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:
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It started in late April in Newfoundland with a cluster of European Golden-Plovers being reported, followed by a few more, and then there were scores. That was impressive in itself, but the surprises in Newfoundland continued to amaze.
At the same time that European Golden-Plovers were being discovered, at least two pairs of Black-tailed Godwits - another Eurasian species - were found at Renews Harbour and at St. Paul's. Eventually more were discovered elsewhere - e.g., Old Pelican, Goulds, and Stevensville Crossing - with a possible total of at least nine of these handsome shorebirds ultimately being discovered.
These exciting Icelandic/European rarities were the byproduct of persistent easterly winds blowing across the North Atlantic at the end of April and into May. The entire invasion - termed a "ploverload" by Bruce Mactavish and others - was ultimately capped by another species, a Common Redshank.
Common Redshank is now a common breeder in Iceland, but has only occurred twice before in Newfoundland with five birds appearing in April-May 1995 and one in March-April 1999.
The first Common Redshank was reported along the wrack line at Renews, about 60 miles south of St. John's by Monte Taylor and Bruce Mactavish on 3 May. By the next day, two were found, and the pilgrimage began. Birders from near and far came to see this outstanding rarity. At least one of the two birds remained through 14 May.
For more details on Newfoundland's Common Redshanks, accompanied by a short narrative and multiple photos taken by Bruce Mactavish, see here:
IBA NEWS: CHESAPEAKE WATERBIRD PLAN
A significant milestone for waterbird populations depending on the Chesapeake Bay was recently attained. . This occurred when a comprehensive, state-of-the-art monitoring plan for the bay was completed and released. Coordinated by the Center for Conservation Biology, the plan provides an assessment of more than 140 bird species that rely on the Bay, and it addresses three issues:1) the monitoring needs for waterbirds within the Chesapeake Bay,2) how these monitoring needs are being addressed, and 3) what programs should be expanded or established to address any unmet needs.
Chesapeake Bay is one of the great estuaries of the world, and it plays a vital role in the life cycle of many bird species. Of course the entire bay is crucial for birds, but it also specifically has at least 15 Important Bird Areas (IBAs) individually identified throughout the estuary in Maryland or in Virginia. Many species that depend on the Chesapeake Bay and the bay's IBAs are of high international, national, or regional conservation concern. Actually nearly 30 percent of the waterbird species using the Chesapeake Bay are believed to be declining on a continental scale.
Nesting species of concern include King Rail, Black Rail, and Seaside Sparrow; overwintering seabirds including Red-throated Loon, Horned Grebe, and Northern Gannet) three waterfowl species (i.e., Canvasback, Ruddy Duck, and "Atlantic" Brant), and one passerine (i.e., Saltmarsh Sparrow).
While a number of government agencies, universities, NGOs, corporations, and private citizens participate in waterbird counts annually within the Chesapeake Bay, there is little coordination among their efforts. This makes it difficult to use their information to address bay-wide questions. With the emergence of regional and national bird conservation plans, as well as the completion of state comprehensive wildlife conservation strategies, it has become increasingly important to integrate efforts to identify the best conservation practices for priority species.
The new plan is one of the first to include seasonal integration, and it brings the Chesapeake Bay in line with other plans that cover some of the world's other great water bodies. This 94-page "Waterbirds of the Chesapeake: A Monitoring Plan" can be downloaded 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:
"MOONBIRD" MAKES ANOTHER APPEARANCE
At least one individual Red Knot has traveled from the tip of South America to the top of Canada after passing through the famous stopover site of the Delaware Bay for 21 years. This knot is nicknamed "Moonbird," because the bird has already flown the equivalent distance between the Earth and the moon and more than halfway back during its epic migrations. The bird has been making the trip for over two decades and this spring was observed on 25 May at Reeds Beech, New Jersey, with its identifiable orange-colored leg-band and the number "B-95" on it.
Red Knots feasting on horseshoe crab eggs in Delaware Bay have dropped in numbers from over 100,000 to perhaps under 25,000 in about a dozen years. Not surprisingly the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently announced an extension (to 15 June 2014) for public comment concerning a proposed Threatened listing of the rufa subspecies of the Red Knot under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
You can read more on Moonbird here:
BOOK NOTES: FOR NEW BIRDERS
In 2008, Bill Thompson, III wrote The Young Birder's Guide to Birds of Eastern North America (Houghton Mifflin), which we reviewed in April of that year. A few years later Thompson upped the stakes with his The Young Birder's Guide to Birds of North America, which we also reviewed in June 2012:
Both books are user-friendly and enjoyable. We mentioned in our short June 2012 review that the latter book was "good for anyone with a beginning interest in birds and not just youngsters."
Thompson's latest book resumes that approach. It is The New Birder's Guide to Birds of North America, and it is geared to the introductory birder, regardless of age. Indeed, the book uses the previous "Young Birder's" guide as a template, with much of the content being identical. Again, it is limited to the same 300+ species as its predecessor, but the photos (some new) are good, the illustrations by Julie Zickefoose and Michael DiGiorgio are very helpful, the maps are fine, and the hints and assortment of facts blended into the species accounts are often delightful.
The introductory content and layout are slightly different from the previous book, which in this case is geared for a more adult audience and a more adult eye.
It's possible that an adult just starting an interest in birds might not have noticed the previous Young Birder's Guide to Birds of North America, but this new book, with its minor adjustments, may prove to me more attractive and be the perfect introduction to the world of birds and birding.
ACCESS MATTERS: OHIO'S ROCK WREN
Rock Wrens breed across much of the western half of the United States, just barely reaching southwestern Canada. These wrens are well-named because they live in canyons, rocky gulches, and other stony haunts. The birds use their slender bills to seek food in fissures and crevices. Rock Wrens are very rare vagrants east of their normal range.
So it was a real surprise when Michael Hershberger and his sons found a Rock Wren while he was at work, spying the bird on a rock pile near a concrete silo on 29 April at Hochstetler Wood Ltd. near Millersburg, Ohio. Until then, there had been only one previous record of Rock Wren for Ohio, a bird that remained for a week around rocky riprap at Cleveland's Edgewater Park in December 1963.
The company - with about 25 employees at this location - mills a variety of wood components and also produces 800-900 chairs per week. Under these circumstances, the owners at Hochstetler Wood, the Hochstetler family, might simply have kept visiting birders out of the facility grounds. After all, work routines and liability might be at risk. Surprisingly however, birders were welcomed. Everyone who worked at Hochstetler Wood put up with the wave of birders seemingly with a combination of patience and nonchalance.
Until the bird disappeared after 7 May, it often frequented packs of wooden pallets, and sometimes it visited the nearby farm of Dan and David Miller, Amish folk who run a buggy shop. Birders were welcome there, too.
Two guest logs were begun, one at the mill and the other at the buggy shop. Having such guest logs is a practice recommended in last month's E-bulletin:
In a little more than a week that the Rock Wren was present, about 450 separate visitors signed these logs. Since some people didn't sign in, the actual visitation total might have topped 700 birders.
This is another fine example of working out access arrangements for birders, thus creating a situation where everybody wins. For more on this event, read an article from The Columbus Dispatch (18 May) by Jim McCormac:
CONCERN FOR WESTERN GREBES IN CANADA
The status of the Western Grebe in Canada was considered at the spring meeting of the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC), held in Halifax, Nova Scotia. This assessment is due to population declines that have been observed on the species' Pacific coast wintering grounds.
COSEWIC listed the Western Grebe as a species of "Special Concern." Jon McCracken, the Bird Studies Canada's Director of National Programs who co-chairs the COSEWIC's birds subcommittee, says that what is currently unknown is the extent to which some of the decline may just represent a geographic shift in the grebe's wintering distribution. Still, based on Christmas Bird Count data on a continental scale, wintering populations have undergone a 44 percent decline from 1995 to 2010. Some of this decline may also be the result of declines on Canadian breeding grounds.
Because Western Grebes congregate in large numbers, they are vulnerable to a variety of threats including oil spills, water level fluctuations, fisheries by-catch, and declines in prey availability.
You can access recent COSEWIC findings here:
BIRD SMUGGLER ARRESTED AT CUBAN AIRPORT
Last month, airport officials in Cuba reported on the arrest of a passenger attempting to leave the island with 66 Cuban Grassquits in his possession sewed into his low slung pants. The man's bulky attire and awkward walk apparently drew the attention of Cuban customs officials at the Ignacio Agramonte International Airport in the Cuban city of Camaguay. The man was described simply as a "resident of the United States."
We have written in the past about Cuban Grassquits and Cuban Bullfinches being reported "in the wild" in Florida, and the corresponding smuggling between Cuba and the U.S. Importation and sales of these birds in the Miami area is, of course, illegal. The price for these illegal Cuban Grassquits in the Miami area can be $50 each, or more.
For more, see our stories from July 2012:
and April 2013
ANOTHER BUDGET CONCERN: NEOTROP
Last month we profiled the State and Tribal Wildlife Grants as an important bird-funding mechanism that needs special attention this year:
This month, we take a look at the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act (NMBCA) and its importance in supporting hemispheric bird conservation.
The Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act was passed by Congress in 2000 in order to promote the long-term conservation of Neotropical migratory birds and their habitats. The goals of "the Neotrop," as it is often called, are to:
The first year of modest funding was 2002, and at least 75 percent of the total funding available for grants each fiscal year must be used to support projects outside the U.S. Moreover, the matching grant requirements aren't easy: for every $1 received in federal grant funds, the applicant must commit $3. Still, since 2002, more than $50 million in grants have supported 451 projects in 36 countries across the Americas.
Funding for the program steadily increased from $3 to $5 million during 2002-2010. But it dipped to $4 million in 2011, $3.78 million in 2012, and $3.58 million in 2013. It just barely made it to $3.66 for 2014 and currently remains there, flat, in the President's proposed budget for 2015.
There are two programs currently run under the NMBCA. One is the core (traditional) program benefiting any eligible Neotropical migratory bird, and the second is an IMPACT program designed to focus resources on a specific set of 13 at-risk Neotropical migratory bird species. These 13 key species are:
An explanation of the fund-leveraging capacity of the NMBCA, and highlighting projects involving some of the key IMPACT species can be found here:
Ideally, the NMBCA is expected to complement other funding sources, such as the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA), and the intent among promoters of NMBCA has been to build up its funding to be a major contributor to sustaining bird conservation for Neotropical migrants. While the NMBCA still has the potential to serve as a major vehicle for on-the-ground bird conservation across the hemisphere, the funding has clearly been inadequate, and the capacity for major conservation delivery through NMBCA has yet to be realized.
The Spring 2014 issue of The All-Bird Bulletin, the newsletter of the North American Bird Conservation Initiative (NABCI), is dedicated to the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act, and it features profiles and highlights a number of successful NMBCA-funded projects. You can access it here:
HAPPY 80th BIRTHDAY, HAWK MOUNTAIN
Eighty years ago, in June 1934, Rosalie Edge, her son Peter Edge, and Richard Pough met with a realtor at "Blue Mountain" near the village of Drehersville in Schuylkill County, in east-central Pennsylvania.
Although Rosalie Edge lacked the personal wherewithal at the time to purchase the property outright, she negotiated leasing the mountain for $500 per year, with an option to buy 1,373 acres at $2.50 per acre. With this action, Hawk Mountain Sanctuary was born.
In September of that year, Rosalie Edge installed a warden on the property, Maurice Broun, with his wife and bird-conservation partner, Irma Broun. The reckless fall shooting of hundreds of passing raptors for sport stopped immediately. The next year, Rosalie Edge opened the site to the public as a place to watch the beautiful but persecuted birds of prey. She purchased and deeded the 1,373 acres to Hawk Mountain Sanctuary Association, incorporated in 1938 as a non-profit organization in Pennsylvania. Since that time, the world's first refuge for birds of prey has evolved into an international center for raptor conservation, education, observation, and research.
It's time to wish Hawk Mountain a happy birthday!
TIP OF THE MONTH: USE THE STRAP
The worst thing you can do to your binoculars is to drop them. Such an accident can almost be heart-stopping.
There is a simple and essential safety-rule to follow to avoid such misfortune: If binoculars are in your possession, always, always, always make sure the strap is around your neck. Of course, it's also good to have your own strap relatively wide (distributing the weight) and relatively short (preventing unruly swinging).
Footnote: One curious tendency in advertising - for example, for ecotourism or outdoor equipment - is to show people watching birds through binoculars, but not having the binoculars secured using neck straps. This is a tell-tale sign of advertisers or advertising companies who don't know what they are doing. That's because real birders always use binocular straps.
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