Mark your calendars for the second annual American Birding Expo, set for Sept. 16-18 at the Grange Insurance Audubon Center. The Expo aims to connect birders with birding destinations, tour companies, artists, nonprofits, publishers, and optics companies. The inaugural ABE drew 85 exhibitors from around the globe and an estimated 2,500 attendees. Proceeds from the conservation raffle, games, and direct donations benefited BirdLife International, the American Birding Association, and the GIAC. Funds received will support international, national, and local causes to include South America’s critically endangered hooded grebe, the threatened rufa red knot, and the Young Urban Naturalist program here in Columbus. The Expo offers a rare opportunity to try out the latest binoculars and spotting scopes side by side, at all price ranges, including the world’s best and most expensive. Representatives will be on hand to make sure you know every bell and whistle of their products. They eagerly want you to try out their lenses and the GIAC is a great place to do that. It’s nothing short of awesome to see several dozen high-end scopes lined up and aimed at the Columbus skyline just waiting for you to peer through and focus. Spotlight presentations by exhibitors at the Expo allow you to find out more about birding opportunities in far-off places and meet with birding tour companies that can take you there, or to learn about the latest technologies in birding optics. Thinking about a birding trip to Texas, Central America, South America, Africa, or India? Birders from those hotspots can give you ideas and even help you make arrangements. Trying to decide whether to go to Honduras or Costa Rica? Columbia or Guyana? Talk to birders from each of those countries—they might make your decision even more difficult, but at least you’ll have more information! Or, you might hit it off with a tour guide, lodge operator, or national representative, making your decision easier. At the Expo, you can make friends with birders from Uganda or Papua New Guinea and then visit them in their country! What an opportunity! Backyard bird watchers will have plenty to see and do at the Expo, too. Bird feeders and birdhouses, fine art, yard art, birding gear, books … the Expo has something for everyone who enjoys birding and birds. Because admission is free, the Expo needs several dozen volunteers for things like set-up, tear down, VIP check-in, exhibitor assistance, help with the conservation raffle, shuttle drivers, and more. We hope Columbus-area birders will sign up to help out. Encouraging birders and the birding industry encourages awareness of birds and habitat conservation. It’s fun and rewarding to be a valuable participant of this high-energy, high-profile birding event. There is nothing else like it in the Western Hemisphere, and it is right here in Columbus! Find out more about the upcoming Expo, register as a VIP and/or as a volunteer, or even as an exhibitor at Although the event is free, attendees are encouraged to register early—which confers VIP status. VIPs will be invited to take part in several special events. Don’t miss this chance to be an Expo VIP! Dawn Hewitt