Birdwatch Ireland eWings #80


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Welcome to the May 2016 issue of eWings, BirdWatch Ireland’s email newsletter.

Ireland’s hedgerows don’t get the respect that they deserve. One of our most important wildlife habitats, not to mention a stunning visual feature of our countryside, for many foreign visitors they are THE defining feature of the Irish landscape. Shamefully, despite this, they are all too often hacked and/or burned during the summer months. The consequences for nesting birds are clear to see, but perhaps less obvious is the effect on Ireland’s dwindling insect-life: the very same insects upon which we depend for the pollination of our crops and wildflowers.

Under the Wildlife Acts 1976-2010, hedge-cutting and scrub-burning is banned from 1st March to 31st August each year. However, a quick walk or drive almost anywhere in Ireland during the summer months reveals that this law is very poorly enforced indeed, and is all too often completely ignored.

This summer, BirdWatch Ireland is aiming to keep track of as much illegal hedgerow destruction as possible. We would ask our eWings readers to please notify us of any suspected illegal destruction of hedgerows or scrub by emailing the details (including the location and, if possible, some photographs) to us at

We also want to help showcase the beauty of Ireland’s hedgerows. Continue reading

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2016 State of the Birds

It ain’t much better than the last one.  Check out the press release for the 2016 State of the Birds Report to see the gains and losses in conservation, and consider options for the future. (Complete and well-organized overview here.)

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Of 1154 species considered in the report covering Canada, the US, and Mexico, 432 are in urgent need of conservation action to avoid extinction.  FOUR HUNDRED and THIRTY TWO.

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To learn more about how we know that 432 species are in such danger, you can follow links to the Species Assessment Database and the specific methods used to determine vulnerability, all coordinated and subjected to peer-review through the North American Bird Conservation Initiative (NABCI).

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The message and the needs are urgent, but not hopeless. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act illustrates what we can do with a solid commitment to conservation, and we can build on those successes.  Learn more here.

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Homage to Hanski

Knew him only through his papers, but quite an extraordinary intellect in Ecology, who will be missed.

The Quantitative & Applied Ecology Group

Hanski06A tribute from QAECO

Ecology lost a giant last week. It was with great sadness that we at QAECO heard of Professor Ilkka Hanski’s passing after a long illness. Ilkka’s career profoundly affected us. From metapopulation theory, through expansive empirical research, to conservation planning, Ilkka’s research stood as an exemplar that focused our minds and spurred us on. He delivered not just a framework for understanding the complex world of spatial population dynamics, but set a bench mark of rigour that lifted our own aspirations.

Looking back at Ilkka’s career takes one on a fascinating journey. It begins in the fields of Finland, where Ilkka spent long hours of his youth collecting butterflies, bees and beetles. In his own words, it left a lasting impression (Hanski 1999), searing two key elements of population dynamics onto his mind: the importance of habitat patchiness to species distributions, and the changeability of species…

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12 May 2016 – The story of Layla

Today was a first for me, and I’ve been doing this almost daily for 6 years . . . I rounded the corner to enter the northwest alcove and was greeted by the sound of a very angry cardinal.  Th…

Source: 12 May 2016 – The story of Layla

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Birding Community E-Bulletin, April 2016

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The Birding Community E-bulletin is distributed to active and concerned birders, those dedicated to the joys of birding and the protection of birds and their habitats.

This issue is sponsored by the producers of superb quality birding binoculars and scopes, Carl Zeiss Sport Optics:

You can access an archive of past E-bulletins on the website of the National Wildlife Refuge Association (NWRA):


Regular readers may remember the Eurasian thrush, the Redwing, that we mentioned in January as an example of the CBC bonus factor. It was a bird found in Victoria, British Columbia:—January-2016.html?soid=1106822336233&aid=SwJyc9OTPlQ

The Redwing is a real rarity anywhere in North America, and one that is occasionally  discovered on “either side” of the continent. In the West, there are records from Alaska, Washington, in addition to British Columbia. In the East, there are about two dozen records mainly from the Maritime Provinces, but even south to New York and Pennsylvania. These birds in the East may have come from Iceland or Greenland where the species is regular and has also been known to breed.

Still, it was a real surprise when, on the morning of 13 March, a Redwing was observed and photographed by Chris McPherson on the baseball field at Hollis High School in Brookline, New Hampshire. Continue reading

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My doppelgangers

Do you have a doppelgänger, i.e., someone with whom you share a strong resemblance but relatively little DNA?

I do, and they pop up in all sorts of unexpected places.

Among famous people, I’ve been told I look like Bob Denver (kinda), Anthony Perkins (okay I see that one), Lorenzo Lamas (of course!), and Stephen Colbert (don’t see it).  I also really look like that guy from that thing.

My real doppelgängers, however, are these guys.  In some cases they look so much like me that I struggle to remember having these photos taken.

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The cool/creepy part is that each one of these guys is doing something I do which serves to heighten the resemblance. Okay, sure – I don’t routinely play with blowguns like the top right version of me, but I have done that in the past, and I’m not that bad . . .

Top left?  That’s Ivan Elias, the late bassist of the band Scandal. When I watch the video for Goodbye to You I get an eerie feeling that I’m actually watching myself on bass.  (I have played in a couple of bands, but I’m lead vocal and rhythm guitar.)

The bottom photos are a bit surreal, too.  I am a teacher who wears white shirts and ties and always has his sleeves rolled up when lecturing.  I also have been a long time bicycle commuter, again in shirt and tie.  The vintage photo on bottom right shows another version of me – again turned out in dapper shirt and tie – enjoying birds with some well-heeled ladies.

I suppose this means that I’ve got some kind of a genetic make-up that’s conducive to making music, birding, being really earnest in a classroom, and forcefully blowing air from my lungs with decent accuracy.  At the very least, it’s fun to see these other me-s enjoying the same things I do!

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