The outing was inspired by the fact that Dawn and Jeff of Dawn's Bloggy Blog were traveling through the area. Dawn had been in on a couple of earlier "BwBTC" outings on the east coast, and our local bloggers were delighted to have an excuse to do the same. Lynne of Hasty Brook (in the foreground of the second photo) organized the day's schedule and locations, and brought coffee and treats to our morning rendezvous spot.
Other participants besides my husband Dave included Richard of At the Water, Mike and Lizette of Mike and Lizette's Travels and Thoughts, Virginia of Bees in the City (who tweeted the outing with hashtag #bbtc throughout the day), Ruthie of Nature Knitter, Sharon of Hellziggy (the bearer of the most massive camera lens I have ever seen), and birding-mentor-to-many Hap of New Hope (as he signs his insightful comments to our blogs). I've linked to these folks' blogs; several of them are also on Twitter and/or Chirptracker (a Twitter-like mini-blogging service for birdwatchers). This was the first time most of us had ever met in person.
Also, Roger of Minnesota Birdnerd (speaking at the center of the photo at left) was with us on and off throughout the day; he was doing bird banding at the Lowry Nature Center in the morning, told us great stories about banding and bird migration, popped in at lunch, and turned up again at Birds and Beers, where we had a interesting conversation about chimney swifts. The Birds and Beers group ended up splitting into two tables because of the size of the group, so we didn't get to interact too much with some of the regulars from that bunch.
These people were so nice! One of the best moments of the day was sitting around a picnic table before heading off to Birds and Beers, laughing about how nice it is to be with other people who get it - who don't bat an eye if you break off in the middle of a sentence because you just spotted something interesting; who find nature endlessly fascinating.
I didn't get any photos I'd consider really outstanding, but the bird photo on the left was a surprise. A volunteer from the Lowry Nature Center was holding a merlin outside under some trees. The lighting wasn't very good, but I tried taking some shots through the spotting scope. I forgot to turn off the flash (we were too far away for it to do any good), so the camera misgauged the lighting required and the initial photo was nearly black. I adjusted the fill light in Picasa and up came this extraordinary merlin head. It's not how you would expect a photo taken in daylight to look, but it's a keeper, in my book.
We spent about an hour along the edge of the pond shown in the photo with everyone on the dock. We saw families of wood ducks, hooded mergansers, and painted turtles, as well as a green heron, belted kingfishers, barn swallows, goldfinches in the thistles, a tiger swallowtail butterfly, black and white dragonflies (or something dragonfly-related), discarded dragonfly larvae exoskeletons, and more.
Further along a wooded trail, we saw a tiny green tree frog, which Virginia had no squeamishness about picking up. We noticed it seemed to have no right eye - there wasn't even a bulge there.
Click on any of the photos for a larger view, and visit my Picasa album for more photos of the day. I hope my photos aren't too out of alignment here; since there were so many I left-aligned them and tried to keep text running to the right, but my "preview" mode doesn't always match the final view on various browsers, so let me know if anything looks really out of whack.
It was great to meet everyone, and we agreed that this should become a regular event in our region. Let me know if you'd like to join us next time!