Saturday, March 30, 2013

White Pelican Festival in Alma, NE

This past week, I had the pleasure of joining in the fun for the 2013 White Pelican Festival, a welcome back celebration of sorts for the spring migration of thousands of these pelicans who populate the Harlan Reservoir.

My trip Tuesday to Alma, a four-hour drive from Peru, quickly turned into a comedy of errors.  First, my left front tire blew after I finished up some preparations in the office.

So I put on the fake tire and drove to Nebraska City for a pair of
new tires I had planned to get next week.  The delay caused me to miss an afternoon boat rise.  Further stirring the chaos, around 4:00 in the afternoon, I realized that I had left my laptop--essential for my scheduled Feathers and Verses presentation--in my office.

So, I drove back to Peru and spent the night here, getting up at 4:00 in the morning to make my 10:00 presentation; however, as happend with the schedule the previous day, no one came.

But at 2:30, a wonderful group of fifth and sixth graders arrived,
and I enjoyed nearly 90 minutes with them; as the photograph at the top of the page indicates, the young students responded with considerable enthusiasm to the program, which pleased me greatly.

Thursday, I graded papers until 2:00 and then went with the festival organizer Pat Underwood, to find a Great-blue Heron rookery on the reservoir--and the drought reduced the reservoir by at least ten feet, so the rookery looks a long way from the water's edge.

And Friday morning, I enjoyed a 90-minute boat ride on the lake
amidst the thousands of White Pelicans and other water birds, from Comorants to Eared Grebes, Northern Shovelers to Coots.

But we did not see the Whooping Cranes observed on Wednesday and again Saturday morning.

The other boat ferried an excited  group of young birders--Crane River Young Birders--  around the lake along with our boat.  Fun to see youngsters enthusiastic about birds.

Special thanks to the folks at the Alma Super 8 for making me feel at home and to Pat Underwood for inviting me to take part in the festival and for including me on the search for the Great-blue Heron rookery--and Pat got to see her first ever Cedar Waxwing!

The Crane River Young Birders


Merritt Island and Gator Land, Orlando

 Hungry Gator

 Roseate Spoonbill

Tri-colored Heron

For the past couple of years, my friend Edward James (pictured on the left) accompanied me to Merritt Island, and I missed his presence this time around, for I went alone.

I planned to arrive in Orlando Monday night, giving me an entire day to enjoy this area;
however, bad weather forced me to arrive not at 10:00 pm but at 3:45 in the morning.  But I managed some sleep and to arrive at Merritt Island around 12:30 Tuesday afternoon for a six-hour stay.

Two year ago, in addition to some exciting birding, Edward and I saw a River Otter,  and last year's visit featured Manatees.  No River Otter this year, but I did see a quite a few birds, a Manatee, and a first for me:  an Atlas V rocket launch.

The photographs from this excursion also include a series of pictures of Black Skimmers hunting for food and a number of other birds, plus, of course the Manatee.

Excursion to Gator Land

 Gator Land Rookery

Early Saturday morning, I drove to Gator Land, not a place I would normally visit, having seen plenty of gators over the thirty years I have visited--often twice a year, Florida.

I read, however, that in 1991, Gator Land added an impressive alligator pond in a area of Mangrove and other swamp trees.  Well, the gators killed rats, raccoons, snakes and other creatures that feed on nesting birds and their young in particular.

Once the birds discovered this
save haven, they began gathering there, creating a fabulous rookery with many species, from Tri-colored Herons to White Egrets, from Anhingas to Wood Storks.

And Gator Land allows birds into the area at 7:30, a couple hours before the opening bell--and the area attracts good crows of very serious birders.

I experienced lens envy! 

The weather did not cooperate all that much, for fog gave way to heavy rain, but the skies eventually brightened, and I got some pretty good pictures.

ICFA 2013

 Tij Johnson, Guest of Honor; Neil Gaiman, Guest of Honor; Constance Penley, Guest Scholar

 IAFA Board Members, great folks with whom I have the honor of working

ICFA Pool Picture

This year's International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts--March 20-24, again at the Marriott Orlando Airport Hotel--drew a record crowd of just over 500, including some 90 artists, writers, playwrights, publishers, and editors, many of whom appear in the following post-banquet photograph.

I love returning to this conference each year to see old friends and
make new ones in addition to serving as the organization's treasurer and unofficial photographer.  And what a damn wonderful group of folks.  

I posted two groups of photographs, Wednesday and Thursday and Friday and Saturday. As always, feel free to download any images that appeal to you--to download, double click the image of choice, and then click "actions" on the menu bar; next, from the actions drop-down menu, click "all sizes" and then choose "original size."  Then click "download."  
This year's record included many first-time to ICFA folks, many of whom came to a brief reception hosted by the many graduate-student members of IAFA.  Many of the new attendees gathered for the following photograph.

After Kij Johnson's Guest of Honor reading Friday night--I must
record her reciting her "Bacon" narrative)--ICFA featured something new and fun, the "IAFA Ten-Minute Play Festival," three plays chosen by a committee from the many manuscripts submitted:  "Mississippi Twilight" by Michael Reimann; "Brides of Cthulhu" by Michael Furlong; and "The Sum of Your Experience" by Trace Crawford.

Members of the Production

Brett Cox introduced the plays, Brett Hursey served as host, and Carrie Cole directed.

Both Trace Crawford and Michael Reimann permitted me to post their plays on You Tube for the immediate future.

"Mississippi Twilight" included Brett Cox as the narrator and featured Andy Duncan, Sydney Duncan, and James Patrick Kelly.


I also recorded and posted for your enjoyment, Trace Crawford's "The Sum of Your Experience."  Brett Cox again serves as the narrator for the play that features Conor McCreery and Guest of Honor, Neil Gaiman.

During this year's most excellent gathering, I also got away for a few hours to go birding at Merritt Island--where I photographed birds, a rocket launch, and a Manatee--and at the Gator Land Rookery; and I posted photographs you might enjoy.

 Dell Publishing Award Winners and Judges

 The Hollins University Gang

The excellent waiters who made special our lunches and the banquet

 ICFA members kept these wonderful  bar tenders pretty damn busy!

 The amazing Tij Johnson will visit Peru State next fall (I think I actually blush!).