The San Francisco Bay Area has had a disproportionately large impact on bird banding and ornithology. From Point Reyes Bird Observatory (now Point Blue)– the first of its kind on the West Coast – to the Golden Gate Raptor Observatory and the Institute for Bird Populations, Bay Area ornithologists have used long term bird banding studies to study multiple facets of avian ecology and demography. In recognition of the Bay Area’s rich ornithological history the Western Bird Banding Association held its annual meeting this past October at Point Reyes Station with the theme of “making ornithological history.” Participants were treated to landbird and raptor banding demonstrations, a full-day molt and ageing workshop with Peter Pyle, and multiple workshops including how to acquire permits from the BBL, ageing birds using the WRP system and many others. The scientific session was loaded from morning to evening with great talks. Out of the talented pool of students who presented at the meeting, the Western Bird Banding Association Awards Committee choose Amber Carver as the meeting’s Best Student Presentation recipient for her fascinating research focused on the ecology of grassland birds in Colorado.
There was wide consensus that the highlight of the meeting was our keynote panel of Bay Area Ornithological pioneers: Dave DeSante, Geoffrey Geupel, Peter Pyle and C.J. Ralph. The 1.5 hours of discussion ranged widely from why these pioneers choose to pursue ornithological research in the Bay Area to the next big scientific questions bird banding can answer. Many of the personal stories described the trials and tribulations of ornithology research over the past 50 years. In addition to historical insights and future direction the panel also provided sagely advice for the young ornithologists in attendance. One long-term Western Bird Banding Meeting participant commented to me that “this was the best keynote presentation they had ever seen.” This sentiment was widely shared by meeting attendees judging by the keynote panelists reception after their talk.