2008 Walla Walla

Conference Summary

By Carol Schulz

I attended the WOS Conference in early June, and I want to go back to Walla Walla County! Mike Denny’s talk explained that Walla Walla County rises from 340 ft. at Wallula Gap to almost 5,000 ft. in the mountains. There are rivers, deltas, and productive varied habitats. Its rivers include the Columbia, the Snake, and Walla Walla River. It is close to the TriCities, so we folks on the west side can travel on freeways almost the whole way. And we found out almost any bird is possible there!

Before the conference, the WOS board members were going crazy making arrangements and finding leaders for all the field trips. Then there was the problem of a cold, wet spring, too much snow in the mountains, and gas prices going up, up, up. Despite all that, there were 100 participants, and leaders for most of the trips. Once we struggled to find our way around the campus, we found the dorm which was to serve as conference headquarters. Many of us stayed in the dorm, and despite my trepidations, I found it to be quite nice, with facilities to fix food on every floor, and a lounge in the basement.

I went on three field trips and they were all very good. The leaders had scouted ahead of time and found us some great birds.

On Friday, Jim Danzenbaker took us to an INDIGO BUNTING, breeding up on No. Fork Coppei Road, which he had found the day before while scouting. We saw lots of other birds too. Jim gave us helpful hints about identifying birds on the wing by their calls, and noting tail length of different birds perching. Wow. I put his hints into my field guide.

Since we were leaving every morning at 5 AM! I skipped Saturday’s trips, and birded on my own. A nap helped a lot.

On Sunday, I went on Scott Downes’ trip to Biscuit Ridge. He found us two close-up Green-tailed Towhees, which called and copulated! On Monday, I took Bob Flores’ trip on the way home. Because there was too much high water down at the Walla Walla River delta, Bob changed the trip a bit. We backtracked east and I got to see the LEAST FLYCATCHER up very close. Then we went up the mountain to view the male Indigo Bunting. We had great looks at this bird, and heard it call. We did not see its mate, a female Lazuli! Then our group headed for home.

We stopped in the TriCities and walked out onto Bateman Island, where there were many birds to see. Most of the island is very green these days, since being planted in native plants after a couple of fires a few years ago. (I found out later that those fires were arson, and they found out who did it.) In the green bushes and roses, we found two Gray Catbirds that perched up and sang. Out in some huge locust trees, we found a Great Horned Owl, and a very large juvenile owl flying and perching. Bob thinks the island may become very productive during migration because of all the new vegetation. Later that day, we cut the field trip short, as there were heavy snow warnings in the pass. It was June! Earlier in the conference, on Friday, Mike Denny’s trip had encountered a blizzard! What a spring!

During the conference, the leaders were wonderful. They were very well-prepared, and some of them jumped in and substituted for other leaders whenever it was needed. Kathy Andrich was a substitute at the last minute, and her group found a GREAT GRAY OWL up on Biscuit Ridge! It was perched by the road near small pine trees in mid-afternoon.

I want to thank Mike and Merry Lynn Denny, all the leaders, the members of the board who really sweated this one out, and the volunteers, especially Ron Friesz of Ephrata, who did extra special duty at the conference. It was a success. Great speakers, birds, people, food, and trips! Thanks so much to WOS. I want to return to Walla Walla County!