National Wildlife Refuge Association Home of the National Wildlife Refuge Association (NWRA) Tue, 03 Mar 2015 20:47:57 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Congratulations to the 2015 Refuge System Awards Recipients Tue, 03 Mar 2015 13:32:11 +0000

Continue reading »]]> The 2015 Refuge System Award Winners have been announced! The National Wildlife Refuge Association could not be more excited to present these deserving individuals and group with the prestigious Refuge System Awards.

Learn more about our awards on the Awards Page. 

The 2015 Refuge System Award winners are:

Read the full National Wildlife Refuge System Awards press release here.

Tom Kerr: The Paul Kroegel Refuge Manager of the Year Award

Tom Kerr, the 2015 Paul Kroegel Refuge Manager of the Year | USFWS
Tom Kerr, the 2015 Paul Kroegel Refuge Manager of the Year | USFWS

Mr. Kerr, Refuge Manager at St. Croix Wetland Management District and Whittlesey Creek National Wildlife Refuge in Wisconsin has been selected as the 2015 recipient of the Paul Kroegel Award for Refuge Manager of the Year for his dedication to the mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and his ability to engage and connect with the local community. Kerr began his career in 1989 with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as a Cooperative Student and Refuge Operations Specialist at Rice Lake National Wildlife Refuge in Minnesota. He became the Refuge Manager at St. Croix Wetland Management District in 2007, gaining the additional responsibility of managing Whittlesey Creek National Wildlife Refuge in 2008. Kerr has worked closely with the Friends of the St. Croix Wetland Management District since the group’s establishment in 2010, one of the many partnerships he has spearheaded in the community.  These collaborations help bridge the gap between the public and the wetland management district, and in the case of the refuge’s partnership with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, USGS, and University of Wisconsin-Madison, Kerr helps promote wildlife conservation through restoration. Kerr publishes a biweekly newspaper column about activities and projects on the refuge and routinely gives presentations to the local community to continue to raise awareness about the refuge. He is also engaged in recognizing and developing the strengths of his staff. Read Mr. Kerr’s full press release here.


John Vradenburg: Employee of the Year Award

John Vradenburg, the 2015 Refuge Employee of the Year | USFWS
John Vradenburg, the 2015 Refuge Employee of the Year | USFWS

Mr. Vradenburg will receive the Employee of the Year Award for his outstanding work as the Supervisory Biologist at Bosque Del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico. Vradenburg’s dedication to the refuge and its conservation efforts is clear. He goes above and beyond the call of duty to not only ensure the conservation of sensitive species, but also to involve the public in conservation efforts. In his nine years on the refuge, Vradenburg has improved the soil quality and the water drawdown system to increase native vegetation and prevent the spread of invasives. Vradenburg’s foresight and drive have also benefitted local wildlife. He began a management plan on the refuge for the New Mexico Meadow Jumping Mouse before it was listed in 2014 and thus positioned the refuge in a much better place to aid in the recovery. Vradenburg is also considered a leader in the community, continuously providing opportunities for the area youth to learn on the refuge. Always looking to accomplish more for wildlife, Mr. Vradenburg is the epitome of the ideal biologist. He looks for ways to advance conservation efforts on the refuge despite a shrinking budget, he doesn’t quit, and has a positive personality that bring people along with him to face whatever challenges lie ahead.  Read Mr. Vradenburg’s full press release here.



Wiley ‘Dub’ Lyon: The Volunteer of the Year Award

Wiley 'Dub' Lyon, the 2015 Refuge Volunteer of the Year | USFWS
Wiley ‘Dub’ Lyon, the 2015 Refuge Volunteer of the Year | USFWS

Wiley ‘Dub’ Lyon will receive the Volunteer of the Year Award in recognition of his unwavering support for the Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge in Texas. Over the past 7 years as a dedicated volunteer, Mr. Lyon has demonstrated a commitment to the refuge, donating his time and services whenever and wherever needed. After building his own home and retiring from American Airlines where he supervised aircraft landing, take-off, and maintenance, Mr. Lyon found a place where he could apply his many skills – Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge. After donating 1,168 hours in his first 8 months, it was apparent Mr. Lyon was not an average refuge volunteer. Mr. Lyon serves as the volunteer coordinator and has organized the annual Friends meeting and Refuge Volunteer Awards ceremony, worked with other volunteers to make sure teachers were able to schedule environmental education programs, and collected public use data.  He is also skilled at finding cost-effective ways to accomplish repair jobs. Mr. Lyon has been elected as President of the Friends of Balcones twice and was elected to the Board of Directors for the past 6 years. Read Mr. Lyon’s full press release here.


Friends of the Bosque Del Apache National Wildlife Refuge: The Molly Krival Friends Group of the Year Award

Friends of the Bosque Del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, the 2015 Molly Krival Friends Group of the Year | Friends of the Bosque Del Apache
Friends of the Bosque Del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, the 2015 Molly Krival Friends Group of the Year | Friends of the Bosque Del Apache

The Friends of the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico will receive the Molly Krival Friends Group of the Year Award. The 2015 award was renamed to honor the late Molly Krival – a pioneer of the Friends movement. The Friends of the Bosque del Apache coordinates the annual Festival of the Cranes, an event that draws more than 6,000 people from around the world and generates $2.5 million, making it the greatest income-generating event in the county. The Friends also provide environmental education opportunities for students from the surrounding community. Active advocates for the refuge and the Refuge System, the Friends visit Capitol Hill, host events for legislators on the refuge, and write letters to their representatives.  Read the Friends of the Bosque Del Apache National Wildlife Refuge’s full press release here.




This year’s awards will be presented at a reception in Washington, DC on March 24, 2015.

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What is Your Favorite Wildlife Refuge? Mon, 02 Mar 2015 20:49:26 +0000

Continue reading »]]> USA Today is hosting a fun contest for readers to vote for their favorite travel destinations, and among the categories is Best National Wildlife Refuge!

Modoc NWR | Laura VanAcker
Modoc NWR | Laura VanAcker

Whether it’s a family vacation or a monthly bird walk, America’s national wildlife refuges are great destinations for experiencing wildlife and nature. They have so much to offer – from hunting and fishing to wildlife watching, photography, outdoor education classes or just enjoying a walk along a boardwalk to see what comes by!

While it’s still pretty cold and snowy in much of the country, wildlife is soon to be on the move for Spring migration, so now’s the perfect time to think about those favorite destinations.

The entire Refuge System is incredible, but we know that everyone has a personal favorite wildlife refuge. Now is your chance to vote for Best National Wildlife Refuge in USA Today’s latest Reader’s Choice Contest! You can vote here once per day until the voting ends on March 30 at noon ET.

Show your love for your favorite wildlife refuge!

Click here to vote.


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Refuge Association Celebrates 40th Anniversary Fri, 27 Feb 2015 19:16:11 +0000

Continue reading »]]> The evening of Thursday, February 26, the National Wildlife Refuge Association celebrated our 40th anniversary with more than 100 friends and family in Washington, DC, including our board and staff from the Department of the Interior, and leadership of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service and the National Wildlife Refuge System.

The celebration featured special birthday wishes by the Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell, and Dan Ashe, Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

From left to right: Refuge Association Board Chair, Stuart Watson; Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell; Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Dan Ashe; President of the Refuge Association, David Houghton | Chris Kleponis
From left to right: Refuge Association Board Chair, Stuart Watson; Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell; Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Dan Ashe; President of the Refuge Association, David Houghton | Chris Kleponis

“The work the Refuge Association does is so important,” Jewell told the crowd, noting that the Refuge Association is a leading advocate for good conservation policy and funding for the Refuge System.

Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell speaking at the Refuge Association's 40th Anniversary celebration. | Chris Kleponis
Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell speaking at the Refuge Association’s 40th Anniversary celebration. | Chris Kleponis

Refuge Association President David Houghton hosted the evening, reminding the crowd of how much has changed since the organization was founded in 1975. The Refuge System was comprised of about 34 million acres, with a budget of $20 million; today, the System’s budget is $474.2 million to manage 150 million acres of refuge lands. But with the new expansion of the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument, the Refuge System is now responsible for more than a half billion acres of land and water.

“We’ve come a long way,” Houghton said, “and it means a lot to us to celebrate our 40th anniversary with the men and women of the Fish and Wildlife Service and the Refuge System who do the hard and important work of wildlife conservation every day.”

Acting Chief of Refuges, Cynthia Martinez chatting with Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell | Chris Kleponis
Acting Chief of Refuges, Cynthia Martinez chatting with Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell | Chris Kleponis

Board chair Stuart Watson gave the toast, noting the bright future ahead for the organization.

Deputy Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Jim Kurth chatting with Refuge Association Board Member, Bill Buchanan and Raffa employee Julie Jones | Chris Kleponis
Deputy Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Jim Kurth chatting with Refuge Association Board Member, Bill Buchanan and Raffa employee Julie Jones | Chris Kleponis

40 Years of Conservation

The Refuge Association was launched in 1975 by a small group of retired Refuge System employees who recognized the need for a strong, independent nonprofit advocate for America’s national wildlife refuges.

Through the years, the organization has grown from a volunteer effort into an organization with full-time professional staff, and today is on an exciting upward trajectory in growth. Our FY14 Annual Report showcases many of the Refuge Association’s work, and our newly-released 2015 Legislative Priorities highlights some of the most critical policy and funding issues facing the Refuge System that we are focusing our advocacy efforts around.

The evening was a terrific way to kick off what we hope will be a year-long celebration with our members, donors and other supporters, so stay tuned for more 40th Anniversary fun throughout the year!

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2015 Legislative Priorities Document Released Thu, 26 Feb 2015 14:16:48 +0000

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PolicyCover FundingCover


The National Wildlife Refuge System should receive at least $508.2 million in operations and maintenance funding in FY16, according to a new report released by the National Wildlife Refuge Association.

This and other legislative priorities are included in the Refuge Association’s 2015 Legislative Priorities for America’s Wildlife and National Wildlife Refuge System, now available online.

This double report highlights both the Refuge Association’s Top 10 funding priorities for FY16 as well as the Refuge Association’s Top 10 policy priorities for the 114th Congress.

“These priorities reflect what is needed to secure a lasting conservation legacy for our children and grandchildren,” said David Houghton, president of the National Wildlife Refuge Association.

The priorities cover critical conservation needs from increased operational funding for the National Wildlife Refuge System to protecting wilderness values in Alaska’s Arctic and Izembek National Wildlife Refuges.

With a refuge located in every state and within an hour’s drive of every metropolitan area, America’s wildlife refuges provide unparalleled opportunities to experience and enjoy the outdoors and the nation’s diverse wildlife heritage. Wildlife refuges are economic engines, providing $4.87 in economic return for every $1 of federal investment, creating 35,000 jobs, and generating $2.4 billion in economic output.

Click here to see our Funding Priorities. Click here to see our Policy Priorities.

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Seeking Excellent Grant Writer Wed, 25 Feb 2015 21:53:07 +0000

Continue reading »]]> KodiakNWRLisaHuppUSFWS

We’re looking for a top-notch grant writer!

Are you an experienced grant writer who loves America’s national wildlife refuges? If so, we want to hear from you!

We’re looking for someone to take on foundation, federal and corporate grant writing for the National Wildlife Refuge Association.

A Little About The Job

The position will be responsible for identifying and applying for new funding opportunities. This includes conducting in-depth research to identify private foundation, corporate and governmental grants and awards appropriate to the Refuge Association’s mission and vision, and composing letters of inquiry, concept papers and grant proposals. You will research new government grant and foundation prospects, and draft, edit and track proposals as per their guidelines and deadlines. You will also handle basic grant management using the Databank to track monthly, quarterly and year-end reporting requirements and deadlines.

This is a part-time freelance position, but could become a permanent full-time position. Currently, we anticipate the position will require approximately 40 hours a month. Phone calls and in-person meetings will be necessary with staff across the organization to ensure full and updated knowledge of programs and impact, so someone based in the Washington, DC area is preferred but not required.

A Little About You

This is a contract position, and is ideal for someone who can devote approximately 10 hours per week to researching, writing and editing grant proposals.

We’re looking for someone with exceptional grant writing and general writing skills who has top notch people skills, is very attentive to detail and organized, and excels at managing projects. Outstanding written and oral communications skills and the ability to write clear, structured, and persuasive materials are mandatory. You must be able to work well in small groups and independently while juggling multiple projects and meeting deadlines. You must be able to work under pressure, be able to research and access key project-related and grantor information via Internet and online resources, and have experience with Microsoft Office applications, including Excel.

You have:

  • A Bachelor’s degree;
  • Outstanding writing, editing, research and oral communication skills;
  • 4-5 years of grant-writing experience, including demonstrated success writing grants that have resulted in six-figure or more gifts;
  • Several years of experience writing for foundation, federal and corporate fundraising audiences;
  • A passion for wildlife conservation;
  • Previous experience as a grant writer for a conservation non-profit group;
  • The ability to work independently while juggling multiple projects;
  • A keen attention to detail.

You’re the right fit if you love writing grant proposals, thrive in a fast-paced environment, and delight in tight deadlines.

Click here to read the full job description.

A Little About Us

Founded in 1975, The National Wildlife Refuge Association is the only nonprofit exclusively focused on advancing the mission of the National Wildlife Refuge System. We have a unique niche as the leading partner of the Refuge System, with specialized expertise in advocacy, building constituency, and on-the-ground conservation to advance the mission of the Refuge System.

Our Mission is to conserve America’s wildlife heritage for future generations through strategic programs that protect and enhance the National Wildlife Refuge System and the landscapes beyond its boundaries.

With 40 years of history as a partner to the Refuge System, the Refuge Association provides expertise and capacity to support Refuge System goals while enjoying the flexibility to shift gears quickly to tackle issues the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service may not able to address.

If you think you’re the right fit, please send a cover letter, resume and a writing sample to Anne Truslow at by March 16, 2015.

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NEON Data May Solve Mystery Wed, 18 Feb 2015 14:56:40 +0000

Continue reading »]]> Chase Lake National Wildlife Refuge in North Dakota is the nation’s largest sanctuary for American white pelicans. The refuge was established for their protection. With only 50 pelicans counted in 1908, the population has made huge improvements with a flock of 30,000 today.

However, when the large flock returned to Chase Lake National Wildlife Refuge, their primary nesting island had shrunk by almost 40 percent. Reasons are unknown as to why the water has risen so high.

Pelican and Gulls at Chase Lake National Wildlife Refuge | USFWS
Pelican and Gulls at Chase Lake National Wildlife Refuge | USFWS

Another anomaly has stumped biologists on the refuge. In 2004, almost 3,000 pelican abandoned their chicks on the refuge. In 2005, there was a large chick die-off and the pelicans abruptly left again. The exodus defied explanation and biologists hypothesized that several factors must be at play since it was so massive.

Although the pelican population appears to be resilient and they are raising chicks by the thousands, these unexplained occurrences are still troubling.

In a wonderful coincidence, the refuge happens to be a core site for the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) funded by the National Science Foundation. NEON is building 106 sites across the country to measure causes and effects of climate change, land use change, and invasive species all on a continental scale. Once it is fully operational in 2017, NEON will provide free data, educational resources and scientific infrastructure for research.

NEON will also deploy seasonal field crews to observe biological systems such as conducting annual breeding bird surveys and trapping mosquitoes and ticks to see how climate change might affect their role as a disease vector.

The refuge has a great baseline of 50 years of data about the wetlands and waterfowl on the refuge, and the NEON data will allow them to take that research to a new level by looking at how it relates to climate change.

Birds are nesting earlier than before, almost 16 days earlier than 50 years ago, flowers are blooming weeks before normal. Species that used to rely on each other are becoming out of sync since species are responding to changing climates in different ways. The NEON data will allow Chase Lake National Wildlife Refuge staff to make decisions based on more reliable data to account for climate change impacts.

For the full story in Refuge Update, click here.

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Valentine’s Day on Refuges Fri, 13 Feb 2015 17:03:06 +0000

Continue reading »]]> Wildlife species throughout the animal kingdom have a wide variety of mating rituals. Since tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, we thought we’d share some of the courtship dances that birds found throughout the Refuge System perform. How many of these courtship rituals have you witnessed?

Laysan Albatross:

One of the iconic species found on the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument and associated refuges, the Laysan Albatross is a very large seabird, almost the size of a midsized dog. You might be familiar with the oldest Albatross, 63-year-old Wisdom who has become a Facebook celebrity. Albatross are incredibly graceful in flight and can travel hundreds of miles per day with just a few wingbeats.  Their courtship routine includes coordinated movements where the birds spread one or both wings, touch bills, bob their heads, and more. Watch the video below to see an example of this incredible bird:


Greater Sage Grouse:

The Greater Sage Grouse is the largest of the grouse species in North America. It is found in the upper Northwest of the United States. The males have a rather interesting courting ritual. To get the attention and affection from the females, they inflate and shake their air sacs, which are found on the front of their chest. They also make a distinct sound to go along with their dance. These unique birds can be found in the Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge in Oregon as well as the Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge in Nevada.



American Woodcock:

The American Woodcock is an elusive bird. It has excellent camouflage, with shades of brown that blend in with the young forests and shrubby old fields across eastern North America where it lives. Despite its tendency to hide, its courtship routine is a sight to be seen. The males give a buzzy peent call, launch into the air, fly around, and then shoot their wings open and dive down. It is a challenge to catch on camera, but if you’ve seen it, you can appreciate the magnificence. These birds can be found all over the eastern United States. Among the many refuges on which they can be found are Ninigret National Wildlife Refuge in Rhode Island, Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge in Maine, and Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge in Indiana. Watch their courting display here:



Atlantic Puffins:

These adorable birds are found in the North Atlantic and winter at sea. They can be found at the Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge. Atlantic Puffins can live to be more than 30 years old and don’t typically breed until they are three to six years old. Part of their courtship rituals include “billing”. Billing is when they rub their bills together. See it for yourself in the video below:



What is the most unusual avian courtship ritual you’ve ever witnessed? Tell us in the comments!


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Two Ponds Refuge – An Small Escape From City Life Thu, 05 Feb 2015 14:20:15 +0000

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The sun clears the trees and sheds sun rays across the prairie meadow at Two Ponds National Wildlife Refuge in Arvada, Colorado.   Photo Credit: Seth Beres
The sun clears the trees and sheds sun rays across the prairie meadow at Two Ponds National Wildlife Refuge in Arvada, Colorado.
Photo Credit: Seth Beres

Standing at just 72 acres, only 15 miles west of downtown Denver, Colorado Two Ponds National Wildlife Refuge is more than just a small pocket of land nestled among office buildings, housing developments, and busy intersections. Two Ponds National Wildlife Refuge is a symbol of what determined citizens are capable of.

Although it is one of the smallest urban wildlife refuges, it provides habitat for more than 120 bird species and provides a place of refuge for busy city dwellers. It has been described as an oasis in the city where visitors can escape their worries.

This little piece of refuge for both wildlife and people might not exist if it weren’t for a passionate community.

Before it was established, the land was used mainly for agriculture, but also had a farm, a veterinary clinic, an apple orchard, horse pastures, and also wetlands. In 1990, a developer purchased 13 acres of the land and began the process to fill an acre of the wetlands and rezone the land from agriculture to business/professional and residential use. The local residents were outraged and fought to emphasize the value of the land for wetland protection and environmental education.

In September of that same year, the group of passionate citizens formed the nonprofit, Two Ponds Preservation Foundation. The nonprofit continues to partner with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect wetland habitat in Arvada, CO where the refuge is located.

Today, the refuge has 63 acres of upland habitat, nine acres of wetlands, and three small ponds all surrounded by tall cottonwood trees. Engaging the surrounding urban community,  Two Ponds National Wildlife Refuge has educational programs for schoolchildren, community service projects for Scout groups, trails for visitors, and wildlife-viewing opportunities for bird watchers and photographers.

This small refuge provides so much for the surrounding community, it has anything but a small impact.

For more information, read the full Refuge Update story here.

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New Anniversary Logo Unveiled Wed, 04 Feb 2015 13:56:14 +0000

Continue reading »]]> 40AnnivLogo_FinalThis year the National Wildlife Refuge Association is celebrating our 40th Anniversary! To commemorate this big year, we will be using a special 40th Anniversary logo throughout the year.

The National Wildlife Refuge Association is the only independent nonprofit that promotes and protects the world’s largest wildlife conservation network, the National Wildlife Refuge System. Our mission is the conserve America’s wildlife heritage for future generations through strategic programs that protect and enhance the National Wildlife Refuge System and the landscapes beyond its boundaries.

We have created a powerful recipe for success by leveraging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s 498-million acre National Wildlife Refuge System, and engaging other conservation nonprofits, private landowners and refuge Friends groups in safeguarding wildlife. By mobilizing citizens in support of conservation, generating support for wildlife conservation among decision makers, and creating mosaics of public and private protected lands, the Refuge Association is ensuring a future for wildlife across America.

We are excited to celebrate our 40th year, and we hope you are too! Keep an eye out for special things happening each month to help us celebrate our anniversary all year long.

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The Birding Community E-Bulletin February 2015 Tue, 03 Feb 2015 15:14:02 +0000

Continue reading »]]> 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.

You can access an archive of past E-bulletins on the website of the National Wildlife Refuge Association (the Refuge Association).



Last month, we mentioned the Rustic Bunting found in San Francisco’s popular Golden Gate Park on 7 December. That rarity would have normally been our profiled rarity-of-the-month, but Common Cranes in both Texas and New Mexico took the honors last month.

Well, the Rustic Bunting conveniently stayed through January, and we can now give it the full attention it justly deserves.

The species breeds from northern Scandinavia east across Eurasia to Kamchatka and northern Sakhalin. Rustic Buntings will winter mainly in eastern China, Korea, and Japan. It is a rare but almost regular vagrant to Alaska, particular in the Aleutians and Pribilofs, but it has been seen elsewhere on the West Coast in British Columbia, Washington, and Oregon, as well as about a half-dozen reports by now from California, starting in 1984.

The Golden Gate Park Rustic Bunting, associating with sparrows and juncos, was originally reported by Alan Hopkins. The bird continued regularly near the southeast intersection of Nancy Pelosi Drive and Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and by the Big Rec Ball Fields area, across the street from the California Academy of Sciences. It was often found on brushpiles, grass, and perched in nearby trees.

One of the exciting things about this Rustic Bunting has been its accessibility at a well-known and popular location. People from near and far – whether on a business trip to San Francisco, on a family vacation, traveling and birding from across California or across the country, or just curious local folks from the Bay area starting a birding interest – have enjoyed this rare bird.

Here are some of Mark Rauzon’s images from mid-December:


On Sunday afternoon, 11 January, Rich Kostecke found and photographed a Striped Sparrow, a Mexican species, in eastern Williamson County, Texas. This is northeast of Austin.

There is no doubt about the identification of the bird, but its origins are far more difficult to determine. The species, native to Mexico, is known to be very sedentary. It’s a species that is endemic to the northwest and central Mexican highlands. The closest this range gets to Williamson County, Texas, is the boundary between the Mexican states of Sonora and Chihuahua, about 700 rugged miles away.

The Striped Sparrow associated with a large number of other sparrows – Lincoln’s, Harris’s, White-crowned, etc. – as well as Northern Cardinals, and Red-winged Blackbirds along a 200-yard stretch of a rural roadside. Visiting birders – many traveling from afar – would regularly stand on one side of the road and look across the way to review the selection of sparrows and other birds on the opposite side of the road. (Some birders even arrived to the site very early in morning darkness, ready with birdseed and eager to prime the area along the roadside. Yes, it worked.) The Striped Sparrow remained throughout the month, observed and well-photographed by birders almost daily. 

See here for a couple of Kostecke’s original photos:


In mid-January, a large forest management and habitat conservation effort was announced by the U.S. Department of Agriculture that will target improvements on approximately 64,000 acres of key habitat in the Great Lake states of Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. One of the key anticipated outcomes should be avoiding the necessity of listing the imperiled Golden-winged Warbler under the Endangered Species Act.

This tri-state project is scheduled to begin later this year with funding available through 2019. The project will be managed in partnership between the Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the American Bird Conservancy. It is complemented by work being conducted on lands by these and other partners with support from the Minnesota’s Outdoor Heritage Fund.

The Golden-winged Warbler, which depends on the conservation of key habitat – early successional, or “young,” forest habitat – for breeding, has suffered one of the steepest population declines of any North American songbird species. This warbler has shown a decline of more than three percent annually over the last 40 years. Beyond the early-successsional issue, other factors contributing to the decline may be suburban sprawl, competition from and hybridization with Blue-winged Warblers, cowbird parasitism, and the loss of wintering habitat in Central and South America.

Basically, however, “this is the poster-bird for recovery of early successional forest habitat,” according to George Fenwick, President of the American Bird Conservancy. The new project is expected to create breeding habitat for 1,180 pairs of Golden-winged Warblers and potentially result in an increase of 16,000 individuals within four years.

This will be achieved by providing technical support to private landowners whose properties lie within designated focal areas, helping landowners develop and implement conservation management plans for their properties. Similar to other NRCS programs, financial assistance will be available to qualifying landowners.

In addition to benefiting the warbler, the conservation effort is expected to aid preservation of other bird species such as American Woodcock, Ruffed Grouse, and Black-billed Cuckoo.

Find out more details here:

and here:


To say that a Guide to Troubled Birds (Penguin, 2014) is “different” or even “strange” would be an understatement. You might try “off-kilter,” “peculiar,” “screwy,” “spaced-out,” or “weird.” No, you would probably still come up short.

Illustrated and written by Matt Adrian (aka “The Mincing Mockingbird”), this book allows the reader to experience tales of drug abuse, murder, assault, uncontrolled obesity, infidelity, and general sinister behavior among birds.

The slim volume is deemed “an illustrated pocket field guide that enables anyone to quickly identify psychotic, violent, or mentally unstable bird species,” a book additionally useful “in the event of an infant or small child being torn apart by a murder of crows.”

A mere 64 pages, this dark little work into the reptilian brains and reprehensible behavior of birds can be finished in about 30 minutes. The problem is, you’ll go back to it. And read it to your friends. And simply cry laughing.

Reportedly, the author’s scientific works have been spitefully ignored throughout his career. And an award “received in Paris turned out – upon translation – to be a restraining order.”

Enough said.


A rare Key West Quail-Dove was found by Rangel Diaz on 28 December at the Deering Estate at Cutler, south of Miami, Florida. Access became an immediate issue, since the bird was discovered on a private part of the property, closed to the general public. Here are details on the unique Deering Estate at Cutler:

The bird is a Caribbean species, quite rare in South Florida, including the Keys. The fact that the Key West Quail-Dove is also secretive, doesn’t help in finding it, either.

Rangel Diaz made arrangements to lead early-morning trips into the property, meeting at the Deering Estate at Cutler Visitor Center parking lot to begin the search down the trail (the estate does not officially open until 10am.). Rangel led these essential morning trips to help birders. The Key West Quail-Dove was seen for the next four mornings, and then again on 5 and 9 January. (Birders were entrusted to pay the regular admission fee to the estate on their way out.)

This kind of accommodation and planning is becoming increasingly important to birders. The information on this Key West Quail-Dove might just as easily have been suppressed, with nobody allowed in early or at all on this part of the estate. Instead, a solution was found and birders discovered once again that it is access that really matters.

Curiously, at about the same time in the Keys, there were up to three other of these rare Key West Quail-Doves seen off and on at Long Key State Park, starting in late September. Again, these birds were often difficult to find, alternately shy and skittish in the dark underbrush and leaf-litter of the park. One or another was seen irregularly through much of December and January.


An important Mojave Desert migrant hotspot, Butterbredt Springs, in Kern County, is finally in conservation ownership. That began on 12 December 2014 when the California Department of Parks & Recreation’s Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) Trust Fund completed a long-anticipated purchase of 25,316 acres of the Onyx Ranch. The acquisition includes Butterbredt Springs and surrounding desert scrub private lands checkerboard surrounding Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands.

Butterbredt Springs is a desert oasis long popular with California birders as an outstanding migrant trap, especially in spring. In fact, Santa Monica Bay Audubon and other volunteers have helped maintain a cooperative relationship with the land’s owners for years. The location is an eBird hotspot:

Butterbredt Springs is considered by the American Bird Conservancy as an Important Bird Area. The location, at the north end of the Mojave Desert, includes Butterbredt Springs in a transition zone and part of a necklace of protected areas including Audubon California’s Kern River Preserve and other public lands along the South Kern River. For additional details, see here:

In the coming years, California State Parks will undergo a planning process to determine areas suitable for OHV use, habitat conservation, continued livestock grazing, and a host of other issues. This is where the birding community can weigh in, ensuring that State Parks manages much of these lands for birds and other wildlife.

For more background information – from 2013 – see here:

For information about IBA programs around the world, including those in the U.S., check the National Audubon Society’s Important Bird Area program web site at:


Last month, we drew your attention to the inclusion of three species on Canada’s list of Species of Concern. They were Red-necked Phalarope, Ancient Murrelet, and Cassin’s Auklet:

Now, here is further evidence of concern for the last of those species, Cassin’s Auklet.

Over the Christmas/New-Year holiday, large numbers of dead Cassin’s Auklets were found on the outer coasts of Vancouver Island and Haida Gwaii in Canada. Bird Studies Canada’s British Columbia office received reports of more than 100 of these seabirds per kilometer on some beaches. Most of the birds were young-of-the-year individuals.

Unfortunately, similar events have been occurring since October along the Pacific Coast, as far south as California.

From Washington, for example, more than 700 dead auklets were discovered on beaches in December. And this followed high mortality evidence for October and November.

On the Oregon coast, Herman Biederbeck, biologist for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, remarked that “we have seabird die-offs in the fall and early winter every year, but this year we’re seeing elevated numbers.”

And in California, emaciated Cassin’s Auklets have been washing ashore in Sonoma County and along a swath of California coastline since early November. This was after a period of ocean warming in the region and disappearance of the tiny krill that provide their main source of food.

There are no signs of oiling or poisoning. Evidence strongly suggests that young auklets starved at sea and were washed ashore by strong winds. Higher than usual nesting success in 2014 at the main colonies in the region (e.g., from Triangle Island, BC and in the Haida Gwaii region, south to the Farallon Islands) may be an important factor. Increased studies of ocean temperatures and zooplankton abundance should shed light on what could be causing these deaths.

Click here to watch a CBC News Vancouver interview with Bird Studies Canada British Columbia Program Manager Dr. David Bradley:


As suggested above, seabirds may be viewed as critical “sentinel species,” indicators of coastal habitat health. Through a process called “species distribution modeling,” the status of many seabirds and their salt-water avian neighbors can be assessed. What is needed, however, would be massive amounts of data.

Enter citizen science. Washington State researchers, led by NOAA conservation biologist Eric J. Ward, used data collected from the Puget Sound Seabird Survey, to determine that things may be looking up for several Puget Sound waterbird species historically in decline.

The study focused on eighteen species – including alcids, cormorants, loons, grebes, and waterfowl – at 62 Puget Sound sites. Ward and his colleagues used seven years’ worth of citizen science data from the Puget Sound Seabird Survey.

After putting the data through various statistical functions, the researchers discovered that 14 species were actually increasing. The remaining four species – Brant, White-winged Scoter, Western Grebe, and Red-necked Grebe – appeared to be in decline, consistent with historical records. These decline trends could reflect shifting food sources, habitat loss, or nesting-area threats.

The work also highlighted several hotspots for different species, data that may help identify critical conservation areas.

Although many of these birds in the Puget Sound region are “thought to be depleted relative to abundances in the 1960s-1970s,” write the researchers, “our results present a more optimistic picture for a number of species over the last decade.”

Perhaps most importantly, none of this would have been conceivable without the participation of enthusiastic volunteer birders. “You could never do this [work] with staff people. You’d never have the budget to send out this many people so consistently for so many years,” said Toby Ross, Science Manager at Seattle Audubon and a co-author of the study.

You can access the original study, published in the open-access journal PeerJ in late October, here:


On 17 December, President Barack Obama surprised the world when he announced that he was moving to reestablish diplomatic relation with Cuba and to loosen some trade and travel restrictions with the island. (Diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba were broken by President Eisenhower just over 54 years ago, on 3 January 1961.) The long-standing U.S. trade embargo may eventually be dropped.

Thankfully, about 20 percent of Cuba’s landscape has been set aside as national parks and natural areas. While this helps to preserve biodiversity, there are limited funds available for ongoing protection, management, surveys, or research. One aspect of moving toward better relations and even dropping the embargo will surely be increases in tourism on the island. Likewise, there will almost inevitably be increasing development pressure on sensitive environments – e.g., attractive mountains, coastal marshes, and shoreline habitat.

Of course, the Cuban government already has a serious tourism emphasis in pursuit of hard currency, with many foreign visitors visiting such huge vacation resorts as Cayo Coco and Veradero.

From a natural resource viewpoint, there should be a need for cooperation with Cuba for migratory bird conservation as the diplomatic process unfolds. The United States has an international treaty for conservation of migratory birds with Canada, Mexico, Japan, and Russia (formerly with the USSR). This is the Migratory Bird Treaty – signed in 1916, ratified in 1918, and developed since with multiple signatories. Alas, Cuba is not currently included in the multi-national treaty.

Since the administration is officially seeking “modest goals of cooperation,” we present here a potential bird connection.

The centennial of the Migratory Bird Treaty (originally signed in 1916 with Great Britain, standing in for Canada) is next year. Wouldn’t it be grand next year to have Cuba join in that treaty to protect our commonly held resource, migratory birds?

Such an action would surely take some serious work from all parties, including input from non-governmental entities.

Already, there are bird-oriented “people-to-people” connections we have with Cuba, as well as approved “ongoing research” efforts. Perhaps now is the time for concentrated “migratory-bird diplomacy” with Cuba, deeper engagement and experimentation to accompany any closer relations between the two countries. It would be a constructive and modest step, a companion to establishing full diplomatic and economic relations.


In our last issue we reported on the listing of the rufa Red Knot as officially Threatened under the Endangered Species Act:

Now we report on a broader assessment on the status of U.S. shorebirds.

Last month, the U.S. Shorebird Conservation Partnership (USSCP) released its most recent findings assessing the status of U.S. shorebirds in “Shorebirds of Conservation Concern.” This updates the USSCP’s 2004 plan and contains many more details. The assessment incorporates: 1) new information on shorebird population sizes and trends, 2) a GIS computation of breeding and nonbreeding range sizes, 3) a revised threats assessment, and 4) climate change vulnerability.

See here for the latest assessment:


February is a perfect time to introduce new people to birds. Some folks think that spring migration – say, May – is the ideal time, but this is probably a mistake. Indeed, birds in migration are wonderful – in full color and song – but the experience can be too overwhelming, a veritable bird overload. Too much in the way of birds – or of any new experience – can actually discourage people, creating the perception that there is simply too much to learn!

This month is ideal for a modest and digestible introduction to birds. Winter birds are stable, relatively limited, and often wonderfully accessible. Take wintering waterfowl, or a popular staked-out (but non-harassed) Snowy Owl. It’s the right time to bring along a neighbor or friend – who may already be curious because of a backyard feeder – for a short and simple birding trip.

This opportunity also conveniently overlaps with the 18th annual Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC), 13-16 February. This effort is sponsored by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society. Tens of thousands of volunteers – of all ages and birding skill levels – will count birds in backyards, local parks, refuges, and wherever they happen to be. This free, family-friendly, and neighbor-friendly activity is an ideal introductory “citizen-science” effort involving bird discovery. Visit the GBBC website to explore the opportunities:

This year, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology is incorporating Pledge to Fledge, originally launched by the Global Birding Initiative, into the GBBC:

All these opportunities combine to make February the time to invite some new people – family, friends, co-workers, or acquaintances – to join in a bird search and introduce them to the joy of watching and studying wild birds.


On 29 January, a bipartisan majority of the Senate voted in favor of permanently reauthorizing the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). Although the action passed with a 59-39 vote, that majority is still one vote short of the needed 60-vote threshold necessary these days in the Senate.

Just over 50 years ago, Congress passed the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act, intended to provide $900 million a year from offshore oil and gas royalties for federal, state, and local parks, refuges, and forests and to enhance local recreational opportunities.

LWCF is probably America’s most important conservation funding program, addressing America’s open space, clean water, wildlife habitat, outdoor recreation, and outdoor economic needs. Long-term LWCF benefits to birds and bird habitat have truly been phenomenal.

Unfortunately, over the years, Congress has rarely spent the total authorized amount for intended LWCF purposes. We wrote about the diversion and misuse of those funds in last September’s issue:

Still, the recent close vote is a symbolic win for conservation and outdoor heritage voices. Such symbolism will need a reality boost. Unless Congress acts, LWCF will expire at the end of September.


And finally, if you returned from a two-week trip to the Amazon, without access to newspapers, telephone, or the Internet, you might not have heard. But on 25 January, President Obama announced new protections for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, and he is recommending to Congress that 12.28 million acres of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, including the coastal plain, be designated as official Wilderness, the highest level of protection for public lands, under the Wilderness Act.

The announcement came as a new Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP) was released. This is a 15-year plan that details how the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is to be managed. Official Wilderness designation is up to Congress, and although only Congress can designate

Wilderness, this Presidential proposal means the areas will be managed as Wilderness until there is a formal Congressional designation.

For more than three decades, the refuge’s coastal plain has been at the center of an ongoing debate over oil and natural gas drilling. Designating the coastal plain and other areas of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as Wilderness will ban oil and gas drilling, and other development in those areas.

This refuge, and especially its coastal plain, is known for a variety of wildlife species, and among birds it is known as vital habitat for seaducks, shorebirds, raptors, and a selection of songbirds.

A fine summary of the announcement and its implications is available here from the National Wildlife Refuge Association:



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