Wednesday, April 06, 2011

2010 ABA Young Birder of the Year: Rachael Butek

Hearty congratulations to 18-year-old Rachael Butek of Colfax, Wis., for earning the title of 2010 ABA Birder of the Year! She began watching birds in 2008 and quickly developed into a skilled observer and communicator.

The annual competition by American Birding Association includes four modules in which entrants can submit work: writing, photography, illustration and field notebook. Rachael chose to enter every module, even though three modules would've sufficed.

Not only did Rachael go above and beyond, she placed well in all four: first place in the 14–18 age group in the writing and field notebook modules, second place in illustration and third place in photography. Below are an example of her field notebook and a Sandhill Crane illustration.

You can see the other winning entries here. Do you know a birder between the ages of 10 and 18 with exceptional skills? Point out the 2011 ABA YBY contest!


Monday, March 28, 2011

The Peregrine Fund teams with royal foundation

The Boise, Idaho-based conservation organization focused on birds of prey recently signed a two-year renewable agreement with The Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation-USA. Albert II became His Serene Highness The Sovereign Prince of Monaco in 2005 and established the foundation in 2006. According to a press release:
The Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation works internationally to support ethical and sustainable projects and has undertaken numerous bird and animal life preservation projects including a breeding program in the Mediterranean Basin for the endangered Bonelli's Eagle; an assessment of the polar bear health in the polar regions; and the monitoring, in Africa, of the Niger Giraffes.
The agreement spells out the organizations' shared goals, and it calls for teamwork in conducting research and raising funds. A coordination committee will include a representative from each group.
"The Peregrine Fund is pleased to bring its conservation expertise, proven success, and focus on birds of prey to this joint initiative with the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation. Birds of prey, as far-ranging, top predators are acutely sensitive to environmental change and serve both as sentinel species that reveal conservation needs, and as umbrella species that help protect biodiversity," said J. Peter Jenny, president, The Peregrine Fund Inc.
Some of the Fund's projects that might benefit from the partnership include

- a climate change initiative focused on the Gyrfalcon (shown right), which breeds exclusively in the Arctic where the effects of climate warming are predicted to be greatest

- a biodiversity initiative in Madagascar to develop community-based conservation areas protecting habitat for endangered species that exist only on the island

- a species-restoration project to save the critically endangered Ridgway's Hawk on Hispaniola, Dominican Republic, in the Caribbean.

Gyrfalcon photo courtesy of The Peregrine Fund

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Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Invasive species not more troublesome than in home ranges

Many birders chafe at any species labeled "invasive" or nonnative. We point to House Sparrows or kudzu (below) as species that compete with natives, often to the detriment of the latter. We often think of the invasives as out-of-control marauders that run rampant after finding new territories to exploit.

A recent worldwide study organized by Stan Harpole, assistant professor of ecology, evolution and organismal biology at Iowa State University, found somewhat mollifying results:
"There is this assumption that when plants invade a new area that they become much more abundant in the new area than they were in the native areas," said Harpole. "It turns out that, on average, they aren't any more abundant away from home than they are at home."
The 70 researchers at 65 sites around the globe found that a "rule of 10s" can apply to invasive species, Harpole said.
"Of, say, 100 plants that arrive in a new area, only about 10 percent of those will survive without being in a greenhouse or some other controlled area," he said. "Of those 10 that can survive, only about 10 percent of those really cause problems.

"When you think about all the species we've brought over from other areas, relatively few have become serious pest species. The problem is we've brought over so many that quite a few have become major problems and they get a lot of attention."


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.


Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Endangered Species status for 7 Brazilian birds

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service announced its decision to list seven species as endangered under the Endangered Species Act:
* Black-hooded Antwren (Formicivora erythronotos)
* Brazilian Merganser (Mergus octosetaceus)
* Cherry-throated Tanager (Nemosia rourei)
* Fringe-backed Fire-eye (Pyriglena atra)
* Kaempfer’s Tody-Tyrant (Hemitriccus kaempferi)
* Margaretta’s Hermit (Phaethornis malaris margarettae) and
* southeastern Rufous-vented Ground-Cuckoo (Neomorphus geoffroyi dulcis).

Black-hooded Antwren
These species are found in the Atlantic Forest and Cerrado biome in Brazil. All seven species face immediate and significant threats primarily from the threatened destruction and modification of their habitats from conversion of agricultural fields (e.g., soybeans, sugarcane, and corn), plantations (e.g., eucalyptus, pine, coffee, cocoa, rubber, and bananas), livestock pastures, centers of human habitation, and industrial developments (e.g., charcoal production, steel plants, and hydropower reservoirs).

Granting protection under the ESA for these seven species prohibits the import or export of the species, or their parts or products, as well as their sale in interstate or foreign commerce. The only exceptions are for scientific purposes and to assist in efforts aimed at enhancing the propagation or survival of these species. The final rule will publish in the Federal Register on Dec. 28, 2010.

Photo courtesy of Rick and Elis Simpson