I am embarrassed that it took so long to write about such a great event but it had to be done, no matter how irresponsibly tardy. The event, the 2011 Ohio Young Birders Club Conference in Columbus, OH was without a doubt, the highlight of my birding year! I repeat, the HIGHLIGHT of MY birding year! I would not consider myself a hardcore birder but would say that I am an intense birder to the very extent of my abilities – in 2011 I officially birded Indiana, Florida, Texas, California, North Carolina, Mexico, and the Dominican Republic. I say this to say that I had many great birding experiences over the past year and many individual highlights that could easily qualify as the “best” of 2011 but none of these events remotely compared to the one single event that I attended in Columbus, Ohio on November 5, 2011.
It is honestly quite difficult to sum up such an awesome event in just a few short paragraphs but I am going to try my best. The event is inspirational and touching in a way that cannot really be described. Kim Kaufman, along with her team of staff and volunteers were able to wrap this event in a package that would surprise and impress the Grinch himself. From logistics to door prizes and bird banding to presentations – the event rocked! Seamless and smooth in every way, it was obvious the event was something more than just an event; it was more like a gem that had been polished with a lot of obvious care. As Kim stated at the event, the OYBC is her “baby” and it was evident she was telling the truth!
The highlights of the event were the presentations given by the young birders – each outstanding and very professional. Presentation topics included Artic Shorebirds, Lake Erie Water Snake recovery, Bird Banding, and Service Learning. The keynote presentation was: No Scope, No Car, No Problem! The Keynote Speaker, Rachael Butek (ABA Young Birder of the Year) gave a flawless presentation that had the entire audience almost speechless and picking their jaws up off the floor. From her first words to her amazing presentation layout, Rachael showed an entire room that seniority in the world of birding is no longer necessary and that the number of years birding DOES NOT make you the top dog. I am not sure Rachael came to Ohio to prove anything but she definitely did, whether she intended to or not. She instantly became my newest mentor – she just does not know it.
I could go on and on but I won’t. Anyone that knows me knows that I do not please nor impress easily but when I am impressed or excited I have to make sure the world knows about it. If you are reading this and you attended the event, I know you are on my page and agree with everything I have said. If you have not attended and you call yourself a birder you have to make the conference a priority next year. Trust me, if you don’t you will be left behind by a generation of birders that will be ruling the birding world very soon and will sadly regret that you had a chance to meet them and did not – don’t do this to yourself!