27th Annual Central Valley Birding Symposium

2023 Virtual Symposium Summary

The 2023 Central Valley Birding Symposium was back live after an unwanted 3-year Covid break, and 265 people attended live workshops and field trips this year.  It was fun to see people renewing face-to-face friendships after 3 years –the symposium is as much about people as it is about our beloved birds.  And new friends are always made over shared experiences or a lively glass of wine. This year a record number of younger birders attended, and we were able to offer a field trip for movement-impaired birders for the second time.

The Eds – Harper and Pandolfino – got everyone’s attention Thursday night with a presentation about sparrows. The question of whether bigger was better was not resolved, but it was a great start to a great weekend. 

Friday featured all-day field trips near and far, with a new local trip to the Black Hole Duck Club.  Our featured speaker, Jonathan Slaght, spoke about his research with Blakiston’s Fish Owl in the Russian Far East.  If you haven’t read his best-seller, Owls of the Eastern Ice, you are missing a rip-roaring story of travel to an isolated part of the world while making up research methods on the fly.  Jonathan also enjoyed a morning of birding at Cosumnes Preserve and Staten Island – it was the first time he had birded in the Central Valley, and he was suitably impressed. 

Ed Harper again led an inspired and diabolically hard Bird ID workshop. Old hands Jon Dunn and Keith Hansen, joined by Lynette Williams Duman, Konshau Duman, and high-schooler (!) Asher Perla were rarely stumped, though, and they provided lively and informative ID tips.

Saturday began with field trips in the morning under clear cool skies and our usual and popular workshops on photography (Bob Steele), beginning birding (David Yee and Jim Rowoth), and bird illustration (Keith Hansen).  At the lunchtime member meeting, new Board member, Stephanie Levins, was introduced and voted in.  Stephanie is a Wildlife Ecologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Sacramento.  After growing up on the SF Peninsula and spending time in Hawaii working with the island’s native birds, she moved to Sacramento and found a passion for the Central Valley.  We welcome her to the Board and look forward to her contributions.  Lily Douglas was also voted in as the new Treasurer, replacing Sid England.

Saturday afternoon began with a presentation by Sage Madden and Ian Haliburton on effects of urbanization on Black Phobe breeding and behavior. This ongoing study was partially funded by a bird club research associate grant from the Waldo Holt fund.  Both presenters are UC Davis PhD students, and their undergraduate field associates were also able to attend the symposium.  Chris Conard and Dan Airola also presented updates on Central Valley Burrowing Owls, Purple Martins, Tricolored Blackbirds, and Yellow-billed Magpies.

A presentation on conservation-guided rangeland management by Audubon California’s Pelayo Alvarez emphasized the importance of regenerative cattle production to grassland birds. Here is the link to California Audubon’s Where to Buy sustainable beef web page.

Point Blue’s Kristi Carr presented on the importance of the Central Valley for wintering and the impact of drought and habitat availability.  The Nature Conservancy and Point Blue are involved in large-scale habitat management and long-term studies on CV shorebirds and the critical role that the CV plays in their winter stay.  

Rebecca Heisman, the author of Flight Paths, gave a delightful and fun-filled Saturday keynote address about the history and evolution of the study of bird migration.  Steve Chainey was awarded the Club Conservation Award, and Sid England was recognized for his outstanding and much appreciated 17 years of service as a Board Member and Treasurer. 

Sunday morning concluded with Jon Dunn and Kimball Garrett’s presentations on flycatchers and historic California avifauna. Final field trips, as well as a chocolate and wine pairing by our very own chocolatier Robert Shields, rounded out the weekend.Our thanks to everyone who attended. You are why this event has been successful all these years. Many thanks to the Stockton Hilton staff and kitchen for doing a great job of housing and feeding us. And, finally, to all the dedicated field trip leaders, presenters, vendors, and floor workers who work behind the scenes to make the event a success.  Mark your calendars for Nov 21-24, 2024 for the 28th version of the CVBS!