Friday, April 30, 2010

Chicago zoo's pond becomes a nature boardwalk

In late June, Lincoln Park Zoo plans to reveal the transformation of its South Pond into the Nature Boardwalk. More than 100 newly planted hawthorns, birch, oaks, serviceberry and other trees will provide shade, food and nesting sites for native and migratory birds, such as owls, waterfowl and Black-crowned Night-Herons among others, according to the zoo.

The 14-acre site will include native prairie and wetland vegetation that can provide wildlife habitat and filter the pond’s water quality, and the Lester E. Fisher Bridge will include structures to encourages swallows to nest there. Daily tours and talks -- such as “Feathered Friends,” “Fishy Fun” and “Exploring an Ecosystem” -- will give visitors the chance to learn even more.

Existing facilities at the free zoo include the Flamingo Habitat, Hope B. McCormick Swan Pond, Kovler Penguin and Seabird House, McCormick Bird House and Regenstein Birds of Prey Exhibit.

Black-crowned Night-Heron courtesy of Gator Farm


Thursday, April 29, 2010

Young Birder Camp draws teens to Colorado

Among American Birding Association's events is the annual Young Birder Camp, scheduled this year for Woodland Park in southern Colorado. For teens between 13 and 18 years old, the eight-day camp in late June and early July will include birding in prairies, riparian areas, reservoirs, wetlands, mountains and alpine habitats while the group camps outdoors at Catamount Institute.

Six spots remain open, so move quickly. For more details, the registration form and the waiver, visit the first link above. The camp costs $695, but scholarships are available; the deadline is May 21.


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

More funds for 'More Kids in the Woods'

Yesterday, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said USDA's Forest Service will contribute $500,000 this year to the "More Kids in the Woods" program for projects that promote outdoor activities.

"If we are going to put an end to childhood obesity, we must promote healthy, active lifestyles and encourage our kids to get off the couch and go outside," said Vilsack. "Our 'More Kids in the Woods' challenge not only promotes physical activity, it fosters environmental awareness and stewardship among young people as we face critical environmental challenges, such as the effects of climate change. 'More Kids in the Woods' helps kids make the connection between healthy forests, healthy communities and their own healthy lifestyles."
The contribution will join $1.5 million in donations and in-kind services from partners. The Forest Service selected 21 projects for funding from more than 130 proposals. All projects focus on curating curiosity about nature and the role of forests and grasslands in providing clean water, clean air and wildlife habitat.

Among the 21 projects, one deals specifically with birds. Kids Take Flight Educational Program at White River National Forest & Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory in Glenwood Springs, Colo., will provide 500 children, ages 6 to 12, with hands-on experiences like releasing rosy-finches, experiencing dragonfly metamorphosis and investigating owls.

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A life with Whooping Cranes

Michigan Technological University sends word of a biological sciences graduate, Eva Szyszkoski, who's created a life with some of North America's largest birds. After she began working as an intern for International Crane Foundation in 2007, Szyszkoski became a tracking field manager a year later -- which means she migrates with the birds from southern Wisconsin to Florida to Wisconsin.

The Eastern migratory flock includes birds reintroduced to the Eastern U.S. since 2001. The flock of 103 birds represent quite an increase from the early 1940s when there were as few as 15 cranes because of hunting and habitat loss.

There are two ways of reintroducing cranes. In one, the birds are raised in the breeding grounds and accustomed to the sound of an ultra-light plane. Then they follow their surrogate plane-parent south to Florida, thus learning the migration route.

“The ultra-light plane method is expensive and creates a very unnatural situation for the birds, but it does enable us to introduce a large number of birds each year,” Szyszkoski said.

The other approach is called Direct Autumn Release. Chicks are hatched and raised on the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge, about 45 minutes north of the Wisconsin Dells.

“They hopefully follow older, more experienced birds south,” the crane specialist explained. This method is more natural and less expensive, but it only enables the team to introduce up to about 10 birds a year. However, “it is showing increasing signs of success every year,” she said.
Whooping Crane photo courtesy of U.S. Geological Services

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Wordless Wednesday

between San Diego, Calif., and Islas Coronados, Mexico


Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Rabid cat attacks point to problems at feral colonies?

From American Bird Conservancy:

The Orlando Sentinel newspaper and other Florida media are reporting two incidents of rabid feral cats attacking humans. WFTV in Orlando, Fla., describes both attacks as unprovoked.

In a March incident, a feral cat was struck by a car, and when the driver and passenger attempted to aid the cat, they were bitten by the rabid animal. In a second incident, on April 12, a rabid cat entered a home through an open door and attacked and bit the owner.

The three bitten people were treated for rabies and are recovering. Both cats tested positive for rabies. As a result, a 60-day rabies alert was issued for Port Orange and South Daytona, Florida.

According to the WFTV broadcast: “The health department’s theory is the disease could be spreading at feeding areas. People have set up shelters to feed cat colonies, but raccoons will finish off the food and may be spreading rabies to the cats.”

“This is certainly not the first, nor will it be the last time that we see the serious public health impacts of feral cats and so-called ‘managed’ cat colonies, "said George Fenwick, president of American Bird Conservancy. "Rabies is not the only disease at issue here. Feral cats can also carry toxoplasmosis, cat scratch fever, and other potentially serious infectious diseases that can affect humans. Despite the best of intentions, feral cat colonies present an ongoing hazard to human health in communities where they are established as well as birds and other native wildlife.”

According to ABC, feral cat colony programs do not protect local wildlife from cats, and they are an ineffective and inhumane way of dealing with the feral cat problem. Allowing hundreds of very efficient predators to exist in a local environment that historically evolved without them will unquestionably and dramatically, over time, alter the balance of the local ecosystem. This change occurs because cats kill not only birds – perhaps one million birds or more EACH DAY in this country – but a variety of small mammals and wildlife.

The feral cats themselves also face the prospect of very unpleasant deaths from predators, disease and automobiles. As a result, feral cats have about one-third to one-fifth of the life span of indoor, owned cats.
To watch a discussion between the WildBird editor and the Cat Fancy editor about outdoor cats - both pets and feral animals - and their effect on wild birds, click here.


Friday, April 23, 2010

Bird City Wisconsin

Do you live in the Badger State and think your city has exceptional bird awareness amid the urban setting? Then read on.

A coalition led by the Milwaukee Audubon Society, the Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative and the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology wants to ensure that Wisconsin’s city folk maintain healthy populations of birds and grow an appreciation for them. They’re developing a new community recognition program: Bird City Wisconsin, which will be modeled on the successful nationwide program Tree City USA, a community improvement project sponsored by the Arbor Day Foundation.
Bird City Wisconsin applicants show that they:
* protect and manage greenspace.
* landscape with native plants in backyards and parks.
* adopt architecture and lighting systems that reduce collisions.
* make their community hospitable to breeding, wintering, and migrating birds that seek safe places to spend time and find food.

Consider these 12 reasons for becoming a Bird City. Cities can apply for Bird City recognition until Nov. 1, and they can earn three levels of awards.


Park in downtown Detroit earns honors

A 2.5-acre park in Detroit recently garnered national recognition as the first winner of the Urban Land Institute Amanda Burden Urban Open Space Award. Campus Martius Park features extensive landscaping, moveable seating and an ice skating rink; attracts more than 2 million visitors each year; and spurred approximately $700 million of nearby development, including cafes, retail shops and corporate headquarters.

According to ULI:
The selection of Campus Martius Park illustrates the power of well-designed open space to make a tangible difference in the quality of life in urban areas, said award creator Amanda M. Burden, chair of the New York City Planning Commission, director of the New York Department of City Planning, and 2009 laureate of the ULI J.C. Nichols Prize for Visionaries in Urban Development. “This park has far exceeded all expectations, in terms of the lift it has provided to Detroit’s social and economic well-being,” Ms. Burden said.

“It reflects a creative, innovative approach to transforming an eyesore into a jewel. What makes Campus Martius Park work so well is that quite simply, it’s a place where people want to spend time. As a result, it’s a magnet for investment. That’s the definition of a successful urban open space.”

A $10,000 cash prize is being awarded to the Detroit 300 Conservancy, which originally developed the park as a legacy gift to the city. According to Detroit 300 Conservancy President Robert F. Gregory, the organization had unwavering faith in former Mayor Dennis Archer’s goal of building “one of the best public spaces in the world” in Detroit.
I'd like to think that the birds also find the park to be a great space amid the urban environment.


Thursday, April 22, 2010

Bird Friendly coffee perks at the Smithsonian

Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center recently announced that visitors to various Smithsonian museums can sip its shade-grown, Bird Friendly coffee. The organic- and Fair Trade-certified java now appears at National Museum of Natural History, National Museum of the American Indian, National Museum of American History, the Smithsonian Castle and the Smithsonian American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery cafe.

Combined, the amount of Bird Friendly coffee consumed in this one square mile of Washington will sustain about 70 acres each year of shaded, forest-like coffee farms managed by small-scale producers. The farms are located in areas with numerous bird species living in Latin American and African habitats that would otherwise face deforestation.

“By serving Bird Friendly-certified coffee at its facilities, the Smithsonian is putting its buying power behind its strong standards, thus protecting birds and forests in the world’s coffee regions,” said Robert Rice, a geographer at the Migratory Bird Center who coordinates the program. “A mere six people drinking two cups a day for a year can help support a small farmer growing Bird Friendly coffee. It is definitely a case of the more you drink, the more you save—but in this case, it’s not pennies but crucial habitat.”
Bird Friendly coffee is produced on farms with a shade cover that provides habitat for migratory and resident birds. Migratory birds provide flower pollination and seed dispersal, among other roles.

To find a store or roaster nearest you, click here.


Federal Bird-Safe Buildings Act of 2010

Have you heard of H.R. 4797? Introduced before the House of Representatives by Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) in early March, the bill seeks to "amend title 40, United States Code, to direct the Administrator of General Services to incorporate bird-safe building materials and design features into public buildings."

The bill cites nine findings, including the point that "bird-safe design features can be incorporated into new construction and major renovation projects at no extra cost, and existing buildings may be made bird-safe through the use of simple, low cost adaptations."

Its current cosponsors are Rep. Mark Steven Kirk (R-Ill.) and Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.). Where do your Congressional representatives stand? Have you called their offices or sent e-mails to voice your thoughts about the bird-safe buildings act? You can find your representative here.

Photo of Canada Warbler courtesy of American Bird Conservancy/Annette Prince

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Ivory-billed Woodpecker press release

Via eReleases Press Release Distribution, a press release from Michael D. Collins:

The Ivory-billed Woodpecker: New Facts and Evidence

MANDEVILLE, La., April 21 /PRNewswire/ -- Two videos of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker have been obtained in the Pearl River in Louisiana, where there is a history of reports of this elusive species. One of the videos provides the first new facts about this iconic species since the work of James Tanner was published in 1942 and reveals that there had been a misconception about the way it flies. The scientist who obtained the videos has documented serious issues that have come to light during his involvement in this area of research since 2005, including the suppression of evidence, the lack of open discussion, and an atmosphere of fear that contributes to these problems.

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One of the videos was obtained from an observation position 75 feet above a bayou. The strategy was to watch for birds flying over the treetops in the distance, but an Ivory-billed Woodpecker flew along the bayou and passed nearly directly below. From this perspective, two prominent white stripes were detected on the back, and the bird was identified in the field as an Ivory-billed Woodpecker based on these definitive markings. The bird can also be identified based only upon what appears in the video. All but a few species are ruled out by a distinctive flap style and a wingspan that is significantly greater than 24 inches. Prominent white patches on the wings and other characteristics rule out all but an Ivory-billed Woodpecker.

Based on historical accounts of a duck-like flight, the Ivory-billed Woodpecker was thought to have a duck-like flap style in which the wings remain extended during the entire flap cycle, but the bird in the fly-under video has a flap style in which the wings are folded closed in the middle of each upstroke. This flap style is dramatically different from that of a duck but similar to that of other woodpeckers. This finding is supported by a clue that was overlooked for decades: a photo by Tanner of an Ivory-billed Woodpecker in flight with the wings folded closed against the body. Historical accounts evidently alluded to the duck-like speed of the flight rather than the flap style. Historical accounts also mentioned a high flight speed and rapid flaps. The fly-under video provides the first data on these quantities, and the high values (about 34 mph for the flight speed) are consistent with the accounts of Tanner and others.

Politics has impeded the publication of the Pearl River data, which has been ignored in the debate of the persistence of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker despite positive assessments by independent experts. The videos are analyzed in an article that was accepted for publication by PLoS ONE based on reviews by ornithologists with expertise in appropriate specialty areas. In a glaring breach of the usual peer review process, the publication decision was reversed without justification two days before the scheduled publication date. The paper was ultimately rejected based on the opinion of a reviewer lacking expertise relevant to the analysis.
The press release included a link to a post on Collins' website, "Disgraceful in the Extreme." What do you think?


First condor chick of 2010 hatches at Oregon Zoo

Oregon Zoo in Portland proudly announced the arrival of its first California Condor chick of the year. The chick hatched on April 14 to foster parents Atishwin (shown below) and Ojai.

“Our first hatching went beautifully,” said keeper Kelli Walker. “The chick looks healthy. It’s growing well and starting to shuffle about the nest room. With any luck, another bird will hatch this week ­­–– and we have hopes for two more after that.”
After 30 to 45 days, keepers will give the chick a medical checkup, including inoculations against West Nile virus.

“We try to handle the condors as little as possible,” Walker said. “Not only is human contact upsetting to the parents, we’re preparing these animals for a life in the wild. Even if bred in captivity, we ensure that chicks are raised by condors, learning condor instincts and behavior.”

Last year, the Oregon Zoo’s Jonsson Center for Wildlife Conservation sent three condors to the Peregrine Fund’s World Center for Birds of Prey in Boise, Idaho, for release into the wild. The largest land birds in North America, California Condors might have wingspans of up to 10 feet and an average weight of 18 to 25 pounds. Highly intelligent and inquisitive, they require a lot of parental investment in the wild.

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Art contest focuses on endangered species

Forty schoolchildren around the country recently learned that their artwork earned semifinalist status in the annual Endangered Species Day Art Contest. Ten students in four age categories -- grades K-2, 3-6, 7-9 and 10-12 -- will have their art judged on May 4 by a panel of scientists, artists, conservationists, photographers and actors including Jeff Corwin, host of Animal Planet’s "Jeff Corwin Experience," and Jack Hanna, host of "Jack Hanna’s Into the Wild."

In the K-2 group, five of the 10 children chose birds as their subjects (Piping Plover, Spotted Owl, Bald Eagle, Ivory-billed Woodpecker and Sandhill Crane) while one artist in the 3-6 category chose Brown Pelican.

Among the students in the 7-9 group, four seminalists chose endangered birds -- Swallow-tailed Kite, Red-cockaded Woodpecker, Brown Pelican, California Condor -- and the 10-12 category included three pieces about birds: Northern Spotted Owl (two) and Kirtland's Warbler.

To see all of the artwork, visit Endangered Species Coalition. Details about the contest appear here, and information about Endangered Species Day -- May 21 -- is available here.

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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Biscayne BioBlitz

Will you be near Miami, Fla., on April 30 or May 1? Do you want to become a citizen scientist for a day? Then help National Geographic and the National Park Service conduct a comprehensive survey of all the life within Biscayne National Park.

The NatGeo site says:

A BioBlitz is a 24-hour event in which teams of volunteer scientists, families, students, teachers, and other community members work together to find and identify as many species of plants, animals, microbes, fungi, and other organisms as possible. A BioBlitz gives adults, kids, and teens the opportunity to join biologists in the field and participate in bona fide research expeditions. It's a fun and exciting way to learn about the biological diversity of local parks and to better understand how to protect them.
Close to 95 percent of this national park is underwater, so participants can register beforehand to reserve space on a ferry or snorkel boat.

All the details about the BioBlitz appear here, including the FAQ, the registration form for the ferry or snorkel boat (very limited seats!) and educational resources for grades 3-5 and adults.

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Wildlife rehab clinic benefits from photographer

Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife, located on Florida's Sanibel Island, recently received $24,000 following an auction and book-signing party by Key West photographer Alan S. Maltz. The nonprofit veterinary hospital, known as CROW, began operating in 1968 and cares for more than 4000 injured, sick and orphaned wildlife patients each year, such as this Swallow-tailed Kite.

The donation resulted from the auction of 10 limited-edition artist proofs on canvas of various sizes -- with 100 percent of the proceeds going to CROW -- as well as the sales of Maltz's new book, "Visions of Beauty - Fort Myers, Sanibel & Beyond."

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America's Great Outdoors program

Last week, the White House hosted a conference that focused on land conservation and ways to increase Americans' affinity for natural spaces. At the April 16 event, President Obama signed a memorandum to launch America's Great Outdoors and briefly spoke to the crowd at the Department of the Interior in Washington, D.C.:

In the months ahead, members of this administration will host regional listening sessions across America. We’ll meet with everybody -- from tribal leaders to farmers, from young people to businesspeople, from elected officials to recreation and conservation groups. And their ideas will help us form a 21st century strategy for America’s great outdoors to better protect our natural landscape and our history for generations to come.

Understand, we’re not talking about a big federal agenda being driven out of Washington. We’re talking about how we can collect best ideas on conservation; how we can pursue good ideas that local communities embrace; and how we can be more responsible stewards of tax dollars to promote conservation.

First, we’re going to build on successful conservation efforts being spearheaded outside of Washington -– by local and state governments, by tribes, and by private groups -– so we can write a new chapter in the protection of rivers, wildlife habitats, historic sites, and the great landscapes of our country.

Secondly, we’re going to help farmers, ranchers, property owners who want to protect their lands for their children and their grandchildren.

Third, we’ll help families spend more time outdoors, building on what the First Lady has done through the “Let’s Move” initiative to encourage young people to hike and bike and get outside more often.
And fourth, we want to foster a new generation of community and urban parks so that children across America have the chance to experience places like Millennium Park in my own Chicago.

We’re launching this strategy because it’s the right thing to do -– because, as [Teddy Roosevelt] said, we must not mar the work of the ages. But we’re also doing it because it’s the right thing to do for our economy. It’s how we’re going to spur job creation in the tourism industry and the recreation industry. It’s how we’ll create jobs preserving and maintaining our forests, our rivers, our great outdoors.
What will that mean for the nature tourism and birding industries? What challenges will the initiative face?

The Washington Post said: "It remains unclear how much the government can afford to spend on such programs in the future. The National Park Service alone estimates that it would need an extra $9.5 billion to clear a backlog of repairs and improvements." said the first listening sessions are planned for Los Angeles and Florida's Everglades. Because the Los Angeles meeting will take place in the initiative's early stages, some see that as a sign for the administration's interest in urban conservation. That article also said:
The conference follows nearly two months of controversy over a leaked Bureau of Land Management memo that appeared to outline ambitious plans for several new national monuments, plans that Republicans blasted as a land grab. The tone of Friday's event — launching what was officially known as America's Great Outdoors initiative — appeared to be a response to that criticism.
America's Great Outdoors seeks your input and "your ideas for protecting the places you love." After registering, you're welcome to join the conversation and share stories (with photos and videos, even) about places that are special to you.


Monday, April 19, 2010

Miss.: Reward for details about Bald Eagle shooting

From the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service:

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has posted a reward for information leading to the conviction of those responsible for shooting a bald eagle during the last week of March (possibly March 25, 26 or 27) in Pearlington, Mississippi, about 40 miles northeast of New Orleans.

The shooting may have occurred while the eagle was perched in a tree. Passersby found the wounded eagle and took it to the Pet Haven Veterinary Hospital [in Bay St. Louis] for surgery. If the eagle recovers, it will be released back into the wild.

Shooting an eagle is a violation of the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. The Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act allows for a reward of up to $2,500 for information that leads to a conviction.

Any information on this incident should be provided to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Special Agent Ben Bryant at 985-882-3756 or the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks at 800-Be-Smart (237-6278).

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National Park Week through April 25

We're into our third day of National Park Week, April 17-25. Have you visited a national park yet? Will you? If you do before the 26th, you'll enjoy free admission.

Like President Obama said:
Our national parks provide safe and affordable opportunities for families and communities to reconnect with nature and have fun together. Our Nation's historical parks, sites, and monuments also enhance quality of life and bolster community vitality in many of America's urban areas. In the spirit of Let's Move, the First Lady's nationwide campaign to tackle childhood obesity, I encourage all Americans to visit our national parks and take part in outdoor activities.

Photo courtesy of National Park Service: Big Cypress National Preserve in southwest Florida (and not too far from Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary)


Thursday, April 15, 2010

SoCal beach clean-up to help Least Tern Project

This Saturday, volunteers can help California Least Terns - an endangered race - during an Earth Day clean-up at Huntington State Beach in Huntington Beach, Calif. Participants can sign in at 8:30 a.m. at the Magnolia Street entrance, and the project is scheduled for 9-11 a.m. Organized by Care For Our Coast, the clean-up will aid the Least Tern Project, coordinated by Sea & Sage Audubon Society. [Sidenote from an HB native: The first T is silent in Huntington. --ah]

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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

2009 ABA Young Birder of the Year winners

Congratulations to Harold Eyster of Chelsea, Mich.! The 15-year-old won the overall title of 2009 ABA Young Birder of the Year after earning first place in the field notebook, writing and illustration (below) modules for his age bracket (14 to 18 years).

In addition to the title, Harold received prizes from various sponsors, as did the winners in the modules, which includes photography. The competition encompasses two age categories, the other being 10 to 13 years of age, so the annual contest might honor more than 20 entrants as well as multiple honorable mentions.

For the full list of winners and their works, visit this page. You'll find details about the 2010 contest here. The registration form and fee are due June 18.

Many thanks to the experienced birders who participate as judges:
Photography - Bill Maynard, Bill Schmoker and Dudley Edmundson.
Writing – Lisa White, Jeffrey Gordon and Laura Kammermeier.
Illustration – Michael L.P. Retter, Michael O’Brien and Louise Zemaitis.
Field Notebook – Kimberly Kaufman, Noah Strycker and David Sibley.

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Thursday, April 08, 2010

Progress at Maui bird sanctuary

Following up on last week's post about Kealia Pond National Wildlife Refuge on the Hawaiian island of Maui, news arrives that officials broke ground this week for the new refuge headquarters and visitor center.

After a traditional Hawaiian blessing of the land, Senator Daniel K.
Inouye, Maui Mayor Charmaine Tavares and other officials turned the first shovels of earth to initiate construction of a new headquarters and visitor center at Keālia Pond National Wildlife Refuge on Maui. The 7,500-square-foot building will replace a small 672-square-foot trailer the refuge staff currently occupies.

“This has been a long time coming, but through everyone’s cooperation and influence, especially Senator Inouye’s, this building is coming into fruition,” said Mayor Tavares. “As a teacher, I know when children learn about nature, they grow up with a new consciousness of the environment. The refuge will truly be an outdoor classroom.”

The event included a Hawaiian blessing by Kimokeo Kapahulehua and the hula halau Maui Nui o Kama. Approximately 50 invitees participated in the groundbreaking at the building site off the entrance road to Keālia Pond.

The facility, which is expected to be completed in June 2011, will include a 1,358-square-foot lobby and exhibit hall, 1,043-square-foot multipurpose room, eight offices, a small conference room, and other workrooms. The energy-efficient building is expected to meet Silver LEED standards, one of only a few such projects in Hawai‘i.

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Friday, April 02, 2010

Fort Stewart receives conservation award for birds

Late last month, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service recognized the conservation progress at U.S. Army Fort Stewart Military Reservation in southeastern Georgia. In bestowing the 2009 Military Conservation Partner Award, FWS cited the doubling of the state's largest Red-cockaded Woodpecker population.

FWS Acting Director Rowan Gould announced the award at the 75th North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference in Milwaukee, Wis.

“The Service is proud to honor Fort Stewart’s exceptional accomplishments in endangered species conservation and propagation, environmental education, and community outreach,” Gould said. “Fort Stewart’s environmental program is extremely comprehensive. They do everything from contributing 254 juvenile red-cockaded woodpeckers to the Service’s translocation program to hosting an annual Kid’s Fishing Event.”
Fort Stewart covers 280,000 acres, making it the largest military installation in the eastern United States. It manages populations of more than 20 state and/or federally protected species, including Red-cockaded Woodpecker, eastern indigo snake, flatwoods salamander and Wood Stork.

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First Friday: April 2

Kudos to Clare Kines of The House and other Arctic musings! He won this month's First Friday fiction contest. Now he gets to choose a prize from these books: "Bird" by Andrew Zuckerman, "Birds of Borneo" by Susan Myers, "Owl" by Desmond Morris and "Altar of Eden" by James Rollins.

You have the chance to win a recently published birding book if you enter the May contest! Mark May 6 on your calendar as the deadline for your fictional story about birds, birders or birding.

Other criteria:
* The story contains no more than 500 words.
* It includes four elements: a setting, a character or characters, a conflict and a resolution.
* The story does not anthropomorphize birds.
* You send your wordsmithery to before 5 p.m. PST on the first Thursday of the month, and you include your mailing address.

Now, I present April's First Friday winner: "A Large Bill."

Reid Struthers quietly blew out the dust caked in his nose -- quietly. He was in trouble and knew it. He couldnʼt risk discovery. This cold dusty corner of the earth wasnʼt yet Taliban country, but there were enough of them here. The hills might not have eyes, but the Talibanʼs were looking for him. It was a mess, and he knew it.

Struthers was an elite soldier, part of Canadaʼs least-known and secretive units that gets the toughest, dangerous jobs. As he shifted in his small hole in the
ground, keeping from the creeping sunlight, he felt anything but elite.

His squad had been sent to Afghanistanʼs remote Wakhan Corridor to head off an attempt of the Taliban to establish themselves -- and a trade route for opium into China. It was a stunningly beautiful, and until recently largely ignored, area. As it opened up, it became his job to put it back that way.

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Earlier, following up on a report of a group of Taliban fighters on patrol, he had sped to catch up to the others on his ATV, roaring past them in the dark. The rocket-propelled grenade that whizzed by just overhead was the first sign that he was in trouble. He didnʼt have time to contemplate it as the bullets followed right behind, reaching out for him. Turning hard, he fought to control his ATV as it rolled onto two wheels. Skidding and bouncing, he finally brought it back to earth, just in time to slam into a boulder and careen off the edge of the plateau.

He could hear the ATV sliding down the same slope he was now bouncing down, finally gaining his footing as the small arms fire renewed and bullets reached out for him. So he ran, ran down the slope trying to gain distance, and stay upright. It was barely controlled falling.

He moved all night, voices and shots faded gradually farther behind him. When the horizon began to glow, he went to ground in this hole. Calling it a cave would be far too generous. As the sun rose, so did the voices of a bird, calling from the scrub along a river.

All around he could hear the song. Finally, calling from a branch a little in front of his hole, was a small olive bird with a beak too large for its delicate size. It reminded him of reed-warblers he saw in Britain -- but with a different song and a much larger beak. Damned Old World warblers all looked alike to him. If he had clue to what it was, he could add it to his life list.

One of the birds left the scrub and flew down to his hiding place and cocked its head as it checked him out. He was so excited that he almost missed the sound of his squadʼs ATVʼs as they searched for him. The lost had been found -- and the worldʼs least-known bird went back to its singing.

See this news article about Large-Billed Reed-Warblers for the basis of Clare's tale.

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Thursday, April 01, 2010

Duck Stamp as a discount coupon

A sports team recently promoted the Duck Stamp -- officially known as the Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp, shown below -- as a way to pay for half-price tickets at the box office. The Bowie Baysox, a class Double-A affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles baseball team, said the April 9 game against the Richmond Flying Squirrels will be Outdoorsman Night.

The Baysox are making it easy for hunters, crabbers and fisherman to get into the game with a special ticket offer. Any fan who brings a hunting, fishing, boating or crabbing license, or duck stamp to the box office can purchase a lower reserved seat ticket for $7 (regularly $14). The tickets must be purchased in person at the box office on the day of the game, and a fan can only purchase one ticket for each license or stamp in their possession.

The indefatigable Paul Baicich -- author of "A Guide to the Nests, Eggs, and Nestlings of North American Birds" and current co-writer of Birding Community E-Bulletin -- shared that news with Duck Stamp supporters and posed the questions:
Why don't we see more of this? Why not try to make possession of the Stamp an effective "discount coupon" for a local restaurant, an environmental film showing, a birding/nature festival entrance fee, an art show, a refuge Friends event, a bird-trip outing, a bird specialty store, etc.?
I like his questions and hope that birding festival organizers and birding supply retailers will consider his suggestion. Do you own a Duck Stamp? Would you buy one - for just $15 per year - to receive discounts at events and stores?

What would you receive in addition to potential discounts? The satisfaction of knowing that 98 cents of every dollar goes to providing habitat for waterfowl and other species that live in and visit wetlands and grassland. Birders everywhere benefit from the habitat leased or purchased with Duck Stamp funds by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, because a plethora of birds everywhere - not just ducks - use the food, water and shelter at national wildlife refuges and other sites.

Does your favorite birding retailer or festival offer a discount to Duck Stamp holders? If not, why?

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