Monday, December 30, 2013

news on the continuing decline of the Red-headed Woodpecker

The Red-headed Woodpecker is a favorite of many. Sadly, the species continues to decline.
Boreal Hardwood Transition BCR
Here are two graphs showing BBS results for this species across the two Bird Conservation Regions (BCRs) that cover a portion of WI and the Upper Midwest. A number of threats are acting on RHWO populations, and they have not abated. Although you may see a few more individuals, and there may be improvements in numbers at a local level, the rangewide decline goes on. To learn more, go to these links:

From southern Canada:

BirdLife RHWO species info:

All About Birds RHWO info:

Prairie Hardwood Transition BCR

may this be the year

Climate change is a huge threat to the natural world we all depend on. In 2014, let's do more to educate ourselves about this threat -- especially for those of us who care deeply about the natural world, wildlife, and our connection to their and our well-being.

Good places to start are these first few links regarding the effects of climate change on BIRDS:
National Audubon birds and climate change

BirdLife International birds and climate change

For many of us, an iconic species that is likely to be impacted dramatically - the polar bear - is symbolic of this issue in many ways
Beaufort Sea retreating
 ice - Wikim. Commons
. Read about the effect of climate change on this species:
Polar Bears International climate facts

Lastly, if you would like more excellent background information, go the Union of Concerned Scientists' climate change page.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

news on birds and climate change - BirdLife

Go to this link to read the latest news from BirdLife International on the effects of climate change on bird populations.
Photo - Wikimedia

Friday, December 6, 2013

Birding Community E-Bulletin - re-post

            December 2013

This Birding Community E-bulletin is being 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:


You can access an archive of past E-bulletins on the website of the National Wildlife Refuge Association (NWRA):


On the morning of 9 November, Jeff Bouton found and photographed a female Amazon Kingfisher south of San Benito in Cameron County in the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas.

The discovery was made during the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival, so consequently hundreds of festival participants were able to gather quickly to see the bird. The County Sheriff’s Deputies even came to help direct traffic around the gathered birders, since the kingfisher was found at a resaca (an oxbow) on the side of fairly busy Texas Rt. 100.

Here is a short original video taken by Jeff Bouton:

And here are photos taken a few days later by Monte Taylor:

The Amazon Kingfisher normally ranges from Mexico (no closer than southern Tamaulipas) to Argentina and Uruguay. Amazon Kingfisher is the largest "green" kingfisher in the Americas.

The bird in Cameron County constitutes only the second North American record. The first was found upriver, in Laredo in 2010 and was our rarity of the month in February of that year:

The Amazon Kingfisher south of San Benito seemed to run a circuit across three accessible resacas on either side of the road, although on some days the bird was difficult to find, or was apparently not present at all. The kingfisher persisted in the area through the end of the month.


We last visited the Farm Bill in detail in July, when forces in Congress had failed to agree on hammering out a comprehensive even though under other circumstances, another Congress might have easily passed the bill:

House and Senate conferees began to meet on the last days of October to craft a final version of a bill that would hopefully be acceptable to both houses. Almost immediately, however, substantial disagreements emerged. The news since has not been good.

The conservation elements of the extended 2008 Farm Bill ground to a halt at the end of September, and now a pressing deadline of 1 January hangs over the entire effort. As mentioned in the E-bulletin in July, if Congress fails to meet the January deadline, the federal farm program will revert to a permanent law passed in 1949. Yes, 1949. Not only will this trigger many undesirable consequences (e.g., milk prices), but it will mean reverting to a policy that did not include most of the creative conservation programs that have become part of the Farm Bill legacy.

Congress could avoid these consequences by passing a new Farm Bill, or, once again, by extending the 2008 law, thereby kicking the can down the road.

Regardless of the moves in the next month, so far, the conservation elements in the Farm Bill - protecting habitat, birds, and other wildlife - are not receiving the attention they deserve.

At stake are at least seven key conservation elements:
1)      Re-linking basic conservation compliance safeguards to crop insurance premium assistance.
2)      Opposing the weakening of current soil and wetland protections.
3)      Establishing a real national Sodsaver program to protect our last remaining 10,000-year-old native prairies.
4)      A Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) with a minimum 25 million-acre baseline.
5)      Retaining what has been the essence of the Wetland Reserve Program (WRP), regardless of a potential new name.
6)      The inclusion of a healthy pollinator element for birds, bees, and bats.
7)      Passing a minimum five-year bill.

The Farm Bill is actually one of the largest sources of conservation funding in the federal government, but sadly its role in sustaining current conservation is now in question.


A report released in late November by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) shows that overall, the U.S. is losing 80,000 acres of coastal wetlands each year to development, sea level rise, certain forestry practices, and several other related causes. The report is titled, "Status and Trends of Wetlands in the Coastal Watersheds of the Conterminous United States 2004 to 2009."

Significant wetland losses were recorded for this period along the Gulf Coast (257,150 acres), and they accounted for 71 percent of the total estimated loss during the study period. The Atlantic Coast lost 111,960 acres and the Pacific Coast 5,220 acres. Even though the losses along the Pacific Coast were small in comparison to the others, they represent an important component of coastal wetlands in this region, which has a predominantly high, rocky coastline. At least the watersheds of the Great Lakes region experienced a net gain in wetland area of an estimated 13,610 acres.

Wetlands are vital to the survival of diverse wildlife species, including such birds as waterfowl, gulls, terns, rails, long-legged waders, and shorebirds. Wetlands also help sustain the country's multi-billion-dollar coastal fisheries and outdoor recreation industries, improve water quality, and protect coastal communities from the effects of severe storms.

You can access the full 46-page report here:


Laughing Gulls have bred along the Lower Delmarva Peninsula throughout recorded history. Yet the population has collapsed in less than a decade. Surveys conducted by the Center for Conservation Biology have shown that the Laughing Gulls have declined from more than 25,000 to less than 4,400 breeding pairs between 2003 and 2013.

Laughing Gulls began to experience notable breeding problems in the early 2000s when significant tidal events repeatedly washed out eggs and nests. Since the marsh islands used for nesting have little topographic relief, nearly the entire region was impacted simultaneously, and the space available for nesting has declined by more than 85%. Historic landmarks such as Gull Marsh and Egg Island, named for their breeding birds, no longer support them.

Over many decades, Laughing Gulls have been among the most numerous seabirds nesting within the mid-Atlantic region. Yet, if the situation along the Lower Delmarva is any indication, these birds could be in serious trouble.

It is time to see if corresponding losses and habitat stress are leading to similar results across the Northeast and Central Atlantic States, as well as investigating other potential causes.

Click here for more details on the gulls, including a set of maps:


Other news from the Center for Conservation Biology is the newly launched Osprey-Watch. This is a project created to engage the public in collecting data on breeding Ospreys. The mission of Osprey-Watch is to bring citizen scientists together in order to collect information on a large enough spatial scale to be useful in addressing three of the most pressing issues facing aquatic ecosystems: global climate change, depletion of fish stocks, and environmental contaminants.

Information entered into this database will be immediately accessible to users and will be summarized following each breeding season.

To find out more, visit:


Under MAP-21, a federal transportation law, an important Recreational Trails Program has been extended into FY2014. Each year, state governors can opt-out of the Recreational Trails Program and divert these available dollars to other transportation projects, like highways. Fortunately, 49 of state governors (all except Florida) have recently chosen to retain the program for another year.

Features included in this program are the maintenance and restoration of existing trails, development or rehabilitation of trailside and trailhead facilities and linkages, acquisition of necessary easements, associated administrative costs, and the construction of new trails and educational programs. Here’s where birders, hikers, bikers, and other outdoor recreationists can find common ground, since many of these trails provide birding areas and crucial access for birders.

Sometimes birding access issues arise in the oddest ways, and the Recreational Trails Program is a tool that should not be discounted. The Recreational Trails Program is the most flexible federal funding source available for the development and maintenance of high-quality trails, having been used to create thousands of miles of trails and access from former rail lines, utility corridors, and other spaces.

Whenever birding access problems arise, there are cases where official Recreational Trails should be considered as part of the solution.


In late November, the U.S. Department of Justice announced a settlement on the prosecution of Duke Energy’s wind developments in Wyoming. This was in connection with the deaths of 14 Golden Eagles and 149 other protected birds, including hawks, wrens, larks, blackbirds, and sparrows. The settlement involved $1 million in fines and mitigation actions. This is the first prosecution in the U.S. of a wind company in connection with bird mortality pertaining to the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA).

According to related court documents, Duke Energy’s Renewables failed to make all reasonable efforts to build the projects in a way that would avoid the risk of bird deaths due to collisions with turbine blades, despite prior warnings about this issue from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).

In March of last year, the USFWS published voluntary operating and siting guidelines for the wind industry, but there has yet to be established a federal mandatory wind project permitting system to ensure that wind developments be well sited, operated, and mitigated, with paid permits to cover costs. In the absence of such mandatory standards, the prevention of damaging wind development is difficult.

For more information on the Duke Energy case, see the Department of Justice press release here:


Identifying an Important Bird Area (IBA) is the first step in preserving and protecting an area that may be particularly significant for birds. But it is only the first step. Creating awareness and securing ongoing protection – including appropriate access – must follow. Often this means providing appropriate help from supporting citizens' or friends' groups.

One such development with a current creative project is the Sax-Zim Bog IBA, located northwest of Duluth, Minnesota. Although the location is prime breeding habitat for northern bog specialists such as Great Gray Owl, Black-backed Woodpecker, Boreal Chickadee, Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, and Connecticut Warbler, the area is probably better known for its wintering specialties, such as Great Gray Owl, Northern Hawk Owl, White-winged Crossbill, Pine Grosbeak, Northern Shrike, Rough-legged Hawk, Snow Bunting, and both redpoll species. Occasional Snowy Owls and Boreal Owls are also much sought-after species in winter.

The point is that the location at this season is cold, very cold, in winter, and shelter for birders can be hard to come by.

Enter the Friends of Sax-Zim Bog, who are raising funds to build a Sax-Zim Bog Welcome Center. This will be a modest sod-roofed, off-the-grid solar building constructed of local aspen, tamarack, and white pine. This winter-use-only building will serve as a gateway to the bog and a place for all to gather, share sightings, watch and photograph birds at the many feeders (on all sides of the building), learn about the bog’s biodiversity through the displays and literature, warm up, and, yes, use an outhouse!

The Welcome Center is currently being finished on a one-acre leased piece of property owned by the St. Louis County Land Department, located on the appropriately-named Owl Avenue. Fund-raising is ongoing, but the building is scheduled to be open very soon, for the 2013-2014 winter birding season.

You can find out more here:

For a short profile of the Sax-Zim Bog IBA, see here:

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


We all are aware of the biological, aesthetic, and even spiritual value of natural habitat, as exemplified through national and local parks, wildlife refuges, and national and state forests. But sometimes, just sometimes, these economic values need to be qualified.

The "Banking on Nature" report released in early November by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) did just that for the National Wildlife Refuge System. This 365-page report is the latest of a series of such studies, the previous one having been released in 2006.

The current "Banking on Nature" report spanning 2006-2011, shows that even during the greatest recession since the Great Depression, the overall return on investment increased substantially for the Refuge System, as well as every other major indicator. This includes the following five highlights:

1    The combined economic contribution to communities nationwide is almost five times the $492 million appropriated to the Refuge System in FY 2011 (Or for every $1 appropriated by Congress to run the National Wildlife Refuge System, nearly $5 is generated in local economies.)
2    In FY 2011, 46.5 million people visited refuges. Their spending generated $2.4 billion of sales in regional economies. As this spending flowed through the economy, over 35,000 people were employed and $792.7 million in employment income was generated.
3    About 72 percent of total expenditures are generated by non-consumptive activities on refuges. Fishing accounted for 21 percent and hunting 7 percent.
4    Local residents accounted for 23 percent of expenditures while visitors coming from outside the local area accounted for 77 percent. Therefore, NWRs are seen widely as travel-worthy destinations.
5    Refuge recreational spending generated about $342.9 million in tax revenue at the local, county, state and Federal level.

"Banking on Nature" closely examines economic activity at 92 representative NWRs, and there is an appendix toward the end on the "Economic Impacts of Birding" which highlights birding visitation at popular refuges, birding expenditures at 10 key refuges, and the national significance of birding visitation to refuges. The study concludes that there were 11.9 million birding visits (not to be confused with visitors) to refuges during 2001FY.

You can view a thoughtful Associated Press story on the report here:

And you can access the full USFWS "Banking on Nature" here:


David Lindo delivers a charming and thoughtful book in THE URBAN BIRDER (New Holland, 2013), mixing a personal biography of a birder situated in an urban setting in the UK with observations about a birding obsession, learning, growing up, and conservation. It wasn't necessarily easy in the 1970s when he started to pursue his interest as a youth. At a time when birding was considered the pastime of rural-based, white, tweed-wearing, walking-stick-brandishing, middle class folks, what, in his words, was "a young, working class black kid doing getting involved? "

His self-declared mission is to get urbanites to appreciate that there is a great deal of natural life – especially birdlife – in even the most concrete-laden of cities. And in this regard, he has made a name for himself.

While urban birds and wildlife have always been treated as a novelty, secondary to "natural" settings, Lindo takes on the cause of speaking up for that lesser-appreciated interest, a cause he maintains is crucial for the future.

Some of the book's references – cultural, geographical, and biological – may need a bit of translation from Brit-speak to the American scene, but it matters little. The basic message comes through.

The book is a quick and fun read. And, toward the end the reader discovers how the author arrives at the moniker, "The Urban Birder."

You can also check out his website here:


The plight of the Spoon-billed Sandpiper has appeared in past issues of the E-bulletin, including in February:

The international Spoon-billed Sandpiper Task Force has been set up under the East Asian-Australasian Flyway Partnership (EAAFP) to implement conservation measures to reverse the declines in the critically endangered Spoon-billed Sandpiper. Fifteen experts from the effort conducted a survey in mid-October along 46 miles of coastline between Dongtai and Rudong, Jiangsu Province, China.

The group found 140 Spoon-billed Sandpipers as well as "internationally important concentrations" of several other waterbird species (including 1,200 Nordmann's Greenshanks).

This is the largest number of the rapidly-declining Spoon-billed Sandpiper found anywhere in the world since 2008, when it was designated as a globally critically endangered species (a species, "facing an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild in the immediate future," according to the IUCN).

The Spoon-billed Sandpiper is apparently dependent on the most naturally-productive and healthy intertidal wetlands during migration, especially in the Yellow Sea. The intertidal wetlands of Rudong, in particular, are probably the most important remaining stopover site for the Spoon-billed Sandpiper during its entire 5,000-mile migration route.

Many of the most important intertidal wetlands along the Jiangsu coast have been threatened by continuing reclamation for agricultural and industrial development. However, local and provincial authorities now recognize the international importance of the area and announced the creation of one new protected area for Spoon-billed Sandpiper, together with two more existing shellfish and fishery protected areas at a workshop that immediately followed the survey.


The National Audubon Society has moved to the digital delivery of the Christmas Bird Count (CBC), and the final results of the 113th Christmas Bird Count have recently been posted. To get the full count summary, regional summaries, articles from compilers, and more, see here:

Beyond that, NAS is producing a quarterly citizen science eNewsletter to inform recipients of their citizen science efforts (e.g., CBC and GBBC). You can get it delivered straight to your email inbox by entering your email address just to the right of "Want to keep up with Citizen Science?" here:


And while we're at it, our tip this month is to encourage you to participate in this season's Christmas Bird Count. This count is the most essential source for information available on North American winter bird populations. This year's CBC – the 114th count - will take place between December 14 and January 5.

It's always a good idea to prepare in advance for a CBC. And by preparing, we don't just mean dressing appropriately and bringing a thermos of brewed coffee – shade-grown, of course – but also checking out your assigned route/area before the count day. This is especially important if you haven't been there since last year, or possibly at all! Things change: access, habitat, and seasonal birdlife.

Contact your circle leader and get count details, or to offer assistance to help cover under-birded zones.

Reminder: there is no longer a $5 fee to participate in the CBC, although help is still needed to keep the CBC alive and well.

FINALLY, THIS ALERT ON THE CBC IS THE PERFECT OPPORTUNITY… to wish you the very BEST of the holiday season and a 2014 full of birds and nature!

- - - - - - - - -
You can access all the past E-bulletins on the National Wildlife Refuge Association (NWRA) website:
If you wish to distribute or reproduce all or parts of any of the monthly Birding Community E-bulletins, we simply request that you mention the source of any material used. (Include a URL for the E-bulletin archives, if possible.)

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

Thursday, December 5, 2013

a bright spot in forest certification and associated carbon offsetting

Read it at

Planning the "Long Walk for Birds 2014" - the RELAY

Last year's "Long Walk for Birds" across WI was successful at raising $10, 504 in pledges for the Bird Protection Fund of the Natural Resources Foundation. A new idea has surfaced for 2014 - a relay. I'm looking for people who are interested in walking part of a distance (the route is yet to be chosen: for example, one possible route is from IL/WI state line in Kenosha Co to Green Bay, mostly following the lakeshore). I am willing to cover the first 4 days this time, but would like to find people who can walk any distance (an hour, a morning, a whole day) to string together the remaining route. If this sounds interesting to you and you would be willing to commit part of a day, please contact me to discuss it. The time frame would be approximately the first 2 weeks in May 2014.

William Mueller
Western Great Lakes Bird and Bat Observatory
WGLBBO online:
office: 262-285-3374
cell: 414-698-9108
Belgium, WI

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

News from the Western Great Lakes Bird and Bat Observatory

Midwest Landbird Migration Monitoring Network Coordinator
Hired by Western Great Lakes Bird & Bat Observatory

The Western Great Lakes Bird and Bat Observatory (WGLBBO) are pleased to announce that we have chosen Dr. Amber Roth, PhD, of Michigan Technological University as the new Midwest Landbird Migration Monitoring Network Coordinator, effective January 1, 2014. Dr. Roth has a one-year position with WGLBBO, funded via a grant we were awarded by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, to continue development of the Midwest Landbird Migration Monitoring Network, bringing to fruition a vision under development for the past three years. Dr. Roth’s primary charge will be development of a Strategic Action Plan for the Landbird Migration Monitoring Network. The proposed Plan will cover the eight-state Upper Midwest and Great Lakes Region of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, and Wisconsin. The 16-member Midwest Migration Monitoring Network, a working group within the Midwest Coordinated Bird Monitoring Partnership, was established to increase bird survival throughout the annual cycle by contributing to the understanding of migratory connectivity through a well-coordinated network of observers. 

Dr. Roth can be reached at

Friday, November 15, 2013

Wisconsin Chimney Swift Working Group news

The Working Group met yesterday in Madison. We remembered our missing member, Dr. Noel Cutright, whose influence will continue to guide us.
Among news of many successful swift nights out, and other current projects of the Working Group, we had a great presentation from teachers, elementary school students, parents, and the village administrator from Hartland, who are working on the planned replacement of a chimney that was part of an historic building there, and which housed a roosting  flock of over 1,000 swifts this past late summer/early autumn. Their project can hopefully inspire others in communities around the Midwest. They are collecting funds to pay for the new structure, and we will provide some scientific and operational guidance for their project.
A new website is in the works - looks for more news soon.
Assistance wanted: if you value the presence of swifts and would like to join our community of citizen scientists and volunteers, we have a winter project to work on while the swifts are on the wintering grounds. When you are in your home town, if you see likely chimneys that might be used as roosts - especially if you know they have NOT been monitored to date - please note the location with either a street address, a road intersection, or GPS coordinates, and send them to me. Photos are also helpful. More news on this off-season project to come!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Noel Cutright, ornithologist and ecologist

Noel Cutright, ornithologist and ecologist, died on Sunday November 10th. Over the last few months, our good friend gradually lost his battle with liver cancer. On the other hand, he never gave in to it. And up to the end he kept on working and fighting for bird conservation, and a sustainable environment for people and wildlife. He devoted his life to these things, and will not be forgotten. His work continues. To best honor and remember him, join us to work on his priority issues of bird and wildlife conservation. There's endless work yet to be done. In Noel's lifetime, he achieved many victories -- but he would be the first to tell you that we have a long way to go.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

some bird conservation news from the American Bird Conservancy

Bird Conservation Updates from American Bird Conservancy - November 7, 2013

Dr. Michael Hutchins, Renowned International Wildlife, Expert Joins American Bird Conservancy to Oversee Wind Energy Campaign 

Dr. Michael Hutchins, an international authority on wildlife conservation, management, and policy who has authored over 220 scholarly and popular articles and books on wildlife issues, has joined the staff of American Bird Conservancy (ABC). He will oversee the organization’s Bird-Smart wind energy campaign.

“We are thrilled that Michael is joining our team and excited to have his considerable talents focused on the challenges associated with making wind a Bird-Smart energy source,” said Dr. George Fenwick, President of ABC.

As wind campaign coordinator, he will lead ABC’s national efforts to make wind developments Bird-Smart and minimize the impact of this rapidly expanding energy source on bird populations. For more details see

Comment to Conserve Greater Sage-Grouse
A national effort is underway to conserve the magnificent Greater Sage-Grouse, known for its spectacular mating dance. You can be part of this effort to reverse declining grouse populations, while providing for sustainable use of public lands and a legacy of protected landscapes.  Send a comment letter urging that BLM’s Northwest Colorado plan adopt conservation measures—called the conservation alternative, or "Alternative C"—to ensure sustainable management for the Greater Sage-Grouse. Please click on this link to send a comment letter:

Ø  More on sage-grouse: Babbitt on Grouse: National Strategy Needed to Conserve Iconic Species. Defenders of Wildlife Blog by Noah Matson:

Cats Indoors Action Alert: Sign On Letter to Protect Wildlife and Public Lands

Given the proven degree of environmental harm and human health risks, federal and state agencies responsible for managing wildlife and public lands need to take action to protect birds and other wildlife from cat predation. American Bird Conservancy has drafted a letter to Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell asking the Department to develop a clear management policy to protect wildlife and to address the impacts of feral cat colonies on public lands. Eighty bird and habitat conservation organizations have endorsed the letter thus far. Please take a look and consider adding your organization to the list of endorsements.

Report from Gov't of Canada Echoes U.S. Finding: Outdoor Cats are Leading Human-Caused Source of Bird Mortality

A new study from the government of Canada that looked at more than 25 human-caused sources of bird mortality has found that domestic cats, both feral and owned, are the leading lethal threat to birds in the country. The study found that the median estimate of cat-caused mortality—almost 200 million bird deaths per year—was about six times greater than the next leading mortality estimate of about 32 million attributed to car collisions. The third-leading cause was collisions with buildings or homes, with a rate of about 22 million bird deaths per year. For more see

Los Angeles Zoo treats 21 California condors for lead poisoning
LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- In the wild they are tough, living up to 80 years and surviving primarily on animal carcass. But these California condors now need help.
"Some of them are upwards of 15, 16, 17 years old, and we raised them way back then. To see that it's kind of heartbreaking. They're [sic] food is poisoned, so nothing can survive that," Los Angeles Zoo animal keeper Michael Clark said.
A record 21 condors have been taken to the L.A. Zoo for rehabilitation in a two-week period, caught by Fish and Wildlife and testing positive for lead poisoning. Field crews trap condors in the wild twice a year to check their health and to put transmitters on them. Clark says he expects more to come in. See for video.
Wisconsin's 2011 Blow-Down Area Provides Benefits for Imperiled Species

Not far from the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area, a massive 2011 wind storm struck and leveled trees for miles across northwestern Wisconsin, causing a variety of widespread problems, which for some are still an issue today. Yet out of the wind-strewn wreckage comes a happy “re-start” for the tiny Golden-winged Warbler, one of the most threatened, non-federally listed bird species in eastern North America.

A unique set of partners—the state of Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR), six county governments in the state, private landowners, and American Bird Conservancy (ABC)—have united to take advantage of this opportunity to create the required habitat for the Golden-winged Warbler. For more see

Ø  More on Golden-Winged Warbler from Wisconsin Public Radio:

Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act Toolkit Now Available

The NMBCA outreach toolkit was developed by the NMBCA Communications Team (ABC, Audubon, AFWA, Cornell, and FWS).  It includes key messages, statistics, graphics, and other resources for media or partners who wish to communicate about the NMBCA. Please check it out at 

Training on State Wildlife Action Plans Now Available Online

On June 4-6, 2013, National Wildlife Federation, Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service hosted Connect, Collaborate, and Conserve In an Era of Changing Landscapes: An Interactive Training on State Wildlife Action Plans, at the U.S. FWS's National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown, WV. With federally mandated revisions to State Wildlife Action Plans due in 2015, this training was meant to ensure that the updated plans will be the best they can be. Each day focused on a broad topic, covering landscape conservation, climate change, and building public support.

The agenda, powerpoints, and videos of presentations are available on the NWF Workshops website, under "National Training":

Steve Holmer
Senior Policy Advisor
American Bird Conservancy
202/234-7181 ext 216
202/744-6459 cell
Director, Bird Conservation Alliance

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

20,000+ Long-tailed Ducks today: ongoing waterfowl & waterbird surveys: Lake Michigan

The Western Great Lakes Bird and Bat Observatory is conducting an ongoing series of waterfowl and waterbird surveys in the offshore waters of Lake Michigan, from northern Door County to the WI-IL border. These surveys are part of a  coordinated effort involving a group of partner entities surveying the Great Lakes for waterfowl and waterbirds. Surveys conducted today covered survey blocks offshore from northern  Manitowoc, Kewaunee, and Door counties. Our transects parallel the lakeshore, and are done at distances of 1 mile, 2, 4, 6, 8, and 10 miles from shore. Today was an exceptionally productive day. We tallied over 20,000 Long-tailed Ducks, more than 5,000 Red-breasted Mergansers, 30+ Common Loons, a single jaeger (not identified to species), a Red-necked Grebe, moderate-sized flocks and/or small groups of all 3 scoter species, Horned Grebes, a single large flock of Redheads, several
Ph by Wolfgang Wander, Wikim. Commons
Glaucous Gulls, many Herring Gulls, and about a dozen flocks of Tundra Swans with from 4 to 65 birds in each flock. 

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Sunday, October 20, 2013

my best year ever for shorebirds

2013 has been my best year ever for shorebirds. I was fortunate enough to see 36 species this year, including 8 species (in Germany) I had never seen before, and several species that I rarely see in my home state of WI.

Eur. Oystercatcher (ph by A. Trepte)
Eur. Curlew (ph by Nepenthes)

Black-necked Stilt   Horicon NWR - n. of 49  US-WI  17-Jun-13

Pied Avocet   Jade Bight Stop 5  DE-NI  27-Sep-13

American Avocet   Horicon NWR - n. of 49  US-WI  7-Oct-13

Eurasian Oystercatcher   Jade Bight Stop 5  DE-NI  27-Sep-13

Black-bellied Plover   Horicon NWR - n. of 49  US-WI  21-Sep-13

European Golden-Plover   Jade Bight stop 1  DE-NI  27-Sep-13

American Golden-Plover   Horicon NWR - n. of 49  US-WI  28-Aug-13

Northern Lapwing   Jade Bight Stop 5  DE-NI  27-Sep-13

Semipalmated Plover   church rd  US-WI  27-May-13

Killdeer   Lower Mud Lake (Dane Co.)  US-WI  23-Mar-13

Spotted Sandpiper   along bark r in hartland  US-WI  2-May-13

Solitary Sandpiper   Gl Druml Tr west from Highland  US-WI  5-May-13

Spotted Redshank   Jade Bight stop 4  DE-NI  27-Sep-13

Greater Yellowlegs   Waukesha  US-WI  20-Apr-13

Common Greenshank   Jade Bight stop 4  DE-NI  27-Sep-13

Lesser Yellowlegs   Shady ln w of daly lk  US-WI  25-Apr-13

Common Redshank   Jade Bight stop 4  DE-NI  27-Sep-13

Upland Sandpiper   Buena Vista grasslands  US-WI  7-Jun-13

Eurasian Curlew   Jade Bight Stop 5  DE-NI  27-Sep-13

Hudsonian Godwit   Horicon NWR - n. of 49  US-WI  7-Oct-13

Bar-tailed Godwit   Jade Bight Stop 5  DE-NI  27-Sep-13

Marbled Godwit   Horicon NWR - n. of 49  US-WI  18-Oct-13

Ruddy Turnstone   north rocky pt to Veterans pk loop  US-WI  27-May-13

Stilt Sandpiper   Horicon NWR - n. of 49  US-WI  28-Aug-13

Sanderling   north rocky pt to Veterans pk loop  US-WI  27-May-13

Dunlin   Jade Bight Stop 5  DE-NI  27-Sep-13

Least Sandpiper   Horicon NWR - n. of 49  US-WI  23-Jul-13

Buff-breasted Sandpiper   Horicon NWR - n. of 49  US-WI  28-Aug-13

Pectoral Sandpiper   powder hill wetlands  US-WI  27-Apr-13

Semipalmated Sandpiper   Horicon NWR - n. of 49  US-WI  28-Aug-13

Short-billed Dowitcher   church rd  US-WI  27-May-13

Long-billed Dowitcher   Forest Beach Migratory Preserve (OWLT)  US-WI  5-Sep-13

Wilson's Snipe   Horicon Marsh SWA  US-WI  4-Apr-13

American Woodcock   Jackson Marsh and nearby  US-WI  26-Apr-13

Wilson's Phalarope   Horicon NWR - n. of 49  US-WI  23-Jul-13

Red-necked Phalarope   Horicon NWR - n. of 49  US-WI  28-Aug-13

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Birding Community E-bulletin October 2013 (reposted)

            October 2013

This Birding Community E-bulletin is being 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:


You can access an archive of past E-bulletins on the website of the National Wildlife Refuge Association (NWRA):


In the September Birding Community E-bulletin, we explained how our regular rarity focus usually does not usually consider a seabird species, if only because such a bird - usually observed off the coast – is virtually impossible to "revisit" by subsequent visitors. See here:

Little did we know that after highlighting a South Polar Skua in Oklahoma in our September issue that we would have another seabird species to focus on in our October issue!

The species is Blue-footed Booby, and what happened in September was a total surprise. Starting in the second week in September, multiple observers began reporting immature and sub-adult Blue-footed Boobies up and down the California coast!

Blue-footed Boobies breed as close to the U.S. as the Gulf of California. They are generally rare and irregular in late summer and early fall to the Salton Sea, with occasional irruptions to the California coast. Although influxes occurred in 1969 (c. 32 birds) and 1972 (45+ birds), most years lack records altogether. Given this pattern of observations, the birds involved have probably been post-breeding-season wanderers. There has been speculation that an abundance of anchovies off the California Coast may also have contributed to the northward spread of the boobies last month.

This year's event has been off the charts, with easily over 120 birds recorded, and the numbers are still being tabulated.

There were boobies at La Jolla, Ventura, Pt. Pinos, Santa Monica, San Francisco, Pt. Reyes, and other coastal locations, and birds were observed both flying by and also roosting on breakwaters. Inland lakes also hosted Blue-footed Boobies. Not only were the birds found in numbers at the "expected" location of the Salton Sea – some days 13, 25 or more birds  – but they were also found at locations such as Lake Skinner in Riverside County – with up to five birds seen from 13 September through the end of the month. Blue-footed Boobies were photographed on the California-Arizona border, on Lake Havasu, and one individual was even reported as far north as Stubbs Island, British Columbia.

For a look at some representative photos taken by Chris Taylor at Playa del Rey, California on 14 September, see here:

For an excellent summary along with accompanying map of this remarkable event, see this from eBird:


A significant sign-on letter in response to the ongoing Congressional threat to bird and wildlife conservation was sent to members of both houses of Congress in mid-September. You may remember our coverage of these vital conservation funding threats described in the August E-bulletin:

The letter, signed by almost 850 groups (or about 1,600 individuals, if you tabulate coalitional signatories), focused on the following five crucial funding sources:
•       State & Tribal Wildlife Grants Program
•       North American Wetland Conservation Fund (NAWCA)
•       Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Fund
•       Forest Legacy Program
•       Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF)

Spending in bird, wildlife, and natural resource conservation and associated outdoor recreation totals less than one percent of all discretionary federal spending. However, over the last several years, these programs have been continually reduced to a distressing level.

You can find background information on the letter to Congress here:
And, you can find the text of the letter and view the signatories here:


This next news item could just as easily been placed in our "Access Matters" category as in "IBA News," but the story from the Oregon Coast about an IBA that is receiving further protection, and where birder access will hopefully follow.

A coveted piece of land on Nestucca Bay on Oregon's north coast, has been privately held and essentially off-limits to the birding and recreational public for 75 years.

Last month, however, this small forested peninsula and shoreline - a former Jesuit retreat -  became public land.

After five years of negotiation and competition from private developers, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service purchased the 103-acre property for $1,072,500. This land is now part of Nestucca Bay National Wildlife Refuge, which brings this gem of a refuge up to 1,203 acres in total extent.

Coastal waterfowl, loons, and grebes can be appreciated from the shore. Raptors nest and visit the forest and forest edges, and songbirds fill the woods.

"I'm still in a bit of disbelief in acquiring the Jesuits tract. We were certain we had lost it and probably would have in a robust economy," said Roy Lowe, project leader for the Oregon Coast National Wildlife Refuge Complex.

Refuge staff had been working with The Nature Conservancy to secure the land since 2008, when the Jesuits indicated that they wanted to sell the property. Developed in the late 1930s as a place of study and reflection for novitiates, the property has been vacant for about five years.

When the land was appraised, the different parties involved were about $400,000 apart. Also, there were other potential buyers who initially considered developing the land in different ways, including the possibility of creating family, conference, or entertainment centers. Over two dozen groups and individuals of potential buyers actually toured the property, which currently includes a rustic, two-story wood lodge, a dilapidated dormitory, and four shabby cabins.

None of the other parties bought it, however, so the Jesuits returned to The Nature Conservancy.

The final funding to buy the property came to The Nature Conservancy from a National Scenic Byways grant through the Federal Highway Administration and the Oregon Department of Transportation.

That opportunity came just in the nick of time, since the National Scenic Byways program has been defunded by the current Congress in the MAP-21 Transportation Bill. The funding for this deal was actually held over from the 2009 budget.

Eventually, the property will be opened, and the Fish and Wildlife Service expects to improve the ready-made trails through the property. Once funds become available, the FWS might be able to remodel the old main lodge for housing and offices, bringing the structure up to federal standards.

For more on IBAs in Oregon see here:

And see here for details on the Nustecca Bay IBA:

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


The Chesapeake Bay is the largest estuary in the lower-48states and it is packed with both birdlife and marine life. The bay is about 200 miles long, but actually boasts thousands of miles of shoreline due to its configuration. Unfortunately, only about two percent of the shoreline is open to the public. The rest is either privately owned or publicly owned but with severe restrictions on use.

Nonetheless, there have been efforts by regional outdoor enthusiasts – supported by a Presidential order in 2009 - to create more access and viewing locations along the Chesapeake shoreline. This is important to birders, especially since the Chesapeake area is famous for its waterfowl, shorebirds, long-legged waders, and shoreline songbirds.

Access through state parks and some refuge areas is usually approachable, but other properties under different public jurisdictions – e.g., military, county, or town – are more difficult to navigate.

One creative call for improving access, an effort that other areas might consider adopting, concerns bridges over waterways. Most of the hundreds of bridges in the Chesapeake area are designed and built in ways that limit access rather than enable it. They lack pull-off and parking areas, yet recreational and viewing access could be created relatively quickly, at modest cost - combined with construction or repair - and could provide benefits to the economy and to public safety.

Access advocates across the Chesapeake have called for a goal of 300 new access points in the next dozen years.


Birders are getting more involved these days with eBird as a way to combine increasing knowledge, data collection, and mere listing. If you haven't taken the eBird plunge, you can start here:

Whether or not you currently use eBird, a particular October opportunity might be a nice way to begin. Birders inside and outside the Fish and Wildlife Service have come up with a unique way to promote eBird and the Refuge System. It's as simple and as creative as encouraging birders to go out to a National Wildlife Refuge during National Wildlife Refuge Week – 13-19 October - and create an eBird checklist or two.

And if you're not currently eBird-skilled, this is an opportunity to go birding with someone who is, someone who can coach you on how to submit your data during Refuge Week.

The effort started on a Facebook page, initiated by interested birders. (This is a public page, so don't worry if you are not on Facebook, you can still read the posts and information.):

Of course, if the government shut-down goes into Refuge Week, all bets are off. In this case, you simply won’t be able to enter any refuge!

So our hint of the month is the following: Consider participating in this eBird/Refuge combo during Refuge Week if possible. At the same time take a moment to also think about the unique access opportunities we often take for granted when we visit a National Wildlife Refuge, National Park, National Forest, or other special federal facility where we watch birds and other wildlife.


The Socorro Dove (Zenaida graysoni) was a species endemic to Socorro Island in the Revillagigedo Archipelago off western Mexico. The last record of the species in its natural habitat dates back to 1972. Introduced mammals - particularly cats - drove the dove to extinction in the wild through predation. Habitat destruction, coincidental with human settlement in the 1950s, accelerated the process.

The good news is that viable breeding populations exist in aviaries. For nearly 100 years, breeders from many parts of the world have worked to ensure that the dove would continue to exist in aviaries and breeding centers.

Since the late 1980s, the Socorro Dove Project seriously planned to reintroduce the dove to the island. By 2004 a breeding station was built on the island, but the next year an outbreak of avian influenza prevented a direct return of the doves to Mexico. Instead, the Socorro Doves bred by zoos cooperating in the effort were sent to the Albuquerque Biological Park in 2008.

This past spring, six Socorro Doves were moved from Albuquerque to the African Safari zoo southeast of Mexico City. And on 5 September, once the doves had settled in, an official ceremony took place at the African Safari zoo to celebrate the return of the Socorro Dove to Mexico. This Socorro Dove Project represents the dedication of many institutions - including the Mexican Navy - working for a common goal. This represents one more step toward hopefully reintroducing the Socorro Dove to its native Socorro Island in the near future.

For more on the story of the Socorro Dove's return to Mexico, if not yet Socorro Island, see here:

And for background on the dove and the species' future possibilities, see here:


Last month we wrote about the U.S. Army's continuing its pursuit of non-lead ammunition and some of its implications on the market:

On a related subject, the California Senate passed legislation on 9 September to require the use of non-lead ammunition for all hunting in the state by 1 July 2019. This is an attempt to protect the state's California Condors, eagles, hawks, waterfowl, loons, doves, and other wildlife from lead poisoning in the wild. (A nationwide ban on lead shot in waterfowl hunting, begun in 1991, has been highly effective in reducing avian mortality due to ingestion of lead shot while still maintaining projectile efficacy in waterfowl hunting.) The legislation passed the California Senate by a vote of 23-15 after previously passing the state Assembly in May.

The bill enjoyed wide support from a diverse coalition of more than 80 public health, environmental, bird, and animal protection organizations as well as many California hunters, veterinarians, and concerned citizens.

Opponents pointed to the availability and price of non-lead bullets on the market today, and also insisted that this legislation was anti-hunting, not simply anti-lead.

It is uncertain what Governor Jerry Brown will do with the bill. If he does not act by Oct. 13, it becomes law without his signature. If the bill becomes law, California will be the first state in the country to require the use of nontoxic bullets and shot for all types of hunting.

This is not California's first attempt to eradicate lead-based shots and bullets from outdoor use. The Ridley-Tree Condor Preservation Act was enacted in 2008 to prohibit the use of lead projectiles in parts of central and Southern California to protect endangered California Condors. This topic was covered in the Birding Community E-bulletin in November 2007:


In past Birding Community E-bulletins, we have highlighted numerous efforts to rid islands of rats and ranging from Alaska to the South Pacific. For example, in April, we wrote about ridding Anacapa Island, one of the Channel Islands off California, of rats:

Recently, Parks Canada has been clearing invasive rats from two important seabird breeding islands in the north of the Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve and Haida Heritage Site on the archipelago of Haida Gwaii, a dense chain of islands in the Pacific off the coast of British Columbia.

Rodenticide has been dropped on the islands by helicopter, a technique first developed in New Zealand to restore seabird breeding islands in the South Pacific.

This effort is being undertaken because a quarter of the world's population of Ancient Murrelets, a species in decline, breed on the Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve. The rats, inadvertently brought by ships in the 18th and 19th centuries, eat eggs and chicks, and also attack adult murrelets nesting on the ground and in holes on the island.

Parks Canada is carrying out this eradication work in cooperation with the Haida Nation.

You can read more details here:


Last month we reported on the changing situation on the island of Barbados, with some encouraging improvements in the area of shorebird conservation:

Now from elsewhere in the Caribbean, specifically the French West Indies (Guadeloupe, Martinique), there is more good shorebird news. Last month, in a decision from Paris, the Ministry of Environment moved to protect the Red Knot from hunting pressure on these islands. Stiff penalties will be applied if a hunter on either of the islands shoots a Red Knot.

Although Red Knots are scarce in the region, this is still an important additional step in terms of shorebird conservation in the Caribbean.


As our West Coast colleagues were gazing seaward for Blue-footed Boobies, a new book was released in the "Peterson Series" for East Coast seawatchers. This new book is called the REFERENCE GUIDE TO SEAWATCHING, subtitled "Eastern Waterbirds in Flight."

This handsome and comprehensive book by Ken Behrens and Cameron Cox is the latest addition in Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s suite of comprehensive bird references. The book features a stunning collection of species-by-species flight photos and informative accompanying text. Whether you want to study flying waterfowl, alcids, tubenoses, jaegers, gulls, terns, or more, this is a must-have reference.

One specific idea in the book deserves special mention.

Whereas there are dozens of regularly operated hawkwatches across North America where migrant diurnal raptors can be counted and monitored, no such parallel network exists for waterbirds. Only Cape May (NJ) and Whitefish Point (MI), administered by their respective bird observatories, serve that function. Just as hawkwatch data is especially useful when it is analyzed from a number of sites, so too might there be value in analyzing data from coordinated seawatches. How much could be learned about loons, seaducks, alcids, if a system of such counts were coordinated?

The book does not answer this question. But that's not purpose of the book. What the REFERENCE GUIDE TO SEAWATCHING does provide is much essential information that would hopefully someday bring such a seawatch network closer to reality.


We began with a seabird rarity, and we end with another seabird rarity. For the past several years, going back to 2006, a wayward Red-billed Tropicbird has been reported around the area of Seal Island, Maine. This individual is a good example, by the way, of what we mentioned last month, rare birds returning to the same site in multiple years:

It's gotten so that with a little bit of planning in advance, birders can visit the area around Seal Island in summer to see this beautiful seabird, a species normally found in tropical waters.

Keith Mueller, of Killingworth, Connecticut, did just that in the summer of 2012.

Keith is a birder, but also a creative artist, sculptor, and decoy carver. In the summer of 2012 he and his wife, Jen, went to Seal Island and traveled with John Drury, who runs seabird cruises in the area. The trip also affords a fine opportunity to look for Razorbills, Atlantic Puffins, Arctic Terns, Black Guillemots, and much more. In 2012, Keith Mueller actually attracted the area’s star to John Drury’s boat, the Red-billed Tropicbird, by using a tropicbird decoy that he had carved.

As a thank-you to John Drury, Keith carefully carved another Red-billed Tropicbird, made of Eastern White Pine from Maine, and sent it to John. The Red-billed Tropicbird had already departed the area of Seal Island last year, but this past July John floated the decoy … with fantastic results.

This past summer, Keith received a message and photos from John. Not only was the Red-billed Tropicbird attracted to the lovely decoy, it "defended" her from possible rivals… and attempted to mate with the wooden gal. See the whole amazing story here:

This is clearly almost an example of "Where there’s a will, there’s a way!"

- - - - - - - - -
You can access all the past E-bulletins on the National Wildlife Refuge Association (NWRA) website:
If you wish to distribute or reproduce all or parts of any of the monthly Birding Community E-bulletins, we simply request that you mention the source of any material used. (Include a URL for the E-bulletin archives, if possible.)

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