Posts Tagged ‘bird conservation’

Join The Christmas Bird Count

Friday, November 17th, 2017
Join the Christmas Bird Count

 

 

Make your holiday season extra-special this year and do something important for bird conservation by participating in the birdwatching Christmas Bird Count. Every year from December 14 through January 5 people around the world get outside and count the birds in their area or even just their yard.  When you register and participate in the count, you are part of an organized counting of birds at a specific time each year and the information which you report is added to all the historical data from over 100 years of bird counts. The data supplies scientists with critical information on where birds are, the health of bird populations and helps direct conservation efforts. Plus, its lots of fun to do with friends and family!

 

The origins of the Christmas Bird Count are interesting. In the 19th Century, there was an organized hunt called the Christmas “Side Hunt” where hunters would shoot as many birds as they could — the winner was the one with the largest number of birds shot. As people were slowly becoming more aware of what wanton hunting for sport was doing to populations of birds and animals, on Christmas Day 1900, Frank Chapman, the head of the magazine Bird-Lore (which became Audubon Magazine), proposed an alternative to the Christmas hunt with a Christmas bird count. And that Christmas, 90 species were counted by 27 people. Now, there are nearly 70 million birds reported and 75,000 people worldwide who participate – you can be one of them!  It’s easy to do and a lot of fun! Won’t you join the longest-running bird citizen science project in the US this year?  Registration takes place in November – don’t miss out!

 

Fall For Your Own Native Plant Meadow

Thursday, October 5th, 2017

 

To ensure you attract birds, butterflies and other wildlife in
monarch_butterfly+native_plants
Monarch Butterfly
Photo Credit: Deborah Rivel
abundance to your yard, there is no better choice than planting a meadow with native plants. Not only is a mature meadow a stunningly beautiful sight of waving flowers with butterflies and birds darting in and out, but it’s virtually maintenance free, and provides the natural food and nourishment birds who are in and also migrating through the area need at the time.  And fall is the best time to get your meadow started as some of the seeds require cold or freezing temperatures before they will sprout.  Seeding before winter sets in will give you a head start on the growing season.

I have a native meadow which is nearing maturity and it is one of the best things I have ever done for wildlife and for myself — the increase in bird and butterfly activity once the plants started growing and flowering was immediate and far beyond what I had expected.  Full disclosure though, it’s not an overnight or completely simple thing to do. I hired The NJ Wildlife Gardener, Josh Nemeth, from the Cape May, NJ area to do mine as I have no competence whatsoever in landscaping or with plants in general. Josh selected a specific seed mix that was native to the area and which he knew would be irresistible to birds and butterflies. The area to be planted was covered in decades-old grass, so he covered the grass in plastic so it would die off and be easier to remove.  Then the area was seeded in the fall.   It needed some watering to get the seeds started, and then some during the late spring and dry summer months the following year.  But that was the end of the watering maintenance.  Josh also selected a number of shrubs and bushes to add both additional visual interest and variety, but also to ensure there would be food and shelter available year round for birds and wildlife.  

I was told it takes about 3 years for the meadow to take hold, and indeed that has been the case.  Honestly, it was a little depressing in year 2 as I was getting impatient and the plants really seemed to not be progressing as I thought they should! But this is the third year and the results have been stellar and well worth the wait. My meadow has everything from grasses, goldenrod, roses, iris, milkweed to cattails and chokeberry. As a result, I had all sorts of birds diving into my meadow for a respite during spring migration, new species of birds who took advantage of the extra food and safe haven to nest in my yard during the summer and now in fall, there are large flocks of birds and untold numbers of butterflies using my meadow for food and shelter as they pass through to parts farther south. The shrubs are ripe with berries, flowers are bursting out everywhere and the variety of butterflies flitting around is stunning!  Plus,  it looks so beautiful and my neighbors love watching what’s going on in my yard! 

flowers_in_native_plant_meadow
Native Plant Meadow
Photo Credit: Deborah Rivel

You don’t need much room to have your own native meadow. And whatever time it takes pays off big time once the meadow is up and running!  So, now’s the time to get started!  For most of us, It makes sense to have a professional native landscape designer and gardener help you get the design and the right seed mix, and get it all started. You may want to add a water feature or different sections or habitats if you have the space.  Someone who does native plant landscaping and gardening will know what to do and have the resources to get native seeds and plants for you.  If you are a do-it-youselfer, check out the how-to pages from the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, get out your shovel and order those seeds!

A Day at the Beach

Wednesday, June 29th, 2016
A Day at the Beach

What could be more summer-like than a day at the beach? Who doesn’t love having fun in the water and on the sand? And the beach is a popular spot for wildlife as well. Terrapins cross busy streets to get from the marsh to

piping_plover_chick
Piping Plover chick

the sandy shores to lay their eggs, then return home across those same busy streets; horseshoe crabs lay their thousands of eggs along the shoreline, and eating the eggs gives long-distance flying shorebirds the energy they need to complete their migration; Osprey and terns ply the waters close to shore, diving for food; beach nesting birds lay their perfectly camouflaged eggs in the sand

and raise their equally camouflaged young there.  On beaches, there’s a lot going on! And it might not be a surprise to know that birds that use our shores face some big challenges.

Next time you’re at the beach, take a careful look around. All beach nesting birds, like the oystercatchers below,  lay eggs directly on a little shallow in the sand. For their protection from predators, these eggs all blend in perfectly with the sand, as do the teeny chicks who when hatched, are extremely difficult to see. Many areas where birds nest on the beach are roped off so they can enjoy a zone away from the rest of us enjoying the same real estate.

Want to help beach-nesting birds?  Here are some things you can do:
If you see a nesting area that has been roped off, don’t enter it for any reason.  The eggs or chicks, if they have hatched, could be anywhere.  Plus, the adults have a difficult time herding their precocial chicks, and see everything that moves as a potential predator — including pets.  Even if your dog is on a lead and outside the nesting area, his presence can distract the adults who may
oystercatcher and chick at beach
American Oystercatcher and chick on beach

feel they need to leave their chicks to defend against a passing dog. This might lead to an opening a gull or crow has been waiting for to grab an unattended  chick.  Plus some birds, like Piping Plovers, need to safely escort their chicks to the water’s edge multiple times each day to feed them. A busy beach is a challenging place for a beach nesting bird! If you are respectful, they will stand a much better chance of successfully raising their young.


The beach is a great place to spend hot summer days, and its also a terrific place to see wildlife.  Enjoy the beach and be respectful of the wild birds and other animals with which we share it.  This is the best way to ensure they will be there in the future for all of us to continue to enjoy.

The Mystery of the Migration Route

Monday, September 28th, 2015

The Mystery of the Migration Route

Do birds fly the same route on migration in spring and fall? Would it surprise you that many of them don’t? In fact, scientists are finding out that many birds, especially in spring, follow a path of new plant growth — what is migrating_cormorantscalled a “green wave” of migration — where birds follow patches of insects and food going north. In fall, especially in the western US, they take a more direct route south, staying at higher elevations, creating a round trip route that looks like a loop for their migration as opposed to a straight line used both directions.  For birds in the western US, it might seem to us to be a less enticing route, but if the choice is flight over desert, or flight over wilted foliage with insects in it, the choice seems fairly straight forward.

This “looped migration” offers conservationists the opportunity to fine tune their efforts to benefit birds on migration by building, preserving and reinforcing stop-over habitats where they are needed.

The information which went into this study has been made possible by birders like you who post sightings on ebird, which helps create a database of bird sightings over time.  See more on this interesting discovery at Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Family Fun: Join the Christmas Bird Count!

Monday, December 15th, 2014

It’s that time of year again! Time to be part of the Christmas  Bird Count which is a birdwatchingreally fun thing to do with the entire family! In its 115th year this year, from December 14 through January 5, National Audubon Society organizes groups of people across the entire US who spend one specific day counting the birds in their area. It’s well organized and all the reported bird sightings become part of the data used to keep a record of where birds are each year. This information is invaluable for conservation purposes. And you can help! Just go to this link and find the representative doing it near you. You can sign up online, find the location and date of the count and show up to join tens of thousands of volunteers across the country every year who help keep track of our native birds through this citizen science project.

If you love birds and want to have a truly great day out birding while contributing to bird conservation, make a point of signing up and bringing your family and friends along. It’s a wonderful holiday gift for the birds and everyone participating benefits!

Photo credit: National Audubon Society

Where To See Birds: California’s Central Valley

Tuesday, October 28th, 2014

WHERE TO SEE BIRDS: California’s Central Valley

The Central Valley of California is a great spot for overwintering waterfowl.  It has also been making the

snow_geese_central_valley_ca_gary_zahm_usfws
Snow Geese – Gary Zahm, USFWS

news a lot lately as the drought there has reached epic proportions, and it’s not just farmers who are affected. About 60 percent of the waterfowl in the Pacific Flyway use California’s Central Valley for wintering habitat making this area an extremely important bird habitat — especially for wintering ducks and geese.  Its 13 million acres once contained a rich wetland complex covering 4 million acres.  But with intense agriculture and human development only 205,000 acres of highly managed wetlands remain.

As global climate patterns continue to predict more droughts, the future of wetlands in the Central Valley is uncertain. Agriculture claims about 80 percent of the water use in the region, and as urbanization continues, demand for that water increases. But it’s not all bad news! In recent years rice farmers have worked with conservationists to manage rice fields for birds. It’s a practice called “Bird Friendly Agriculture”, whereby farmers are compensated for providing habitat for waterfowl and shorebirds during critical times of year when the farmers aren’t using their fields for agriculture anyway.

Visit California’s Central Valley in the wintertime to see incredible flocks of  Snow Geese, Greater White-fronted Geese, Canada Geese,  Mallards, Canvasbacks, Dunlin,  Sandhill Cranes and so much more! We recommend visiting a National Wildlife Refuge, such as Merced National Wildlife Refuge in Merced, California, or Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge in Willows, California. After you enjoy the show, be sure to support the many organizations that protect wildlife in California’s Central Valley. You can learn more about them by visiting the  Central Valley Joint Venture website.

Watch Ospery Migration Live Online

Sunday, September 21st, 2014

Watch Osprey Migration Live Online!

osprey_flying Compared to other birds of prey, Ospreys start their migration south early. Ospreys cannot tolerate cold weather and they start their trek to warmer climes in August before temperatures start to drop.

In recent years scientists have been attaching transmitters ospreytrax_map to Ospreys, enabling them to track their movements in real time.  To get real time updates on the whereabouts and routes some ospreys take, check out Ospreytrax. Here you will find an interactive map which lets you see where the birds in this group are right now; and you can use the slider at the bottom of the map to see their movements. The birds in this map are a mix of experienced adults and juveniles migrating for the first time.  It’s fascinating to check back from time to time to see who is where as each bird has his or her own path and time frame for their migration!

Snowy Owls and Airports

Wednesday, December 18th, 2013
IN THE NEWS:  Snowy Owls and Airports

snowy_owl_flying Snowy owls are coming into the US in record numbers this year, and are being seen as far south as South Carolina! If you enjoyed reading about the current irruption of Snowy owls last month in our newsletter, you might be interested in this news story.

Snowy owls like hunting for food in open areas, like airfields, and birds and jet aircraft don’t mix well.  If you saw the news story in early December about the Snowy owls at JFK airport, you may recall that the Port Authority who manages the airport, decided to kill 5 Snowy owls that were near the field, much as they do Canada geese and other birds who pose a potential safety hazard to aircraft.

Birdwatchers who had come long distances to see the owls were shocked at this decision, as Snowy owls at other airports, such as Boston’s Logan airport, are trapped and released.  Additionally, the biggest safety issue involves birds in large flocks that are sucked into jet engines and can more readily cause an accident.  Snowy owls are solitary and pose far less of a threat than do flocking birds, so this decision to shoot the owls near JFK was perceived as a bit extreme.

With the help of many NGO’s including NY Audubon and Friends of Animals, as well as many New Yorkers who contacted the Port Authority protesting this inhumane treatment, the Port Authority very quickly agreed to stop shooting the owls and provide for a non-lethal way of getting them off the field. JFK will now be safe from owl strikes and it will be done humanely.  Thanks to everyone who made their feelings about this known to the authorities.  New Yorkers don’t want owls killed!

Safer Glass + Fewer Lights = Safer Migration

Thursday, September 26th, 2013
Safer Glass + Fewer Lights = Safer Migration

Migration is pretty challenging to begin with.  But there are some additional man-made risks that birds have to contend with and they are often deadly.

bird_glass_strike
courtesy Sara Sharf/FLAP Canada

Colliding with glass poses a serious threat to birds.  It is estimated that nearly 300 million to 1 billion birds die each year from collisions with glass and confusion from lights on tall buildings, communication towers and homes — and the risk is increased during migration.  Research indicates that collisions are second only to habitat loss in the leading causes of bird deaths in North America.

During the evenings, it is thought that birds are attracted to the glow of excessive lights.  For centuries, birds have used patterns of light from the moon and stars to navigate the night sky.  Songbirds in particular prefer to migrate at night. Urban sprawl has only confused birds on their evening migrations.  They are drawn to the artificial lighting of cities and find themselves in a maze of brightly lit buildings where they often become trapped and fly in endless circles, unable to free themselves from the overwhelming light. These birds fall to the ground exhausted and often dead.

Hummingbird_stunned
courtesy FLAP Canada

Many cities including San Francisco, Chicago, New York and Toronto, have a Lights Out program.  From midnight to dawn during peak migration in fall and spring, buildings turn their lights out, making passage safer for many migrating birds…and helping to save energy as well!  If your city doesn’t do this, you can try to get a Lights Out program established. It’s very important for migrating birds, and something anyone can do.

During the daylight hours, birds are attracted to reflections of their habitat and surroundings in glass. They see things differently than we do and may see the reflection of trees in a window for a resting spot and fly in.  Or they may not see there is glass they have to get through to get to a garden on the other side. Sound familiar?  Have you ever walked into a door not realizing it was glass?  At high speed, a bird hitting plate glass suffers greatly or even fatally with this kind of collision.

Glass is a serious concern for birds, but luckily products are becoming available to help birds from colliding with glass.  A new glass called Ornilux has a UV pattern that is nearly invisible to humans, but it allows birds to see the glass before they collide with it. Its a breakthrough in bird-friendly glass products and is great for new residential construction or commercial use.

But it’s not just the glass in city buildings that cause problems. Birds in your backyard are experiencing similar issues and need your help. If you spend time watching the birds in your yard, it is likely you have seen or heard them strike a window.  Placing your feeders within 3-4 feet of windows can in fact help reduce the likelihood of a window strike.  At a shorter distance, birds won’t build up enough speed to seriously injure themselves should they collide.  Closing blinds and moving houseplants away from Completed Window Examplewindows can also help lessen confusion. Placing strips of flapping fabric every 12-18 inches on the window shows there is no space to fly through, but it doesn’t look great. The most effective method is to put a repeating pattern on the windows that creates a view the birds know they can’t fly through. Single decals don’t really work as the birds think they can fly around them.  But Feather Friendly makes a dotted tape that you can apply yourself to make your windows safer for birds and it wont interrupt your view of them or your garden!

For more information regarding collision risks and how to prevent them, visit the Fatal Light Awareness Program website.  They have excellent tips on providing a bird friendly environment in your hometown and backyard.

FAMILY PROJECT: Help Long Distance Migrators

Thursday, May 9th, 2013

Birds that migrate long distances need your help!

There are fun and easy things anyone can do and they can make a big difference to wildlife. If you like taking a stand for the right thing – animals like the Red knot and horseshoe crabs need you to stand up for them to keep them from disappearing.  Take Mike Hudson in Maryland, for example.  At 14 years old, he and some friends started a letter writing campaign to the US Fish and Wildlife Service asking the Red knot be listed as an endangered species.  You can visit his website Friends of the Red Knot to see what he is doing.  For his effort he has gained a great reputation and he now assists researchers gathering data on these birds – something he really loves to do. Are you good at social media, maybe Facebook or Twitter?  Start your own social media campaign and get your friends involved to contact lawmakers and let them know how important it is to not harvest horseshoe crabs, and to get Red knots federally listed as endangered.  Birds like the Red knot need your help and it’s fun to do!

If you live near any grassland or prairie area – they used to exist all across the US – take a look to see if there is anyone restoring the original prairie, like Citizens for Conservation in Illinois.  There is a lot of this going on and prairie restoration can be a lot of fun to do!  You work with a group of people to get rid of the bad invasive plants and put in the native ones, plant seeds and sometimes create ponds and marshes.  Grasslands can start recovering fairly quickly and the work you do helps birds and animals in a very big way by giving them more areas to nest and use as stopovers during migration.  It’s a great family project that will leave you incredibly satisfied at the end of the day.

Please let us know what you are doing to help migrating birds.  We would love to let our readers know!

 

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