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The Press Newspaper

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The 2012 Biggest Week in American Birding Festival is almost here.

The third annual event, which was hosted by the Black Swamp Bird Observatory (BSBO) near Oak Harbor last year, has moved its headquarters to the Maumee Bay Lodge and Conference Center for this year’s May 4-13 event.

The Biggest Week in Birding attracts thousands of birding enthusiasts and brings millions of dollars into Northwest Ohio, according to Kim Kaufman, executive director of the BSBO.

“We have some new programs, some new field trips this year,” Kaufman said. “We are partnering with Sandusky County Parks and offering several birding trips by canoe. We’re going to canoe areas of Green Creek in Sandusky County. One of the park staff and one of our research team, Tom Kashmer, will be leading the paddlers.”

The canoe trip is just one of many events that will take place at this year’s 10-day celebration.

“We are very excited about being named the registration site for this year’s festival,” MBSP Lodge Manager Patrick Czarny said. “The staff and management are already preparing to serve and assist the thousands of people who will be utilizing Maumee Bay State Park Lodge during the 10-day event.”

Czarny said there has been a steady increase in bird watchers over the past several years, “but our current reservations show a significant increase in visitation due to the registration site being at Maumee Bay Lodge.”

“Maumee Bay State Park Lodge is the perfect venue for the registration of the festival,” Czarny said. “We offer beautiful views, expansive display space, abundant parking and, most of all, we are close to our own boardwalk and popular birding areas inside of the park.”

Czarny said the lodge will open at 5:30 a.m. for breakfast so visitors can prepare for an early start to their activities. The BSBO will use several areas of the lodge and grounds for the many seminars and events that will be held during the festival.

In addition to the Maumee Bay Lodge and Converence Center, the 2012 birding festival will be co-hosted by visitor’s bureaus from Destination Toledo, Lucas Country, and Lake Erie Shores and Islands in Ottawa County.

Kaufman said conservation is the heart of The Biggest Week In American Birding event.

“For Black Swamp Bird Observatory and our partners, the effort we put forth on the festival is worth it because the event raises awareness and appreciation for birds and habitat conservation in a major way,” she said. “Habitat conservation is a big deal. Without habitat, we don’t have habitat for birds and we don’t have birders. If the birders don’t come, we don’t have a festival.

“All of it is connected to the quality of this region. We’re proud to feature Oak Openings Preserve. We’re doing trips there nearly every day of the festival. They will be led by the super talented Elliot Tramer, a former University of Toledo professor and one of our BSBO board members. He’s one of the area’s leading experts on Oak Openings.”

In 2011, The Biggest Week helped raise more than $20,000 for local bird research, education and conservation in Northwest Ohio. The festival also raised funds to purchase 200 copies of Guia de campo a las aves de Norteamerica, a Spanish-language bird guide that serves as a valuable tool for diversity outreach programs in the desert southwest and northern Mexico.

The 2012 event will feature guided bus trips with the festival’s partner, Black Swamp Conservancy. The bus trips will visit Black Swamp Conservancy lands.

“We’re going all over the place,” said Kaufman, who added that just under 64,000 people came to Ottawa and Lucas counties to go birding last year.

Bird viewing locations will include Maumee Bay State Park, Magee Marsh Wildlife Area, Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge, Kelleys Island, East Harbor State Park, the BSBO, the Magee Marsh Boardwalk, Meadowbrook Marsh, Metzger Marsh Wildlife Area, Oak Openings Preserve Metropark, and Sheldon Marsh Nature Preserve.

Kaufman said she expects as many as 65,000-70,000 birders in Northwest Ohio this year. Holding the festival at Maumee Bay State Park will offer more space for birders than the BSBO, according to Kaufman.

“We maxed out the space here,” she said. “We wanted to try to centralize the event. People can stay at the place where they register, and the Lodge provides the perfect location for us. Patrick and his staff have been so great to work with. For us, the birding is great. We can’t control the weather or the birds, but we can say with a pretty high degree of certainty that birders will have a great time when they come here.”

Kaufman estimated that this year’s festival could bring in as much as $19 million-$20 million into the local economy. There are nearly 2.4 million birders throughout the state.

Kaufman said birders can expect to see more than 230 species of birds this year, including mute and trumpeter swans, wood ducks, Gadwalls, American wigeons, blue-winged teals, Canvasbacks, the Hooded Merganser, and the clay-colored sparrow.

For more information call 419-898-4070 or visit www.biggestweekinamericanbirding.com.

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