Birds in the News 153

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Whimbrel, Numenius phaeopus at Bolivar Flats, Texas.
Image: Joseph Kennedy, 2 July 2008 [larger view].
Nikon D200, Kowa 883 telescope with TSN-PZ camera eyepiece 1/2000s f/8.0 at 1000.0mm iso400.

Christmas Bird Count News
The Annual Christmas Bird Counts are rapidly approaching, so I am publishing links to all of the counts here; who to contact, and where and when they are being held, so if you have a link to a Christmas Bird Count for your state, please let me know so I can include it in the list:
Alabama (Thanks, Chazz Hesselein)
Arizona (Thanks, Sheri Williamson)
California (Thanks, Joseph Morlan)
Idaho (Thanks, Denise Hughes)
Illinois (Thanks, Urs Geiser)
Iowa (Thanks, Urs Geiser)
Kansas (Thanks, Chuck Otte)
Minnesota (also view map of Minnesota CBCs) (Thanks, Rick and Steve Weston)
New Jersey (Thanks, Patrick Belardo)
North and South Carolina (also view map for the Carolinas CBCs) Thanks, Kent Fiala)
North Dakota (Thanks, Rick)
Oregon (also view map for WA and OR CBCs) (Thanks, Mike Patterson and Barbara Combs)
Washington State (also view map for WA and OR CBCs) (Thanks, Mike Patterson)
People Hurting Birds
George Bush reveals his true colors yet again, this time, his general disdain for native wildlife as well as federal laws, by pardoning a gunpoison-toting idiot who wantonly killed three federally-protected Bald Eagles, along with several other predatory bird species. On the other hand, considering that Bush and his buddies killed the economy, I guess this is a minor transgression, and pardoning the killing of a national symbol is rather symbolic in itself, don’t you think?
Analysis of this year’s seabird breeding data on RSPB (BirdLife in the UK) coastal reserves shows that Black-legged Kittiwake, Rissa tridactyla, Arctic Tern, Sterna paradisaea and Parasitic Jaeger, Stercorarius parasiticus — more commonly known as Arctic Skua — have had a terrible season, with virtually no chicks reared to fledging in the far north of the UK. Changes in food supply, which may be linked to climate change, could threaten the future of these species in the UK. Worryingly, the evidence suggests that repeated annual breeding failures are now substantially reducing populations of those species worst affected.
People Helping Birds
The UK government has revealed that the populations of some iconic countryside birds fell last year to their lowest levels since 1970. The RSPB (BirdLife in UK) believes that following the removal of set-aside earlier this year, further declines in farmland birds are inevitable. The Society is urging the government to take swift action to restore the fortunes of these birds. “The further drop in the numbers of some farmland birds is deeply troubling,” said Gareth Morgan, RSPB’s lead agricultural policy officer. “This is a credit crunch for birds. We know the general intensification of farming, driven by the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), has accounted for the majority of the historic decline in farmland birds, but with good conservation support now available for farmers this year’s results are dismaying”.
Increasing numbers of wildlife and birds in the Thames Estuary could end plans for an airport on an artificial island, the RSPB has claimed. Its Waterbirds in the UK 2006/2007 report places the estuary in the top five most important sites in the UK for water birds wintering or migrating. “For years we have been pointing to the estuary’s importance for countless species and here, in black and white yet again, is proof of just how remarkable the area really is for wildlife. The nearby Swale and Medway Estuaries, similarly recognised by this report for their international importance, will also lose out if an airport went ahead.” [streaming report.]
A pilot project in Burkina Faso, Botswana and Kenya implemented by BirdLife Africa Partners, has confirmed that communities do benefit from the sustainable use of natural resources. Over the last four years, the ‘Improving Livelihoods’ scheme has demonstrated clear links between biodiversity conservation and poverty reduction. “The livelihood security of millions of rural people all over Africa is inextricably linked with biodiversity and the use of biological resources, either through the direct use of the goods which they supply to people, or indirectly through the wider environmental and cultural services,” said Dr Hazell Shokellu Thompson, BirdLife Director for Africa and Secretariat Head. “This is what BirdLife in Africa has been showcasing through this project and it’s satisfying to see results.”
Rare Birds News
Brazil has become the most recent country to formally ratify a major global seabird treaty. Endorsement of the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP) means Brazil will take measures to reduce seabird bycatch within their waters. This will strengthen conservation action being undertaken around the world to save the 300,000 seabirds — including 100,000 albatrosses — killed in longline fisheries each year. All eight species of Albatross found in Brazilian waters are classified as Globally Threatened.
Edinburgh Zoo has joined forces with Paignton Zoo in Devon and zoos abroad in a bid to save a bird that has been extinct in the wild for 30 years. The Socorro dove, which originates from Socorro Island off Mexico, died out in the wild in the 1970s as a result of human disturbance and habitat loss. The glimmer of hope held by all involved in the Socorro Dove Project is that this little brown dove will once again be found on its ancestral island, and that glimmer just got a bit brighter.”
Conservationists are planning to bring the sea eagle, the UK’s largest bird of prey, back to the skies above England. The bird, known as “flying barn doors” because of its size, could be reintroduced into Norfolk next summer if the scheme gets the go-ahead.
Avian Zoonotics News
A virus that causes cold-like symptoms in humans originated in birds and may have crossed the species barrier around 200 years ago, according to a new article published in the Journal of General Virology. Scientists hope their findings will help us understand how potentially deadly viruses emerge in humans. “Human metapneumovirus may be the second most common cause of lower respiratory infection in young children. Studies have shown that by the age of five, virtually all children have been exposed to the virus and re-infections appear to be common,” said Professor Dr Fouchier. “We have identified sites on some virus proteins that we can monitor to help identify future dominant strains of the virus.”
Streaming Birds
On BirdNote, for the week of 30 November 2008. BirdNotes can be heard seven mornings per week at 8:58-9:00am throughout Western Washington state and Southern British Columbia, Canada, on KPLU radio in Seattle, KOHO radio in Wenatchee, WA, WNPR radio in Connecticut, KWMR radio in West Marin, California, KTOO radio in Juneau, Alaska, and KMBH radio in Harlingen, Texas. All episodes are available in the BirdNote archives, both in written transcript and mp3 formats, along with photographs, so you can listen to them anytime, anywhere. Listener ideas and comments are welcomed. [Podcast and rss]. If you would like to $upport BirdNote, I encourage you to purchase one of their wonderful “birdy” items from their online BirdNote Store (the calendar and t-shirt look especially fine, and no doubt, they will be adding more items in the future).
Every fall, thousands of cranes and geese migrate to the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in central New Mexico. And before dawn during the five-day Festival of the Cranes, bird enthusiasts gather to watch as thousands of birds fly into the sunrise [streaming Weekend Edition Sunday, NPR 3:00 minutes.]
Bird Publications News
The new WINGS e-newsletter is available with the November trivia question. Just as last time around, the answer is posted on The Wingbeat — but see if you can figure it out yourself before checking! Suggestions for new questions always welcome.
This week’s issue of the Birdbooker Report lists ecology, evolution, natural history and bird books that are (or will soon be) available for purchase. Ian also recently published an article in the magazine, Winging It, about the 50 bird books that every birder should own in their library [free PDF]. Keep an eye on the comments for this blog entry to find more URLs where this PDF is being hosted.
Would you like an avian anatomy book — free? If so, you can download one, two or all three books as PDFs by going to this entry, where you can read about the books that are available and choose your free copies. Note that each book must be uploaded to someone’s computer at least once every 90 days, or the file will be automatically deleted by RapidShare, so please share this link with your friends.
Bird Identification Quizzes
If you are interested to participate in a daily online discossion of bird identification, please go to the Mystery Birds archive. This is a collaborative project featuring with a number of talented bird photographers and written analyses by Rick Wright. It is updated daily, and you are given 48 hours to identify each bird before its identification and an analysis is published. You are also invited to check out the previous Mystery Birds to improve your birding skills.
Miscellaneous Bird News
During the first half of November the naturalists at Hilton Pond were away from to present a paper at the 12th Congress of the Society for Mesoamerican Biodiversity, held this year in El Salvador. While there, they were asked to lead a workshop on hummingbird banding for a group of Salvador biologists who accompanied them to Cerro Verde National Park. They’ve chronicled in the 1-15 November 2008 installment of “This Week at Hilton Pond.” You can view their photoessay — complete with photos of Salvadoran flora and fauna and a very special Ruby-throated Hummingbird at this link
As always, they include a list of birds banded or recaptured back at Hilton Pond.
Physically speaking the Vogelkop Bowerbird, Amblyornis inornatus, may be a rather uninspiring ‘brown job’ but a male’s so-called ‘roofed maypole’ bower — nothing less than the most complex and largest structure known in the avian world — more than makes up for that. Now add to this a frantic obsession to collect colorful or shiny environmental items to decorate this bower, plus a vast array of electronic, almost extra-terrestrial-sounding territorial vocalizations, haphazardly interspersed with convincing mimicry, and a male has everything to impress the ladies as well as make a good bird program.
Bermuda plans to introduce a colorful new line of notes next year and planned to feature a local bird, the White-tailed Tropicbird, on its new currency. But they put the wrong bill on the bird on the $50 bill, accolrding to ornithologist David Wingate, who says he is appalled to see the featured bird is a red-billed tropicbird — a species that does not nest in Bermuda and has rarely been spotted on the island.

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The Fine Print: Thanks to James, Rick, TravelGirl, Bill, Ian, Diane, Bob, Ellen, Jeremy and Ron for sending story links. Thanks in advance to Ian Paulsen for catching my typos; as you probably know by now, I put a few typographical errors in these documents just so Ian can find them!


About GrrlScientist

grrlscientist is the pseudonym of an evolutionary biologist and ornithologist who writes about evolution, ethology, and ecology, especially in birds. After earning a degree in microbiology (thesis focus: virology) and working at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, she earned her PhD in zoology from the University of Washington in Seattle, where she studied the molecular correlates of testosterone and behaviour in white-crowned sparrows. She then worked a Chapman Postdoctoral Fellow at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, where she studied the speciation and distribution of lories and other parrots throughout the South Pacific Islands. A discarded scientist, she returned to her roots: writing. Formerly hosted by The Guardian (UK), she now writes about science for Forbes and for the non-profit think tank, the Evolution Institute and she writes podcasts for BirdNote Radio. An avid lifelong birder and aviculturist, she lives with a flock of songbirds and parrots somewhere in Germany.
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0 Responses to Birds in the News 153

  1. To be fair, the Thames Estuary artificial-island airport scheme was a non-starter from the beginning. It was just a case of Mayor “bonkers” Boris Johnson opening his mouth and saying the first insane thing that occurred to him – no one else was taking it seriously.
    Besides, the site of any such airport would be miles downstream of London, so Mayor Boris would have no power to make such a thing happen anyway.
    It’s just a shame that environmental concerns never seem to put the brakes on the ludicrously badly thought-up “Thames Gateway” developments all along the North Kent/South Essex coasts.

  2. travelgirl says:

    to be honest, most of the last few london mayors have had a screw loose at times. it must come as part of the territory…