2016 Spring Meeting in Ames


The Spring IOU Meeting last weekend in Ames was a lot of fun with a great group of 95 attendees.  The Starlite Conference Center at the Quality Inn & Suites worked well for us as a base for the meetings and banquet.

Big Bluestem Audubon (BBAS) hosted the Friday evening social at the Story County Conservation headquarters. It was well attended and everyone seemed to have a good time.  McFarland Park is a nice area, but the cold temperatures and strong winds kept most people inside.  Hank Zaletel was available to answer questions about the many field trip options.

Field Trips

We awoke Saturday to more of the same, weather-wise.  After picking up the sack lunches provided by BBAS, folks scattered far and wide in the rough conditions.  The following areas were visited (with field trip leaders noted):  Brookside and Ada Hayden Parks (Wolfgang Oesterreich and Josh Obrecht); Colo Bog and Hendrickson Marsh (Hank Zaletel); Ledges and Harrier Marsh (Doug Harr and Bruce Ehresman); Errington Marsh and Chichaqua Bottoms (Stuart Sparkman, Karen Viste-Sparkman and Shane Patterson).  On Sunday, an additional trip visited Saylorville and Marsh Farm Wetland (Eric Ollie and Matt Wetrich). The weather bounced back on Sunday, with cool temperatures, lots of sun, and LIGHT WINDS.  Many of the species that were hard to hear or get good looks at on Saturday were much more cooperative the next day.  That really lifted everyone’s spirits and we ended the weekend with 190 species!  That may be a Spring Meeting record.  Here are a few of the highlights:

16 species of waterfowl, including Cinnamon Teal and Red-breasted Merganser
Common Loon
Eared Grebe
American & Least Bittern
White-faced Ibis
Virginia Rail
Sandhill Crane
21 species of shorebirds, including Upland Sandpiper, both godwits and American Woodcock
Bonaparte’s Gull
Common Tern
Peregrine Falcon
Yellow-bellied Flycatcher
27 species of warbler (with good numbers for many), including Hooded, Cape May, Cerulean and Bay-breasted
15 sparrows, including Le Conte’s

A bewildering miss was Orchard Oriole.  Trumpeter Swan and Forster’s Tern were also surprising no-shows.  The Ledges group ran out of time to look for the Loggerhead Shrike pair that are sometimes seen south of the park.

With that said, the feedback received was how much fun everyone had in the field.  Tearing folks away from the warblers was a tough chore for the trip leaders, but a fun one to have.

Afternoon Sessions

The afternoon meetings were well attended and well received.  Kelly McKay’s overview on how window collisions are affected by building siting and glass area was very interesting.  It was a very meticulous study, and the process and planning that went into it was very informative.  Steve Dinsmore followed with a talk on citizen science and bird monitoring.  He focused on the challenges of using “lay” person data in three initiatives:  Breeding Bird Surveys, Christmas Bird Counts and eBird.  All three have pros and cons when it comes drawing scientific conclusions from the data.  It definitely sparked a lot of discussion.  Hank Zaletel then took the group (well, not literally) on a winter trip to Sax-Zim Bog in northern Minnesota.  The Zaletels have gone on this Carroll CCB-sponsored trip three times with Matt Wetrich.  Hank had a highly entertaining presentation on the wonderful birds that were seen and the occasional logistical challenges they encountered.  Tyler Harms and Paul Skrade gave a short overview of the online survey presented to Listserve members last fall.  They’ll be publishing full results soon.  A short business meeting wrapped up the afternoon session.  Elections were held and the results are as follows:  Stuart Sparkman’s time as Secretary was up and he will be replaced by Rex Rundquist.  Karen Viste-Sparkman’s term as Board Member also expired and she will be replaced by Eric Ollie.  Candace Havely and Linda Rudolph both agreed to serve a second term as Board Members.  Congratulations to the new IOU board members and a well-deserved “thank you” to Stuart and Karen for their service these last four years.

Evening Session

Our keynote speaker, Mary Gustafson, came up from the Rio Grande Valley to talk about bird conservation initiatives in Mexico, especially with Chihuahuan Desert grasslands.  She focused on the efforts between Canada, the United States and Mexico to conserve and improve breeding, migratory and wintering habitats for grassland birds.  The decline in the number of many grassland species in the last 50 years is truly staggering.  Some have declined over 90%.  Mary told us she was amazed when she discovered that IOU, Iowa Audubon and Iowa DNR have all contributed to Southern Wings and other initiatives for grassland conservation.   Nearly all the other participants in those initiatives are big government agencies or national conservation organizations.  She heartily congratulated us for recognizing the challenges “our” grassland birds face on their Mexican wintering grounds.  She spoke at length on one of the projects in which we invested, the El Tokio Grasslands in Nuevo Leon where over 100,000 acres have been protected.  It was a great presentation and rekindled (or kindled for the first time) for many, the urge to go birding in Mexico.

Many thanks to the speakers and field trip leaders.  The presentations and field trips were top-notch.  Also, many thanks to John and Bob Cecil for all their hard work in putting on the Silent Auction.  It raised over $400.  Doug Harr and Karen Disbrow again supported the IOU sales booth.  I especially want to thank Hank Zaletel, Shane Patterson, and the rest of Big Bluestem Audubon for organizing the facilities and field trips.  It was a very successful meeting.  There seemed to be a real camaraderie within the attendees, and several folks commented that it was an enjoyable and birdy weekend.  

I hope you can join us in Spirit Lake on August 26-28 for our fall meeting.  Kevin Karlson will be the keynote speaker.  Kevin is a noted field trip leader and wildlife photographer.  He’s also a prolific birding author and is the co-author of Birding by Impression: A Different Approach to Knowing and Identifying Birds and The Shorebird Guide.  His keynote presentation will be about the former and he will also lead an afternoon session on shorebird ID.  Mark your calendars and we’ll see you in the great Northwest in August!