Tuesday, May 29, 2007

National Trails Day: June 2

Do you amble along a trail while listening to and looking for/at birds? Then you might enjoy participating in National Trails Day on the first Saturday of June.

American Hiking Society also created an NTD photo contest with three categories. Winners will receive outdoor gear, like LEKI trekking poles, and the winning images might appear in the 2008 National Trails Day poster.

The deadline is June 15!


Friday, May 25, 2007

Rachel Carson's centennial

From the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service:
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on May 27 will join the country in celebrating the centennial birthday of Rachel Carson, a one-time Service employee whose pioneering book Silent Spring is often credited with sparking the modern environmental movement.

In honor of the centennial, the Service is hosting events around the country and has developed special environmental education programs and exhibits. For a complete list of programs and events, visit http://www.fws.gov/rachelcarson.

“Rachel Carson is one of our true conservation heroes,” said Service Director H. Dale Hall. “The Service continues to embrace the principles she championed—the importance of sound science, respect for all living things, and the need to connect people, especially children, with nature. Perhaps the greatest gift she left us is the notion that one person, working with passion and a strong sense of purpose, can indeed make a difference.”
The site contains a wealth of information and links plus a handful of videos. Read. Watch. Learn. Share. Act.


Thursday, May 24, 2007

Snail Kite eats crawfish?

From the Associated Press:

COLUMBIA, S.C. - A bird watcher spotted the endangered snail kite in South Carolina for the first time, and the animal's steady diet of crawfish may help scientists find the species an alternate food source, wildlife officials said.

The snail kite is an endangered species seldom seen north of central Florida. The bird is on the endangered species list in part because of the shrinking habitat of its main food source, the apple snail.

The bird's taste for crawfish surprised scientists, and it could lead to experiments with crawfish ponds in Florida.


Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Buy to benefit birds

Hawk Mountain Sanctuary is holding an online auction until June 18. Proceeds from Benefit for the Birds will go toward protecting raptors and supporting conservation programs.

Items currently up for bird include a week at an Orlando, Fla., vacation home only 2 miles from Disney; a round of golf at one of the Lehigh Valley’s premier golf resorts; and a morning with Scott Weidensaul banding hummingbirds. The last item sounds rather tempting, no?


Tuesday, May 22, 2007

WSB youth team on Martha Stewart's show

Sheila Lego of New Jersey Audubon Society sent word that one of the World Series of Birding's youth teams was scheduled to participate in an episode of The Martha Stewart Show. How cool is that?

The Steiner Merlins won first place in their division (grade 1-5) of the annual competition that raises money for conservation projects. The five girls -- Kelley Jewel, Tabitha Lansinger, Michele Long, Kiley Pignataro and Shannon Pignataro -- planned to give a WSB T-shirt to Martha during the taping today.

The designer of this year's WSB shirt? None other than Jennifer Brumfield. I'm hoping that she and the shirt receive good visibility during the show, scheduled to air this Friday. Look for your local showing here (left-hand column).


Two male Flamingos adopt a chick in England

How often do we hear about same-sex birds raising young together?

From BBC.com:
A pair of male flamingos have become foster parents after adopting an abandoned chick in Gloucestershire.

Carlos and Fernando had tried to start their own family by stealing eggs from other flamingos at the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust in Slimbridge.

But their sitting and hatching skills impressed staff so much, that when a nest was abandoned last week, they were chosen to "adopt" the chick.

The new flamingo family is said to be doing well.

Cape May for nonbirders

For many birders, Cape May stands out as a migration Mecca. The birding hot spot at the southernmost point of New Jersey lures birders from around the world.

Some birders, however, might find their choice of travel destination hindered by relatives or friends who don't like to watch or look for birds. This photo essay is an attempt to remedy that.

Nonbirders can find many ways to enjoy their time in and around Cape May while their birding relative(s) and friend(s) soak up the local sites and the smorgasbord of species. For instance:


Click that link for more ideas!


Monday, May 21, 2007

Rachel Carson's birthday and the effects of the DDT ban

Rachel Carson, who wrote Silent Spring (1962) and prompted the eventual U.S. ban of pesticide DDT in 1972, would have turned 100 years old on May 27. That anniversary has prompted recent news coverage.

For instance, The Washington Post published a May 18 article about her, which prompted a response that day by Forbes.com columnist Rich Karlgaard. He wrote:

Buried in paragraph 27, and paraphrasing the Congressman, The Washington Post concedes that "numerous" deaths might have been prevented by DDT.

Let's stop here. Any curious reader would ask, Just how "numerous" is numerous? Wouldn't you ask that question? The Post never asks that question. Why?

Because the answer devastates Rachel Carson and her followers. According to these CDC figures, malaria kills more than 800,000 children under age five every year.
Today, the Competitive Enterprise Institute -- which describes itself as "a non-profit, non-partisan public policy group dedicated to the principles of free enterprise and limited government" and occasionally sends press releases on environmental topics -- sent a release about a new website: Rachel Was Wrong. It focuses on the number of malaria deaths. The homepage says:

In fact, today millions of people around the world suffer the painful and often deadly effects of malaria because one person sounded a false alarm. That person is Rachel Carson, author of the 1962 best selling book Silent Spring. Many have praised Carson for raising concerns—some legitimate—about problems associated with the overuse of chemicals. Yet her extreme rhetoric generated a culture of fear, resulting in policies have deprived many people access to life-saving chemicals. In particular, many nations curbed the use of the pesticide DDT for malaria control because Carson created unfounded fears about the chemical. As the world commemorates the 100th birthday (May 27, 2007) of the late Rachel Carson, it is time to acknowledge the unintended, adverse effects of Carson’s legacy and find ways to correct them.
It seems to be an informational site only. I didn't see a call to action.

Do birders and environmentalists "acknowledge the unintended, adverse effects of Carson’s legacy"? Is that a topic that this community discusses?


Photos from the ABA convention in Louisiana

If you didn't join the American Birding Association festivities in Lafayette, La., in late April, then you might enjoy perusing pictures from three field trips.

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Thursday, May 17, 2007

I and the Bird #49

Don't miss the current poetic version of I and the Bird! Thank you, Dave, for creating a delightful roundup.

Contributions to the next edition of the biweekly carnival are due May 29 to Bora.

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Birding featured as "backyard ecotourism"

USA Today:

WALDEN, Colo. (AP) — People jostled cameras and squirmed on benches inside a trailer on a high-mountain meadow as the tour guide gently opened retractable doors, turning the bird blind into a window on one of nature's most spectacular shows: Strutting, chest-puffing male sage grouse in the last throes of mating season.

Dozens of greater sage grouse were first heard in the 5 a.m. darkness: Swishing sounds followed by pops, like a loud percolating coffee pot.

Light gradually spread over the meadow, brightening the jagged, snowcapped peaks of the Mount Zirkel Wilderness and revealing the source of the sounds — two big white air sacs on the birds' chests that repeatedly inflate and deflate. The brown and black birds, about 2 feet tall, fanned out their spiked tail feathers, trying to attract the two or three hens checking them out and charging at the other eager males.
Nice to see birding get widespread publicity in a mainstream national newspaper.

Greater Sage Grouse courtesy of Gary Kramer/U.S Fish & Wildlife Service

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Drugs threaten new hummingbird species

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) -- There's a new chirp in the forest but it may be choked by the slashing and burning of trees by coca farmers, researchers said.

The Gorgeted Puffleg, a rare hummingbird that boasts a plumage of violet blue and iridescent green on its throat, has been discovered living in the cloud forests of southwestern Colombia, researchers announced.

The species belongs to the Puffleg genus, which appear to have "little cotton balls above their legs," said Luis Mazariegos-Hurtado, who has spent 30 years documenting hummingbirds and founded the Colombian Hummingbird Conservancy.

The species -- known by its scientific name Eriocnemis isabellae -- was confirmed by two of the world's leading specialists on the puffleg, Karl L. Schuchmann, curator of ornithology at Zoological Research Museum A. Koenig in Germany, and F. Gary Stiles of the Instituto de Ciencias Naturales at Colombia's Universidad Nacional de Colombia.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

World Series of Birding in the news

Starting at midnight tonight, birders from 25 states and four foreign countries will fan out across New Jersey for the annual World Series of Birding.

By the end of the 24-hour competition, midnight Saturday, the winning team will most likely have identified well over 200 different species in the course of their travels from one end of the state to the other.
Bridgeton News:
MILLVILLE -- Members of the new Fish Hawks birding team for Saturday's World Series of Birding gathered Thursday to introduce the team representing Citizens United to Protect the Maurice River and its Tributaries (CU).

All the members are veterans of former prestigious birding events, including the WSB, and they have come from a wide area to participate.

They will raise awareness of the many wonders Cumberland County has to offer by restricting their search to Cumberland County only.
KYW Newsradio 1060:
The 24th Annual World Series of Birding begins Friday night in New Jersey and hundreds of people are expected to take part.

More than 100 teams of bird enthusiasts will spread out over the Garden State and count as many birds as they can see or hear in a 24-hour period beginning at midnight. Pete Dunne, director of the New Jersey Audubon Society's Cape May Bird Observatory, explains how the teams do the count:

"The team will go to a hot location, a place that is on their prescribed route, they will get out scour the area and get back in the car and drive to the next site, and then between sites, that's when you do your recording. Because say you don't want to leave North Jersey without having a black cap chickadee because when you get south, they're not here, we have Carolina chickadees down here."
Asbury Park Press:
Bird lovers from across New Jersey came out today to compete in the 24th Annual World Series of Birding.

Based throughout the state with Audubon Centers in Cape May and Fort Hancock at Sandy Hook, among others, the event raises money for bird conservation.

Birders of all levels can participate in the team competition, non-competing team or individual, youth competition, and senior competition. The birders have sponsors donate money for each bird they spot, and approximately $600,000 is raised annually, according to Pete Bacinski, director of the Sandy Hook Bird Observatory.
ABSECON - These young nature observers are putting their skills to the test in the sixth to eighth grade division of the World Series of Birding.

They're trying to beat their record of spotting 42 species last year and in the process are raising money for a nature habitat at their school.

"This is just a really great way for them to learn about the different habitats and the different birds. We also are looking at different animals, so they're having a ball," says chaperone Cindy Ahern of Hunting Valley, PA.

"I would really like to see a Golden Eagle, I've never seen one. What are the odds of seeing one today? They're kind of against us," says Eric Ahern.
CAPE MAY POINT — The goal was to fight global warming, and the money for the fight was literally flying right by their faces.
Well, sometimes it was flying by. Other times it was wading in a mud flat, perching on a tree or soaring high in the sky. The money took the form of a Mississippi kite, a pair of red-headed woodpeckers, a cerulean warbler and many other birds spotted by the bird-watching team Union of Concerned Birders. Each new species they identified meant another pledge from a sponsor.

“We're going to raise over $5,000 for the Union of Concerned Scientists,” said Paul Kerlinger, a member of the team.

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Neotropical migratory bird conservation receives millions

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service will give almost $4 million in grants to conservation projects in the United States, Canada, Latin America and the Caribbean. Those funds will be matched by almost $18 million from conservation partners to research, monitor and manage migratory bird populations and to educate the public.

The Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act of 2000 says at least 75 percent of a matching grants program must go to projects in Latin America, the Caribbean and Canada. Only 25 percent can go to projects in the United States, such as:

Arkansas -- Almost $29,000 will go to Arkansas State University to study tower collisions.

Maine -- $100,000 will go to National Audubon Society to manage and restore tern nesting habitat.

Michigan -- Nearly $15,000 will go to Michigan State University to study wind turbines' effects on songbirds in forests.

Among the international projects that will receive grants are:

Gulf Coast of United States, Mexico and Honduras -- Almost $136,000 will go to Gulf Coast Bird Observatory to purchase island stopover habitat and to monitor species.

Colorado and Mexico -- More than $168,000 will go to Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory to buy grassland habitat and to monitor grassland species.

United States, Canada and Mexico -- More than $83,000 will go to Hawk Migration Association of North America to create one central database for raptor data.

To learn more, click here.


Malta halts spring hunting season

Thank goodness.

The Maltese government has closed the spring bird hunting season early amid threatened legal action by the European Commission, which says the hunt violates EU rules on protecting wildlife.

Environment Minister George Pullicino, who announced the early closure Thursday, said the government would "wait and see" about whether there would be any spring bird hunting season next year.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

More kestrels in the air soon?

The price of first-class postage stamps for 1-oz. letters will go up to 41 cents on Monday, May 14. I don't know about you, but I've got a fair amount of 39-cent stamps. Looks like I'll need a few of these:

Monday, May 07, 2007

Wind farm off Delaware shore?

Bluewater Wind would like to put wind turbines at least 6 nautical miles, or nearly 7 regular miles, offshore for two reasons, a company official says.

"All our ornithologists and . . . all the avian experts tell us" that nearly all migratory bird flyways are much closer to land, and the issue of whether wind turbines can be seen is "almost a nonissue because it's so far out," said Jim Lanard, director of strategic planning and communications.

But David Mizrahi, an avian ecologist and vice president of research for the New Jersey Audubon Society, said, "I'd be a lot more cautious about (the bird issue) than he is."

People who go on boats much farther than 6 miles off New Jersey to see pelagic birds can see them "in very large numbers," said Mizrahi, who often uses radar to study bird and bat movement patterns.

While Europe has numerous offshore wind facilities, none has been built so far in the United States. Proposals are pending for wind farms off Cape Cod, Long Island and Delaware.
A Bluewater Wind official said birds avoid the turbines and cited data from European off-shore wind farms. He said, "They sweep around the wind farm. When they go through it, they go below rotor height or above rotor height . . . but the main behavior is an avoidance behavior. They'll avoid the wind park."

That sounds slightly encouraging. What do you think?

Becoming an Outdoors Woman

In Minnesota:
Women who would like to be part of an unique bird watching experience are invited to a Becoming An Outdoors Woman event, May 11-12, at the Audubon Environmental Learning Center near Sandstone.

The two-day program, taught by biologist Russ Sewell of the Ruffed Grouse Society, will focus on upland birds. Weekend highlights include outings to discover drumming ruffed grouse and witness the sky dance of woodcock.
I don't often see gender-specific birding events publicized. Do you?

Saturday, May 05, 2007

How will border fence affect Texas birding?

Last year, Congress approved a 700-mile fence along the border between the United States and Mexico. Folks in Texas are concerned about its implementation.

Birders and naturalists are concerned about the effects on birds and other wildlife, and I share that concern -- not just for the animals but for the economies of the south Texas towns and cities that benefit from ecotourism.

I don't know, though, how to balance the need to protect wildlife habitat with the need to enforce the border/stop illegal activity along it. How do we reconcile very different yet equally valid priorities? Share your ideas with your representatives in the House and the Senate.


Biologists surveying Kauai's forests

Over yonder, in the Pacific Ocean, the native birds face a real struggle for survival. The Aloha State is again checking on the species' numbers.

A 2005 survey deep in the Alakai Wilderness Area, as well as recent reports, "suggest that populations of the remaining native forest birds may now be in rapid decline due to a collection of threats that may include loss and degradation of habitat, predation by introduced mammals and disease," DLNR Chairman Peter Young said last week.

Biologists reported a conspicuous absence during these surveys of several species, especially the akekee (Kauai akepa) and akikiki (Kauai creeper) from many areas where they had been seen regularly in recent years, he said.

Biologists will survey the 16-square-mile preserve in Kauai's Waimea district. The DLNR will then collaborate with the U.S. Geological Survey to sample birds for disease, monitor them to determine whether they are breeding successfully and examine causes of mortality.
Here's a sobering statistic:
The Alaka‘i Wilderness Preserve is a haven for rare plants and birds, many of which are on the endangered species list. Of the 71 known Hawaiian bird species, an estimated 24 have disappeared and 32 are endangered.

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American Wetlands Month

Did you know that May is American Wetlands Month? Check out this, this and this for details and activity ideas!

Logo courtesy of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Wind farms' impact remains unclear

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Wind farms could generate as much as 7 percent of U.S. electricity in 15 years, but scientists want to spend more time studying the threat those spinning blades pose to birds and bats.

The towers appear most dangerous to night-migrating songbirds, bats and some hunting birds such as hawks and eagles. The risk is not well enough known to draw conclusions, a panel of the National Research Council said Thursday in a study requested by Congress.
How do birders concerned about climate change balance the wind farms' potential reduction in the use of fossil fuels against the potential impact on birds and bats?


Birding economics

If you're thinking of encouraging local officials to adopt bird-friendly development guidelines and citing birders' disposable income, look here for the economic impact of birders on the Grand Canyon State's economy.

More than 350,000 people come to Arizona every year to spot birds. They bring in an estimated $1 billion, making bird-watching Arizona's most lucrative tourist activity, according to Joe Yarkin, watchable-wildlife manager for the Arizona Department of Game and Fish.

"Economically, it ranks above golf and the other big boys of tourism," Yarkin said.
We have clout. We need to make more decision-makers aware of that fact.

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Toronto to become more bird-friendly?

TORONTO, Ontario, Canada - The city of Toronto Thursday published its new Bird-Friendly Development Guidelines, a set of practices designed to save some of the up to 10 million migratory birds that die each year in collisions with Toronto's buildings.

Urban night lighting attracts birds and poor weather traps them, which increases the density of migratory birds in urban areas. More migratory birds in the unfamiliar urban environment results in an increased number of bird collisions the following day.
Perhaps you could forward the guidelines' URL to your local planning commission, chamber of commerce, city hall and visitors bureau? Officials might respond favorably if you argue that birders (and their disposable income) like to visit towns and cities that make obvious efforts to help wild birds.

Friday, May 04, 2007

6th-grader kills ducks with a pencil

WICHITA, Kansas (AP) -- A sixth-grade boy has admitted he stabbed to death a mother duck named "Lucy" and her two ducklings.

Students at Wilbur Middle School had been monitoring the mother duck and ducklings, making sure no one disturbed the nest in a grassy creek bed. Their lifeless, mutilated bodies were found this week, stabbed with a pencil.

An announcement over the school's public address system brought the sixth-grade boy's admission that he killed the mother duck, whom students had named Lucy, and the two ducklings. School officials said he had talked about the act to classmates and did not understand why it was wrong.
If the boy truly didn't understand why it was wrong to kill the ducks, I'd like to know what his parents are like. Were they negligent in their responsibilities as parents, and should they be charged with the fines and jail time mentioned in the article?