As the new year gets off to a promising beginning, I thank our members for their support and congratulate them on a very successful 2023. I also thank our Board members for their hard work. Board members Matt Baumann, Wendy Beers, Susan Gilliland, Andy Mauro, and Kristie Nelson transitioned off the Board in 2023, while we welcomed new Board members Carol Beardmore, Teodelina Martelli, Robert McKernan, Debbie Van Dooremolen, and Lynette Williams Duman. Please be sure to thank them when you see them at our conference or out birding!
Western Birds had another year of robust submissions under Editor Phil Unitt’s leadership. We have made strides on search engine optimization for the journal and hope to wrap up this project during 2024. In 2023 WFO published Birds of Inyo County, California, Including Death Valley National Park, by Tom and Jo Heindel. This long-awaited volume has been a resounding success, and we almost immediately went to a second printing. Birds of Inyo County is sold in a number of bookstores, including Spellbinder Books in Bishop and bookstores associated with Death Valley National Park and the Inyo National Forest. I thank Jon Dunn and Shaun Wilde for their efforts in making this possible; this may be the first of our volumes to have significant sales in bookstores. During the marketing effort for Birds of Inyo County, we also reached out to our institutional members, which include a number of university and research libraries. Our Publications Committee is hard at work on additional publications, such as a projected volume on the avifauna of the Pribilof Islands.
The 2023 WFO Birdathon was took place in the spring. Twelve teams raised over $25,000 to support WFO and to help fund a research project in Tricolored Blackbird conservation. The funded project uses DNA barcoding to study the diet of Tricolored Blackbirds. I thank Andy Mauro for his leadership in making our first two Birdathons successful.
We held a successful conference in July at the Copper Mountain resort in Colorado. This conference, truly a joint conference with Colorado Field Ornithologists, had an organizing committee drawn from both organizations and shared in the costs and revenue of the event. Those of us involved in the planning benefited from sharing ideas about our respective organizations and our programs. Participants enjoyed field trips to Colorado’s high mountains and a wide variety of locations in nearby counties.
Our Student Programs Committee was very active this past year, supporting a great group of ten scholarship students at the Colorado conference, awarding four research grants, and producing newsletter interviews, podcasts, and virtual programs for students. Some of the students who attended the conference enjoyed a pre-conference camping trip. The committee has expanded this year to include three undergraduate students, and other WFO student members are involved in the committee’s work.
The WFO Board believes that members should be informed on a regular basis about our organization’s financial status and our primary sources of income and expenses. Our financial condition remains strong. Our current balance across all funds is $503,717. This amount is distributed among three funds:
General Fund: $249,606
Publications Fund: $196,963
Scholarship Fund: $57,148
The General Fund covers the operating expenses of WFO. Our largest expenses are the production of our quarterly peer-reviewed journal Western Birds and the annual conference, with a smaller amount devoted to administrative expenses. Our primary sources of income are donations, the annual conference, and membership fees. Conference income usually covers conference expenses and provides some extra income, while donations and memberships cover most of the remaining annual expenses. The Publications Fund covers the development and production of our Special Publications, allowing us to sell these publications at less than their cost. The fund also supports occasional special projects for Western Birds. The Scholarship Fund supports conference scholarships and research grants for students.
The past year saw the creation of the Xema Society, the members of which support WFO through planned giving. We plan for a repeat Birdathon in spring of 2024. We would not be able to sustain our activities without the generosity of donors, and on behalf of the Board I thank the membership for their strong support.
I hope to see many of you at our 2024 conference in San Diego, October 9–13.
—John Harris, President