Thursday, February 28, 2008

"Raptors in the City" returns

My e-mail inbox received a Falcon Flash news bulletin earlier this yweek, which means "Raptors in the City" is back in action. A nestbox on the 12th floor of a skyscraper in Cleveland, Ohio, has attracted raptors since 1991.

The current pair of Peregrine Falcons, SW (female) and Buckeye, remained at the nestsite through winter. The FalconCam, sponsored by Cleveland Museum of Natural History, provides up-close and regular updates on the Peregrines' doings.

At the Raptors in the City website, you can sign up for the free Falcon Flash newsletters via e-mail and find a curriculum, available for purchase, for students ages 7 to 11.


Tuesday, February 26, 2008

NASA considers using Merritt Island NWR for launchpad

Today's Orlando Sentinel reports on yesterday's hearing at which hundreds of Titusville-area residents told NASA representatives that they want to keep Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge for birds and other wildlife.

A final assessment of the environmental concerns likely will be released by mid-September, said NASA's Mario Busacca. Federal law requires that the agency determine whether there would be a serious impact.

About 200 acres inside the sanctuary that attracts nearly a million visitors annually is one of two possible sites for the proposed Commercial Vertical Launch Complex. The other site borders the Atlantic coast inside the restricted area of Kennedy Space Center.

Endangered wildlife and wetlands exist in both locations, but of 11 possible sites, they best fit other criteria established by NASA, such as distance from residential areas and risk from hurricane storm surge, officials said.

However, building in the refuge could affect or even shut down the visitor center and many of the choice spots for bird-watching, which brings in millions of tourist dollars. Parts of Mosquito Lagoon, popular for fishing and kayaking, and Playalinda Beach also could be closed during launches.
For information about the proposal and the Feb. 28 hearing in New Smyrna, click here. More details from NASA appear here, along with contact information.

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Birding in the New York Times

From Sunday's paper, an article by Jonathan Rosen about a Scott's Oriole in Union Square Park in New York City:

Like the greenmarket in Union Square that brings apples and vegetables from outside the city, the token bird in the park is a reminder of an older way of life we are still intimately connected to and vitally in need of.

And like birders with their binoculars, we are not necessarily doomed by our modernity to exclusion from wildness. Bird-watching was born in cities — combining technology, urban institutions of higher learning, an awareness of the vanishing wild places of the earth and a desire to welcome what is left of the wild back into our world.
How often do you bird in urban settings and find surprises?

Blog-erview with Jessie Barry

Jessie Barry and I met maybe two years ago, but her name was quite familiar before then. She'd made a name for herself among researchers and competitive listers, participating in events like the World Series of Birding and the Great Texas Birding Classic as a teenager.

During the April 2007 American Birding Association convention in Louisiana, I happened to go on a field trip with Jessie. Although she wasn't an official leader, she quietly emerged as a knowledgeable birder who helped others see and hear the birds. I got a kick out of her ability to recognize a desired species' call while driving down a road with the truck's window rolled down. She received many kudos from the trip's participants for that valued find.

Jessie contributes to WildBird as the reviewer for the Book Nook department, so she reads and evaluates three recently released books for each magazine issue. You'll no doubt read her name in print more often soon. In the meantime, you can read about her here.

What’s it like to work as the hawkwatcher in Cape May during fall?
The one-word answer: awesome. The birds you see and the people you meet are the experience.

Starting with the birds: While it is a cliché that “there is never a bad day of birding in Cape May,” to a large extent, it’s true. During migration, there are few days without interesting birds in the area.

Each season brings a new amazing birding experience. This year, it was the flight of 163,000 scoters on Oct. 26, and the seasonal total was over 1,000,000 seabirds.

From the hawkwatcher’s perspective, this meant sneaking peaks out to the ocean and pouting a little, wishing I was there, but the hawkwatch was rewarded with rarities this year. Species seen from the platform this fall included New Jersey’s first Lesser Nighthawk, Barnacle Goose, Ruff, Say’s Phoebe, Western Kingbird, Anhinga, White Ibis, Eurasian Collared-Dove... and the list goes on -- not forgetting the 33,500 incredible raptors, of course, and 121 Peregrine Falcons in a single hour! I tallied 221 Peregrines that day!

The people. There may not be a community in the states with so many birders and naturalists. With a number of talented locals, you will learn from the best.

The visitors come from across the country and “across the pond.” And there is “The Birdhouse” or “The Intern House,” where New Jersey Audubon Society/Cape May Bird Observatory houses its seasonal employees (counters and interpretative naturalists): eight people in their 20s, five bedrooms, two showers, one refrigerator and a freezer full of dead birds. Can you imagine it?

Did a specific event/species encourage you to start birding?
I was flipping through a field guide during a “reading time” in my sixth-grade science class. I was writing details of my latest lifer in my field guide, my first Wilson’s Snipe, when my teacher, who is an avid birder, noticed what I was doing. He looked at me with a big smile, pointing to the book, and asked, “Did you see a snipe?”

At that point, it was a matter of days before I was out on my first CBC (Christmas Bird Count). I have been birding ever since then. My interest in birds was already there, but I attribute my interest in birding to encouragement from my mentor and supportive parents.

Who do you consider your birding mentors?
Primarily, my sixth-grade science teacher, Kevin Griffith. I am also grateful for the many other professional birders who guided me once I was exposed to the national birding scene, especially Michael O’Brien, Louise Zemaitis, Jon Dunn, Steve Howell and Pete Dunne.

How do you encourage the next generation of birders?
You take them birding. See if they have an interest in birds. If things go well, take them out again.

Birding runs in the blood. If it is there, you’ll know fairly quickly, and this often starts at a younger age than you may expect.

In my case, I was not a birder until I was about 10, but I knew the names of 30 ducks and geese when I was 2. (My doctor still brings that up each time I am in her office.) The key is just to be supportive and encouraging, and share your passion for birds with the kid.

Eventually a young birder will benefit by subscribing to a young birders' listserve to learn about scholarships, conferences, camps and other events. The young birder will realize that they are not alone and that there are other kids their age out birding. Peer pressure runs rampant in middle and high school, but it does go away by college.

Becoming a mentor can be an extremely rewarding experience and significantly change the life of a kid, and potentially shape birding down the road. For example, Jeff Bouton and I have a few things in common. OK, we’re both former Cape May hawkwatchers, write for WildBird, attend national birding festivals and events, and have the initials JB, but I’m not the original “JB.”

Jeff was also in Kevin Griffith’s sixth-grade science class. Coincidence? Nope. It all goes back to a great mentor, and you don’t have to be the best birder out there to be a mentor.

Do you have a nemesis bird, and if so, which species?
Do we really have to bring that up? Ok, Dovekie has given me some trouble. Recently that was taken care of (sweet bird!), so Sharp-tailed Sandpiper rises to the top of the list.

Early on, it was Indigo Bunting, a common bird, but I never found them until I learned the call. Finally saw one; it was my 200th life bird.

How do you feel about rubber ducks?
Well, I love ducks, but rubber ducks don’t really turn me on the same way. Cute as they are, maybe feathers and flight are the missing factors. (Sorry Amy!)

What’s the best thing on the Wawa menu?
Wawa… just the thought of it makes my heart feel warm. Having pretty much lived off Wawa and food from charitable locals while hawkwatching in Cape May, I sampled most of the menu. There’s no question that my days were not complete without a toasted cinnamon raisin bagel with a “Little Bit of Plain Cream Cheese.”

But, don’t forget a 16-oz. dark roast coffee with a touch of half and half and a splash of French vanilla. And save 10 cents (and a tree) by bringing your own travel mug!

How often have you participated in competitive events like the World Series of Birding or the Great Texas Birding Classic?
As often as I can! I’m a bit of a Big Day junkie. I have three World Series of Birdings under my belt and am a four-time participant in the Great Texas Birding Classic. I also did six Montezuma Muckraces (western New York) and hold the New York State Big Day record.

I enjoy the competitive aspects of these events and love seeing so many species in a day. These events raise valuable funding for conservation. Thanks to everyone who supports these events.

Are you pursuing a career related to birding?
Yes. I am not sure exactly what aspect of birding I will focus on, but right now I’m enjoying traveling for field jobs and various scientific and popular writing projects. I would predict some tour leading and maybe graduate school are likely to come shortly down the road.


Monday, February 25, 2008

Promising news for birds at Salton Sea

Thanks to a nearby Indian tribe, birds at Salton Sea are benefitting from newly created wetlands. This Los Angeles Times article (registration required) reports on Debi Livesay's seven-year effort to revitalize the sea within the boundaries of the Torres Martinez Indian Reservation.

The Salton Sea, California's biggest lake, is saltier than the ocean and getting saltier all the time. Water agreements reached in 2003 mean Imperial Valley farmers will stop sending their runoff into the sea, causing it to shrink further and grow ever more saline. Scientists predict that, without drastic action, by 2015 the last of the sport fish will have died off. The 400 species of birds that nest there, including endangered species such as the California least tern and Yuma clapper rail, will leave soon after.

But while the state's plan is still on the drawing board, Livesay's is up and running.

"This is the first microcosm of what all of the rest of the plans call for around the sea," said Dan Parks, coordinator for the Salton Sea Authority. "Scientists have an idea of what they need, but there is a lot of stuff they can't get out of a textbook so you need to get in there and experiment."
Livesay's experiment looks promising. After creating islands and barriers, contractors filled and emptied ponds every day to remove salt. After two years, they filled the ponds, released fish and planted native palms. So far, so good.

Livesay wants to open the wetlands to the public in November. No doubt many birders hope that she can.

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Saturday, February 23, 2008

Maine's Great Gray Owl

This Feb. 22 letter in The Boston Globe cites the Great Gray Owl in Jackson, Maine, that later died.

After five days of uninterrupted viewing that interfered with the hunting and feeding habits of a bird rarely seen here, the exhausted and starving owl had to be taken off by an avian rescue team, the equivalent of EMTs. He died two days later.
Rehabilitators from Avian Haven captured the bird after the property owner said it was hit by a car. The rehabbers reported on Jan. 30 that "the bird is extremely emaciated. This may be due at least in part to a heavy parasite load, but the property owner feels that the bird was harassed by some visitors."

After the owl's death, the Avian Haven staff reported no evidence of a collision, a heavy parasitic load, anemia, signs of a respiratory disease, and evidence that the bird was in the advanced stages of starvation. "None of these are acute conditions; the bird could have been already on a fatal trajectory when he arrived in Jackson. Whether any such trajectory could have been altered by different circumstances over the last week is impossible to say."

My question: How much effect, if any, do incidents like this influence property owners' and birders' willingness to share unusual birds' locations and provide access?

Thursday, February 21, 2008

I and the Bird #69

Want to win a book by reading birding blogs? If you answer the questions correctly, you just might take home the book of your choice!

At Living the Scientific Life, you'll find I and the Bird #69. The questions appear at the end of the carnival.

Good luck!

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Quiet NOMO

Despite the cloud cover this morning, the rain took a break. Yesterday's precipitation and the predictions for more in the next few days are great for this dressed-up desert, so I don't begrudge the falling water.

The American Crows in the neighborhood quickly became obvious at the beginning of my morning walk. Such loud birds! Other species added their voices to the brisk air: Black Phoebes, Bushtits, hummingbirds, Cassin's Kingbirds, Mourning Doves.

What stopped me in my tracks was a Northern Mockingbird perched on a telephone wire. It was silent -- not a peep. I peered at it from various angles and still didn't hear a sound from the NOMO... which surprised me.

That species seems to always loudly proclaim its presence, so this bird's silence kinda threw me. It also reminded me that birding continually reveals surprises.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Do you think that feral cats endanger birds in Cape May?

Tonight's city council meeting in Cape May, N.J., did not include a resolution to the question of how to handle the feral cats in a birding hotspot along the Atlantic Flyway.

Alley Cat Allies posted an update about the meeting:

As the mayor noted, maintaining the historic seaside resort’s wide sandy beaches is essential to the economic wellbeing of the community, and he reiterated that the wildlife protection agencies have given the city an ultimatum to accept their version of the beach management plan or lose the vital beach-sand replenishment. Cape May residents were flabbergasted to find out that the city intended on voting on a final beach-management plan without making it available to the public or giving them the necessary opportunity to review it. And according to city councilman David Kurkowski, the US Fish and Wildlife Service admits that plan is “insufficient” to protect the plan’s primary focus—nesting piping plovers.

Fortunately, the city council moved to temporarily table the beach-management plan and try to find a solution that would genuinely protect the endangered shorebirds while respecting the community’s twelve-year old efforts to manage feral cats with the humane, cost-effective, and highly successful spay/neuter method. It is clear that the city council and residents of Cape May want to do the right thing and find a way both to protect the birds and to maintain the city’s place at the forefront of progressive and innovative communities. For most who attended the meeting it was difficult to understand why the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and NJ Department of Environmental Protection would jeopardize the economic well being of this vibrant seaside resort simply to promote a flawed beach-management plan that scapegoats cats, ignores the primary threats to the nesting plovers, and in the end would do very little to actually protect those birds.
If you'd like to share your thoughts with the city council, consider sending a comment via this site. The city council members include Mayor Jerome E. Inderwies, Deputy Mayor Niels S. Favre, Council Member David S. Craig, Council Member David C. Kurkowski and Council Member Linda Aldridge Steenrod. The next city council meeting is scheduled for March 20.

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Public comments sought about Brown Pelican delisting

All populations of Brown Pelicans might be removed from the federal endangered species list, following the Feb. 8 announcement by the Secretary of the Interior. The delisting process, however, includes the opportunity to submit comments about the proposal to remove a species from the list.

The remaining populations occur along the Gulf and Pacific coasts, the Caribbean, and across Central and South America. On February 4, 1985, the Service delisted the brown pelican in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and points northward along the Atlantic Coast However, the brown pelican continued to be listed as endangered throughout the remainder of its range, including Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, California, Mexico, Central and South America, and the West Indies.
You can send comments and materials before April 21, 2008, through the federal eRulemaking portal. E-mails and faxes won't be accepted.

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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Feral cats in birding mecca

Did you see yesterday's article about plans for the feral cat colony in Cape May?

CAPE MAY, N.J. - The cats vs. birds struggle in this Victorian seaside resort has come down to the carrot vs. the stick.

The carrot is a compromise that would preserve colonies of feral cats but move them away from beaches where endangered shore birds nest. The stick is the federal government's threat to take away some of the city's badly needed beach replenishment money if the city refuses to move the felines.

Fur and feathers may fly as the City Council could decide Tuesday night whether to approve moving the cats.
I have to agree with an employee at a beachside fudge shop: "Bird-watching is big business here," added Theresa Renner, who works at a Boardwalk fudge shop. "A lot of bird lovers come here."

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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Blog-erview with Noah Strycker

My first awareness of Noah Strycker came in 2002 from an unsolicited manuscript about postage stamps bearing avian images. The well-written and entertaining article impressed me, and when I learned the writer's age -- 16 -- I was floored.

Fast-forward three years, when I wanted to add a column to WildBird. Noah immediately came to mind because of his enthusiasm for and knowledge of birding, artistic abilities, writing skill, age and professionalism. He's an excellent ambassador for the younger generation of birders.

Now a college senior, Noah remains a valuable contributor to the magazine, always sending the "Birdboy" columns early and complete. He'll become even more of an asset to the birding community after he finishes school. Keep your eye on this fellow.

Did a specific event/species encourage you to start birding?
I credit a fifth-grade teacher as my spark; she’d stop teaching every time a new bird showed up on our classroom window-mounted bird feeder. I’ve always paid attention to the birds around our family’s 20-acre country home, put up birdhouses and identified yard birds. It’s been a gradual addiction.

What’s your most unusual experience while doing field research?
I ate a Baird’s Trogon, Three-wattled Bellbird and Mealy Amazon (Parrot) while doing field work in central Panama. A collecting expedition in the area was skinning bird specimens and just throwing away the meat. Of the three, the parrot was quite palatable, followed by the trogon—a deliciously threatened species—and lastly the bellbird, which had to be gagged down.

Do you have a nemesis bird, and if so, which species?
Yes. LeConte’s Thrasher. Enough said.

How many taxidermy mounts have you completed?
Three: a ragged female California Quail and two European Starlings. After completing a workshop with noted bird taxidermist Stefan Savides last fall, I’ve got the process down. I need more practice, though, and some specialized tools to do it at home: a fleshing wheel and a skin-drying tumbler, for starters (I’ve already got a washing machine, which can dry soggy birds on “spin” cycle).

I have a good stock of European Starlings in my freezer to practice on, since they don’t require any special permits. Just be careful what you grab if you’re looking for dinner.

What is your most hilarious incident as a birder?
Turkey Vultures are incredibly secretive despite their abundance. I once decided to bait them to my backyard photography blind. After a couple months of searching, I discovered a road-killed deer several miles from home.

It was the height of summer and the body had been baking on the pavement for some time; yellowjackets and flies buzzed around the rotting meat, unmentionable juices oozed, semis whizzed by, and gases escaped from every opening as I shifted the bloated corpse into a Hefty bag in my trunk. I nearly fainted as I gagged all the way home, my head out the driver’s window.

After hauling the deer out to a field, I set up my blind next to it and spent the next two days waiting for the birds. I can still smell that stench: rotten to us, a feast for vultures.

Are you pursuing a career related to birding?
Yep, I plan to graduate from Oregon State University in June 2008, then we’ll see where life takes me. There are so many places I want to see; I plan to spend some time traveling and working different field jobs.

I have two continents left to visit (Antarctica and Africa). Graduate school; magazine and publishing work; interpreting birds on a general scale, especially bridging the gap between science and a broader audience; anything is possible!

How do you feel about rubber ducks?
I have a tennis-playing rubber duckie on the bathtub rim. It is quite photogenic.

Who do you consider your birding mentors?
Local birders of the Eugene, Ore., Southern Willamette Ornithological Club showed me birding beyond my back yard. It really helped to have others take an interest in me as a younger birder. High-profile birders write the field guides, but someone else has to interpret them on a personal level to grow the sport.

Tell me about your dream birding trip: where, what species, when, who, how long…
I’d get together a band of fanatical young birders and attack one of Earth’s birdiest regions: the Neotropics, southeast Asia, central Africa. With a group of 25-year-olds sleeping four hours a night, moving every day, unafraid of brutal conditions and terrain, birding with the latest technology and information, pooling resources and talking up the locals, the target birds wouldn’t stand a chance. Nothing could slow us down.

How do you encourage the next generation of birders?
Maybe birding will never be “cool,” but at least I want to help give it some respect. On a personal level, I can be a normal college student and a birder at the same time, even if sometimes those are two separate lives; when they cross, birding benefits.

I hope that through my writing, such as the “Birdboy” column in WildBird, I convey the adventure, energy and excitement of birding to the next generation of birders. In the field, even a few words and honest attention to a young birder does wonders. They’re kind of a rare species.

When will you change from Birdboy to Birdman?
If the Beach Boys and Spice Girls can stay young forever, so can Birdboy.

Describe your worst birding experience.
I’m not bothered by much in the forest, but insects annoy me. My standards were reset, though, when I hit a “tick bomb” in a lowland Central American rainforest.

Hundreds, or maybe thousands, of tiny ticks gathered on a single strand of grass, and I stepped through it. It took me the rest of the afternoon with sections of duct tape to remove them from pants and shirt by the dozen, and another week to stop inspecting every itchy spot. I renamed my tweezers the “tick pick” and vowed never to complain about mosquitoes again.


Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Great Backyard Bird Count

For four days, Cornell Lab of Ornithology wants North American residents to watch their backyard birdfeeders, count the visitors and submit data online. The Great Backyard Bird Count will start this Fridya, Feb. 15, and last through Monday the 18th.

No doubt you've heard of it before. Even the mainstream media provides coverage, if only a verbatim rerun of Cornell's press releases about the event.

Baker City Herald, Ore.
Ventura County Star, Calif.
Joplin Independent, Mo.
Chesteron Tribune, Ind.
The Post and Courier, S.C., N.Y.

Have you seen local coverage and/or contacted nearby media outlets to suggest GBBC as a topic?

Students at McKinley Elementary School in Elkins Park, Pa., participated in the 2007 count. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Sherwood/Cornell

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The Mating Game

A quiz at says,

While we humans like to think of ourselves as more complex than other members of the animal kingdom, the truth is that we're not so unique when it comes to things like sex and courtship. Even our strangest behaviors can seem tame next to those of other creatures.
After taking the cheeky quiz, I learned that my style is similar to that of Sandhill Cranes. Not sure how to take that opinion.

The game's homepage also tempts visitors with these:
Want to learn more about moths that wear perfume, flies that steal other flies' dates, and salamanders that drug their mates? Click on the pictures below to discover animals’ surprising love lives.
Various birds appear among the photos. How could you resist?


Friday, February 08, 2008

Winning bird limerick!

Tom, you won the limerick contest posted on Monday the 4th!

A marvelous bird is the Dipper
He swims underwater like Flipper
Like a little gray Robin
His rear end a-bobbin'
He seems to be feeling quite chipper

Please send your mailing address to ahooper AT bowtieinc DOT com and let me know which book you'd like to receive:
Songbird Journeys by Miyoko Chu
The Singing Life of Birds by Donald Kroodsma
The Birdwatcher's Companion to North American Birdlife by Christopher W. Leahy
Atlas of Bird Migration by Jonathan Elphick

American Dipper courtesy of U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Endangered bird on PBS show this Sunday, 2.10

"Nature," the award-winning PBS series, will show "Crash: A Tale of Two Species" on Feb. 10 and highlight the relationship between Red Knots and horseshoe crabs. Click here to see when the shows airs in your area.

The Nature website contains fantastic images and resources related to "Crash." Learn about horseshoe anatomy, its value to the human medical industry and its importance to migratory Red Knots that eat horseshoe crab eggs in Delaware Bay. Watch videos, click through an interactive map of the birds' migratory path, and download a teacher's guide and two desktop wallpapers.

For an inspiring story about habitat conservation that benefits Red Knots, turn to page 9 of WildBird's March/April 2008 issue. Rather than complain about habitat loss, concerned individuals raised money to purchase property along the Delaware Bay coastline. More birders can do likewise.

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Brown Pelican might come off endangered species list

Big news from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service:

BATON ROUGE, La. – Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne today celebrated the brown pelican’s remarkable recovery from the brink of extinction by formally proposing to remove the remaining protected populations of the bird along the Gulf and Pacific coasts, and in the Caribbean, and Central and South America from protection under the Endangered Species Act. Kempthorne announced the proposal at the Louisiana Governor’s Mansion in Baton Rouge during a joint appearance with Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal.

“Thanks to decades of coordinated efforts on the part of state and federal agencies, conservation organizations and private landowners, the pelican has rebounded to historic levels,” said Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne. “I’d like to thank Governor Jindal and the State of Louisiana for their contributions to the pelican’s recovery and for inviting me here to mark this milestone in conservation history.”

Kempthorne also noted that the pelican’s recovery is due in large measure to the federal ban on the general use of the pesticide DDT in 1972, after former U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Rachel Carson published Silent Spring and alerted the nation to the dangers of unrestricted pesticide use.

“The brown pelican is known for its fishing displays, plunging headlong from the air into the water and rising with a mouthful of fish. In the same dramatic fashion, the pelican has pulled off an amazing recovery after a steep plunge toward extinction,” said Kempthorne. “There are now more than 620,000 brown pelicans found across Florida and the Gulf and Pacific Coasts of our nation, as well as in the Caribbean and Latin America.”
The service describes the delisting process here, and a fact sheet with photos appears here.

Photo courtesy of U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

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Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Potential federal funding for birds

Promising news from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service:

The President's $2.2 billion FY 2009 budget request provides significant increases for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for bird conservation and habitat work on private lands across the nation, while sustaining increases in the National Wildlife Refuge System budget and supporting other key Service priorities. The budget request includes $1.3 billion in discretionary funds and $946.9 million in permanent appropriations largely provided to States for fish and wildlife restoration and conservation.

"This budget request recognizes and supports the vital role that the Fish and Wildlife Service plays in bird conservation in this hemisphere, while providing increased funding for other conservation programs that enable us to work in partnership with landowners, local governments and others. Perhaps most important, the request provides crucial funding to offset our increased fixed costs, ensuring that we can support the work of our employees who manage and protect the nation’s fish and wildlife heritage,”said Service Director H. Dale Hall.
The request includes:
* $8 million more for the Birds Forever initiative
* a proposed $10 increase in the price for a Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp aka Duck Stamp, bringing the cost to $25
* $900,000 more for the Ocean and Coastal Frontiers initiative
* $1 million more for the Safe Borderlands initiative
* $492,000 more for the Healthy Lands initiative
* $1.9 million more for Cooperative Conservation

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Birdyear bicyclists in the mainstream news

The 16-year-old Canadian birder and his parents who appear on page 8 of WildBird's March/April issue recently appeared on a Tampa, Fla., television broadcast. They talked about their 12,000-mile trip to see birds in North America without burning fossil fuels.

Congrats, Malkolm, Wendy and Ken!

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Superbowl of Birding

For an account of the other Superbowl, written by the captain of the winning team, click here:

We made several pre-dawn stops in Ipswich and Essex, attempting to call various owls and hoping for a response. Phil "hooted" for long-eared, great horned and barred owls and Margo "tooted" for saw-whet and whistled for screech owls. At one stop, I attempted to "toot" in a saw-whet with a slide whistle, only to create a garbled jumble of comical notes that had us all laughing so hard that we lost five minutes just trying to compose ourselves.
You'll find the results here. The next Superbowl of Birding, a 12-hour competition in Massachusetts, is scheduled for Jan. 24, 2009.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Write a bird limerick to win a prize!

Want to win a book? The choices are:
Songbird Journeys by Miyoko Chu
The Singing Life of Birds by Donald Kroodsma
The Birdwatcher's Companion to North American Birdlife by Christopher W. Leahy
Atlas of Bird Migration by Jonathan Elphick

How to win it? Write a limerick with an avian theme before Feb. 7, and make me laugh out loud.

limerick: (n). a nonsense poem of five lines, now often bawdy, usually with the rhyme scheme aabba (the first, second and fifth lines having three stresses, the third and fourth having two).

Looking forward to seeing your limericks in the comments to this post!

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Friday, February 01, 2008

Seabird progress in Hawaii

A nature preserve on the island of Molokai in Hawaii now hosts a Wedge-tailed Shearwater colony.

For the first time in decades, wedge-tailed shearwaters are establishing a new colony on Molokai at The Nature Conservancy's Mo‘omomi preserve.

The shearwaters' return, says state wildlife biologist Fern Duvall, is due to the Conservancy's weed and predator control efforts, which are creating a hospitable refuge where the birds can now safely nest and rear their young.

“They're definitely increasing, no doubt about it,” said Ed Misaki, director of the Conservancy's Molokai program. “Back in 1999 when the birds first started arriving, there were three nests. This year we counted 307 active nests.”

Wedge-tailed shearwaters — or ‘ua‘u kani — are large, dark-brown migratory birds with a black-tipped dark-gray bill. The birds live all their lives at sea and come ashore only to breed. Returning to the same nest site each year, wedge-tails nest in shallow sand burrows, one to two meters in length.
Read the entire article (link above) for great details about these seabirds. Here are details about Mo'omomi Preserve.

Photo courtesy of The Molokai Times

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Youth teams in birding competitions

American Birding Association recently announced its 2008 ABA/Leica Tropicbirds teams for the Great Texas Birding Classic and the World Series of Birding.

During the April competition in the Lone Star State, Jeff and Liz Gordon will chaperone and mentor four teenagers:
Saraiya Ruano, 17, of Colorado Springs, Colo. (team captain)
Hope Batcheller, 16, of Petersburgh, N.Y.
Neil Gilbert, 15, of Orange, Calif.
Nico Sarbanes, 14, of Baltimore, Md.

During the one-day May event in the Garden State, Michael O'Brien and Louise Zemaitis will coach and accompany four teens:
Jacob Drucker, 15, of New York, N.Y. (captain)
Ted Stiritz, 14, of Russellville, Ark.
Andy Johnson, 15, of Ann Arbor, Mich.
Matthew Daw, 14, of Raleigh, N.C.

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Lead ammo bad for ravens

Just as lead ammunition has been labeled detrimental to the California Condor recovery efforts and banned in California, a recent report in "The Journal of Wildlife Management" says Common Ravens in and around Yellowstone have "greatly elevated" lead levels in their blood during hunting season.

Researcher and author Derek Craighead said, “The implications of our study are that lead contamination should be suspect in all species, including humans, that feed on hunter-killed animals. Fortunately, using non-lead bullets is one relatively easy solution to curb this form of lead contamination.”

Craighead has unpublished data showing an even worse problem with Bald Eagles and Golden Eagles, whose blood lead levels can reach fatal levels. Craighead will present this information at a conference sponsored by The Peregrine Fund in May.

Common Raven courtesy of USFWS