A Bird’s Eye View to Wilderness Wildlife Week 2015

A Bird’s Eye View to Wilderness Wildlife Week 2015

Back in January, I decided to take advantage of an unspoken-for weekend and take a short drive down to Sevierville, Tennessee to visit my father-in-law, Norm Kallemeyn. The timing wasn’t completely arbitrary. For years Norm and my mother-in-law, Bobbie, had been talking about Wilderness Wildlife Week, which they had attended and volunteered for many years. Bobbie passed away this past June and I was due to visit Norm. I thought January a good time for me to try to break up the gloom of winter with my ever-sunny disposition and cheery attitude (read – sarcasm). If my visit coincided with the 25th annual Wilderness Wildlife Week, all the better.

A “Birds’ Eye View” by Clay Thurston (hanging in my man cave)

“Focus” – driving down I-89 at night with freezing rain; the temperature around 32; no snow tires; being passed by semis. It was a long trip to Tennessee from Northern Virginia and I didn’t get in until fairly late. It was good to be there and Norm and I got an early start Saturday morning.

Events started on Saturday, January 24th and ran through Saturday, January 31. There were seminars all week, entertainment, hikes in the Smokies, and vendors to visit.

I had identified a couple presentations I wanted to see pertaining to outdoor photography, outdoor writing, wildlife, and the geology of the Smokies. First, Norm had to introduce me to a couple people, about 1,351 or so acquaintances. Not being well-liked myself, it is hard to imagine that many people seemingly genuinely happy to see you. I had to ice my hand that night after so many introductions. I don’t know how the politicians do it.

OK, next the bird eye quiz. Yes, I did by this photograph. My wife and daughters didn’t quite believe it at first. It is now hanging on the wall. Make your guesses. Write them down – starting top row, left to right. Whoever wins gets my Parakeets or a prize of similar value (which would mean you pay me money). I think I only got 3 or 4 correct.  Here goes, sung to the tune of “Ten Little Indians” (or Ten Native Americans to be PC): Row 1: Brown Thrasher, Great Blue Heron, Mockingbird, Sandhill Crane, Burrowing Owl; Row 2: Carolina Wren, Cattle Egret (breeding colors), American Goldfinch, Tricolor Heron (breeding colors), Robin; Row 3: White Ibis, Mourning Dove, Indigo Bunting, Blue Jay, Double-crested Cormorant (breeding colors); Row 4: Anhinga (female breeding colors), Cedar Waxwing, Saw-whet Owl, White-throated Sparrow, Great Egret (breeding colors); and Row 5: Wood Duck (male), Red-bellied Woodpecker (female), Black Vulture, Cardinal (male), Atlantic Puffin. Let me know where to ship the Parakeets. Their names are Sid and Geno.

Raptor-man’s Friend, unhappy

All the presentations I attended were good to excellent. I particularly enjoyed the presentation on “The Dos, Don’ts and Hows of Photographing Birds” by Clay Thurston (865-281-0645). Clay had a ton of great photos and was humble enough to include many “out-takes” where his bird subjects didn’t exactly cooperate. Clay imparted several useful bits of information in his presentation. These included how to position the bird in the picture, using the rule of thirds, to highlight the bird’s movement and other features of the photo and that you usually have to take a lot of photos to get that one really great shot.

I also attended a very interesting presentation by Norm’s friend, and financial advisor, J. Greg Johnson on hiking in Israel and Ireland. OK, they aren’t the Smokies, but Greg is a proud Appalachian so that was the hook. As a side note, Greg is also the author of Sanctuary, a book on meditations from the Great Smoky Mountains.. I read it and it is very well written – especially for a financial advisor.

It was a about the best free event I may have ever attended, not counting my wedding or the birth of my daughters (but those weren’t really “free”). And I had a very nice visit with my favorite father-in-law. You can’t beat that.

In the back of the Wildlife Week program was an “in memoriam” section for friends and volunteers who had passed in the last year. This section had a nice write-up on my mother-in-law Bobbie and her service as a local volunteer and involvement in the community. I know it meant a lot to Norm.

The big drama among the volunteers this year was the announcement that they were moving the event from January to May in 2016. Time will tell what the impact will be – to speaker and vendor participation and general attendance. One thing for certain, it will be a lot warmer for the hikers.

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