Tuesday, December 20, 2005
Thank you to all of the volunteers who gave up their day or weekend to participate in the many Audubon Christmas Bird counts. I hope it was enjoyable and everyone stayed warm.
We had some exciting results in the Rock Creek Park sector of the count this year. In all previous count years the record species total was 47. This year we had a 53 species!
Among some of the more unusual species include an American Turkey seen on the Rock Creek Park golf course, a Merlin also seen on the golf course, Red Breasted Nuthatch, Northern Harrier, Golden-Crowned Kinglet, Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, House Wren, Hermit Thrush, and all three species of resident owls (Eastern Screech, Barred and Great Horned).
We have not had a Great Horned Owl on the count in many years, so that is an exciting addition too. It is a lesson in persistence and patience. Keep trying for those resident species that should be present. You never know when one might turn up.
Good birding and good luck with the rest of the counts!
Tuesday, November 15, 2005
Photo Credit: By James A. Parcell -- The Washington Post
Stratford Landing, a lovely neighborhood not far from George Washington's Mount Vernon, has a problem. A geese problem. People feed them, and the geese are so grateful that they stay.
They waddle on docks along Little Hunting Creek, into the meticulously groomed back yards that flank the water, and they even wander up to Stockton Parkway, disrupting traffic. They confront people out for daily strolls, honking belligerently for a meal.
One thing about Canada geese: They don't like to be disappointed when it comes to food. They're nasty. They believe in biting the hand that doesn't feed them.
And even worse: These beautiful creatures poop. Frequently. Green poop that turns back yards into fecal nightmares. Canada geese poop production has been estimated to be at least a half-pound a day per goose, so if a flock of three dozen geese while away the afternoon on someone's lawn, or a few hundred congregate -- doing what they do best -- the coverage can be extensive.
But for the geese-plagued residents of Stratford Landing, relief may be on the way. With residents lamenting a decline in their quality of life, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors next week will consider a geese-be-gone ordinance that would prohibit the feeding of geese and ducks along Little Hunting Creek. Anyone who tosses so much as a kernel of corn could face a $50 fine. The ordinance would be enforced by animal control officers. Read More from The Washington Post.
Tuesday, October 25, 2005
Background on Avian Flu
There are over 135 different strains of avian influenza virus. Most strains circulate in low levels within wild bird populations. Though they usually cause only mild illness in wild birds, some strains may cause lethal outbreaks in domestic poultry. A few avian influenza strains are more virulent, and can cause high mortality in both wild birds and poultry stocks.
Most avian influenza strains do not normally infect species other than birds, though a few subtypes can be transmitted from birds to humans. Avian influenza viruses become much more dangerous if they mutate to allow easy transmission from one human to another, not just from birds to humans. The most devastating avian influenza epidemic occurred in 1918 when a highly pathogenic strain of avian influenza mutated allowing people to infect other people. An estimated 40 to 50 million people died worldwide as a result.
The Current Strain of Avian Influenza: H5N1
Since 1997, the H5N1 strain of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) has infected over 100 people and caused at least 65 deaths in East and Southeast Asia. While any human infection is cause for concern and action, this current avian flu outbreak has affected a relatively small number of people, and has very limited ability to be transmitted from person to person. Rather, the virus appears to be transmitted to humans through consumption of or direct contact with infected poultry or contaminated surfaces. Over one million domestic birds have been culled to contain outbreaks. There is no evidence that the virus has mutated to spread widely from person to person.
Do Wild Birds Transmit H5N1 to People?
In the summer of 2005, the virus spread to Central Asia and China where it was detected in both domestic birds and wild birds. These outbreaks do not indicate that wild birds are effective carriers or reservoirs for the H5N1 virus. The virus is so virulent that it appears to be self-limiting; infected wild birds die before they can travel far or transmit the virus to many other birds.
Leading experts including the World Health Organization, Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, and World Organization for Animal Health all emphasize that culling wild bird populations is highly unlikely to stop the spread of the disease, and would only divert resources away from more important disease control measures.
(See statements by UN Food and Agricultural Organization)
Has H5N1 Been Found in North America?
The H5N1 avian influenza virus has not been found in wild birds in North America. There is a remote chance that infected wild birds from Asia could bring the virus with them during fall migration to North America. The US Fish and Wildlife Service, US Geological Survey (USGS), Alaska Department of Fish & Game, and public health agencies are working together to test thousands of waterfowl and shorebirds for the virus in Alaska, and field sampling is being integrated with surveillance programs throughout the United States and Canada.
What You Can Do
1) While the possibility of contracting the H5N1 virus from wild birds is very unlikely, people who have close personal contact with wild birds should take measures to protect themselves by practicing animal handling and sanitary practices recommended by the USGS National Wildlife Health Center Wildlife Health Bulletin #05-03.
2) People who feed birds are not at high risk of contracting avian influenza from birds in their yards or at their feeders. However, since birds can transmit other diseases to humans (e.g. salmonellosis), people who feed birds should routinely clean their feeders and bird baths as recommended by Audubon and the USGS National Wildlife Health Center. People who come into contact with wild bird excreta should thoroughly clean up with soap and water.
*Centers for Disease Control
*United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization
*USGS National Wildlife Health Center
*BirdLife International Statement on Avian Influenza
*Wetlands International Statement on Avian Influenza
*NPR Bird Flu in Depth
*Latest News from Google News
Monday, September 26, 2005
For folks who enjoy birding on Roosevelt Island in DC - be aware, the Chairman of the House Resources Committee, Rep. Pombo, is circulating a draft of a 285 page Bill that among other things, proposes selling off National Parks that recieve fewer than 10,000 visitors per year. In the bill they suggest selling off DC's Roosevelt Island's 91 acres to developers. Say goodbye to the nesting Ospreys wintering Bald Eagles if this goes through.
See this link for more on the story from the San Francisco Chronicle.
- Denise Ryan
Draft House Resources Committee legislation would put 15 national parks up for sale, allow offshore oil and gas drilling in now-restricted waters and open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to petroleum exploration, according to a copy of the measure obtained by E&E Daily.
The draft proposes removing the 91-acre Theodore Roosevelt Island from the park system and selling it to commercial or residential developers, as well as requiring land be made available for a vehicle bridge to the George Washington Memorial Parkway. The island is in the Potomac River between Washington, D.C., and Arlington, Va.
The draft proposes selling 15 parks "for energy or commercial development" if they receive fewer than 10,000 visitors a year. They are:
*Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument, Texas.
* Aniakchak National Monument and Preserve, Alaska.
* Bering Land Bridge National Preserve, Alaska.
* Cape Krusenstern National Monument, Alaska.
* Eugene O'Neill National Historic Site, California.
* Fort Bowie National Historic Site, Arizona.
* Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site, Massachusetts.
* Kobuk Valley National Park, Alaska.
* Lake Clark National Park, Alaska.
* Mary McLeod Bethune Council House, Washington, D.C.
* Minute Man Missile National Historic Site, South Dakota.
* Noatak National Preserve, Alaska.
* Thaddeus Kosciuszko National Monument, Pennsylvania.
* Thomas Stone National Historic Site, Maryland.
* Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve, Alaska.
Wednesday, September 21, 2005
On Sept. 20, the environmental community held a large rally in front of the Capitol to express their support for preserving the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska - and Audubon was there. Throughout the crowd you could see bright orange baseball caps with Audubon across the front and National Audubon had a table there to share information about birds at risk if oil drilling is allowed by Congress in the refuge.
According to the speakers at the event, opening the refuge for oil production would amount to solving our energy problems like dumping a glass of water into the ocean and expecting the tide to rise. The message from the event was that conservation, not exploration and drilling will help Americans with the price of gas and oil now and in the future.
Several chapter representatives were in town for the event and the opportunity to lobby congress. Several notable speakers were present to show support for protecting the refuge including Robert Kennedey Jr.; Senators Clinton (NY), Kerry (MA), Lieberman (CT) and Chaffee (RI); Congressmen Markey (MA) and Kucinich (OH). Pictures featured here are Sara Bushey from National Audubon working the information table and the crowd of folks at the event on the Capitol grounds.
Tuesday, September 20, 2005
The Efforts to safeguard the nation's natural heritage culminated in the 1973 Endangered Species Act (ESA), signed into law by President Richard Nixon. It requires federal authorities to identify threatened or endangered animal and plant species and to help them recover, often by restricting how their habitats may be used.
In 1782, the Second Continental Congress incorporatedthe bald eagle into the first great seal of the United Statesas a symbol of “supreme power and authority.” Unlike the king’s England, where wildlife was the exclusive property ofroyalty, in this new nation wild animals belonged to all the people.
By the 1930s, the national symbol was in trouble. Bald eagles, once soaring over most of the country by the hundreds of thousands, had plummeted in number to an estimated10,000 pairs by the 1950s.
Hunting, land clearing and accidental poisoning (eagles often ate toxic meat set out by ranchers to kill wolves and other predators) contributed to the decline.
In 1940, Congress jumped to the fore with the Bald Eagle Protection Act that stated, “The bald eagle isno longer a mere bird of biological interest but a symbol ofthe American ideals of freedom.”
But the introduction of DDT in 1945 dealt the animal acritical blow and by 1963, only 417 baldeagle nesting pairs were found in the lower 48.
Today, with about 7,678 pairs of bald eagles in the lower 48, the bird awaits a final OK to be taken off the ESA’s threatened list.
Status: Threatened, awaiting removal from list
Year declared endangered: 1940
Lowest count in lower 48 states: 417 nesting pairs
* Smithsonian Magazine Story
* American Bald Eagle Foundation
Sunday, September 18, 2005
The National Gallery in Washington, DC is opening an exhibit on Audubon's Birds of America September 25 - April 2, 2006. Yesterday, I happened to be at the gallery and stumbled into the exhibit. I guess they have it up early as it seems ready to go and folks are looking at it. It is not to be missed! How wonderful to look at original prints in their glorius detail. The details on the feathers and the layers and creative washes of paint Audubonn instructed his colorists to use are incredible. There is also one oil painting that Audubon painted and owned until he died of an Osprey carrying a Weakfish. It gives me new respect for the plumage of the Turkey - the first print in the series and a new respect for the artist. This man knew birds on a level of detail that I can only describe as intimate. Check it out at --
On a similar vein, looks like GE has bought permission to use a copy of Audubon's Short Billed Dowitchers or Red-Breasted Snipe in one of their ads. I'm very disappointed. You can see it here, and it is in the NY Times Magazine for Sunday, Sept. 18. http://www.ge.com/images/audubon1280.jpg
Note the airplane in the background and the latin name they use for the bird. Very disappointing. I hate greenwashing.
The picture next to this blog is a Stellar's Jay, I took the picture in Yosemite National Park 10 days ago. What a handsome fellow!
Saturday, September 17, 2005
A SWIFT NIGHT OUT is a continent-wide effort to raise awareness about and encourage interest in Chimney Swifts and Vaux's Swifts. The project was originally inspired by John Connors with the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh, North Carolina.
As summer draws to a close and the swifts have finished raising their young, these aerial acrobats begin to congregate in communal roosts prior to their migration in the fall. Some roosts may consist of an extended family group of a half a dozen birds or so, but the larger sites can host hundreds or even thousands of swifts!
Here is how it works: Spotters kept their eyes to the skies at dusk in late July and watched for areas where swifts were feeding. They looked for a tall shaft, chimney or similar structure to locate where Chimney Swifts (central to east coast) or Vaux's Swift (Pacific coast) go to roost in their area.
On one night over the weekends of August 12, 13, 14, and / or September 9, 10, 11 spotters observed the roost starting about 30 minutes before dusk and estimate the number of swifts that enter. They sent their numbers in to the North American Chimney Swift Nest Site Research Project.
The DC Birding Blog spotted a swift site around the corner of Massachusetts Ave and 3rd St, NE read here.
* Chimney Swift Webcam
* More on The Chimney Swift
How far are you willing to go for a glimpse of a private glimpse of a Penguin now that "March of the Penguins" has left you wanting so much more? The Washington Post has a guide to "Where The Wild Things Waddle."
This Land Is Their Land
The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore (Druid Hill Park; $15) has about 50 African penguins living on the zoo's Rock Island. Details: 410-366-LION
Las Vegas: Where Flamingos and Penguins live together in peace. The Flamingo Hotel has a free Wildlife Habitat replete with all kinds of exotic animals, including African penguins. Don't miss the daily penguin feedings at 8:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. Details: 800-732-2111
Far Flung Places
Antarctica, South and Central America and Australia are chief among the distant destinations where various penguin species call home.
Magdalena Island, a penguin sanctuary and rookery in Patagonia, Chile, is swarming with Magellanic penguins -- some 60,000 pairs -- who come here to do their nesting. A handful of tour operators include a stop at the Strait of Magellan island on their cruise itineraries. You can also take a day trip from Punta Arenas, Argentina; Gotolatin.com, for example, offers a daily sojourn to Magdalena and Marta islands, both part of Los Pinguinos National Monument. Cost is $62; best to go December to February. Info: 866-464-1519
You can practically live among African penguins at Boulders Beach Lodge (011-27-21-786-1758) in Simon's Town, South Africa. Penguins roam freely around the lodge and restaurant. Nightly room rates from about $58 double.
From Here To There
On Feb. 9, the National Zoo offers "Galapagos: Ecuador's Enchanted Islands," home to indigenous Galapagos penguins. The 12-day trip is $4,565 per person double, plus $845 for airfare out of Dulles. Details: 800-423-4236.
The Baltimore Aquarium offers a Nov. 1-11 trip to Botswana, where you're likely to see Jackass penguins. The price is $5,595 per person double and includes air from BWI. Details: aquarium, 410-576-3800; Classic Escapes, 800-627-1244.
On Sunday, September 18, join DC Audubon for a trip to Rock Creek Park to search for Fall migrants, including those confusing Fall warblers. We will meet at 7 a.m. in the Nature Center parking lot (the side nearest the Center; please note: the Center itself does not open until 9 a.m.).
If you do not drive, it is possible a ride can be arranged. Drivers willing to offer a ride to a non-driver in their neighborhood should indicate where they will be coming from.
The trip will run to about noon, and we will cover as many of the Park's hot spots we can in that time, including the ridge, the equitation field, the corrals and the maintenance yard. What we see depends on all of those unpredictable elements that make birding the Park so much fun. If you enjoy reading history, an account of last year's trip is online.
A supply of water, snacks, and insect repellant will certainly increase your staying power. I also highly recommend waterproof footwear. You don't know how much morning dew grass can hold until you've been on the ridge at Rock Creek.The Nature Center is on Glover Road, approximately 1/4 mile South of its intersection with Military Road, in Northwest D.C.
*Detailed directions to the park.
Many may say that Butterflies have no business on a bird blog, but these butterflies behave like birds; they migrate, they winter in a temperate climate, and now they have their very own entourage complete with Ultralight. (see also Whooping Cranes)
Every autumn, an estimated 300 million monarch butterflies head south from Canada and the northern United States to winter in California and Mexico. The journey of up to 3,000 miles can last three months. One of the major routes takes them over the Washington area.
This year, for the first time, the monarch's transcontinental migration is being tracked and filmed by a crew, using an ultralight plane to make a one-hour documentary about the butterflies, their migration and the challenges they face.
The plane, named Papalotzin, which means "little butterfly" in an Aztec language, is painted to look like a monarch butterfly. It weighs about 397 pounds, has a wingspan of about 33 feet and carries a crew of two -- one to fly and one to film.
Peak migration for the monarch occurs in late September and early October and follows a route over Maryland and the District. Monarchs usually have a life span of four to five weeks, but those that migrate live seven to eight months.
Monarchs are the only butterflies in the world that make such an arduous annual migration, a journey that the World Conservation Union has declared "an endangered migratory phenomenon," according to the World Wildlife Fund.
In winter, they live in colonies that cluster on fir trees in the pine and oyamel forests of central Mexico. But that habitat is being threatened by illegal logging and other human activities that are thinning the forests, despite the creation in 2000 of the 130,000-acre Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve.
Photo: Cathy Plume of the World Wildlife Fund and pilot Francisco "Vico" Gutierrez talk about the monarch-colored ultralight, the Papalotzin, being used to film the butterfly migration.
Friday, September 16, 2005
BIRDS AT KENILWORTH AQUATIC GARDENS
NATIONAL PUBLIC LANDS DAY
September 24, 2005
1550 Anacostia Avenue NE, Washington, DC 202/426-6905
(RAIN or SHINE – severe weather cancels)
Announcing 2 bird watching walks to be followed by a volunteer service in a variety of projects for National Public Lands Day. Projects include litter removal, pruning trees and flowerbeds and removal of invasive and exotic species.
How to participate:
Sign up for a bird walk with Denise Ryan at (202) 454-4590 or email@example.com:
Saturday, September 24, 2005
6:00 a.m. Owls, Rails and other Nocturnal Critters of KAG – all levels of birders welcome, space limited – meet in the parking lot – RSVP required
Sunrise at 6:58 a.m., low tide at 8:40 a.m.
Bring binoculars, scopes, flashlight, bug spray, drinks and snacks.
We’ll follow the sounds of the night to determine the area of the park to investigate. Bring a willingness to remain very quiet. To follow immediately with a work project – required to participate, bring gardening or work gloves if you own a pair.
8:00 a.m. Birds of KAG – all levels of birders welcome, space unlimited – please RSVP. Meet in the visitors’ center. We’ll look for fall migrants and local birds among the ponds and on the boardwalk on the marsh. Bring binoculars, scopes, hat, sunscreen, bug spray, drinks and snacks. To follow immediately with a work project – required to participate, bring gardening or work gloves if you own a pair.
1550 Anacostia Avenue NE, Washington, DC – 202/426-6905
The nearest Metro stop is Deanwood (on the Orange line)
To get to Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens by Metro…Take the Orange Line to the Deanwood Station. Take the Polk Street exit (to your left) and follow Polk to the pedestrian bridge... Cross over 295 and turn left on to Douglas Street, then proceed 2 blocks to Anacostia Avenue (you’ll see the big brown NPS sign guiding you to the Aquatic Gardens). Turn right on Anacostia Ave and walk 50 yards to the park entrance on your left.
Saturday, August 13, 2005
Scientists beware: Don't count your extinct bird species because one of them may hatch.
Several supposedly extinct birds have recently been "rediscovered," raising hopes that others not seen for ages may still be taking to the skies.
"The real message of rediscoveries is that we didn't look hard enough in the first place," said Nigel Collar of UK-based conservation group BirdLife International.
"Rediscoveries" fall into two categories, the first being birds that were written off as extinct but subsequently found.
The second includes birds not seen for decades -- often because conflict made their home range inaccessible -- but that were not necessarily considered extinct.
One of the most startling avian "resurrections" was the New Zealand storm petrel, which was positively sighted in 2003. Believed by many to be extinct, it was previously only known from fossil material and three 19th century specimens. A group of bird watchers saw the black-and-white sea birds off New Zealand's North Island in January 2003.
Also in 2003, the long-legged warbler -- not seen by experts since 1894 -- was found alive in the mountains of Fiji.
Left: Two white-winged guans rest on perches in their cage in a protected area in northern Peru. A quarter of century ago, Perus white-winged guan, a species native only to this Andean bird paradise, was considered as dead as a dodo. Discovered in 1877 by a Polish ornithologist, the birds were believed extinct for 100 years until their rediscovery in 1977 by Gustavo del Solar, a hunter-turned-conservationist who founded a special breeding project to reintroduce it to the wild.
Last year, the rusty-throated wren-babbler -- not seen for almost 60 years -- was spotted in India's Himalayan mountains.
For some experts, the "Holy Grail" of lost birds has been hoisted with the rediscovery of the ivory-billed woodpecker, a large bird with striking looks that was believed to have fallen victim to the logging industry.
The southwestern African country of Angola, which is emerging from three decades of civil war is proving to be rich in "lost birds." South African ornithologist Ian Sinclair has been to Angola four times since war ended in 2002 and has found 18 endemic species not been seen and identified by experts for decades.
"We discovered that civil war, while obviously bad for people, was good for the habitat and the environment," Sinclair told Reuters. "All of these huge coffee plantations were abandoned ... A lot more habitat is available as a result."
The group also spotted a single pair of black-tailed or slender-tailed cisticolas. These are only found in Angola and neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo and had not been seen in the wild since 1972.Swiestra's francolin -- similar to a grouse or partridge -- is the one Angolan endemic that Sinclair has yet to rediscover.
"It's only known from a single specimen collected in September 1964 in northwestern Zambia. So it's been off the map for 40 years," he said.
Also being sought is the pink-headed duck of India and Myanmar. There have been no reliable sightings since the late 1940s but there are reports of rural folk hunting it in Myanmar.
Right: Watercolour of extinct Pink-headed Duck by Bhawani Das. Painted between 1777 and 1782 for Lady Impey in India, from living bird. National Museums Liverpool
Despite the new finds, BirdLife says the overall situation of the world's birds is worsening.
In a recent report, it said more than a fifth of the planet's bird species faced extinction as humans ventured further into their habitats and introduced alien predators.
* Reuters Story
The city's Parks and Recreation Department conducted the tests months ago, but didn't announce the results for fear of destroying the image of a Shakespearean love story unfolding each year in the Public Garden.
''Each year when the swans go in, the kids immediately come to us and say, 'Which one's Romeo, and which one's Juliet?' " parks spokeswoman Mary Hines said yesterday in response to a Globe inquiry. ''It's just like one of those fairy tales; why spoil it?"
This year and last, the swans have laid eggs in the spring and then stood guard at the nest as visitors and nearby residents made regular pilgrimages, hoping to see the eggs hatch. Neither batch did. Turns out, that's because they were never fertilized by a male swan.
The news ignited something of a debate among swan spectators in the Public Garden yesterday, with some insisting the city now should buy a true Romeo and others saying the city should embrace the two as a couple.
''If these two swans are happy together, they shouldn't have to have a guy," said Emma Stokien, a 15-year-old from New York. ''It's good to have the swans as a symbol of the acceptance in Massachusetts."
* Boston Globe Story
Wednesday, August 10, 2005
The Maryland Department of Natural Resources has wrestled with the issue of invasive species for years. But, the story of the Mute Swan stands out among similar stories, mostly because many bird lovers have such affection for this beautiful, but environmentally destructive, species of swan. Here, an update on the agency’s efforts to resolve the fate of the Mute Swan in Maryland.
Despite their aesthetic appeal, mute swans can cause problems. The mute swan is native to Europe and Asia, but is an exotic species in the United States. In Maryland, a feral population of about 4,000 mute swans has become established from the original escape of five captive swans in 1962. The largest number of mute swans occurs in Talbot, Queen Annes, and Dorchester counties. Population growth and range expansion of this species has increased the number of swan-related problems for people and native wildlife.
Public opinion about mute swans is mixed. They are very large birds, measuring 56-62 inches in length. With little or no fear of humans, they are easily observed and provide opportunities for people to come in close contact with wildlife. Their vibrant orange bills with black knobs, white plumage and long, gracefully-held necks make them conspicuous. Their young, which have a dusky tinge and grayish bill, usually remain with their parents for about four months. Mute swans reside primarily in estuarine river habitats with smaller numbers on inland lakes and ponds.
Citizens frequently complain that mute swans reduce the availability of submerged aquatic vegetation, or SAV, to native wildlife, reducing recreational crabbing and fishing opportunities. Presently, we estimate that Maryland's mute swan population consumes about nine million pounds of SAV annually. Concentrations of mute swans have over-grazed bay grasses, eliminating habitats for crabs, fish, and other wetland dependent species.
In the early 1990s, a large molting flock of mute swans caused a colony of least terns and black skimmers, both state-threatened species, to abandon their nesting site on Barren Island in Dorchester County by trampling nests containing eggs and chicks. This was the only skimmer nesting colony in the Maryland portion of Chesapeake Bay. These swans also displaced nesting Forster's and common terns, declining species in Maryland. In other areas of the state, mute swans have also been documented killing mallard ducklings and Canada goose goslings.
* Maryland Department Of Natural Resources Page
Saturday, August 06, 2005
Dr. Prum was observing a male club-winged manakin. The tiny red-headed bird was hopping acrobatically from branch to branch in order to attract female manakins. And from time to time, the male would wave its wings over its back. Each time the manakin produced a loud, clear tone that sounded as if it came from a violin.
"I was just utterly stunned," Dr. Prum said. "There's literally no bird in the world that does anything that prepares you for it. It's totally unique."
Ever since, Dr. Prum has wondered how the club-winged manakin managed this feat. Now he and a former student, Kimberly Bostwick of Cornell University, believe they have solved the mystery.
Club-winged manakins rake their feathers back and forth over one another, using an acoustic trick that allows crickets to sing. While the technique is common among insects, it has never been documented before in vertebrates.
The noise-making skill of manakins first came to the attention of naturalists in the 1800's. The club-winged manakin belongs to the manakin family (Pipridae), which includes about 40 species, many of which have peculiarly shaped feathers that allowed them to make sounds.
In many species the males use the noises during their courtship displays. "Some of them pop like a firecracker, and there a couple that make whooshing noises in flight," Dr. Prum said.
Dr. Bostwick traveled to New York to study the manakin collection at the American Museum of Natural History. "I spent a lot of time playing with the feathers," she said. She noticed that next to the strangely ridged feather was another feather with a stiff, curved tip. She realized that each time a manakin shook its wings, its tip rakes across the ridges of the neighboring feather like a spoon moving across a washboard. Each time it hit a ridge, the tip produced a sound. The tip would strike each ridge twice - once as the feathers collided and once as they moved apart again.
Dr. Bostwick realized that this raking movement allowed a wing to produce 14 sounds during each shake. As a result, a bird could shaking its wings 100 times a second could produce a sound with a frequency of 1,400 cycles a second. "All the questions that hadn't made any sense just clicked into place," Dr. Bostwick said. (More from the NY TIMES)
* Cornell Press Release
Popular birding sites across the country, are facing stricter regulations -- in some cases being required to hire a police escort -- as authorities beef up national security.
Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Americans have been subject to increased government restrictions and scrutiny at airports and elsewhere. That bird-watchers have become a target is somewhat surprising, since all they do is ''walk quietly through the woods," as Brinkley put it.
But those woods are often around military bases, wastewater management plants, and dams -- places where government authorities fear that terrorists disguised as birders could lurk or strike.
And the equipment they carry -- binoculars, telescopes, and cameras -- can make birders look suspicious at first glance.
Birding at the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel used to require only an annual permit that was easily available via mail, telephone, or fax; about 800 were distributed annually. To enter any of the three northern islands, which are not open to the public, a birder would only have to show the permit, a photo ID, and vehicle registration. The southernmost island, which has a restaurant and a fishing pier, is open to the public.
''Anyone could stop [on the islands]. We had no idea who was on the islands and who was not," said Clement Pruitt, director of operations and chief of police for the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel.
But earlier this year, after Virginia's Department of Transportation determined that the ventilation buildings on each of the four islands were poorly secured, fences were erected around the buildings, and the three northern islands were closed to all but employees.
Under the rules, which took effect Friday, individuals or groups of no more than 15 people will have to arrange their visits in advance and pay $50 an hour to be escorted by an off-duty police officer. Upon arrival, all birders must provide photo identification and vehicle registration. Their belongings and vehicles may be examined at check-in and at any time during the visit.
''These sorts of national security issues seem to be intruding in ways one would never have expected. You expect airline security. You don't expect it when you go birding. Who knew you'd have a police escort?" said Perry Plumart, director of conservation advocacy for the American Bird Conservancy. (LA TIMES article via Boston Globe)
* The Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel Website
Friday, July 29, 2005
The District of Columbia Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy Planning Workshop
The workshop is a progress update on the District of Columbia Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy and a chance to solicit input on necessary conservation actions.
The District of Columbia Fisheries and Wildlife Division is developing a comprehensive Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy for the District to guide the actions of the Division and their partners in the conservation of wildlife species of Greatest Conservation Need over the next 10 years. These species of Greatest Conservation Need include 150+ species at risk in the District of Columbia and are primarily declining nongame wildlife, threatened or endangered species, and rare species.
The DC Fisheries and Wildlife identified the key 14 habitats that support these 150+ species. These key wildlife habitats form the basis of the District of Columbia’s Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy. Fourteen key wildlife habitats have been described and mapped. The wildlife species of Greatest Conservation Need supported by each key habitat have been identified. The major threats to these habitats have been identified and a draft list of conservation actions has been made. These conservation actions are the core functions that are to be implemented to conserve the species of Greatest Conservation Need.
Saturday, July 30, 2005 (1:00 pm – 4:00 pm)
Aquatic Resources Education Center
2600 Anacostia Drive, SE
Washington, DC 20020(202) 581-2560
N. Wayne Hale, the deputy manager of the shuttle program after fielding questions about the Shuttle was asked about the fate of the bird that was struck by the shuttle's external tank during liftoff.
``We've never see a bird strike in the program before,'' Hale said.
The nose cone of the orange external tank struck the large bird just 2.5 seconds after launch. Luckily, Mr. Hale said, the bird slid off of the side of the tank opposite the shuttle and posed no hazard to the Discovery. He said that the incident was especially surprising because the shuttle program had always assumed that the roar of launching would scare birds away, but "this guy didn't clear the area."
Mr. Hale added that some NASA employees wondered what kind of bird it was and have searched for the remnants on the launch pad, but have found nothing. In the launching pictures, he said, "We pretty clearly see him going into the plume - and I don't know if we'll ever know." And he grimaced.
NASA also is studying whether anything can be done to prevent collisions with wildlife.(Reuters/New York Times)
What kind of bird was it? The New Scientist says it may have been an osprey or a turkey buzzard.
Thursday, July 21, 2005
Researchers found that about 25 percent of the black rosy-finch hatchlings found in this and two other nests were not sired by the male feeding and guarding them—proof that the female had not been monogamous.
Blood samples were taken from the nestlings and the male parent and then using microsatellite DNA fingerprinting—a method used to determine paternity in animals—researchers determined that the samples suggested the female had been visiting neighboring males for sneaky copulations.
This behavior was supported by samples later taken from other black rosy-finch nests, with around 25 percent of chicks sired by males other than the female's nesting mate. For the first time this bracketed female rosy-finches with a range of other birds, from flamingoes to sparrows, that also "play" away from home. Read more from National Geographic.
If the challenge holds up, it would undermine not only a scientific triumph - the rediscovery of a resplendent bird that had been exhaustively sought for years - but also significant new conservation expenditures in the region.
The paper questioning the discovery has been submitted to a peer-reviewed journal, which could post the analysis online within a few weeks. But the paper will be accompanied by a fierce rebuttal by the team that announced the discovery, and a response to that rebuttal by the challengers.
But only the video was potentially solid enough to confirm for the wider ornithological community the existence of the bird, the authors said in various statements at the time.
Everyone agrees that the bird that appears on the tape is either an ivory-billed woodpecker or a pileated woodpecker, a slightly smaller bird that is relatively common. Both species have a mix of white and black plumage. However, the ivory-billed woodpecker has a white trailing edge to its wings while the pileated woodpecker has a black trailing edge.
The team that conducted the original search for the bird ran extensive tests, including recreating the scene captured in video using flapping, hand-held models of the two types of woodpecker. They concluded that the plumage patterns seen in the grainy image could only be that of the ivory-billed woodpecker.
The authors of the new paper disagree.
* New York Times Story
Tuesday, July 19, 2005
A major source of chemical contamination in the Arctic turns out to be bird droppings. Wind currents and human activities long have been blamed for fouling the pristine Arctic. But a study by a group of Canadian researchers found that the chemical pollution in areas frequented by seabirds can be many times higher than in nearby regions.
Scientists report in Friday's issue of the journal Science that the ponds, which receive falling guano from a colony of northern fulmars that nest on the cliffs, have highly elevated amounts of chemicals. More from the Washington Post.
Hog Island, Maine, July 18, 2005 – For the first time in Maine’s recorded history, Audubon biologists have discovered endangered Least Terns nesting on an island rather than their historic preference of nesting on mainland sandy beaches. Eighteen nests are confirmed and several additional pairs of terns are setting up territories on Stratton Island, in Saco Bay, an Audubon-owned property protected by the Society’s Seabird Restoration Program. Stratton Island was already notable for providing habitat for the greatest diversity of waterbird species in Maine, and this event only confirms the island’s significance as an Important Bird Area.
More from Audubon.
Thursday, June 09, 2005
The Delaware Bay is their final "re-fueling" stop on the way north, where they beef up for the long flight ahead and put on extra weight for nesting, the birds need the crab eggs to sustain them through the remaining leg of their long migration north, some 4,000 miles.
Overharvesting of the crabs for use as bait in conch and eel pots has meant a less bountiful take for the birds which longterm could be detrimental to the species. A study conducted by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection predicts the Red Knot could face extinction in 5 years, read the Reuter's story.
* Act now to help save the Red Knots
* Audubon calls for emergency action
* More info on Red Knott
Monday, June 06, 2005
TONIGHT: Tuesday, June 7, 2005
Location: National Geographic Society, 1600 M St. NW.
Notes: Event starts at 6 p.m., film screening at 6:30 p.m.
Q & A follows the screening.
Friday, June 03, 2005
Courtesy: The Nature Conservancy
Best for Birders:
Nanjemoy Creek provides a nesting home to one of the largest great blue heron colonies on the East Coast. Approximately 1,000 pairs of herons return each year on or around Valentine's Day to bring in the next generation of this species--the East Coast's largest wading bird, standing four feet tall with a six-foot wing span.
The Fraser Preserve boasts about 110 species of birds, including 39 nesting species and the bald eagle. Among the nesting birds are the red-shouldered hawk, ruby-throated hummingbird, downy woodpecker, scarlet tanager, and blue-gray gnatcatcher. There are also over 300 varieties of wildflowers. The natural habitats found in the Piedmont region, include clear fast streams, lush cold-spring swamp, marsh, mature hardwood forests, open meadow, ponds, river and stream floodplain forests and thickets, steep rocky bluffs, springs and seeps, and various stages of old field succession. The terrain slopes toward the Potomac River, which forms the northern boundary of the preserve.
At Helena's Island Preserve bird species far outnumber mammals and reptiles. Solitary sandpipers, ospreys, teal, mallards, and mergansers can be seen during the spring and fall migration. A number of species regularly visit or inhabit the island, including American redstart, northern parula, Carolina chickadee, green-backed heron and spotted sandpiper.
Blackwater River Preserve has one of the best remaining examples of an ancient baldcypress forest in the Southeast. Biologists estimate that some trees at this preserve are more than 800 years old. The prothonotary warbler as well as various other species pass through here.
Bear Island/Potomac Gorge, a natural monument in the shadow of national monuments, The Potomac Gorge—the 15-mile section of the Potomac River from above Great Falls south to Theodore Roosevelt Island—is one of the most significant natural areas in the entire National Park System. The Potomac Gorge site includes the well-known Billy Goat Trail- 2 miles of strenuous hiking. Access to the site is controlled by the National Park Service, who manages C&O Canal National Historical Park.
Artist Claremont Pritchard, 1968
In 1934, our nation discovered its natural bounty had limits as the continental population of waterfowl reached its lowest point in recorded history—approximately 27 million birds.
Through the Federal Duck Stamp Program, conservationists, artists, hunters and the federal government joined forces to conserve our country's natural resources.
Since 1934, revenues from the sale of Federal Duck Stamps have been used to acquire millions of acres of natural habitat for America's waterfowl in the National Wildlife Refuge System. The National Postal Museum has an exhibit of the stamps that have been part of the Federal Duck Stamp program at the Jeanette Cantrell Rudy Gallery. The exhibit explores the history of rare and collectible Federal Duck Stamps created as part of the conservation program. You can see the Postal Museum exhibit online.
Blackwater at Dawn
Photograph by Peter Essick
Population in the estuary's watershed, which includes parts of six states and the District of Columbia, has doubled in a generation, from 8 million to 16 million, compromising solitude as well as water quality. No one had illusions that the work of the Chesapeake Bay Program, a massive federal-state restoration effort, begun in 1983 and unmatched anywhere in the world, would be quick or easy. But no one anticipated that 22 years later it would still be struggling. National Geographic features the Bay's struggle.
Interactive Map of the Chesapeake.
Swimming At Their Own Risk In East Baltimore
Photograph by Peter Essick
Tuesday, May 31, 2005
Last summer, up to 60 gulls died on the highway every day.
Concerned about the potential for serious car accidents, the state Department of Transportation has called on wildlife officials to shoot some of the 5,000 gulls on the south island of I-64's Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel. The road carries more than 100,000 cars a day during peak summer months. More from The Washington Post.
Wednesday, May 11, 2005
The striking bird, last seen in 1944, has been rediscovered in the Big Woods area of Arkansas, scientists and conservationists reported in late April.
Since early 2004 there have been several independent sightings, including one caught on videotape, of one or more of the birds, Fitzpatrick said.
That video of the bird's 3-foot wingspan and distinctive black-and-white markings confirmed the presence of the creature that seemed to have vanished after logging destroyed its habitat.
The ivory-billed woodpecker, one of the largest such birds in the world, is one of six North American bird species thought to have become extinct since 1880. The bird ranged widely across the southeastern United States at one time.
Once sought by Indians who believed that its bill possessed magical powers, the bird also was hunted for its feathers so they could adorn women's hats. Loss of habitat was its main threat, however.
Washington Post Articles:
*Woodpecker Thought Extinct Rediscovered
*Ark. Man Recalls Finding Rare Woodpecker
*Extinct? After 60 Years, Woodpecker Begs to Differ
*Rare Woodpecker's Home Remote, Dangerous
*Delta Towns Hope Woodpecker Brings Riches
* Ark. Bird Festival Revamped for Woodpecker
*Tim Gallagher, author, The Grail Bird: Hot on the Trail of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker.
The Naturalist Society conducts a free walk for beginning birders every Saturday morning.
Listen to the walk through the park on NPR.
For more information, visit Audubon Naturalist Society website.
Directions and tentative spots to visit:
Directions: From the DC area, get on Rte. 50 heading east. Cross the Bay Bridge. Once on the Eastern Shore, take Rte. 301 northeast (this splits off from Rte. 50). Go about 34 miles from this point and turn right on Rte. 300.which runs east through farmland. Go 15 miles to Kenton, Delaware. At the traffic light in Kenton go right on Del. 42, which ends after 9 miles in Leipsic, crossing Rte. 13 en route. (Be very careful in Delaware, there are lots of speed traps in these towns). Go left (north) in Leipsic on Rte. 9 1.5 miles to the Bombay Hook entrance sign and turn right. We will meet at the Visitor's Center.
After Bombay Hook, we will head south to Little Creek and in the town take a left at the Post Office onto Port Mahon Rd. The next stop farther south will be to Pickering Beach which is a few miles south and a left off of Rte. 9 onto Pickering Beach Rd.
If you have a car and can help carpool, please let me know. If you need a ride, please let me know that as well, so I can try to make sure everybody who needs a ride has one. For carpooling, we will meet at the Bread and Chocolate café/bakery on Capitol Hill at the corner of 7th and Pennsylvania Ave SE at 7 am. If you prefer to meet at Bombay Hook, we should be at the Visitor’s Center by 10 am. We will caravan from one place to the next over the course of the day.
Sunscreen and insect repellent will certainly add to your birding pleasure in these marshy areas. Lunch or snacks and plenty of water are a good idea, too.
If you plan to come or need more information call me at 202-277-1365 or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tuesday, April 26, 2005
Come Celebrate International Migratory Bird Day
Saturday, April 30 to Thursday, May 5
Saturday, April 30 and Sunday, May 1 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
- "Superbirds!" special, live theatre program for school groups on May 3, 4, and 5.
Showtimes 10 a.m. and 1 p.m., daily.
- Book signing and lecture by David Sibley—May 2, 7:30 p.m. Lecture will be "Birdwatching in the 21st Century" where he will talk about illustrating and writing the Sibley Guides to Birds and the joys and challenges of birding and bird conservation.
- Flying WILD Teacher Workshop, Saturday, April 30 from 9 a.m. to noon
- DC Audubon Society will be and exhibitor
Monday, April 25, 2005
* Story from Bird Life International
Earth Conservation Corps
Earth Conservation Corps and EarthCam bring you a real-time view of an osprey nest located on the Anacostia River in Washington, D.C. The nest, which looks like a huge pile of sticks, is on a pier under the Frederick Douglass Bridge and is occupied by two chicks and their parents.
The Earth Conservation Corps' Osprey Nest webcam is part of an educational, youth media project funded by the National Geographic Education Foundation. Fifth-grade students from Neval Thomas Elementary in Northeast Washington are following Earth Conservation Corps members on their field studies of raptors on the Anacostia River, and plan to use the webcam as part of an on-going, five-year study of birds of prey on the river.
Police say that so far this year, more than half the murders in Washington were committed there -- earning Anacostia a reputation as one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in America.
The Earth Conservation Corps recruits young people from Anacostia to join the last thing most of them ever considered -- an environmental program.
Saving both the river and the neighborhood is the goal of a group that teaches young people about the environment, and uses that experience in an effort to change the neighborhood and their lives, Ed Bradley reports.
Tuesday, April 19, 2005
Photo from birdingamerica.comJoin DC Audubon on Sunday, May 1, for a visit to Pennyfield Lock on the C & O Canal. Meet at the lock parking lot at 7 a.m. Directions are below but please bring a map since odometer readings may vary.
We expect Spring migration to be in full swing by then, and we'll enjoy the song and color of Orioles, Tanagers, Vireos, Warblers, and others. Our walk will start from the lock parking area and proceed slowly up the canal towpath (west) to around milepost 21, the "Seneca breaks," where we'll pause to enjoy the view of the Potomac River. We'll return by the same route. Total walking distance is around 2.5 miles. Bring water and a lunch or snacks if so inclined. Insect repellant and sunscreen highly recommended; the path is level but can be rocky so sturdy footwear is advised. We should be back to our cars by around noon.
If you intend to participate, visit the DC Audubon Site to RSVP
All replies should include a phone number where you can be reached the evening before the trip, should a last-minute weather postponement be necessary. The leader will attempt to put those in need of rides in touch with those willing to offer them. Please indicate in your reply if you would be willing to offer a ride to a birder near you who needs one, and the general vicinity you'll be coming from.
DIRECTIONS: From the Beltway (I-495) take River Road (exit 39) west 3.3 miles to Potomac. From the intersection with Falls Road (2nd traffic light), continue on River Rd. another 5.1 miles to Pennyfield Lock Road on the left. Take this road to the very end, bearing left at the bottom of the hill, and continuing to a small parking lot where a gated road leads to the lock just east.
Monday, April 18, 2005
Virginia Beach is teaming up with community groups and animal activists, including an unlikely alliance with Norfolk-based People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, to help curb the geese population and usher them out of the city and elsewhere.
Tactics include: searching for goose eggs and rendering them unhatchable and scaring the birds from Mount Trashmore's lakes.
Two years ago, the city contracted with the Department of Agriculture to trap and kill or shoot an undetermined number of Canada geese and ducks at Trashmore.
The effort brought protests from residents and animal-rights groups and led to what some hope becomes a model for the rest of the region, thus bringing about the development of the new methods.
* The Virginian-Pilot Story
Wednesday, April 13, 2005
Birdsong, by Don Stap, details the work and passions of people who analyze the sounds of birds. Stap followed Kroodsma from the lab into the field to write his account of the researcher at work.
Listen to the NPR story
Why is everyone aflutter over Birdsong? Birdsong may reveal clues to brain function. Listen for more on NPR.
With warm weather predicted for the next few days leading up to peak strawberry season and the Ponchatoula Strawberry Festival set for Friday through Sunday, farmers in Tangipahoa and Livingston parishes said the only challenge left is to keep the berries out of the birds' bellies.
Unfortunately for that farmer and his strawberries, cedar waxwings are protected by the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918. Anyone caught shooting them could face up to six months in jail and a fine up to $15,000 for the misdemeanor, said Philip Siragusa, special agent with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Lafayette.
Cedar waxwings pose an annual threat, traveling the South in flocks in search of fleshy berries. But many growers said the feathered fruit eaters have stuck around longer than normal this winter.
More From The Times-Picayune
LIsten to the story on NPR
Sunday, April 10, 2005
Its name in Spanish is "mirlo primavera" which means spring blackbird. The robin is one of the first birds to sing in the morning and is one of the last to be heard at night. The male is most vocal, usually singing from high points in the morning and during courtship.
The duck, a brown mallard with white markings, has had several names suggested by Treasury Department people, including "Quacks Reform," "T-Bill," and "Duck Cheney." It has built a nest in a mulch pile right at the main entrance to the Treasury Department on Pennsylvania Avenue.
The Secret Service's uniformed division, which provides protection for the White House and Treasury building, has set up metal guard rails to protect the nest, which has attracted the notice of tourists on their way to see the White House. (CNN/AP Story)