This Birding Community E-bulletin is being 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: www.zeiss.com/SPORTS
You can access an archive of past E-bulletins on the website of the National Wildlife Refuge Association (NWRA):
February Birding Community E-bulletin
On 20 December, a curious finch began visiting the backyard feeder of Michael Rehman and his family in Union Township, New Jersey. It visited the feeders about five times through 2 January, at which point Michael Rehman was finally able to photograph and identify it as a Common Chaffinch.
This species is a common breeder across Europe to western Siberia and south to North Africa and the Caspian Sea region, and it winters farther south into the Middle East. The species is also an annual visitor to Iceland.
Common Chaffinch is a real rarity to eastern Canada and the northeastern U.S. (i.e., New England to New Jersey), with fewer than 20 reports during the period between late September and late May. Reports of this species from California, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, and Wyoming most likely represent escaped cage birds.
Since first being identified through at least 23 January, up to 650 birders were welcomed to the Rehman residence, with many birders stationing themselves on the backyard porch while waiting for the Common Chaffinch to arrive. Although some people had to come back several times before finally seeing the bird, it appeared almost daily through 23 January, mostly in the mornings. Visitors were welcome any time after 7:30 am on weekdays. (On weekends, the family kids held sway over the backyard.)
You can view some of Michael Rehman’s early photos here:
Other photos and notes by Howard Eskin are available here:
The protocols for visitation at the Rehman residence – weekdays only, not before 7:30am, and parking at a nearby cul-de-sac – were widely distributed and well followed by birders on their best behavior. All visitors who came to see the Common Chaffinch were encouraged to approach the backyard via the same route, to share the porch space, and, eventually, to sign the visitor log.
This whole experience has been a perfect example of sharing access and engaging a homeowner, all leading to responsible birder behavior. According to Rehman, “As far as deciding to let the birding world into our backyard it was pretty easy for me since it’s great to have such a rarity at my feeders, but it’s even better to share the rarity with others.”
Sharing, cooperating, and sticking to a resident’s rules collectively add up to a good time for birders, and perfectly illustrate that appropriate birding access can benefit all concerned.
The Indianapolis Zoo has designed a new orangutan building called the “Beacon of Hope.” Two features of the proposed structure – a wide display of glass and bright illumination at night –might have the potential to kill migratory birds attracted to the tall, lighted structure at night, or by colliding with the glass at all hours of the day. A description and conceptual picture of the proposed building can be viewed here:
Many observers were concerned that the Indianapolis Zoo, an institution known for species protection, would consider constructing a building that might threaten wild birds.
After a petition started circulating and after discussions began between concerned parties, including staff from the American Bird Conservancy’s Bird Collision Campaign, zoo staffers brought to light some design considerations which actually stress safety, and they also plan to institute some additional changes. Zoo staff is working with a glass artist who has recommended etching or creating a molded pattern on the glass wall to deter bird collisions. The glass wall will also be angled, and there will be no vegetation for 30 feet in front of it. The top of the spire – originally called a beacon – has yet to be fully designed and will not include a powerful beacon in any case. That element may actually include a green, LED installation.
Zoo officials have also pledged to take part in “Lights Out Indy” during spring and fall migration, a project whose activities are summarized here:
In sum, an example of good design is still possible and may very well be in the works. Time will tell, and we will report on future developments as they unfold.
Last month marked the second anniversary of the tragic Haitian earthquake. Consequently this is a good time to share some positive avian updates from that troubled country.
Last July, there was a presentation at the Society for the Conservation and Study of Caribbean Birds (SCSCB) meeting about the discovery of an active nest of Black-capped Petrels on Morne Vincent in southeast Haiti, a site near the border with the Dominican Republic. Population estimates of this Caribbean-nesting species are highly uncertain, with 600-2,000 pairs most likely.
To gain more information about the newly discovered Black-capped Petrel nesting area on the island of Hispaniola and the species’ status described in the newly released (Jan 2012) Conservation Action Plan for the species, visit:
It is significant that most of the known or potential breeding locations for the Black-capped Petrel have been designated as Important Bird Areas. In the case of the known breeding locations near the Haitian-Dominican border (and potential locations in Cuba) the presence of the birds has triggered IBA designation.
Grupo Jaragua, the BirdLife partner in the Dominican Republic, recently distributed a press release on the discovery and posted it to their website at:
A video with images of the nesting petrels can be see at:
Grupo Jaragua has already set up a camera at a nest site and is ready to begin a similar nest search on Hispaniola. This coordinated study of the Black-capped Petrel has received active support from many partners, including the US Fish and Wildlife Service, BirdLife International, American Bird Conservancy, US Forest Service, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and Societe Haiti Audubon.
For a pre-discovery summary of IBAs in Haiti, see here:
And for additional information about IBA programs worldwide, including those across the U.S., check the National Audubon Society’s Important Bird Area program web site at:
We have previously written about a proposed innovative, new National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area in Central Florida a number of times, most recently in November of last year. We have also tried to stress the project’s IBA implications.
Last month this project was finally launched, so that the Everglades Headwaters NWR and Conservation Area could eventually embrace 50,000 acres as a refuge along with a broader Conservation Area of up to 100,000 acres of conservation easements.
See here for a full description and press release by NWRA:
and here by the USFWS:
Most books that describe the history of a company or organization are packed with insider chronologies, the names of recent exalted executive vice presidents, and an abundance of self-aggrandizement.
A recently released title, THE DUCKS UNLIMITED STORY by Michael Furtman (2011, DU) contains a few of these elements, however not to excess. This is largely because much of the internal pride for DU is justified.
This book tells the story of how a small group of waterfowlers launched an organization in the 1930s during a period of economic depression, pervasive unemployment, and oppressive drought that eventually grew, by trial and error, to a 600,000-member major player in wetland conservation. The narrative is packed with vital conservation lessons still useful today. Shifting conservation priorities, organizational options, fundraising, and membership experimentation are all part of the unfolding story. The first half of the book is filled with an interesting historical narrative that may be especially interesting to readers of this E-bulletin.
This Ducks Unlimited history is important for anyone interested in understanding and appreciating landscape-level wetland-and-waterfowl conservation – its successes and its implications – that transcend the wildest dreams of the founders of that organization.
In December, we reported on the remarkable return of a pair of Short-tailed Albatrosses at Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge and their efforts to begin nesting again. Once again, their nest has been located in a plot with decoys of Short-tailed Albatrosses designed and set to attract this rare species:
The most recent great news is that their single egg hatched on the morning of 12 January. This is only the second hatching of a Short-tailed Albatross anywhere other than on two small Japanese islands. You can read the Midway announcement of the blessed event here:
To conclude this issue of the Birding Community E-bulletin, and in the spirit of the rarity of the month, the Common Chaffinch, we present this advice on being a GUEST.
Last month’s tip advised readers to watch out in 2012 for SLOBs – Selfish, Lazy, Obnoxious, Birders:
Our tip was very well received. Still, one of our readers, Connie Madia, appropriately suggested that we should also stress the positive and opposite characteristics of a SLOB.
So here we go. Following Connie’s suggestion, we propose that we should all strive to be a GUEST birder: one who is “Generous, Unselfish, Ethical, Sharing, and Trustworthy.” Great advice, and why not?
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