Monday, April 30, 2007

Prothonotary Warbler in political history

The Google news alerts certainly can reveal some unexpected tidbits about birds. For instance, did you know that a Prothonotary Warbler identified a suspected Communist in 1948?

According to this article today, a Congressional panel investigating Whittaker Chambers' accusation that Alger Hiss was a spy for the Soviet Union believed that Chambers knew Hiss because the accused confirmed Chambers' description of Hiss' PRWA sighting.

The article includes some natural history, quotes from biologists, links to range maps and Breeding Bird Survey results, info about the species' status, and tips about where and when to see PRWA around D.C. You never know where a bird will show up... even on National Review Online.

ABA: Chicot bird calls contest

How many species can you identify in this clip of Chicot State Park during the April 26 ABA field trip? The winner can receive the brand-spankin-new Lang Elliott and Wil Hershberger book, The Songs of Insects, with an insect song CD.

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ABA: Thursday

My second field trip during the American Birding Association convention in Lafayette, La., included three stops. I liked the second spot best.

At Alexander State Forest's Indian Creek area, we stopped to find Red-cockaded Woodpecker, Brown-headed Nuthatch (its squeaky call is so cute) and Pine Warbler. I saw all three multiple times. Eastern Bluebirds seemed to pose just for us.

That tree in the middle with two white rings indicates a RCWO cavity above.

After a short visit to the lake, which yielded a Bald Eagle perched on the opposite shore, we drove to Chicot State Park (pronounced "chee-koh"). What an awesome site. Can you see the alligator?

Can you see it now? (c:

We slowly meandered across the bridge, soaking up the sunshine and various species above and beside us: Black-crowned Night-Heron, Eastern Kingbird, White Ibis, Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, Green Heron, Fish Crow, Barn Swallow, Prothonotary Warbler. It was delightful!

Walking among the trees beside the road and along a trail, we heard so many calls: Red-eyed Vireo, Downy Woodpecker, Northern Parula, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Hooded Warbler. I got to see a Chestnut-sided Warbler, Tufted Titmouse, Tennessee Warbler and finally Acadian Flycatcher.

Then we drove to Louisiana State Arboretum and eventually ambled along various trails amid the beech and magnolia trees. Ruby-throated Hummingbirds vying for sugar-water and Carolina Wrens at the visitor center amused me. As our group neared a bridge over a creek, a Prothonotary Warbler began bathing in the water -- what a sight!

Before getting to the wetland trail, the group encountered a Hooded Warbler that eventually hopped onto a log to eat a caterpillar. He provided "crippling" looks at his beautiful plumage. We also encountered White-eyed Vireo, Acadian Flycatcher... and a copperhead. The beautiful snake chose to relinquish the trail and settled just a few feet away, giving us a fantastic view of his colorful pattern.

By the way, anyone know the name of this flower?

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Friday, April 27, 2007

First Friday deadline: May 2

Want to win two recently published books by writing a 500-word short story? Participate in First Friday!

Look in the right-hand column of this page to see previous winners and the prizes selected by the writers. I hope to see your fictional story about birds in my e-mail inbox before or on May 2.

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ABA: Wednesday p.m.

For the afternoon workshop during the American Birding Association's convention in Lafayette, La., I listened to Andrew Farnsworth discuss "The Sights and Sounds of Migration: Interpreting radar and listening to flight-calls." Farnsworth is a post-doctoral candidate at Cornell Lab of Ornithology... and a former team member of WildBird's award-winning Great Texas Birding Classic team. Always a pleasure to see birders once affiliated with WB go on to big things!

Radar can tell birders where, when and how many nocturnal migrants are flying, and flight calls can tell which migrants are overhead, Farnsworth said. Radar, in conjunction with weather forecasts, gives birders an idea of potential migratory fallouts -- when birds stop flying to rest and forage -- before or after a cold front moves through a region.

Farnsworth provided a crash course in reading weather maps, understanding how radar works, reading radar scans and discerning the information in a vertical wind profile and a SkewT, among other data. He offered loads of information before the refreshment break, and he was obviously pleased with the local radar images and the potential for lots of birds on the Louisiana coast. He and Brian Sullivan (right) talked of driving southwest to Peveto Woods Sanctuary to check out the birding.

Then Farnsworth talked about flight calls: the unique or not-so-unique calls that birds make while migrating at night. He's studied flight calls for years and played his Rosetta Stone -- the flight calls of 48 regular North American migrating warblers -- at high speed, eliciting laughter from the workshop participants. At slow speed, we could begin to detect the subtleties.

Flight calls offer the best option to study nocturnal migrants, Farnsworth said. With that information, researchers can identify stop-over locations and migration paths, he said, leading to conservation of those areas and regions.

Have you heard of BirdCast? Farnsworth mentioned the now-defunct project that used weather conditions and radar to create bird-migration predictions. Microphones recorded flight calls at night, while observers visited sites in the morning to analyze the predictions. He said the participants found a good correlation between the forecasts and the subsequent activity.

Want to learn more? Farnsworth recommended these sites:
Clemson University Radar Ornithology Lab (CUROL)
University of Wyoming department of atmospheric science
National Center for Atmospheric Research RAP Real-Time Weather Data

Flight calls
Old Bird
Raven: interactive sound analysis software

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ABA: Wednesday a.m.

During the American Birding Association's annual convention, the schedule alternates field trip days with workshop days. After Tuesday's field trips, many participants signed up for one or two of three workshops on Wednesday morning and afternoon.

In the morning, I attended the "Technology in Birding" presentation by Brian Sullivan, project leader for eBird from Cornell Lab of Ornithology. He emphasized that birders now have many tools at their fingertips and these tools make birding easier despite a sometimes steep learning curve.

According to Sullivan, technology can help birders find, identify and record/document birds, distribute/share and analyze data, and conserve birds and habitat. Among the tools to accomplish those tasks are digital field guides, digital sound recordings/playback, GPS (global positioning system) units, digital tools for checklists and myriad Internet resources.

Among those Internet resources are listserves (electronic mailing lists typically organized by geography or topic), identification forums, photo galleries, blogs, data gathering tools such as eBird and online publications. Sullivan described listserves as "a pretty cool window to the world," and a menu of many listserves appears on

Sullivan pointed out one such listserv that focuses on species identification. ID Frontiers gives birders of all levels around the world a chance to discuss confounding I.D. challenges.

Online photo galleries such as flickr, PBase and Surfbirds also allows birders share data, analyze images and identify unfamiliar birds.

Many of these sites do not charge participants, and some charge only for certain services. It's possible, for instance, to post photos for free on flickr, create and maintain a birding blog without any charges on Blogger, upload videos to YouTube for free, and then embed photo and video files into blog posts.

Among the data-gathering tools that Sullivan cited are radar websites, which he called "the most exciting technology," and eBird, on which he works. The latter site gives birders the chance to share their observations with other birders as well as scientists and conservationists.

eBird makes data accessible and organizes it in various ways, Sullivan said. "Every observation is valuable," he said.

Sullivan hopes that thousands more birders in the Western Hemisphere will change the way that they bird. "I want eBird to be an integral part of one's daily birding routine -- as crucial as bringing your binoculars," he said.

All that data becomes available to researchers and conservationists in the Avian Knowledge Network, which includes PRBO Conservation Science, Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory and Bird Studies Canada as well as Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

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ABA: Tuesday

The 2007 American Birding Association convention began Monday evening in Lafayette, La., but the birding officially began Tuesday morning with various field trips. I was in a bettin' mood and hopped into the van for the migration gamble at 5 a.m.

With Dave Muth and Gary Rosenberg at the front of the van, we drove west and south toward the Gulf Coast, specifically toward Holly Beach. During the two-hour drive and particularly on the coast, we saw evidence of damage from Hurricane Rita in September 2005, like a red compact car in the marsh and a huge sea buoy on the beach, and a brisk wind greeted us as we stood along the beach.

Amid the various shorebirds and terns, I really enjoyed watching 17 Brown Pelicans -- the Pelican State's official bird -- fly past us. They looked rather... regal.

Next, we stopped at Baton Rouge Audubon Society's Peveto Woods Sanctuary, and I fell in love with Summer Tanagers. Wowza. Known as a migrant trap, Peveto (PEVV-et-oh) wasn't dripping with birds during our visit, but I liked seeing Orchard Oriole, Baltimore Oriole, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Black-and-white Warbler, Blue Grosbeak, Indigo Bunting and Rose-breasted Grosbeak.

Here's one spot along the many trails through the live oaks.

As we drove toward the ferry to Cameron, we briefly watched a White-tailed Kite in the distance. Those raptors are so cool. While on the ferry, we saw American White Pelican and immature Black Tern.

On the drive to the Cameron jetty, two sharp-eyed birders spotted Clapper Rail in two sites. At the jetty, we ate lunch and got to see more hurricane damage up-close. The wind and rain from Rita scoured the campground facilities, and only concrete pads, bent rebar and snapped utility hookups remain.

On the beach, the huge numbers of Black Skimmers (such neat birds), terns, Laughing Gulls and Brown Pelicans included a Glaucous Gull, which prompted some digiscoping by Gary. Dave said the sighting could be a state record.

On the way to Cameron Prairie National Wildlife Refuge, we saw various waterbirds along the road. At the refuge, I enjoyed Green Heron, Eastern Kingbird, Northern Shoveler and Roseate Spoonbill. Those big pink birds are fabulous.

We made another stop, but that turned out to be just a deposit in the Louisiana blood bank, thanks to the vicious mosquitoes! Don't forget bug repellent when birding here!

Aside from the birds, I enjoyed the flowers at various stops. Know what they are?

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Monday, April 23, 2007

Good Birders Don't Wear White

Today marks the release of this book, to which it was my unexpected pleasure to contribute. I'm honored to appear in the company of these birders, many of whom have served as mentors and inspirations.

The Booklist review says
This collection of essays, by 50 contributors (David Allen Sibley and Don and Lillian Stokes are probably the most well-known), supplies 50 tips for bird-watching, and here are a few: take field notes, hug your tour leader, think like a migrating bird, linger even after you have listed a bird, play fair when sharing a scope, go birding in bad weather, go birding with kids, learn birdssongs, and keep your binoculars clean. Experienced bird-watchers will be familiar with most of these tips, but the book is a delight to read and will generate new enthusiasm for the hobby. The 25 black-and-white line drawings are hilarious.
Why did I highlight that tip? That's the name of my essay!


Saturday, April 21, 2007

News roundup

Craigslist founder hosts bird video game
On April 23, an online game that features the San Francisco back yard of Craigslist founder Craig Newmark will go live. Two computer engineers -- Ken Goldberg and Dez Song -- at University of California Berkeley and Texas A&M University, respectively, created CONE Sutro Forest in which players take pictures of birds using a remote-control pan-tilt-zoom video camera and identify the birds correctly to earn points.

"My backyard is a small forest. I got lucky and I love nature if it makes itself convenient for me," said Newmark, who said he often watches for birds from his deck overlooking Sutro Forest.

"I put up a bunch of feeders and the birds started coming, and I can identify a couple of dozen."
The free game will become available on Monday the 23rd.

New frogmouth caught in Solomon Islands
For the first time in 100 years, scientists captured a new genus of frogmouth, now named Rigidipenna inexpectata. Ornithologists David Steadman and Andrew Kratter of the Florida Museum of Natural History found the birds with help from local hunters.

"This discovery underscores that birds on remote Pacific islands are still poorly known, scientifically speaking," Steadman said. "Without the help of local hunters, we probably would have overlooked the frogmouth."
More details about the discovery and the predatory bird appear in the April issue of Ibis: The International Journal of Avian Science and at the FLMNH link.

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Friday, April 20, 2007

Earth Day: April 22

It's likely no surprise to birders that Sunday, April 22, is Earth Day. If you'd like to share tips and activities with friends and relatives, look at the U.S. federal site and Earth Day Network.


File under: I'd like to see more of this

This Oregon festival combines birds and fermented grapes. The second annual Fern Ridge Wings and Wine Festival will take place May 12 at Secret House Winery in Veneta, west of Eugene.

The tentative schedule includes bird and nature walks, canoe trips, childrens’ activities, educational talks and wine tasting. A gourmet Dinner in the Cellar will precede an owl-calling walk on the winery’s grounds.

Do you know of other bird festivals that officially incorporate adult beverages into the schedule?


Thursday, April 19, 2007

Charges in Elegant Tern deaths

From the San Diego Union-Tribune:

Two San Diego men and a third from Orange County face criminal misdemeanor charges for their role in the deaths of more than 400 elegant terns in the summer of 2006 at Long Beach-Los Angeles Harbor.

Prosecutors allege the men, who are employed by Point Loma Maritime Services, repeatedly walked aboard and moved a barge where dozens of elegant terns were nesting.

The men's actions frightened the birds, which were not yet ready to fly, and the terns went overboard and drowned, said Long Beach city prosecutor Tom Reeves.
The owner of Point Loma Maritime Services recently defended himself in a boating and fishing newspaper.

The saga began when Botticelli's company was hired in June 2006 to transport two empty barges to Santa Barbara for a Fourth of July fireworks display. He said his two-man crew arrived on the scene about 3 a.m.

"It was dark and there was absolutely no way my crew could have known the birds were on the barge," he said. "The whole thing was an accident. If my crew knew the birds were living aboard the barges, they would never have moved them."

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

News round-up

Private Ranger
The National Park Society offers a private ranger at national parks and wildlife refuges. With ranger Kent Taylor, private groups -- such as friends, relatives, birders, travelers with mobility or health concerns -- can plan custom vacations in the United States and abroad.

Taylor's experience includes the National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management and the Colorado Division of Wildlife, and he founded and directs the National Park Society. Contact Taylor via e-mail or at 800-578-1883.

Flu virus research at UC Davis
University of California Davis will host one of six new Centers for Rapid Influenza Surveillance and Research. The center will focus on expanding the federal detection program and reducing the possibility of flu pandemic, according to the university. Research veterinarian Walter Boyce (right), who directs the UC Davis Wildlife Health Center, will direct the center with Scott Layne of University of California Los Angeles. UC Davis is in charge of collecting and testing "tens of thousands of samples from wildlife, especially wild birds, on both the U.S. and Asian sides of the Pacific Ocean."

Junior Duck Stamp contest
On April 27, five judges will pick the top artwork in the federal Junior Duck Stamp Design Contest. The judging will take place at the Smithsonian's National Zoological Park in Washington, D.C., making the art from students in all 50 states visible to the many tourists at the park. The event coincides with the National Zoo's Bird Fest 2007, and the winning art entry will appear on the 2007-2008 Federal Junior Duck Stamp, available for $5. Sales proceeds go toward environmental education and student awards and scholarships. Rebekah Nastav of Amoret, Mo., won the 2006 junior contest.

Marvelous Spatuletail courtship on film
American Bird Conservancy released the first-ever footage of the courtship display by a Marvelous Spatuletail, a very endangered hummingbird in the Peruvian mountains. Captured on film by Greg R. Homel of Natural Elements Productions, the hummingbird possesses just four tail feathers that end in metallic, purplish "spoons."

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National Wildlife Week: April 21-29

During National Wildlife Week, the National Wildlife Federation encourages Americans to become citizen naturalists and participate in Wildlife Watch.

Wildlife observation will help people connect with nature during this year’s National Wildlife Week observance, April 21-29. Participants in the National Wildlife Watch will download a list of wildlife and natural phenomena to observe in their backyards, neighborhoods, communities and other special places. Observers also will be challenged to watch for designated endangered species in their locale. They will then report back by posting all their findings.
It also touts Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Great Backyard Bird Count, which took place in February.


Monday, April 16, 2007

Strycker earns scholar awards

WildBird readers might recognize Noah Strycker as the Birdboy columnist in each issue. He first wrote for the magazine in 2003 and began the column in 2005. His enthusiasm for birding, ornithology and life are apparent and contagious.

Noah recently became a 2007 Goldwater Scholar, which he described as the premier national scholarship for undergraduate students seeking careers in science and mathematics. He's one of 317 sophomores and juniors to receive a Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship.

The Goldwater Scholars were selected on the basis of academic merit from a field of 1,110 mathematics, science, and engineering students who were nominated by the faculties of colleges and universities nationwide. One hundred seventy-four of the Scholars are men, 143 are women, and virtually all intend to obtain a Ph.D. as their degree objective. Twenty-eight Scholars are mathematics majors, 223 are science and related majors, 54 are majoring in engineering, and 12 are computer science majors. Many of the Scholars have dual majors in a variety of mathematics, science, engineering, and computer disciplines.

The one and two year scholarships will cover the cost of tuition, fees, books, and room and board up to a maximum of $7,500 per year.

Goldwater Scholars have very impressive academic qualifications that have garnered the attention of prestigious post-graduate fellowship programs. Recent Goldwater Scholars have been awarded 69 Rhodes Scholarships (6 of the 32 awarded in the United States in 2006), 86 Marshall Awards (6 of the 44 awarded in the United States in 2006), and numerous other distinguished fellowships.
A week later, Noah learned that he received a $5,000 Udall Scholarship, the premier national scholarship for sophomores and juniors heading for environmental careers. He's one of 80 students to receive the award, named after Congressman Morris K. Udall.

The 80 Scholars were selected from among 434 candidates nominated by 221 colleges and universities. Seventy scholars intend to pursue careers related to the environment. Six Native American/Alaska Native scholars intend to pursue careers in tribal public policy; four Native American/Alaska Native scholars will study healthcare. Each scholarship provides up to $5,000 for one year. Honorable Mentions will receive a $350 award.

The 2007 Udall Scholars will assemble August 1-5 in Tucson, Arizona, to receive their awards and meet policy-makers and community leaders in environmental fields, tribal health care and governance.
Congratulations, Noah!!

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National Park Week: April 22-29

Organized by National Park Service, National Park Week aims to celebrate and recognize these treasures, and the week's theme is "Your National Parks: Explore, Learn and Protect."

Each state and Washington, D.C., will offer events; look for one near you!

There is nothing so American as our parks. The fundamental idea behind the parks... is that the country belongs to the people... Parks stand as the outward symbol of tjis great human principle. -- Franklin Delano Roosevelt


Thursday, April 12, 2007

National Garden Week and Month

Did you know that our country has a National Garden Week? It began in 1986, but this is the first year I've heard of it (oops).

Gardening is a wholesome avocation that encourages appreciation for nature and concern for the preservation and enhancement of our environment. It prompts a genuine respect for those who work in agriculture today. Gardening, above all, provides a special source of fulfillment when foresight, patience, and collaboration with soil and sunlight finally are repaid by lovely flowers and luscious harvests.

This year's designated week is April 8-14, so it's not too late to spread the word about gardening and birdscaping! Heck, the National Gardening Association says all of April is National Garden Month and offers activity tips, including "birds in urban gardens."

Plant some seeds around your abode and thoughts in your neighbors' heads!

Friday, April 06, 2007

First Friday: April 6

Congratulations to Tai Haku of Earth, Wind & Water for his winning entry in this month's edition of the birding fiction contest! He now has his choice of recently published books, such as the paperback version of Donald Kroodsma's The Singing Life of Birds (with a CD).

If you want to earn that chance, then write an original 500-word short story about birds, birding or birders that includes a setting, a character or characters, a conflict and a resolution. Also, the birds cannot be anthropomorphized.

Thank you to this month's authors! I can't wait to hear from you again and to receive entries from new writers, too. Please submit stories for the May edition by May 2.

Without further blather: "Navigator" by Tai Haku

It had taken a long time while sitting in the raft, but Jacob had come to hate the birds. At first he was grateful of their company. He knew others had gotten off the boat before it went down; he’d seen people in other inflatable life rafts in the distance. Somehow he’d wound up alone in a raft, and the others had become farther and farther spread until he could no longer make them out.

He was left alone on the sea with the birds. He’d spent the first few days watching them as he hoped for a quick rescue, distracting himself from his darker thoughts as he watched the giant albatrosses and skuas glide effortlessly past him.

He particularly enjoyed watching the smaller birds. They looked so fragile as they skimmed the waves or hovered, paddling at the water with their feet. Jacob reasoned that if something so tiny and fragile could survive out here, then so could he.

Jacob’s love of watching the birds diminished with his hopes of rescue as the first week ended. Suddenly their ease in the open ocean didn’t seem a comfort to him anymore but a mockery.

Shearwaters sat behind the boat, frustrating his attempts to catch fish. Every albatross wheeling down to investigate him before dropping a wing and speeding away seemed to highlight his inability to guide himself to safety.

Jacob was helpless while the birds were powerful, and he began to hate them for it. Jacob tried to ignore the birds as best he could and even made fitful and feeble attempts to down the more bold ones by swinging his paddle at them.

Seventeen days in, fitfully moving in and out of consciousness, Jacob became aware of movement at the far end of the raft. Another bird had landed. He resolved to try with the paddle one more time.

Summoning all his strength, he lunged, bringing the paddle down flat on the rubber edge of the raft. The bird moved effortlessly but didn’t fly off. It had simply flitted a few feet down the edge of the raft.

Jacob stared at it, blinking. It was different from the other birds. It was a little bigger than the very smallest birds he’d seen but, unlike them, didn’t share that white and black patterning they seemed to favour. This bird was brown, with yellow streaks and darker coloured dots. It looked more like something he’d see on a bird table than the ocean.

Suddenly realisation came: It didn’t belong here. It was like him; it belonged on the land. Jacob turned, frantically scanning the horizon. Eventually he saw it -- a small ribbon of darkness above the ocean to the south.

Jacob looked back at the bird, and the bird looked at Jacob. It cocked its head to one side and took off, flying south straight over Jacob’s head toward the ribbon of land… with Jacob’s raft clumsily, achingly slowly but undeniably following it home.

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Wednesday, April 04, 2007

WildBird's 19th annual photo contest

WildBird proudly offers a Canon EOS 30D digital camera as the grand prize this year.

To become eligible for it and one of the other prizes shown on page 41 of the March/April issue or page 45 of the May/June issue, follow these rules very carefully. A panel of judges will choose three winners from each of the five categories -- amateur, backyard, digiscoping, flight, water birds -- plus one grand-prize winner.

The entry form appears on page 39 of the March/April issue and page 43 of the May/June issue. The form will not appear online. If you don't receive WildBird in your mailbox, then ask for the March/April or May/June issue at Wild Birds Unlimited, Wild Bird Centers of America or a national bookseller.

Official Contest Rules

* All entries must be postmarked by April 28, 2007.

* This photo contest is open to everyone except employees of WildBird and BowTie, Inc.

* Each contestant may enter up to two photographs per category.

* Each participant confirms that each entry has not been published in another commercial publication for payment or offered online for sale. Similar in-camera duplicate photos are not eligible.

* Each contestant agrees to allow WildBird to post one entry on the magazine's website, without compensation, to promote the contest.

* One grand-prize photo will be selected from all the contest entries.

* Color 35mm slides, 21/4-inch transparencies, prints at least 6x8 inches but no larger than 8x10 inches, and digital files will be accepted. Do not send duplicate or glass-mounted slides.

* Digital files must arrive on compact discs, one image per CD.

* In order to be suitable for publication in WildBird, digital files must be 300 dpi; at least 6x8 inches in size; TIFF, EPS or SHQ JPG format; RGB; and 8 bit. A high-quality 6x8-inch print must accompany each CD.

* Due to the constraints imposed by early digital cameras used in digiscoping, only entries in the digiscoping category may possess a print size of 5x7 inches and arrive with a 5x7-inch high-quality print.

* Only photos of native species photographed in the United States and Canada are eligible for the amateur, digiscoping, flight, water birds and backyard categories.

* To write the captions, we need the story behind the photo. Give us interesting details about how you attracted the bird to your yard or how you observed the bird in the field.

* The amateur category is open to individuals who have not won a prize in a previous WildBird photo contest and have not received payment from WildBird for the publication of an image.

* All backyard photographs must be taken in a yard; show a feeder, birdbath or nestbox; and include species regularly seen at those features. Photos taken at wildlife refuges, parks, sanctuaries and commercial lodges are not eligible.

* All digiscoping entries must cite the spotting scope and eyepiece used to create the image.

* All flight photos must convey the essence of avian flight. Motion and focus will be primary considerations.

* Entries for the water birds category should feature only shorebirds, wading birds, waterfowl and seabirds.

* All birds photographed for this contest must be alive and living in the wild. Controlled studio portraits, photos of captive birds and "posed" birds -- especially nestlings -- will not be accepted.

* Each entry must be submitted separately -- one entry per envelope.

* Write the entry's category on the front, lower-left area of the envelope.

* Every image must arrive with a separate, completed entry form. Photocopies of the form are acceptable.

* Do not use staples or paper clips; they can scratch your photos. WildBird is not responsible for lost or damaged slides.

* If you want your slides and transparencies returned, each entry must arrive with a self-addressed, stamped envelope. Provide ample postage in addition to a return address on each envelope. Prints and CDs will not be returned.

* Due to the volume of submissions, the staff will not make exceptions to these rules. Please follow them carefully to avoid disqualification.

* Winners will be selected by a panel of judges and the WildBird staff.

* Winners will be notified by mail; do not call or send an e-mail.

* Winning images will be published in the September/October 2007 issue and may be used in advertising and marketing of WildBird without compensation.

* All slides and transparencies will be returned in October. No prints or CDs will be returned.

Good luck!

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Salton Sea's test ponds

If you care about the Salton Sea, read this excellent article. It offers a podcast, a slide show of birds, a video with wildlife biologist Doug Barnum and a helpful illustration. These newspaper/online journalists "get it."

Four seemingly innocuous ponds near the Salton Sea could ensure that California's largest but ailing lake remains a key stopover for millions of migrating birds and one of the nation's most biologically rich areas.

State agency officials trying to prevent the saltwater lake from shrinking and becoming too salty for fish and birds are gambling that the test ponds will be a successful substitute and that larger-scale versions can be built into the seabed as the water recedes.

California Resources Secretary Mike Chrisman is expected to recommend a roughly $6 billion restoration plan for the lake to the state Legislature by the end of this month. It's likely to call for the construction of 62,000 acres of shallow lakes that, like the test ponds, are dotted with islands and other features to attract birds.


Honolulu names city bird

The Aloha State's capital on Oahu now has an official city bird. Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann announced that White Tern (Gygis alba rothschildi), also known as Fairy Tern, received that honor. The threatened species nests in Honolulu.


Safe Harbor program for Red-cockaded Woodpecker in Alabama

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources recently initiated a statewide conservation program for the endangered Red-cockaded Woodpecker. In the Safe Harbor Program, private landowners agree to manage their lands in ways that benefit endangered species, and in return, they receive a break from future regulations about those species.

Campbell Lanier III signed on as the first enrollee in the Alabama program. Lanier’s property includes Sehoy Plantation, where the ceremony was held, and Enon Plantation, also near Hurtsboro.

Lanier has been active in protecting wildlife habitat for many years, and was named Conservationist of the Year by the Alabama Wildlife Federation in 2004. More than 18,000 acres of the two plantations are currently protected under conservation easements. The rolling hills of Sehoy and Enon Plantations, expertly managed for bobwhite quail, also contain more than 12,000 acres of suitable RCW habitat.

“Enrolling in Safe Harbor was an easy decision for me once I had all the facts,” Cam Lanier said. “In a landscape managed for quail, aesthetics, and timber, managing for woodpeckers is something I was already doing. After researching the program, I realized that managing for an endangered species was not something to fear, but something I was already doing.”


“Enrollment in the program doesn’t prevent the land from being used for other things,” said Gary Moody, the Department of Conservation’s wildlife section chief. “Other uses fit well with the management practices needed for RCW habitat, such as limited timber harvesting, hunting, cattle production or pine straw harvesting. Quail management is often recognized as a compatible use but many wildlife species benefit from the management for RCWs.”


Tuesday, April 03, 2007

First Friday fiction due tomorrow!

Have you read a good short story about birds, birders or birding lately? Better yet, have you written one?

Consider participating in First Friday, a monthly contest that solicits 500-word pieces of fiction. The winner receives the choice of two recently published books from the WildBird office, like Silence of the Songbirds by Bridget Stutchbury or National Geographic Birder's Journal.

The next deadline is Wednesday, April 4. The winning entry will appear here on Friday the 6th.

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Monday, April 02, 2007

Hawaiian Army base receives conservation award

U. S. Army Garrison-Pohakuloa on Hawaii's Big Island recently garnered the 2006 Military Conservation Partner Award, bestowed by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. The service created the award to recognize "significant natural resource conservation achievements through cooperative work with the Service, state and local government, and other organizations. Such achievements may include the conservation, protection, and restoration of important habitat for a variety of species - including endangered and native species - on military lands."

The service's director, H. Dale Hall, said, "The service applauds Pohakuloa's cooperative conservation achievements, especially their proactive habitat restoration and endangered species monitoring program, which exemplifies positive cooperation between government and private-sector partners."

The 131,000-acre Pohakuloa Training Area - located on the island of Hawaii between Mauna Loa, Mauna Kea, and the Hualalai Mountains - is the largest Department of Defense installation in Hawaii. The area extends as high as 9,000 feet on Mauna Loa and is a mosaic of unique ecosystems. Pohakuloa's natural resource staff helps protect 19 federally listed species - 15 threatened or endangered plant species, 3 bird species, and one mammal. Several of these endangered plant species exist only at Pohakuloa and their numbers are critically low due to threats that include over-grazing, competition from invasive plants, and wildfires.

Pohakuloa's natural resource staff has developed an impressive array of community partnerships through groups such as the Hawaii Community College and the Junior Sierra Club. These partnerships seek to educate the public about resource protection and land stewardship through Earth Day Activities and other community events. Pohakuloa also works with organizations to decrease over-grazing by allowing controlled hunting of feral sheep, goats, and pigs. In addition, the natural resource staff has also exceeded expectations concerning the protection of listed plant species on rare Hawaiian sub alpine tropical dry land forest habitat by restricting grazing by these animals. To prevent grazing damage, Pohakuloa has gone to great effort and expense to erect over 7,000 acres of exclusionary fencing and plans to fence a total of 33,000 acres. This exclusionary fencing also benefits the Hawaiian hoary bat by allowing mature shelter trees used for roosting and breeding to regenerate.

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Audubon Gallery at AMNH now open

The American Museum of Natural History in New York City opened the restored Audubon Gallery last weekend. The first exhibition focuses on mammals -- "The Unknown Audubons: Mammals of North America" -- but no doubt birders who consider themselves naturalists will find it worthwhile.

The collection includes original drawings, paintings and prints by John James Audubon and his sons John Woodhouse Audubon and Victor Gifford Audubon. The exhibition will remain until Jan. 6, 2008, and it coincides with a showing of Audubon's bird paintings at the New-York Historical Society, "Audubon’s Aviary: Natural Selection." The latter will appear until May 20 of this year.

You can see both exhibitions for the price of one. Just show your receipt from one institution to receive a same-day complimentary admission to the other museum through May 20, 2007.

Swift Fox courtesy of AMNH

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Hero of the Year

Animal Planet wants to hear about animal advocates "who invest their time, talent and spirit to help animals in their community." Nominations will be accepted until July 14, and they involve a 250-word essay that describes the nominee's cause, the nominee's activities and support for that cause, and the effect of the nominee's actions on other individuals.

The winner will receive $10,000 for the animal welfare group of his/her choice and a trip for two to Hawaii. Alooooha!

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