A vagrant Jabiru, questions of how much someone should pay for poaching an endangered Whooping Crane, and a new National Monument in Maine dominate the headlines of this month’s Birding Community E-Bulletin:
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):
Imagine a Wood Stork on steroids and a new nifty paint-job. Then you’d have a Jabiru.
There are about a dozen Texas records for of this impressive Neotropical species. (There are also three records for Oklahoma, Mississippi, and Louisiana.) All of these storks have occurred almost exclusively in late summer or fall and all have been associated with post-breeding dispersal during a dry season.
Most of these Jabirus, possibly originating from southern Mexico or Belize, have been first-year birds with pale heads and some gray on the back, but several all-white adults have also occurred.
On Wednesday, 24 August, Dan Walker spotted a Jabiru in flight along U.S. 87 between Victoria and Port Lavaca, Texas. He followed it a short distance until it landed in a plowed field by FM1090. He was able to photograph the bird, a young individual, in the company of egrets, which were practically dwarfed by the Jabiru.
Reportedly, the Jabiru was also seen and photographed by a farmer in the same field on Saturday, 20 August.
Dozens of birders who arrived on site on the morning of 25 August were well rewarded by views of the bird not far from where it was originally found. The bird flew off at about noon, but was never able to be relocated despite diligent searches along public roads in Victoria County.
See here for the original eBird report and photo from Dan Walker:
For a local story, from the Victoria Advocate, see here:
MORE ON NORTHERN BOBWHITE
Last month, we reported on efforts in New Jersey to reestablish Northern Bobwhites to at least parts of that state. See the sixth article in last month’s E-bulletin at:
You may also be interested in a new PBS “This American Land” series of short films, including a focus on “Bobwhites on the Brink.” For a 10-minute video on the plight of the Northern Bobwhite and what it may take to restore the species to large parts of the rural landscape, see here:
IBA NEWS: SPARTA MOUNTAIN DECISIONS
The appropriate management of an Important Bird Area (IBA) can often be contested and subject to different interpretation. Witness the debate over the Sparta Mountain Wildlife Management Area (WMA), a 3,400-acre property in northwest New Jersey. A draft stewardship plan for this IBAhas been contested for some time, including a public comment period that was extended three times.
The make-up of the existing forest is in the 70-to-100-year-old age category, and the proposal aims to “maintain ecosystem health, diversity, and integrity” by removing trees to create “a greater balance among the stages of forest succession” over the next decade. This is part of a larger management approach to be implemented over the long term.
The proposed plan has turned into a significant controversy pitting several land trusts, the Sierra Club, and a regional coalition of environmental NGOs against the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife and New Jersey Audubon. Opponents are concerned that the plan calls for up to 10% of the WMA to be managed as young forest habitat. The plan promoters expect to improve forest health and address the decline of Golden-winged Warbler and other species. Opposing arguments by the opponents suggest that this is a step toward forest fragmentation which will ultimately negatively impact interior forest species.
With these kinds of management plans, there will inevitably be “winners” and “losers.” The questions involved here have to do with an awareness of which species should or would benefit the most, and judgement over which species require an extra hand through these forest management decisions. There are always risks involved, and there are no easy answers.
The Sparta Mountain work might actually begin this winter, because there are constraints over when it can actually be initiated for best results. The breeding seasons of some species and the potential of ecological damage, actually reduce the limited window of opportunity to just a few weeks a year when the trees can be cut.
You can access the plan itself, here:
For more on the controversy, see here:
For more on the Sparta Mountain IBA and the species involved:
For additional information about worldwide IBA programs, including those in the U.S., check the National Audubon Society’s Important Bird Area program web site at:
CONCERN FOR ALEUTIAN TERN
Many spring and summer birders visiting Alaska put the local and unique Aleutian Tern on their list of “must see” birds. And why not?
Indeed, this slender and attractive tern nests nowhere in North America outside of Alaska, and its colonies often shift from location to location and from year to year. The population in Russia appears to be stable it hosts about 82% of the world’s estimated 31,000 Aleutian Terns. But recent data collected at 202 colonies in Alaska and Russia suggest that there may be some serious problems.
In fact, a study published last year in the journal Marine Ornithology showed a 93% decline over three generations in Alaska colonies. The team of researchers wrote that the trends for Alaska “are alarming.”
Once Aleutian Terns leave their Alaskan colonies, mostly in August, they are believed to head west across the Aleutian Chain tending toward Kamchatka in the Russian Far East before turning south to fly over the Korean Peninsula and the troubled South China Sea. On their wintering areas they have to deal with mind-boggling pollution levels, market harvest (e.g., in Indonesian waters), oil spills, and plastic in the ocean. (Research has shown that some terns’ stomachs can become so packed with indigestible plastic that they eventually starve to death.)
Studies are continuing, with high-tech banding and egg examination as two important elements in the process. A multi-agency effort is ongoing, and is charged with learning more about Aleutian Terns.
At this point, the Aleutian Tern is not listed under the Endangered Species Act, but the U.S. Forest Service, very active in southeast Alaska, has already deemed it a “sensitive species,” a category that calls for special land-management decisions.
ACCESS MATTERS: MAINE BREAKTHROUGH
Roxanne Quimby, the cofounder of Burt’s Bees, began buying large parcels of land in Maine in the 1990s. Using the earnings derived from the company’s line of natural care products, she went public with her plan in 2011, a plan to make tens of thousands of acquired acres into a National Park. She wanted this to occur during this year – the centennial year of the National Park Service. Since the National Park designation would have required Congressional action, Quimby had to settle for promoting National Monument designation, a designation only requiring action by the President of the U.S.
On 12 August, she signed paperwork to transfer land from her nonprofit Elliotsville Plantation, Inc, to the U.S. Department of the Interior. This amounted to 87,500 acres in Maine’s Katahdin region, just east of Baxter State Park (209,501 acres). Quimby’s foundation package included a $40 million endowment to fund park operations, with $20 million at launch and another $20 million to be raised within three years. The land-value of this 87,500-acre gift to the public has been estimated at $60 million.
There is disagreement in Maine over this action, between critics opposed to federal government presence and those who view the move as an economic lifeline that will protect the land. The region has been struggling with double-digit unemployment especially since the closing of two regional paper mills.
Despite this controversy, the White House moved quickly, with President Barack Obama announcing National Monument status for the land on 24 August, exactly one day before the centennial of the National Park Service.
In lauding the action, the National Parks Conservation Association said that the designation is likely to create hundreds of jobs in the Katahdin region, “giving an economic boost to the entire state while permanently protecting a landscape that inspired American conservationists from poet Henry David Thoreau to President Theodore Roosevelt.”
Together with neighboring Baxter State Park, the new Katahdin Woods and Waters Monument should ensure that this large landscape remains intact. Notable birds of the region include Spruce Grouse, Northern Goshawk, American Three-toed Woodpecker, Black-backed Woodpecker, Merlin, Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, Blue-headed Vireo, Philadelphia Vireo, Gray Jay, Boreal Chickadee, and a very long list of breeding warblers, including Mourning, Cape May, Pine, Bay-breasted, and Blackpoll.
This promises to be a win-win-win situation, with new jobs, protection for birds and other wildlife, and public access. That access means securing opportunities for visitors to hike, canoe, hunt, fish, snowmobile, snowshoe, cross-country ski, photograph, and go birding.
EXPANDED MARINE NATIONAL MONUMENT
And while we are on the subject of National Monuments, it is important to add that President Obama also expanded Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument (PMNM) in an announcement on 26 September, the day after the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service. The monument was originally created 10 years ago by President George W. Bush, with a Monument size of 170,000 square miles. The expansion announced last month will more than quadruple Papahanaumokuakea’s size, to 582,578 square miles.
The area is home to 7,000 species of birds, fish, and marine mammals, at least a quarter of which are found only in Hawaii. We discussed the monument’s original creation and the implications for birdlife in the E-bulletin in July 2006:
All future commercial fishing and mineral extraction within the monument will be forbidden. But noncommercial recreational fishing, removal of fish and other resources for Native Hawaiian cultural practices, and scientific research will be allowed in the area by permit.
WHOOPING CRANE SENTENCING
Readers may remember the report from our March issue with the case of Mr. Trey Frederick who admitted to shooting and killing two Whooping Cranes in east Texas:
Mr. Frederick will be sentenced this fall. His violation of the Endangered Species Act, in this case a Class A misdemeanor, is punishable by up to a year in prison and/or a $50,000 fine. This situation is being closely followed by many, including the folks at the Eastern Crane Bulletin and the International Crane Foundation.
In fact, the International Crane Foundation has asked that Frederick be sentenced to no less than a month in jail, at least a $15,000 fine, 300 hours of community service, and a revocation of the teen’s hunting license for at least five years.
The issue highlights the wide variation of potential sentencing in cases of Whooping Crane shooting deaths. In 2009, a poacher responsible for the shooting death of Whooping Crane #217 – mother of W1-06, the first wild Whooping Crane chick hatched and fledged in the eastern U.S. in more than a century – was fined $1. Then, at the opposite end of the spectrum, in 2012, a man who shot a Whooping Crane from the wild population in South Dakota was fined $85,000, sentenced to 30 days in jail, given two years of probation, had his hunting privileges revoked for two years, and was also given community service.
Some sentencing standardization in these cases is probably in order, if only to send the message that shooting a Whooping Crane is a significant crime that carries real personal consequences.
TIP OF THE MONTH: SHOULDER-BAG, ANYONE?
The day-pack is the standard mid-distance accessory-carrier for most birders. A modest day-pack will accommodate field guide, lunch, drink, camera, notebook, checklist, insect repellent, sunscreen, spare socks, light gloves, pocket knife, and whatever else you might need for, say, a half-day of birding away from the road or away from a nearby convenience-store.
But what if the pack is too much and your walk is just an hour? What can you do?
Your original binocular-case will be too small for the non-optics you may want to bring along. You need something between a binocular-case and a day-pack. Waist-packs can be too big.
Look for a reliable shoulder-bag. It could be a size to fit your field guide, a small camera, checklist, pocket knife, and more; it might also free your pockets of wallet, mobile phone, and car-keys. A modest shoulder-bag, with a main compartment of about 10″ x 9″ x 3.5″, or 315 cubic inches, could do the trick.
For such a field shoulder-bag, check out camera stores or sporting-goods stores and their websites.
ARCHIVES AND MORE
You can access all the past E-bulletins on the National Wildlife Refuge Association (NWRA) website:
If you wish to distribute or reproduce all or parts of any Birding Community E-bulletin, we simply request that you mention the source of any material used. (Include a URL for the E-bulletin archives, if possible.)
If you have colleagues who might be interested in this month’s E-bulletin, you can most efficiently forward the E-bulletin to them using the “Forward email” feature on the bottom of this page. This retains the clearest text and presentation formatting.
Also, if you have any friends or co-workers who want to get onto the monthly E-bulletin mailing list, they can also simply contact either:
Wayne R. Petersen
Director, Massachusetts Important Bird Areas (IBA) Program
Paul J. Baicich
Great Birding Projects
We never lend or sell our E-bulletin recipient list.