Audubon supporter Joan Landis submits this beautiful report from her experience at the 2011 Audubon Assembly. Did you attend this year’s gathering in Lake Mary? What was your experience like? We had a wonderful time and are looking forward to seeing you next year! Enjoy:
OK, I admit it. I have reservations about birders in general having seen some pretty peculiar bird watchers wandering Florida trails. I just don’t understand all those funny lenses, binoculars, scopes, journals and straps.
Nonetheless, I support Audubon initiatives and wanted to meet like-minded people so I decided to attend the 2011 Audubon Assembly in Lake Mary, Florida. I also decided to join a bird outing to Seminole State Forest thinking a morning hike would be fun.
I piled into a car with the birders and almost immediately birds were being sighted, named and discussed. I was entertained and clearly in another world – most of the birds they saw I couldn’t even track, much less name!
This behavior happened all along the trail, the birders huddling with binoculars up, calling birds, discussing specifics and jotting down notes. I was amused watching such a funny caricature of birders.
But something changed when we arrived at Florida Scrub-jay habitat. The energy level electrified when several jays were sighted. Voices were hushed with everybody straining to see. I knew the Florida Scrub Jay was Florida’s only endemic species and highly endangered, but I didn’t grasp just how special it was to see them in the wild. Until I admitted out loud I had never seen one.
Out of the blue a pair of binoculars was thrust at me and everyone insisted I take a look. Self-consciously, I took the binoculars and breathlessly watched the rare, exquisite beauty. Swept up in awe it hit me: what a spectacular experience, what a beautiful bird, and what cool people!
That was my “Ah Ha” moment. The moment I realized serious Audubon birders can be pretty funny to watch, but if you get closer and move with them, you’ll find they’re a professional, generous and interesting flock.