Wanted: WV New River Gorge Bird Nerds and Botanists

This guest post is by Dave Pollard from the New River Birding and Nature Festival, held annually here in the New River Gorge.

Bird Nerds, Botanists, Nature Lovers, and those just seeking serenity will be pleased to hear the New River Birding and Nature Festival will return April 26 — May 1 this year.

Applicants will share their days with some of the greatest experts in the birding and nature world, taking in the flora, fauna and scenery so unique to the New River Gorge region — getting geeked over great looks at great birds, plants with weird names and perhaps even discussions about salamander feces.

If you can find it here, you can count on the fact that field leaders will leave no stone (or bush) unturned in the quest to find what you are looking for — all within reason, of course.

Nine years ago, I was pushing for the development of a birding and nature festival for the New River Gorge. It made perfect sense. Cornell Lab of Ornithology had designated southern West Virginia as a critical area for neo-tropical migrants. Spectacular species such as golden-winged warblers, cerulean warblers, scarlet tanager and Swainson’s warbler (well, this one is hard to find, but not really spectacular looking) reside here in abundance. None other than the famous botanist, Thomas Nuttall, spent years here identifying new species of plants.

Seven years ago, we pulled it off and now the New River Birding and Nature Festival is recognized as one of the “Top Ten Fun Birding Events in North America” by Bird Watcher’s Digest.

How much more fun can a genuine bird nerd have than “Birding by Butt,” where you literally can spend hours in an easy chair sipping hot coffee, having hot food brought to you, and having bird experts call birds in with their Bird Pods and I Phones until they are nearly perched on your lap?

And if you really do want them perched on your lap (well actually in your hand) expert banders do that for you, sometimes even letting you release a just-banded ruby-throated hummingbird.

From Harvard-educated naturalist and artist Julie Zickefoose (you may have heard her on National Public Radio as well; to Bird Watcher’s Digest Editor (and personal birding guide to President Jimmy Carter) Bill Thompson, III; to Bill Hilton, Jr. who was proclaimed one of the “50 Best Brains in Science” by Discover Magazine, the Festival brings in the best of the best.

And lest you think it is a snooty gathering, take in the final night when the Swingin’ Orangutans rock the joint with a mixture of nature songs and plain old hard rock. Be forewarned though that the Jeff Gordon who accompanies them is certainly not THAT Jeff Gordon, but in the nature world is THE Jeff Gordon.

So, if your party is coming to ACE Adventure Resort April 26 through May 1, 2010 and you want to blend some serenity into your experiences, package some events at the New River Birding and Nature Festival. You can do a day, half-week, full week — your choice. Just call the good people at ACE or check us out directly at www.birding-wv.com.

We can even try to set you up with a “Genuine Bird Nerd” bumper sticker once you get here.

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