Monday, February 28, 2011

Raptors in the City takes off again

If you like Peregrine Falcons, marvel at their recovery from the effects of DDT and want to see how they adapt to city life, then you'd enjoy keeping tabs on a PEFA nest in Cleveland, Ohio. Just sign up for the Falcon Flash newsletter sent via e-mail from Raptors in the City.

This year's first Falcon Flash appeared in my e-mail inbox this morning, and I'm delighted to catch up with Ranger, SW and her new mate Boomer. With photos and good details, I get to learn more about this really cool species. Plus, during my spare time (ha!), I can peek at the birds via the FalconCams on Terminal Tower and provided by Cleveland Museum of Natural History.

You really don't want to miss out on this interesting look at the Peregrine Falcon nesting cycle, and the website offers many resources that make birds more accessible to children. Please check it out!

Photo of Ranger, courtesy of Mr. & Mrs. Saladin/Raptors in the City

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Monday, February 14, 2011

The first condor egg of the season appears!

Last week, biologists at The Peregrine Fund’s World Center for Birds of Prey discovered an egg laid by a 13-year-old California Condor at the Boise, Idaho, facility. The center houses 57 condors -- the largest captive flock on Earth -- and it anticipates 19 pairs to produce eggs.

“It’s always a thrill to see the first egg of the season,” said Marti Jenkins, who oversees The Peregrine Fund’s condor propagation program. “For the next few months, we will have our hands full making sure that all the eggs and chicks are healthy and ultimately ready for life in the wild.”

In 14 days, biologists will determine whether a chick is growing inside the new egg. If it is fertile, the egg will be artificially incubated until it is ready to hatch. Then, it will be either returned to its parents or swapped with an egg from another breeding facility and raised by foster parents to ensure genetic diversity among the small but growing population of condors. The egg is expected to hatch in early April.

After hatching, chicks are raised by their natural or foster parents for about a year before they can be released to the wild. The Peregrine Fund’s release site is located at Vermilion Cliffs National Monument near the Grand Canyon. After the birds are released, the field staff monitors their movements via tracking equipment attached to the birds’ wings and takes action if the condors are poisoned, injured or exhibiting behavior that makes them susceptible to predation or persecution.
Juvenile California Condor J7 suns near the Grand Canyon. Photo courtesy of Chris Parish/The Peregrine Fund

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Thursday, February 10, 2011

Great Backyard Bird Count in the news

The annual Presidents Day weekend census of backyard birds will start on Friday, Feb. 18, but it's already in the news from Maine to Arizona. The Great Backyard Bird Count -- organized by The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, National Audubon Society and Bird Studies Canada -- gives casual and expert birdwatchers alike the chance to contribute data and create a snapshot of winter bird populations in two nations.

All the details appear at Great Backyard Bird Count, including a PDF of instructions, a video that describes the available prizes -- Yes! There are prizes! -- and the photo galleries generated by the GBBC photo contest.

2010 Overall Winner: American Robin by Nick Saunders, courtesy of GBBC

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Monday, February 07, 2011

'Ding' Darling's role in NWF's 75th anniversary

Perhaps you've heard about -- or had the pleasure of birding -- Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Florida's Sanibel Island. I had the pleasure of staying on the island and visiting the refuge with three of WildBird's Birders of the Year, and I hope to return for more fantastic views of Roseate Spoonbills and other specialties.

While WildBird celebrates its 25th anniversary this year, National Wildlife Federation -- an organization that Jay N. "Ding" Darling helped to create -- is celebrating its 75th anniversary. On Feb. 3, 1936, he gathered close to 1,500 participants for the first North American Wildlife Conference in Washington, D.C.

From that conference sprang the General Wildlife Federation, renamed National Wildlife Federation, in 1938. Darling served as the organization's first president. You also might recognize his name in connection with the Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamps, also known as Duck Stamps, which generate thousands of dollars every year for wetland and grassland purchase and restoration.

During its 75th anniversary, NWF rightfully has much to tout. Its Conservation Hall of Fame includes an incredible roster of 28 individuals -- including Hugh Bennett, John Burroughs, Rachel Carson and Anna Botsford Comstock -- and offers an excellent jumping-off point for hours of reading and further research about conservation in the United States. In addition to the Conservation Hall of Fame, NWF holds the annual National Conservation Achievement Awards. This year's event will take place on April 13 in Washington, D.C. (with tickets priced at $750) and will feature awards in 13 categories, including youth, communications, and corporate leadership. Previous honorees include Lindblad Expeditions and Arnold Schwarzenegger among many others.

A timeline highlights some of NWF's achievements, such as its role in the Pittman-Robertson Act (Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act) in 1937, Roger Tory Peterson's role as NWF art director in 1952, its campaign to ban the pesticide DDT in 1971 and the creation of its Raptor Information Center in 1976 (later disbanded in the 1990s).

The federation will hold its annual meeting in Washington, D.C., on April 14 to 16. Early-bird registration between Feb. 8 and 28 offers a $25 discount. The schedule includes exhibits, a silent auction, committee meetings, regional roundtables and a restoration project at Patuxent National Wildlife Research Refuge.