Friday, December 29, 2006

First Friday deadline: Jan. 3

Have the recent Christmas Bird Counts provided fodder for a 500-word piece of fiction about birds and birders?

The story needs to contains four ingredients: a setting, a character or characters, a conflict and a resolution. I'd like to add a rule for our purposes: The birds will not be anthropomorphized. Also, please provide the story in a Word document or in the body of the e-mail.

The winner can choose two recently published books from the WildBird bookshelves. Click on the links in the right-hand column of the blog's homepage to read winning stories and to see the prizes.

Hoping to see your short story in my inbox on Wednesday, Jan. 3!

A fresh look at Christmas Bird Counts

Did you -- or will you -- participate in a Christmas Bird Count? (The count season will end on Jan. 5.) Did your Audubon chapter invite a reporter from a local newspaper or television station to join a team?

This light-hearted article shares the perspective of a nonbirder who participated in this year's count at Sand Lake National Wildlife Refuge, northeast of Aberdeen, S.D.

11:05 a.m.: The best part of the morning is starting to happen. Marcia and Jay have spotted a bald eagle from a long way away. Soon, we are following two bald eagles for about 30 minutes while Marcia and Jay tell me great stories about their experiences with these majestic birds.

I learn even more about eagles - and Marcia and Jay. As we end our morning by pulling up to refuge headquarters, it hits me how much passion Marcia and Jay have for their jobs and wildlife. I admire them and what they do.
Let's make more of an effort to consistently invite local mainstream media to birding activities during 2007 so that more nonbirders can learn about this passion.

Western Foundation of Vertebrate Zoology

Have you heard of the nonprofit research facility in Camarillo, Calif., that focuses on birds? The collections at the Western Foundation of Vertebrate Zoology include almost 200,000 sets of eggs; more than 54,000 study skins; more than 18,000 nests; more than 600 mounted specimens; and a huge library of books, monographs and journals.

WFVZ celebrated its 50th birthday this year, and it continues to play a role in current ornithological research. Ivory-billed Woodpecker researchers have visited the facility to study the various IBWO skins in a drawer.

You can see the skins for yourself on this neat 8-minute video from KCET's "Life & Times" program or by visiting WFVZ on the last Friday of the month when it gives public tours.

If you know graduate students doing field research on birds' breeding biology, point them toward the Ed N. Harrison Memorial Scholarship Fund. That link provides all the details about the two $300 scholarships.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

I and the Bird #39

On the fourth day of Christmas, Sandy Claws brought a wonderful gift from Kevin at Natural Visions: I and the Bird #39. After reading the latest edition of the birding carnival, you might enjoy testing your I.D. skills with Kevin's I.D. quizzes.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

More whoopers in Texas

The number of wild Whooping Cranes wintering along the Texas Gulf Coast increased this year. Earlier in the month, a census revealed 224 cranes (182 adults, 42 young) at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. That's four more birds than last year's total.

Stehn said the rare nature of these birds brings tourists from all over the country. About 80,000 people visit the refuge each year and the majority come for the whoopers.

"That's half the story that they were once so rare," he said. "But they symbolize man stepping in to save a species, and symbolize what man can do if we make up our minds to save something."
Whooping Crane courtesy of U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Friday, December 22, 2006

Windex commercial

I can't be the only one who laughed out loud at this clever ad with the magpies. Anyone else?

UPDATE: Oops. The birds are Pied Crows from Africa. Thanks, Dave!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Evergreen gift ideas

Do you know a friend or relative who goes to national wildlife refuges? Buy a $15 conservation stamp (aka Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp) for him/her, and provide free access to refuges between July 1 and June 30 while supporting habitat conservation.

How about a friend or relative who goes to national parks? Purchase a $50 National Parks Pass that allows access for one year after the first use in a park. The site says, "More than 80% of the proceeds from the sales of National Parks Passes go directly into supporting priority projects in national parks."

For $15 more, a Golden Eagle sticker on a national parks pass allows free access to the parks as well as sites managed by U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management.

Do friends and relatives ever visit state parks? For a directory of state park entrance passes, visit this site. It provides hyperlinks or phone numbers.

Want to be an avian landlord but without the work?

The Oregon Garden in Silverton has the perfect opportunity for you! The 80-acre botanical sanctuary south of Portland encourages you to become a landlord "in an upscale garden community" that includes single-family homes, duplexes, apartment complexes and hangouts.

Landlords' names will appear on plaques on their sponsored dwellings or feeders, and the sponsors will receive commemorative lease agreements and recognition in the Avian Real Estate portion of the garden's newsletter. A "lease" might make a nice gift at any time of year, too.

* A single-family home costs $40/year for a chalet-style abode or $50/year for a copper-roofed dwelling.
* A duplex consists of copper-capped dwellings with two units for $60/year.
* An apartment complex includes six units for $90/year.
* A hangout could be a pub (hummingbird feeder) for $60/year, a restaurant (hanging feeder) for $80/year or a diner (platform feeder) for $100/year.

For more info, call the garden at 503-874-8266 or send an e-mail.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Bird education conference in Texas

Are you going to attend the first national gathering of groups and individuals who educate the public about birds and their conservation needs? Feb. 5-8 marks the convergence of bird-conservation advocates near Austin, Texas.

The early-bird registration deadline for “Bird Conservation through Education: A National Gathering” is Jan. 8. After that date, the registration increases from $150 to $225. You'll find the registration form at the website.

The gathering will take place at the Crossings, a retreat center. The deadline for room reservations is Jan. 20, and you'll need to call the Crossings at 877-944-3003.

The Council for Environmental Education and Flying WILD want to encourage discussion, network building and action about bird-education efforts in North America between directors, administrators and educators from government agencies, conservation organizations, zoos/aquariums, museums, nature centers, school districts, Audubon centers, businesses and nonprofit groups at the national, state and local levels.

Monday, December 18, 2006

18 Whooping Cranes approach their destination

Would you like to see the "Flight Class of 2006" as the 18 chicks get closer to Chassahowitzka NWR? You're invited to the Arrival Flyover Event on Tuesday the 19th at the Dunnellon-Marion County Airport, west of Ocala and northeast of the refuge.

The chicks have followed an Operation Migration ultralight aircraft for more than 75 days and across more than 1,220 miles from Necedah NWR in central Wisconsin.

The flyover, most likely after 8 a.m., will include guest speakers from the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership and a chance to meet Operation Migration’s pilots and migration team members. You also can buy Whooping Crane items and enjoy coffee and breakfast foods.

Here's the aiport's address to find directions: 15070 SW 111th St., Dunnellon FL 34432.

Because the ability to fly depends on weather, the event might not be confirmed until Tuesday morning. For updates, visit Operation Migration.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Is Minot, N.D., on your birding radar?

It evidently wants to be. A broadcast news segment about birders' economic impact concludes with:

The CVB is also working with the American Birding Association to host a Birding Convention in 2009, and they also have a proposal with the Midwest Birding Symposium for 2009 and 2011.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Festive quackery

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Reporter's response about RTHA video clip

The WHDH reporter who created the news segment about the 11-year-old boy who defended his Dachshund puppy by stepping on and kicking a Red-tailed Hawk responded to my e-mail.

Dear Amy,

Thanks for your e-mail. In the time constraints of a TV story there are always points that have to be left behind. I will keep your points in mind in the future.
By the way, in this case, the enviornmental officer did mention to me that the hawk was of a protected species. However, he found the boy well within the law to do what he did and praised the boy for his actions.

Thank You again,

Dan Hausle

I and the Bird #38

Cheers to Duncan for crafting a lovely trip around the world via the latest edition of I and the Bird!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

What do you think of this video clip?

On the homepage now, one of the Most Popular videos is a news segment about an 11-year-old boy in Weston, Mass., who defended his 5-month-old Dachshund from a Red-tailed Hawk. One headline says "Boy, 11, kicks hawk in face to save his puppy" and another link says "Boy battles hawk to save puppy."

Coming from a journalism background, I recognize the "news value" and "human interest element" of such a story, but coming from a birding background, I feel disquieted. The headlines (written by someone other than the reporter) and the reporter's questions made me cringe.

I visited the WHDH website and sent this message to the reporter:

Mr. Hausle,

in future reports about wild birds, please consider mentioning that federal and state laws protect wild birds. Red-tailed Hawks, for instance, are protected by the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

The segment about the 5-month-old Dachshund perturbed me because of the questions posed to the 11-year-old boy and his description of stepping on the bird's wings and kicking it in the head. More information from the wildlife control officer would have provided balance.

The video segment appears today in the Most Popular section of's homepage, so a more informative segment could have discouraged the many viewers from mistreating wild birds.

Please consider these elements for future reports.

Thank you.
Amy Hooper

Please watch the 90-second clip from WHDH and tell me what you think of the reporter's work.

Want to visit Midway Atoll?

Then examine the draft plan for a regularly scheduled, small-scale visitor program that would emphasize wildlife viewing, photography, environmental education and interpretation of the atoll’s historic and wildlife resources.

“We are very excited about the possibility of welcoming more visitors to Midway Atoll in the near future,” said Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge manager Barry Christenson. “As the only atoll currently open to the public, Midway serves as a ‘window’ to the new Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Marine National Monument.”

Counters mark Laysan Albatross nests.

Many birders find Midway of interest because it hosts the world’s largest populations of Laysan and Black-footed Albatrosses as well as breeding populations of White Terns, Black Noddies and Red-tailed Tropicbirds. More than 10 other seabird species nest on Midway, and more than 100 of the world’s rarest duck, Laysan Duck, live there.

The deadline for comments about the draft plan is Feb. 6, 2007.

Photo courtesy of U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Will a study about squirrels lead to more squirrel-resistant bird feeders?

A biology professor and a team of students will trap squirrels this winter in Chicago and its suburbs. They plan to take skin samples for DNA analysis, strap collars on the rodents and track them, and attach threads to acorns and hazelnuts to observe where the squirrels take the food and when they eat it.
Squirrels figure out how to outsmart devices designed to keep them away from food -- something naturalist Howard Youth learned the hard way. Squirrels broke into four types of bird feeders in his Maryland yard before he found one that they couldn't penetrate. So far.

"They will try something new and eventually, if one gets it, the other ones will notice and they will figure out a way to thwart the bird feeder," Youth said.
How are you faring in your efforts to thwart squirrels visiting your feeders?

Photo courtesy of RSPB

Monday, December 11, 2006

City bird vs. country bird

Researchers across the pond discovered that Great Tits living in cities perform "a kind of avian rap" while tits living in rural areas create "a gentler and more relaxed birdsong."

A study of 10 European cities, including London and Paris, and forests found that birds in urban areas are more likely to use staccato notes at a higher pitch, and tweet in a brasher way, than their country cousins.

In the world of bird harmonics, researchers say it is akin to an avian hip-hop.

"We've shown that in 10 out of 10 comparisons, the city birds sing with a higher minimum frequency, on average, with less low notes," said researcher Hans Slabbekoorn at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands, who conducted the study. "They sing faster and consistently start their phrases with shorter notes compared to their counterparts in the forest."
P.S. Please keep the comments clean.

"Hip-hop bird" video

Have you seen the videos of Carola’s Parotia bird-of-paradise gettin' jiggy for the ladies? You can watch it via Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Macaulay Library. Although dark, the videos are great fun and reveal the male's rarely witnessed courtship dances.

Biologist Edwin Scholes shot the videos in New Guinea and described the displays in the October issue of The Auk.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Ask for federal money!

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service wants to give grant money to states and U.S. territories for land acquisition or endangered-species conservation projects. President Bush’s budget request for the Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund would provide approximately $80 million.

The service is accepting proposals for three Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund categories: recovery land acquisition grants, habitat conservation planning assistance grants and HCP land acquisition grants. You'll find tons of details about the grants and the proposal procedure at the above link.

Proposals must be submitted to the appropriate regional offices by Feb. 7, 2007. Now go get some money for the birds!

What issues do birders need to address?

In the January/February 2007 issue, the Editor's Note asked readers about their personal birding goals for the new year as well as topics that the community might need to examine. I'd enjoy hearing your responses. --akh

At the end of one year and the start of another, we often look at what we've experienced and accomplished personally in the preceding year. If we're in the habit of setting goals for the new year, we might chose to continue working on projects or to create new ones.

As Jan. 1 approaches, are you considering birding goals for the next 12 months? How do you want to focus your time and effort toward this hobby/sport/lifestyle?

As you look at personal goals, do you take a minute to think about the status of the birding community? What have birders experienced and accomplished together in 2006? What can we continue to work on, and what can we begin to address before Dec. 31, 2007?

Should we consider some of the social aspects of the community? For instance, the September/October 2006 issue included "Leaders of the Flock," Kevin T. Karlson's article about 18 birders whom he considers rising stars. The ratio of men to women (17 men, 1 woman) generated some discussion about the seeming lack of young female birders who've made visible contributions to the community and have earned national recognition. (Please see pages 4 and 6 for further discussion.)

Is that an issue that the community needs to address? If it is, how do we do so? Is it already being considered? If so, please share details.

I thought that Karlson's article might prompt discussion about the ethnic makeup of the birding community. The 18 birders in his article, for instance, all appear to be Caucasian. That holds true for my observations at festivals and other events around the country.

Why don't we see more nonwhite birders at these gatherings? Is that an issue that the community needs to address?

Do the individuals in the community--including you and me--need to take more personal responsibility for the future of birding and the birds' future? What will you do this year to increase the number of birders--young, old, male, female, of all ethnicities--and to preserve habitat (beyond paying $15 for a Duck Stamp)?

Thursday, December 07, 2006

10,000 Birds on Google blog alert

Mike's post about The Songs of Wild Birds by Lang Elliott appeared in a recent Google blog alert for the word "bird." Congrats to the I and the Bird creator!

Just curious: Can someone explain how some blogs that include the word "bird" appear on a Google blog alert and so many others don't? There are numerous birding blogs, but so few appear on the blog alerts.

Louisiana teen touts birding

What a delight to see an article about 16-year-old Keri Bryan! Texas birders might recognize the name of her grandmother.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

$2,500 reward for info on NY Bald Eagle shooting

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and New York's Department of Environmental Conservation want help in learning details about the shooting of a young Bald Eagle near Round Lake in Saratoga County, most likely in early November.

The young raptor was one of three Bald Eagles to fledge from the Adirondacks' 11 known nests this year. A deer hunter found its body on Nov. 25 between English Road and Round Lake.

A necropsy at the DEC Wildlife Pathology Laboratory found that the eagle had been shot perhaps several weeks earlier. Bald Eagles are protected by the federal Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.

If you have information, contact the Service’s Office of Law Enforcement at 518-431-4341 or the New York DEC Division of Law Enforcement at 1-800-TIPP-DEC.

Adult Bald Eagle courtesy of U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Friday, December 01, 2006

First Friday: Dec. 1

Congratulations to Beverly Robertson of Hewiit, N.J.! You won this month's fiction contest and can choose two recently published bird books from the WildBird bookshelves.

If you want to earn that opportunity, then write an original 500-word short story about birds, birding or birders that includes a setting, a character or characters, a conflict and a resolution. Also, the birds cannot be anthropomorphized.

Kudos to this edition's participants! You made it especially difficult for the judges to pick a winner.

Please submit stories for the January edition by Jan. 3.

Now, for your consideration: "Orange Aid" by Beverly Robertson.

JoJo opened his eyes a slit at the tapping on the window. He saw only a shadow on the pane and closed his eyes again. He was feeling much worse this time.

It was so unfair. He was young and strong. "Why me?" he wondered.

The tapping came again. He turned his head away, ignoring it. At the doctor's office last week, she said to think about sharks. Well, like that was going to help!

It was the C word: cancer. It was bad. He hadn’t known. Not one to go to doctors, he hadn’t really thought about it. His sister was a nurse, and when he finally told her he had a little something going on, she threw a fit. The process had started. The chemo had started.

He was feeling much weaker. In fact, he was exhausted. The last round of chemo almost killed him. His mouth had sores, and food tasted and smelled strange. His hair was all but gone; even his beard was thin.

The doctor wanted him to try and visualize the chemo attacking and eating the cancer cells, but he wasn’t much of a fish person. He didn’t even like sharks. "Jaws" still freaked him out. The whole idea of eating put him off.

Again the tap on the window, more incessant this time. JoJo opened his eyes and saw his brother Dave’s finger on the outside of the bottom pane.

Tap. Tap. Point. Tap. Tap. Tap. Point.

JoJo followed the pointing finger with his eyes. There in the big spruce next to the patio was a Red-tailed Hawk. Dave knew he loved birds. JoJo could see the hawk from where he lay: big, fierce, powerful, free. It thrilled and depressed him. Would he ever be able to get outside again?

As he lay there contemplating his future, he saw a flash of color. He turned his head slowly and painfully to the left. There it was again! He squinted. What was that? He carefully lifted the binoculars off the covers.

A large black crow flew past with five bright orange orioles chasing and dive bombing it. They didn’t like the crow. They didn’t want it anywhere near their territory. In all of the years of birdwatching, he had never seen orioles chasing a crow. He had seen lots of other small birds chase crows...but orioles?

He watched for a long time as the orioles chased and harassed the crow. It flew this way and that, banking and twisting. The bright orange flashes against the black were seared on his eyelids as when he closed his eyes.

The cancer loomed black and ominous; the chemo, bright orange. He visualized all those bright orioles harassing the black thing that was cancer. This might work.

His mom poked her head around the door with a tray. He smiled. Maybe he could eat a little jello -- orange jello.