Arizona Field Ornithologist ID Challenges



Arizona Field Ornithologists
Eighth Annual State Meeting Summary



For Field Mini-Expedition Highlights click here

For AZFO Youth Fellowship recipients click here


By Muriel Neddermeyer


Charles van Riper III delivers the keynote address. Photo by Muriel Neddermeyer

We had a fantastic turnout of 87 people for the AZFO 8th annual meeting at the historic Bullion Plaza in Miami, AZ on 4 October 2014. The theme was “Arizona’s Changing Avifauna,” which was addressed by the Saturday night dinner speaker, Charles Van Riper III in his talk about the effects of vegetation and climate changes on bird distribution. After President Kurt Radamaker welcomed everyone Saturday morning, our lively meeting moderator, Paul Wolterbeek, guided us through a day filled with interesting presentations and updates on AZFO activities.

Three of the day’s presentations were funded by Gale Monson Research Grants — talks on wintering Gray Vireos, spring migration water bird surveys on Lake Havasu, and differences between wintering Sagebrush and Bell’s Sparrows. Pierre Deviche, committee chair, announced that Ariana LaPorte is the recipient of a Gale Monson Research Grant in 2014- 2015; the grant will support her study of “Water, Land Use, and Gray Hawk Ecology along the San Pedro River.”


Paul Wolterbeek, MC, addresses meeting attendees. Photo by Diane Drobka

The paper sessions featured Ariana LaPorte on the expansion of Gray Hawks on the San Pedro River. A much-anticipated presentation from Chris McCreedy was on the winter distribution and plumage characteristics of Sagebrush and Bell’s Sparrows in the state. David Vander Pluym spoke about his study of spring migration on Lake Havasu, and Chrissy Kondrat-Smith discussed Gray Vireos in winter at Kofa NWR. David Brown gave an update on the status of Mexican Ducks in Arizona. After Carol Beardmore's report proposing a new joint AZFO/IBA project to locate migration hotspots, some 20 people came up to her afterward with suggested sites. Jennie MacFarland gave a talk on geo-tagging “Desert” Purple Martins along the San Pedro River near San Manuel. Larry Arbanas showed a video of Lesser Nighthawks nesting in the Phoenix area, and Eric Hough delivered an update on the expanding distribution of Neotropic Cormorants in Arizona. Pierre Deviche discussed the work he and his students have done on the impact of capture and marking on Rufous-winged Sparrows.


Attendees ponder the challenging photo bird ID quiz. Photo by Muriel Neddermeyer

A highlight of the meeting was when Kurt Radamaker introduced the three AZFO Youth Scholarship students attending this year’s meeting.

The always-popular audio bird ID quiz was conducted by Pierre Deviche and the photo ID quiz was prepared by David Vander Pluym and Lauren Harter. Michael Lester and Jason Kitting tied for first place in the photo quiz, and Ameya Thatte took an honorable mention for correctly identifying the bonus bird slide. The audio quiz was won by Eric Hough.

Updates were provided on AZFO business, including membership, Facebook engagement, financial performance, and budget. Brian Ison presented nominations for officers and board members, and following the elections we welcomed Jennie McFarland as our new vice president and Anne Pellegrini and Walter Thurber as new board members. They replaced Marceline VandeWater, Lauren Harter, and John Yerger who stepped down. Doug Jenness was reelected treasurer. Edwin Juarez noted what AZFO website visitors are looking at. Not surprisingly, the photo documentation pages see heavy traffic. Eric Hough gave attendees an update on AZFO field expeditions of the past year, which were well-attended and turned up interesting sightings. He also gave a sneak peak at expeditions to come.

Throughout the day, attendees took time to view a poster covering the breeding ecology and the use of nesting platforms of the Cordilleran Flycatcher and discuss with the authors, A.J. Darrah and Charles van Riper III. In addition, a poster tribute to birders we have lost recently was prepared by Janet Witzeman. Books and AZFO items were also perused and purchased during the meeting.

After a fun social hour at Miami’s Wild Horse Saloon, the evening banquet featured a keynote address entitled, “The Influence of Tree Phenology and Differing Climate Patterns on Arizona’s Changing Bird Communities,” given by Charles van Riper III. He focused on passerine spring migration up the Colorado River Valley. A lively discussion followed as the 8th Annual Meeting came to a close.

The meeting had a positive impact on the local economy and owners of the Saloon, and the Noftsger Hill Inn wrote letters to editors of local publications to thank AZFO for holding the meeting in their town.

We would like to thank everyone who attended and welcome our new members who joined AZFO at the meeting. We look forward to our 9th Annual Meeting in the White Mountains, which will celebrate the AZFO's 10th anniversary. Stay tuned for all the details!



By Eric Hough


Seven mini-field expeditions were organized as part of the 2014 AZFO state meeting in Miami-Globe, with three expeditions Friday afternoon before the meeting and four expeditions Sunday morning after the meeting to underbirded locations in the region. Brief summaries follow:

3 October Mini-Expeditions

At Jones Water Campground & Timber Camp north of Globe, Eric Hough rotated 41 participants divided into two groups between both sites while teaching plant ID and birding around the diverse habitats present. A low-elevation Northern Pygmy-Owl (found while scouting that morning), a very large plains orb-weaver spider, and a rhinoceros beetle were biological highlights at Jones Water CG, while Mexican Jays, a Red-breasted Nuthatch, Olive Warblers, and other pine-oak forest species were high points at Timber Camp of the 37 species found altogether on this expedition. At Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park near Superior, five participants led by John Saba found 44 species, including a Red-breasted Nuthatch, Peregrine Falcon, and late migrant swallows, warblers, and tanagers. An expedition of seven participants led by Jay Taylor to rugged and under-explored Arnett Canyon behind Boyce Thompson Arboretum discovered an American Redstart, a Peregrine Falcon, and lingering migrant passerines among a total of 41 species.


Chris McCreedy identifying birds on the San Carlos Lake and Peridot wastewater ponds expedition. Photo by Eric Hough

5 October Mini-Expeditions

The expedition of 13 participants led by Eric Hough to San Carlos Lake and the Peridot wastewater ponds east of Globe yielded 94 species including three Brown and 489 American White Pelicans, 11 Neotropic Cormorants, a California Gull, a Caspian Tern, a Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet, and a low-elevation Western Scrub-Jay. Ten participants on Doug Jenness’s expedition along Pinto Creek in the Superstition Mountains west of Globe detected 31 species, including  a Red-breasted Nuthatch,  a Brown Creeper, and an aberrant Red-naped Sapsucker that had the group speculating about a possible hybrid with a Red-breasted Sapsucker. Troy Corman’s group of 17 participants ventured into the Sierra Ancha north of Globe where it encountered a few low-elevation Red-breasted Nuthatches, Mexican Jays, Cedar Waxwings, and late migrant flycatchers and warblers among nearly 50 species recorded. An injured Great Horned Owl found by this expedition was transported by one participant to Liberty Wildlife in Scottsdale for rehabilitation. David Pearson led 22 participants on his expedition into the Pinal Mountains south of Globe where highlights of their 66 species included 28 Red-breasted Nuthatches and five Cassin’s Finches. AZFO meeting attendees who visited this mountain range two days before also found two Band-tailed Pigeons and a Lewis’s Woodpecker.

We would like to thank all of the leaders and participants for contributing to these informative and rewarding expeditions that helped make this meeting a resounding success.


Troy Corman, leader, with Sierra Ancha expedition participants. Photo by Muriel Neddermeyer



By Lauren Harter


AZFO Scholarship recipients, Jason Kitting, Jacob Plant, and Ameya Thatte with Kurt Radamaker and Lauren Harter. Photo by Muriel Neddermeyer

AZFO is proud to encourage and support young people with an interest in Arizona’s birds. As part of our goal to involve a younger generation in AZFO’s activities, starting in 2014 we began offering scholarships to students (middle school through undergraduate) to attend the annual meeting. It is our hope that these scholarships will help to ease any financial burden of traveling to the meeting, as well as reaching out to students who may benefit from attendance with opportunities for networking, learning, and getting involved with AZFO and other organizations.

The 2014 AZFO scholarship program was generously supported by Maricopa Audubon Society, allowing AZFO to grant scholarships to all three applicants. The three recipients this year were Jason Kitting, an undergraduate student at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque; Jacob Plant, a high school student from Gilbert; and Ameya Thatte, a middle school student from Mesa. Be sure to visit us online to read essays from our three scholarship recipients about their experiences at the meeting, and for more information on our scholarship program click here.




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