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What makes a resort attractive to birdwatchers?

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We are an all season's resort near Orr, MN which began as a summer fishing camp, but now attracts many other sportsmen/women.

We have communicated with the Audubon Society about what makes a resort "birder friendly." We were informed that most birders get out in Spring and early Summer, but Winter is also a time when folks would be likely to travel to our area. The reply said, "You are perfectly situated for highlighting a number of species found in your area that are birds people from all over the U.S. come to see: Great gray owl, Northern hawk owl, Three toed woodpeckers, Boreal chickadee, Gray jay, Black-backed woodpecker, Spruce grouse, and numerous species of warblers to name a few."

We will be considering our budget in a couple of weeks and are reaching out to guests and potential guests to let us know how we can best serve different interest groups.

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Bill, you can work with birders the same way you work with anglers.

They want the same things, aside from good accommodations: To know where the birds/fish are. Birders also are like anglers in that they'll either want known locations to explore on their own or they'll want to hire a guide to show them the locations and help them spot the birds.

While Orr is right in the heart of country preferred by all those species named, it still takes some expertise to find the specific habitats preferred by different species. As a long experienced angler and resort owner, you are an expert on where to find the fish and the fishing guides, so you'll need to be expert on where to find the birds, or, better yet, work with a couple people who are experts already.

I don't know any veteran birders up in the Cook/Orr area but have to assume there are a few. They'll know where to go to find those species. You can track down those birders and find one to work with, either getting maps drawn to send clients to the birdy spots or by arranging a veteran birder or two as guides who, like fishing guides, operate out of your resort.

How to find those birders? VNP is one place to start. You might also call Tom Klein at the Cook office of the Timberjay. Tom's not a birder, but of course Marshall is, and between them they ought to be able to point you to a couple veteran Cook/Orr area birders who not only are knowledgeable about bird locations, but good with people. Any veteran area birder can help draw you maps of locations, but it takes a people person to be a good guide, as you know.

Your peak times for birders will be late spring, when the woods/lakes/bogs are full of migrating species, and the warblers are starting to nest. And in winter we get those handful of species from Canada that winter down here. Some birders will come for love of the area and the joy of the experience, while others will be pretty hard nosed and travel the continent looking to add specific species to their life lists.

If you don't already, it would be a good idea to start feeding birds, as well as learning more about them, because some of those species, especially in winter, are attracted to feeding stations and can be added to life lists without clients even having to leave the resort. Not to mention birders just like having birds around them. It would be an excellent idea, if you have a lot of cabins situated throughout the grounds, to take a handful of them close to each other and designate them as bird feeding cabins, where you've got a variety of feeding stations. Those then would be the ones you rent out to birders.

Hope that helps, Bill. It's a start. I've been birding seriously for 35 years, though I've transitioned away from actual birding into avian photography. I haven't been up to your resort yet and don't know the lay of the land, but if I get up there I'll be happy to chat more with you and, if you aren't feeding birds yet, I can help you with types of feed and feeders and good locations for them.

Of course, you might have 27 feeders up right now, for all I know, and be a veteran birder yourself! gringringrin

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Steve, thanks. Your suggestions were not surprising and would not require a great investment. While my son and I have a cabin at Melgeorges and I am active in our CIC Association, I live in Virginia (the state). Everyone I have met in the Blackduck-Elephant Lakes area is an avid naturist/outdoors person, so it is likely we have a birder nearby who might help us. Depending on where we go with this, are there additional websites that birders visit frequently that we might link up with? I did some surfing today, but none stood out.

I may have met you at the Ely Craft Show two years ago. I recall that several booths featured bird art, but your name is quite familiar.

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Bill, I was Ely editor of the Timberjay for four years before leaving the paper last year to pursue photography full time. I wrote stories, took photos, edited copy and designed pages, including the outdoors pages, for the TJay. And I had a weekly personal column with pic/name in there, so that's likely where you might recognize me from.

I haven't displayed any art at the Blueberry/Art Festival or the Harvest Moon festival in Ely.

Shoot me an e-mail and I can point you in a couple directions for more info.

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