A small crowd of folks attended the 2023 Birds in the Hills Festival in early spring for a weekend of camping, birding and connection to one another and the natural world.
A weekend of camping in the rain to attend a birding festival must have attracted a group of hardcore birders who will do whatever it takes to get one glimpse of a life bird to check off their list, right?
Not quite, while some participants did check a few life birds off their list, The Birds in the Hills Festival attracts families, nature enthusiasts, and birders of various backgrounds and levels of experience.
This family-friendly festival lasts three days and two nights and is held at Camp Oty’Okwa. The Camp is located in South Bloomingville, a small village nestled in Hocking County. Camp Oty’Okwa has hemlock gorges and hardwood uplands and is ideal to see various migratory birds and flora and fauna of all sorts, including children. This venue allows young naturalists to run wild with excitement and love for the natural world. This could not have been exemplified better by the father and son duo who attended this year's festival.
Programming for the festival began on Friday evening with presentations, one of which featured a live owl. The presentation had facts about Semore the great horned owl and a meet and greet at the end. When it came time for the father and son to meet Semore, the son was gleaming with joy as he stood proudly next to Semore for a picture that I believe will be cherished for years to come. Throughout the weekend, the father and son duo were together. They had matching excitement levels while also wearing matching sun hats and smiles.
Watching a child deepen their knowledge and passion for the outdoors helps me to stay hopeful for the future. This excitement for the outdoors radiating out from the child spreading to the ones who love and support them is powerful. After talking with the father and son about their previous birding experiences, it was clear that while the son has a true passion for birding, the father was at the festival because he loves his son. They collectively shared a story when they saw a bald eagle swoop down and catch a fish just a few feet in front of them, until moments later, a hawk attempted to rob the eagle of its dinner. I asked the father if this experience is what sparked his interest in birding. He smiled, shaking his head “no” and pointed to his son.