Friday, September 28, 2007

News roundup

New York City: Soon, the city might include a bird sanctuary with landmark protection status for the first time. The Landmark Preservation Commission is expected to award the status to the sanctuary -- part of the Voelker Orth Museum, Bird Sanctuary and Victorian Garden -- in upcoming weeks.

Orlando: Three Florida men each must pay $2,750 and remain on probation for 3.5 years without possessing firearms after pleading guilty to "violating, and aiding and abetting the violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act."

On August 20, 2006, Moores, Blake and Hagemeister were allegedly crow hunting on a spoil island located in the Indian River, north of the 528 bridge in Brevard County. According to court records, the three men shot at and killed non-game, migratory birds including three black vultures, one turkey vulture, two anhingas, two grackles, four gulls, and one white ibis. An FWC law enforcement officer and a Florida Department of Environmental Protection biologist located, documented and collected the 13 dead birds.

San Francisco: The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service released a recovery plan for western Snowy Plover populations on the Pacific coast.

In contrast to recovery strategies designed for species that are remote from concentrations of people, the plover plan will rely heavily on six comprehensive recovery working groups. The different approach for the plover is due largely to the heavy human presence on, and dynamic nature of, beach areas where plovers live.

“These groups can provide large networks of volunteers who can be mobilized to assist public resource agencies,” the plan explains. Working groups associated with each of the recovery units include a wide range of interests with land managers and environmental interests, and diverse groups of beach users from equestrians to Boy Scouts.

Non-government organizations, such as PRBO Conservation Science (formerly Point Reyes Bird Observatory) and Audubon Society, conduct research, provide technical guidance, and inform the public in ways they can help manage and conserve the plover.

The recovery plan seeks cooperative management and monitoring, mixed with education and public participation, to restore the plover to sustainable numbers.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

News roundup

Chicago: A chapter of National Audubon Society worked with a local electric supplier to provide nesting habit for Orchard Orioles, Willow Flycatchers, Eastern Kingbirds and Brown Thrashers.

The restoration project's two experimental habitat restoration sites abutted protected land next to Lions Woods, a Cook County Forest Preserve along the Des Plaines River, and between the Morton Arboretum and Hidden Lake in a DuPage County Forest Preserve. In each restoration project, invasive vegetation was removed and some native shrubs were cut back to create the preferred shrub density and structure for these birds.

Dartmouth, Conn.: A Conservation Commission decision stipulates that a couple recreate a mud cliff destroyed when the couple built a dock on their seaside property. Bank Swallows previously nested on the site, and the commission said the construction must be complete before the species' nesting season.
The Jordans, who also have homes on Boston's waterfront and in Palm Beach, Fla., demolished their former residence on their Mishaum Point property and built a $4 million guest house and are putting the finishing touches on a $20 million, 26,656-square-foot-seaside mansion. The remediation work is expected to cost as much as $100,000.

Mr. Jordan, who accepted responsibility for destroying the coastal bank, told The Standard-Times he forgot the land was protected by a Conservation Commission enforcement order.

"I thought we could do it. I feel kind of dopey. We got the permit for the dock and my mind was elsewhere," he told the newspaper.

Paris: Some French citizens reportedly continue to eat an endangered species, Ortolan Bunting (Emberiza hortulana), despite a ban on hunting the bird.

On the world's list of weird foods, ortolan — a bite-size songbird roasted and gulped down whole — can claim a place of distinction. It's an illegal place, though, since the ortolan is a protected species and hunting it is banned in France. Now the government is out to get poachers of the coveted fowl.

Thought to represent the soul of France, ortolan was reportedly on the menu at late French President Francois Mitterrand's legendary "last supper" on New Year's Eve 1995, eight days before he died. Though cancer had diminished his appetite, Mitterrand saved room for the piece de resistance — roasted ortolan — downing the 2-ounce bird, according to a detailed account in Esquire magazine and Georges-Marc Benamou, a journalist who was a Mitterrand confidant.

Washington: Now scientists say velociraptors -- the apparent precursors to today's birds -- might have possessed feathers.
A close study of a velociraptor forearm found in Mongolia shows the presence of quill knobs, bumps on the bone where the feathers anchor, researchers report in Friday's edition of the journal Science.

Dinosaurs are believed to be ancestors to modern birds. Evidence of feathered dinosaurs has been found in recent years, and now velociraptor can be added to that list.

"Finding quill knobs on velociraptor ... means that it definitely had feathers. This is something we'd long suspected, but no one had been able to prove," Alan Turner, lead author on the study and a graduate student of paleontology at the American Museum of Natural History and at Columbia University in New York, said in a statement.
Click on the AMNH link for even more details.

Photo credit: M. Ellison/AMNH

Sneaky "Sam" the Scottish gull

Hallo! I'm back from vacation and getting a chuckle from this video of a gull that steals chips from a Scottish shop. Enjoy!


Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Loan to buy wetlands, grasslands in NWRs?

Two bills being considered by Congress -- H.R. 2757 and S. 1641, both named the Wetlands Loan Act -- could secure a loan of $400 million to buy wetlands and grasslands for the National Wildlife Refuge System during the next 10 years.

If you consider the conservation of wetlands and grasslands important, consider contacting your senators and representatives and sharing your views.

Speak up. Help the birds.


Maybe he shouldn't try to multitask while driving

From the Associated Press:

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A judge convicted a longshoreman Monday of killing 189 seagulls that were roosting at a marine terminal and fined him the minimum $14,175 — or $75 per bird.

Daniel Gallagher, the president of an International Longshoremen's Union local, was also ordered to pay $5,000 in restitution for a company-owned pickup truck that was totaled when he plowed through the birds and crashed.

Gallagher had previously testified that he was talking on a walkie-talkie and trying to grab a spilling coffee cup when the gulls flew up in front of his windshield in February 2006.
The prosecutor showed a videotape of a 200-foot path of dead Ring-billed Gulls. Perhaps Gallagher needs to focus on just driving and ensuring that his reflexes -- such as his right foot reaching the brake -- are in good working order.

More coverage here and here.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Condors might benefit from possible lead ban

The California Senate recently passed legislation that would ban lead ammunition, which poisons endangered California Condors. The paperwork needs Gov. Schwarzenegger's signature before becoming law.

A.B. 821, the Ridley-Tree Condor Preservation Act, requires hunters to use nonlead ammunition for hunting deer, wild pig and other game. That would prevent condors from ingesting lead ammunition while scavenging the carcasses. The bill also creates a program to provide coupons to hunters for reducing or covering the cost of nonlead bullets.

Here's the amended bill. It requires that the California Fish and Game Commission amend the Fish and Game Code by July 1, 2008.

A.B. 821 -- albeit known as "Methods Authorized For Taking Big Game And Methods of Take For Nongame Birds And Nongame Mammals" -- appeared on the agenda for the commission's Aug. 27 meeting, but the meeting's summary doesn't appear on the website. After reading the bill, share your thoughts with the commission.

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Friday, September 14, 2007

Less phosphorus in the Everglades

Farmers in south Florida have reduced the amount of phosphorus from the Everglades Agricultural Area by 18 percent, according to the South Florida Water Management District. Working with the district, landowners have started using "best management practices" within the 500,000-acre farming region south of Lake Okeechobee.

View Larger Map

From the district:
A life-essential nutrient, phosphorus is a common ingredient in fertilizer and in the Everglades Agricultural Area’s muck soils. When carried in stormwater runoff, however, excess phosphorus can impact the Everglades ecosystem to the south.

The BMP program mandated by Florida’s Everglades Forever Act stipulates that the amount of phosphorus leaving the Everglades Agricultural Area must be reduced by 25 percent in at least one year out of each consecutive three-year period.
For more information, visit Everglades Now.


Thursday, September 13, 2007

Rare bird art up for auction

From the Chicago Sun-Times:

The International Crane Foundation hopes to raise $2 million from next month's auction of rare bird art and books it inherited from a Chicago philanthropist.

Brooks McCormick, chief executive officer of International Harvester Co., willed one of the nation's most significant collections of ornithology to the Baraboo, Wis., nonprofit when he died last year.
The auction will occur on Oct. 5 and will feature works by John James Audubon and Darwin. Highlights from the collection of prints, books and manuscripts will appear at Sotheby's Chicago Sept. 20-21 and at Sotheby's New York Sept. 29-Oct. 4. You can browse a catalog of the auction's lots here.


Cape May Autumn Weekend

Thinking about or planning to join Autumn Weekend events in Cape May, N.J., at the end of October? Don't wait too long to make travel reservations. Hotels might fill quickly there, even at this time of year.

You can download the AW registration form from that link. The registration deadline is Oct. 15.

This year's Autumn Weekend includes the first birding blogger conference, organized by BirdChick and New Jersey Audubon Society. I'm looking forward to seeing and meeting many more bloggers. Check with BirdChick about the blogger discount.

Want to see what south JOYzee and Autumn Weekend are like? Click through some pics and some previous posts.


Monday, September 10, 2007

Tribute to Aelred Geis

I learn something every day, and I learned yesterday about Aelred Geis, who conducted research about backyard birdfeeding after working for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service for 30 years.

From Howard County Times in Maryland:

Aelred Geis was perhaps the world's foremost expert on backyard bird feeding and a driving force behind the creation of the Middle Patuxent Environmental Area, in Clarksville.

But Geis -- who died Aug. 20 at 78 -- was probably best known locally for getting Columbia founder James Rouse to lie in a ditch on his belly in a wooded area that is now part of the 1,021- acre wildlife refuge, to watch the mating flight of the woodcock.
Later, the article says:

Claire Horvath, the owner and operator of the Wild Bird Center of Columbia, a seed and feeding franchise that is based on Geis' research into what birds prefer to eat, said of Geis: "He just wanted you to do it right, and the right way was his way."

And Geis often was right, Horvath said, adding that many in the bird-feeding industry credit his bird seed and feeder research for creating the $4 billion-a-year industry's standard practices.

"Before he picked up his pen, no one knew what wild birds liked to eat," said George Petrides Sr., who in the 1990s hired Geis to run the research division of his company, Wild Bird Centers of America, a national bird-feeding franchise.
I like learning more about birding's history and the individuals who contributed to our current knowledge. Thank you, Mr. Geis.