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An American Birding Expo to Remember

Friday, October 7, 2016

I've never had a month fly by so fast. I got home from South Africa on September 9 and had to blast off, hit the ground running, with the afterburners on. I'd worked very hard before leaving to get all my stuff ready to show at the American Birding Expo in Columbus. Good thing, because that started Sept. 15. No time for jet lag. Just get to it. Bill and his team at Bird Watcher's Digest had spent much of the last year organizing this enormous event for vendors and birders alike. 

I loaded up the Subaru and took it to Columbus on a fine Thursday afternoon. As I was walking back and forth loading it, I found two apports on the sidewalk. I had a feeling something momentous would happen there, and these feathers solidified that feeling. Blue jay secondary is fairly common, but who finds cedar waxwing tail feathers? Since then, Liam has found two tiny wing feathers complete with red wax tips in the same place. 

Maybe it was just a fare-thee-well; maybe it was a heads up. Whatever it was, I received it with gratitude.

I took the backroads, for one more visual roll in the September joy-hay before I would spend the weekend indoors. I took this beautiful copper-penny shiny red horse on my way there as a good omen. I like the way his tail mimics the mare's tails in the sky. I could stare at this photo forever. 

My friend and guide Mario Cordoba from Costa Rica came to the Expo to promote his tour company, Crescentia Tours. It was lots of fun hanging out with him and introducing him to my friends from all over the States and the world. He had a couch in his booth. We called it Mario's Lounge. Not that either of us did much sitting around at the Expo! It was hoppin'!

With help from Mario and our dear friend Kim, my booth was set up in no time.

Kim, contemplating the best use of space.

 Can you believe all this art and product fit in the back of my Subaru Forester? Well, I'm packing it full again today, headed for the Ohio Volunteer Naturalists' meeting at OSU's Mansfield Campus. Driving up through Amish country, ohh yeah. I'll give a talk Saturday morning, sign and sell books, then drive straight back to Marietta to give the talk again Saturday evening to the second weekend Reader Rendezvous in a row. And Sunday morning, I'll be up at 6 to make and serve lunch to 30 at our place. Last weekend it was 59. I can say I've cooked for 59. That's something my aunts in Iowa thought nothing of and did regularly, but it was kind of a big deal for me. My respect for them only grows.

This is me, back at the Expo, geekin' all the way out between my most excellent friends James Adams, Manager at the Lodge and Spa at Pico Bonito, Honduras, and Mario Cordoba of Crescentia Tours, Costa Rica.  The combined natural history mojo on that couch might have caused spontaneous combustion had we been able to linger. Yes, that's the smile of a cat caught on the Thanksgiving table. A Zick sammitch made of boys!

Speaking of major mojo, my bes fren Shila came up to Columbus to spend the night and take in the Expo at leisure. There was so much to see, and she needed new binoculars. We fixed her up. Swarovski EL's, baby, all the way. That evening, we had some pitbull therapy from Sophie at our wonderful hosts' extremely groovy home. Thank you, Marla and Rufus, thank you. Exactly what Dr. Kim ordered!! Shila and a sweet pittie--my twin cups of hot cocoa with marshmallows.

Nothing will fix you up after a long day like a large, sweet-smelling vanilla fudge chunk of love, demanding a massage. Oh Sophie you're such a tease.

I couldn't resist Sophie. This is the face she made when Rufus gave her a time out for being a little too boisterous. What. Me? Too boisterous??
 Waaah!! Sophie's pouty face makes me laugh every time I see it. 
What's better than that?

Baby kisses, given and received. Sofia is the sweetest, cuddliest, sauciest little 9-month old you ever met. Full of beans, yet up for everything Mama does. Who wouldn't love to be carried around in a sling by Jessica?  Jessica was one of Bird Watcher's Digest's star interns back in college days. She's never forgotten us, and comes to almost all our events, often bringing a baby for me to hold and love on.

This is Jessica, the dark-haired beauty dead center in this photo from our June 2015 North Bend Reader Rendezvous. She's locked onto a bird and by God she's going to get a look at it, and show it to everyone else while she's at it. Such a keen, appreciative, grateful observer and participant in both nature and life.

Jess's eldest, Isabella, takes after her mother. She's keeping a nature journal, sketching mushrooms. Ohhh. Keep looking down, Isabella, keep noticing, don't ever stop. Maybe one day it'll be your job, too.

Babies like these and young mothers like Jessica give you faith in this crazy, upside-down, looking-glass world. The wonder and joy and interest in their eyes lights up everything and everyone around them.

In the three Expo tents on the grounds of Grange Insurance Audubon Center in Columbus, it was heating up. A stark contrast to last year, when horizontal rain and temperatures in the 50's failed to stop enormous crowds from convening.

Expo organizer, Grand Poobah and Iceman cometh--Bill Thompson III and his staff took excellent care of the exhibitors!

Christine from Oregonia Ohio with her pile of Zickloot. Far and away the winner for bulk sales. I was grateful and delighted to play Santa for her! And behind her, another happy customer buying a recycled feedsack shopping bag. I finally found a crowd that "got" them.

The American Birding Expo was fabulous. Most people there were in a buying mood, whether it be optics, birding gear or Zickabilia. Tour operators from perhaps 35 countries touted the virtues of birding in their homelands. It was an eclectic and international crowd, and I was proud to have a booth there. 

A Sachem plys a zinnia in the totally rockin' GIAC butterfly garden. Thank you, Columbus Audubon, for allowing Bird Watcher's Digest to host this amazing vendor mart in your beautiful spaces. And thanks to everyone who supported Indigo Hill Arts!


I must attend next year. Got dates? I'll put it on my calendar!

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