Young Birders Club table at the Birder’s Meeting. Photograph courtesy of the author.
Thanks to a sponsorship agreement between Mass Audubon and Zeiss, nearly 25 members of the Massachusetts Young Birders Club attended the 24th Annual Mass Audubon Birders Meeting on March 13, 2016. We had a table and several club members were able to attend. The meeting was situated in a beautiful building on the UMass Boston campus overlooking Dorchester Bay.
I wasn’t able to sit in on every presentation and sadly didn’t catch the entire Project Puffin talk, but what I did hear was exciting, informative, and inspirational. Dr. Stephen Kress of Project Puffin was there and his account of the ongoing puffin study was fascinating. I especially loved the part about the value of different fish in a puffin’s diet and how their diet varies with the availability of different fish species.
Throughout the day I met many encouraging people and I look forward to crossing paths with them again. I couldn’t recommend this event enough to any young birder. It’s an excellent place for making contacts, hearing some informative presentations, and finding out how to get involved with conservation opportunities. I can’t overstress how great an event it is and I also can’t thank Zeiss and Mass Audubon enough for helping out the club. And last but not least, I want to thank everyone who entered our screech owl nest box raffle; it was successful and we appreciate your support.
A few of the other young birders who attended have written about their time at the event.
It was an honor to be sponsored by Zeiss to attend this year’s Mass Audubon Birders Meeting as a part of the Massachusetts Young Birders Club. It was an incredible experience to hear talks about seabirds from some of the foremost experts in New England and the world. The vendors and booths were filled with knowledgeable and friendly people and the excitement was palpable. The talks we heard were fascinating. The photos presented by the speakers were unbelievable, and I could barely contain my excitement. I have always been interested in seabirds, but living over an hour from the coast doesn’t make them the most accessible group of birds for me to watch. I have been dying to sea watch since the meeting, and hope to volunteer out on Stellwagen Bank over the summer doing seabird counts.
Attending the Mass Audubon Birders Meeting was fun and enlightening, and it was great to have a focus on seabirds after a phenomenal year of birding on Cape Cod in 2015. Thanks to Zeiss, young birders were able to attend an event that was eye-opening and deeply informative. It means a lot that companies like Zeiss and organizations like the Mass Audubon are willing to go out of their way to support the next generation of birders. I was fortunate to be able to visit Cape Cod several times over the summer and fall, and it was fantastic to learn in more depth about the life history and identification of some of the birds I saw. The mood of the meeting was friendly and excited, and I hope to continue to attend in the coming years.
Attending the Mass Audubon Birders Meeting this year was, as it always is, entertaining and educating. The new location for the meeting at UMass Boston suited a meeting of birders and the theme of the meeting, seabirds. The only place more fitting might have been onboard a pelagic trip, but that probably would have been an exercise in the inconvenient. I found that the view from the building was spectacular, with a great swath of Boston Harbor clearly visible through the broad, tall windows of that sparkling construction. Scopes had been placed before the glass and access to them was free. A communal list of the birds seen in the harbor was maintained through the day, and the quantity of Red-breasted Mergansers, known to be abundant in the region, was almost matched by the number of birders who saw them from the campus that day. In regards to those birders, I say this; they were all jovial and friendly. Everyone shared a few good conversations—one could, I believe, find no atmosphere more merry than in that meeting hall, except perhaps a well-attended Irish music session in a tavern, or a gathering of hippies. Everyone seemed pleased with the day; even the food was good and for this I am thankful. The organizers were capable and all the speakers were educated and well spoken.
Seabirds are by their nature fascinating and the reasons for this are multiple. Seabirds are rarely seen by most people and what is least known evokes the most curiosity. There are many different groups of pelagic avifauna, each with different shapes, sizes, and postures. One finds onself not only drawn to the elegance of seabirds in the shape of their wings and their flight patterns but also to the diversity of that basic elegance. These are two reasons, as I understand it, that birders are drawn to these birds, whose colors are generally so bland and who never sing pretty songs.
The speakers themselves were knowledgeable, clear-spoken, and lightly humorous. These three traits are quintessential for a distributor of knowledge. One must know what he or she is teaching and thus one need be knowledgeable. One must speak clearly or else he will find that his or her audience has not gained the information given. One must be amusing, or else one will find the audience no longer fully devoted to listening to his clearly-stated facts. As I already said all the speakers had these three qualities, and I was thoroughly satisfied with the presentations.
I feel, however, that this writing will be incomplete unless I share a few of things that I learned from the meeting. I was taught the best direction for a storm in relation to sea birding on Cape Cod. I learned about identifying auks in flight. I was introduced to the concept of birding the continental shelf, an activity to which I found myself attracted (a worrying desire considering the price and its nature of consuming great portions of one’s time). I also found myself interested in studying puffins on the Maine islands. One more piece of knowledge new to me was the breeding ranges of so many pelagic species—information that was lacking in my knowledge and engrossing. Come to think of it, that is the word I would use to describe the 2016 Massachusetts Birders Meeting: “engrossing.” That fits perfectly doesn’t it? Engrossing!
Having attended previous Mass Audubon Birders Meetings and enjoyed their Bentley venue, I was initially unenthusiastic about the change in location. These doubts were swiftly assuaged, however, when I rode the elevator up to the ballroom where the meeting was held. The ballroom was spacious, containing many more tables than were available at the previous meeting place and drawing what seemed to me many more attendees than previous meetings had attracted. The adjacent vendors’ room too, was a great improvement from the pair of smaller rooms down a hall where they had previously been confined, granting purchasers a much more easily accessible shopping experience. As an added bonus, the view of Boston Harbor from the hall outside the ballroom allowed birders to scope the sea for Common Eiders, Brants and other coastal waterbirds. While I was disappointed that David Wingate was unable to come and speak on the Cahows, or Bermuda Petrels, that he famously rediscovered as a young man on Nonsuch Island, the other lecturers rose to the challenge, speaking to us about seabird identification, restoration, and migration. Personally, my favorite lecture was “Saving Seabirds: New Lessons From Puffins and Terns,” presented by Stephen Kress and Derrick Jackson. Though I have attended lectures on Maine’s Atlantic Puffin colonies before, I always enjoy a good story on a successful and daring reintroduction, especially coupled as it was with more recent information on the diets and reproductive success of the birds. I have landed on Eastern Egg Rock in the height of the breeding season, so Atlantic Puffins hold a special place in my heart and any lecture on them is sure to be a favorite of mine. I tremendously enjoyed myself at this year’s Mass Audubon Birders Meeting and would urge any birders who have not yet attended one to come to next year’s meeting. My only question is what next year’s theme will be.