By Brian Bell
We are back from the WOS Annual Conference in Moscow, Idaho and we saw the Palouse region at its very best. All the folks I talked to agreed the conference was a great success.
The Friday field trips went well, with many excellent birds being observed in spite of high temperatures. Most of the trips managed to find their target species, and the people on the Snake River Hells Canyon boat trip all came back with high praises. These Friday trips were extremely popular with most of them filling up quickly. We will certainly continue the tradition.
Our Friday evening speaker was Dr. Kas Dumrose a plant biologist with the U.S. Forest Service in Moscow, one of the authors of the ABA Birdfinding Guide to Idaho, and the person in charge of the Northern Idaho/Eastern Washington rare bird alert. In talking with him before the presentation, Kas made the comment that he had really enjoyed preparing his talk as he had learned much new information. This transmitted to his talk as he gave us a great overview of the Palouse area including the geologic setting and history, some of the historic influences on the region, and some of the problems the area faces. Kas is a most entertaining and informative speaker, and folks were commenting all weekend that it really changed how they looked at the Palouse as they went on their field trips.
Saturday’s trips were again successful, although some of them had to dodge the rain showers that moved through the area, but that did drop the temperatures. Having gone onthe Saturday Hells Canyon trip I can agree with Friday’s assessment – this is a trip well worth going on. WOS was very fortunate in the drivers assigned to our trips as both were extremely knowledgeable, good observers and took us where we wanted to go.
As the trips returned and the leaders toted up our conference birds through the end of Saturday (with Sunday still to go), we had observed over 180 species, and I believe we may have added a few on Sunday.
Final accounting is still underway, and we will let everyone know the final totals (and post them on the website). As always, we had a number of surprise observations and some regrettable misses, but this was definitely a “birdy” weekend.
We had a good open Board meeting before our Saturday evening festivities, and a number of members sat in and made good suggestions as we began the process of debating when and where to hold the next WOS conference (on the west side of the state).
As usual, people really enjoyed the social time together before the beginning of “official” activities. This is always a great time to meet those old friends, to hash over the day’s sightings with new friends, and to relax after a busy day.
Our speaker at the banquet was Dr. Erik Stauber, the director of the Raptor Rehabilitation Center at WSU. Erik has spoken and presented raptors to many groups including schools and the general public. He confessed before the meeting that he was a little nervous about appearing before a large group of birder/ornithologists who might know more about the raptors than he did. He didn’t need to worry, he displayed his excellent knowledge in a most effective way. For us, he brought ten raptors, including owls, that he and his assistants discussed and circulated throughout the banquet room for close views (red-tailed hawk, roughlegged hawk, ferruginous hawk, sharp-shinned hawk, American kestrel, great horned owl, barred owl, barn owl, and saw-whet owl). It was truly a stirring experience to be able to see these birds “up close and personal.”
Sunday, many of our folks took part in the “on the way home” trips, while others went on local trips that returned to the conference site before departing for home. The reports were that these trips were also enjoyed by everyone. A number of people stayed over an extra day so that they could recover from all the activities and also do some birding on the way back to their home areas.
The University Inn in Moscow was an excellent host, providing us with a comfortable site for our meetings, meeting our needs at the conference promptly, and just being nice folks.
I can’t say enough about the help we received from Diane and Tom Weber and the other people from Palouse Audubon. They made all the local arrangements, pulled together the excellent field trip leaders, and set the stage for a great conference. Tom told us that the leaders were eager to lead the trips to some of their favorite spots and show the birds to all us folks who didn’t realize what a rich resource there is in the Palouse. To everyone who attended, we thank you for coming and making this a successful conference and we hope to see you at the next conference.
For those who couldn’t attend this year, we hope to see you at future conferences or at our monthly meetings or regularly scheduled field trips!