Monday, September 26, 2005

National Parks for Sale?

A trip to Roosevelt Island includes this scenic 1/2 mile walk
through the swamp forest on the recycled material boardwalk.
(NPS Photo)

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

More Info:

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

Rally for the Arctic draws large crowd

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.

Denise Ryan

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Saving The Symbol

USFWS photo

The Smithsonian Magazine takes a look at endangered species, like our nation's symbol, the Bald Eagle, that have been given a second chance thanks to tough laws, dedicated researchers, and are making their way 'back from the brink.'

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
* U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Website
* Listen and learn about the Baby Baldies

Endangered Species Act Endangered?

Congress is considering proposed changes to the 32-year-old Endangered Species Act that would get the government out of the business of setting aside critical habitat for threatened plants and animals.

That would eliminate a central element of the landmark law.

An overhaul of the Endangered Species Act, proposed by Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Calif., was going before the House Resources Committee on Wednesday. Pombo, the committee's chairman, wants his panel to vote on it Thursday and he hopes the full House will consider it next week.

Environmentalists fear that eliminating the government's ability to establish critical habitat would take away a key to species survival.

*Read more in the Washington Post story

Sunday, September 18, 2005

National Gallery Exhibit & General Electric

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.
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!

Denise Ryan
DC Audubon

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Twas A Swift Night Out

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

March To The Penguins

(P1 Photo Courtesy Dreamworks Animation
Skg/penguin Photo Courtesy Edinburgh Zoo)

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;, 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.

Sunday Field Trip To Rock Creek Park

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.
*RSVP here

Mexico Bound Monarchs Picks Up Ultralight Hitchhiker

(By Marvin Joseph -- The Washington Post)

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.

* Read more from The Washington Post
* Tracked the journey at

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

Owls Rails and Nocturnal Birds of KAG

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

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.