Earlier this year I told you about a series of small-group birding adventures dreamed up by our friends at Bird Watcher's Digest (BWD). In its inaugural year, these Reader Rendezvous events have been enormously popular--starting in February in Minnesota with Owls With Al, then August in West Virginia: Birding Valhalla with Julie Zickefoose, and last weekend's Optics Opstravaganza, right here at Eagle Optics! It was a thrill for us to host the participants, talking optics and showing them some of the natural treasures in our neck of the woods--beautiful south central Wisconsin--during fall's peak color.
Beginning with a Wisconsin cookout at our shop on Friday evening, the Rendezvouzers mingled and shopped, sampled some of our state's best beer and bratwurst, and had their optics cleaned and checked by the experts in anticipation of the full weekend of activity. BWD Editor Bill Thompson III adeptly serenaded us, and BWD's talented sales director, Wendy Clark, jumped in for a duet, to everyone's delight.
Saturday morning, the first stop was the International Crane Foundation in nearby Baraboo, where all 15 of the world's crane species can be observed. What a great resource, and so close to home.
[caption id="attachment_5425" align="aligncenter" width="336" caption="(Blue Crane photo by Diane Porter)"][/caption]
[caption id="attachment_5456" align="aligncenter" width="301" caption="Whooping Crane pair (photo Ben Lizdas)"][/caption]
Then it was off to lunch at the Leopold Center and a tour of the fabled Leopold Shack, where father of conservation Aldo Leopold penned much of his book, A Sand County Almanac. Hallowed ground, to be sure--which was not lost on anyone as they strolled around the grounds under a canopy of brilliantly colored leaves.
And as if Saturday couldn't get any better, it did--with a hike up Ferry Bluff to a spectacular overlook of the Wisconsin River, replete with Bald Eagle and Ospey sightings, cruising by pretty much at eye level.
That evening, back at the hotel, special guests Diane and Michael Porter gave a fascinating presentation about the ways in which they test and evaluate sport optics for Birdwatching.com.
The adventure continued on Sunday with a Sparrow ID field trip led by our own Mike McDowell, at the gorgeous Pheasant Branch Conservancy. Participant Sheila Barr wrote, "Your assistance on the field trips was especially appreciated (I will never look at sparrows quite the same way now-can’t wait to try out the tips when bad weather brings many species to our feeders.)"
[caption id="attachment_5453" align="aligncenter" width="218" caption="Sandhill Crane flyover from the Drumlin overlook"][/caption]
After lunch and checkout time, the Rendezvousers were treated to one last excursion on the shore of Lake Mendota. Here, they enjoyed views of waterfowl through a variety of scopes, and Mike's digiscoping demonstration.
Then, tired and happy, the Reader Rendezvous participants headed off their separate ways (they had convened from North Carolina, New Mexico, Missouri, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota). BWD's Wendy Clark summarized:
“Our Reader Rendezvous weekend in Wisconsin was full of great birds, wonderful people, and unforgettable experiences. Our friends at Eagle Optics, The International Crane Foundation, The Aldo Leopold Foundation, our wonderful team of sponsors, and our enthusiastic attendees made the event an overwhelming success. I wish everyone could experience a Reader Rendezvous!”
See more photos from the Optics Opstravaganza here.
Perhaps you, dear reader, would like to experience a Reader Rendezvous? There are more being planned! The next one, in Florida in February, is entitled Birding Basics and Beyond. Small group birding in and around one of the most bird-rich areas of Florida: Titusville. Register early! Before you know it, you'll be in Florida, learning alongside new friends, and you'll understand the magic each of this year's participants have discovered. Reader Rendezvous events are not just birding. They offer an intimate birding experience that will stay in your heart for a long, long time.
For the best beer and bratwurst though, well, you'll need to come to Wisconsin!
Eagle Optics Staff
Binoculars: Bring them. See what they bring you.