A visually stunning one-pager by Alexandra Class Freeman on the Duck Stamp from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s new Bird Academy.
Richard Conniff hopes that Ospreys will nest in his neighborhood.
An osprey on the hunt circles over open water, hovers with a characteristic fluttering, decides this isn’t quite the spot, circles and hovers some more, and finally plunges feet-first into the water. It may struggle to become airborne again, with a fish up to 14 inches long mortally pierced between its talons. The bird then heads back to the nest with its unwilling passenger slung underneath. The fish travels headforemost, silvery and slim, and often with what the poet Mary Oliver called “a scrim of red rubies on its flashing sides.”
Ospreys are the overlooked beneficiary of the post-DDT era comeback, Mary Ann to the more charismatic Peregrine Falcon (Ginger) or Bald Eagle (Lovey Howell). Beautiful predators, just the same.
In a quite useful five-part series, Steve N.G. Howell explains how field notes work and how and what you might want to record, either in the field or in the motel at the end of the day. He saves the best advice for the last installment:
In conclusion, your notes are your notes. Write what you want, but in later years you’ll only have yourself to blame if your old notes don’t contain the information you find you want. If you have time, write it all down. If you don’t, pick and choose. But whatever you do, or don’t do, the main thing is to enjoy birding.
One more link to clear out of Instapaper and into a blog post: Nell Greenfieldboyce reports on an application of 3-D printing that actually sounds useful: artificial cowbird eggs for studies of brood parasitism.
Robert Rice updates us on the progress of the Smithsonian’s Bird Friendly (BF) coffee program, and connects it to research programs here and abroad. The program is retailing north of 700 thousand pounds of java annually.
The biggest challenge facing the BF coffee program is marketing. Currently, less than 10% of the coffee certified as BF actually makes it into the market as such. This shortfall is partly due to the fact that BF coffee is certified organic (as a pre-requisite) and thus often is sold into the organic coffee stream as organic only—not being purchased or marketed as BF. We presently are working with a consultant to help us design plans to increase demand. Creating more demand will result in more shade coffee farms being certified as Bird Friendly, and that is our main goal of this program: conserving viable, quality habitat for migratory and resident birds in the tropics.
… one small, one large.
Since I’ve started serving with Friends of the Migratory Bird/Duck Stamp, I am more attentive to equivalent efforts at the state level. The state of Ohio promotes a Wildlife Legacy Stamp. I bought one when I was in the Toledo area for the Biggest Week in American Birding. For $15, you get a stamp, of course, but you also get package of collateral: stickers, a thank you card, and a very fine pin that you can attach to the back of your favorite birding cap. Funds are collected by the Department of Natural Resources and support
- habitat restoration, land purchases and conservation easements
- keeping common species common
- endangered & threatened native species
- educational products for students and wildlife enthusiasts
- wildlife and habitat research projects
“Keeping common species common:” I like that.
Last year, when I was working onsite, I got a message from my colleague Erin, who was prepping a move to the Pacific Northwest. She wrote something to the effect of “I have this book about birds that’s too big for me to pack; would you like it?” Figuring it was some inconsequential coffee table book but to be gracious about a gift, I replied, “sure, thanks.” It turns out that the volume in question was a copy of the National Audubon Society/Peterson and Peterson reprint of John James Audubon’s Birds of America. This book is gorgeous. It’s also huge: it weighs 18 pounds. It’s a good thing that my own coffee table has a top made of two inches of solid walnut. Thank you, Erin!
Many conservation-oriented links piling up on my virtual desk, unremarked—so this needs must be a roundup post.
- Sharman Apt Russell describes her experiences collecting phenology data for Nature’s Notebook.
- Caren Cooper summarizes the findings in her recent paper in the Journal of Wildlife Management: birders and hunters alike are more likely to engage in conservation-supporting actitivies. Cooper’s “conservation superstars” are birders who are also hunters: these people are even more likely to donate money for conservation and do other things to preserve our legacy.
- Jason Goldman sings the praises of shade-grown coffee from an unexpected part of the world: Ethiopia, the land where Coffea was first domesticated.
- And Goldman summarizes a paper by A.M.I. Roberts et al., working with 222 years of phenology data collected by Robert Marsham and his descendants from the family estate in Norfolk, UK. For certain tree species, “winter chilling” turns out to be a more important factor determining leaf out than the warmth of “spring forcing.”
Kelly Preheim, via Laura Erickson, photographs fish frozen into South Dakota lake ice. The eagles say thank you.
I posted some notes on Perfecto, Vandemeer, and Wright, Nature’s Matrix: Linking Agriculture, Conservation, and Food Sovereignty (2009) to my Goodreads account.
Our feeling is that triple certification [of coffee] has great potential. Consumers might have a short attention span, but they’re not stupid. If presented in short, cogent messages that explain the connections between the social and the environmental arguments, the average coffee drinker can undoubtedly understand the triple certification concept—and if you think about those groups that are “target audiences” for such messages (social action groups in churches or labour unions; vegetarian and organic devotees; birder associations, etc.) then the message may be even more palatable and likely to be heard.—Ivette Perfecto, John Vandermeer, and Angus Wright, Nature’s Matrix: Linking Agriculture, Conservation, and Food Sovereignty, p. 156
The songbirds were exceptionally chatty on this rather cold day, so I was able to rack up a nice 22-species total for my count down along the Glade stream valley. And unless I’m mistaken, this is the first time that I’ve seen a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker on the count. One of the resident Red-shouldered Hawks was hunkered down, roosting in a tree with three crows, all of them trying to stay warm.
In the past, when I’ve posted about shade-grown, bird-friendly coffee (for instance, here, here, and here), the research focus (by scientists like Ivette Perfecto and Russell Greenberg) has been on Central American farms and neotropical migrants. New research indicates that birds in Africa and Eurasia also benefit from shade cultivation in Ethiopia (the cradle of all domesticated coffee), as Brian Clark Howard reports. Ethiopian coffee farmers are under the same pressures to convert to intensive “sun coffee” production that their New World counterparts face.
“Importance of Ethiopian shade coffee farms for forest bird conservation” is now in press. Co-author Cagan H. Şekercioğlu
suggests that the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center or the Rainforest Alliance, which certify bird-friendly coffee from other countries, should consider extending their programs to Ethiopia. Certification allows farmers to recoup a price premium, which can help deter the impulse to convert farms to full sun or otherwise develop their land.
Emily Graslie and Ernesto Ruelas go birding by ear (and occasionally, by eye) in the western Amazon.
So that’s what a toucan sounds like.
A recent paper by Jason M. Gleditsch and Tomás A. Carlo explores the impact on nesting success of Gray Catbirds (Dumetella carolinensis) breeding in Pennsylvania landscapes dominated by invasive Asian honeysuckles (Lonicera sp.). It turns out that they found little evidence to support the claim that honeysuckle represents an “ecological trap” of increased predation risk and poor nutritive value from fruits, contrary to the results of other researchers. Adult birds may have made more trips to the nest, bearing what some have called “junk food,” but body mass measurements of the nestlings, in this study, show that they grow up just fine.
Our results show that relationships between introduced fleshy-fruited plants and native birds are complex and not easily characterized as purely harmful or beneficial because they can include negative, neutral, or positive outcomes.
Sometimes, in the authors’ view, using an alien species is the best the birds can do, under the circumstances.
… the traditional and widespread categorical approach to invasive species management should be revised to prevent harming certain communities and ecosystems, especially areas in a process of self-recovery from heavy human disturbances.