Birding Community E-Bulletin: June 2010


RARITY FOCUS

On Thursday, 13 May, Chris Rasmussen found a Bahama Mockingbird at Fort DeS=
oto County Park, St. Petersburg, Florida. The bird was also observed by sev=
eral others the same day.

The next day the cooperative bird allowed close observations and even sang.=
It continued to be seen for the next two days and was observed by many Flo=
rida and out-of-state birders. It may have been last seen on the morning of=
17 May.

If you are unfamiliar with this species, check a National Geographic guide =
(fifth edition pages 362-363), Kaufman=92s Focus Guide (pages 256-257), or =
the =93large=94 Sibley (page 411).

The first Bahama Mockingbird ever found in the U.S. was at the Dry Tortugas=
in 1973. A resident of the Bahamas, Jamaica, and small islands off the coa=
st of Cuba, Bahama Mockingbirds have been reported in the U.S. at least a d=
ozen times into the early 1990s, and approximately an equal number of times=
since. Most of these observations have been in Florida from early April to=
mid-June, mainly between the Dry Tortugas and West Palm Beach. The Fort De=
soto Park bird was unique in that it was discovered on the west coast of Fl=
orida.

AND THE RUNNER UP IS=85

A runner-up and contender for rarity honors this past month was Kirtland=92=
s Warbler. While Kirtland=92s Warblers can readily be observed during their=
nesting season in central Michigan, the species is seldom seen during migr=
ation, since there are so few of these birds in existence (perhaps 3,700). =
Finding a Kirtland=92s Warbler during migration is truly like finding a nee=
dle in the proverbial haystack. Despite this fact, on Friday, 14 May, Kenn =
Kaufman found a male Kirtland=92s Warbler in the East Beach shrubbery at Ma=
gee Marsh in northwest Ohio. Over 800 birders participating in the Biggest =
Week in American Birding event were estimated to have seen this bird throug=
hout the day. This is perhaps the record for a single Kirtland=92s Warbler =
being seen by so many people in one day outside of Michigan. Remarkably, an=
other male Kirtland=92s Warbler appeared in the very same area one week lat=
er, where it was also observed by scores of birders.

GULF COAST OIL SPILL: THE BIRDS AND BEYOND

The tragic explosion and catastrophic underwater oil gusher off the coast o=
f Louisiana has been a sobering reminder of the price we pay by continuing =
to rely on oil and other fossil fuels as a primary sources of energy. This =
situation now threatens the rich salt-water and coastal ecosystems that sup=
port enormous and unique concentrations of birds and other wildlife as well=
as helping to sustain the economic well-being for many local residents.

At the end of May, the spill stretches across a 180-mile swath, from beyond=
Dauphin Island, Alabama, to Grand Isle, Louisiana. Birds, turtles, and dol=
phins are being carefully watched for signs of oiling. Brown Pelicans have =
been seen landing in the oil as it comes ashore on their nesting islands. T=
erns, Laughing Gulls, egrets, Roseate Spoonbills, and shorebirds are all be=
ing put at risk along shorelines and in wetlands.

Current fears are that the oil could eventually invade fragile wetlands and=
beaches from Texas to Florida.

If there is any good news, it is that people want to help, and people also =
want answers.

Some Americans seem to think that handing out paper towels and Handi-wipes =
will help address the immediate situation. Others are crying out to punish =
and boycott BP in order to damage their bottom line. There are now dozens o=
f informational websites offering details about the disaster, suggestions a=
bout how to =93fix=94 its, and pleas for fund-raising. Some of these are ex=
cellent and helpful, while others are simply misguided. Accordingly, your e=
ditors will not make recommendations about which websites are best and whic=
h ones are less helpful.

While the public=92s short-term preoccupation has revolved around plugging =
the oil gusher and monitoring the spread of the oil, two things are certain=
.

First, the syrupy muck invading the imperiled coastal habitats along the Gu=
lf shores will leave a toxic residue exceedingly difficult to remove. Offic=
ials on site are considering some dramatic and even untried solutions. One =
would be to set the wetlands on fire. Under the right conditions, crews cou=
ld literally set fire to oil-coated plants. Needless to say, this would not=
be easy. If the marshes are too wet, the oil won’t burn, and if it=92s too=
dry, the plant roots could burn and the marsh would be ruined. Any overly-=
aggressive action could ruin the marshes for an indefinite period of time, =
doing more harm than good, especially since these marshes, among other thin=
gs, provide a vital line of defense against Gulf storms. Cutting and removi=
ng oiled vegetation (e.g., taking it to a landfill) can work for small spil=
ls, but with vegetation extracted over broad areas, water from the Gulf cou=
ld enter the marshes and wash away the plant roots, thereby accelerating th=
e transformation of wetlands to open water.”Bioremediation” – letting oil-e=
ating microbes do the work =96 has also been discussed. And finally, over t=
ime, weather and natural microbes could break down the oil. Regardless, the=
crude oil will surely continue to poison plants and wildlife in the months=
(and possibly years) ahead during the period it would take for the oil to =
dissipate. Obviously, the cleanup is going to take a long time and a great =
deal of money.

Second, the BP oil disaster is only the most recent evidence of a much larg=
er crisis – our dependence on fossil fuels is bringing the United States to=
the brink of an ecological, economic, and geopolitical disaster. Fortunate=
ly we still have the opportunity to create the foundation for cleaner energ=
y and to reduce our dependence on oil, and oil from hostile regimes in part=
icular. Smarter cars, more efficient local power sources, lights out campai=
gns, and basic conservation savings are essential to the bigger issue. This=
does not mean that as we continue to explore innovative new forms of energ=
y production and management, all alternatives are equally beneficial. For e=
xample, fast-tracking each and every wind-power plan or nuclear power alter=
native would clearly be a risky proposition.

While contemplating the current mess along the Gulf Coast and working on lo=
nger-term green-energy solutions, we need to also recognize that it is impo=
ssible to shift our nation=92s infrastructure away from a petroleum-based e=
conomy overnight. There are currently two Obama Administration limits on oi=
l exploration: one on opening up new zones for drilling, and one on current=
drilling operations, at least until the President=92s commission on the BP=
incident has completed its review. This moratorium, however, will not affe=
ct current and ongoing production.

In the interim, it is important to insist on a =93conservation royalty=94 t=
hat all offshore oil and gas companies should pay, so that revenue can be =
=93recycled=94 into land-preservation and habitat security. This type of fu=
nding should go to the states and to the federal agencies that are able to =
work toward building a more secure future for biodiversity and, yes, bird h=
abitat.

Wait a minute!

Aren=92t oil and gas fees already going into the U.S. Treasury that are int=
ended to support federal land acquisition and significant stateside acquisi=
tion and other stateside conservation? Every year $450 million federal and =
$450 million stateside (ergo: $900 million total) is made available through=
the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

The problem is that Congress rarely fully appropriates this “conservation r=
oyalty.”

The BP aftermath is an ideal time to call once again for the “full funding =
for LWCF.=94 This is a bona fide mitigation fund to compensate states for o=
ngoing offshore drilling. It=92s a tool ready to be used.

Indeed, it would seem that this is the time when the $900 million ceiling s=
hould be raised. The $900 million cap was established in 1977. In 2010 doll=
ars that would be approximately $3.2 billion. Now, here is an opportunity t=
o =93recycle=94 oil and gas revenue to a serious conservation end.

We have previously written about the LWCF and the great bird habitat secure=
d through that funding vehicle, so you may want to revisit what we wrote in=
the January E-bulletin:
http://www.refugenet.org/birding/janSBC10.html#TOC10

OIL APPENDIX: BOLO

We have been specifically asked to spread the word about one aspect of the =
current BP-oil issue.

Birders have a special opportunity to =93be on the lookout=94 (BOLO) for oi=
l slicks and oiled birds outside the area of direct impact. Pelagic birders=
and folks watching shorebirds might even take photos and make reports of o=
iled birds from as wide an area as possible, not just in the Gulf area, but=
along Atlantic Coast as well.

Even anecdotal reports will help to determine the extent of oiling geograph=
ically. It would be particularly significant if any oiled birds or remote s=
licks were observed in the Gulf Stream.

The Fish and Wildlife Service has told us that oiled wildlife should be rep=
orted to a BP hot line set up for this purpose at 866-557-1401.

CAPE WIND: A FIRST FOR THE COUNTRY

As mentioned last month in the E-bulletin, =93the other=94 major coastal en=
ergy issue, the Cape Wind Project in Nantucket Sound (Massachusetts), deser=
ves an update. In late April, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announc=
ed federal approval for this, the country=92s first large-scale offshore wi=
nd farm, while also requiring additional measures to be initiated. See the =
DOI announcement here:
http://www.doi.gov/news/doinews/Secretary-Salazar-Announces-Approval-of-Cape-Wind-=
Energy-Project-on-Outer-Continental-Shelf-off-Massachusetts.cfm

The announcement ended a nearly nine-year review process, clearing the way =
for the eventual development of 130 wind turbines in Nantucket Sound. In th=
e quest for =93green energy,=94 this project could serve as a model effort =
for obtaining clean, renewable energy in America, at the same time working =
toward reducing global warming pollution, promoting economic growth and job=
s, reducing regional dependence on fossil fuels, and promoting energy indep=
endence.

Leading environmental and conservation organizations such as Mass Audubon, =
The Conservation Law Foundation, the Natural Resources Defense Council and =
the Union of Concerned Scientists, supported the final decision. Mass Audub=
on specifically concluded that the project would not pose an ecologically s=
ignificant threat to the birds and associated marine habitat of the area. C=
ontinued extensive monitoring of wildlife and habitat was stressed in their=
support.

As previously noted in the E-bulletin, the potential impact to birds create=
d by any wind power project is ultimately determined by specific choices in=
siting locations. If Cape Wind is able to effectively minimize the impact =
on birds and the environment in this location, there will be clear benefits=
to people and birds.

At the same time that state organizations were satisfied with the Cape Wind=
plan, some organizations were disappointed, suggesting that the science co=
llected for the project on bird collision threats was inadequate, that the =
site could reduce prime offshore sea-duck foraging habitat, and that the pr=
oject could still be a threat to other species. The American Bird Conservan=
cy expressed their disapproval here:
http://www.abcbirds.org/newsandreports/stories/birds_forever.html

To access statements of support for the Cape Wind effort from Mass Audubon,=
the Conservation Law Foundation, and the Union of Concerned Scientists, se=
e:
http://www.massaudubon .org/news/index.php?id=3D1429&type=3Dpress
and
http://www.ucsusa.org/news/press_release/salazar-approves-cape-wind-energy-project=
-380.html

WILL VOLUNTARY WIND-FARM GUIDELINES WORK?

While on the subject of the impact of wind-power on birds, we thought reade=
rs might be interested in the final recommendations of the Wind Turbine Gui=
delines Federal Advisory Committee, released in mid-April and sent to the S=
ecretary of the Interior. An announcement can be found here:
http://www.fws.gov/habitatconservation/windpower/Service_Transmits_Wind_Turbine_Re=
commendations_NR_PressRelease.pdf

The full 157-page document, as well as a complete list of the 22 review com=
mittee members, can be accessed here:
http://www.fws.gov/habitatconservation/windpower/wind_turbine_advisory_committee.h=
tml

Highlights of the committee=92s findings include:
1. A decision-making framework that guides all stages of wind energ=
y development
2. Reliance on the best available science when assessing renewable =
energy projects and their potential environmental impact
3. Use of landscape-scaled planning that recognizes the need to thi=
nk long-term about protecting our nation=92s economic and natural resources=
.

While the committee made some fine recommendations concerning the generatio=
n of wind power on public lands, a major shortcoming is that they are only =
recommendations. These are proposed as voluntary recommendations, rather th=
an required. As such, these recommendations may do little to curb unaccepta=
ble levels of bird mortality and habitat loss.

Fortunately there is still time to re-direct the recommendations, potential=
ly putting them on the road to becoming mandatory. One would hope that the =
Secretary of the Interior makes that happen.

SHEARWATER GAUNTLET

Last month we focused on the work of Bob Pyle and the online Version 1 of =
=93Birds of the Hawaiian Islands: Occurrence, History, Distribution, and St=
atus=94 by Robert L. Pyle and Peter Pyle:
http://www.refugenet.org/birding/maySBC10.html#TOC06

One special Hawaiian bird, Newell=92s Shearwater, breeds only in the southe=
astern Hawaiian Islands. While it is considered a subspecies of the Townsen=
d Shearwater by the American Ornithologists=92 Union, other taxonomists reg=
ard it as a separate species.

Each fall, young Newell=92s Shearwaters (and also Hawaiian Petrels) heading=
from mountain-slope nesting sites to the sea are attracted to the bright l=
ights of Kaua=92i. Unfortunately, hundreds – and sometimes thousands, of Ne=
well’s Shearwaters, collide with power cables or other manmade structures a=
fter becoming disorientated by urban lighting. Many are killed, but thanks =
to an island-wide initiative (Save Our Shearwaters) many injured birds are =
collected, rehabilitated, and released into the wild.

In early May, four groups – Conservation Council for Hawai=91i, Earthjustic=
e, Center for Biological Diversity, Hui Ho=91omalu i Ka =91=C4ina, and the =
American Bird Conservancy =96 sued a luxury resort on the island as a conse=
quence of these seabird deaths. They filed suit against the St. Regis Princ=
eville Resort over the luxury resort=92s failure to help in the prevention =
of the ongoing deaths of these seabirds, a violation of the federal Endange=
red Species Act. (The St. Regis is a property of Starwood Hotels and Resort=
s, which also owns the Westin, Sheraton, Four Points, W Hotels, and Le Meri=
dien brands.)

This story offers a new twist to growing =93lights out=94 efforts to save b=
irds.

The resort is responsible for the greatest number of deaths and injuries of=
imperiled seabirds on Kaua=91i due to its extensive use of artificial ligh=
ts. Data from the Save Our Shearwaters (SOS) program indicate that, from 20=
00 to 2008, over one-quarter of the total number of shearwaters downed by a=
rtificial lights on Kaua=91i went down at that one resort. Figures for the =
2009 fallout season show a similar trend, with about 60 birds involved.

The St. Regis recently completed a $100 million renovation that included so=
me lighting changes, and reportedly employees have been told that in order =
to improve the guests=92 experience, they were under orders to keep the res=
ort lights on and the shades up. Reportedly, the glass-glare problem contin=
ues.

For more information on the situation and lawsuit see this article from Hon=
olulu:
http://www.starbulletin.com/news/20100507_Lawsuit_contends_hotels_lights_put_rare_=
Hawaiian_birds_at_risk.html
and this press release from the four groups:
http://www.abcbirds.org/newsandreports/releases/100511.html

INITIAL RED KNOT NEWS

Readers are probably well aware of the amazing connection between the arriv=
al of migratory Red Knots on Delaware Bay shores and the emergence of Horse=
shoe Crabs from the briny depths to lay their eggs.

The decades-long struggle to preserve a balance between maintaining suffici=
ent numbers of Horseshoe Crabs to generate enough crab eggs to sustain the =
thousands of Red Knots that depend upon the eggs to fatten up for their tri=
p to the Canadian Arctic, and the efforts to maintain shoreline habitat is =
not over.

We have reported on the inter-American situation multiple times, including =
in January 2010
http://www.refugenet.org/birding/janSBC10.html#TOC08
and January 2009:
http://www.refugenet.org/birding/janSBC09.html#TOC03

Over-harvesting of Horseshoe Crabs for bait used to catch conchs and eels h=
as seriously reduced the Delaware Bay crab population since the 1990s. Last=
month’s initial reports offer a mixed review – a drop in adult horseshoe c=
rabs, but a slight increase in the numbers of younger crabs, resulting in p=
erhaps the best crab numbers in 15 years. At the same time, Red Knots, numb=
ering up to 50,000 in the late 1990s had dropped precipitously over the pas=
t few years, but crept back up to about 23,000 last year. This year numbers=
were estimated to be approximately 17,000. This is believed to be a stable=
number, but certainly not an increase.

Because last month’s tallies have not yet been analyzed or finalized, these=
numbers are interim figures at best, so stand by for a more thorough total=
and future report.

In the meantime, see a video of the scene at Reeds Beach, New Jersey, taken=
on 22 May. The video was taken by Shawn Carey and Jim Grady (Migration Pro=
ductions):
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3DlHVhFLf_vDo

IBA NEWS AND BOOK NOTES: PDF DOWNLOADS FOR THE AMERICAS

The new Americas IBA directory provides a concise summary of 2,450 Importan=
t Bird Areas described throughout the Americas through 2009. This inventory=
, prepared by BirdLife International, follows similar regional IBA director=
ies developed this past decade for Africa (2001) and Asia (2004) and repres=
ents a powerful overview of the most important sites for bird conservation =
in our hemisphere. Starting with the beginning of the IBA Program in North =
America in 1994, sites have now been identified in all 57 countries or terr=
itories in the region. The results are impressive and are organized as free=
pdf downloads.

You can find summaries for all 57 countries or territories in the Hemispher=
e at:
http://www.birdlife.org/action/science/sites/american_ibas/americas-ibas-downloads=
.html

There are also a number of individual national and regional directories tha=
t have additional details. For more information about IBA programs across t=
he U.S., check the National Audubon Society’s Important Bird Area program w=
eb site at:
http://www.audubon.org/bird/iba/

If you prefer a hard-copy of the book, it is also available through BirdLi=
fe. It=92s handy in both formats, and some birders and conservationists wil=
l want access to both versions. The standard book copy is available (for ab=
out $70) here:
http://www.nhbs.com/title.php?tefno=3D172848

BirdLife is to be congratulated for its grand effort in pulling this projec=
t together.

TIP OF THE MONTH: IT=92S TIME FOR THOSE HUMMINGBIRD FEEDERS

While some locations (e.g., California, Arizona, Texas, and Florida) are id=
eal for year-round hummingbird feeding, other locations to the north don=92=
t become hummingbird-ready until spring and early summer. A clear plastic f=
eeder with an attractive red opening should do the trick. Some hints are in=
order:
Use a standard 4:1 water-to sugar ratio
Putting red food-coloring is unnecessary
Put up more than one feeder
Locate feeders near bright red native flowering plants (e.g., bee-balm)
Fill and clean the feeders regularly

Whether you entertain one hummingbird species in your area or many, your hu=
mmer-hosting can be a delight to behold. Hummingbirds of all species are am=
ong the jewels of bird world!

THIS MONTH=92S QUIZ FOR A NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC BIRD BOOK

To mark National Geographic=92s recent support of the E-bulletin, we have s=
ome fine National Geographic books to distribute to E-bulletin readers. Rea=
ders who choose to enter our quick-and-easy contest have the chance to win =
one of these books. Our little contest and quiz questions will run for the =
next couple of months. Each monthly quiz question will either relate to one=
of our news items for the previous month, or it will relate to some event =
or experience that is due to occur during the current month.

For more on the excellent NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC books, see:
http://www.shopng.com/birdbooks

There will undoubtedly be multiple readers who answer our monthly question =
correctly, so we will only be able to distribute a few copies to readers wh=
ose names are picked at random from all those submitting correct answers. B=
ecause of shipping constraints only folks residing in the U.S. or Canada ar=
e eligible.

Last month=92s question was linked to the historic predecessor of Internati=
onal Migratory Bird Day (IMBD), initiated in 1894 as =93Bird Day=94 by the =
superintendent of schools for Oil City, Pennsylvania. What was the superint=
endent=92s name?

Answer: Charles A. Babcock

Last month=92s five winners were: Bob Bushnell of Onset, MA; John Cornely o=
f Littleton, CO; Jennifer Smith-Castro of Columbus, OH; Michael Clay of Gre=
enwood IN; and Eric L. Kershner of Carlsbad, CA.

The prize this month will be your choice of either the Eastern or Western N=
ational Geographic Field Guide. A total of 10 field guides will be sent to =
winners of our quiz.

For more on these two books, see here for the Eastern Guide:
http://shop.nationalgeographic.com/ngs/product/birding-books/national-geogr=
aphic-field-guide-to-the-birds-of-eastern-north-america
and the Western Guide:
http://shop.nationalgeographic.com/ngs/product/birding-books/national-geogr=
aphic-field-guide-to-the-birds-of-western-north-america

This month=92s question deals with the Kirtland=92s Warbler, a species whos=
e breeding range is concentrated in central Michigan: The Kirtland’s Warbl=
er has restrictive habitat requirements characterized by what species of tr=
ee?

Please send your answer by 18 June to:
birdingebulletin1@verizon.net

Make the subject line “QUIZ! ” Tell us if you want the Eastern or Western G=
uide, and please include your full name and mailing address along with your=
answer so that we can send you a book in the mail should you be a fortunat=
e winner. We will also provide the correct answer next month.

– – – – – – – – –
You can access past E-bulletins on the National Wildlife Refuge Association=
(NWRA) website:
http://www.refugenet.org/birding/birding5.html

If you wish to distribute all or parts of any of the monthly Birding Commun=
ity E-bulletins, we simply request that you mention the source of any mater=
ial used. (Include a URL for the E-bulletin archives, if possible.)

If you have any friends or co-workers who want to get onto the monthly E-bu=
lletin mailing list, have them contact either:

Wayne R. Petersen, Director
Massachusetts Important Bird Areas (IBA) Program
Mass Audubon
718/259-2178
wpetersen@massaudubon.org
or
Paul J. Baicich
410/992-9736
paul.baicich@verizon.net

We never lend or sell our E-bulletin recipient list.

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This entry was posted in bird banding, Bird Education Network, birding, birding community e-bulletin, birds/nature, editorial, Endangered Species Act, environment, evolution, IUCN, life, Links, migrants, wave energy, weather, wildlife, wind power. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Birding Community E-Bulletin: June 2010

  1. polo says:

    speaking of rarities, the continent’s first Red-legged Thrush was reported on Florida’s east coast in June. this post from the Florida list was where i read about it:
    http://listserv.admin.usf.edu/listserv/wa.exe?A2=ind1006&L=brdbrain&T=0&F=&S=&P=3600
    the Florida rare bird alert list might have more detail. i don’t know if the records committee has accepted the sighting.

    Bill Pranty (the guy who wrote the post) is all business when it comes to birds. the funny thing is i grew up in the same neighborhood where he lives. assuming he lived there as long as i did, i could be a much better birder if i had crossed paths with him when i moved there, instead of 20 years later.

    Like

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