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Optics Fling is a big success

What started several years ago as a weekend focused on binoculars, spotting scopes and a myriad of birding-related books and equipment has evolved into a birding festival. This year the event took place on June 2 and 3 at the Time & Optics location south of Mt. Hope and northeast of Berlin. A large building worked out very well for hosting the event while the main store also was open for business. A third building was available for gatherings.
My wife Helen and I arranged to travel back home for the Optics Fling as well as to visit friends in Kidron and Holmes County. It turned out to be a lovely weekend, both in terms of the weather and as an opportunity to visit with many friends.
As soon as we got out of the car at Time & Optics, I saw a number of familiar faces. It was great to catch up with these friends who have been an important part of my life over the last 35 years.
The weekend schedule included many field trips to area birding locations, led by local birders. For many participants, seeing nesting barn owls is a high priority, and this was the focus of one of the field trips.
Other field trips took participants to Mohican State Park, The Wilderness Center, Leihley Hill, Woodbury Wildlife Area, Killbuck Wildlife Area, Tuscarawas County and the Holmes County Rails to Trails.
Another outing highlighted local farms and the birds found there. Birders were able to preregister for the field trips ahead of time. The field trips were offered on Friday morning and Saturday morning.
On Friday afternoon Ed Schlabach spoke on the theme, “Birding in the Bobolink Area.” Ed is a well-known birder from the Sugarcreek area. This year Ed and several other birders are focusing on birding in Tuscarawas County and already have over 200 species for the county.
A second presentation was given by Tom Stephenson, co-author of "The Warbler Guide." Tom spoke on warbler identification and later was available to sign copies of his ground-breaking warbler guide.
Andrew Troyer, a nationally known expert on purple martins and bluebirds, was present to sign his book as well as talking to local birders. Andrew used to live in the Kidron area but currently resides in Northwestern Pennsylvania. 
The Optics Fling has always catered to young birders. This year there was a birding event called Race-4-birds. This was a team birding contest and was held on Saturday morning. Teams could do their birding anywhere in the 12-county Bobolink area between 4 a.m. and noon. Money from sponsorships of the teams was to be used for the Ohio Young Birders Club and the Black Swamp Bird Observatory to promote birding and conservation efforts.
One of the things birders enjoy doing at the Optics Fling is checking out the latest birding equipment. This year there were representatives from most of the best-known optics companies.
Spotting scopes were set up so that visitors could actually try them out. This is the best way to choose a scope or binoculars because different people like different equipment. There also was a nice selection of used optics. A wide variety of new and used bird books as well as almost anything related to birding could be found at the event.
Helen and I also visited the Mennonite Central Committee thrift shops in Kidron and Millersburg, where we spent a lot of time over the years. Both of these shops are thriving and between them send over a million dollars a year to MCC, which uses the money to provide relief and development projects in many countries around the world.
We also stopped in at the property where we lived for many years east of Millersburg and were warmly welcomed by the folks living there currently. It wasn’t easy to leave the woods and streams four years ago, but this trip helped us bring closure to that important part of our lives. And while there I heard a lot of familiar birds including a Kentucky warbler, a bird that I still haven’t seen in Indiana.
Good birding!

Published: June 11, 2017
New Article ID: 2017170619980