The AOU meeting – old friends, good beer, more Ivorybills


About 530 ornithologists descended upon the lovely campus at the University of Wyoming last week for the 125th annual meeting of the American Ornithologists’ Union. The cowboy campus was spruce, cottonwood, and sandstone, and the weather was postcard-perfect 80s by day and 50s by night. Two Great Horned Owls nested just outside the main administrative building, and could be seen roosting everyday. Though it felt like summer, the Pine Siskins and Red-breasted Nuthatches made it sound like winter to my ears.

I saw lots of old friends and made a couple of new ones. The new friends were facilitated by some very enjoyable Cabernet and locally-brewed beer – the ale was great and the wheat (which I normally don’t like) was surprisingly refreshing! To top it off, The Library had Guinness on tap, and the meeting discussions spilled over to that fine establishment every night.

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There were lots of great talks and posters, but when Geoff Hill made his presentation on new Ivorybill evidence from their Florida field site, there was a mass exodus from the other rooms where concurrent sessions were being held. I think about 400 people were crammed into a lecture hall with capacity for 250, and you could’ve heard a pin drop as Geoff began speaking.

The upshot? Well there are lots of new recordings of “kents” and double knocks from their field sites. The double knocks were astounding. I’ve spent a lifetime in the woods, and I’ve never heard anything like them. Geoff took great pains to illustrate how kents and double knocks were reported from an area that produced an excellent sighting with diagnostic field sketches. He also showed a photo of THREE birds in flight that was snapped by an automatic camera. Are they Ivorybills? I’ve got a couple of more candidates I’d like to examine before I pass final judgment, but so far they look pretty good to me.

Next, one of Geoff’s students, Brian Rolek, made his first ever presentation to a scientific audience. He might have been intimidated, but he was discussing his personal sighting and showing the video of him having that sighting. It’s cool. You can see him practically jump out of his canoe when he sees the bird! Fortunately for us, there is also a snippet of that video in which the bird is visible. Conclusive? Hardly, but it’s another video of an alleged Ivory-billed Woodpecker that looks pretty good to me. The pundits will be having fun with this one for a while now . . .

For updated Ivorybill info, check here:

Geoff Hill’s website.

Cornell’s Ivorybill page.

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