By Brian Bell
Our WOS Annual Conference, held in Long Beach on September 19-21 was another outstanding meeting. More than 100 people made the long trip down to the Long Beach Peninsula for the excellent birding on the field trips; to see this infrequently birded corner of our state, to enjoy two excellent and informative evening talks, and to renew acquaintances and make new ones.
We expanded our Friday field trip offerings for this conference, with four all-day trips. One trip started from Tokeland/Westport and birded to Long Beach, a second one started at Julia Butler Hanson NWR and explored for birds along the Columbia River out to Long Beach.
For those who had come down the day before, we searched out all those good bird spots in the Fort Canby area, and there was a scheduled pelagic trip to Astoria Canyon. A number of very good birds were seen on these trips including snowy plover, white-tailed kite, red-shouldered hawk, willet, green heron, great egret, sooty shearwater (from shore), Cassin’s vireo, scrub jay, black phoebe, and Lapland longspur.
We spread out on Saturday and Sunday with eight trips each day. Interesting birds included blue-winged teal, pinkfooted and sooty shearwaters (from shore), white-tailed kite, red-shouldered hawk, willet, pomarine and parasitic jaeger (from shore), marbled murrelet (from shore), tufted puffin (from shore), Franklin’s gull, olive-sided and Hammond’s flycatchers, gray and scrub jays, tree swallow, wrentit (in Oregon), Swainson’s thrush, hermit warbler, and white-throated sparrow (in Oregon). The highlight for many people was the discovery on Saturday (by Ollie Oliver) of a tropical kingbird in Oysterville.
It was quite the spectacle with about 20 scopes and 25 people all grouped in the middle of the road looking at the bird. At one point a fellow in a pickup truck came around the corner, saw the crowd and turned around to take the alternate approach. The kingbird generated much discussion, many notes were taken, and some photos and video. The bird was silent and thus Couch’s kingbird can’t be completely ruled out, but with tropical kingbird regular most years and a Couch’s never having been seen, the likelihood is for a tropical kingbird.
Lots of folks were back out on Sunday morning looking for the bird. Unfortunately (or not, depending on your view and susceptibility to a rocking boat), both of the pelagic trips were canceled due to sea and weather conditions, so alternate make-up trips were held on Friday and Saturday – they got the nickname of ‘pedestrian pelagic trips’. The pelagic species seen from shore were all the more appreciated.
Field trip participants were very well-fueled by our caterers for breakfast and lunch. An excellent hot breakfast prepared us for the long days in the field ,and lunch helped provide the stamina to stay out and see that last bird. Many thanks to the Cottage Bakery and Deli of Long Beach for their fine food.
The dinner banquet was also great as Celebrations by the Seashore put on a most delicious meal. Many thanks to them, too. All of the trips resulted in a good variety of species being seen, with very nice looks at a lot of them. Once again, WOS was most fortunate in having a group of superb leaders: kudos to Charlie Wright, Ken Knittle, Marv Breece, Brian Bell, Kraig Kemper, Ruth and Patrick Sullivan, Rudy and Winona Schuver, Gene Hunn, Mike Patterson, and Mike Denny for taking us to and finding all of these great birds.
The conference resulted in 161 species being tallied, in spite of missing many of the offshore birds. Most of us have a new appreciation for the excellent birding opportunities that the Long Beach Peninsula area offers. Friday evening, Marie Fernandez of the Willapa Bay NWR presented an interesting overview of the bay and its value to Washington wildlife. She talked about some of the problems facing the area, one of the most serious being the invasion of Willapa Bay by spartina, an east coast grass with no native predators. This unwelcome intruder chokes out the native species and builds up the bay bottom resulting in direct impacts to the oyster fishery and to available mudflats for shorebirds. Marie discussed variety of approaches that are being used to cope with this serious threat.
Saturday evening, following an excellent banquet we were treated to an outstanding keynote speech by Dennis Paulson. He provided a good overview of shorebirds and their breeding habits and how they fit within a Washington framework. Dennis always has a great manner of presentation and excellent slides, and helped us to understand what drives these birds and where and why we can see them at various times of the year. Once again, the officers and Board of Directors of WOS want to thank the members for their enthusiastic support of WOS and of our conferences. It is this support that makes our efforts worthwhile.