The Spring IOU meeting was held 5/18-20 at Briar Cliff University in Sioux City and it was great! The Loess Hills Audubon Society served as hosts for the meeting and made everyone feel welcome. There were 105 registered participants and all the dorm rooms that had been set aside for our use were full! Great birds were seen, lots of lifers were added to lists and new friends were made. What more can you ask for in a weekend?
Friday evening held a reception with snacks and drinks and lots of catching up at the Stark Student Center, our primary meeting location for the weekend. Paul Roisen provided some tips on helping get others on birds. Everyone got a chance to get signed up for field trips, and Kevin Murphy got our Silent Auction arranged and laid out late into the night so it would be ready first thing in the morning.
Saturday morning held more fellowship and breakfast at the Stark Student Center as we gathered to organize ourselves into the field trip groups. There were 6 trip options which included stops at lots of great locations including: Stone State Park, Sioux City Prairie Woodlands, Fowler Forest Preserve, Brower Slough, Owego Wetlands, and Plymouth County. People grabbed their sack lunches and headed out to do what we do: go observe birds!
In the afternoon we had some great speakers to learn from. James McCoy talked about Carbon Fee and Dividend as a Solution to Climate Change and how it may be an effective way to help reduce greenhouse gasses and get the market to drive changes in behavior. Jesse Ellis of Coe College told us how he used a grant from our Projects Committee in program entitled: “The Eurasian Tree Sparrow in Iowa: an invasion, or just an exotic new neighbor?” He explained how they were researching the expanding range of the Eurasian Tree Sparrow and gave us a history of how this bird came to be found in Iowa after being introduced in St. Louis. Dave Swanson of the University of South Dakota told us about Migrant Bird Use of Riparian Corridors and how contiguous bands habitats are used by migrants, and how those areas are becoming more and more rare. Laura Erickson talked about her Laura's Conservation Big Year, and got us all really excited to hear her keynote address at the banquet.
After the speakers were finished, we held our Spring Membership meeting. Updates from committees, budget information, discussion of how we can best assist the new editor of Iowa Bird Life (Karen Vista-Sparkman), and electing the newest board members of the IOU were the highlights. (As usual, the minutes will be published on iowabirds.org in the near future.) Long-time IOU members, Bob and Phyllis Nickolson of Sioux City, were recognized by the members. Bob has been an IOU member since 1949!
After a scrumptious banquet meal, Laura Erickson presented "Laura's Best Bird Ever" of which she has many from the common to the exotic. Her talk and slides got everyone in the room reminiscing about birds they had seen over the years. While we all appreciate the birds themselves, sometimes it is more than that - it is the experiences. That must be why we are birders!
Sunday birding was similar to the previous day. Perhaps the highlight, at least for many, was the small flock of Least Terns which is a state endangered species. The meeting ended with the compilation of species seen for the weekend. A total of 185 was pretty remarkable.