Thursday, October 8, 2015

Western Great Lakes Bird & Bat Observatory news

Western Great Lakes Bird & Bat Observatory news

The latest news from the Observatory:

Offshore Waterfowl/Waterbird Surveys

The offshore Great Lakes Commission waterbird survey meeting with the survey teams (which include the 4 survey contractors (W. Mueller of WGLBBO, Dr. David Luukkonen of Michigan DNR, Kevin Kenow of the USGS Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center, and Dr. Michael Monfils of  Michigan State University) took place on May 12.  This project is moving forward with a new regional proposal regarding analysis of our existing offshore data. We will prepare our own paper and submit it for publication simultaneously. Dr. Jill Hapner and I are working on the GIS and mapping, and our publication will be submitted this winter. At this time, the Great Lakes Commission will not fund additional offshore surveys - I am seeking funding elsewhere to do more surveys; each of the other survey teams are doing likewise. 

Midwest Landbird Migration Monitoring Network
Dr. Amber Roth of Michigan Technological University worked half-time for WGLBBO throughout 2014, directing the activities of the Midwest Landbird Migration Monitoring Network. Dr. Roth shepherded the development of the Network's Strategic Plan (see, which was completed and published in February of 2015. Dr. Roth and WGLBBO Director Bill Mueller submitted a proposal to the USFWS this winter to extend funding for Dr. Roth's position for an additional two years, so that she can oversee implementation of the Strategic Plan. Our first regional workshop with teams from our 8-state region during this funding period takes place Oct 21/22 at Forest Beach Migratory Preserve, our home base in Ozaukee County.

Midwest Aerial Insectivore Working Group
I am the new co-chair of the Midwest Aerial Insectivore Working Group, part of the Midwest Coordinated Bird Monitoring Partnership. The Working Group has various activities underway;
see them at:
The Working Group has a new Facebook Page - see it at:

Waterbird Watch
Our technician Calvin Brennan is now well into his fall season. He tallied 186,266 birds of 184 species at our Watch site at HBSP, during spring. Both are new high counts. Reports were submitted for publication for both the fall 2014 and spring 2015 seasons.

Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas II
This first year of the new Atlas, I did field work in a Specialty Block, which contains the Cedarburg Bog and Beech Woods. Much more to do there in 2016! I am a member of 4 of the 6 atlas committees, many of which conducted stellar work this first year of WBBAII.

Outreach and Presentations I presented at the following events:
  • •Sheboygan Audubon – The Ecology of Chimney Swifts – Feb. 12
  • Friends of Cedarburg Bog – volunteers & nestboxes event – Feb. 20
  • Fond du Lac Audubon – State of the Birds – Mar. 11
  • Wehr Nature Center – Offshore Waterfowl Research & Monitoring – Mar. 18
  • Shawn Graff and I presented at the annual Great Lakes Chapter meeting of the Society for Ecological Restoration – Mar. 28
  • BF Goss Bird Club – The Long Walk – Apr. 19
  • Shawn Graff, Dr. Gary Casper, and I presented together at the Clean Rivers, Clean Lake Conference for the Southeastern Wisconsin Watersheds Trust – Apr. 30
  • I presented atlas talks throughout WI (with Mike Reese), and a small group of colleagues did likewise. Collectively we gave 32 atlas presentations since Oct of last year - with more in the works.
  • Urban Ecology Center - the State of the Birds - Sept. 8
Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative
I serve on the Steering Committee of WBCI, and as co-chair of WBCI's Issues Committee. Our work products include the publications linked here, which are being updated this year:

Shorebird Map
We took over preparation and updating of the state Shorebird Map this year:

Board of Directors
News about our growing Board of Directors can be found at:

More news is at our website:

Sunday, October 4, 2015

The Birding Community E-Bulletin

                                     October 2015 
The Birding Community E-bulletin is distributed to active and concerned birders, those dedicated to the joys of birding and the protection of birds and their habitats.
This issue is sponsored by the producers of superb quality birding binoculars and scopes, Carl Zeiss Sport Optics:


Last month we mentioned a Slate-throated Redstart found in Arizona. It was originally reported on 21 August by a group of birders from Louisiana State University who briefly and distantly saw the bird, and the next day it was confirmed by Ron Beck. It was found about 0.6 miles up the Hunter Canyon trail in the Huachuca Mountains of Arizona. Fortunately, the warbler pretty much remained in the same area, although it was not reported every day. Though it was often difficult to find, it was positively reported through the end of September.

This species is largely resident from northern Mexico (s. Sonora and s. Tamaulipas) to southern Bolivia. Over the years, there have been fewer than 20 U.S. records of this bird, mostly from Arizona and Texas.

The most surprising thing about the Hunter Canyon Slate-throated Redstart is that it stayed in place as long as it did. Previous U.S. sightings of this species have been of much shorter duration, mostly only a day or two. (One exception was a bird that stayed for two weeks in the Chisos Mountains of Big Bend National Park, Texas, in 1990.) The Hunter Canyon bird had a relatively long visit and a late one, too, since most observations of this species in the U.S. have been made between March and June. The Hunter Canyon redstart could have been present since late July, however, when there was an unconfirmed possible sighting.

For more details on the bird with photos by Bettina Arrigoni taken on 8 September see:

What follows is a report on a rarity that almost topped our front-running Slate-throated Redstart this month. This particular story, however, has an additional happy access lesson.
On 5 September, a Brown Booby was reported by Nico Sarbanes near the famous Fort McHenry in Baltimore Harbor. Then, nothing. But almost two weeks later, two Brown Boobies - an adult and an immature - were discovered elsewhere in the harbor, by birder and water-taxi captain, Deborah Rowan. The pair of Brown Boobies could be observed from shore, perching alongside cormorants on a rope between two ships, the Denebolla and the Antares, at Locust Point. One problem was that the two cargo ships were part of the U.S. Maritime Administration's Ready Reserve Fleet, and security issues were involved. Another problem was that the ships were about a half-mile away from the closest land-based point of observation!

Soon however, birders came up with ways to obtain better views of the boobies. Access was able to be gained via regular local harbor taxis, some of which would make slight detours to allow birders some better looks. Other birders used kayaks to get closer or even obtained rides on boats belonging to generous strangers! This story - with fine photos - is recounted in The Baltimore Sun:

On 20 September, arrangements were also made to transport visitors through the Downtown Sailing Center, a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing sailing to those who would normally not be able to experience sailing due to a lack of means, disability, or other factors. The DSC made a number of trips to show visitors the boobies in exchange for contributions to support their work.

The two Brown Boobies remained through 27 September. And the adult, at least, was observed through the end of the month.

This is another fine example of a way to facilitate birder access in a way that works for everyone.

Jacob K. Javits was a well-respected politician who served as a United States Senator (R-NY) from 1957 to 1981. In his day, he held an admirable environmental voting record.
Unfortunately, the building which bears his name, the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center on the west side of Manhattan, has a less-than-stellar environmental record. With severe angles and a mirror-like facade, this NY State-owned building has been a major site for bird fatalities.

The center's five-year renovation, finished exactly one year ago, cost a half-billion dollars. An assessment is probably in order, and the center - the Big Apple's largest venue for conventions, trade shows, and special events - is today far more welcoming to birds.

Reportedly, the new glass panels imprinted with tiny patterns have reduced bird collisions and deaths by 90 percent. Additionally, the building's new green roof - the second-largest green roof on a single, free-standing building in the U.S. - has attracted many bird species as well as five species of bats.

The new glass panels, covered with tiny dots, or "fritting," were the final choice after considering 15 eco-friendly alternatives. The choice to use glass paneling sprinkled with small white dots is because apparently the dots are more easily seen by flying birds than they are by people. This feature can also naturally cool the building and, with other improvements, the energy consumption has been reduced by a reported 26 percent.

The green roof also captures rainwater, helping to deter the potential discharge of 6.8 million gallons of runoff per year into NYC waterways. The roof also apparently moderates air temperatures being drawn into the rooftop HVAC units and helps reduce temperature extremes inside the building. Beyond the songbirds that visit the roof "habitat," Herring Gulls have nested there. Last year there were six nests; this year there were 12. (Oh, yes, Canada Geese nest on the roof, too.)

New York City Audubon has even located two American Kestrel nesting boxes on the roof, along with mounting an ultrasonic acoustic recording unit, a specialized microphone, to detect bat sounds. Since this installation, five of the nine possible bat species found in New York have been recorded over the Javits Center roof. There are also three bee hives on the roof.

The building's renovation was undertaken by FXFowle Architects, whose principal, Bruce S. Fowle, is a bird enthusiast. His wife, Marcia T. Fowle, also sits on the board at New York City Audubon.

Mr. Fowle said that the New York State owners did not necessarily want to spend extra money simply for bird protection. But the same creative features that made the building more economical and environmentally sound had the added bonus of being bird-and-nature friendly.

You can read more on the project, with an emphasis on the roof, here:

In early September, U.S. District Court of Alaska Judge H. Russel Holland upheld U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell's decision to not build a gravel road through Izembek National Wildlife Refuge. This has been an ongoing issue, and we covered it in January 2014:

The threatened road would have cut through a federally designated Wilderness Area, risking hundreds of thousands of "Pacific" Brant, Emperor Geese, swans and other migratory birds that rely on this refuge, as well as other wildlife living there.

Izembek, Moffett, and Kinzarof lagoons are marine bays located on the Alaska Peninsula close to the southwestern tip. The lagoon and intertidal habitats are managed by the State of Alaska as Izembek State Game Refuge, while the surrounding uplands are managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as part of Izembek National Wildlife Refuge.

To learn more about the ruling, read the joint press release by many concerned partners:

For more information on the lagoon complex IBA, see here:
   and on the Izembek NWR, see here:

For additional information about worldwide IBA programs, including those in the U.S., check the National Audubon Society's Important Bird Area program web site at:

That trio of artist brothers from Minnesota, the Hautmans, made history last month as they took the top three spots in the 2015 Federal Duck Stamp Art Contest. Joe Hautman, of Plymouth, Minnesota, won the contest with his acrylic painting of a pair of Trumpeter Swans. His two very talented brothers, Robert and Jim, took second and third place respectively, each with paintings of pairs of mallards.
They each have won first place in the prestigious contest in the past too. In fact, altogether the Hautmans have now won 11 Federal Duck Stamp Art Contests.

Eligible species for this year's contest were Blue-winged Teal, Cinnamon Teal, Gadwall, Mallard and Trumpeter Swan. Of 157 entries in this year's competition, ten made it to the final round of judging.

Joe Hautman's painting will be made into the 2016-2017 Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp, or Duck Stamp, which will go on sale in late June 2016.

Of course, waterfowl hunters, age 16 and older, are required to purchase and carry the current $25 Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation [Duck] Stamp. A valid stamp can also be used for free entry to any National Wildlife Refuge that charges an entry fee. The proceeds from the stamp go to secure fee-title and easements properties for the National Wildlife Refuge System.

"Buying Federal Duck Stamps remains the simplest way to make a difference in conserving our nation's birds and their habitats," said Jerome Ford, USFWS Assistant Director for Migratory Birds, at the contest. "For more than 80 years, hunters, bird watchers, and millions of people who simply care about the environment have 'put their stamp on conservation' with their Duck Stamp purchases."

You can find more, including the three top-scoring pieces of waterfowl artwork, here, from the USFWS:
   and also from the Friends of the Migratory Bird/Duck Stamp:

Hundreds of thousands of seabirds are regularly injured or killed annually in fisheries around the world. A creative website presented by the American Bird Conservancy now puts a wealth of information helpful in reducing bycatch right at the fingertips of those who need it most - fishermen, conservationists, and those promoting fishery sustainability.
Intended to help fishing operations determine what seabirds may be at risk in different geographic areas of interest, the tool, "Seabird Maps & Information for Fisheries," also has broad appeal to anyone involved in fisheries improvement programs, seabird conservation, and marine spatial planning.

Users may:
  • Create fishery area maps and determine which birds occur there.
  • Review protected status, population size, and range maps.
  • Produce reports with information, such as diving depth and bird diets that will indicate the risk posed by fishing gear.
  • Be directed to bycatch reduction resources.
  • Find additional online and literature sources.
Those with these interests can start here:

Additionally individuals and concerned organizations can view a two-minute introductory video, "Putting Seabirds on the Map: Seabird Maps & Information for Fisheries":

It may be the very last thing you think of before you leave home for a field trip, but it shouldn't be. Your footgear is very important.
Without getting too complicated, your birding footgear should match the time and place of your field trip, as well as your own individual needs.

We will describe detailed birding footgear options in the E-bulletin in the next month or so, but for now we present one simple piece of advice.

Bring along a spare pair of shoes and socks in the back of your car when on a car-based day-trip. This helps if your shoes get wet or muddy. In such a situation, you will have much-needed spare footwear. This option is amazingly simple, but often neglected. It can save the day.

On the odd chance that you missed the news last month, the USFWS announced that the Greater Sage-Grouse need not be protected under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), that such coverage is "not warranted."
Much of the decision rested on the record of recent cooperation among federal agencies, states, ranchers, industry, and environmental groups to make such a listing unnecessary. These forces point to the evidence that conservation and restoration of the species has already begun or is on its way.

Depending on whom you ask among conservationists, the sweeping cooperation in this effort to save the Greater Sage-Grouse and its habitat is either proving more positive every day, or else with the absence of an ESA listing it can mean that current conservation plans will now lose steam.

Most of the conclusions fall in the former camp. Still, there were even attacks on the decision from some conservative quarters, such as Utah Gov. Gary Herbert's "deep concern" that the Department of the Interior's "actions constitute the equivalent of a listing decision outside the normal process" And congressional interference could also prevent the new grouse conservation plans from going into effect.

It will take time to tell if these ongoing plans create enough habitat protection and effective controls on future negative developments to make future ESA protection unnecessary. But how much time is really available? There is still serious concern over continued habitat loss from oil and gas drilling and new power-line construction. In addition, continued objective population monitoring will be absolutely necessary to accompany the mix of conservation plans.

If you would like to see a summary of this situation, you may be interested in this story from The Washington Post:

This milestone has been passed, but the sage-grouse issues will continue. In the words of the late, great Yogi Berra, "It ain't over 'til it's over."

If you have colleagues who might be interested in this month's E-bulletin, you can most efficiently forward the E-bulletin to them using the "Forward email" feature on the bottom of this page. This retains the clearest text and presentation formatting.

Also, if you have any friends or co-workers who want to get onto the monthly E-bulletin mailing list, they can also simply contact either:
            Wayne R. Petersen
            Director, Massachusetts Important Bird Areas (IBA) Program
            Mass Audubon
            Paul J. Baicich
            Great Birding Projects           

Saturday, October 3, 2015

bird observatories

Bird observatories: what are they, where are they?

 One definition (from Wikipedia): A bird observatory is a center for the study of bird migration and bird populations. They are usually focused on local birds, but may also include interest in far flung areas. Most bird observatories are small operations with a limited staff, many volunteers and a not-for-profit educational status. Many bird observatories conduct bird banding.

A reference: in the journal Climate Research Vol. 35: 59– 77, 200
 Characterizing bird migration phenology using data from standardized monitoring at bird observatories

A list of observatories:

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

seabird abundance has dropped 69.7% in just 60 years

It's very bad news for the world's seabird populations.

A new paper: 

Population Trend of the World’s Monitored Seabirds, 1950-2010

  • Michelle Paleczny ,
  • Edd Hammill ,
  • Vasiliki Karpouzi,
  • Daniel Pauly                                                                                                                                              published in 
  • Published: June 9, 2015
  • DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0129342
 tells us that many global seabird populations have experienced massive declines.

See: for an overview, and go to for the actual paper.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

sources of mortality for birds, caused by humans

A new paper on sources of mortality for birds, caused by humans:

Direct Mortality of Birds from Anthropogenic Causes, to be published soon in: Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics

Review in Advance first posted online on September 10, 2015.
DOI: 10.1146/annurev-ecolsys-112414-054133
by Scott R. Loss,Tom Will, and Peter P. Marra
Understanding and reversing the widespread population declines of birds require estimating the magnitude of all mortality sources. Numerous anthropogenic mortality sources directly kill birds. Cause-specific annual mortality in the United States varies from billions (cat predation) to hundreds of millions (building and automobile collisions), tens of millions (power line collisions), millions (power line electrocutions, communication tower collisions), and hundreds of thousands (wind turbine collisions). However, great uncertainty exists about the independent and cumulative impacts of this mortality on avian populations. To facilitate this understanding, additional research is needed to estimate mortality for individual bird species and affected populations, to sample mortality throughout the annual cycle to inform full life-cycle population models, and to develop models that clarify the degree to which multiple mortality sources are additive or compensatory. We review sources of direct anthropogenic mortality in relation to the fundamental ecological objective of disentangling how mortality sources affect animal populations.

Expected final online publication date for the Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics Volume 46 is November 23, 2015. Please see for revised estimates.