Sunday, December 2, 2007

Ohio Bird Conservation Conference

This weekend marked the Ohio Ornithological Society's first conservation conference focusing on the larger picture of protecting birds. We were fortunate to be able to partner with the Ohio Chapter of The Nature Conservancy to make this event happen, and appreciate their support immensely. A big thank you to all who attended, and especially those that donated their time and talents to pull the conference together. I think that I can speak for many in the birding community when I say that there is a real need for birders to band together and support active conservation; i.e. land acquistion. The OOS and its members can help with that through outright donations to organizations that have a successful track record of owning and managing land, such as TNC. We can also, as a group, do our best to educate about the importance of conserving landscapes for birds, and why we need to do so. I think a bit of both were accomplished this weekend.

Our venue was the lodge at Deer Creek State Park, and it proved to be an excellent facility for a birding conference. In addition to comfortable rooms and good food, the massive picture windows in the dining room overlook Deer Creek Reservoir. From our seats we could observe Bald Eagle, Belted Kingfisher, Hooded Merganser and other birds while chomping french fries or whatever.
As has nearly always been the track record of the OOS, we combine field expeditions along with the indoor agenda. Both Friday and Saturday night, we took attendees down to see the Northern Saw-whet Owl banding station near Chillicothe. As they always are, Bill Bosstic, Kelly Williams-Sieg, and Bob Placier were exceedingly gracious in allowing us to visit, and patiently explaining the operation. Best of all, they caught owls each night! This is part of the group from Friday night, with the saw-whet being held by Scott Weidensaul, with Bill Bosstic to his right. Kelly is three people to Scott's left. Bob was already out running the nets or I would have had him in this shot!

This is our cast of speakers, each of whom was outstanding. From l to r. Dave Ewert of The Nature Conservancy spoke about migratory bird stopover needs, especially in the Great Lakes region and Ohio. While we often think of breeding and wintering grounds conservation, more thought and effort is needed to protect habitat along the corridors that migrants use. Dave knows more about this issue than probably anyone, and shared that knowledge very well.

Paul Baicich is an exceptional ambassador for getting birders involved actively in conservation, and speaks to the topic perhaps better than anyone. He has been a very positive example for me personally. That's what he did for us this weekend - delivered a message of activism and involvement, whether it be purchasing a duck stamp or lobbying for "lights out" programs for skyscapers.

Scott Weidensaul was keynote speaker and it wouldn't be possible to find a more apropos choice. On Saturday evening Scott delivered an incredible program based on his book Return to Wild America, a retracing of the incredible journey of Roger Tory Peterson and James Fisher 50 years prior. With the help of outstanding imagery, Scott took us to some of North America's icon natural areas, and talked about what they mean to Americans, and wildlife. We began the trip with Scott on the high bluffs of Newfoundland, teeming with Northern Gannets and other seabirds, and ended on massive cliffs overlooking the sea in Alaska, also abundant with birds. In between was a compelling story of the need to save what we have, delivered by perhaps the most eloquent voice advocating for nature. Scott's is a story that should be heard by everyone.

Chris Bedel's message was one of biodiversity, delivered in his always engaging and over the top enthusiastic style. The 14,000-acre Edge of Appalachia preserve in Adams County was his topic, and Chris educated us on the incredible array of life found there. Birds, wasps, lichens, mussels, plants, snails - you name it, Chris knows about it. "The Edge" is where the OOS has donated $10,000 for land acquistion, and it was good for everyone to hear from Chris that even though we've helped to protect birds, much other biodiversity comes with the package.

Amanda Rodewald kicked things off, fittingly, with an overview of her work with Cerulean Warblers. That species, as you may know, is the icon bird of the OOS. Cerulean Warblers have declined by an estimated 70% since the 1960's and fully deserve out attention. Amanda is somewhat of a rarity, in my experince, in that she is an academic researcher who can also convey her work to the general public exceptionally well. She is an enthusiastic and articulate speaker that doesn't go over our heads, but yet describes intense research work. Amanda spearheads studies on Ceruleans on their wintering grounds in the Andes of Venezuela, and among other things has documented the importance of shade-grown coffee plantations in the wintering ecology of this beautiful bird.

At our Friday night get-together, Scott Weidensaul graciously signed many, many copies of his books. Here, Don "Donald the Birder" Morse gets an autograph.

The OOS and other friends presented Jen Sauter with this token of our appreciation on Saturday night. Jen is Executive Secretary of the OOS, and the driving force behind planning and executing these conferences among other things. It was the least we could do, and I wish we could do more to honor all of her contributions. Her gift is a signed painting of a Golden-winged Warbler by Jennifer Brumfield.

We also took the opportunity to recognize Cheryl Harner, president of the Greater Mohican Audubon Society, on the left. Cheryl has made real contributions in Ohio's conservation community, and been another driving force behind developing and implementing innovative efforts to further land protection and get people involved. We presented Cheryl with a hand-carved Wood Duck decoy created by Laura and Tim Dornan.

We also presented this check for $1,500 to Amanda Rodewald to help with her work on Cerulean Warblers. From l to r: me,, OOS financial officer Peter, Amanda, and OOS conservation committee chair Tom Bain, who also did an outstanding job as emcee for the conference.

Thanks to all of you who support the OOS and make it possible for us to support work such as Amanda's. In a digital fit display of bad manners, my camera somehow destroyed the photos I had of our presentation of a check for $10,000 to The Nature Conservancy for an important land acquisition project. Others took photos of that presentation and I'm hopeful someone will send me one so that I can share it here.


Anonymous said...

Many thanks for your support Jim. We had a really great time at the symposium. Absolutely beautiful location, on top of it all.


Bill of the Birds said...

There's no more deserving person in the OOS for a big THANK YOU than Jen. Wish I'd been there to thank her in person. Missed seeing all my OOS pals.

Canvasback, a fine botanical duck

A handsome drake Canvasback loafs in frigid Lake Erie waters, off Miller Road Park in the city of Avon Lake, Ohio. I was there bright on and...