Friday, January 31, 2014

more on sustainable travel

If you're interested in sustainable travel options, (see my last post here ) there's much more to learn. A great source is at the International Ecotourism Society's website, here.

For travelers who share my concern about effects of their travel on climate change, here's a more scholarly paper:  Kockelman et al. 2008;TRAVEL CHOICES AND THEIR RELATIVE CONTRIBUTIONS TO CLIMATE CHANGE: WHAT BEHAVIORAL SHIFTS WILL BUY US
An article in Science Daily extends this a bit further:

Then, of course, there are other options such as foot travel, bicycling, etc. The Alternative Travel Project - here - gives some other options. 
And maybe it's incredibly obvious - but some of us just choose to stay home.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

carbon offsets and nature travel/ecotourism and international birding

Some of us are greatly troubled by some aspects of the general category of "ecotourism". Between about 3 to 7 years ago, there was considerable interest in carbon offsetting; however, many bird and nature tour operators have chosen not to adopt these ideas or anything close to them. There is continuing interest on the part of at least  some organizations, however - recently:

Other measures taken by some tour operators include donations built  into their fee structure, with those donations going to local conservation projects. These are laudable - but one wonders how these options can address the link to climate change. Since 1990, CO2 emissions from international air travel have increased by 83 per cent. Between four to nine per cent of the total climate change impacts caused by  humans result from air travel.  

On the other hand, there is massive criticism of carbon offsets. Some contend it is mere "greenwashing" - not effective, and simply lets people dispense with their guilt, with no real meaningful result. But there has been much effort to address those concerns, and some organizations have gone to great lengths to assure that offsets actually do what is intended. One of the best organizations (The World Land Trust) and resulting actions include:

There are a variety of ways to incorporate carbon offsets into travel planning. It is a 100% voluntary option.

Others links for learning more include:

Gold Standard:
Purchasing Carbon Offsets:
The Nature Travel Network and carbon offsets:

Thursday, January 23, 2014

understanding anthropogenic (human-caused) sources of mortality in birds

A new compilation of papers in the journal Avian Conservation and Ecology points out newly-assessed pieces in the "big picture" regarding avian mortality caused by humans. These papers focus on how these factors affect bird species in Canada. But generalizations can be drawn, and the lead paper is especially enlightening for those of us who want to understand more about how these broad processes affect bird populations at larger scales. The following quote points out several facts of great interest to those concerned with the health of bird populations:

"Population size and status, timing of mortality, and temporal or intersexual variation in mortality can all affect the ability of populations to withstand additional mortality. Density-dependent natural survival is the putative mechanism driving the compensation, so populations at habitat carrying capacity should be more resilient to additional mortality than low density or declining populations (Nichols et al. 1984, Bartmann et al. 1992). Timing of the mortality event also may play a role; mortality is more likely to be additive when it occurs during or after periods of high natural mortality, and more likely to be compensatory when it precedes such periods (Kokko 2001). These generalizations suggest situations where mortality might be more or less likely to have significant effects on population status. Determining the actual demographic effects of such mortality, however, would require spatially explicit study of individual species. For most species, it is not possible to account for heterogeneity in survival between sexes and age classes, for dispersal, and for spatial structure in populations and mortality given the paucity of reliable data.

Dismissing human-related mortality as compensatory, even when populations are well monitored, is a risky bet. Researchers without adequate data can get it wrong. For example, the argument that the high mortality of American Black Duck from hunters was totally compensatory was wrong (Grandy 1983), as documented by Francis et al. (1998) who analyzed 44 years of banding data over three periods of increasingly restrictive harvest regulations and determined that estimated mean survival rates increased from the first to the second period consistent with a model of additivity of hunting mortality. Effects of some sources of mortality may take time to recognize, such as the slow-motion catastrophe for birds caused by second generation anticoagulant rodenticides (Thomas et al. 2011). Many sources of mortality also may work together cumulatively to suppress populations, and at different places across their life cycles (Loss et al. 2012). Assumptions about population-level effects may be misleading if analyzed at the national scale, which may mask effects that are significant at local levels but not evident at coarser spatial scales.

Perhaps more importantly, anthropogenic avian mortality affects more than just the species being killed. When considering effects of human activities on wildlife and ecosystems, the “legacy effects” of habitat loss and degradation are often the focus. Unnatural removal of birds from the environment, however, can still affect ecosystems even if habitat remains intact. If a cat kills a bird, the bird is lost as prey for a raptor (George 1974). If a bird dies from impact against a window and is swept away in the garbage, it cannot be food for its natural decomposers. When a bird is killed as a nestling by a mowing machine, it is not alive to eat insects for several months until it might have otherwise died of natural causes during migration (Whelan et al. 2008). Birds’ perception of hazards on the landscape can also have important effects on behavior, with indirect but significant adverse consequences (Bonnington et al. 2013). Disturbance and incidental mortality can alter timing of breeding, habitat use, and foraging behavior—all with the potential to influence ecosystems and ecosystem services. All of these nuances are lost when the focus is only on direct effects on single-species population dynamics." (These quotes are from "On Avian Mortality Associated with Human Activities" - Travis Longcore and Paul A. Smith. Avian Conservation and Ecology, 2013 Vol 8, No 2).  

Read more at this link:

Monday, January 20, 2014

Barn Owl: status, conservation, research, news

Ph. by M. Manske; Wikim. Commons
The Barn Owl now has threatened or endangered status in most central and north-central states. In Wisconsin, we encounter a bird or two every year or so in the state, and there have been successful nests a few times in the past two decades - but this species is among our rarest nocturnal bird species.

Learn more about this species and its ecology, plus more on its status and conservation:

Owl Research Institute Barn Owl page:

Univ. of Florida Barn Owl expanded species account:

Montana Field Guide Barn Owl factsheet:

WI All-Bird Plan - Barn Owl species account:

Gaze control circuitry in the barn owl:

Exterior nestboxes as ecological traps:

Saturday, January 11, 2014

learn more about conservation in 2014

Eskimo Curlew, by Archibald Thorburn
Learn more about bird and wildlife conservation in 2014, including information about some conservation organizations that may be unfamiliar to you:

Conservation International:   Some information on biodiversity "hotspots" as well as the focus areas of CI

At a recent meeting, my colleague Dennis Kuecherer reminded me of the ongoing activities and "reach" of the World Wildlife Fund (in other areas of the globe, it is known as the Worldwide Fund for Nature)

Bird Studies Canada:

Partners in Flight:

Royal Society for the Protection of Birds:

BirdLife International:

The National Audubon Society:

Sunday, January 5, 2014

news on kestrels

Ph by M Hines, Wikimedia Commons
To understand recent American Kestrel population changes, here are some updated sources and papers:

Smallwood et al. 2009. WHY ARE AMERICAN KESTREL (Falco sparverius)  POPULATIONS DECLINING IN NORTH AMERICA? EVIDENCE FROM NEST-BOX PROGRAMS. Journal of Raptor Research Vol. 43, No. 4: 274-282. [Online]; available:   Accessed 5 January 2014.
See more at:   and

If you'd like to help with WGLBBO's kestrel nestbox program, contact me at
Prairie Hardwood Transition BCR - Am Kestrel BBS results

Friday, January 3, 2014

Long Walk for Birds 2014 - news

Natural Resources Foundation of WI staff, the Great WI Birdathon Team and I are working together for an expanded "Long Walk for Birds" in 2014. Please let me know if you will consider walking part of the route this spring. Unlike 2013's event, this does not consist of  me doing a solo walk this year. Anyone can participate, and can do their chosen/assigned part  of the route on any date in May. The route is being developed, and will be a south-to-north route this coming year, generally following Lake Michigan's shoreline, starting near the IL border, and ending at Marinette. If you are a member of an organization or club that would like to do it together, that is the best possible choice. The goal of course is to raise money via gathering pledges for the Bird Protection Fund ( ) of NRF, through the Great Wisconsin Birdathon 2014 ( see: for the last year results & updates). I plan to do just a four-day section this year.

Please consider getting a group together to do part of the route in an area nearest to you. You may still have time to influence the development of the route - if you'd like to provide some input, please contact  me in January. Or - you can help promote  this event in many other ways.


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

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

new subjects I'm studying for 2014

I bought a copy of Ecological Economics- A Workbook for Problem-based Learning - by Joshua Farley, Jon D. Erickson, and Herman E. Daly. This is a subject I want to learn a lot more about in the coming year. ( I have a 2005 edition). Daly especially is one of the most experienced guides in this field.
 The quick review reads "As a workbook accompanying the text, this volume breaks new ground in applying the principles of ecological economics in a problem- or service-based learning setting. Both the textbook and this workbook are situated within a new interdisciplinary framework that embraces the linkages among economic growth, environmental degradation, and social inequity in an effort to guide policy in a way that respects fundamental human values."

Then I've become interested in a new book, which looks fascinating, but I have not received it yet; Sacred Economics: Money, Gift, and Society in an Age of Transition, by Charles Eisenstein.

The quick review reads: "Sacred Economics traces the history of money from ancient gift economies to modern capitalism, revealing how the money system has contributed to alienation, competition, and scarcity, destroyed community, and necessitated endless growth. Today, these trends have reached their extreme—but in the wake of their collapse, we may find great opportunity to transition to a more connected, ecological, and sustainable way of being."