I attended the Midwest Bird Expo this past weekend at the Kane County Fairgrounds in St. Charles, Illinois this past weekend. Jason Crean and his Crew did an amazing job organizing the vendor floor, the speakers, the educational exhibits and the Benefit Dinner for the Alex Foundation after the Expo.

Jason Crean and Me

It was so big, I didn’t even make it to see all of the vendors. And God knows I love to see what the vendors have to offer! This photo shows about a quarter of it:

I did manage to meet some people I’ve emailed with, worked on projects with and I ran into many people I know from Facebook. That was one of the best parts of the Expo. While I love birds, I find that the people who have birds to be so fun and interesting.

After months of emailing with Irena Schulz of the “Bird Lovers Only” Bird Rescue in Indiana, there she was setting up her booth. She brought Snowball and Irena did a presentation about the work being done with Snowball’s remarkable ability to dance in time to music and his creativity in movement.

Irena Schulz setting Up Her Booth

Sy Montgomery had the booth next to her and since Sy was there to promote her book, Birdology and donate a portion of the proceeds to Irena’s work, I suggested that they’d make more of an impact if they just shoved their tables together. So we shoved and I ran to get them more chairs and people came to say “Hi,” buy Sy’s book and get “Snowball” t-shirts.

Irena Schulz, Sy Montgomery and Me

“Snowball” is Irena’s relinquished Cockatoo who has among other things, appeared on David Letterman, and in a Taco Bell Commercial. If you are still unfamiliar with Snowball, here is his smash “Youtube” viral video. Snowball Video. Irena spoke at the Expo, and Snowball made an appearance and danced his little tail feathers off. I even managed to get some footage of the little dude as he marched his way into everyone’s hearts:

Sy’s book, Birdology is magic, but to hear her speak is even better:

She speaks with the conviction of someone who has had amazing adventures in the bird world and can share it so well that it’s as if you are actually with her on her far-flung adventures. Even when she’s talking about her boisterous flock of chickens, she makes the audience of mostly adults feel as though they are being told the greatest bedtime story in the world, bringing back that sense of wonder we all had when our parents or teachers read to us. Sy can bring you back to that same feeling and let me tell you, it was so good to go back there! Wow.

Mark Bittner’s presentation on the Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill was wonderful. (I’m sorry the photo came out fuzzy, but I was wayyyy back and couldn’t get a decent shot.)

When I read the book, I, (and I’m sure a lot of other people) was left wondering how the flock is doing now. Mark answered those questions and put to rest a lot of misunderstandings about his lifestyle at the time, the flock and what he’s up to next. I’m sorry to report that none of the original members of the flock are still alive. Nature is harsh and in the wild, Parrots don’t live as long as those living with human families. So a twelve year lifespan was about what could be expected of those birds. But the little flock has expanded and the original flock’s off-spring are now having babies. It is estimated that San Francisco’s wild flock of Cherry- headed Conures numbers about two hundred. They are still living and thriving and have become almost as much an institution as the cable cars. They are respected, legally protected and the flock flies on.

I wanted to see more speakers, but I had to run around like a maniac and shoot video, photos and of course catch up with friends and meet new people.

Photo Courtesy of Lynn Scott Watts

I told Jason, this should be a two-day event as there simply isn’t time for you to do all of the things available. When I mentioned this to him, he was packing up boxes, covering up Cricket, his Green Aracari  and trying to get a place the size of a few football fields cleaned up. He was dead tired, sweating and looked like he’d just done three rounds with Mike Tyson. Jason just looked at me wearily and said, “No way!” Perhaps I could have picked a better time to suggest it. But, I’ll work on him some more. I can be quite a good little nag…

I also got the opportunity to handle a rhinoceros hornbill and have a monkey placed on my head. Cute little guy.

Not quite as cool an experience as the photo of Sy Mongomery with a Kakapo on her head, but hell, I’ll take it! Then there were “The Chicken People.” I dragged Irena over to see them because these little chickens were so charming. I didn’t get the whole story because Sy was speaking in a few minutes and Irena and I had to go run like hell back up there to hear her and this why I’m going to be nagging Jason about making this a two-day event: I hate missing all the good stuff. These chickens were charming and after reading about Sy’s flock of chickens, I’m dying to get a couple. The condo board of directors where I live would kill me, but if I ever have a house, these little ladies are on my list!:

After this whole shooting match got packed up, it was time to get ready for the benefit dinner for “The Alex Foundation.” After having attended a few events like this, you kind of get to know people, and I’ve gotten to know Dr. Irene Pepperberg.

Patricia With the Two "I's" Irene and irena

Let me explain. I’ve been following this woman’s work with African Greys since, well, since before I had parrots and before either one of us had even so much as one grey hair. We’re talking decades here! So to have finally met her a while back and find out how much we have in common was rather eerie. I knew so much about her, I felt like I had always known her, but we just hadn’t met yet. Now we talk about off-the-wall stuff like hotel rooms, travel plans, weather delays, and the best hangnail remedies. Boring, I know, but that’s what comes up. Irene needed some help packing up her booth, and moving all of the stuff to the dining area for the dinner. The dinner, auction and all of the legwork was done by Tracy Hylka, who has a terrific company called “Bella Embroidery.” Tracy organized all of the details of the benefit dinner for the Alex Foundation. And she did one hell of a job! For  one thing I loved the food at the dinner, so that’s a HUGE thumbs up from me! Anyway, Tracy made it all look easy and it was really nice. She has a future as a high buck wedding planner if she wanted to because she’s so organized! She did a beautiful job. And she is really a delightful person with an outgoing personality and a wonderful nature. Tracy is very cool…

So we walloped all of the Foundation sale items over, dragged out all of the donated items so we could put together the raffle item baskets and bags and began putting together the gift bags for the attendees. There were over a hundred attending so there was a production line going, putting together all of those bags. Good God! There was a silent auction and I came away with this cool “Sonicare” electric toothbrush that does everything but the dishes and donated by Irene’s dentist. I also purchased an “Alex Foundation” canvas bag that Irene autographed. That is going to be a prize for an up-coming “Parrot Nation” contest. So if you want to win that bag, keep your eyes peeled. I was going to have Irene autograph my new toothbrush, but I got busy again and didn’t get the chance. (Just kidding…) I got into this great conversation with these two young women, Kirsten and  Lisa who are going to be graduating from Medical School next week. Meeting them was a blast and they were so much fun! One of the “Doctors-to-be” was there to get Irene to sign her Mother’s copy of Irene’s book, Alex and Me and well, we started chatting about all kinds of things. It was kind of odd standing and talking to these two doctors because I have some clothes older than them, but it was really entertaining:

Lisa and Kirsten, The Docs-To-Be!

The dinner was a raging success and Irene raised some dough for “The Alex Foundation.”

I finally met Traci LaMons (with an i), Paula Rossow, Linnea Nicholson-Faris , Lynn Scott Watts and just tons of other FB Peeps I’ve been chatting with over the years and just never got to meet:

If you miss this event next year, you will be missing one of the biggest and coolest events of the bird world. I’m not kidding. They even had entertainers:

Falcolnry people, exotic creatures of all sorts:

Red-tailed Hawk

Jason's Aracari, "Cricket"

And of course there was that monkey on my head:

Naturally after the event my work isn’t done. On the way home, I had to do this write up and when I got home I had to edit photos and video. I’ve learned to write quite efficiently while sitting on the jump seat of a 767 with my new favorite hat:

Writing and Flying and Flying and Writing

Please come and attend next year. I’ll be there. And if I have anything to say about it, BOTH days!