Wednesday, February 27, 2008

conservation news 2-27

See the latest video from the American Bird Conservancy here, with information on the Grenada Dove, and the proposed removal of carbofuran from the market.


News about the recently-formed Shorebird Research Group of the Americas can be found at their website. World-wide declines in many shorebird species have prompted a global approach to shorebird conservation.


Recent decisions to open the Chukchi Sea to oil drilling could threaten many seabirds, in addition to polar bears. Learn more at the BirdLife International webpage devoted to this issue.

Monday, February 25, 2008


According to the Arctic Climatology and Meteorology glossary (find it here), the term "hoarfrost" is defined as:

"A deposit of interlocking ice crystals (hoar crystals) formed by direct sublimation on objects, usually those of small diameter freely exposed to the air, such as tree branches, plant stems and leaf edges, wires, poles, etc., which surface is sufficiently cooled, mostly by nocturnal radiation, to cause the direct sublimation of the water vapor contained in the ambient air."

Of course this is a superb definition. But it does not tell you anything about beauty. For that, you need your eyes and brain and all that you have ever learned and felt. And all I can do is share this photo (click on the photo to see it in a larger size) with you, and tell you that it was magnificent. (Sax-Zim Bog, St. Louis County, MN; Feb. 24, 2008).

Friday, February 22, 2008

the shopping and bird conservation connection

Go to this link at the Boreal Songbird Initiative's website to link to the Natural Resources Defense Council's "Shop Smart - Save Birds" shopping guide. Instead of me telling you more about it, go to the link - it'll save us both a lot of time. Suffice it to say - it's worth the few seconds of effort involved.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

urban raptor observations

Last night, while walking up to the house at 1:20 am (on the way home from second shift), I saw my old friend, my neighborhood Great Horned Owl. He does not make his presence known very frequently, but I have heard him for a number of years, during all seasons. This was, however, the first time I have ever actually seen him (and I do think it is a male, judging from size). There are plenty of rabbits in this very urban setting, surprisingly enough, so I imagine he is doing alright.

Then today, I had an immature Cooper's Hawk catch, kill and eat a Mourning Dove right outside my window. This is the 3rd COHA I've seen here in the last two weeks (all different birds, two adults, one of each sex, and this big immature female today), but the first time I am sure that one of these accipiters "connected". I have mostly Mourning Doves and House Sparrows attending my feeder, rarely a few starlings, and only one cardinal, one time, within months. I don't attempt to dissuade the House Sparrows here, despite my aversion to their invasive habits and effects on native cavity-nesters. Here in this inner-city Milwaukee neighborhood, there are no native cavity-nesters for them to interfere with! So I leave them be. I think the COHAs are more interested in the doves: a bigger and better meal. Which leaves the House Sparrow tribe with not much to fear. The day before yesterday, one of the COHAs (a smallish adult male) was perched right on the edge of the porch railing for quite a few minutes. Within about 5 minutes of his departure, all of the passerines and doves returned. They kept lifting their heads to gaze nervously in the direction he went, though --- so fear must be a grand motivator of behavior even for these sparrows. After all, how would they know the COHAs really want mostly to eat the doves?

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

court order cell tower safeguards for migrating birds

This news is from the Bird Conservation Alliance listserv:

"Federal Court Orders Cell Tower Safeguards for Migrating Birds
Decision could save millions of birds killed each year in tower collisions

Washington, DC (February 19, 2008) – A federal court of appeals today issued a ruling ordering the Federal Communications Commission to carefully evaluate the potential adverse effects of communications towers on migratory bird populations of the Gulf Coast region. A panel of federal judges ruled that national environmental laws like the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act require the FCC to more carefully consider these possible adverse effects in its tower permitting process.

“We are very pleased by today’s ruling which will require the FCC to assess the environmental impacts of towers,” said Darin Schroeder, American Bird Conservancy’s Executive Director of Conservation Advocacy. “Given the large number of bird deaths caused by towers, an environmental review is long overdue. This is a huge victory for migratory birds and the millions of Americans who love to see them each year.”

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates between five million and fifty million birds are killed each year in collisions and other accidents caused by communications towers. In its decision, the court criticized the FCC for refusing to consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service when approving such towers.

The court also said the FCC failed to sufficiently involve the public in its tower approval process.

“The Catch-22 … is that the Commission provides public notice of individual tower applications only after approving them,” the court wrote in its decision.

Tens of thousands of communication towers dot landscapes across the country. In Texas alone, there are over 10,000 of these towers. Each month, the FCC receives more than 20 new applications for tower construction.

The situation is critical along the Gulf Coast where thousands of communications towers dot the 1,000-mile stretch of coastline between Pt. Isabel, Texas and Tampa Bay, Florida. Towers along this major migratory bird route threaten many different bird species. Exhausted from their journey across the Gulf of Mexico, these migrating songbirds collide with towers or the accompanying guy wires. In some cases, the birds confuse the blinking lights atop the cell towers with the night stars they use to navigate their journey. The birds become disoriented and begin circling the tower until they collapse from exhaustion and plummet to the ground.

The public interest law firm Earthjustice brought the case to federal court on behalf of the American Bird Conservancy. Earthjustice attorneys argued that FCC violated federal law by approving dozens of new towers each year with little or no environmental review.
“The court has clearly directed the FCC to respect national environmental laws when handing out permits for these tower.” said Earthjustice attorney Steve Roady. “FCC now must go back and carefully evaluate the environmental impacts of these towers.”

A copy of the decision can be found at

conservation news (and some other items)

Efforts to help the Cerulean Warbler resulted in some positive results in 2007. See this page at the website of the Bird Conservation Alliance, to learn more.


Additional recent news from the Bird Conservation Alliance is here.

Recent news from the American Bird Conservancy is at this page.


Read about the conservation work and related research at the Edward Grey Institute of Field Ornithology at Oxford at their conservation page.

Not conservation-related at all...but one of my absolute favorite birds is Harlan's Hawk. To see some excellent discussion and photos of a bird we in Wisconsin almost never see (at least not IN Wisconsin!), go to this post on Bill Schmoker's blog.

citizen science research with many uses, and other news

If you have not heard about the Great Backyard Bird Count, you are surely missing out on a citizen-science research project with a multitude of uses and applications. Go here, to learn more about it.

Whether or not you participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count, you can see the results very quickly. One excellent way to visualize the distribution and abundance of birds right now is to look at the maps that result from these data. Go to the maproom.

Click in the box for the species list, and scroll down until you get to the species you are interested in. In the next drop-down list, choose the year (you can look at the data for previous years, as well, of course...but I am interested in the current year, so I am choosing 2008 in this instance)

Then go to the next drop-down list, and click on Great Lakes Region (or any other region you are curious about).

Then click on "View Map", and wait a few seconds for the map to be displayed. If you wait a couple of days, you'll get the map for the entire Great Backyard Bird Count period. If you look today, you'll get the data/map for the results entered up to the last 30 minutes.

Fascinating to see where the Pine and Evening Grosbeaks are this year, for example. The northeastern states and New England have large numbers of both.

Remember that there can be errors in these data! Some beginning backyard birders may misidentify birds. Many people who do this for the first time mix up two species. Lots of folks for example, tell me that they have a "Red-headed Woodpecker" in their yard, when what they REALLY have is a Red-bellied Woodpecker (---surely an easy mistake for beginners to make, considering the amount of red on the heads of these two species), etc.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

ethics and climate change

This review was published on the Enviroethics e-mail listserv today:

By James Garvey: The Ethics of Climate Change - right and wrong in a warming world

'The Ethics of Climate Change is a model of philosophical reasoning about one of the greatest moral challenges any generation has ever faced. If you don't yet know why you should be morally outraged about the present situation, read this book. Calmly, carefully, with well-marshalled facts and sound argument, Garvey shows us just how badly the nations of the industrialized world - and the citizens of those nations - are behaving. He also tells us what we need to do about it.'
Peter Singer, Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics, Princeton University, USA

This review was written by Alison Silver:

"In this book, James Garvey argues that the ultimate rationale for action on climate change cannot be simply economic, political, scientific or social, though no doubt our decisions should be informed by such things. Instead, climate change is largely a moral problem. What we should do about it depends on what matters to us and what we think is right."

"The changes to our planet are already having disastrous effects on the lives of many plants and animals. It's not just the poster boys for climate change, polar bears and mountain gorillas, which are in danger. According to a report in Nature, anything between 15 to 37 percent of all plant and animal species could be locked into extinction by 2050 as a result of climate change. We know from the fossil record that we are now living through the 6th major extinction event in our planet's history. The last one did in the dinosaurs."

"Human beings, too, are suffering and will continue to suffer. The Red Cross argue that as of 2001 there were as many as 25 million environmental refugees, people on the move away from dry wells and failed crops. It's larger than the number they give for people made homeless by war. One sixth of the world's population gets its water from the melting snow and ice tricking down from mountains, a source which looks set to dry up in the years to come. Industry, agriculture and homes on coasts will be adversely affected by the rising sea."

"This book considers a little climate science and a lot of moral philosophy, ultimately finding a way into the many possible positions associated with climate change. It is also a call for action, for doing something about the moral demands placed on both governments and individuals by the fact of climate change. It is a book about choices, responsibility, and where the moral weight falls on our warming world."

"James Garvey is Secretary of the Royal Institute of Philosophy, UK. He is author of The Twenty Greatest Philosophy Books (Continuum 2006) and numerous articles and reviews, mostly on the philosophy of mind and the history of philosophy."

new book on humanity's relationship with birds

Nigel Collar and his colleagues A.J. Long, P. Robles Gil, and J. Rojo have produced a new book we all should be reading. Birds and People: Bonds in a Timeless Journey "is split into five chapters looking at all aspects of human's relationship with birds". Find out more about this book at the BirdLife International website.

how it works: reminder to myself

Reminder to Myself

Say, where would you be, if only you could?

On a winding footpath, going into a wood.

But choose wisely, knowing that your days can fly by.

Don't wish away jeweled hours, longing for a different sky.

Be present, know that here and now is your time in the sun.

Don't lose touch with this moment, it is the significant one.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Debate on Bird-Killing Pesticide Continues

After you read this, write or call your congressperson. This pesticide is harmful to birds AND humans. We need to ensure that it is no longer used.

Science Panel Agrees with Pesticide Ban which Followed Millions of Bird Deaths

(Washington, D.C. – February 11, 2008) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is under pressure from a pesticide manufacturer and members of Congress to reverse an August 30, 2006 decision to cancel the registration of all uses of the highly toxic pesticide carbofuran, which is sold under the name "Furadan" by FMC Corporation. A Scientific Advisory Panel reviewed the decision last week and agreed with EPA that the pesticide poses an unreasonable risk to the environment, particularly birds, and that there was no evidence to recommend reversing EPA’s decision to cancel carbofuran.

“Those who support keeping carbofuran on the market are stating their clear indifference to conserving wildlife and to exposing workers to toxins,” said Dr. George Fenwick, President of American Bird Conservancy. “Carbofuran is harmful to human health, and one of the most deadly pesticides to birds left on the market. It is responsible for the deaths of millions of wild birds since its introduction in 1967, including Bald and Golden Eagles, Red-tailed Hawks, and migratory songbirds. EPA has already said a firm no to the continued use of this substance, and lawmakers need to listen to the experts on this.”

In its 2005 ecological risk assessment on carbofuran, EPA stated that all legal uses of the pesticide were likely to kill wild birds. If a flock of mallards were to feed in a carbofuran treated alfalfa field, EPA predicted that 92% of the birds in the flock would quickly die. EPA analysis has also confirmed that carbofuran is a threat to human health through contaminated food, drinking water, and occupational exposure.

“This is the first time in twenty years that a pesticide manufacturer has fought cancellation of a registered pesticide," said Dr. Michael Fry, Director of ABC's Pesticides and Birds Campaign. “The EPA’s decision to ban carbofuran was a huge victory for science and the environment, but despite the overwhelming scientific evidence of carbofuran's extreme toxicity and the availability of safer alternatives, the manufacturer continues to fight all efforts on the part of the EPA and conservationists to have the ban enacted. FMC Corporation needs to take the responsible course and immediately withdraw carbofuran from the market.”

“The evidence is clear; carbofuran is toxic to wildlife and people. EPA should not fold to political pressures and allow this dangerous pesticide back on the market,” said Rodger Schlickeisen, President of Defenders of Wildlife. “In 2006, more than 20,000 of our members and activists asked EPA to take carbofuran off the market. EPA made the right decision in 2006 and they should stick by that decision now.”

Sunday, February 10, 2008

environmental news, shrikes this winter, colder than here

An important online source for environmental news is the environment page, which can be found here. See recent news on climate change, effects on polar bears, whaling, forestry, and many other topics at this page.

See a discussion of Northern Shrike numbers this winter at Mike McDowell's blog. I too have been reading frequent posts about the seemingly-high numbers of shrikes this winter. They have appeared in many places away from my locations, however, since I have not yet seen a single one. But I rarely find them in Milwaukee County, in any winter. Oddly enough, I did not find any in the large area I covered on the Kewaunee CBC, where I often do see them. Lack of shrikes that day meant I missed the species for all of 2007. Looking back over old records showed me I have generally seen them in about 9 out of 10 years.


Expand your horizons with blog posts from much colder climes this year - I have especially been reading posts from The House and Other Arctic Musings, and other Nunavut Bloggers.
You think it's cold here in Wisconsin? Well, it's all relative, isn't it? This weekend it rivals some arctic locations.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

WSO Speakers Bureau, recent Big Green Big Year news, GBBC coming up

If you live in Wisconsin or near our borders, and if you are a member of a club or other organization that needs a speaker on a bird-related topic for a meeting or gathering, you can access a fine list of speakers available through the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology Speakers Bureau. A pdf of the listing is available here. Thanks to WSO Webmaster Lennie Lichter for maintaining the list. You'll find information about many experts on a wide variety of topics related to birds. Speakers come from academia, state and federal agencies, as well as including experienced individuals from/with many other backgrounds.


The list of "Bigbyists" (people doing a "Big Green Big Year") is growing - there are now more than 225 of us worldwide. Learn more here. My own BGBY is going at an excrutiatingly slow pace; I have had no time to get out in the past two weeks. Milwaukee and southeastern WI are experiencing blizzard-like conditions today, so it isn't going to happen today, either. I can count my backyard birds, though.


Speaking of backyard birds, I hope all of you plan to participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count. It's coming up, (from February 15-18), it's easy to do, and you can participate on any one or more of a number of geographic scales (your own backyard, or a larger area such as nearby park, or wildlife area). Learn more about this event at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Great Backyard Bird Count site.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

new links, new issue of electronic journal, bad news for CRP

A new portal for international conservation is available through the World Conservation Union (IUCN). See the Conservation Commons at this link.


The latest issue of the online journal Avian Conservation and Ecology is available at this link.

Scroll down to the right-hand column to find the table of contents of papers (which are all available free as pdfs).


There's bad news on the horizon for the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). This program, which has proved vitally important to grassland and "prairie pothole"-nesting birds, is at risk due to the rush to grow grain for ethanol. (And ethanol from corn is not the best way to make ethanol...). Here's a quote from the most recent Birding Community E-bulletin: "Some trends are particularly disturbing. For example, in North Dakota, new federal figures have shown that about 420,000 acres of CRP were converted back to cropland in 2007. That adds up to more than 12 percent of all CRP acres in the state. As summarized by Ducks Unlimited (DU) staff in Bismarck, 'It's as if someone plowed up a three-mile swath of wildlife habitat across North Dakota, from its southern border to Canada.

Read more about this at this link. Find previous online copies of the Birding Community e-bulletin mentioned above here.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

artists respond to climate change

Among artists currently focusing on climate change and its threats to biodiversity and other aspects of both the natural and cultural world are a Wisconsin group, the Wisconsin Art Therapy Association, in a new exhibit.

The Wisconsin Art Therapy Association—sponsored Global Warming Exhibit had its first showing in September, during three weeks at Edgewood College in Madison. The twenty-seven pieces in the exhibit then traveled to Riveredge Nature Center near Newburg, and then to Alverno College in Milwaukee. The exhibit is now on display at Marian College in Fond du Lac. The exhibit will be able to be viewed from February 11th through February 29th in the college's Dorcas Chapel as well as in the lobby of the Administration Building. See more about the Wisconsin Art Therapy Association and this exhibit here, and a link to a map and directions to Marian College, here. The opening reception will be held on Tuesday, February 12th, from 3:00 to 6:00 PM. Call Marian College for more information.

Friday, February 1, 2008

a few climate change sites

An excellent site with information to help learn more about climate change is the Climate Challenge site of the British government. See the site here.

Leading me to this site was one with a slightly different focus. The Church of England is serious about teaching its members about the effects of a changing climate, and the moral imperative of responding to climate change. See their excellent site, entitled Shrinking the Footprint, here.


On a related note, see the Daily, subtitled "the consumer's guide to the green revolution" at this link.