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Thursday, August 31, 2006

Off to Guatemala

I'm off to Jocotan, Guatemala to do some ethnoornithology research with a Mayan linguist. Hope to post something from down there, but if not, I'll be back September 13. (photo:jocotan project)

Eagle Scout Bluebirds

A scout from church created a bluebird trail at my work for an Eagle Scout project a couple weeks ago. This morning I went for a little walk and saw three bluebirds sitting on one of his boxes. These birds won't nest until spring, but they seem to be checking out the boxes already. Hopefully they will find at least one to their liking.

Birdchaser in Circus of the Spineless

My post on Muscongus Bay Bird Food is featured in the brand new Circus of the Spineless (a blog carnival dedicated to invertebrates) hosted by Steve Reuland of Sunbeams from Cucumbers. Steve positions all the posts as acts in a circus. I am, of course, the clown.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Local Shorebirds

Hoping to find some migrant shorebirds, I stopped by Bradford Dam in southern Bucks County on the way to work this morning. Most of the lake margin is covered with dying water hyacinths, so not a lot of good shorebird habitat. Only found 7 Spotted Sandpipers, and 4 Least Sandpipers on the vegetation, so kind of disappointing. There was a young Bald Eagle sitting on a log in the lake, as well as 2 Mute Swans, a single Canada Goose, 1 Great Blue Heron, and 4 Green Herons. Not what I was hoping for, but good to at least get a brief bird fix for the morning.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Birdchaser in Lawn & Garden Retailer

Check out my article on the bird flu in the Lawn & Garden Retailer magazine (here). Money quote:
By keeping bird feeders and birdbaths clean and by washing up thoroughly after servicing them, there is almost no way to contract H5N1. There is a much greater risk of tripping on your way out the door than there is of contracting avian flu or any other disease from backyard wild birds. The National Safety Council reports that trips and falls killed 16,000 Americans and sent more than 7 million others to the emergency room in 2003; less than 200 people across the globe have died from H5N1.

Gunnison Sage Grouse

Here's a question--Who is going to step up to save the Gunnison Sage Grouse, perhaps the most endangered bird in the Lower 48? I was just out in Colorado for some Audubon meetings, and there is a real need to get some national attention on this bird. There is a local group Sisk-a-dee dedicated to protecting the birds, a conservation plan, and some serious efforts by the Colorado Division of Wildlife, but hardly anyone out there has even heard of, let alone embraced, this bird.

True, thousands have have travelled to see these birds. But how many people go to Colorado to see these birds, then don't lift a finger to do something for them after they get home?

How many of us can envision a world where there aren't just 5,000 Gunnison Sage Grouse on a good day, but maybe 25,000 or 50,000 of them across a larger expanse of their former range into Arizona and New Mexico?

Everyone was over the moon when we thought the ivorybill might have a second chance. While nobody seems to be able to find an ivorybill, here's a bird that we really can do something about still.

Is there a conservation through birding strategy that can help these birds? Some way to get more people to see, and then actually do something to help, these birds? What about a Sage Grouse Research and Visitor Center in Gunnison? A place where you can go to learn about the birds, take a guided tour to see them booming on their leks in the frigid cold of an early Colorado Spring? A center where summer interns and researchers can work out of as they struggle to learn more about these birds. A place on the map with a 40 foot sage grouse statue in front that makes the local community proud of their celebrity birds? Or a birding festival that fills the local hotels during the off season?

We have the tools. But the folks with Sisk-a-dee in Gunnison need our help. Ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for these guys, and for our credibility as conservationists if we stand by and watch these guys go the way of Attwater's Prairie Chickens (down to about 40 birds in the wild).

(Gunnison Sage Grouse photo credit)

Jackie Chan on Bird Flu

Announced here. Follow the links to watch the Public Service Announcement here. Maybe a bit over the top scary, but for kids, an important message in some parts of the world. Some kids in Turkey died after playing with the heads of some slaughtered infected chickens, so maybe not a message we need here in the USA, but possibly critical elsewhere. Hopefully the kids will listen to Jackie Chan. He may do his own stunts, but isn't messing around with this bird flu!

Now, the part about "birds from somewhere else" making their birds may be true, but it wasn't clear if he was talking about wild birds or poultry imports. Wild birds are still not proven to be a primary carrier or transmitter of HPAI H5N1 avian influenza.

Colorado Rocky Mountain High

Friday I flew to Denver and drove three and a half hours up to Mt. Princeton for the Audubon Colorado Rendezvous. A spectacular meeting place along a creek below the cliffs of the 14,000 foot peak. Most of my time was spent in meetings watching the storms roll in and out of the valley, but great to see some old friends like Clark's Nutcracker, Townsend's Solitaire, and Mountain Chickadee. Heard Red Crossbills flying over several times but never got on them. Something was messed up with my binoculars, and I couldn't get them to focus fast enough. I thought it might have been sand in the focusing mechanism, but they are OK again now that I'm back in Pennsylvania, so wondering if it had something to do with the pressurized binocular tubes and the high altitude? If anyone has had anything like this happen to their Zeiss 7x42 Dialyts, let me know! It was a pain since I was pretty sure I had a Black Swift going over at one point, but couldn't focus the bins fast enough to get on it!

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Cooperative Conservation?

I love rare birds, and was dismayed a couple months ago when the USFWS decided not to list the Gunnison Sage Grouse as an endangered species. If a bird with a tiny range and a population of only 5,000 individuals (in a good year) doesn't count as endangered, I don't know what does.

While the Endangered Species Act has some problems--most notably the government doesn't enforce it enough, there is a movement afoot to get rid of the Endangered Species Act as we know it. Called "cooperative conservation", this would make endangered species protection voluntary, rather than mandatory. While I'm all in favor of voluntary action, and decided against a career in environmental law because I'd rather encourage people to do the right thing, rather than suing them to do it, sometimes you need the stick to go along with the carrot, and taking the teeth out of the Endangered Species Act will not help any endangered or threatened bird. A "voluntary" Endangered Species Act would be about as effective as a voluntary sales tax.

So, why post this on PA Birds? Those within the federal government who would like to stir up support for gutting the Endangered Species Act are staging road shows all across the country to try and sell their ideas and make a show of support, and that show may be coming to a community near you sometime in the next couple of months. If you care about rare and threatened birds, find a session near you, mark your calendar and do what you have to in order to get to this meeting and make a public comment in support of a strong Endangered Species Act.

I know we'd all rather be out birding, but if we don't stand up for the birds when we get a chance, someday there just won't be as many of the cool birds we'd all really like to see. If birders won't stand up for rare birds, who will?

For more info on the public meetings, see:

For more info on this "cooperative conservation" movement, see:

More on these sessions from the Endangered Species Coalition (here).

While the website says that meeting attendance and commenting is first come, first served, and that speakers can only sign up at the session, word on the street is that there may be some dirty behind-the-scenes stuff going on to stack the speaker list in advance. So get there early, and if you aren't allowed to speak, let the world know about it.

There, I've said it. Now back to birding!

Detention Pond Shorebirds

This morning I made a quick stop by a water detention pond just north of the Giant supermarket in Quakertown. The basin is only about an acre in size and mostly dry, with a bit of water in spots and open mudflats, but it held 2 Solitary Sandpipers, 2 Lesser Yellowlegs, 20 Least Sandpipers, and 2 Semipalmated Sandpipers. Man, I sure miss the days of shorebirding the South Jetty of the Columbia River and the Bayocean shorebird flats in Oregon during the 1980s, or the last ten years of birding Hornsby Bend in Texas! I got spoiled on seeing hundreds or even thousands of individuals of dozens of species. Now shorebirds are a bit fewer and farther between for me.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Perseids and Parulas

Nights in Maine are great for watching the skies. After a day of workshops, we enjoyed exploring the galaxy--and more distant galaxies--under amazingly dark skies. I've lived in the city too long, and it was great to watch the Perseid meteor showers, scope out the moons of Jupiter, and look at the Andromeda galaxy, as well as other deep sky objects in Sagitarius.

We weren't the only ones watching the stars. Research has shown that many songbirds migrate at night and use the stars to help them navigate. While we were out looking at the stars, we could hear the flight calls of warblers going overhead. I'm still learning my flight calls, so hard to tell exactly which species were going over, but based on what we were seeing on the ground, maybe Black-throated Green Warblers, Northern Parulas, American Redstarts, and Magnolia Warblers.

The best resource for learning the flight calls of migrant birds is online at Get the CD. Its amazing and will open up a whole new world of night time birding. Fall migration is underway, so get a copy now. For another great view of the migration taking place each night, see the radar summaries at Then head outside, hopefully to a dark spot away from city lights, and enjoy the celestial views of the sky and amazing sounds of the birds streaming overhead.

How Birds See the World

What do you do at the Audubon Leadership Workshop after a day of watching puffins and eagles? Why, you enjoy my presentation on how birds see the world, of course! I like this presentation, as it is a lot of fun to figure out how birds see and interact with their world. I haven't given this presentation for a while, but I've now added a lot of info from recently published research, and I'm set to take it on the road again. Next stop for this show: Houston Audubon Society meeting on November 8. If you've ever wanted to know what it is like to be a bird, this is the presentation for you!

Eastern Egg Rock

On the third day of the Audubon Leadership Workshop on Hog Island, we took the Puffin IV out to Eastern Egg Rock to look for the puffins that Stephen Kress introduced back to the island beginning in the 1970s. It was late in the season, but we did manage to see four of these little beauties sitting on the water.

We might have seen more puffins, but there were four adult and three young Bald Eagles on the small island really stirring up the terns and gulls, so any other puffins in the area were probably smart to head out away from the island.

I am not the best on boats, especially when I keep my eyes glued to my binoculars looking for pelagic species. As we headed out, I told some folks that I wanted to see a Manx Shearwater. As we circled Eastern Egg Rock and the swells started to get to me, I kept up my vigil scanning the horizon with my binoculars while others watched the eagles. Finally, way off in the distance, I saw a shearwater skimming back and forth over the waves. Only a couple others were able to get on it before it disappeared, perhaps landing on the water. I was green, but I'd seen my bird!

Muscongus Bay Bird Food

On the second day of the Audubon Leadership Workshop at Hog Island, we took a break to explore the intertidal zone, or as I like to think of it, with over thirty species of invertebrates present, the Maine coast's great bird food larder.

Of course, crabs were everywhere. Most were green crabs (Carcinus maenus), and hermit crabs, but we also found one female Asian shore crab (Hemigrapus songuineus) in berry, as well as a few rock crab (Cancer irroratus). These guys are all good food for the many Herring Gulls and Laughing Gulls in the area, and at one point I found three American Crows feeding on the remains of a larger crab. Common Terns also munch on green crabs.

We also found two kinds of sea star. Here I am showing off my Blood Star (Henricia sp.), and we also found Northern Sea Stars (Asterias vulgaris). While these little guys are savvy hunters themselves, it isn't too uncommon to see gulls eating sea stars as well--especially the larger Glaucous Gull and Great Black-backed Gull. King Eiders also like to eat Asterias sea stars.

One denizen of the shore that was new to me was the clam worm (Nereis sp.), which make a good meal for shorebirds like Black-bellied Plover, Semipalmated Plover, Red Knots, and godwits, as well as gulls and waterfowl like the American Black Duck and Common Eider.

Of course, everywhere on the rocks we found barnacles, as well as blue mussels (Mytilus edulis) and horse mussels (Modiolus modiolus). These bivalves are the favorite food of the Common Eiders that are so common in Muscongus Bay. The sea ducks dive down and rip these mussels from the rocks, eat them whole, and grind them up in their gizzards, then excrete the shells as crazy blue droppings. Other birds that feast on mussels include American Oystercatcher and Black Scoter.

Rock eels (Pholis gunnellus) are the favorite food of the other most common Muscongus Bay bird--the Black Guillemot. We found a couple of these long fish--actually a gunnels--under rocks in the tide pools. The guillemots dive down and chase these fish among the rocks under water--a sight I'd love to see. Other birds that hunt these gunnels include Double-crested Cormorant, Great Cormorant, and Red-throated Loon.

My favorite animal of the day was probably the golden star tunicate (Botryllus schlasseri). We also found Sea Pork (Amaroucium stellatum) and white crusts (Didemnum sp.). I have to admit I've never seen a tunicate before, and I was quite taken by these strange little animals. The golden star tunicates are introduced from Europe, and I have no idea if any birds actually eat these little colonies since they are rather firmly attached to the rocks, but they are quite pretty and its possible that the free-swimming forms may be eaten by birds at sea.

Snails were common in the tide pools, especially the common periwinkles (Littorina littorea) and dog whelks (Nucella lapillus). We also found some of the smaller smooth or northern periwinkle (Littorina obtusata) and a few tortoise shell limpets (Acmaea testudinalis). Dozens of bird species eat periwinkles, including shorebirds like Purple Sandpipers and Ruddy Turnstones, and ducks like Common Goldeneyes, scoters, and Long-tailed Duck. Limpets may take a little more work to pry off of rocks, but some do get pulled off by eiders and oystercatchers.

Other bird food we found included beach fleas (Orchestia sp.), blood worms (Glycera sp.), and my favorite the twelve scaled worm (Lepidonotus sp.). Amphipods included the North Atlantic scud (Gammarus oceanicus) swimming sideways under rocks, where they seek refuge from the dozens of birds that eat them--pretty much any shorebird, seabird, or sea duck in the area.

After checking out the littoral bird food, we waded out to do some sceining. This brought in lots of three spined sticklebacks (Gasterosteus aculeatus), Atlantic silversides (Menidia menidia), bent mysids (Praunus flexuosus), and grass shrimp (Hippolyte sp.). Common Terns frequently take all of these species, as do many other species feeding in shallow water--including Snowy Egret and Brown Pelican. We also managed a medium sized sculpin (Cottidae sp.)--a fish favored by loons, mergansers, cormorants, and even Great Black-backed Gulls.

After a couple hours of exploration, it was clear that the world is a marvelous place full of strange creatures...and that there is a lot for birds to eat where water meets shore.

Audubon Leadership Workshop on Hog Island

Arriving at Hog Island for the Audubon Leadership Workshop for Audubon chapter leaders, it was good to be back in the land of the Black Guillemot and Common Eider. These birds are fairly common close to shore here, and we saw dozens of them on the short boat tour on our first morning at the camp. We also got good looks at a Bald Eagle nest, as well as an Osprey nest, and diving Common Loons. Hog Island has a lot of great birds, and I spotted 63 species during the week, missing several others seen by workshop participants when I wasn't around--like when I was tanking up on the amazing homemade dishes served at every meal! Fresh air, spectacular scenery, great food, fantastic birds, good that's a recipe for a good time--especially when you get the discounted Audubon rate! The Audubon Leadership Workshop may be the best kept secret in Audubon.

Scarborough Marsh

Driving up to Maine to help with the Audubon Leadership Workshop at Hog Island, I stopped off at Scarborough Marsh to look for Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrow. It was windy, late in the day, and maybe late in the season, and I didn't have a lot of time--a recipe for disaster when searching for a particular bird. There were lots of wading birds out at the end of Eastern Road into the marsh, including two Tricolored Herons (only one was previously reported) that I glimpsed as they moved through the distant marsh pans.

Finally, I ran into some local folks who told me I was right in the middle of the best place for the sparrows (the north end of Eastern Road near the pans), and eventually with their scope, I was able to see a couple birds. Both Nelson's and Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrows are here, and this time of year many of the birds are youngsters--making it a bit tricky to identify them as they pop up briefly in the middle of the marsh. However, I was lucky enough to see at least one that seemed to be a good Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrow based on breast streaking and gray cheek. I also saw one really, really pale young Nelson's, and several others that had to go unidentified. The birds didn't really fit my previous search image of them based on field guide illustrations. Much more flat-headed, long-billed, and much less colorful then I expected. Field guides don't always do it for you, so there's nothing like in-the-field experience with birds to help you really become familiar with them. I left wanting to spend much more time getting to know these guys. Hopefully next time I'm in their range I'll have more time to really study these strange little birds (photo:


I just got back from a week in Maine (details forthcoming), and wasn't able to check online before I drove home...which is why I drove right past the $^@& Western Reef Heron that is being seen just off I-95 at Kittery Point in southern Maine. About once a year I miss a super spectacular bird by not being plugged in 24-7. Ouch! (photo: Surfbirds)

Friday, August 11, 2006

Latest Thoughts on Bird Flu

In the past six months, we've learned a lot about how bird flu is and isn't spread. Here's a great summary of what we know and are still looking at from Richard Thomas of BirdLife International:

1) The highly pathogenic form (HPAI) of H5N1 arose in poultry and H5N1 remains almost exclusively a poultry disease.

2) The major spread of the virus is caused by the international poultry trade, as has been stated publicly more than once by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. As such, the US Govt should be investing in tighter border security if it wishes to prevent H5N1 entering the country. The recent report about tonnes of Chinese poultry meat entering the New York restaurant chain shows the US is playing Russian Roulette with H5N1. It is not the only recent report of poultry/poultry product smuggling into the US from infected areas.

3) Four human deaths have been caused by close contact with wild birds: women who were plucking swans for feathers in Azerbaijan. All other human cases have been caused by close contact with infected poultry or (in a very limited number of instances) through human-human transmission.

4) The total number of wild birds infected is in the thousands (cf. hundreds of thousands, as opposed to millions of infected chickens).

The biggest possible wild bird outbreak is currently ongoing at Ubsu-Nur, a lake that straddles the Russia-Mongolia border where there are reports of up to 10-15,000 dead birds. However, there is no official Russian Govt confirmation of the outbreak being H5N1, and early on there were reports of many dead rodents and fish at the lake - so it could just all be poisoning.

Prior to Ubsu-Nur, the largest alleged "wild bird" outbreak was at Qinghai Lake in China (where up to 6,000 birds were reported dead - mainly Bar-headed Geese). However, in recent months we've learned that Bar-headed Geese have been farmed and released at the Lake and elsewhere in north-west China for at least a decade, so how many of the geese were wild birds is not clear, nor were many of the corpses tested and confirmed as killed by H5N1 - possibly, like Europe, only a small proportion of the dead birds had the virus].

5) All wild, migrant birds testing positive for H5N1 have either been dead or dying. There is no properly documented case of a wild bird carrying H5N1 asymptomatically.

It is true that some Tree Sparrows in China were found to be carrying HPAI H5N1, but not the Z-Genotype that's causing all the problems. They're also not migratory. The other widely-publicised "asymptomatic wild bird" case were six "wild, migratory ducks" at Poyang Lake, China reported by Chen. However, the authors are unable even to say which species these birds were; one of the possibilities they give (Spot-billed Duck) has a resident population at the lake. I can send a list of other flaws in their methodology - not least of which is that they did zero poultry testing around the lake].

6) The best evidence for long-distance movement of the virus by wild birds was in Europe in winter/spring 2006. The scattering of dead/infected wildfowl were consistent with movements of birds fleeing cold weather in the Black Sea/Caspian Sea regions. Poultry had been infected for months in these regions before the virus's appearance in wild birds. Our "best guess" is wild birds became infected in poultry farm factory outflows. [The Ruegen Island (German) outbreak is very strange and points to a local source].

7) The US Govt is probably wasting its money on testing wild birds in Alaska using its current methodology. All the reports I have seen refer to researchers taking cloacal swabs. Fouchier reported (at recent FAO-OIE conference on wild birds) that artificially infected ducks DID NOT EXCRETE THE VIRUS IN THEIR FAECES; it was only present (and detectable) in tracheal swabs. Hence, a negative result from a cloacal swab may be just a false negative.

8) The virus has been endemic in South-East Asia for more than a decade. More than 16,000 healthy, wild, migratory ducks in Hong Kong have been tested during that period - and all found to be negative for H5N1 (subject to the proviso above about cloacal testing). Similarly, more than 12,000 samples from birds in Alaska from 1998-2005 were all negative for H5N1.

9) The westwards spread of the virus from China to Eastern Europe follows no known wild bird migration pathway; nor does the timing (spring in the east, autumn in the west) follow a plausible migration route. The introduction to Africa (Nigeria) was unquestionably through trade.

10) If there was a significant danger of H5N1 introduction into the US through mixing of Asian migrants with American migrants in Alaska, why has there been no outbreak of H5N1 in major destinations for Asian migrant birds, such as the Philippines, Australia and New Zealand?

Japan and South Korea both experienced outbreaks following importation of infected poultry meat. After stamping the disease out through culling and tightening their borders, neither has experienced further outbreaks. The US should take note.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Birding Anniversary

Today is my 25th birding anniversary. Actually, the first date I have with a bird sighting was a Killdeer I saw 14 June 1977, and I made my first bird list for a cub scout requirement in July 1977. But 25 years ago today, I went from being a backyard birder, to a full-fledged birder and lister.

I had been an active herp enthusiast for several years, when I got invited to go on a week-long birding trip to Malhuer National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Oregon with Ron Keil, my junior high science teacher, and a couple van loads of other teachers and kids. We kept a bird list on that trip, and I got totally sucked in. While I only saw a couple lizards on this trip, I saw over 50 bird species, including my first Burrowing Owls, White-faced Ibis, Common Nighthawk, and American Avocets. It was life changing. Its all so burned into my mind that I can still tell you what I ate for dinner at the Malhuer field station on August 10, 1981--vegetarian spaghetti with zuchini, very tasty! Juice Newton's Queen of Hearts was climbing the pop charts, we watched the Perseid meteor showers from the top of Steens Mountain, and it was a magical time that changed the course of my life.

Birding is more than an obsession. It is a way of ordering your life--including your experiences and memories. Dates of important bird sightings and birding trips become etched in our psyches, and change our very souls. Many of us can tell you exactly when and where we were when that birding bug (and I'm willing to call it an infective virus) first hit us.

Me, I was twelve years old, twenty five years ago today, at Malhuer National Wildlife Refuge. For me, that is holy ground.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Bird I am not seeing

In 10 years of living in Texas, I waited in vain for one of these guys to show up again so I could chase it for my ABA list. Now that I'm in Pennsylvania, sure enough one is now hanging out in Estero Llano Grande State Park in Weslaco, Texas. Such is life. (photo: Erik Breden)

Changes at ABA

The American Birding Association has been struggling to find a new executive director, but the new appointment is now announced on the ABA Website. I won't spoil it here, so check it out if you're interested. Hope this turns out to be a good thing--good luck, guys!

As for changes here, I'm gonna try out this as my new banner...

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Sooty Shearwater Migration...Amazing

Imagine a 200 day 40,000 mile trip around the Pacific Ocean from California, to Japan, to New Zealand, and back again. Throw in some nice 180 foot deep ocean dives. Lots of good seafood. Now imagine doing that every year of your 30 year life. And you only weigh a pound and a half. Welcome to the world of the Sooty Shearwater. Check out this BBC report on a recent study tracking the migration of these birds. On this map the blue lines are breeding season movements, yellow is the northward journey, and orange lines are winter (our summer) movements and the journey back south. Simply amazing.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Tilting at windmills?

So, somebody wants to put a wind farm in your backyard. Maybe you want it, maybe you don't. Then somebody comes along and says that it might kill lots of birds. So, what do you do? How many birds get killed by windmills, anyway?

Here's what we know: researchers have found that on most modern wind farms, each turbine kills an average of 2.3 birds each year (read the latest NWCC report here).

So if they want to put a monster 500 turbine wind farm in your county, that might kill an estimated (reaching for the calculator...) 1150 birds a year. Still sounds like a lot?

It is estimated that the average house kills around 10 birds a year that smack into its nice picture windows. The average outdoor cat may kill 10 birds each year as well. There are about 100 million homes in the U.S. and maybe that many cats as well. Are you doing the math? We're looking at something like a billion birds killed by windows, and another billion killed by cats, each and every year. With an estimated 20 billion birds in the U.S. each fall, windows and cats may be killing about 10% of all birds every year.

How does that stack up against birds killed by windows. If you crunch the numbers found here, you'll find that there are currently something like 17,800 wind turbines in the U.S. At 2.3 birds per turbine, that's 40,940 birds killed by windmills each year.

Of course, these are estimates. There are some windfarms that kill more birds. Others kill fewer birds. If someone is proposing a windfarm in your area, make sure that they do their environmental studies to show that they're not going to build it in a major migratory pathway, or near too many nesting hawks or eagles. See if you can get them to do ongoing monitoring of the windfarm to make sure that they aren't killing inordinate numbers of birds.

All in all, the habitat destruction that takes place putting in the service roads for the windmills will probably be more damaging than the windmills themselves. Again, if you have a chance, make sure that those impacts are addressed. Maybe there should be some mitigation for habitat destroyed. Its probably going to come down to what you and your county are able to negotiate.

If wind developers do their homework, and do a good job choosing a site, then there shouldn't be too big a problem with a windfarm killing birds. If you want to oppose a windfarm on aesthetic grounds, that's another thing. Just remember that the window you have to look through to see the local windfarm is actually killing at least as many birds as the windmills themselves.

Now, that said, wind power's ability to reduce our need for fossil fuel burning needs for electricity generation is another question entirely...

Friday, August 04, 2006


Well, I'm not getting much traveling in lately, but my 2006 yard list is currently #2 in the state of Pennsylvania. OK, that's second place in the urban yard category. But, work with what you got. Latest addition--two Purple Martins seen about a quarter mile away across the creek. As long as I can see it from my yard, its in!

Pretty soon I'll have less time for yard birding. In the next three months I have trips planned for Maine, Colorado, Guatemala, Maine again, Mexico, Houston, San Diego, Austin...stay tuned, should be some bird reports in there somewhere!

The Shorebird Guide redux

OK, after all the great things I said about The Shorebird Guide (and its still a great book), I didn't find it very helpful in working out last month's ABA photo quiz. I had tried to do the quiz at work without all my books, and this book didn't ever get to where I needed to. To be fair, Sibley didn't help much either on this one. There's only so much you can get from a book...and a single online photo. Fortunately, its usually easier to identify birds in the field, as you usually get a better view (and size clues) from several angles. Oh well, better luck with this month's photo quiz!
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