Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival draws fans from all over the world


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Birders from around the world convened in Titusville for a world class birding festival experience at the Tosohatchee Wildlife Management Area.

SENIOR LIFE Courtesy of Roy Thoman

 

Barb Eager, the executive director for the Brevard Nature Alliance, went to school in tiny Clewiston, near Lake Okeechobee, and graduated in a class of 77 students.

Through a long circuitous route, both she and her husband Jim met in Florida, married, had children and now have grandchildren. Her husband is a birder, bird expert and field guide.

Eleven years ago, she and her husband moved to Cape Canaveral and their lives merged professionally a little more than a year ago. The merger came through Jim Eager’s work with the Nature Alliance and his involvement in the Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival that the BNA organizes each January in Titusville.

The Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival, recognized as one of the largest such events in the United States, is a premier destination for birding and wildlife watching. It will be held January 24 through 29.

The festival, which includes field trips, a boat tour, workshops and presentations, attracts participants from across the United States and beyond.

With a shared interest in environmental concerns, Barb Eager said her husband was enthusiastic about her joining the BNA team. She is not a birder by the technical definition, but she loves watching birds. She just won’t “stand around getting warbler’s neck” for hours like many birders do.

“He is the reason I got involved,” she said. Her husband recommended to the BNA “that they talk to me.”

Barb Eager’s background in the community and with the environment in organizations such as the North American Association for Environmental Education, as deputy director of administration conference and core services; Space Coast River Tours; and Dolphin Girl Cruises and Eco Tours was the right match for executive director.

“I took the position a year ago, May,” she said.

She now brings a fresh perspective to the BNA.

“When I came on board, I decided we would take the proceeds from a silent auction and give back to conservation programs,” Barb Eager said. “Last year, we raised over $4,000 for the Spoil Island Restoration project.

This year, the BNA voted on Friends of the Enchanted Forest to be the recipient. Another beneficiary was the Young Birder Scholarship, which was done in honor of a past executive director, Neta Harris, and as a joint collaboration with the Birdwatcher’s Digest and the BNA.

“It will specifically target middle school science kids,’’ Barb Eager said. “It will be an opportunity to get them out to the festival and field trips and listen to keynote speakers. The goal is, we will become involved in other community events which will be determined.’’

At 70, nothing is slowing down Jim Eager as he takes those who sign up at the festival on field trips to spot the large wonderment of bird life that thrives in Florida. The winter is a special time when a multitude of birds migrate to the state when the festival is held. He’s been a trip leader for 10 years and this will be the 21st year for the festival.

“It has world-class keynote speakers,” he said. “They also are used as guest guides on various field trips.”

Birders and birdwatchers can get “up close and personal with the best birders” who Eager says are “very approachable, very nice, very helpful.”

A 36-page 2018 Festival Guide was created for the six-day SCBWF.

Barb Eager, “lines up the speakers and any social event. The things I love the most are the opening, welcome and the Saturday night celebration,’’ Jim Eager said.

In 2018, the Saturday night celebration will feature a performance by The Rain Crows, a band which consists of members of the Birdwatcher’s Digest family.

“We will auction off an opportunity to play the cowbell on stage with the band. It was just featured in their 40th anniversary issue,” Barb Eager said.

Laurilee Thompson, the owner of Dixie Crossroads Restaurant in Titusville, is the founder of this festival.

“Lee does all the field trips, class-room presentations and photography activity, events, indoor presentation and outdoor workshops,” Barb Eager said of Thompson.

For information and to download the 36-page festival guide for the 21st Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival scheduled for Jan. 24 to 29 at Eastern Florida State College in Titusville, adjacent to the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, go to spacecoastbirdingandwildlifefestival.org or call 321-268-5224.