Arizona Field Ornithologists
Fifth Annual State Meeting Summary
By Doug Jenness
The fifth annual AZFO state meeting in Phoenix 21-23 October drew more than 70 participants and registered important achievements the organization has made the past year. Pierre Deviche announced that the first two Gale Monson Research Grants have been awarded to Carl Lundblad and Kristen Dillon, both students at the University of Arizona in Tucson. Dillon presented a brief description of her research on Red-faced Warblers. Each grant was for $1000. Troy Corman reported that in January and February 20 teams participated in the first ever statewide winter survey for Mountain Plovers in the state. One hundred and seventy six plovers were detected in four locations during the initial surveys and only 80 could be found during the follow-up surveys. He projected that surveys would be conducted again in 2012. Financial assistance has been provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. John Yerger and John Arnett urged participants to participate in a 3-4 December AZFO field expedition that will follow up on one last February to survey wintering Gray Vireos. The December teams will cover various desert mountain ranges in several counties not surveyed in February.
A wonderful catered dinner Saturday night at the Arizona Game and Fish Headquarters, where the meeting was held, included a keynote address by Richard Glinski, editor of Raptors of Arizona. He framed his discussion of the current status of hawks in Arizona as a tribute to the field work and data collection that the AZFO is doing. He also encouraged us to use our field activities as opportunities to get youth outdoors.
During the Saturday session participants enjoyed 15-minute presentations on the expanding Gray Hawk populations on the San Pedro River (Samantha Dorr), Mexican Duck distribution and identification (Lauren Harter and David Vander Pluym), Bald Eagle management (Kyle McCarty), survey methods used to detect thrashers in breeding season (John Arnett), and the effects of the Spring 2011 Pickett fire near Boyce Thompson Arboretum on avian life (Carl Tomoff). In addition to these talks participants recessed to view and ask questions about six poster presentations on Rufous-winged and Cassin's Sparrows, Abert's Towhee, Golden Eagle, and bird monitoring expeditions to Mexico. Kurt Radamaker then updated us on recent decisions of the Arizona Bird Committee. He announced that with the recent additions of Baikal Teal, Sedge Wren, and Little Gull, the Arizona state list now stands at 550 species.
Reports and updates were also presented on field expeditions by John Yerger, seasonal reports and database by Doug Jenness, website by Edwin Juarez, publications by Pierre Deviche, and finances by Doug Jenness. Carol Beardmore presented nominations for the election of officers and Board of Directors for 2012. We were pleased to have all prior Board Members return for another year.
Popular as usual, the used book sale and sale of polo shirts, caps, and mugs did a brisk business. An added item this year was an attractive edition of the AZFO's Field Checklist of Birds of Arizona. Total sales came to $515. Participants enjoyed the bird photo and audio ID contests and a first-time raffle raised $203. The books donated as prizes by the Tucson Audubon Society bookstore were highly appreciated.
We would like to thank Daniela Yellan, Marceline VandeWater, Edwin Juarez, Carol Beardmore, Janet Witzeman, and other Phoenix area volunteers who helped make the weekend a great success. Photos were also provided by Marceline. The next annual meeting will be in Lake Havasu City in October 2012.
The weather was mostly clear and warmer than expected for the mini-expeditions surrounding the annual meeting. These expeditions were attended by 51 folks (including leaders) and produced 105 species, including several noteworthy discoveries. This was surprisingly the exact same cumulative total of species found during last year’s annual meeting weekend in Prescott.
The Friday afternoon (21 October) expedition was to the Hassayampa River Preserve near Wickenburg. There were 16 enthusiastic participants joining leaders, Chrissy Kondrat-Smith and I to conduct a bird blitz over a large section of the preserve (off trail). The highlights of the nearly 50 species detected included two of the rare resident RED-SHOULDERED HAWKS, a rare migrant YELLOW-BELLIED SAPSUCKER, and a late WARBLING VIREO.
The three mini-expeditions on Sunday morning were well attended with a total of 33 participants. Some headed to the lower Verde River for a rare opportunity to bird a section of Fort McDowell tribal lands. Here they were led by Marceline VandeWater, Janet Witzeman, and Mark Larson. While exploring the riparian groves, ponds and river, they managed to find a respectable 65 species highlighted by yet another RED-SHOULDERED HAWK! They encountered a great variety of waterfowl, grebes, herons, shorebirds and other aquatic birds, including nearly 200 RING-NECKED DUCKS! I introduced participants to the ins-and-outs of exploring the lush Morgan City Wash area, including the adjacent Agua Fria river-bottom. Hopefully some participants will return on their own to visit this remarkable desert oasis.
Another Sunday morning expedition was led by Michael Nicosia to a section of the Agua Fria National Monument in southern Yavapai County. His team also found a remarkable diversity of 65 species underscoring this area's worth for more exploration by birders. The many keen eyes and ears discovered several noteworthy species including a rather late WESTERN TANAGER, four irregularly occurring LAWRENCE’S GOLDFINCHES, and two rare migrant warblers, OVENBIRD and AMERICAN REDSTART. The latter two were well documented by photographs. They also estimated 200+ AMERICAN ROBINS.
I want to thank the expedition leaders for all their time and effort organizing and leading the troops into the field. Another thank you goes to the expedition photographers: Doug Jenness, Marceline VandeWater, David Vander Plyum, and Bob Witzeman.