Center for Conservation Biology – eNewsletter for late summer 2014

The latest newsletter is out from the Center for Conservation Biology, a joint project of the College of William and Mary and Virginia Commonwealth University.



Echoes of the Dough Birds

Like a summer carnival coming to a Midwestern town, wherever Eskimo Curlew went their arrival was the most anticipated event of the year. They were travelers along the Great Circle. From breeding grounds around the Mackenzie River they flew east to the Canadian Maritimes before making a nonstop flight to South America. Incredible numbers wintered on the campos around Bahia Blanca south of Buenos Aires. In the spring they flew north to…. Read more…

National Eagle Roost Registry launched

Non-breeding bald eagles are extremely social and frequently roost together near rich food resources. Communal roosts may be ephemeral congregations of birds that form to exploit short-lived food resources or may be used for decades. Roosts may be used by hundreds of birds or just two or three depending on the circumstances and the surrounding landscape structure. Because communal roosts play an important role in the life cycle of bald… Read more…

The Blueberry Birds of Acadia

Over the songs of Swainson’s thrush and white-throated sparrows come the soothing calls of approaching whimbrels. Soon 24 birds in formation appear over the tree line and begin a wide circle over the blueberry field. As they approach the northeast corner of the field, two shots of screamer shells explode from a black truck, leaving white trails of smoke arcing toward the flock. The flock whirls east, rising higher and picking up speed… Read more…

Banding Woodpeckers

For endangered red-cockaded woodpeckers, banding day is the culmination of more than a month of careful preparation. The season begins in early April with 4AM wakeup calls, ferry rides, and walks through quiet woods to take up positions around roost trees before birds begin to emerge. The breeding male sounds reveille each morning, calling the clan out of their cavities to muster within a common rallying area. The birds interact here before moving… Read more…

The Team Sport of Peregrine Hacking

Courtney Turrin and I arrive on the Benjamin Harrison Bridge over the James River near Hopewell Virginia just after 7:15 AM. A call to the tenders closes the bridge just long enough for us to unload gear in the control tower. The historic draw bridge has massive twin lift towers that rise more than 300 feet above the water. We carry gear to the north tower landing and attempt to call the cable elevator with no success. Rain the night before had shorted the… Read more…

James River eagles continue historic rise

Despite harsh weather conditions early in the breeding season, the bald eagle population along the James River continued to push forward in 2014. The 2014 aerial survey conducted by The Center for Conservation Biology recorded 223 pairs that produced 313 young. This population increase (8%) over 2013 matches the 30-year average. Productivity (1.4 chicks/pair) is comparable to that recorded on the river over the past eight years… Read more…

Navigating a Survey to Save a Species

This past summer, researchers for The Center for Conservation Biology (CCB) embarked by boat almost every night in a race to help the Atlantic Coast’s most imperiled bird. Over the past 15-20 years, black rail populations have rapidly declined to dangerously low levels that place them at risk of extirpation. Determining exactly where black rails still occur is the critical first step towards their conservation. CCB is leading focused… Read more…

Red knot decline spreads to Virginia

The rufa subspecies of the red knot has experienced a dramatic decline over the past three decades. Evidence of the decline has come from long-term population assessments and surveys of both a major spring staging area, Delaware Bay, and the largest known overwintering site, Tierra del Fuego. The decline has led to its listing as an endangered population in Canada, its declaration of endangerment by the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species… Read more…

Hope arrives on St. Croix

For the sixth consecutive fall, since her initial capture in Virginia, Hope the whimbrel has returned to her winter territory on St. Croix. Lisa Yntema (local bird expert and environmentalist) and Carol Cramer-Burke (Program Director for St. Croix Environmental Association) sighted and photographed Hope on 2 September within her winter home of Great Pond. Since her initial capture in Virginia, Hope has become a living representation of the… Read more…

Ospreys make an Elizabeth River comeback

The Virginian-Pilot

As Bryan Watts steered his small boat along the Elizabeth River, the good news was evident on every channel marker: The ospreys are back. Finally. The three branches of the Elizabeth River and its tributary, the Lafayette, lagged behind the rest of the Chesapeake Bay in recovering from… Read more…

James River eagles soaring; survey identifies 223 breeding pairs

Richmond Times-Dispatch

A new survey led by bird expert Bryan Watts shows that the number of eagles nesting along the James River has increased from 205 pairs in 2013 to 223 this year. The 2014 birds produced 313 eaglets. Here are some interesting facts about… Read more…

Threatened peregrine falcons reaching new heights

The Virginian-Pilot

Biologist Rolf Gubler set up a spotting scope on a moss-covered boulder shaded by tall trees, and aimed it at a cliff. A few seconds of scanning brought into view a success story 14 years in the making – a peregrine falcon’s nest, the only one known in Shenandoah National Park…. Read more…

Audubon Society members hunt for nocturnal birds

Laramie Boomerang

Standing beside a remote county road after dark last weekend, I could see just enough of the surrounding terrain to make out rocky bluffs and open sage brush habitat — the kind of land you might drive through as quickly as possible on your way somewhere else. As the moon hung… Read more…

Tiny bird makes epic journey back to St. Croix

Virgin Islands Daily News

Hope the whimbrel, a small brown shorebird, has arrived on St. Croix to spend her sixth winter in the Virgin Islands. Local bird watchers Lisa Yntema and Carol Cramer-Burke spotted Hope at Great Pond on Tuesday. The bird is easy to identify by the bright green tag attached to her leg… Read more…

Sex, violence, airplanes and the comeback of the national bird

College of William & Mary: News & Events

Mitchell Byrd began studying bald eagles in the dark, DDT-haunted days, a time in which fieldwork included picking up poisoned birds lying on the ground under their nests. Things have changed since the 1970s. The bald eagle has made a triumphant return to the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries… Read more…
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