2016 Walla Walla Conference Summary

From waterfowl to woodpeckers to warblers, Walla Walla delivered a wonderful WOS conference! 


By Jim Danzenbaker


There it is! Photographer: Diane Yorgason-Quinn

It’s hard to believe that the WOS annual conference in Walla Walla is already a memory.  I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did even though the pace was sometimes frenetic, days were long but filled with pleasant conversation, and the field trips had binoculars and spotting scopes operating in overdrive.


175 of us birded the area that Mike and MerryLynn Denny call home and I am forever grateful to them for showing us the various nooks and crannies of Walla Walla and the surrounding counties. Bird highlights were many and I know that on each of the field trips that I led, I heard those words that every field trip leader loves to here…. “That’s a Lifer”!  Of course there may have been many more but the zen birders among us stayed silent.


Our 59 field trips visited habitats as diverse as the forested slopes of the Blue Mountains to the sage/shrubland of Rattlesnake Mountain to riparian corridors along the Walla Walla, Snake and Columbia Rivers to the isolated oases of Washtucna and Lyons Ferry.  Our 37 talented, patient, and ever-helpful leaders and the WOS conference attendees recorded 190 species (listed below) including several only seen on going to and returning from Walla Walla trips.

Black-throated Blue Warbler found on Sunday’s Biscuit Ridge trip. Photographer: Jim Parrish

Perhaps the highlight came on the last day when, on Mike and MerryLynn’s Biscuit Ridge trip, Shep Thorp, Barbara Webster, and Ruth Godding tracked down an odd calling warbler that turned out to be a male Black-throated Blue Warbler on territory – a WOW bird if ever there was one!  Many saw this wayward warbler the following day so it will forever be immortalized in WOS photos and memories.  Other conference highlights included several sightings of Great Gray Owls found in different ways, a Chestnut-sided Warbler and American Redstart in the vagrant oasis of Lyons Ferry, and a very cooperative Virginia Rail family that provided stunning views to many at McNary NWR.  Owling trips were successful with highlights being a cooperative family of recently fledged Western Screech Owls being fed by attentive adults (scope views at 40 feet) and incredible shows of Barn Owls at Bennington Lake.  I believe a high percentage of WOS conference participants visited the Bennington Barn Owls.

Cooperative adult Virginia Rail at McNarry NWR. Photographer: Jim Danzenbaker

Our congratulations at the Saturday night banquet were extended to Louis Kreemer, our Patrick Sullivan Young Birder’s Fund recipient.  I know we’ll being seeing Louis and his family at future birding events.  In honor of Gene Hunn’s commitment to many aspects of Washington birding, he was honored with the Zella M. Shultz Lifetime Achievement Award.


Our two speakers, Tim Parker and Christi Norman, introduced us to the challenges that sagebrush species are facing and ways that we can become involved in citizen science projects like sagebrush bird surveys.  Thanks Tim and Christi!


I know that I speak for the WOS Board when I thank Mike and MerryLynn Denny for their tireless efforts in organizing all the field trips – their local knowledge helped many out of town field trip leaders learn the routes that produced the birds.  The incomparable Shep Thorp did an incredible job with all things registration both before and during the conference and in lining up both of our speakers.  I don’t think I heard a single complaint about anything going wrong on that aspect of the conference – a win in and of itself!  Ann Brinly and Paula Kennedy did an outstanding job of producing the registration packets so that we all knew where we should be and when.  Amy Powell did a masterful job of presenting all the information on the website so that we could easily navigate through the long list of field trips so we could choose which birds and habitats we wanted to see.


Our amazing group of 37 field trip leaders from locations close and far can’t be thanked enough. Without them, the field trips would not have happened, the final bird tally would not have reached an incredible 190, and far fewer “Life Bird moments” would have been enjoyed.  Also a special thanks to Ann Nightingale for delivering an exceptional owl workshop which delved into the little discussed world of recently fledged owlets and their myriad of vocalizations.


The real unsung hero of the conference was our own WOS President, Penny Rose.  Hard to believe that she could keep the helm of the ship sailing toward a successful conference while preparing for her wedding a week before the conference and moving her residence.  Congratulations Penny and Scott!  It also takes a tremendous amount of talent to turn a rather inconvenient power outage into a time for socializing with your fellow conference goers!


To the WOS membership who attended the conference, I appreciated your ability to meet in a parking lot at 5:15 in the morning, volunteer to drive, ask questions, and provide pleasant conversation as we motored along in search of the next bird.

Roosting Common Nighthawk at Lyons Ferry. Photographer: Ann Nightingale


A shout out also to Barbara Webster, our esteemed WOS Treasurer, who kept a keen eye on all funds which included assurance that the funds were secured and handled in the most responsible way possible. Thanks for ensuring that the fiduciary goals of the membership were protected at all times.


Finally, I want to give a big “thanks” to the WOS officers and board members who, either directly or indirectly, led this conference to the success that it became. The conference couldn’t have happened without you! Whether it was providing guidance at the registration desk or mingling with the attendees, you were all amazing and highly appreciated volunteers!  This conference was truly a collaborative effort.


Here’s the list of birds recorded from June 2-6 (boldface are write-ins on the master checklist and italicized birds are species of special interest):


Canada Goose Gray Flycatcher
Wood Duck Dusky Flycatcher
Gadwall Pacific-slope Flycatcher
American Wigeon Cordilleran Flycatcher* – N. Fork of Coppei Creek and Bluewood
Mallard Ash-throated Flycatcher – 6/6 WW to Yakima trip
Blue-winged Teal Say’s Phoebe
Cinnamon Teal Western Kingbird
Northern Shoveler Eastern Kingbird
Northern Pintail Loggerhead Shrike – Rattlesnake Mt.
Green-winged Teal Cassin’s Vireo
Redhead Warbling Vireo
Ring-necked Duck Red-eyed Vireo
Greater Scaup Gray Jay
Lesser Scaup Steller’s Jay
Bufflehead Black-billed Magpie
Common Merganser Clark’s Nutcracker – Bluewood and Oregon Butte
Ruddy Duck American Crow
California Quail Common Raven
Chukar Horned Lark
Gray Partridge Tree Swallow
Ring-necked Pheasant Violet-green Swallow
Ruffed Grouse N. Rough-winged Swallow
Wild Turkey Bank Swallow
Pied-billed Grebe Cliff Swallow
Horned Grebe Barn Swallow
Western Grebe Black-capped Chickadee
Clark’s Grebe Mountain Chickadee
Double-crested Cormorant Chestnut-backed Chickadee
American White Pelican Red-breasted Nuthatch
American Bittern White-breasted Nuthatch
Great Blue Heron Brown Creeper
Great Egret Rock Wren
Black-crowned Night-Heron Canyon Wren
Turkey Vulture House Wren
Osprey Pacific Wren
Bald Eagle Marsh Wren
Northern Harrier Bewick’s Wren
Sharp-shinned Hawk American Dipper
Cooper’s Hawk Golden-crowned Kinglet
Northern Goshawk – Jasper Mountain Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Swainson’s Hawk Western Bluebird
Red-tailed Hawk Mountain Bluebird
Ferruginous Hawk Townsend’s Solitaire
Golden Eagle Veery
Virginia Rail Swainson’s Thrush
American Coot Hermit Thrush
Black-necked Stilt American Robin
American Avocet Varied Thrush
Killdeer Gray Catbird
Spotted Sandpiper Sage Thrasher – Rattlesnake Mt.
Lesser Yellowlegs European Starling
Long-billed Curlew Cedar Waxwing
Dunlin Orange-crowned Warbler
Wilson’s Snipe Nashville Warbler
Wilson’s Phalarope MacGillivray’s Warbler
Franklin’s Gull Common Yellowthroat
Ring-billed Gull Yellow Warbler
Western Gull American Redstart – Lyons Ferry
California Gull Chestnut-sided Warbler – Lyons Ferry
Glaucous-winged Gull Yellow-rumped Warbler
Bonaparte’s Gull Black-throated Blue Warbler – Biscuit Ridge
Caspian Tern Townsend’s Warbler
Forster’s Tern Wilson’s Warbler
Rock Pigeon Yellow-breasted Chat
Band-tailed Pigeon Grasshopper Sparrow
Eurasian Collared-Dove Chipping Sparrow
Mourning Dove Brewer’s Sparrow
Barn Owl Lark Sparrow
Western Screech-Owl Fox Sparrow
Great Horned Owl Dark-eyed Junco
Burrowing Owl White-crowned Sparrow
Great Gray Owl – Oregon Butte and Biscuit Ridge Sagebrush Sparrow – Rattlesnake Mt.
Long-eared Owl – 6/5 Lewis and Clark Trail Park Vesper Sparrow
Common Nighthawk Savannah Sparrow
Vaux’s Swift Song Sparrow
White-throated Swift Green-tailed Towhee
Black-chinned Hummingbird Spotted Towhee
Rufous Hummingbird Western Tanager
Calliope Hummingbird Black-headed Grosbeak
Belted Kingfisher Lazuli Bunting
Lewis’s Woodpecker Red-winged Blackbird
Williamson’s Sapsucker Tricolored Blackbird
Red-naped Sapsucker Western Meadowlark
Downy Woodpecker Yellow-headed Blackbird
Hairy Woodpecker Brewer’s Blackbird
Am. Three-toed Woodpecker – Oregon Butte Brown-headed Cowbird
Northern Flicker Bullock’s Oriole
Pileated Woodpecker House Finch
American Kestrel Cassin’s Finch
Prairie Falcon Red Crossbill
Olive-sided Flycatcher Pine Siskin
Western Wood-Pewee Lesser Goldfinch
Willow Flycatcher American Goldfinch
Least Flycatcher Evening Grosbeak
Hammond’s Flycatcher House Sparrow


If you haven’t already done so, please fill out the conference evaluation at http://www.planetreg.com/attendee_register_input_B.asp.  Please be sure to let us know your thoughts on where our next annual conference should be:  Vancouver, WA, Bellingham, WA, or Astoria, OR (to access Ilwaco and extreme southwest Washington) …..or somewhere else.


We look forward to seeing you at next year’s conference!