Friday, February 25, 2011

Arizona Important Bird Area Training Workshop in Phoenix

By Jennie MacFarland, IBA Program Assistant – Biologist

Earlier this month on Saturday the 5th, the intrepid Arizona IBA team from Tucson plus one volunteer headed to Phoenix to teach a workshop. The purpose of this workshop was to train volunteers to become Important Bird Area surveyors. Being an IBA surveyor is loads of fun, but does require a bit of technical training which is why we hold these workshops. Arizona IBA is a state-wide program which is why we hold workshops in both Tucson and Phoenix. This way we can have trained volunteers conducting surveys all over the state!

Scott Wilbor, Arizona IBA Program Conservation Biologist and Jennie MacFarland, Arizona IBA Program Assistant – Biologist along with Tucson trainee Kathryn Hines, headed up to Phoenix in the wee hours of the morning on February 5th. Despite a late start, we made good time and arrived in Phoenix with plenty of time to spare. We began to set up for the workshop with Tice Supplee, Director of Bird Conservation, in the Nina Mason Pulliam Rio Salado Nature Center where Arizona Audubon is based. We set up the tables for the participants among the educational displays of the nature center and set up a nice spread of breakfast and snack foods.

Soon the 14 participants arrived and settled down, eager to learn. Scott first covered what the Important Bird Area program consists of, the fact that it is an international program with about 10,000 IBA sites recognized world wide! This is a very important program that works to recognize the most important areas for birds in the world! After a brief break, Scott and Jennie then covered the technical aspects of survey protocol and correctly filling out the data sheets. We went through the sheets one by one, explaining all of the tricky scenarios that can come up in the field and how to deal with each of them. Tice then talked about modern electronic resources available to help participants hone their bird identification skills and audio identification skills. Much of the identifications that IBA volunteers make are by sound, so it is important for our volunteers to know and review them. We then had a delicious lunch break provided by Arizona Audubon.

The afternoon was devoted to in the field practice. This allows our volunteers to put into practice the methods they just learned and make sure that they fully understand the protocol. We split up into groups and practiced a small transect, a pond census and a few point counts. It was very convenient to have the riparian grounds of the Rio Salado where the nature center is located to practice on. It was quite beautiful and many interesting birds were seen including an osprey carrying a fish! You don’t see that everyday in Phoenix! Then it was time to wrap up the workshop and the newly educated participants headed home and the Tucson team wanted to have a nice drink and relax before beginning the journey home.
Not knowing the area at all, we followed the recommendation of Tice from Phoenix and ended up at the Barrio CafĂ©. This is a beautiful restaurant that turns out to be quite well known in Phoenix. They serve high end, gourmet Mexican food (with prices to match!) but are located in a questionable part of town. Some of the walls around the restaurant were decorated in an unusual way (see photo!) and the building was rubbing shoulders with a check cashing place on one side and an undertaker on the other. Besides all this, this is a beautiful restaurant with lovely ‘Day of the Dead’ like art on the walls and one of the most interestingly decorated bathrooms I have ever seen! By the time we left, there was a huge line of people outside trying to get in! This was the perfect surreal ending to a long workshop day.