Sam Crowe on October 23rd, 2017

The recent hurricanes that blasted through the Caribbean have done untold damage to people and wildlife.

Reviewing Irma’s carnage is painful. Video from Cuba’s northern Cays shows flamingos killed outright or slowing dying from the impacts of this intense storm. In Barbuda, almost every building was left uninhabitable, and the vegetation seems to be virtually scrubbed out of existence. Efforts to assess the damage to birdlife in Barbuda have been mixed, but fortunately at least eight endemic Barbuda Warblers were finally found after Irma. See details here:

Other reports, from St. Martin, Dominica, the Dominican Republic, the Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico, are equally unsettling. On the islands that took the brunt of the two hurricanes the damage is mind-boggling. The humanitarian crisis is sweeping, with losses of food, shelter, power, and medical care.

Trees were uprooted or left denuded of all fruit and leaves. On some islands, local Bananaquits and hummingbirds have been reported starving because flowers and leaves have been stripped from plants, and many flowering plants have been killed. Riverbanks were scoured, and fields were flooded with salt-water. At some inland locations, there are threats of landslides. The damage to mangroves, reefs, seagrass beds, and beaches mean that birds will have to deal with the serious loss of nesting habitat, shelter, and food.

Most of the devoted bird-educators, bird conservationists, and bird researchers who live and labor on these islands work or volunteer with non-profit organizations, or small government departments. Their resources are limited. All are extremely dedicated to their work and all are taking time to help birds, even as they themselves may have lost their homes or offices. They need help to get back on their feet in order to begin vital restoration efforts for the birds and habitats that suffered the fury of Irma and Maria.

If you wish to help the birds, habitats, and island communities in the region, BirdsCaribbean is supporting a Caribbean-wide network of partner organizations to help stabilize operations so that people can return to critical post-hurricane bird-conservation work. You can find more details, make a contribution, and/or leave comments here:

….From The Birding Community E-Bulletin.

Sam Crowe on October 17th, 2017

Whooping Cranes are returning to Texas – what is left after Hurricane Harvey.

Hurricane Harvey did a number on the Texas coast, with damage as far south as the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, home to wintering populations of the beautiful Whooping Crane.  One of the major incentives for developing other Whooping Crane populations was the great fear that a late season hurricane could destroy vital habitat or even kill the remaining Whooping Cranes.

A recent article on the Friends of Wild Whoopers describes the current situation at Aransas.

Sam Crowe on October 9th, 2017

Hawk migration is well underway. Hawk watchers at the major hawk watch locations are turning in large numbers of sightings.

ON Sept 30, the Corpus Christi, Texas site counted 17,163 hawks migrating along the Texas coast on their way south for the winter. Most were Broad-winged but Mississippi Kites, Red-tailed Hawks, Osprey, Northern Harrier, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Cooper’s Hawk, Swainson’s Hawk, White-tailed Hawk, American Kestrel, Peregrine Falcon, Merlin,

Visit the Hawk Count web site to see a list of Hawk Watch locations and daily results.   Good numbers of hawks are still passing through hawk watch locations.

While Corpus Christi annually tops the list of most birds reported in the U.S. (by a wide margin) the place to go to really enjoy raptor migration is Veracruz, Mexico. The Veracruz River of Raptors site is reporting over 100,000 raptors a day. It is on my “must do” list some day.

Sam Crowe on September 24th, 2017

One of my favorite and most important web sites is the Boreal Songbird Initiative. Habitat loss is the most significant threat to native bird and animal specials. North America’s boreal forest, which spans the northern portion of the continent from Alaska all the way to Newfoundland, covers an astonishing 1.5 billion acres, making it larger than all but 6 countries, including India.

This great track of land is of vital importance to a great number of birds. 325 North American bird species rely on the boreal forest for nesting or migratory stopover habitat. How important? 80% of North American waterfowl species, 63% of finch species, and 53% of warbler species breed in the boreal.

A recent post on their web site provides more information on the importance of the Boreal Forest and recent successes in protecting this vital area.

An excerpt of the article follows, visit their web site for the complete story. Bonus points if you can tell if this is a Long-billed or Short-billed Dowitcher.

dowitcher in boreal forest

“Two provincial governments, Ontario and Quebec, have actually committed to protecting at least half of their northern boreal regions. Succeeding in this will require a commitment to work with Indigenous governments and communities. The Moose Cree First Nation in Ontario, for example, wants to ban mining from the North French River—one of North America’s most impressive undammed and uncontaminated rivers. But achieving this requires buy-in from the provincial government—something they are still working to achieve.

As a signatory, Canada is committed to meeting Aichi Biodiversity Targets. Among these is a requirement of protecting at least 17% of the nation’s land by 2020. Although Canada’s current pace indicates it may not meet this by that year, the most logical place to start would be in the Boreal Forest.

It requires a shift in thinking, and one that sees the forest rather than just the trees. Given recent successes, the Boreal’s prospects are certainly looking up. The billions of birds that depend on the Boreal are sure hoping this momentum continues; after all, it may be their last hope.”

Sam Crowe on September 18th, 2017

The American Birding Expo is North America’s most extensive gathering of birding-related products, services, companies, destinations, and organizations. That’s why we call it “the world of birding in one place!” Whether you’re a world-traveling bird chaser, just starting out as a bird watcher, or only interested in the birds in your backyard, the Expo has everything you need! Entry to the Expo is just $10* for the entire weekend. Come connect with the community of birders from North American and beyond!

 

The Big Sit! is an annual, international, noncompetitive birding event hosted by Bird Watcher’s Digest and founded by the New Haven (Connecticut) Bird Club. Every team that observes the year’s “Golden Bird” has a chance to win $500. Every year, bird watchers from around the globe unite on this special day by participating in this free event, open to any person and club in any country! The Big Sit! is sponsored by Swarovski Optik.

The Big Sit! is like a Big Day or a bird-a-thon in that the object is to tally as many bird species as can be seen or heard within 24 hours. The difference lies in the area limitation from which you may observe.

Some people have called it a “tailgate party for birders.” Find a good spot for bird watching—preferably one with good views of a variety of habitats and lots of birds. Next, create a real or imaginary circle 17 feet in diameter and sit inside the circle for 24 hours, counting all the bird species you see or hear. That’s it. Find a spot, sit in it, have fun. Then submit your findings.

Learn more and sign up on the Bird Watcher’s Digest web site. Signing up is only required if you wish to report results.

Sam Crowe on August 30th, 2017

For the third year in a role Mississippi Kites have nested near my home near Dallas. My home backs up to a golf course which provides excellent soaring space for the young kites. They are active much of the day and sometimes swoop by within 30-40 feet of my home. Last year I watched one chase a hummingbird which hid behind a cedar tree about 20 feet from my window.  The kite followed the hummingbird around the tree but the hummer managed to escape, that time.

Not the best photo but shot through a window in my upstairs home office.  A favorite perch about 35 yards away and next to the No. 5 tee box.  The golfers and kites get along fine, pretty much ignoring each other.

Sam Crowe on August 21st, 2017

While many birders flock to air conditioned comfort during August, many shorebird species will start their southern migration during the month. According to the Stanford web site more than 20 million shorebirds migrate through the United States to the Arctic each year. The web page includes the following information.

Whimbrel

Whimbrel

“As a group, shorebirds undertake some of the most spectacular of long-distance migrations of any North American birds. Nearly two-thirds of the species that breed in North America journey from their arctic nesting grounds to winter in Central and South America, and then return to the Arctic the following spring. Many species traverse more than 15,000 miles in this annual circuit. Some fly at altitudes exceeding 10,000 feet and achieve cruising speeds approaching 50 mph. From sightings of marked individuals, we know that at least some birds on nonstop flights cover nearly 2,000 miles in less than two days. Hudsonian Godwits may fly 8,000 miles nonstop between breeding and wintering areas, unless brief stopovers are made at as-yet-undiscovered spots somewhere in South America. The surprising migration feats of Sanderlings were discovered only recently by ornithologist Pete Myers. Their hitherto unsuspected circumnavigation of the Americas each year follows a route east across the top of North America and down the Atlantic coast in the autumn to their wintering grounds in Chile and Peru, and back north in the spring through the western United States to their arctic breeding grounds.”

It has been know for several years that some birds see well in the UV range and that UV markings on windows, while not visible to humans, can be detected by birds and offer protection from window collisions. The UV effect might not be ideal for evey situation, as reported from this excerpt from research posted on the PeerJ web site.

“Glass windows cause more bird fatalities than one might think (Banks, 1976). Being optimized for flight, birds are lightly built and collisions with large obstacles often result in serious injury or death. Because the glass reflects the landscape outside (Fig. 1) or offers a more or less unobstructed view of items behind the window as well as the landscape on another side of a building, it may trick birds into believing that the window is an available flight path. As a consequence, the world-wide avian death toll from window collisions reaches billions each year, according to recent estimates (Drewitt & Langston, 2008; Klem Jr, 2009a).

The means to prevent avian window collisions include nets, screens or grilles that are placed at a safe distance in front of windows or densely spaced, visible markings applied to the glass directly. Albeit effective (Rössler, Laube & Weihs, 2007) these solutions diminish the aesthetic value of having window glass in buildings, and will impair the view of the scene outside. Since it was discovered that diurnal birds can see ultraviolet radiation (Huth & Burkhardt, 1972; Wright, 1972) to which humans are blind, reflective or absorbing ultraviolet markings on window glass have been proposed and tested to make birds notice the surface while the marking remains invisible to human observers. However, this seemingly elegant solution to the problem has had varying success (see Haupt, 2011). On the one hand, ultraviolet absorbing stripes on a window with narrow (5–10 cm) spacing have proven almost as effective as covering virtually the whole window with human-visible markings (Klem Jr, 2009b). On the other hand, field tests of commercially available UV-patterned glass have, under see-through conditions, shown an increased likelihood of window collisions compared to ordinary window panes (Klem Jr & Saenger, 2013).”

From the Friends of the Wild Whoopers web site.

“The remote muskeg of the taiga in Wood Buffalo National Park in Alberta, and its surrounding environs have long been the last holdout for nesting Whooping Cranes on the continent. This wild population, discovered in 1954 by Robert Porter Allen, is the population that migrates annually to the area of Aransas National Wildlife Refuge on the Texas coast. All other experimental Whooping Crane populations have derived – one way or another – from the eggs of birds from this Canadian breeding population.

This year, in a report issued by Mike Keizer, External Manager at the Wood Buffalo National Park, a record number of Whooping Cranes were found in the Park during the recent 2017 nesting survey run by Parks Canada and Environment and Climate Change Canada. This season’s survey found a record 98 nests, an increase of 16 over the previous record of 82 nests set in 2014. Another aerial survey will be run next month to determine the number of fledged colts, as the young cranes are called. This is exciting news and important information for crane fans everywhere.”

Visit the Friends of the Wild Whoopers web site for updates on wild Whoopers nesting in Canada and the Wood Buffalo National Park breeding season.