and warm afternoons. Bring your rain gear just in case.

Q: My spouse is not a birder. Are there things for non-birders to do at the MBS?

Yes! The Lakeside campus is beautiful for walking or biking and the Marblehead peninsula has a plethora of shops, sites, and points of interest for anyone who does not heed the siren call of our feathered friends. During registration, you may register your spouse/friend with a FREE non-birder pass. Use this option if your spouse/friend wishes to sign up for the boat ride, any of the Sunday programs, or a meal plan.

Q: What about kids? Will there be things for young birders to do?

Saturday is Young Birder's Day at the MBS. The American Birding Association, Columbus Audubon Society, and Lake Erie WingWatch are hosting an entire day of activities for any young birders attending the symposium. Registration is FREE for young birders on Saturday, September 21 for events in the Rhein Center, Hoover Auditorium, Wesley Lodge, and South Auditorium.

Q: What is the "Group Rate" on the MBS registration form all about?

We are offering any group of 6 or more people a discount on their registration fee. So, whether you are part of a bird club, or just several couples wanting to attend together, if you can drum up enough interest, we will reward you with a discount on your registration fee. To learn more, or to sign up, please call Ann at 1-800-879-2473, for your group discount code.

Q: Will I be able to see the World's Largest Walleye at the Midwest Birding Symposium?

Perhaps. Nearby Port Clinton calls itself "The Walleye Capital of the World" though there are some challengers to the throne. Lucky for you Ohio's Largest Cheese Shop is also nearby to Lakeside, where the 2013 Midwest Birding Symposium will be held. What more could a birder want?

Q: Where is the best place to stay during the symposium?

Many participants will want to stay within the Lakeside grounds and there are a variety of options for doing that. There are many nearby hotels, motels, and B&Bs within a short drive of the Lakeside entrance.

Your registration fee does not cover lodging, so you'll want to make your own arrangements for that. See our Food/Lodging page for details.

Q: What is your cancellation policy?

Cancellations are allowed up until 72 hours prior to the event minus your non-refundable registration fee.

Q: I am a person with limited mobility. What is the best way to get around Lakeside?

Golf cart shuttles will run 10 a.m. - 10:30 p.m. on Thursday, 6 a.m. - 10:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and 6 a.m. - 2 p.m. on Sunday. You can also rent a golf cart, wheelchair, or electric scooter by reservation through Sypherd's Cycles and Rental Center on site (visit or call 419-798-4124).

Lakeside also has a service called Mack Mobile that provides transportation assistance for guests with limited mobility. Mack Mobile will pick you up at your door and shuttle you anywhere on the Lakeside grounds. To arrange transportation through Mack Mobile, please call 419-341-8247.