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Arizona Field Ornithologists
Eleventh Annual State Meeting Summary

Cottonwood — 20-22 October 2017


By Chrissy Kondrat-Smith and Walter Thurber

Ornithologists and birders from across the state gathered on 20-22 October 2017 for the 11th annual meeting. More than 80 participants attended the meeting and banquet held at the Quality Inn & Suites in Cottonwood.

The weekend kicked off with field expeditions to Boynton Canyon, Cienega Creek East, Dead Horse Ranch State Park and The Nature Conservancy’s Shield Ranch. A special “first time” feature of this annual meeting was a kayak birding expedition on the Verde River led by Doug Von Gausig, executive director of the Verde River Institute and mayor of the Town of Clarkdale. Doug covered a range of topics, including birds, archeology, riparian ecology, water law and biodiversity. The Friday schedule ended with an enjoyable social hour at the Pizzeria Bocce Patio Bar.

The Saturday meeting was moderated by Northern Arizona Audubon’s President and very talented Dennis Tomko. Kurt Radamaker, AZFO President, opened the meeting with a welcome. Troy Corman then introduced the Gale Monson Research Grants and announced the three 2018 grant recipients. The three grant recipients are: Eamon Harrity, Graduate student form the University of Idaho studying the juvenile dispersal of the Yuma Ridgway’s Rain in SW AZ and SE CA; Kerrie Anne T. Loyd a Biology Faculty at Arizona State University studying the movement, behavior and conservation of Western Burrowing Owls in a suburban desert landscape; and Tuul Sepp a Post-Doc Researcher at Arizona State University studying the urbanization effects on life-history of Arizona House Finches.  Following Troy’s introduction, Janet Witzeman promoted the book Counting Birds with Gale Monson, edited by Bill Broyles and Richard Glinski.  Proceeds from the sale of this book help fund the Gale Monson Research Grants.  Two presentations followed. Jennie MacFarland presented on “Citizen Science in Action: Birders Working to Conserve Birds through Arizona Important Bird Areas.” Bonnie Swarbrick presented on “Range expansion of Mexican Ducks and Northern Mallards in Arizona.”

After the first session of morning presentations, Lauren Harter welcomed this year’s two youth scholarship recipients, made possible by Prescott Audubon and Maricopa Audubon. This year’s AZFO Youth Scholarship Recipients are Melisa Folsom, a recent graduate from Arizona State University and intern at the Arizona Game and Fish Department; and Sydney Smith from Wickenburg High School and volunteer on a handful of bird and wildlife projects around the state. They both are dedicated and enthusiastic learners with interest in birds and other wildlife - and both are interested in pursuing a career in wildlife research or a related field. 

After the break, a short business meeting followed the morning paper session. Kurt Licence gave the Membership updates. There are now a total of 135 members for 2017, so we gained 16 renewal/new memberships at the Annual Meeting. For 2018 there are 29 members already. Doug Jennis provided the financials and budget. The morning session wrapped up with a presentation on Nonnative Grasses Decouple Habitat Selection from Fitness in Grassland Birds by Erick Anderson, and a report on AZFO field expeditions by Felipe Guerrero.

The afternoon session resumed with a talk by Ian Davies on “eBird-Crowdsourcing Ornithology.”  Joan L. Morrison presented on “North America’s Only Caracara: Wide-ranging but Little Knowns.” David Vander Pluym presented on the “Distribution and Habitat of Elf Owls in Riparian Environments in Arizona.”

Four posters were displayed in the meeting hall: "Hummingbird Monitoring at Montezuma Castle National Monument" by Tina Greenawalt; "Western Burrowing Owls Facing Multiple Challenges Associated with Urban Living in Western Arizona," by Kerry Anne T. Loyd; "Ten-Year Summary of Grassland Bird Point Counts at Appleton-Whittell Research Ranch," by Tice Supplee; and "Influence of Fire and Burn Severity on Bird Species," by Joe Crouse.

We continued after the poster session, Chrissy Kondrat-Smith reported on the nominations for the election of open officer and board positions, with President Kurt Rademaker, Membership Secretary Kurt Licence, Recording Secretary Carol Beardmore and Board Member Andy Bridges rotating out of their positions.  The membership then elected Carol Beardmore for President; Cathy Wise as Membership Secretary; Michele Losee for Recording Secretary; And Felipe Guerrero for Board Member. Continuing their positions are Jennie MacFarland as Vice President; and Walter Thurber and Walt Anderson as the other two Board Member positions. The meeting participants then welcomed the new board members and thanked the past ones for their service.

During the meeting, attendees had the chance to test their skills on both the photo quiz (assembled by David Vander Pluym and Lauren Harter) and the audio quiz (assembled by Caleb Strand [AZFO’s 2017 youth scholarship recipient] and Tommy DeBardeleben).  David Vander Pluym and Eric Hough tied on the audio quiz. The photo quiz was tied by Ryan O’Donnell and Caleb Strand. Way to go guys!  Northern Arizona Audubon, Prescott Audubon and Maricopa County Parks (Hassayampa River Preserve) hosted a table for members to visit and learn more about these great organizations. Walt Anderson and David Lausch displayed their art masterpieces. AZFO hosted a variety of visitors for this year’s meeting.

After a relaxed social at THAT Brewery in Cottonwood, the evening banquet (catered by Jerona Cafe) featured a keynote address given Doug Von Gausig. Doug’s talk captivated the audience with his insights on the avifauna of the Verde Valley, especially threatened and endangered species, and how the huge conservation efforts centered on the Verde River have affected avifauna. Following an excellent dinner and presentation, the meeting came to a close, but we weren’t done yet.

Five field expeditions and a workshop were held on Sunday. The destinations were Cienega Creek West, the Cornville Grasslands and Spring Creek Ranch, and Loy Canyon, plus two trips to Sycamore Creek. With the gracious donation from Maricopa Audubon and AZFO, the second special feature of this meeting was an advanced eBird workshop led by Ian Davies, eBird project coordinator at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Workshop participants enjoyed a bird walk along the Verde River, followed by a classroom session exploring the use of eBird to its fullest capacity.

A shout out goes to long-time member, Erika Wilson, for her help on preparing and putting on the meeting raffle, which raised $234 this year; Janet Witzeman, and Laurie Nessel whom operated the book table, which raised $219.50 which included the sale of three Gale Monson Books; And Walter ant Fran Thurber manned the AZFO gear, Thank you!

The annual meeting was coordinated by Chrissy Kondrat-Smith and assistance from Anne Pellegrini, board members and officers. The expedition leaders were Troy Corman, Felipe Guerrero, Lauren Harter, Eric Hough, Chrissy Kondrat-Smith, Chuck LaRue, Ryan P. O'Donnell, Caleb Strand and David Vander Pluym. We would like to thank everyone who attended, and we welcome our new members who joined AZFO at the meeting. We look forward to our 12th Annual Meeting in Ajo, AZ to be held October 26-28, 2018.  Stay tuned for all the details that will be out by the beginning of the New Year!

For Field Mini-Expedition Highlights click here (coming soon).

For AZFO Youth Fellowship recipients click here (coming soon).

For 2018 AZFO Annual Meeting information click here (coming soon).


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