To the editor: The dust has barely settled (or, perhaps more accurately, the mud has hardly dried) on the inaugural Biggest Week in American Birding festival, but organizers are already looking ahead to 2011. Mark your calendars now for May 5 to 15, 2011.
But first, a recap of this year’s event:
The event partners would like to thank everyone who joined us for the Biggest Week in American Birding and to those who supported the event in a number of ways. The less-than-perfect weather did nothing to dampen enthusiasm, and by all estimations, the inaugural event was a complete success.
Some fun factoids – more than 50,000 people visited the area between May 1 and May 16; 44 states were represented in the event registration; and people visited from around the globe, including Spain, Kenya, Guam, Japan, Ecuador, England, Canada, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden, Germany, Denmark, and Mexico.
Other event highlights included many local people getting caught up in all the excitement generated through the news media and coming out to try birding for the very first time. The festival also introduced hundreds, if not thousands, of birders to other great birding areas and businesses along the Lake Shore by offering free copies of birding area maps and directions to places like Mallard Club Marsh, Pickerel Creek Wildlife Area, East Harbor State Park, Toussaint Wildlife Area and Oak Openings Preserve Metropark.
A bird festival first was our up-to-the-minute bird sightings “tweeted” from the field and posted via Twitter on a big screen TV at the BSBO headquarters and at the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge. This worked like a charm and helped thousands of people see most of the real specialty birds that were in the area, including the world’s rarest warbler, the Kirtland’s Warbler, discovered on the Magee Marsh Wildlife Area by bird expert Kenn Kaufman on May 14.
The event also resulted in a significant increase in business for many establishments along the lakeshore during what had historically been the shoulder season before the summer traffic really started. We worked hard to help business owners make the connection that birds bring birders and birders equal big business, and ultimately impressed upon them that conserving habitat is the key to the entire thing.
Based on preliminary figures, we estimate that the revenue generated by visiting birders registers in the tens of millions.
We owe a debt of gratitude to the multitude of volunteers who made this event possible. Volunteers came from across Ohio and from Texas, Florida, Colorado, Indiana, Illinois, California and Michigan. It was truly the ultimate example of teamwork and we are incredibly grateful for all the effort these remarkable people put into this event.
Special thanks to Schaffner Publications and OurGuest Inn & Suites in Port Clinton, and to all the local communities, chambers of commerce, county commissioners, county visitor’s bureaus and area businesses for their support.
We'll be posting a more comprehensive summary of the event as well as bird and birder photos soon at www.biggestweekinamericanbirding.com.
Executive Director, Black Swamp Bird Observatory