The IOU Spring Meeting was held in Chariton on May 5-7. This meeting was different in that we held it in conjunction with the inaugural Lucas County Birding Festival. A local committee dealt with most of the logistics such as venue, registration, caterer, and publicity. IOU members Doug Harr and Bruce Ehrsman set up field trips and helped line up vendors. The result was a fun and well-run event. There were 160 total registrants, including 82 IOU members.
Carpenters' Hall was a perfect fit for the venue. It was spacious and could easily handle different configurations for meetings and vendors. Speaking of vendors, several were on hand offering everything fron optics to customized tee shirts. The food was great and a cash bar was appreciated by some.
Friday evening was devoted to registration and socializing. Field trip signups were available. At 8:00, The Big Year was shown and free popcorn provided.
Lucas County is loaded with great places for birding. It has the lowest percentage of farmland of any Iowa county, with many public areas. We took advantage by offering field trips to the following areas.
Red Haw SP
Pin Oak Marsh
Stephens State Forest (east)
Stephens State Forest (west)
Rathbun Reservoir (SE Lucas portion)
Saturday night extension to Lucas unit for goatsuckers
In addition, Tyler Harms had an Iowa Young Briders event at the ISU McNary farm that included building Barn Owl nest boxes.
Despite being limited to Lucas County, we tallied 159 species. Bruce Ehresman told me they were hoping for 135 species, so we smashed that expectation! Migrants were generally sparse, but healthy water levels in the upper Rathbun area helped boost waterfowl and shorebird numbers. The full list can be viewed by clicking the MEETING SPECIES LIST button, but here’s a synopsis and some highlights.
· 14 species of waterfowl included a Greater Scaup and possible Cackling Goose
· 12 species of shorebirds, including American Woodcock on the night excursion
· Bruce estimated 20 (!) Eastern Whip-poor-wills at the limited area of the Lucas unit where we held the night excursion. The sound was almost overwhelming. A couple of Chuck-will’s-widows were heard by some folks amidst the Whip din. A few Common Nighthawks were heard in Chariton.
· All 7 woodpecker species
· 22 warbler species. Numbers were generally scarce, although Lucas County has to be the Kentucky Warbler capital of Iowa.
· 14 species of sparrows
Sharp-shinned Hawk, Common Gallinule, Peregrine Falcon, Red-breasted Nuthatch (2 locations) and Great-tailed Grackle were nice finds. It was disappointing not to locate any Loggerhead Shrikes. Greater Scaup, Common Gallinule and Peregrine Falcon were new additions to the Lucas County species list.
Several informative presentations were offered Saturday afternoon:
Many thanks to the presenters. Attendees appreciated having so many good topics available.
- Conservation for Birds = Conservation of the Land - Presented by Paul Goldsmith, Helga Offenburger, Jessica Flatt, Lyle Asell
- Iowa’s Barn Owl Restoration Project – Presented by Bruce Ehresman
- Restoring the Northern Bobwhite Quail Population through High-quality Habitat Planting Strategy - Presented by Adam Janke
- Hummingbirds - Winged Wonders of the Western World - Presented by Doug Harr
- Bird Photography - Presented by Tom Dunkerton
- How to Choose and Use Birding Optics - Presented by Tom Dunkerton
Also that afternoon, a Trumpeter Swan was released by the DNR at Pin Oak Marsh. Over 50 people attended, so it was a hit. Kid-friendly activities included Bird Bingo and a bird walk with Beth Brown.
IOU members meeting
The various committees gave short reports. A lot of discussion centered around the need for an Iowa Birdlife editor. Steve Dinsmore is stepping down after serving in that capacity for seven years. He gave an overview of all tasks that go into getting the quarterly journal produced. Finding one person with all the skill sets needed for this job is proving quite difficult. It's quite likely a 2-3 person committee will fill this role going forward. Steve received a well-deserved round of applause for his work as editor.
Officer and board member elections were held. Terms had expired for board members Linda Rudoph and Gerald White. Diane Dentlinger and Kevin Murphy were elected as their successors. A big, well-deserved, "thank you" to Linda and Gerald for their service and to Diane and Kevin for volunteering to serve. Pip Fisher was elected as Vice-President. Congratulations to Pip, I know he'll do a great job. Last, but definitely not least, Francis Moore agreed to another term as IOU President.
Our original keynote speaker had to cancel in mid-February, which left us in a pinch. Fortunately, Heather Sanders was contacted by some festival board members and agreed to give a presentation. Her show titled "Following the Flammulated Owl in the Western U.S" provided us a look at an ongoing project to stem the decline of this Rocky Mountain owl. The Earthwatch Initiative is doing a lot of great conservation projects. We really appreciate Heather stepping in on short notice.
Due in part to a large influx of materials, the Silent Auction was a huge success. John Cecil thinks the $570 raised is a new record. Thanks to all who purchased items and especially to John for all his hard work on this.
Thanks to all who made the festival and our meeting a great success. We enjoyed beautiful weather in a very scenic part of Iowa. The birding wasn't too bad, either. It’s always a lot of fun to share a weekend with the Iowa birding community.
The 2017 fall meeting will be held in Dubuque November 10-12. That's a peak time for waterfowl (including Tundra Swans), gulls and maybe Golden Eagles. Our keynote speaker will be the noted gull expert from Chicago, Amar Ayyash. It should be fun and informative, so mark your calendars and we'll see you in Dubuque.