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Thursday, June 28, 2007

New Bird-friendly Windmills

And not just good for birds, good for home and business owners. These windmills go right on your house or business--bringing the benefits of windpower right to your rooftop. Check out the various models at PacWind. You could be the first one on your block to get one...unless you live on Jay Leno's block. He's already got one.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Basra Reed Warbler in the Big Time

You know you've arrived when you make it on the Daily Show. Our endangered friend Acrocephalus griseldis has finally arrived. Of course, since it lives in the middle of Mess O'Potamia...

Steve Kress's Guide to Attracting Birds

Even if you didn't win a copy of Steve Kress's The Audubon Society Guide to Attracting Birds playing the IATB Sweepstakes, here's why you should get yourself a copy--its an absolutely amazing resource put together by a legend in the field of bird conservation. While there are literally hundreds of books out there on how to attact birds to your yard--this is one of the very best. Steve Kress has written several other books along this line, but this is the one where he had the freedom to put in all of the extra stuff that wouldn't fit in some of the other books.

As Steve writes in the introduction, "Improving the quality of land for wildlife is the single most constructive step that anyone can take to assist wild bird populations." If you want to help birds, the best place to start is in and around your own home--the bird habitat you have the most control over. As indicated by the subtitle, this book focuses on Creating Natural Habitats for Properties Large and Small. Steve Kress, a Vice-President at the National Audubon Society with a Ph.D. from Cornell, has spent his life researching and practicing the techniques and secrets he shares in this lavishly illustrated 466 page volume dripping with information.

As mentioned, this guide covers a full range of habitats and property sizes, from large rural grasslands or forested tracts, to suburban yards and urban patios. Its more than just a guide to attracting birds, its really a user-friendly guide to bird habitat management--with detailed instructions on how to manage grasslands, forests, and shrublands, as well as over 130 pages on various trees, shrubs, and other bird-friendly plants. If you want to build a pond or small pool for wildlife, its all here. Nest boxes, gott'em, for birds of all kinds. And not just nest boxes, but nesting structures for other birds as well, including owls, geese, loons, and terns. Everything you wanted to know about bird feeders, but were afraid to ask? All right here under one cover.

But, you say, you've seen it all before? Think again! How about detailed illustrations showing exactly how a bird opens a seed? Or how to provide live food for secretive towhees? Or make a nest cone for Mourning Doves? Unless you've been poking around in the scientific journals, you're not likely to have seen a lot of the information in this book before.

So, whether you own a farm, ranch, suburban yard, or apartment balcony, this book contains the best-researched and most useful information you're going to find about how to make your property better for birds--and will teach you a lot about birds in the process. Unfortunately, we all can't spend time individually with Dr. Kress as he works to bring puffins and other seabirds back to abandoned islands off the coast of Maine, but through this book, we can work shoulder-to-shoulder with him to bring more birds back to the yards and properties that make up our own mini-Edens.

And the winner is...

Thanks to the drawing facilitated by a random number generator, I'm happy to announce that the winner of the IATB Sweepstakes is Liza of The Egret's Nest. Her copy of Steve Kress's The Audubon Society Guide to Attracting Birds will ship out shortly. Thanks to everyone for playing, and enjoy the latest IATB over at The Wandering Tattler.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Bird Flu Hits NYC

Not for the faint of heart...

More footage, again, pretty rough...

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Common US Birds in Decline

Some of my colleagues at Audubon have recently conducted an analysis of over 40 years worth of Christmas Bird Count and Breeding Bird Survey data to identify common birds that have experienced large declines. These birds are not endangered, but have declined by more than 50% over that time period. A new website gives more info on these birds and what can be done to help them.

A press conference today attracted a lot of media attention to this issue, with over 160 stories posted by newspapers so far.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

I and the Bird Sweepstakes

Welcome to I and the Bird #51. You love IATB, but admit it, you don't always read all the posts, right? But this time you will, because this time you'll have to in order to enter the I and the Bird Sweepstakes!

How to Enter

To enter the sweepstakes, just email your answers to the following questions to me at birdchaser AT hotmail DOT com by Tuesday, June 26. I'll draw a name at random from all of the correct completed answer sheets on June 27 and announce the winner here at my blog.

The Prize
The winner will receive a copy of The Audubon Society Guide to Attracting Birds, signed by the author, Steve Kress. This book has mountains of information on how to help birds thrive in your yard or on your larger rural property, brought to you from the guy who has spent his life bringing birds back to abandoned habitats--most notably bringing puffins back to abandoned islands in the Gulf of Maine. Just think of your yard as a miniature island of potential habitat just waiting for you to improve for waiting birds.

The Questions
1) Bird conservationists have reintroduced Aplomado Falcons to their former range in arid grasslands near the Mexican border of the United States. According to Carel at Rigorvitae, how many Aplomado Falcons successfully fledged in South Texas last year?

2) Ski areas and conservation partners have made great strides in the last couple years to protect the montane habitat of the rare Bicknell's Thrush. Name the blogs of the four intrepid bloggers (Mike, Patrick, Corey, and Will) who recently traipsed up Wakely Mountain to see this threatened songbird.

3) Invasive exotic vegetation can play havoc with bird habitat restoration efforts, though some native birds may utilize them for food or cover. Name the invasive plant plaguing the Birdman, but providing habitat for Spotted Morning Thrushes.

4) Conservationists seeking to restore native bird populations should take into account the predator avoidance strategies of the birds they want to help. That's all well and good, but what the heck is aposematism?

5) Rails are hard to protect since they can be tough to find in their wetland haunts. Which rail finally showed up for Tai?

6) Migratory birds have many ways to orient themselves during their seasonal movements. According to Gulf Crossings, which species recently helped researchers figure out how some birds may use polarized light to help them find their way?

7) In suburbia, large parks with good habitat can be important refuges for resident birds, and can attract locally rare species. What locally uncommon bird did John find at a DC area park and only see once, though he could hear the bird singing nearby?

8) When you're trying to help birds, and need local landowner help, communication can be a problem. Many people know birds by names other than those by which they are labled in the field guides. Birdfreak revels in bird nicknames. What is his own nickname for the American Robin?

9) Even more troubling than confusing local nicknames, other bird terms can cause problems for bird conservationists. What bird term noted at Words & Pictures recently caused a stir when it triggered internet filters in the UK?

10) On the other side of the pond from Steve Kress's puffin islands, Craig visited an important seabird sanctuary on the Farne Islands. What type of cormorant was he able to photograph there?

11) In addition to managing for rare birds, bird conservationists have to manage for abundant species that can become pests. While some folks may not like these, I'm kind of partial to this species from my days in Austin--what's the name of the species that the Wrenaissance Woman was able to photograph in San Antonio?

12) Even abandoned housing projects can be important bird habitat for some species, as noted by Sarala at Blogaway. What kinds of birds did she see, that were also enjoyed by K T Cat at The Scratching Post, but not filmed by Shinie in Northern Idaho?

13) Habitat loss is the greatest threat to most bird species, including the Northern Spotted Owl (which is under threat again). What threat to Canada's boreal forests (described at the Stokes Birding Blog) is also the greatest threat to the Northern Spotted Owl, as noted by GrrlScientist?

14) Helping birds isn't always as difficult as fighting the government. In a backyard, even a little pond or birdbath can help local birds. What species did Summer note taking a bath?

15) Bird atlas projects help us keep track of bird distribution as populations fluctuate through time. Pennsylvania is conducting its second statewide atlas. How many species has Vern confirmed breeding in his atlas block?

16) Just down the road from Vern, Drew was doing his part for bird conservation by conducting point counts. What bird did he see and hear in the same place where he found a clump of thirty or forty butterflies?

17) Other birders have been using eBird to track bird sightings, including the unusual influx of Horned Puffins along the California coast this spring. Where did Liza of The Egret's Nest find her lifer Horned Puffin?

18) Farther afield, researchers have determined descovered some interesting, some might say disturbing, behavior in Oriental Pied Hornbills. While many hornbill species are critically endangered, this one is still fairly common in some areas--which is a good thing based on the behavior described by YC at the Bird Ecology Study Group blog. What behavior did these researchers document?

19) The African nation of Cameroon is home to at least 15 globally endangered bird species. David at Search and Serendipity shows us video of some more common Cameroonian birds. Which bird does he describe as "little bits of sky that have fallen to the ground"?

20) And last, but not least, Duncan at Ben Cruachan Blog reminds us that birds are part of a larger ecosystem that includes many other organisms that we should stop and enjoy while we're out trying to make the world better for birds. While you might want to stop to smell the roses, you probably don't need to stop and smell what he found on top of an ant mound. What did he find there?

The Payoff
OK, that wasn't so hard was it? Just 20 short questions. Email your answers to me by June 26 and you'll have a chance to win Steve Kress's book. Thanks for playing. Now that you've been inspired by these posts, head out and do something good for the birds we all love! Then share your bird experiences with us on the next edition of I and the Bird, and come back here after the next I and the Bird comes out to see who won the book.

Submit your next I and the Bird post links by June 26 to Paul at The Wandering Tattler (pjollig AT gmail DOT com) or Mike at 10,000 Birds.

Special thanks to Steve Kress for donating the prize for the I and the Bird Sweepstakes. Show your thanks by supporting Project Puffin.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Where JJ Walked

Yesterday I visited Mill Grove, where John James Audubon began his journey of discovering American birds, and where as a young adult he met and married his longsuffering wife Lucy. A lot has changed in the past 200 years. The landscape is now one of mature trees and highways, rather than agricultural fields. The Perkiomen Creek still flows past down below the house, and many birds enjoy the environs of this county park and Audubon Center.

During a walk through the woods, we saw Scarlet Tanager singing high in a tree, and heard baby Downy Woodpeckers calling from within a nest cavity. Eastern Bluebirds, Tree Swallows, and House Wrens are nesting in boxes on the property, and a colony of Barn Swallows inhabits the bottom floor of the old barn. A Baltimore Oriole was hanging out near the house, and a pair of Chimney Swifts were nesting in Audubon's old home. Indigo Buntings, Common Yellowthroats, and Great Crested Flycatchers were among the more than three dozen birds we saw in a couple hours, walking where JJ Audubon walked, along a wooded Perkiomen Creek that he might barely recognize now for all the trees.

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