Monday, March 31, 2008

Kenn Kaufman resurfaces in the blogosphere

It looks like Kenn recently resumed semi-regular posts at Best Bets for Birding. His blog appears as part of the birding pages within the Black Swamp Bird Observatory website, which focuses on the Crane Creek and Magee Marsh areas in northwest Ohio. (The "A" below pinpoints Crane Creek State Park.)

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Songbirds appear in The New York Times

From Sunday's edition, an opinion piece by Bridget Stutchbury titled "Did Your Shopping List Kill a Songbird?":

Migratory birds, modern-day canaries in the coal mine, reveal an environmental problem hidden to consumers. Testing by the United States Food and Drug Administration shows that fruits and vegetables imported from Latin America are three times as likely to violate Environmental Protection Agency standards for pesticide residues as the same foods grown in the United States. Some but not all pesticide residues can be removed by washing or peeling produce, but tests by the Centers for Disease Control show that most Americans carry traces of pesticides in their blood. American consumers can discourage this poisoning by avoiding foods that are bad for the environment, bad for farmers in Latin America and, in the worst cases, bad for their own families.
Stutchbury, who teaches biology at Toronto's York University, wrote "Silence of the Songbirds: How We Are Losing the World's Songbirds and What We Can Do to Save Them" (2007).


Wednesday, March 26, 2008

San Francisco might help migrating birds inadvertently

From today's San Francisco Chronicle:

San Francisco's picturesque skyline would be dark at night under a first-in-the-nation law proposed Tuesday that would mandate all skyscrapers turn off nonemergency lights after work hours.

Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin said his measure would reduce the energy wasted in the city's downtown.

"Anyone who has passed through our Financial District after dark knows that many large financial buildings in the downtown keep their lights on throughout the night even when there is not work or janitorial service going on," Peskin said.
The proposed law says businesses that do not comply would receive fines. I'm not sure that's a good route, because it creates more bureaucracy to enforce the law.

If, however, more skyscrapers turn off more lights between, say, 9 p.m. and 5 a.m. on the upper floors, then perhaps fewer migrating birds will die from collisions with skyscrapers or exhaustion.

Consider this important? Do something.

Share details about Fatal Light Awareness Program with Peskin and Ken Cleaveland, director of government and public affairs for the Building Owners and Managers Association of San Francisco. The program's website discusses urban threats to birds, with a section on light attraction:

Birds migrating at night are strongly attracted to, or at least trapped by, sources of artificial light, particularly during periods of inclement weather. Approaching the lights of lighthouses, floodlit obstacles, ceilometers (light beams generally used at airports to determine the altitude of cloud cover), communication towers, or lighted tall buildings, they become vulnerable to collisions with the structures themselves. If collision is avoided, birds are still at risk of death or injury. Once inside a beam of light, birds are reluctant to fly out of the lighted area into the dark, and often continue to flap around in the beam of light until they drop to the ground with exhaustion. A secondary threat resulting from their aggregation at lighted structures is their increased vulnerability to predation.
Also consider asking Audubon California and Golden Gate Audubon Society what they're doing, if anything, related to this proposal. The FLAP website doesn't show San Francisco as a city with a FLAP program; perhaps the site is outdated, and perhaps birders have taken the iniative to address the skyscrapers' effects on migrating birds. If they haven't taken that initiative, now's a good time.

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Great Texas Birding Classic auction

Want to support habitat conservation in the Lone Star State? With a state list of 632 species, Texas contains valuable habitat that hosts an incredible variety of birds. If you successfully bid on an item in the Great Texas Birding Classic's auction, you'll help birds such as Green Jays (below left) and Great Kiskadees.

In fact, you can bid on the prints of these south Texas specialties, painted by artist Gerald Sneed, as well as many other items: books, artwork, software, a photography clinic, weekend getaways and optics. The online auction will close on May 2, and winners will receive word on May 5.

Good luck!

Photo courtesy of Gulf Coast Bird Observatory

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Bird-inspired jazz in SoCal

"Jazz Aviary" offers birders and jazz enthusiasts a chance to appreciate sights and sounds that appeal to both groups. Suze Krebs will perform this Thursday, March 27, in Northridge and on Tuesday, April 1, in Culver City. Tickets cost $20 to $25, and a portion of the proceeds will go to the Los Angeles chapter of National Audubon Society.

Los Angeles Times described Krebs' multimedia concerts with the Soaring Sextet as "a fascinating musical presentation," and LA Jazz Scene called it "one of the most refreshing, interesting, stimulating shows I've ever attended... Krebs and her amazing musicians created something of singular beauty."

See and hear for yourself:
March 27, 8 p.m., in Northridge at Giannelli Square (19451 Londelius St., 91324)
April 1, 8 p.m., in Culver City at The Jazz Bakery (3233 Helms Ave., 90034)


Great Backyard Bird Count results

Between Feb. 15 and 18, birders submitted more than 85,700 checklists, identified 635 species and provided thousands of bird photos. The citizen scientists contributed to a database that ornithologists and other researchers can use to study species populations and distribution.

For instance, counters' checklists indicate that
* northern finches, such as Pine Grosbeak (above), came south from northern Canada to find food
* Yellow-billed Magpie populations are decreasing
* Eurasian Collard-Doves continue to adapt and spread, now reaching Oregon and the Canadian provinces of British Columbia and Manitoba

The top 10 most reported species:
1. Northern Cardinal
2. Mourning Dove
3. Dark-eyed Junco
4. Downy Woodpecker
5. American Goldfinch
6. Blue Jay
7. House Finch
8. Tufted Titmouse
9. Black-capped Chickadee
10. American Crow

For more details about the 2008 count, visit the highlights page on the Cornell Lab of Ornithology site. The lab and National Audubon Society organize the annual event, which will happen again Feb. 13-16, 2009.

Photo courtesy of U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service


Thursday, March 20, 2008

I and the Bird #71

After revelling in the first day of spring, consider savoring the latest edition of I and the Bird, hosted by Clare of The House & Other Arctic Musings. Clare's created a wonderful roundup of blog posts, highlighted by pertinent quotes. I particularly like the Douglas Adams snippet.

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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Roger Tory Peterson centennial

Aug. 28 marks the centennial of Roger Tory Peterson's birth in Jamestown, N.Y. If not for that event in 1908, who knows how long birders would've waited before an artistic, talented birder revolutionized the way that we identify birds in the field and at our feeders?

To celebrate the centennial, the March/April issue of WildBird featured an article by Kenn Kaufman about Peterson's early years. In the May/June issue, readers can learn details about the creation and publication of the field guide that changed modern birding in 1934.

For the July/August issue, WildBird wants to highlight birders' thoughts about Peterson's effect on this hobby/lifestyle/sport/passion. Please send an e-mail with RTP in the subject line.

How did Peterson's work affect you?
Did his books serve as your first field guides?
How did his illustrations affect your opinions of field guides by other authors, photographers and illustrators?
What thoughts or images does his name conjure?

Please share your responses before Friday, April 18.

Photo courtesy of Roger Tory Peterson Institute of Natural History


Monday, March 17, 2008

Cape May's feral cats...

continue to generate news coverage. In "The Buffalo News," Gerry Rising recently wrote

Deputy Cape May Mayor Neils Favre reported receiving 600 e-mails in a single day from cat supporters, and almost 100 protesters attended council meetings. Among other things the cat backers claimed that no proof had been provided that any birds at all had been killed.

Sadly, no similar effort was mounted on behalf of the endangered birds.
What do birders need to do differently -- and soon! -- so that they present similar support for birds in situations like this?

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More bucks for ducks... and other birds

The Migratory Bird Conservation Commission recently allotted more than $29 million to protect and manage nearly 190,000 acres of wetlands and associated habitats in the United States. The commission also signed off on almost $3 million under the North American Wetlands Conservation Act to aid wetland and waterfowl management in Mexico and more than $4.2 million to buy 2,213 acres of wetlands for the National Wildlife Refuge System.

The refuges to receive additional acreage include
* Cape May National Wildlife Refuge in Cape May County, N.J.
* Grasslands Wildlife Management Area in Merced County, Calif.
* San Bernard National Wildlife Refuge in Brazoria County, Texas
* Mackay Island National Wildlife Refuge in Currituck County, N.C., and Virginia Beach, Va.
* Lacassine National Wildlife Refuge in Cameron Parish, La.

Do you regularly bird at these sites? What's your most memorable experience at one of these refuges?

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Did you miss Buzzard Day?

On the Sunday closest to March 15, the town of Hinckley, Ohio, welcomes the return of Turkey Vultures to their region. This year's celebration took place yesterday at Buzzard Roost in Hinckley Reservation. Activities for TV aficionados included hikes, live music, bingo, items to purchase, storytelling, children's crafts and historical bus tours of Hinckley.

The Turkey Vulture Society provides a (somewhat dated) list of events that focus on Turkey Vultures, such as the Kern River Valley festival in late September. Have you attended one? Will you add buzzards to your travel schedule?

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Friday, March 14, 2008

NatGeo's "Animal Minds" article

In case you haven't read it already, here's the cover story of the March 2008 issue of "National Geographic." Virginia Morell's article discusses birds, such as Alex the renowned African Gray Parrot, New Caledonian Crows and Western Scrub-Jays.

The really interesting piece also revealed that Betty, the New Caledonian Crow whom I cite when trying to convince Mom that crows are not bad noisy creatures, died recently from an infection. That news put a slight damper on my morning.

Don't miss the related photo gallery -- which includes Uek, a New Caledonian Crow; Alex; and a Western Scrub-Jay named Psychobird -- and multiple videos. One video focuses on birds and bats.


Wednesday, March 12, 2008


That poor bird.

Now, back to the May/June issue's deadline...

Courtesy of I Can Has Cheezburger


Thursday, March 06, 2008

Snail Kites receive an assist in the Everglades

These birds of prey with the very specialized diet of apple snails are seeing more shoreline at East Lake Tohopekaliga and Lake Tohopekaliga. The South Florida Water Management District began lowering the lake levels in mid-February to slowly expose more vegetation for nesting, an earlier start date than in previous years.

The district always lowers the lake levels to create storage capacity before hurricane season begins, but the district began working with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service two years ago to help the endangered Snail Kites.

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More California Condors in Arizona

In a little more than a week, three young birds that hatched at Oregon Zoo will be released at Arizona's Vermilion Cliffs National Monument. The three -- Tatoosh, Ursa and Wiley -- will begin living in the wild on March 15. A cohort, Meriweather, will join them later.

The condors lived at The Peregrine Fund's World Center for Birds of Prey in Boise, Idaho, after hatching at Oregon Zoo in 2005 and 2006. The California Condor Recovery Program involves various agencies, such as U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and three zoos working toward a captive population, a wild population in California and a wild population in Arizona.

Photo courtesy of U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

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Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Let's Go Outside

A new program from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service encourages children, parents and teachers to spent time together outdoors in back yards, parks, wildlife refuges and other natural settings. Let's Go Outside offers activity ideas, articles about outings with minors, activity sheets for children and information sheets for adults.

If you live with or know children, please peruse that website. Better yet, share it with other adults, including teachers and school administrators. You could be influencing the next generation of birders and helping the birds.

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Tuesday, March 04, 2008

"...the natural world endures..."

Years of National Geographic Traveler sit in my apartment's front room. I've enjoyed that magazine immensely.

While reading the final article in Mel White's 2004 series about driving from Alaska to Florida, I particularly enjoyed this graf:

As for travel epiphanies... What I have instead is the comprehensive reinforcement of two beliefs I already held. First, although the cultural world undeniably has become more homogenized, the natural world endures, genuine and full of wonders, and it's here that travelers looking for diversity find the greatest rewards. There may be a Wal-Mart in Whitehorse, Yukon, and the same cable channels on televisions from the Bering Sea to Biscayne Bay, but anyone willing to get out of towns and cities can find proof of place in every park, preserve, and wildlife refuge. Flamingos do not nest on the tundra; spruce doesn't grow in the plains; pronghorn don't graze in the Deep South piney woods. People who lament the increasing sameness of the country are spending too much time in the mall.

As I finished the article, it suddenly hit me. I met Mel White in Brinkley, Ark., two years ago. Holy cow.

Unexpected delights

Last week's business trip put me in the Florida panhandle. The organizers of the North American Nature Photography Association's annual summit had invited me to review photographers' portfolios, so I joined the event at Sandestin Golf & Beach Resort east of Destin on Wednesday afternoon.

In a resort setting, I didn't anticipate seeing much wildlife. The grounds, however, included many ponds -- large and small -- stocked with fish as well as large areas of long-leaf pine trees.

The ponds, not surprisingly, attracted Brown Pelicans, Great Egrets, Double-crested Cormorants and Mallards. Walking from the conference center where the portfolios reviews took place toward my hotel room, I chanced upon a Belted Kingfisher and stood transfixed by his machine-gun call and nonstop movements.

The next day, while sitting beside pine trees, I heard squeaky toys to my right. Yep, Brown-headed Nuthatches were foraging and provided good looks of the white spot on the back of their necks.

On my last day, I visited an island on the property at the recommendation of another birder. (Thanks, Ernie.) At the end of the footbridge, a Carolina Chickadee briefly perched to my right before dashing to the island's interior. What a treat.