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2014 Annual Convention in Sterling

held Aug 28 - Sep 1

Colorado Field Ornithologists - 2014 Convention Wrap-up

When the CFO Board of Directors got together to plan the 2014 convention, a wild and crazy idea was hatched: a fall convention! The idea was intriguing, but there were concerns: Would anyone come? Would there be any birds? Would it be too hot?


Various Midwestern species reach the western limits of their range in northeastern Colorado. The stunning Red-headed Woodpecker is one such species; many were seen on convention field trips, with some trips reporting impressive tallies in the double digits.
Various Midwestern species reach the western limits of their range in northeastern Colorado. The stunning Red-headed Woodpecker is one such species; many were seen on convention field trips, with some trips reporting impressive tallies in the double digits.

To cut to the chase: Yes, yes, and no.


More than 175 birders—including a sizable out-of-state contingent—participated in the convention. Birds were plentiful. And the weather was almost too good to be true, with clear skies, light winds, and highs only around 80.


The convention got under way Thursday evening with a welcome barbecue at Columbine Park in downtown Sterling. And we were indeed welcomed!—not only by Mayor Dan Torres, but also a former mayor (who happened to be the picnic caterer). The nearly 150 birders at the barbecue were welcomed by birds, too: Chimney Swifts twittered overhead, and a few of the park’s Mississippi Kites sailed in and out of view.

A convention highlight for many participants was a shorebird ID field workshop hosted by our special convention host, the renowned author and field ornithologist Jon Dunn. Photo courtesy of © WINGS.
A convention highlight for many participants was a shorebird ID field workshop hosted by our special convention host, the renowned author and field ornithologist Jon Dunn. Photo courtesy of © WINGS.

CFO proudly sponsored seven student attendees, and a first for us this year was a Friday evening student mixer hosted by Christy Carello, a biology professor at Metro State University of Denver and a member of CFO’s board of directors.


Keynote speaker Jon Dunn was an engaging and encouraging presence throughout the entire convention. Along with his Saturday evening presentation, Jon gave a special field workshop on shorebird ID and hosted a wide-ranging discussion on avian taxonomy and nomenclature.


The Saturday afternoon science program was lively and stimulating. Students, professors, and independent scholars reported on everything from robin demography to vireo taxonomy to female song to expanding Rock Wren populations.


New this year was Jeop-birdy, hosted by Christian Nunes a wildlife biologist and member of CFO’s board of directors. This well-attended quiz-format event was praised by participants for being 100% educational and 100% entertaining.

Across much of the U.S., the Baird’s Sandpiper is a “hotline bird”—eagerly sought yet rarely seen. The species is plentiful, however, in eastern Colorado, especially in late August. Baird’s Sandpipers migrate south down a narrow corridor in the western High Plains, and eastern Colorado is right in the middle of it. Despite high water, we saw hundreds of Baird’s Sandpipers on convention field trips.
Across much of the U.S., the Baird’s Sandpiper is a “hotline bird”—eagerly sought yet rarely seen. The species is plentiful, however, in eastern Colorado, especially in late August. Baird’s Sandpipers migrate south down a narrow corridor in the western High Plains, and eastern Colorado is right in the middle of it. Despite high water, we saw hundreds of Baird’s Sandpipers on convention field trips.
The commemorative 2014 convention t-shirt features the photographic art of Colorado birder Bill Schmoker, one of America’s finest bird photographers.
The commemorative 2014 convention t-shirt features the photographic art of Colorado birder Bill Schmoker, one of America’s finest bird photographers.

Last, but not least: birds! We saw them everywhere we went! Not including the arrival trips on Thursday and departure trips on Monday, we tallied an even 200 species in northeastern Colorado and nearby Keith County, Nebraska. Uncommon birds from the East included Broad-winged Hawk, Short-billed Dowitcher, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Ovenbird, Nashville Warbler, Tennessee Warbler, and Eastern Towhee. Western birds ranged eastward, too, and we recorded various species more typical of the Rocky Mountains, among them Gray Flycatcher, Cordilleran Flycatcher, Violent-green Flycatcher, Townsend’s Warbler, and Lesser Goldfinch. Of course, one of the lures of northeastern Colorado birding is the breeding avifauna, still well represented at the end of August; we found plenty of Red-headed Woodpeckers, Eastern Bluebirds, Brown Thrashers, Field Sparrows, and Orchard Orioles, plus a few Upland Sandpipers, Eastern Phoebes, and Dickcissels. And a day trip to Nebraska produced some amazing highlights, including Long-tailed Jaeger, Piping Plover, and White-winged Dove.


A final advantage to a fall convention is that you don’t have to wait a whole year for another convention. In 2015, we’ll be back to our usual spring format—right around the corner, at least from the perspective of those involved in planning! Please join us in Salida, Chaffee County, in May 2015 for an event that is already shaping up to be memorable, with novel workshops, world-class scenery, and field trips to destinations new to the birding community.


Thanks for birding with us in Sterling, and see you in Salida!