2017 Fall Meeting in Dubuque


Field Trip Along the MississippiThe IOU Fall meeting was held in Dubuque—a delightfully scenic area of the state with some dramatic views from overlooks along the Mississippi River Valley. A rather late date of November 10-12 was chosen to take advantage of the fall Tundra Swan migration down the Upper Mississippi National Wildlife Refuge system. The Dubuque Audubon Society, in conjunction with, the Iowa Ornithologists’ Union, hosted the meeting. It was wonderful weekend experience producing multiple “lifers” for many of the attendees.

The kick-off for the event was held on Friday night with Registration and a Social with “Cash Bar” and snacks.  This is always a great time for visiting with old friends and making some new ones.   The movie “The Big Year” was a nice touch as it put a lighthearted spin on some of the sequences and happenings that many of us have experienced during our birding adventures.

There were six Field Trip options available - Deere Dike, various locations within the Dubuque city limits, Green Island/Sabula, Mines of Spain, Potosi Recreation Area in Wisconsin, and Swiss Valley Nature Preserve. The suite of trips offered had opportunites for a wide variety of species from swans and cranes to sparrows and finches.  Each leader took a moment to explain were they were going to go and noted possible “target birds” for their trip.  The hardest part was deciding which option to take for the day as one could only cover two out of the six field trips offered.  It was nice to have the field trip leaders around to help individuals make final decisions.  Trip leaders were David Shealer, Tony Moline, Craig Kruse & Gary Kruse, Charlie Winterwood, Wayne Buchholtz & Joe Tellar, and Tom Davis.

The afternoon began with a beautifully illustrated program by Tom Davis of Loras College on his work with one of our favorite warblers of the backwaters - Prothonotary Warbler Productivity in Flooded vs Unflooded Forest: a Five Year Study. Next Ann Johnson introduced us to a new Iowa project designed to get communities engaged in providing for our bird populations - Bird Friendly Iowa. The final presentation of the afternoon - eBird is for Everyone! - from a team of IOU members enlightened us on the many ways to use eBird in our day to day birding.

Our banquest keynote speaker was Amar Ayyash with a talk entitled Learning Gull Identification – Demystifying the Mysterious. This was most timely as the gull numbers begin building along the Mississippi as weather gets colder.

Gulls are, for most of us, one of the most challenging families of birds to correctly identify. Amar, from nearby Chicago, is quick to point this out as he opens his presentation. His well-prepared slides, notations, and explanations provided us with some insight into helping ID various species of gulls.

Amar began by separating gulls into size groups reducing the number of species we had to consider at one time. He followed this by pointing out details about how, head size, head shape, wing shape and “mirrors” (white portions of the primaries) are key clues to narrowing the choices down to something manageable.

Being aware that gulls take two and sometimes three full years before they take on full adult plumage and another important consideration. Knowing the aging stages and something about molt is also helpful. One more consideration is some knowledge of hybridization.

It was a most excellent and well-presented topic that left many us hoping to becoming better “gullers” or “larophiles”, somewhat of a difficult situation for many of here in Iowa since many of us do not have easy access to gulls.

The weekend field trips were quite successful. We had 56 participants--very good for this late in the year. Most of the attendees departed directly from the field trips for more birding on the way home. A few hardy souls return to the swanky Downtown Dubuque Holiday Inn by noon to do the final compilation and meeting Wrap-Up. Final species count was 94—again a great number for November in Iowa.

Hope you can join us for the 2018 Spring Meeting in Sioux City, IA May 18-20.