Keeping India’s forests


Dramatic loss of native land cover does not have to be result of increased population pressure, but governments must be willing to step up. Check out this reflection on land cover in India.

ConservationBytes.com

I’ve just returned from a short trip to the National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS) in Bangalore, Karnataka, one of India’s elite biological research institutes.

Panorama of a forested landscape (Savandurga monolith in the background) just south of Bangalore, Karnataka (photo: CJA Bradshaw) Panorama of a forested landscape (Savandurga monolith in the background) just south of Bangalore, Karnataka (photo: CJA Bradshaw)

I was invited to give a series of seminars (you can see the titles here), and hopefully establish some new collaborations. My wonderful hosts, Deepa Agashe & Jayashree Ratnam, made sure I was busy meeting nearly everyone I could in ecology and evolution, and I’m happy to say that collaborations have begun. I also think NCBS will be a wonderful conduit for future students coming to Australia.

It was my first time visiting India1, and I admit that I had many preconceptions about the country that were probably unfounded. Don’t get me wrong — many of them were spot on, such as the…

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American Bird Conservancy’s Inside Bird Conservation newsletter, August 2016


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The fight against neonicotinoid pesticides is moving front and center among the priorities of the American Bird Conservancy.  Check out this and other pressing issues in avian conservation in the latest Inside Bird Conservation.

For links to all the conservation actions herein, start here.

 

Inside Bird Conservation – August 2016

Letter Asks President for Progress on Conserving Migratory Birds

Leaders from national environmental and wildlife conservation organizations have sent a letter to President Obama asking for the administration to take steps in its remaining months to help better conserve migratory birds under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA).  The letter asks the administration to define incidental take under the MBTA and establish a framework to minimize incidental take of migratory birds from avoidable sources of mortality.

The MBTA has become a target for congressional riders and industry lawsuits.  Please weigh in with your lawmakers in support of protecting migratory birds and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act by clicking here.

Spotted Owl Conservation Urgently Needs a Boost

Populations of the Northern and California Spotted Owl are in decline, and the status of the threatened Mexican Spotted Owl is currently unknown.  The Northern subspecies is suffering from a steep population decline and range contraction as a result of habitat loss and territorial competition with the Barred Owl, and it is being considered for an ESA status change from Threatened to Endangered. The California Spotted Owl is now undergoing a status review for possible ESA listing, and forest management activities appear to be a significant factor in this decline.

ABC has identified some of the conservation needs of Spotted Owls and provided a set of recommendations to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  These include a moratorium on take for the Northern Spotted Owl, ESA listing for the California Spotted Owl, and additional research on the status of the Mexican Spotted Owl.

Meanwhile, the Bureau of Land Management is nearing completion of a forest management plan for Western Oregon that eliminates many of the protections for Spotted Owls and Marbled Murrelet included in President Clinton’s Northwest Forest Plan. This plan marks a big step backwards for endangered species protection, clean water, and carbon storage. Please contact your members of Congress and the Obama administration and urge them to support the Northwest Forest Plan and to increase protections for old-growth forests in the Pacific Northwest. You can take action by clicking here.

Reader Survey: Bird Conservation Priorities for the Next Administration

The outcome of this year’s presidential election will play a pivotal role for the future of bird conservation for generations. Birds know no borders or party affiliation, so American Bird Conservancy will continue its work to ‘Bring Back the Birds’ with whomever gains the White House.
But before we do, we want to hear from you. What bird conservation issues do you think are important? Tell us, and we will reach out to both campaigns to share your priorities and make them part of the national political conversation.

Please use this link to take the Presidential Priorities survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/DNPY3GH

Threatened Birds Recovering Thanks To Endangered Species Act Protection

Seventy-eight percent of the birds listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) have populations that are now stable, increasing, or have recovered enough to be delisted, according to a report published in July by ABC. Continue reading

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Birding Community e-Bulletin, August 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).

RARITY FOCUS
Since the mid-1990s, Little Egrets have become almost annual in the Northeast, both in Atlantic Canada and in New England. We focused on this phenomenon in August 2015, when reporting on an occurrence of this species in Maine.

The Little Egret is an Eastern Hemisphere species that ranges from Western Europe, Africa, and southern Asia and Japan south to Australia. This species was first seen in North America in Newfoundland in the spring of 1954, but it was not until the 1980s that a few more were reported in Atlantic Canada, and by 1989 and the 1990s multiple birds were reported in New England. Most Little Egrets have appeared in spring and summer, including birds south of New England in Delaware and Virginia, including about a dozen records possibly involving returning individuals for multiple years. Little Egrets have also occurred on several Caribbean islands, most notably Barbados, where the species has actually established a breeding toehold. A May 2000 record was also established for the western Aleutian Islands.

This season’s Little Egret showed up in late June at the Gilsland Farm Audubon Center in Falmouth, Maine. This represents the fourth record of this species in Maine, all since 2011 and the second to be found at Gilsland. The record almost certainly pertains to a returning individual.
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HBW Alive newsletter – August 2016


The latest newsletter from the Handbook of the Birds of the World has been released, and it’s another treasure trove of ornithological wonders. For example, I now know what a Dulit Frogmouth sounds like!  Here’s a small sampling:

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Ornithological News

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Do you have a voice in government?


I bet rarely would people respond that they feel well-represented in government. I know I’m not well-represented when I long for a revolution in renewable energy but one of my senators is the guy who thinks snowballs in winter refute anthropogenic global warming. I can’t count on that guy to represent my world view in Washington. That’s okay (well, not really), but he’s my senator not my puppet. It would be weird if he was in lockstep with me.

I’m into even wackier stuff, too.  I want to see aggressive campaigns to help slow human population growth.  While I’m a fan of economic strength, I’m not a fan of economic growth – I’d prefer a steady-state economy that operates within the confines of renewable natural resource availability. Screen Shot 2016-07-25 at 10.23.00 AM

These are some seriously fringe ideas and, even though they are grounded in science, I don’t expect these mantles to be taken up by my senators or representatives, let alone for any such directives to be developed in my lifetime. That’s okay though – we live in a pluralistic society in which majority opinions are generally enacted.  I’m used to not getting my way.

 

For some people, however, the “not getting their way” extends beyond science based policy ideas to basic, every day life in America.  That’s harder to swallow for a lot of folks. At its extreme, imagine those millions of Americans who seceded from the Union and bled on the battlefields to, at least in part, preserve the institution of slavery in this country. When Lee surrendered to Grant at Appomattox, the American way of life was forever changed. Those people wanted to “take their country back” but they couldn’t. It had irreparably changed. Imagine the resentment of seeing freed former slaves by those who lost loved ones and limbs to keep slavery legal.  For decades following the Civil War, veterans of the Confederacy and their families longed for things to go back to the way they were.

How_long_must_women_waitIn 1920, women finally earned the right to vote.  The 19th Amendment was the culmination of a 100-year political battle for women’s suffrage.  Did the opposition go down quietly? People vigorously and passionately argued against women’s suffrage right up to the end.  Do you think they wanted to “take their country back” after the 19th Amendment passed?  You bet they did.  But there would be no going back.  Those in opposition  spent their remaining years feeling rejected by the country they loved. They thought the country had taken a wrong turn. They figured that this once great nation was on a downward slide toward anarchy and oblivion.

Sound familiar?

What happens when you don’t feel represented in government for your pet policy ideas like energy or tax policy or the Syrian refugee crisis? Feeling like you lack that voice is frustrating for sure, but we all experience that. But compound that with a more in-your-face, society passing you by lack of a voice?  Wow, that must be maddening.

If the voice you want to have heard, however, is one that prefers a world in which women can’t vote and whites can own slaves, then screw you.  I don’t care if your voice isn’t being heard because what you have to say is idiotic.  That voice doesn’t deserve to be heard in 2016 and I bet nearly 100% of Americans would agree with me about that. (Nearly.)

FT_16_04.25_generations2050Slavery and suffrage are low-hanging fruit, however.  What other progress has been made that remains resented by millions of Americans? Think about the generations before you consider this question. Much has been made recently about the rise of the Millennials.  They’re now a bigger demographic group than the Baby Boomers.  But those Baby Boomers still number almost 75 million people.  Before them it’s the Silent Generation at almost 28 million, and there are still some of those Greatest Generation folks around, too.  In other words, there are well over 100 million people in this country born before 1964, when the Civil Rights Act (at least on paper) ended segregation and created equal employment opportunities.  So that’s a substantial chunk of 100 million voters who, in 1964, got a big ol’ pie in the face on an issue they cared deeply about, and they’ve resented ever since.

We’ve made great strides since 1964 on civil rights, women in the workforce, and more recently, for gay folks to not only come out of the closet but to actually get married.  Every one of these advances will in 100 years be considered as basic and obvious as women’s suffrage does to us today. As Martin Luther King exclaimed in 1967, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” But for the tens of millions who are on the backside of history , every time they see an interracial couple or a woman driven more by her own career than by a commitment to be a husband’s domestic servant or two men holding hands in public, they feel a punch in the gut to the America they thought they knew.

This is the kind of disenfranchisement that runs just below the surface of our presidential campaign in 2016 and occasionally bubbles to the surface in a racist comment or misogynistic attitude.  Like slavery and suffrage, however, you don’t deserve to have a voice in representing attitudes that deny freedoms to your fellow Americans.  We can talk trade deals and immigration reform and energy policy and our approach to ISIS and the National debt, but we are not going back on policy advances that protect and promote the equal rights under the law of all Americans. Get over it.  Get over yourself, and let’s move forward.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Birding Community E-Bulletin, July 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:
http://www.zeiss.com/sports-optics/en_de/nature/victory-sf-experience.html

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

Birding Community E-Bulletin

RARITY FOCUS

Over the Memorial Day weekend, Dave Stejskal and his wife were camping with some non-birding friends at remote Aliso Springs in the northeast corner of the Santa Rita Mountains south of Tucson, Arizona. It was there that he found an interesting Empidonax flycatcher at the campground, a bird giving a soft ‘whip’ note. He initially thought it might be a late-migrating Dusky Flycatcher, but his photos and sound recording did not seem quite right.

Once he got home he investigated further, then made another visit to the site with birding colleagues to see if the bird could possibly be the first Pine Flycatcher ever found in the U.S. And, indeed, it was!

The Pine Flycatcher is in the genus Empidonax and is normally found in the montane tropical and subtropical coniferous forests and associated clearings from northeast Mexico through southwestern Guatemala. The species has long been anticipated as a potential vagrant that could occur in the U.S. in the right habitat anywhere along the border from Texas through Arizona. A major difficulty in discovering this bird in the U.S. is differentiating it from other Empidonax flycatchers.

In this instance, an added difficulty for interested birders hoping to see the flycatcher was getting to remote Aliso Springs, a high-clearance vehicle with four-wheel drive being a necessity and involving about a ten-mile rough, and sometimes steep, drive from well-known Gardner Canyon Road.

For those intrepid birders willing and able to make the trip, the Pine Flycatcher remained through June. The bird even built a nest, and was regularly seen sitting on it by visiting birders. You can see Dave Stejskal’s original eBird submission with his photos and a sound recording here:
http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S29952283

APLOMADO FALCON DOING WELL IN TEXAS

While on the subject of Mexican-based birds occurring in the U.S., this is a good time to revisit a success story pertaining to the Texas-Mexico border. It is the successful reestablishment of the Aplomado Falcon.

Once a nesting species in grassland habitat along the border, the Aplomado Falcon was considered extirpated in the U.S. by the late 1950s. Raptor experts at The Peregrine Fund began experimental releases of these stunning falcons on Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge in Los Fresnos, Texas, starting in 1985.Since then more than 1,500 young Aplomado Falcons have been released in South Texas. There have also been experimental releases in New Mexico.

According to Peregrine Fund biologists Paul Juergens and Brian Mutch, the 2016 nesting season has produced some of the highest number of territorial pairs and individual falcons to date along the South Texas coastal landscape. A total of 37 territorial pairs and 93 individual falcons were documented this year. This is approaching the target of 60 self-sustaining pairs, the goal needed to down list the species from Endangered to Threatened.

Wind farms and local development may become new threats, but it is comforting to realize that this lovely falcon has essentially been restored to its former South Texas range.

You can read a short summary on the bird’s current status from the USFWS here:
https://www.fws.gov/news/blog/index.cfm/2016/6/23/Northern-Aplomado-Falcon-Now-a-Fixture-in-the-Coastal-Prairies-of-South-Texas

NENE AND FERAL CATS

A new study published in the Journal of Wildlife Diseases has documented evidence of “widespread contamination of habitat” in Hawaii caused by feral cats. This latest research has important implications for the endangered Hawaiian Goose (Nene) and other animals found throughout the Hawaiian Islands.
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