Tuesday, August 31, 2010

review of new field guide: Birds of Australia

The new Eighth Edition of The Birds of Australia (Princeton University Press) is an innovative example of a field guide with features not found in many other books. Ken Simpson and Nicolas Day, with Peter Trusler have produced a book that raises the bar for the next generation of birding field guides. The 132 color plates are excellent, detailed range maps are what we've come to expect - but what sets this book apart is its superb scheme of organization, including the following unique elements:
a) A section on vegetation and land form habitats of Australia, called "where the birds live".
b) Breeding information, organized by family, with the calendar year detailing the month in which the groups described are known to breed. Australia's birds are closely tied in many cases to seasonal rainy periods, but there are months in which the species primarily breed, and then for some a secondary breeding period.
c) The "Vagrant Bird Bulletin" focusing on the rarest species.
d) A set of Australian Island territories bird checklists, for islands not yet visited by most birders, and needing more information.
e) A useful set of Appendices, including an excellent "Hints for Birdwatchers", and a Glossary.
f) A list of birding and naturalist organizations, and
g) a bibliography the authors call "The Core Library" arranged by important topics.
All in all, this is one of the best guides I've yet seen. The successive editions have exhibited continual improvement.

Friday, August 27, 2010

news: pesticide being phased out, plus new reports from the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment

The pesticide Aldicarb, which has been implicated in bird mortality, is being phased out as part of new EPA rules - read more at this link. The American Bird Conservancy has more information on their website.


The most recent reports from the massive undertaking known as the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment can be found here.

Friday, August 13, 2010

extraordinary people

********* I had the privilege of working with some extraordinary people this summer. I don't want to embarrass them, so I won't say too much. But part of the reason it was worth going into the field every day was because I was working with them: Amber McDougle, Hasan Damra, and Arik Skromme. Thanks to all three of you, for a month of days in the sun and wind, and rain and hail!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

MCAMMP and The Milwaukee BIOME Project for autumn 2010

MCAMMP and the Milwaukee BIOME project are firing up again for autumn - in fact, we didn't really shut down at all this summer. In addition to our bird banding at Milwaukee's Riverside Park, transect counts for migratory birds on eight study sites, and other aspects of the projects we're working on, we've been doing bat surveys also this year, in conjunction with the Wisconsin Bat Monitoring Program (see their website here ). If you're interested in learning more, see the Milwaukee BIOME Project webpage, (here), or contact me at iltlawas@earthlink.net , Tim Vargo at Milwaukee's Urban Ecology Center at tvargo@urbanecologycenter.org , or Owen Boyle at the Wisconsin DNR at owen.boyle@wisconsin.gov , or Jenn Callaghan at jenncallaghan@gmail.com .

Monday, August 9, 2010

the next steps: where do we go with lead?

A news article in the New York Times, linked here, describes efforts to get the EPA to ban lead in all hunting ammunition and fishing tackle. A petition from the Center for Biological Diversity and the American Bird Conservancy seeks this change from EPA, based on evidence of lead poisoning in many species. Lead shot is already banned for hunting waterfowl, and recent legislation in California does that for ammunition for big game, within the range of the California Condor. There are many studies that show the harmful or indeed lethal effects of accidental ingestion of lead bullet fragments in deer and other carcasses (or the "gut piles" left after field dressing of game animals) by eagles and other raptors, and accidental ingestion of lead tackle in waters by Trumpeter Swans and loons.

Opponents of such regulatory changes assert that saving individual animals is not meaningful in terms of "population level effects" - in other words, they contend that populations of Bald Eagles and Trumpeter Swans and loons are not significantly affected by lead poisoning, so regulating against such potential poisoning is not clearly in the interests of conservation of wildlife populations. But there are other issues at stake. Many view the evolution of regulatory efforts on behalf of wildlife as heading in the direction of "doing the right thing" - even if it isn't always (or only) based on science. I would suggest that learning all that one can learn on this topic is wise - voting, referenda, and accurate determinations by state and federal regulators will depend on their (and our) level of preparedness and knowledge. If you feel strongly about this - let your legislators know. What do you think - is it really time to consign the use of lead to the history books?