Here is a summary of the 2010 Colorado Field Ornithologists (CFO) conference, held May 21-24 in Fort Collins. More than 190 people registered for the conference--certainly a new record for a CFO event. Our base of operations was the Fort Collins Hilton, and the staff and facilities were great. We had a great showing from our wonderful vendors, and there were frequent sightings of young birders throughout the entire conference. Special thanks to the American Birding Association for providing each conference participant with a copy of Ted Floyd and Bill Schmoker's how-to guide, "Let's Go Birding!"
The conference got underway with registration and a social "hour" (loosely speaking) at the Fort Collins Hilton early Friday evening, May 21st. Vendors got set up on Friday, too, with most of them being present for the entire conference. Throughout the event, participants enjoyed the vendors' expertise and diverse offerings. Thank you, vendors!
The main event on Saturday evening was "Stump the Chumps," a sight and sound identification panel moderated by the evil photographer Bill Schmoker and his evil twin brother, recordist Nathan Pieplow. Panelists Ted Floyd, Peter Gent, Marcel Such, Joel Such, and Tim Smart bumbled their way through the tricky photos and sound recordings, and the audience roared with laughter.
On Saturday afternoon, May 22nd, attendees enjoyed excellent presentations by Lynn Wickersham on the Colorado Breeding Bird Atlas, Jason Beason on Chasing Black Swifts, and Arvind Punjabi on Making Conservation Happen. This portion of the conference was moderated by CFO board member Larry Modesitt, who noted that everybody in attendance surely learned something new and interesting from the presentations. Following the afternoon presentations, authors Doug Faulkner, Ted Floyd, and Hugh Kingery signed copies of their recently published books. There was also a silent auction for the official conference artwork, created by young birder and outstanding artist Saraiya Ruano. The whole while, conference attendees enjoyed the expertise and offerings of our wonderful vendors.
The Saturday evening banquet got underway with remarks by CFO President Jim Beatty, followed by a delectably brief business meeting. Business consisted of welcoming incoming CFO Board member Brenda Linfield, reappointment of CFO Board member Brad Steger to a second term, and reappointment of all other board members to the second year of their current, elected terms. Outgoing board member Mark Peterson was thanked for his many years of hard work and expertise on many fronts—especially computers and the internet. Immediate Past President Bill Schmoker "Passed the Hat"--it's a CFO tradition--and we raised in excess of $700 for CFO youth scholarships. Proceeds go to CFO scholarships for Colorado's young birders. Were you amazed by the amazing skills of young birders Saraiya Ruano, Joel Such, Marcel Such, and others? Well, CFO has been supporting them for several years now. THANK YOU to all who contributed to "Pass the Hat."
Next up at the banquet was the presentation of CFO awards. First, The Nature Conservancy in Colorado received the CFO Distinguished Bird Conservation Partner Award for its generosity to CFO members and other birders, as well as for its more important work for birds and their habitats all across the state. Second, Peter Gent received the first-ever CFO Special Achievement Award for his dedicated service to the organization during a time period spanning several decades. Third, Alex Cruz received the Ron Ryder Award for his legacy of training students who have gone on to distinguished and influential careers in field ornithology and bird conservation.
The Saturday evening banquet was capped off with the 2010 keynote address by Craig Benkman. A professor at the University of Wyoming, Benkman is the world's foremost authority on crossbills, and his presentation provided a fascinating overview of the extraordinary ecology of these remarkable birds.
The best thing of all about the conference was the nearly 200 birders who attended. "You had to be there," as they say, to appreciate the wonderful camaraderie of the event. It was great to see perfect strangers helping each other out on the bird trips; to see old friends getting together to grab a bite to eat; to see and hear and partake in all the laughter, the good times, and the great birding.
During the conference, participants observed substantially in excess of 200 species, with such highlights as Little Blue Heron, Glossy Ibis, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Alder Flycatcher, Yellow-throated Vireo, Tennessee Warbler, Northern Parula, Palm Warbler, Hooded Warbler, Sage Sparrow, Northern Cardinal, Baltimore Oriole, and White-winged Crossbill.
As far as I know, the trips got off without a hitch. We had the usual challenges in snow, high water, high winds, a moose or two, and so forth; but everybody got back safely. A special word of thanks to Bill Schmoker for organizing and distributing the sack lunches for field trip participants. And huge thanks to Mark Peterson and Brad Steger with the immense logistical challenge--brilliantly executed--of organizing all the trips.Two things were especially notable about the field trips.
Here is a partial enumeration of the field trips:
- First, the field trip leaders were patient, generous, flexible, and excellent. Many thanks to all the leaders: Craig Benkman, Loni Beyer, Chip Clouse, John Drummond, Ted Floyd, Peter Gent, Tom Hall, Chuck Hundertmark, Bill Kaempfer, Doug Kibbe, Heather Knight, Nick Komar, Dave Leatherman, Chris Pague, Mark Peterson, Nathan Pieplow, Ira Sanders, Bill Schmoker, and Paul Slingsby.
- Second, the field trips were wonderfully diverse. Participants got to visit places and do things that simply would have been out of the question except at a CFO conference.
- With Craig Benkman and Nathan Pieplow: A special expedition to see, hear, and learn about Red Crossbills.
- With various leaders: A tour of The Nature Conservancy's Phantom Canyon Preserve. Outrageous scenery.
- With the hatchet-wielding Dave Leatherman: A unique outing to learn about pine bark beetles and other insects.
- Chase!: High-octane excursions to find rarities throughout the northern Front Range region--and beyond.
- With Ted Floyd: Bare-naked birding. Laid back, late start, early finish, no bins, great views, good birds.
- With Bill Schmoker: Bird photography. In-the-field training from one of the greats of avian digital photography.
- With various leaders: The legendary Wyoming Hereford Ranch. Rarities aplenty at this fabled vagrant trap.
- With Lynn Wickersham: Birding with a purpose. Participants performed field work for the Breeding Bird Atlas.
- With Ted Floyd and other insomniacs: Nocturnal migration and night-singing passerines in Weld County.
- With Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory biologists: A tour of a sludge dump converted to vital bird habitat.
Along with all of these special opportunities, there were plenty of "normal" field trips to "normal" places like Cameron Pass, Crow Valley Campground, Pawnee National Grassland, Rocky Mountain National Park, and so forth. At least one of the trips made it all the way to Jumbo Reservoir!
On a personal note, the three trips I led were enchanting from start to finish. And why is that? That's easy--Because of the wonderful participants! At Phantom Canyon, participants marveled at Clark's Nutcrackers and White-throated Swifts zooming through the canyons; Bald Eagles and Golden Eagles soaring amid the rimrocks; and Rock Wrens proclaiming their breathy songs atop every outcropping. At Lee Martinez Park, participants delighted in fine viewing of Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Orchard Oriole, and others; the birds were extra special in their full-context, bare-naked glory. And out on the Pawnee National Grassland, participants gathered under the stars and listened in silent wonder to booming Common Nighthawks, chanting Lark Buntings, and a trickle of passerines on nocturnal migration.
I'm certain the other field trip leaders would have much the same to say about the wonderful participants on their outings. Thanks to all the participants and leaders for sharing their knowledge and enthusiasm!