National Wildlife Refuge Association Home of the National Wildlife Refuge Association (NWRA) Fri, 31 Jul 2015 17:56:40 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Tom Kerr Receives 2015 Paul Kroegel Refuge Manager of the Year Award Mon, 27 Jul 2015 17:13:10 +0000

Continue reading »]]> On July 25, 2015, Tom Kerr received the prestigious 2015 Paul Kroegel Refuge Manager of the Year Award from the National Wildlife Refuge Association. Mr. Kerr, a 25-year employee of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, is the Refuge Manager of central Wisconsin’s St. Croix Wetland Management District. Jared Brandwein, Director of Conservation Programs for the Refuge Association, had the honor of presenting the award to Mr. Kerr.

Tom Kerr humbly accepted the award before an audience of his colleagues | Caitlin Smith, USFWS
Tom Kerr humbly accepted the award before an audience of his colleagues | Caitlin Smith, USFWS

Kerr earned this distinction through his artful and inspiring efforts to purchase, restore and manage important waterfowl and wildlife habitats in the eight-county wetland management district. Since he began his tenure at St. Croix Wetland Management District in 2007, Kerr has demonstrated an eagerness to work on behalf of his neighbors, seeking and receiving valuable input towards the betterment of his projects from citizens, community leaders, as well as local and higher levels of government.   Under his leadership, the Friends of St. Croix Wetland Management District was established for the purpose of creating interpretive, scientific, educational, and recreational activities within the wetland management district.

In cooperation with seven private landowners, Kerr played a key role in acquiring 644 acres to be managed as waterfowl production areas by the Service. With the support of The Conservation Fund, Kerr facilitated the donation of an additional 40 acres to the Service and 70 acres to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Under Kerr’s tenure, grants totaling nearly $3 million have been generated for habitat protection, restoration, and management in west central Wisconsin.

With the support of staff, Kerr and St. Croix Wetland Management District have become leaders within the conservation community in the restoration of rare oak savanna habitat. Through the use of a local biofuels market, 700 acres of oak savanna have been restored on both public and private lands in the last seven years with minimal or no cost to the government.

With the assistance of the Friends of St. Croix Wetland Management District, Kerr initiated “Conservation Day on the WPA” (Waterfowl Production Area), an annual volunteer effort meant to improve local habitats, which has introduced nearly 2,000 youth and families to public lands and has resulted in the donation of 15,000 volunteer hours. Collectively, Kerr and the Friends routinely conduct congressional canoe tours that serve to inform congressional offices of St. Croix Wetland Management District activities and accomplishments.

Kerr poses with Jared Brandwein, NWRA, who presented the award | Caitlin Smith, USFWS
Kerr poses with Jared Brandwein, NWRA, who presented the award | Caitlin Smith, USFWS

Several notable guests attended the celebration, including Cynthia Martinez, Chief of the National Wildlife Refuge System, Tom Melius, FWS Regional Director, Briggs LeSavage, Director of Communications for U.S. Representative Sean Duffy, several members of the Friends of St. Croix Wetland Management District, Kerr’s wife, Mary and their three daughters. Bob and Sharon Waldrop, recipients of the Refuge Association’s 2014 Refuge Volunteer of the Year Award, were also in attendance.

Through hard work and dedication, Kerr has effectively woven St. Croix Wetland Management District into the fabric of the New Richmond and west central Wisconsin communities. It is for this reason and more that we proudly present the 2015 Paul Kroegel Refuge Manager of the Year Award to Tom Kerr.





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Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge Staff Seek Cause Behind Rookery Abandonment Wed, 22 Jul 2015 13:43:53 +0000

Continue reading »]]> Seahorse Key, one of 13 small islands along the Gulf Coast of Florida that make up Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge, has long been known as the largest bird colony in the area.

Yet the island’s rookery, closed to the public and considered a sanctuary for mangrove forest-dwelling birds, has gone mysteriously quiet.

Refuge staff is still looking into the causes behind the island’s sudden abandonment, which occurred seemingly overnight in late April. While many birds that previously nested on Seahorse Key have been found on surrounding islands, at least 7,000 white ibises remain unaccounted for – a species that has spent at least the last 20 summers on Seahorse Key.

A wide variety of birds thrive on Cedar Keys' islands, covered in mangrove forests and dunes. | Sandra Muldrow, NWRA
A wide variety of birds thrive on Cedar Keys’ islands, covered in mangrove forests and dunes. | Sandra Muldrow, NWRA

Biologists with the US Fish and Wildlife Service have been able to rule out disease, contaminants and a wave of new predators as possible causes for the birds’ departure from Seahorse Key. With long-standing cooperation between Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge and several local universities, a lab facility on the refuge has focused its attention on looking into possible causes outside the habitat. Researchers looked into the possibility that the noise of low-flying aircraft may have disturbed the birds enough to leave the island, but finding no recent increase in local air traffic, they continue to seek other explanations.

“Whatever happened on Seahorse Key, we’re thankful that there are twelve other refuge islands nearby where these birds can re-settle,” said Peg Hall, who heads the communications team for the Friends of the Lower Suwannee and Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuges. “The mystery of what will happen during next year’s nesting season is almost as interesting at this point as the question of what caused them to relocate in the first place.”

Unfortunately, the Lower Suwannee and Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuges have been understaffed in recent years. In less than a decade, the refuges have lost no less than half of their 14 total full-time employees to retirement or other positions, and remaining staff has had to adapt accordingly.

Despite fewer hands available to work, the land of the refuge itself has proven as resilient as those who work it – while close to 25,000 birds have abandoned their nests on Seahorse Key, many herons, egrets, ibises and other species have re-settled on nearby Snake Key, which sports a similar habitat. Particularly interesting is the fact that very few birds have ever nested on Snake Key in the past.

Thousands of white ibises are still "missing" at Cedar Keys Refuge. | Steve Hillebrand, USFWS
Thousands of white ibises are still “missing” on Cedar Keys Refuge. | Steve Hillebrand, USFWS

While Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge does not charge an entry fee to visitors and the birds’ disappearance will not impact the refuge financially, the mystery behind its cause persists both for refuge staff and Friends Group members. Locals in the community have provided information to the Friends about what they’ve seen and heard that might shed light on the Seahorse Key mystery, and the Friends Group relays those leads to refuge staff.

“This event shows how important it is that the refuge has adequate staffing. Otherwise, there would be no way to monitor the wildlife and maintain the habitat they depend on,” said Hall. “We’ve been watching with interest, and we’re happy that so many people around the world have too.”

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Global Anti-Poaching Act Seeks to Restrict Illicit Wildlife Trade Thu, 16 Jul 2015 13:53:55 +0000

Continue reading »]]> As the Global Anti-Poaching Act (H.R. 2494) remains open to amendments on the House of Representatives floor, wildlife advocates are clamoring to have their voices heard – and with good reason.

Though international resolutions against the trafficking of threatened and endangered species have been in place since 1900, in recent years the wildlife black market has seen an unprecedented surge – according to data from the World Wildlife Fund, ivory from more than 2,500 elephants was seized in 2011 alone. Poaching of rhino horns has increased by a staggering 7,700% between 2007 and 2013. Only about 3,200 tigers remain in the wild, and poachers are causing that number to drop with each passing moment. Without stronger regulation, increasingly rare rhinoceroses, elephants and tigers stand to lose not only their lives, but also perhaps their entire species.

Further still, the black market trade of wildlife parts and derivatives is a very real problem for humans – eco-tourism in Africa accounts for up to 5 percent of the total GDP of several countries, and the inevitable extinction of these rare species if poaching continues at this rate could be disastrous for local economies. Profits from the sale of poached items have also been proven as major sources of funding for organized crime organizations in the region, such as Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army, which gained worldwide infamy in 2012 after being featured in a documentary by Invisible Children. In that sense, to address the issue of wildlife trafficking is to address such atrocities around the world.

The bi-partisan bill, introduced by Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Edward Royce (R-CA) and the Committee’s ranking member, Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), would improve the tools and techniques used to strengthen enforcement, rank the list of countries considered major sources or transit points for wildlife trafficking, strengthen existing anti-wildlife trafficking networks and establish new ones where none exist in countries on every continent. If approved, the bill would place the crime of international wildlife trafficking on the same level of severity as international weapons and drug trafficking.

Additionally, the bill would authorize the Secretaries of State, Commerce and the Interior to compile a list of countries believed to be major sources, major transit points or major consumers of illegal wildlife products and derivatives. If those countries fail to make efforts to adhere to international agreements protecting endangered and threatened species, the Secretary of Interior would be able to withhold aid money from offending nations.

Among other proposed measures, the bill would establish higher standards for professional wildlife law enforcement training and provide insurance to rangers and their families in the rare and tragic case that a ranger is killed in action. The bill would also allow the President to provide security assistance to African countries that are actively engaged in combating poaching and wildlife trafficking.

Sen. Edward Royce (R-CA) delivered a keynote address to a CSIS forum on Wednesday. | Sean Carnell, NWRA
Sen. Edward Royce (R-CA) delivered a keynote address to a CSIS forum on Wednesday. | Sean Carnell, NWRA

On Thursday, July 16, the Senate Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health Policy will hear testimonies from conservationists with firsthand experience on the dire situation for endangered wildlife in Africa. Among those making an appeal is Mr. Ian Saunders, Chief Operations Officer for the Tsavo Trust in Kenya. The Tsavo Trust professes an approach of “stabilization through conservation” to the poaching epidemic, seeking to create a local interest in protecting natural resources – working from “the inside out” rather than “the outside in.”

“The basis of what we’re trying to deliver on the ground in Africa is what will be conducive to humans and natural resources,” said Saunders, serving as a panelist during a forum held by the Center for Strategic and International Studies on Wednesday.

Because poachers are driven by a monetary incentive that is directly a result of few legal career options available for locals in some African countries, organizations like the Tsavo Trust are invested in enriching local communities as an indirect way of combating poaching. In Kenya, Saunders and the Tsavo Trust are leading plans for increased security for natural resources through the Malkahalaku Community Conservancy.

“ISIS and Al-Shabaab are competing for manpower in Central Africa,” said Saunders. “At Malkahalaku, we’re taking people out of dangerous terrorist organizations and giving them new jobs.”

Tigers for Tigers, a national coalition of university students raising awareness around the issue through school mascots, is hosting Global Tiger Day on July 29 in anticipation of the bill’s debate. Tigers for Tigers has also launched a sweeping #WhereRTheTigers social media campaign in an effort to pressure the international community towards meaningful change in poaching policy.

The Tsavo Trust, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Wildlife Refuge Association and Tigers for Tigers stand among countless others united in support of the Global Anti-Poaching Act. Only through maintaining open lines of communication, strengthening anti-trafficking networks and actively enforcing international legislation can we show that the illegal trade of endangered species products will not be tolerated.

For more information on the Global Anti-Poaching Act, click here.

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Students Plant 50 Trees at Iron River National Fish Hatchery Mon, 13 Jul 2015 20:32:13 +0000

Continue reading »]]> At the Iron River National Fish Hatchery in Wisconsin, a group of school children from nearby South Shore Elementary volunteered their time to perform maintenance, learn about their environment, and improve the local habitat – all in a single day’s work.

The hatchery has been in growth since the 1970s as staff continues to improve its facilities and landscape. Most recently, a new hiking trail was unveiled. The three-mile Simpson Trail system, completed in 2012, can today be accessed year-round. Visitors can begin their exploration on either of two loops accessible from the hatchery parking lot, complete with trailheads. The trails can be used for just about anything done on foot including hunting, hiking, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and bird watching.

Unfortunately, these trails can be quite a challenge to maintain in the winter months. Located in an open area of Wisconsin, the Iron River Hatchery faces snow that blows and drifts over the path, making it nearly impossible for visitors to follow trailheads and find their way.

For the second year in a row, South Shore Elementary sent students to the hatchery in late May in direct address to the problem. The second grade class spent the morning assisting hatchery staff in planting trees along the trailheads located at the parking lot.

About 50 spruce trees were planted in holes prepared by hatchery staff. They and the students hope that in a few years, the trees will provide enough of a buffer to protect the trail from the influx of snow coverage, allowing the trail to be used all year long. These trees also act as a carbon sink, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and providing more visual appeal surrounding the parking lot.

As a bonus, the children also got to pot their own trees and take them home as souvenirs. During the day, the students

Iron River National Fish Hatchery supports over 1.5 million trout. | Katie Steiger-Meister/USFWS
Iron River National Fish Hatchery supports over 1.5 million trout. | Katie Steiger-Meister/USFWS

took a break from planting to take a hiking tour of the grounds. On their journey, students gained awareness of the functions of the hatchery and viewed a portion of the 1.5 million lake trout and coaster brook trout that are raised there annually.

The students came, planted and learned, all while helping the hatchery. The school and hatchery hope to continue the effort as an annual event to improve the trail system and provide an outdoor learning opportunity for local students.

To learn more about the event, click here.

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National Wildlife Refuge Association Approves New Board Members Mon, 13 Jul 2015 17:36:26 +0000

Continue reading »]]> The National Wildlife Refuge Association recently welcomed six new board members: Maya Kepner, Marc Meyer, Chad Brown, Marge Kolar, Don O’Brien, Andy Woolford. The board also bid farewell to three board members and our board Chair whose terms expired: Stuart Watson, Bill Buchanan and Larry Ross.

Maya KepnerMaya Kepner gained substantial knowledge of ecosystem functions and their importance in habitat management during her time working for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife Black Bear, Wild Pig and Mountain Lion Program. She worked collaboratively with the Tule Elk Program, participating in helicopter elk captures as well as conducting aerial surveys using radio telemetry to monitor Tule elk populations throughout Cache Creek, East Park Reservoir and Lake Pillsbury, California.

After gaining considerable experience working in the field, Ms. Kepner partnered with Steve Thompson of Steve Thompson, L.L.C. to work with private landowners and business interests for the conservation of land, water and wildlife.  She currently specializes in regulatory issues at local, state and federal levels, relative to challenges pertaining to land, water, and endangered species.

Marc MeyerMarc Meyer is the Robert J. Shillman Professor of Entrepreneurship and the Matthews Distinguished Professor of Business at Northeastern University, known as the leading Cooperative Education academic institution in the U.S. He is the founder of Northeastern’s Entrepreneurship and Innovation Group in the D’Amore McKim School of Business, ranked a top 10 undergraduate program in the U.S., and serves as a founding Co-Director of the Center for Entrepreneurship Education, a university-wide resource of student and alumni startups. He is also the lead faculty on a number of executive education programs for industry and is an internationally recognized scholar in the field of innovation and entrepreneurship, the author of numerous books and academic journal articles for both academics and practitioners.

Dr. Meyer is a graduate of Harvard College and holds graduate degrees from M.I.T. While a PhD student in his mid-20s, he left MIT for five years to build his first software company, a leader in real-time embedded operating systems and development tools. Since then, he has been a Visiting Professor and a Scientist at M.I.T, a Visiting Professor at Delft Technical University in the School of Industrial Design and is presently part of Climate Kic, an EU-sponsored program to deliver energy and environmental entrepreneurship courses for universities in member countries. Dr. Meyer has worked on a number of sustainability initiatives with corporations and startups and using these as base level material for this initiative.

Chad BrownChad Brown joined the U.S. Navy in 1991, a decorated Navy veteran who received multiple honors. After serving, he received a BFA in Communication Design at the American Intercontinental University in Atlanta, Georgia, received his MSc in Communication Design at Pratt Institute, and went onto receive the American Association of Advertising Award through the Multicultural Advertising Internship Program.

While building his career in freelance design, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) was a daily reality and struggle. Then, Chad was introduced to the sport of fly fishing and he found solace in the sport. He still recalls the feeling of the first time he hooked in on a fish where he felt himself filled with happiness, smiling for the first time in months. This was his sign to connect with the outdoors, as well as to advocate for all people to have access to the outdoors. Out of this healing experience came Portland’s first outdoor lifestyle apparel brand inspired by fly fishing, Soul River Runs Deep.

With Soul River, Chad infuses style and substance into outdoor apparel. The apparel line is inspired by fly fishing and aims to promote environmental advocacy as well the healing powers of the river. It aims to reach a younger diverse demographic, with the intention of promoting a love of and investment in the outdoors. Alongside the apparel company, Chad created the nonprofit Soul River Inc. to work in tandem with his retail business, with 15% of profits from sales going to the outdoor, water-based organization that brings youth and veterans together to the river and home to themselves and their communities as inspired ambassadors of nature.

Marge KolarMarge Kolar recently retired from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as the Pacific Southwest Regional Refuge Chief with oversight of 50 National Wildlife Refuges covering about 2.5 million acres of habitats in California and Nevada. During her 37-year career with the Service, she worked at National Wildlife Refuges, Ecological Services field stations, area offices and regional offices in Michigan, Washington state, and California, as well as the national office in Washington, DC.

Prior to working for the Service, Marge was employed by several private consulting and manufacturing firms in Ohio, Washington state, Washington, DC and Maryland, She also taught high school physics and math in West Africa with the Peace Corps. Marge has a B.S. degree in Physics and Math from the University of Detroit, and a Masters degree in Fisheries and Wildlife from Michigan State University.

Marge is now Vice-Chair of the Yolo Basin Foundation, on the board of directors for the California Institute of Environmental Studies, and is an active volunteer environmental education docent at a state wildlife area near her home in Davis, California.

Donal O'BrienDon O’Brien is the Managing Principal of Entry Point Capital, a private real estate investment and management company based in Stamford CT, which he co-founded in 2009.

Entry Point applies a value-oriented investment discipline with hands-on real estate expertise in purchasing and managing office, retail, industrial and multi-family products nationwide. The firm approaches its investments on a non-discretionary basis with financial partners who are comprised of institutional and individual investors. Donal has over 25 years of experience in development, investment, asset management, brokerage and finance. His prior positions include: Senior Managing Director & Co-Head of CIT’s Commercial Real Estate Group, Executive Vice President of Acquisitions with Collins Enterprises, Senior Vice President & Regional Manager for Heitman Properties, Managing Director of Cushman & Wakefield’s Transaction Consulting Group and Project Manager with the Trammell Crow Company.

A graduate of Dartmouth College, Donal majored in Environmental Studies and Art, and holds an MBA from New York University. A life-long student of nature and the outdoors, he’s the past Board Chair of the National Wildlife Refuge Association and currently serves on the National Council of the American Prairie Reserve.

Andy WoolfordAndy Woolford is currently Managing Director and Co-Head of Leveraged Loan Sales and Syndications for Jefferies & Co. in Stamford, CT, where he has worked since 2004. He has extensive experience in Private Placements, dating back to 1989, with BT Securities, followed by Morgan Stanley, and most recently with CIBC World Markets, all in New York, NY.

Mr. Woolford majored in English Literature at Middlebury College in Vermont and holds an MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. His varied community service includes service as board member for the Norwalk community College Foundation, coach and judge for the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship, and founder and former treasurer of Shakespeare on the Sound.

A resident of Norwalk, CT, for more than 20 years, Mr. Woolford is a life-long enthusiast of the outdoors.  His hobbies include ice hockey, boating, biking, skiing, hiking, fishing, beekeeping, gardening, and guitar.


The departing board members were given commemorative Apple books featuring some of their favorite wildlife and refuge scenery photographs. They will be missed on the board, but will remain close friends of the National Wildlife Refuge Association.

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The Birding Community E-Bulletin July 2015 Sun, 12 Jul 2015 18:38:11 +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).



In last month’s issue, we mentioned a Tufted Flycatcher in Arizona, a bird first observed on 22 May discovered foraging, calling, and even showing nesting behavior about two miles from the famous Ramsey Canyon Preserve in the southeastern part of the state.

Since then,the flycatcher became a lot more interesting when both a male and female Tufted Flycatcher were seen together and a nest was found.

This is an exceptional discovery since this species, commonly found only in the highlands and foothills of Mexico (from central Senora and south Tamaulipas) to Central America, and has only been seen in the U.S. about a half dozen times previously.

Many birders who were willing to take a fairly rigorous hike of four miles round-trip were rewarded by getting views of the birds. It appeared unlikely, however, that the nest and its eggs were viable, although one or the other adult bird was observed in the area for much of June.

You can access a short report on this remarkable rarity and many photos (including the nest) here:


The plight of the Tricolored Blackbird, one of California’s most emblematic passerines, was previously covered in the E-bulletin last July :

and again in September:

Tricolored Blackbirds were given emergency protection in December under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA), and the species has also been petitioned for Federal ESA listing. It is estimated that Tricolored Blackbirds have declined by more than 90% over the last 80 years, and have specifically exhibited a 63% loss between 2008 and 2014.

The Central Valley Bird Club has recently published a special expanded issue of the Central Valley Bird Club Bulletin on the Tricolored Blackbird. This special issue includes nine articles by active researchers and conservationists.

The issue specifically provides up-to-date information on the status of the Tricolored Blackbird, previous and new techniques for estimating the size of the population, and ecology of California’s Central Valley and Sierra foothill populations. Most importantly, the journal includes key conservation recommendations regarding Tricolored Blackbird recovery needs and management guidelines for both the species’ nesting and foraging habitats.

With a lack of insects and the destruction of areas hosting breeding colonies as the two most important causes for the recent population decline, this special issue is required reading for anyone interested or involved in Tricolored Blackbird conservation. The potential on-the ground cooperative roles for cattle ranches, dairy farms, rice lands, National Wildlife Refuges, State Wildlife Areas, and private duck clubs are all covered in this publication.

To get a copy of the special issue ($15), look for the option that indicates “Tricolored Blackbird Issue” here:

You also can find other information and reports on the species at the UC Davis Tricolored Blackbird Portal:


Practically all modern bird identification guides reflect a response to, or dialogue with, a 26-year-old Roger Tory Peterson who, in 1934, created a birding breakthrough with the creation of his A Field Guide to the Birds (1934). Does this claim sound exaggerated?

Perhaps. But perhaps not.

The young Peterson unequivocally revolutionized bird identification, moving it from a museum-based and specimen-based pursuit to one that could be enjoyed and managed by almost anyone with binoculars and sufficient field time to understand and appreciate that bird identification “may be run down by impressions, patterns, and distinctive marks, rather than by the anatomical differences and measurements that the collector would find useful” (Peterson, 1934). With Peterson’s “new plan,” stressing color-values (rather than actual colors), profiles, and outstanding marks, even at a distance, bird watching would never be the same again.

Since then, there has seemingly always been a question of how much detail one might want, or need, in order to make an identification, thus marking the progressive contributions of all field guides since the introduction of the first Peterson guide. And all birders are the better for it.

An example of a recent variation on this theme and deserving special mention was The Shorebird Guide by Michael O’Brien, Richard Crossley, and Kevin Karlson (Houghton Mifflin 2006) – a guide which effectively deepened the emphasis on size, structure, behavior, and general color patterns when making identifications. Richard Crossley took this approach further with his Crossley ID Guide, Eastern Birds (Princeton 2011) – and his follow-up guides to raptor identification and identification of European birds – stressing size, structure, shape, behavior, probability, and color patterns.

Now, Kevin Karlson and Dale Rosselet have pushed the envelope with their new Birding by Impression (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2015), with its subtitle “A Different Approach to Knowing and Identifying Birds.”

The assertion that this is a “different approach” may be debatable however. A birding-by-impression (BBI) approach still represents a back-to-fundamentals approach to bird ID, which underscores the notion that an initial appreciation of size and shape is a prerequisite to the identification process. Karlson and Rosselet do an admirable job in presenting ID issues and ID problems in their family-by-family presentation, all skillfully illustrated with fine photos, and intertwined with regular quizzes throughout their book.

Although some choices of species covered appear to be eclectic; others are eminently logical and much-desired. Clearly, there is something in this book for everybody. Are you having grebe problems? It’s in there. How about egrets? Well done. Plovers? The group is covered. Nightjars? There are some fine hints. And swifts? The book has good material. Are you confused by yellow kingbirds? The book should help. And how about blackbirds? You could learn something from the coverage in this handsome new guide.

Perhaps you will even be convinced that BBI has been developing and deepening ever since the presses at Houghton Mifflin rolled in 1934 with the printing of RTP’s book, including some bumps and detours along the way. Or, perhaps you will choose to deny the connection. Regardless, the new Karlson and Rosselet guide is full of juicy information and ID skill-building that deserves close attention.


Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge is an outstanding Important Bird Area (IBA) on the North Carolina Coastal Plain. It is one of North Carolina’s most significant sites for shorebirds and waterfowl, including several species of conservation concern, particularly because of its water impoundments that vary in salinity and are managed for shorebirds, waterfowl, and other migratory birds. Among other things, North Carolina’s largest regularly occurring flock of American Avocets winters there, and the habitat there is also important for Piping Plovers.

This NWR has long had two ongoing conservation issues which have been difficult to resolve: 1) the artificial (soft) stabilization of the beach with dunes to protect Highway 12, and 2) the eventual fate of the related Bonner Bridge and its replacement. Of the many options considered for the bridge, the construction of a replacement bridge could be very damaging to the refuge and could seriously impact habitats for birds.

Last month, the settlement of a lawsuit regarding the Bonner Bridge and North Carolina Highway 12 (NC-12), which runs through the Pea Island NWR, was announced. Because of the settlement, the North Carolina Department of Transportation and the Federal Highways Administration will now be looking at moving portions of NC-12 out of the fragile NWR, off the unstable barrier island, and into Pamlico Sound. The project sections described in the settlement agreement, if fully approved, will provide safe, reliable transportation by moving the road off the parts of Hatteras Island where erosion, washouts, and rising seas frequently shut it down and prevent access. The approach calls for a “phase 1” bridge replacement across Oregon Inlet, followed by a future extension extending five miles down Pamlico Sound before it connects again to NC12.

For more details on the settlement between multiple parties, see here:

You can access information on all of North Carolina’s IBAs (as of 2010) here:

And for additional information about worldwide IBA programs, including those in the U.S., check the National Audubon Society’s Important Bird Area program web site at:


PVC pipes used to mark boundaries at over three million mining claims and similar pipes on federal lands have proven to be deadly traps for certain species in the American West. Tragically, small birds often see the opening of PVC mining claim markers and other pipes – such as fence or gate posts – as openings suitable for nesting. When birds go in, however, some may never come out. We previously covered this story in December 2011:

Last month, more than 100 groups signed a letter to the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the USDA Forest Service (FS) concerning this problem. In the letter, the groups called on the two agencies to accelerate efforts to address this long-standing threat to birds at mining claims under their jurisdiction.

You can read a copy of this letter, originally circulated by the American Bird Conservancy, and see all the groups that called for change, here:


Last month, we described the announcement of intent from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to strengthen implementation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) in order to address some new “incidental takes” from some oil pit, power line, communications towers, and other potential hazards. Our report indicated that comments were to be due by the 27th of this month:

In what seemed to be by many as a reaction to this proposal, the U.S. House of Representatives passed and sent to the Senate an appropriations bill for Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS), HR 2578, which contained a rider. This rider, presented by Congressman Duncan (R-3-SC), amendment 347, would defund enforcement of the MBTA by the Department of Justice for one year.

Bird conservationists around the country were stunned and outraged, prompting a flood of letters, calls, and e-mails to the Senate to make sure the rider would not be part of the Senate companion bill.

While the Senate struck the anti-MBTA rider from its initial consideration of the CJS appropriations bill, there is still a chance that it could reemerge. Congressman Duncan has been trying to get a similar amendment through the House Interior Appropriations bill.

You can get more information from the Ornithology Exchange, here:


It was only a matter of time, but we are now about to get a glimpse of the bird-watching future.

In a true breakthrough, computer researchers and bird enthusiasts have now developed a computer program able to identify hundreds of North American bird species by photograph. Called Merlin Bird Photo ID, the results were presented at a Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR) conference held in Boston on 8 June. Essentially, the identifier is capable of recognizing 400 of the mostly commonly encountered birds in the United States and Canada.

“It gets the bird right in the top three results about 90% of the time, and it’s designed to keep improving the more people use it,” said Jessie Barry at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

To see if Merlin can identify the species in your photo, you can upload an image of the bird and tell Merlin where and when you took it. Then to orient Merlin, you draw a simple box around the bird and sequentially click on the bird’s bill, eye, and tail. Merlin, almost magically, does the rest.

Merlin’s success, according to the researchers and developers, relies on collaboration between computers and humans. The computer gets to recognize each species from tens of thousands of images identified and labeled by bird enthusiasts. It also taps in to more than 70 million sightings recorded by birders in the eBird database, reducing its search to the species found at the location and time of year when the photo was taken. Perhaps best of all, because the Merlin photo identifier uses machine-learning techniques, it has the potential to improve the more people use it.

According to Serge Belongie, a professor of Computer Science at Cornell Tech. “The state-of-the-art in computer vision is rapidly approaching that of human perception, and with a little help from the user, we can close the remaining gap and deliver a surprisingly accurate solution.”

Merlin’s computer vision system was developed by Steve Branson and Grant Van Horn of the Visipedia project, led by professors Pietro Perona at the California Institute of Technology and Serge Belongie at Cornell Tech. Their work was made possible with support from Google, the Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute at Cornell Tech, and the National Science Foundation.

You can try it with some of your own bird photos here:

What’s next? Would it be broad-scale photo recognition in aerial waterfowl surveys? Could it be digital ID reliance in long-term seabird surveys? Would the system eventually be modified to be built into what we today call binoculars, so that the observer gets ID help while seeing the bird itself and in real time?

Some birders are claiming that Merlin will take “all the fun out of birding.” Still, using binoculars a century ago was a step forward from shotgun ornithology. And few people today, in the age of digital images, mourn the loss of Kodachrome.

Perhaps the real question will be: How can helping us with this new technology help the birds?


If you want a free pass to all National Wildlife Refuges that charge for entry – Santa Ana NWR in Texas, Forsythe NWR in New Jersey, Bosque del Apache NWR in New Mexico, Ding Darling NWR in Florida, Bombay Hook NWR in Delaware, Parker River NWR in Massachusetts, Ridgefield NWR in Washington, and more – get yourself the latest Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp, often called the “Duck Stamp.”

Carrying the stamp constitutes a free pass to all the NWRs in the US that charge for entry. The latest Stamp was released for sale at the end of June. This is the first of these stamps to cost $25, an increase of $10 over the previous price of the stamp. The new stamp shows a lovely pair of Ruddy Ducks, an image painted by Jennifer Miller, of Olean, New York. Miller is only the third woman ever to have her art grace a Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp.

Besides being a free NWR pass through next June and a fine collection item, it is a true conservation-funding vehicle. Proceeds from the Stamp go into the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund (MBCF) to secure habitat in the National Wildlife Refuge System, mostly grasslands and wetlands today.

If access matters, so should holding a Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp.

You can find out more on the stamp and its conservation uses from the Friends of the Migratory Bird/Duck Stamp:

and from the Federal Duck Stamp Office:


Early last month, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) reported a Bald Eagle killed alongside a road in Monroe County in upstate New York, . The bird, a male banded with the number 03142, had actually been an individual that had been brought to New York from Minnesota as a youngster in 1977 and released at Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge. The USGS Banding Lab Longevity Records indicate that the eagle turned out to be the oldest banded Bald Eagle on record to date – older by a surprising five years. Once this 38-year-old male reached breeding age in 1981, he began nesting at Hemlock Lake, about 50 miles to the west of Minnesota NWR which is today part of Hemlock-Canadice State Forest. The Hemlock Lake nest territory continued, and this eagle became a steady and successful father to many eaglets fledged from that site for many more years.

“In my first year as the Minnesota DNR Nongame Wildlife Program Supervisor, 1977,” remarked Carrol Henderson, “I arranged for the capture of four Minnesota nestling Bald Eagle chicks for restoration in New York and accompanied Peter Nye of the New York DEC to northern Minnesota where we hired a tree climber and took a total of four chicks – a chick from each of several nests, leaving a healthy chick in each nest.” One of those chicks was 03142.

Peter Nye, the now retired DEC Wildlife Biologist who spearheaded New York’s Bald Eagle Restoration Program, commented on the bird, “His longevity, 38 years, although ingloriously cut short by a motor vehicle, is also a national record for known life-span of a wild Bald Eagle. All I can say is, hats off to you, 03142; job well done!”

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You can access all the past E-bulletins on the National Wildlife Refuge Association (NWRA) website:

If you wish to distribute or reproduce all or parts of any of the monthly Birding Community E-bulletins, we simply request that you mention the source of any material used. (Include a URL for the E-bulletin archives, if possible.)

If you have any friends or co-workers who want to get onto the monthly E-bulletin mailing list, have them contact either:

Wayne R. Petersen, Director
Massachusetts Important Bird Areas (IBA) Program
Mass Audubon
Paul J. Baicich
Great Birding Projects

We never lend or sell our E-bulletin recipient list.

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Looking Back: Molly Brown, Refuge Volunteer, Advocate and Friend Thu, 02 Jul 2015 16:36:00 +0000

Continue reading »]]> Now in her 27th year serving as President of the Friends of Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge, one of the first groups of its kind, Molly Brown looks back on a career centered upon balancing the needs of wildlife with the wants of people.

Known for testifying before Congress every year from 1989 to 2010 in search of land acquisition funding for Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge, and for raising over $24 million towards that end, Brown began her career in environmental advocacy as a volunteer more than 27 years ago. As a former 1st-grade schoolteacher, Brown understood that communication and community engagement are keys to the teaching process, and brought that experience to her early years at Back Bay.

“Keeping the local community interested is the key to getting anything done. People have to buy into the refuge’s mission,” Brown said. “The more people we can get to put their feet on a refuge, the better it is for the cause.”

Brown's birth announcement for new eagle chicks delighted all who saw it | Molly Brown
Brown’s birth announcement for new eagle chicks delighted all who saw it | Molly Brown

In 1988, Molly Brown was instrumental in organizing the Friends of Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge’s first meeting, which saw 25-30 participants. Primarily focused on land acquisition, Brown made her first trip to Congress the following year to lobby for expansion funding. With only her charisma and passion to guide her, she successfully secured $2 million for the refuge, and a reinvigoration of Back Bay that still continues today had begun.

“You make a lot of enemies fighting for your beliefs. It takes a strong personality and a strong team to come out on top,” Brown said.

The National Wildlife Refuge Association acknowledged seven years of hard work when Brown earned recognition as Volunteer of the Year in 1995. The following year, she was approached with an offer to join the Refuge Association Board of Directors, on which she served faithfully for upwards of 15 years. During that time, Brown encouraged the burgeoning “Friends Movement” that sought to give other refuges what her group had so successfully brought to Back Bay.

In 1997, the Refuge Association sponsored the first meeting of Friends group leaders and Fish and Wildlife Service staff in Virginia Beach, VA. Brown and others created a handbook, “Taking Flight,” that established guidelines to highlight refuge needs and how affiliated groups could address them, and later instituted training programs and seminars for refuge staff and wildlife advocates.

When Molly Brown first arrived on the Board of Directors, she noticed that most of the Refuge Association’s members were insiders – retired refuge managers, and employees of the US Fish and Wildlife Service or Department of the Interior.

“It was an honor to learn from them about how the refuge system worked,” Brown said. “I was still learning at the time, and I’m still learning even today.”

Today, Brown recognizes that those on the board are largely younger, and with that, excitement for the cause of conservation remains fresh. By engaging a younger generation of advocates, she says, the Refuge Association can stay on top of new technologies, which will aid in community organization and fund-raising. Brown attributes the organization’s success in recent years to a “personal touch” – the friendships, common interests, and teamwork that is built into the very organization.

Molly Brown's work has resulted in a revival of bald eagles at Back Bay NWR | Bruce Hallman, USFWS
Molly Brown’s work has resulted in a revival of bald eagles at Back Bay NWR | Bruce Hallman, USFWS

Brown says she needs to look no further than Back Bay Refuge to see the fruits of her career – in her favorite animal, the bald eagle. Before her involvement, no eagles had nested near Virginia Beach in almost 40 years. Just a year after the refuge’s first expansion, paid for by Brown’s pleas to Congress, a pair of eagles settled a nest on federal grounds. Today, with all of its expansions, pairs of eagles can be found on Back Bay throughout the year. After the first eagle chick was hatched on the refuge, Brown sent an excited birth announcement to commemorate the occasion, an affirmation of a career well spent.

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Tigers for Tigers Coalition Launches #WhereAreTheTigers Campaign Wed, 01 Jul 2015 18:54:32 +0000

Continue reading »]]> At the National Tigers for Tigers Coalition office, we dream of forests, swamps and tundra where wild tigers are free to roam without fear of falling victim to the violent greed of poachers. We dream of a world as it once was, where less than a century ago, more than 100,000 wild tigers prowled across Asia. Unfortunately, so long as tiger parts remain profitable on the black market, this is a dream that will never again be realized.

Today, less than 3,200 tigers are estimated to remain in the wild. It’s a number that signals a grim reality for the species – and one that leads us to ask #WhereAreTheTigers?

The last remaining wild tigers are spread out across only 7% of their former territory. Large-scale farmers, timber industry workers and developers continue to ravage native tiger habitats in Asia at a breakneck pace, and as a result, most of these tigers are unable to find enough food to feed themselves or their cubs. The World Wildlife Fund estimates that the world’s forests are lost “at a rate of as many as 36 football fields every minute.”

Tiger skins, bones, teeth, claws and whiskers are prized on the black market | Ryan Moehring, USFWS
Tiger skins, bones, teeth, claws and whiskers are prized on the black market | Ryan Moehring, USFWS

But even the wild tigers that can manage to sustain themselves face a far more severe threat – their skin, bones, teeth, claws and whiskers are all highly-prized on the black market, and despite international efforts at regulation, poachers can fetch as much as $50,000 from the parts of a single tiger. And with each successful sale, demand for these parts only grows.

The crisis is by no means beyond our reach as Americans. Sporting one of the largest captive tiger populations in the world, with most outside of zoos and dedicated research facilities, the United States is surprisingly lax when it comes to regulating tigers as pets. In many states, buying a tiger from a breeder is easier than adopting a dog from a shelter, and some don’t even require those who buy tigers to notify local authorities or neighbors! For the estimated 5,000 tigers forced into private ownership, a lack of attention by the US government often means a life of insufficient care, or even death on the black market.

A worse fate still for these captive tigers can be found across Asia, in commercial “tiger farms” that are still allowed to operate legally by the Chinese and other governments. Despite a 1993 ban on the trade and use of tiger parts in China and an international ban on the tiger trade in 1987, there is a growing demand for tiger parts and derived products among Chinese elite as a status of wealth and influence. In the past decade alone, the World Wildlife Fund reports that over 1,000 tigers, many from such tiger farms, have been killed solely to meet the consistently high demand of Asian consumers.

Renowned tiger expert J.A. Mills describes in her recent book The Blood of the Tiger, an estimated 6,000 tigers are bred for their parts like cattle on such farms, and hesitation to confront the Chinese government for these atrocities allows them to operate without interference.

So, #WhereAreTheTigers? They are forced into the shadows to escape poachers, exiled from their historical range. They are being sold off in small parts through illegal markets the world over. They are languishing in our own backyards, longing for support. They are hidden away on tiger farms, where they are treated as a commodity. They are dying by the thousands, and if nothing changes, they soon won’t be anywhere at all.

Today, the Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell, concluded a trip to Vietnam where she met with government officials to discuss how the US government and the Vietnamese government can work together to put an end to the illegal wildlife trade. Her next stop is China, where she will have similar discussions with top officials of the country that ranks #1 in the world for the illegal wildlife trade.

We have a dream of helping tigers, and we know you do too. But if we are to progress, we need to raise awareness, pressure governments and the international community to regulate the treatment of tigers, and show poachers, wildlife traffickers and tiger farm operators that their business will not be tolerated. Please join us in spreading our #WhereAreTheTigers campaign on your favorite social media outlet, and stay with us for continuing updates on our cause.

Stay tuned for our upcoming Global Tiger Day campaign on July 29th, 2015 and ask yourself: #WhereAreTheTigers?


Go Tigers!

National T4T Coalition Staff



A special thanks to Justin Jacques, Communications Intern from the National Wildlife Refuge Association for crafting this piece.

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House and Senate Appropriations Committees Release 2016 Funding Recommendations Wed, 01 Jul 2015 17:29:54 +0000

Continue reading »]]> Over the past few weeks, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees released their draft Fiscal Year 2016 spending bills for the Department of the Interior, including the National Wildlife Refuge System and associated wildlife conservation programs. The bills differ in spending priorities, but overall attempt to keep intact many vital wildlife conservation programs. However, dramatic cuts to programs such as the Environmental Protection Agency as well as problematic riders – including a proposed road through the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska – have resulted in a Presidential veto threat.

But it’s not just damaging riders that prompted the veto threat. The White House and the GOP-led House and Senate disagree on basic funding levels of all government programs. The President’s budget assumes Congress will end sequestration (mandatory cuts across all government) while leaders in the House and Senate have stated they will not. This means unless there is a compromise regarding government spending, we could be looking at another government shutdown as in October 2013.

Here’s what the White House and Congress have proposed so far with regards to a few key wildlife conservation programs for the next fiscal year:

Refuge System Operations and Maintenance (O&M)

A proposed rider would build a road through Izembek National Wildlife Refuge at the expense of the habitat | Kristine Sowl, USFWS
A proposed rider would build a road through Izembek National Wildlife Refuge at the expense of the habitat | Kristine Sowl, USFWS
  • Current (FY15): $474.2 million
  • POTUS: $508.2 million
  • House: $484 million
  • Senate: $475.2 million

Land and Water Conservation Fund for Refuge System

  • Current (FY15): $47.5 million
  • POTUS: $58.5 million
  • House: $27.5 million
  • Senate: $48.9 million

Although the House and Senate proposals fall short of President Obama’s vision, the House proposal, at least, includes funding recommendations that would provide Refuge System staff the ability to maintain most current levels of service for hunters, birders and all Americans who value the Refuge System for recreational pursuits as well as maintain essential wildlife habitat management projects. Also included in the House bill is a provision to bolster law enforcement resources, totaling a $905,000 increase in funding from the 2014-2015 budget. Much the opposite, the Senate bill proposes cutting funding for law enforcement on refuges by a stark $2 million.

A notable discrepancy between the two bills regards funding for refuge land acquisition and construction: the House bill would cut support for Refuge System land acquisition by $20 million and funding for construction by $2.5 million; the Senate promoted further growth through a proposal to raise the land buying budget by $1.4 million, and the construction budget by $8 million.

Unfortunately, both proposals included damaging riders, which, if passed, could interfere with the essential task of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect American’s wildlife and fish populations.

The Senate bill includes a measure to build a road through Alaska’s Izembek National Wildlife Refuge, situated on an internationally recognized wilderness area. The construction would contradict the position of Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, who rejected the proposal in 2013. Bills from both committees support delay on any listing of the greater sage grouse as threatened or endangered, in direct interference with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service obligations under the Endangered Species Act.

Other highlights from the bills include:

  • A proposed $7.4 million increase from the House for the Refuge System maintenance account and a proposed $1 million cut from the Senate;
  • Both chambers would keep funding for Partners for Fish and Wildlife private lands programs at or slightly above 2015 levels, just over $50 million;
  • Both chambers support a slight, $1 million increase to the North American Wetlands Conservation Fund and a slight increase to the State Wildlife Grants Program;
  • Both chambers propose increases to the Multi National Species Conservation Fund, the House by $500,000 and the Senate by about $1 million;
  • Both chambers importantly includes an increase to combat wildlife trafficking which is leading to the catastrophic loss of elephants, rhinos and tigers in the wild;
  • The House includes the President’s request for an additional $4 million to protect the sagebrush steppe ecosystem.

Debate on the floors of both subcommittees will continue through July, and will need to be agreed upon by both parties before formal recommendations are submitted to the White House.

For more highlights from the House of Representatives bill, click here.

For more highlights from the Senate bill, click here.

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Butterfly Garden at Hagerman NWR Attracts People and Pollinators Wed, 01 Jul 2015 16:37:07 +0000

Continue reading »]]> Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge, TX is one of the many areas impacted by the intense flooding that devastated Texas and parts of Oklahoma in mid-May. The wildlife refuge is still dealing with the repercussions, one of which has been the postponement of many pre-planned events. One such event is the grand opening of a quarter-acre butterfly garden constructed by the Friends of Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge, where flowers and trees were planted at the beginning of February.

85% of Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge is currently underwater | USFWS
85% of Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge was underwater at peak flooding level | Russell Daniel, USFWS

The idea for the garden came to the Friends after visiting Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, also in Texas, where they saw a butterfly garden that attracted not only pollinators, but crowds of visitors as well.

Though part of the project’s initial planning was contracted out to Texas Discovery Garden, a Dallas-based sustainability educational center, all planting was done with the elbow grease of the Friends of Hagerman. Sponsors for the garden included a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

The Friends of Hagerman have already hosted several events on the refuge, with a special emphasis on engaging children. The group regularly organizes field trips consisting of different stations, each with a different learning focus – at one station the children learn about the life cycle of a butterfly. At another, they get to come face to face with butterflies that have recently hatched. If they are exceedingly lucky, the children can spot a caterpillar munching on milkweed out in the garden. The field trips give children a chance to learn about butterflies, the refuge, and general conservation, all under the disguise of fun in the outdoors.

The garden is already a big draw for the refuge, even despite the delay in its official opening. When families pull up to the refuge, kids hop out of the car and immediately run towards the garden.

Not only is the garden a peaceful place to relax, it also serves as a great learning opportunity for visitors. The garden is composed solely of native plants and acts as a microcosm of the larger refuge. It allows visitors the opportunity to see aspects of the refuge that are otherwise off the beaten path, or hidden away amongst other habitat. The plants are labeled, and visitors can check out a book in the visitor center that gives more information about each plant.

Although the last few months have been especially difficult for Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge and other such lands in the American Southwest, refuge staff is determined to further the mission of the Refuge System towards educating and engaging the community.

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