Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Birds: Bahama Swallow. Black-capped Petrel. Conservationists. Birds and Weeds. Hawaii. South Pole. Wikipedia.

For "Winged Wednesday":

Bahama Swallow, The "Good Luck" bird.

Bahama Swallow by Alex Paul

"Various folk traditions consider swallows to be good-luck bringers, so this Friday the 13th, we feature a swallow that needs a share of good luck (and good conservation) itself!

The Bahama Swallow is a medium-sized, trim-looking swallow with iridescent green upper parts, deep blue wings and tail, and white under parts. It closely resembles the Tree Swallow, but can be distinguished by its deeply forked tail. The species is rapidly disappearing throughout its range, and little is understood about its natural history.

Key threats to this bird include the loss of its preferred pine woodland habitat to development and logging, invasive House Sparrows and European Starlings, which co-opt suitable nesting cavities, and severe weather.

The Bahama Swallow would benefit from further surveys of suitable breeding habitat, plus assessment of its winter distribution and habitat requirements.

Natural nest sites should be maintained through a pine snag management program, and the success of nest box usage should be assessed. Perhaps most importantly, the remaining forest in the Bahamas should be protected."

Help ABC conserve this and other birds and their habitats!


Good News for a Bad-luck Bird
First photos of petrel chick renew hope for endangered seabird.  

Black-capped Petrel chick. Photo by J. Volquez

One of the first-ever images of a Black-capped Petrel chick in the nest. Photo by J. Volquez, Grupo Jaragua.

"Friday the 13th is turning out to be a lucky day for a Caribbean seabird whose eerie night-time calls have long haunted visitors to its cliff top breeding grounds. Today a crew of researchers is launching an expedition to search for additional nesting sites in the Dominican Republic. The expedition caps a headline year for the endangered Black-capped Petrel.

First, scientists working in Haiti obtained the first-ever photos of a chick—a fist-sized ball of gray fluff that was discovered at a nest inside a mountaintop cave. Then the International Black-capped Petrel Conservation Group brought together participants from 12 countries to produce the first comprehensive conservation action plan for the species.
The Black-capped Petrel is known as the diablotín, or “little devil” in Spanish, probably because of its spooky cries. Best estimates suggest that fewer than 2,000 breeding Black-capped Petrel pairs remain. The crow-sized birds nest only in the Caribbean but feed as far away as Gulf Stream waters off the Mid-Atlantic United States.

The nest, containing a single egg and an incubating adult petrel, was discovered on March 3, 2011, by Jairo Arache of Grupo Jaragua. On return visits in April, May, and June researchers photographed, but did not handle the growing chick as it waited for its parents to return with food. An automatic camera showed that adults visited the nest for an average of 80 minutes every couple of nights, typically between 9 p.m. and midnight."   More at:


Turning Birders into Conservationists.

image"As a birder of modest skills, I am delighted that over the years I have shared my interest with a handful of others who have then become birders themselves.  These birders comprise one of my favorite “life lists”.

However, as a conservationist, I take even greater pride in having influenced a few birders to become conservationists. My birding converts appreciate all that birding provides, but my conservation converts are changing the world for the better.

Rather than speculate which actions or behaviors of mine influenced others to conserve nature, it may be more illuminating to recount how this conversion happened to me. I came to conservation consciousness very early in life. Raised on a small farm north of Baltimore, I became sensitized to habitat loss by creeping sprawl; new housing that eliminated many of the secret woodland haunts of my childhood. So, an early love of nature and loss of home territories are certainly conservationist drivers.

More than anything, though, I was influenced by individuals I admired and their varied, often crafty ways of teaching a reverence for all life. On summer evenings, my father, who could not get around well, would point out bird songs and ask me to go find them in the woods nearby. It was years later before I figured out that he knew those songs and was simply training me to pay attention. I particularly remember going in search of a Wood Thrush, and having to gingerly penetrate the honeysuckle and poison ivy wood edge. On the inside, I could see how the understory thinned for lack of sunlight—an easy lesson. And I remember finding an old, disintegrating fence within; evidence that this place had not always been forest—an
early lesson about time and natural renewal." More at:


The birds and the weeds: A farm conservation love story.       6 Jan 2012 

birds on wire"Tree sparrows have seen large declines in western Europe, in part due to changes in farming practices.

Call it the bird tax — or rather, the amount of food that farmers need to set aside in order to get birds to stick around and stop dying. Farmers don’t historically have an awesome relationship with birds [PDF], but in recent years, they’ve actually been paid to scatter grain around their land after the harvest, since a lack of seed resources in winter is thought to be one of the reasons for birds’ dramatic decline. Some of the seeds farmers spread around the edge of their fields are also attractive to pollinating insects, which is also thought to be good, since birds like to eat insects too.

Why put so much effort into attracting birds to farms? Well, the steady decline of most birds in the world and the increase of the human population are related — and, idealism aside, there’s only so much that wilderness conservation can do to alter that trajectory. And so a fascinating and pragmatic branch of science is developing. It asks the question: Is there a way to feed wildlife, while feeding ourselves?"       More at:


ABC's Top Ten Tips for Bird-Friendly Living:


On This Day:

Cook discovers Hawaii, Jan 18, 1778:

"On January 18, 1778, the English explorer Captain James Cook becomes the first European to discover the Hawaiian Islands when he sails past the island of Oahu. Two days later, he landed at Waimea on the island of Kauai and named the island group the Sandwich Islands, in honor of John Montague, who was the earl of Sandwich and one his patrons.

In 1768, Cook, a surveyor in the Royal Navy, was commissioned a lieutenant in command of the H.M.S. Endeavor and led an expedition that took scientists to Tahiti to chart the course of the planet Venus. In 1771, he returned to England, having explored the coast of New Zealand and Australia and circumnavigated the globe. Beginning in 1772, he commanded a major mission to the South Pacific and during the next three years explored the Antarctic region, charted the New Hebrides, and discovered New Caledonia. In 1776, he sailed from England again as commander of the H.M.S. Resolution and Discovery and in 1778 made his first visit to the Hawaiian Islands.

Cook and his crew were welcomed by the Hawaiians, who were fascinated by the Europeans' ships and their use of iron. Cook provisioned his ships by trading the metal, and his sailors traded iron nails for sex. The ships then made a brief stop at Ni'ihau and headed north to look for the western end of a northwest passage from the North Atlantic to the Pacific. Almost one year later, Cook's two ships returned to the Hawaiian Islands and found a safe harbor in Hawaii's Kealakekua Bay.

It is suspected that the Hawaiians attached religious significance to the first stay of the Europeans on their islands. In Cook's second visit, there was no question of this phenomenon. Kealakekua Bay was considered the sacred harbor of Lono, the fertility god of the Hawaiians, and at the time of Cook's arrival the locals were engaged in a festival dedicated to Lono. Cook and his compatriots were welcomed as gods and for the next month exploited the Hawaiians' good will. After one of the crewmembers died, exposing the Europeans as mere mortals, relations became strained. On February 4, 1779, the British ships sailed from Kealakekua Bay, but rough seas damaged the foremast of the Resolution, and after only a week at sea the expedition was forced to return to Hawaii.

The Hawaiians greeted Cook and his men by hurling rocks; they then stole a small cutter vessel from the Discovery. Negotiations with King Kalaniopuu for the return of the cutter collapsed after a lesser Hawaiian chief was shot to death and a mob of Hawaiians descended on Cook's party. The captain and his men fired on the angry Hawaiians, but they were soon overwhelmed, and only a few managed to escape to the safety of the Resolution. Captain Cook himself was killed by the mob. A few days later, the Englishmen retaliated by firing their cannons and muskets at the shore, killing some 30 Hawaiians. The Resolution and Discovery eventually returned to England."


Scott reaches the South Pole, Jan 18, 1912:

"After a two-month ordeal, the expedition of British explorer Robert Falcon Scott arrives at the South Pole only to find that Roald Amundsen, the Norwegian explorer, had preceded them by just over a month. Disappointed, the exhausted explorers prepared for a long and difficult journey back to their base camp.

Scott, a British naval officer, began his first Antarctic expedition in 1901 aboard the Discovery. During three years of exploration, he discovered the Edward VII Peninsula, surveyed the coast of Victoria Land--which were both areas of Antarctica on the Ross Sea--and led limited expeditions into the continent itself. In 1911, Scott and Amundsen began an undeclared race to the South Pole.

Sailing his ship into Antarctica's Bay of Whales, Amundsen set up base camp 60 miles closer to the pole than Scott. In October, both explorers set off; Amundsen using sleigh dogs and Scott employing Siberian motor sledges, Siberian ponies, and dogs. On December 14, 1911, Amundsen's expedition won the race to the pole. Encountering good weather on their return trip, they safely reached their base camp in late January.

Scott's expedition was less fortunate. The motor sleds soon broke down, the ponies had to be shot, and the dog teams were sent back as Scott and four companions continued on foot. On January 18, they reached the pole only to find that Amundsen had preceded them by over a month. Weather on the return journey was exceptionally bad, two members perished, and Scott and the other two survivors were trapped in their tent by a storm only 11 miles from their base camp. Scott wrote a final entry in his diary in late March. The frozen bodies of he and his two compatriots were recovered eight months later."


Also Today:

Wikipedia goes dark for 24 hours to protest web piracy bills. Published January 18, 2012

"Google protests anti-piracy laws by putting a black bar over its logo and urging users to contact their Congress members over the bills.   Can the world live without Wikipedia for a day? The shutdown of one of the Internet's most-visited sites is not sitting well with some of its volunteer editors, who say the protest of anti-piracy legislation could threaten the credibility of their work."     Read more:



The day before, Jim, the mechanic down the street, took my faithful Aerostar van for it's 2½ year check up. It has taken him some time to get around to this, as I bought it 2¾ years ago. He replaced the front brake pads, wiper blades, packed the wheel bearings, cleaned the headlight lenses, checked belts and hoses, and changed the oil, etc.  So I hope it is good to go, for a while.

Ray reminded me that his TV cable was messed up so he could only get 20 of the 73 channels available.  Misty and I went to get Jay.  It was a T-shirt morning, so no coats were required while I took Misty for her walk-about.  As she can't see, her walks are mostly sniffing expeditions.

Jay and I went up in Ray's attic, while Ray stayed outside by his patio door to watch his TV so he could report our progress.  To check the connection, Jay carried my smallest TV, digital box and remote up there.  Of course, that entailed carrying extra coax cables, extension cords, tools etc.  It took a while, but we eventually found out that it was the splitter, so we re-connected it without one.  That means that the TV in Shay's room won't work, but she is still house-sitting elsewhere right now.

One more thing, a splitter, to put on my shopping list, which gets longer by the day.

No comments: