A Week at the AOU/COS/SCO Meeting

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Alan Kneidel received a B.A. in Biology from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill in 2008. He has since contributed to a variety of research projects, spanning from the Arctic to tropical South America. He is currently a Master’s student at Delaware State University, focusing on the spring stopover ecology of trans-Gulf songbird migrants on St. George Island, Florida. While at home in Delaware, he is most likely to be found working on his state list and trying to fire up the local birding community. Check out his travel blog at goodbykneidel.blogspot.com.

September 23rd to 28th marked the 2014 joint meeting of the American Ornithologists’ Union, Cooper Ornithological Society, and Society of Canadian Ornithologists. The meeting took place at the YMCA in Estes Park, Colorado, a setting befitting of such an exciting gathering.

I came as one of three Delaware State University researchers, including Dr. Christopher Heckscher and fellow Master’s candidate Mariamar Gutierrez. We delivered two talks and one poster presentation, encompassing our work on Veery biology and spring stopover ecology of Nearctic-Neotropical songbirds on St. George Island, Florida.

As anyone who attended knows, the variety and quality of talks and presentations was incredible. Highlights for me included symposiums on the advances of Aeroecology, Rusty Blackbird conservation, and the impact of Passenger Pigeon extinction on conservation and policy.

In addition to the variety of talks, it was a great opportunity to reconnect with old friends and make some new ones. Being around so many like-minded, talented people was a truly rejuvenating and inspirational experience.

Early in the morning, I was able to escape from the indoor ornithology to get in some Rocky Mountain National Park exploration with my pals Kyle Horton and Mike McCloy.

I’ll start out with a sequence of landscape photos that follow the procession up to the alpine tundra on Trail Ridge Road, from 8,000 ft. to 12,000 ft.

At the base of the mountains, this open terrain is the favored viewing area of many confiding Elk.

At the base of the higher peaks, the open Ponderosa Pine savanna is the favored viewing area of many confiding, bugling Elk. Birds included Mountain Bluebird, singing Townsend’s Solitaire, Red Crossbill, and Pygmy Nuthatch. (Photo by Alan Kneidel)

One of the main attractions this time of year, aspens vividly senescence, in stark contrast to the surrounding evergreens.

Aspens vividly senescence in stark contrast to the surrounding evergreens. The roadside here was host to a variety of raucous corvids and mixed-species songbird flocks. (Photo by Alan Kneidel)

Viewed from Trail Ridge Road, the final reaches of evergreens meet the treeline.

Viewed from Trail Ridge Road, the final fingers of evergreens meet the treeline. Prairie Falcons circled overhead, while flocks of Brown-capped Rosy-Finches bounced around the rocky outcroppings. (Photo by Alan Kneidel)

Pushing 12,000 feet, this is the home of larks, pipits, finches, and ptarmigan.

Pushing 12,000 feet, the open tundra is the home of larks, pipits, and ptarmigan. (Photo by Alan Kneidel)

While hiking in Hollowell Park of RMNP, we stumbled across a small flock of MOBLs. What a wonderful color.

While hiking in Hollowell Park of RMNP, we stumbled across a small flock of Mountain Bluebirds. One of the characteristic species of the Rockies. (Photo by Alan Kneidel)

Throngs of tourists couldn't get enough of a very chill herd of Bighorns.

Throngs of tourists couldn’t get enough of a rather sedate herd of Bighorns. (Photo by Alan Kneidel)

Pika were common in a few select rocky expanses high on Trail Ridge Road.

Pika were common in a few select rocky expanses high on Trail Ridge Road. (Photo by Alan Kneidel)

A nomadic flock of Brown-capped Rosy-Finches bounced below the rock cut high on Trail Ridge Road, occasionally coming very close to observers. My fellow North Carolina birder Mike McCloy was able to snag this great shot. Photo by Mike McCloy.

A nomadic flock of 50-60 Brown-capped Rosy-Finches bounced below the rock cut high on Trail Ridge Road, occasionally coming very close to observers. My fellow North Carolina birder Mike McCloy was able to snag this great shot. (Photo by Mike McCloy)

Maybe THE bird Rocky Mountain National Park, three White-tailed Ptarmigan were still relatively cooperative along the spur trail from Medicine Bow Curve. Photo by Mike McCloy.

Maybe THE bird of Rocky Mountain National Park, three White-tailed Ptarmigan were still relatively cooperative for observers along the spur trail from Medicine Bow Curve.  (Photo by Mike McCloy)