Thursday, March 27, 2014

OOS 10th Anniversary Conference in Shawnee State Forest

Spring has finally arrived and it's never too early (or late) to begin planning out how you want to spend it!  If you regularly read this blog then you have surely noticed how much time I spend in the hills and hollers of Ohio's southern-most counties of Adams and Scioto and it's no coincidence.  These two counties combine to be one of, if not the most biologically diverse area in our state and harbor many rare species of flora and fauna within.  From the limestone outcrops and cedar glades of the Edge of Appalachia preserve system to the continuous rolling forests of nearby Shawnee State Forest, you never know know what is in store for your eyes, ears, and cameras.

Shawnee State Forest in spring's full bloom

To coincide with extreme southern Ohio's dizzying diversity of plant and animal life come spring, the Ohio Ornithological Society has decided to return to the depths of Shawnee for its 10th annual conference on the weekend of April 25-27.  This phenomenal event draws birders, naturalists, and outdoor enthusiasts from all over the state and beyond to experience the luscious landscape of Shawnee and the Edge flush with returning migrating birds and spring wildflowers.  If the sound of this happens to peak your interest, and I think it might if you're still reading up to this point, then I suggest checking things out HERE and marking your calendars for the last weekend in April!

Prairie Warbler, just one of around 20 species of warbler in the area

Normally this time of year would have me plugging and encouraging readers to check out the acclaimed annual spring wildflower event Flora-Quest that takes place in Shawnee and on the Edge.  Due to the near simultaneous nature of the OOS event, Flora-Quest is doing something a bit different this May on the complete other end of state up along Lake Erie.  You can find more information HERE.

That being said, I am very happy and pleased to say that I will be reprising my role as a field trip leader/guide (usually for Flora-Quest) for the OOS event instead! My group will be out and about deep in the forests of Shawnee to see what birds and botany we can stir up.  No worries, while I know my birds better than most folks might assume a plant-geek would, we will have an accomplished and knowledgeable birder on hand in co-leader/guide Andy Jones.  To see an agenda for the programs and field trips click HERE.

Spring wildflowers waking up in a hanging prairie on the Edge

Hopefully we will see warmer temperatures finally arrive and stick around all April in order to have the typical menagerie of spring wildflowers coloring up the area's forests and prairies.  The combined botanical diversity of the Edge and Shawnee results in well over 1,000 native plant species and some plant assemblages seen nowhere else in the entire state.  The birding is on par with the plants too as over 100 species are known to nest here with rarities and curiosities like the Kentucky, Cerulean, and Worm-eating warbler, Chuck-will's-widow, blue grosbeak, red-headed woodpecker, and wild turkey calling the undulating hills of the "Little Smokies" home.

Fragrant blooms of a wild plum (Prunus spp.)

The conference is a wonderful collaboration on many people's parts from the field trips to the programs and presentations that go on throughout the weekend.  Honestly, the best thing about these kinds of events are the friends, camaraderie, and memories made over weekend with 200+ like-minded people who have a thirst and passion for the natural world.  I am looking forward to catching up with old friends and meeting new faces alike and encourage any of my readers to seek me out and personally introduce yourself!

Having done Flora-Quest for three consecutive years and spent countless days exploring the region from spring to fall, I think I can say with some authority just how mesmerizing this area of the state truly is.  I could not encourage anyone more to check out the event and website and seriously consider making yourself a participating member of what is sure to be one of the best weekends this spring!

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like heaven, Andrew, especially with having you for a guide. Have a wonderful Spring!