Monday, August 30, 2010

On hiatus. Happy Labor Day!

Blog posts will resume on the week of Sept. 7.

Best wishes for a good week and great birding!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

American White Pelican graces "California Parklands"

California State Parks Foundation sends a newsletter to its members three times a year, and the cover of the summer 2010 issue shows an American White Pelican in flight just above the water at Ahjumawi Lava Springs State Park in the state's northeastern region. The neat action shot adds to the avian theme that begins with the foundation's California Quail logo.

Due to the state's budget crisis, the state parks have had to reduce their hours, services and maintenance. In response, the foundation urges California voters to approve Proposition 21 on Nov. 2. If approved, it will create State Parks and Wildlife Conservation Trust Fund via an $18 surcharge in annual vehicle license fees.

How are your state parks faring? Are budget cuts directed at them?


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Boreal birds now at risk in the Gulf

Because the Gulf of Mexico provides wintering habitat for millions of Canada's migratory birds, concern has increased about the boreal species' return this fall.
“The world’s largest migration occurs every year when billions of birds fly from Canada to areas south, including the Gulf Coast,” said Dr. Jeff Wells, senior scientist at the Boreal Songbird Initiative. “We’re not sure what these birds will face when they return to areas hit by the oil spill, but certainly a large number of birds could be vulnerable to illness or even death.” [Click on the image to see a larger version.]

The migratory birds of Canada’s Boreal Forest represent a significant percentage of the birds that winter in the Gulf Coast region or stop during their travels farther south. As the world’s largest intact forest, Canada’s Boreal Forest is home to more than 300 bird species, including 80 percent of North American waterfowl species, 63 percent of finches and 53 percent of warblers.

“There’s been a lot of attention to oil spill effects on local resident species,” Wells said, “but there’s a lurking time bomb for many waterfowl and shorebirds that breed in Canada’s Boreal Forest and winter or stop in the Gulf.”
Wells and other experts are concerned that the birds could face long- and short-term negative effects to shoreline habitat, necessary food sources and health.
Currently, nesting birds such as terns, gulls and pelicans are hit hardest by the oil spill. Louisiana’s coast supports an estimated 77 percent of the U.S. breeding population of Sandwich Tern, 52 percent of Forster’s Tern and 44 percent of Black Skimmer. Many of North America’s most at-risk species also live in the region during a portion of the year, including Yellow Rail, Black Rail, Snowy Plover, Piping Plover and Short-billed Dowitcher. The oil spill could pose long-term implications for the health of their total populations.

“We’ve really only seen the tip of the iceberg so far,” Wells said. “Species from the Boreal and other areas may encounter habitats and food sources contaminated with oil on their journey south that may cause illness or even mortality. These birds, and the generations to come after them, are endangered by the oil spill’s impact to critical marsh and beach habitat.”

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Friday, August 20, 2010

Presidential Citizens Medal recipient advocates conservation

President Barack Obama awarded the Presidential Citizens Medal to 13 Americans this month, including Elizabeth Cushman Titus Putnam of Shaftsbury, Vt. The White House said the 40-year-old honor spotlights Americans who perform "exemplary deeds of service for their country or fellow citizens." The medal stands among the highest honors that a civilian can receive, and Putnam is the first conservationist to receive the medal.
Devoted to preserving our nation’s public lands, Elizabeth Cushman Titus Putnam has inspired thousands of America’s youth to protect our natural bounty. Her vision to offer land restoration and maintenance service opportunities became a reality with the birth of the Student Conservation Association. Putnam receives the Citizens Medal for helping ensure that our nation’s treasured public lands are enjoyed by future generations.

On the association's website, it describes its purpose this way:
SCA provides college and high school-aged members with hands-on conservation service opportunities in virtually every field imaginable, from tracking grizzlies through the Tetons to restoring desert ecosystems and teaching environmental education at Washington, D.C.’s Urban Tree House. We are truly building the next generation of conservation leaders.

Based in Charlestown, N.H., the association's menu includes national crews, community programs, conservation internships and conservation corps. Ornithology ranks among the most popular sub-categories in the expense-paid conservation internships.

Thank you very much, Ms. Putnam.


Thursday, August 19, 2010

When we guard birds, do we harm birding?

A good essay about the next great birders recently made the rounds via Facebook and other sites. Laura Kammermeier's blog post touched on the challenges that many beginning birders might encounter, including this part:
Beginners soon sense what really goes on in birding circles: the catty judgment about who knows what more than who. Some segments of birding operate like an exclusive country club where the cost of entry is not piles of cash, but loads of birding cachet. But whom does that leave behind — and what is the cost?

Regrettably, we’ve all seen the enthusiasm of novice birders stamped out by the corrective whoop-di-doo of birding hotshots. We’ve seen dialogue on listserves squelched by those who assert that feeder sightings, backyard raptor kills, and birding trivia has “no place on this list.” We’ve seen legions of birders too afraid to ask questions for fear of being wrong, stupid, clearly “not a REAL birder.”

That resonated with me, given the magazine's focus on expanding the community. In each issue, on page 2, you'll see WildBird's mission statement, which says "WildBird urges readers to share their appreciation for birds and to consider beginners' education... as means of ensuring avian species' survival."

In one discussion of Laura's blog post, a New Jersey birder mentioned a recent Long-eared Owl roost at which some birders stood guard all day, pretending to watch something in the field across the street. My friend (whom I'll call DL) said the sentry birders told him that's what they were actually doing -- trying to misdirect others.

Like DL said, owls are sensitive and need to be protected, but why would the birders want to keep the roost's location secret from naturalists who might become more interested in avian conservation or birders who've long wanted to see LEOWs? That seems counterproductive to building support for bird conservation. To quote DL: "That really left a sour taste in my mouth."

Do you know birders who've guarded a species' site? What did you think of their decision?

Long-eared Owl courtesy of Terry Sohl

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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Special-edition Duck Stamp envelope to help Gulf of Mexico

Last month, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar revealed a special-edition Duck Stamp envelope available for $25. The "cachet" costs $10 more than the annual Duck Stamp because the proceeds will go toward conservation efforts in the Gulf of Mexico, fouled by BP's oil gusher, and specifically toward purchasing land that will become part of national wildlife refuges along the Gulf.
The cachet features a silk rendering of an award-winning photograph of St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge on the Gulf Coast of Florida [not shown -akh] by David Moynahan and the 2010-2011 Federal Duck Stamp [below], which depicts an American Wigeon painted by artist Robert Bealle of Waldorf, MD.

All migratory bird hunters must buy a $15 Federal Duck Stamp, formally known as the Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp, each year in addition to state licenses, stamps and permits. The design of the stamp is determined by an annual art competition, and the stamps have become popular with stamp collectors and wildlife art enthusiasts as well as those who simply want to contribute to wetland conservation. [bold mine]

Since 1934, Federal Duck Stamp sales have raised more than $750 million to acquire and protect more than 5.3 million acres of wetlands, including habitat on hundreds of the 552 national wildlife refuges spread across all 50 states and U.S. territories.
You might see the envelope called "Gulf of Mexico Wetland Commemorative," "FDS Commemorative Silk Cachet" or FDS11NWR. The website says it currently is out of stock, but you can download a form to pre-order the envelope. Note: Shipping is $5.95 for one stamp, $7.95 for two.

The oil gusher appears to have stopped. The need to help that tainted environment -- and the birds who need healthy habitats -- continues.

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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Three more foreign birds now on U.S. endangered species list

Today marks the first day of endangered species protection for
* Andean Flamingo (Phoenicopterus andinus), native to Argentina, Bolivia, Chile and Peru;
* Chilean Woodstar (Eulidia yarrellii), native to river valleys in Peru and Chile;
* and St. Lucia Forest Thrush (Cichlherminia lherminieri sanctaeluciae), a subspecies endemic to the island of St. Lucia in the West Indies.

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service announced the additions today. “This listing will help the United States work with Latin American and Caribbean countries to conserve and protect these foreign species,” said Acting Service Director Rowan Gould.

Andean Flamingos prefer low-, medium- and high-altitude wetlands in the Andean regions of Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, and Peru. The long-lived waterbird can stand 3.5 feet tall as adults.

No larger than a moth, Chilean Woodstar -- a small hummingbird -- lives in desert river valleys. St. Lucia Forest Thrush prefers mid- and high-altitude forest habitats.
The primary factors causing the population decline of these species include habitat alteration from urbanization and mining activities, predation, agricultural practices such as pesticide spraying, land use conversion, and road development.

The addition of a foreign species to the federal list of threatened and endangered species places restrictions on the importation of either the animal or its parts. Listing also serves to heighten awareness of the importance of conserving these species among foreign governments, conservation organizations and the public.
Forest Thrush illustration courtesy of BirdLife International


Monday, August 16, 2010

Potential national monuments in the West

Sunday's edition of "Los Angeles Times" included a travel article titled "National Prospects." The main reason that it caught my attention: the American Avocet chosen to illustrate Bodie Hills.

If you visit the link above, you'll find videos and a photo gallery. How many of the 14 sites have you visited? (Click on the map to see a larger version.)

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Buy beer for the birds?

If you drink Toxic Sludge, your money will go to Tri-State Bird Rescue & Research, one of the wildlife rehabilitation centers helping oiled birds in the Gulf of Mexico. Blue Point Brewing Co. on Long Island, New York, plans to donate 100 percent of net proceeds from sales of the Black IPA to fund Tri-State's "Spreading Our Wings" capital campaign and long-term efforts to build a wildlife response annex.

"Our poor little beaked brethren think they are vacationing in the sunny Gulf but they are really flying straight into a disaster zone," said Pete Cotter, president of Blue Point Brewing. "While others are focused on cleaning up the beaches and water, our efforts are purely for the birds."

Blue Point beers are sold in 12 states including Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina and Florida as well as the District of Columbia.

Blue Point also began selling "Save the Buffleheads" T-shirts for $25, with all proceeds going to Tri-State. The brewery picked the smallest diving duck in North America because it breeds in Canada and winters off the Gulf Coast. Scroll to the bottom of the page to order a T-shirt.

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Birds vs. wild horses

What do you do when wild horses degrade habitat that's shrinking and necessary for Greater Sage-Grouse and migratory birds? That's the challenge faced by Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge in northwest Nevada.

Contrary to popular belief, wild horses are not in danger of extinction: Herds increase at the rate of about 20 percent a year. Roughly 33,700 wild horses occupy 31.9 million acres managed by the Bureau of Land Management. BLM also cares for another 35,000 wild horses in short-term corrals and long-term pastures at a cost of tens of millions of dollars per year.
See how the refuge staff propose to solve the problem.

Photo courtesy of Gail Collins/USFWS


Monday, August 02, 2010

Aug. 14-15: Free entry to national parks

Bird for free at a national park on Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 14-15! National Park Service will eliminate entrance fees on those two days although other fees -- for camping, reservations and tours -- will remain in effect.

"This fee-free weekend provides an opportunity for individuals and families alike to take an affordable vacation or to explore a nearby park they have never visited before," said Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. "I encourage everyone to take advantage of the free admission to visit not only our greatest natural wonders but also our nation’s historic and cultural icons."

Our national park system includes 392 parks in 49 states. You can search for a park here.

You'll find a great variety of resources and information with the NPS site's Explore Nature section.The Migratory Species page includes links to Birdwatching in the National Parks, International Migratory Bird Day and conservation/management plans.

The entrance fees being waived at the 146 sites that usually charge for admission range from $3 to $25. The national park system includes 240-plus sites that never charge entrance fees.

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