Ann Paul, an organizer of the 2023 Florida Birding and Nature Festival

by | Oct 11, 2023

Ann Paul–an organizer of the Florida Birding and Nature Festival, a multifaceted, multi-day extravaganza, scheduled to take place Oct. 12-15, in and around Apollo Beach, Florida—revisits, at my request, the story of her first real foray into birding, and how arriving late at that outing proved fortuitous. She spotted a black and white warbler, and all these years later, her enthusiasm for the experience—clearly, it was Paul’s “spark bird”—is palpable. For those listeners who aren’t yet birders, Paul describes what she loves so much about birding after decades of doing it. Bridging this topic with outlining some of the programming offered at the Florida Birding and Nature Festival, including a seminar called “Birding 101,” aimed at the novice, the beginning birder. I ask about Christian Cooper–the birder who soared to national recognition in the wake of a famous incident in Central Park, he went on to host a show on the National Geographic channel, “Extraordinary Birder,” and wrote a memoir—and how she would characterize his impact on the birding world? She observed Cooper’s significant influence–as a gay black man–in widening and diversifying the birding community, particularly in hatching new birders. Paul returns to highlighting some Festival offerings (having already noted that the Festival schedule was far too sprawling to cover everything), focusing on one of the two Keynote Talks: Stan Tekiela, delivering a presentation entitled “Bird Migration,” with Paul pointing out this lecture, along with the other Keynote Talk (David Johnson on “The Taxonomy of Burrowing Owls in The Americas”) served a buffet meal, creating a nice opportunity for organizers and attendees to socialize at these lectures. [Photos: Frigate bird by Tom Bell…uncredited photo of Ann Paul…promo image of Stan Tekiela…Spoonbill by Tom Bell]


ALSO: I spoke briefly with Gracie Topp, from the Humane Society of Pinellas, giving us the lowdown on the organization’s then-impending big event, “Walk For Whiskers,” slated to happen Saturday, Oct. 14 in Pioneer Park, in Dunedin. Topp—whom longtime WMNF & “Talking Animals” listeners will know by her maiden name: Grieshop…she was formerly Gracie Grieshop, and remains the longtime singer-songwriter fronting the Tampa band Sunset Bridge Band–outlined some key details planned for the third annual “Walk.” This included a pet costume contest, pet-oriented vendors, and the “Walk” itself. Topp also explained an event like “Walk For Whiskers” raises important funds for the Humane Society of Pinellas, underwriting the organization’s ongoing operation, and the construction of a new facility, which she said they hope will be completed by the beginning of 2024. (,,

COMEDY CORNER: Andy Ritchie’s “Balthazar”

MUSIC: Rebekah Pulley’s “Talking Animals Theme,” instrumentals

NAME THAT ANIMAL TUNE:  We didn’t play “Name That Animal Tune” today.


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