2024 ABA Community Weekend in Minneapolis, MN
October 28-29, 2023

ABA Community Weekends are focused on urban centers in the U.S. and Canada and aim to connect with local organizations, businesses, and guides to offer a variety of birding-related activities that can appeal to both novice and experienced birders. 

Our objective is to connect in person with ABA members who may have never had direct contact with the organization in the field, while also presenting birding and the American Birding Association to a wider swath of the general public, to learn about the wants and needs of birders, conservationists, and nature enthusiasts; to exchange ideas and share experiences; and to create a network of like-minded people, organizations, and businesses throughout the ABA Area.

Program

Join Dorian Anderson, Steve Ball, Gregg Severson, Kellie Hoyt, Brogan Alley, and Katinka Domen for a weekend of birding in Minneapolis. On Saturday morning, Dorian and Gregg will take us on an adventure exploring the city’s urban birding hotspots by bicycle. In the afternoon, Dorian will share his Birding by Bike Big Year adventures with you, and talk about how birding helped him overcome his struggles with stress and addiction. On Saturday evening, we will all get together for a chat and a drink. The next morning, Brogan and Steve take us on another birding field trip, looking out for spring warblers, and trying our hand at photographing the many songbirds we’re bound to spot. Sunday afternoon, Steve will lead a classroom session introducing us to the world of bird photography and share his expert secrets to get those magical bird shots we all so enjoy.

The bird walks, talks and workshops are free and open to the public, but signing up is mandatory.

There will be OM SYSTEM cameras and lenses available for loan during the field trips, so make sure to let us know if you are interested in that when signing up!

Program

Sat., May 25, 8 am CT: Birding by Bicycle

We are thrilled to invite you to join us on a unique birding expedition, exploring Minneapolis’ birding hotspots by bicycle. Get ready to pedal through picturesque trails and park roads, immersing yourself in a variety of habitats and experiencing the beauty of urban parks in the great company of birding by bike experts Dorian Anderson, Gregg Severson, and Kellie Hoyt.

Our route covers Minnehaha Falls, Coldwater Spring, and Fort Snelling State Park, and boasts smooth, paved surfaces throughout, ensuring a comfortable ride for participants of all skill levels. You can expect gentle inclines and declines, making the journey enjoyable and accessible for everyone.

We will bike through a diverse range of habitats, providing ample opportunities for birdwatching enthusiasts to spot a wide variety of species. From the tranquil woodlands teeming with songbirds to the expansive oak savannas dotted with majestic trees, every turn of our wheels will reveal new avian treasures. As we meander along the banks of the river, keep your binoculars handy to catch sight of waterfowl and wading birds, while the sparkling lakes offer glimpses of diving ducks and other aquatic species. Additionally, the recent burning of the savanna this spring has created a unique opportunity to observe how birdlife responds and adapts to habitat changes, adding an extra layer of excitement to our expedition.

After our exhilarating ride, you have the option to unwind and share stories over a delicious post-ride meal and drinks (not included). At the Sea Salt Restaurant in the park, you can savor fresh seafood with a scenic view, or you can explore nearby breweries and eateries offering a diverse array of culinary delights.

This event is conveniently located in the metro center, just 5 miles away from downtown, offering easy access from anywhere in the city. We encourage you to bike to the event, eliminating the need for driving and allowing you to fully enjoy the cycling experience.

Whether you’re a seasoned birder or new to the hobby, this adventure promises to be a memorable journey through nature’s wonders. Don’t miss out on the chance to connect with fellow birding enthusiasts and experience the beauty of Minneapolis’ local birdlife from a unique perspective.

Date: Saturday, May 25, 2024, 8 am (until 11 am, approximately)

Event type: Field trip (by bicycle)

Meeting Point: Minnehaha Falls Park

Guides and hosts: Dorian Anderson (Biking for Birds), Gregg Severson and Kellie Hoyt (Birding with Gregg), Steve Ball (OM System), Katinka Domen (ABA)

Bike Rental: If you don’t have your own bicycle, let us know if you would like to rent one when signing up

Cameras: OM SYSTEM cameras and lenses are available for loan, let us know if you would like to use one when signing up

Binoculars: binoculars are available for loan, let us know if you would like to use one when signing up

Cycling Distance: Approximately 10 miles (but shortcuts/earlier stops are possible)

Accessibility: Our route boasts smooth, paved surfaces throughout with gentle inclines and declines.

Sat., May 25, 2 pm CT: Birding Under the Influence: Cycling Across America in Search of Birds and Recovery

On January 1st, 2014, Dorian Anderson boarded his bicycle for the adventure of a lifetime. His two-wheeled journey was an eco-friendly twist on the Big Year, a project during which a birdwatcher tries to observe as many species as possible during a calendar year. While his predecessors utilized cars, planes, and boats, Anderson’s goal was to replicate their transcontinental travels without the use of petroleum, a herculean challenge no one before him had accepted. He ultimately survived subzero temperatures, drifting snow, gusting winds, lightning storms, mountainous ascents, dog attacks, crumbling roads, and several accidents. By December 31, he’d amassed 618 bird species across 18,000 miles of riding, totals no one imagined possible when he set off with zero cycling experience. 

Dorian will speak about the genesis of his bike-birding project, provide a thrilling recount of his travels, highlight the birds he saw, and reveal how his adventure changed his life. His personality and enthusiasm are infectious, and his tales of birding, cycling, and self-discovery will inspire others to venture into the outdoors, take note of the birds around them, and make positive changes in their own lives.

Dorian started birding in his Philadelphia backyard at age seven. His interest grew to include the Delaware Valley and Jersey Shore during his preteen years, and he attended several of Victor Emanuel’s youth birding camps as a teenager. He envisioned himself as an ornithologist until his educational rise and coincident alcoholism extinguished his birding desire. With his focus split between molecular biology and drinking, his childhood passion laid comatose through his twenties, rediscovered only when he got sober at age 30.

Despite the aforementioned alcoholism and coincident drug abuse which plagued his late-teens and twenties, Anderson received his B.S. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from Stanford University, did predoctoral biomedical research at Harvard University, and earned his Ph.D. in Developmental Genetics and Molecular Cell Biology from New York University. Returning to Boston after getting sober, he spent three years as a Postdoctoral Fellow in Molecular Neuroscience at Massachusetts General Hospital. Eventually exhausted by the academic rat race and searching for direction, he resigned his postdoctoral position to undertake his Biking for Birds project.

Momentum from that life-changing pivot opened many doors including public speaking, travel writing, and tour guiding. He worked in Colombia as a consultant for the National Audubon Society and is currently an international birding guide for Tropical Birding. He is an accomplished bird photographer and has just published his memoir: Birding Under the Influence: Cycling across America in Search of Birds and Recovery.

Date: Saturday, May 25, 2024, 2 – 4 pm 

Event type: Classroom presentation

Meeting Point: American Swedish Institute, 2600 Park Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55407

Speaker and host: Dorian Anderson (Birding Under the Influence author)

Sat., May 25, 7 pm CT: Evening Social

Join fellow bird enthusiasts at our Saturday evening social, hosted at the charming Black Forest Inn! This casual gathering is the perfect spot to mingle with like-minded nature lovers (and yes, Dorian, Gregg, Steve, Kellie and Katinka will be there too!), share your latest avian adventures, and discuss everything from rare sightings to conservation strategies. Bring your birding tales and your appetite for snacks, drinks, and good company. This event is a fantastic opportunity to network, learn more about local birding hotspots, or plan your next birdwatching outing.

Date: Saturday, May 25, 2024, 7 pm 

Event type: Evening social

Meeting Point: Black Forest Inn

Hosts: Katinka Domen (ABA), Gregg and Kellie Severson (Birding with Gregg), Dorian Anderson (Biking for Birds), Steve Ball (OM System)

Sun., May 26, 7:30 am CT: Guided bird walk at Minnesota Zoo Treetops Trail

The Minnesota Zoo is home to a variety of amazing exotic birds, but it is also where you can find many local and migratory birds. Walk the Treetop Trail with Brogan, Steve and Katinka to see what birds fancy the Zoo in spring. The Treetop Trail not only offers amazing viewing opportunities at bird’s eye level but also gets you deeper into the woods where birds like to hide.

The 1.25-mile Treetop Trail at the Minnesota Zoo is the world’s longest elevated pedestrian loop. An inspired repurposing of the Zoo’s original monorail trail, the path brings guests up to 32 feet above the ground providing them a bird’s eye view and access to hundreds of acres of hardwood forest, wetlands, wildlife, and, of course, the Zoo’s beloved animals. The mission of the Treetop Trail is to provide a year-round, welcoming, and accessible journey into nature for people of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities. 

As spring unfolds, the Minnesota Zoo’s Treetop Trail becomes a vibrant hotspot for birdwatching enthusiasts. The elevated walkway meanders through lush canopies and offers panoramic views of emerging foliage and wildlife habitats, thus offering an ideal setting to observe the seasonal revival of bird activity. 

Brogan Alley, Minnesota Zoo’s Volunteer Services Supervisor, will lead us along the trail. (bio/intro to come)

Given the Treetop Trail’s unique vantage point, getting us closer to the birds than ever, this walk also gives us excellent opportunities to photograph the flitter and flutter. Especially with the guidance and expertise of OM System ambassador Steve Ball. Steve found his love for bird photography years ago and has been hooked ever since. He received his first camera at 4 years old, which led to a lifetime of photography. Former portrait studio owner, former news photographer and long time Olympus employee, he now spends his time shooting, teaching, and spreading the love of photography. Thanks to the generous support of OM System, there will also be loaner cameras available during this walk, so if you’ve always wanted to try your hand at bird photography, experiment with different cameras and lenses, or are in the market for an upgrade of your existing gear, this is your chance (by the way, OM System has some special deals for ABA members joining the Community Weekends).

Date: Sunday, May 26, 2024, 7.30 – 9 am

Event type: Field trip (walking)

Meeting Point: Minnesota Zoo Treetop Trail

Note: Entrance to the Zoo is not included, if you wish to explore the Zoo after the organized Treetop Trail walk, you can get your tickets here

Guides and hosts: Brogan Alley (Minnesota Zoo), Steve Ball (OM System), Katinka Domen (ABA)

Walking distance: 1.25 miles

Cameras: OM SYSTEM cameras and lenses are available for loan, let us know if you would like to use one when signing up

Binoculars: binoculars are available for loan, let us know if you would like to use one when signing up

Accessibility: The elevated Treetop Trail has four, ADA-compliant public access points. Elevator access is available at the Treetop Trailhead (via Discovery Bay) and Hanifl Nature Center. The trail surface has no inclines. For more information, visit https://mnzoo.org/accessibility/.

Sun., May 26, 2 pm CT: Bird watching vs. bird photography by Steve Ball

Love watching birds but want to know more about capturing those memories through photography? OM SYSTEM Ambassador Steve Ball will cover the different approaches between observing birds and trying to capture the perfect photo of our feathered friends. What to look for, how to set up your own “backyard studio” for birds and more. Tips for beginners through those who also may have experience taking bird photos.

Date: Sunday, May 26, 2024, 2 – 4 pm

Event type: Classroom workshop

Meeting Point: Minnesota Zoo Education Event Center, 13000 Zoo Blvd, Apple Valley, MN 55124

Speaker and host: Steve Ball (OM SYSTEM Ambassador), Katinka Domen (ABA)

Meet your guides and hosts

Dorian Anderson

Dorian started birding in his Philadelphia backyard at age seven. His interest grew to include the Delaware Valley and Jersey Shore during his preteen years, and he attended several of Victor Emanuel’s youth birding camps as a teenager. He envisioned himself as an ornithologist until his educational rise and coincident alcoholism extinguished his birding desire. With his focus split between molecular biology and drinking, his childhood passion laid comatose through his twenties, rediscovered only when he got sober at age 30.

Despite the aforementioned alcoholism and coincident drug abuse which plagued his late-teens and twenties, Anderson received his B.S. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from Stanford University, did predoctoral biomedical research at Harvard University, and earned his Ph.D. in Developmental Genetics and Molecular Cell Biology from New York University. Returning to Boston after getting sober, he spent three years as a Postdoctoral Fellow in Molecular Neuroscience at Massachusetts General Hospital. Eventually exhausted by the academic rat race and searching for direction, he resigned his postdoctoral position to undertake his Biking for Birds project.

Momentum from that life-changing pivot opened many doors including public speaking, travel writing, and tour guiding. He worked in Colombia as a consultant for the National Audubon Society and is currently an international birding guide for Tropical Birding. He is an accomplished bird photographer and has just published his memoir: Birding Under the Influence: Cycling across America in Search of Birds and Recovery.

Gregg Severson and Kellie Hoyt

Gregg and Kellie are birders, nature lovers, and guides based in Minneapolis. She has loved birds and the outdoors since childhood, and he started birding in college and grad school, after she introduced him to it! He started off slowly, but gradually focused more and more on birds until now he spends most of his free time learning about birds.

In 2019 Gregg did a Green Big Year, where the only birds that counted on his list were ones he saw by biking, walking, and canoeing from his home. He saw 238 species in Minnesota on his Green Big Year, a new record! Kellie is an artist, and has a public art installation of bird mosaic portraits along the Mississippi River in St Paul. They’ve also traveled to Guatemala to create and install bird mosaics there.

They love to travel and explore other places, especially to enjoy birds, wildlife, and art. Gregg helps to run a group called Minnesota Global Birders, which hosts monthly presentations to share and learn about international birding travel. And they’ve led group birding tours in Minnesota and Honduras.

Steve Ball
Steve found his love for bird photography years ago and has been hooked ever since. He received his first camera at 4 years old, which led to a lifetime of photography. Former portrait studio owner, former news photographer and long time Olympus employee, he now spends his time shooting, teaching, and spreading the love of photography.

Brogan Alley
Brogan is the Minnesota Zoo’s Volunteer Services Supervisor. Brogan proudly holds over a decade’s worth of experience managing volunteers through different organizations across the state of Minnesota. In his role, Brogan leads a team of Volunteer Services Staff and hundreds of Volunteers that play a vital part in supporting teams across the Zoo and ensuring that guests enjoy an exciting, educational, and memorable visit. Brogan’s favorite animals at the Zoo are the Bison, and he is particularly proud of the Minnesota Zoo’s role in conservation efforts to restore this iconic animal to the landscape it calls home. In his free time Brogan enjoys volunteering and running as he prepares for the Chicago Marathon in October.

Katinka Domen
Katinka has always had a curiosity for the natural world and for languages and people – interests she cultivated in her extensive travels, and in her professional life too. Back in her home country Belgium, she worked as an interpreter, but a more hands-on career allowing more time in the outdoors made her relocate to the Americas. She lived in Honduras for several years, running birding tours in Central and South America. As the ABA’s Travel and Events Coordinator, she intends to spread the joy of birding to a broad community of people, of all backgrounds and ages, all over the world; make bird watching accessible to all; and ensure that our shared passion for birding and travel has a positive impact on birds, nature, and people. She is looking forward to traveling and birding with you soon!

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