For “Winged Wednesday”:
“This large cuckoo has a big, curved bill and is gray above with a reddish-brown wing patch, throat, and breast. Like other cuckoos, it skulks in vegetation and is best located by its staccato call. It feeds primarily on lizards and insects; the cuckoo’s short nesting season appears to coincide with the onset of the wet season and the abundance of insects, particularly cicadas, produced by the rains.
The Bay-breasted Cuckoo suffered a drastic decline in range and numbers during the 20th Century due to rampant deforestation for agriculture, grazing, and charcoal production. Hunting for food and medicinal properties that the bird supposedly possesses is also a factor in its decline.
The species occurs in four protected areas in the Dominican Republic, with its stronghold likely Reserva Biologica Loma Charco Azul. The population is still declining, as inadequate protected area enforcement allows residents to continue to clear wood, graze cattle, or otherwise convert the forests where the bird is found.
ABC, with the support of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Southern Wings, and the Jeniam Foundation, is taking actions to improve the conservation of the Bay-breasted Cuckoo. New park guards and equipment at Loma Charco Azul will help protect park habitat, and new tourism infrastructure is now being built to facilitate bird tourism and improve economic opportunities for local communities. Future surveys, particularly in areas with remaining forest, are needed to better understand the species’ distribution and habitat needs.”
Photo by Cesar Abrill; Range Map, ABC
Traffic is about to increase on bird superhighway
A bald eagle soars over Hawk Mountain. Courtesy of Bill Moses
“The annual Autumn Hawk Watch has begun at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, running through Dec. 15. An average 18,000 hawks, eagles and falcons pass through each year.
If the Appalachian Mountains were Interstate 95, then Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, Albany Township, would be Washington, D.C.
As a central point on the Atlantic flyway - the route that thousands of migrating raptors, songbirds and butterflies take on their way south each fall - Hawk Mountain is also at the center of raptor research.
"It's like we're a stop on a superhighway," said Mary Linkevich, director of communications at the sanctuary.
The Sanctuary's annual Hawk Watch - which began Wednesday and runs through Dec. 15 - is the longest and most detailed record of raptor migration in the world, recording an average 18,000 passing hawks, eagles and falcons each year. For scientists and birding enthusiasts, it's an invaluable record of raptor populations over time. For the general public, it's an opportunity to see rare - or rarely-glimpsed - hawks, eagles and other birds of prey up close as they make their way to southern wintering grounds.
Hawk Mountain is uniquely situated for observing migrant raptors, according to Laurie Goodrich, senior monitoring biologist at the sanctuary.
The mountain is located south of the birds' summer breeding grounds and north of their wintering grounds, meaning a wide range of species passes by it each year. As the birds fly south, they follow the curve of the Appalachian Mountains, riding updrafts and thermals, or air currents, to conserve energy. The mountain's abrupt slope creates strong updrafts, while a curve in the ridge line at Hawk Mountain keeps the birds close.” More at: http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=409090
Migrating Shorebirds Slingshot Through Storms at Nearly 100 Miles an Hour Only to Face Shooting Gauntlet In Caribbean
Whimbrel by Glen Tepke
(Washington, D.C., August 24, 2012) “As hurricane season gets under way and Tropical Storm Isaac bears down on the Caribbean, biologists are paying particular attention to this fall’s shorebird migration.
Our research is documenting some of the truly amazing dynamics of bird migrations. In addition to the simply staggering distances these birds travel – often thousands of miles at a time, nonstop – we are also observing what could be described as jaw dropping physical feats involving storms,” said Fletcher Smith, lead biologist on the tracking project. “These herculean efforts leave the birds exhausted and in need of a safe haven to rest and refuel. Unfortunately there are few of these locations in the Lesser Antilles.”
Some locals gather at recreational shooting swamps in the Caribbean to slaughter with impunity everything that flies by. They claimed perhaps their most notable bird victims last year: two Whimbrels named Machi and Goshen that were being tracked by Smith’s team. Over a lifetime Machi is estimated to have flown 27,000 migration miles and made it through Tropical Storm Maria; Goshen had flown 14,000 miles including several hours battling Hurricane Irene. Forced to land in Guadalupe, an area they had avoided in previous recorded migrations, they were then killed by the unregulated hunters.” More at: http://www.abcbirds.org/newsandreports/releases/120824a.html
Bed Bugs: Artificial nests prove valuable tool in bald eagle survival
“Eagle nests can weigh as much as one ton after years of occupation. But in spite of their size they still remain fragile footholds for young birds, as witnessed by numerous deaths every year from depredation, infestation and fire.
At the confluence of the Verde and the Salt River is a nesting sight called Orme, named after the ill-fated dam that was once to have been constructed nearby.
The nest has been among the state's most prolific since it was first recorded in 1987. From 2001 to 2008, 15 birds successfully fledged from the nest. Only two other sites in the state had a higher production over the same period.
But in 2009 a nest watcher witnessed two young eagles jump from the safety of the nest to the ground. When biologist arrived they discovered the birds were covered in ticks and slowly dying.
In 2010 three more nestlings died in the same nest, once again from an infestation of ticks from the genus argas, a type of tick that specifically attacks birds, eventually causing paralysis.
In 2011 biologist sealed off the source of the ticks, a branch that had been honeycombed by termites and later occupied by the tics. But in spite of those efforts, three more died.
After the breeding pair headed north last year, Arizona Game and Fish decided to try a radical fix. With automotive tire jacks they lifted the nest from the tree and dropped it to the ground. It took eight men to carry it to a spot where it could be burned. In its place AZGF constructed two artificial nests in nearby trees.
"We have built artificial nests before to encourage breeding pairs to nest in better, more shaded spots and it has been successful," says AZGF biologist Tuc Jacobsen. "What's unique here was that we have never here in Arizona had a nest that's big and occupied and used every year, and destroyed it.
"It's the first time we have actively destroyed a nest and come back and built an alternate." More at: http://verdenews.com/main.asp?SectionID=1&SubSectionID=1&ArticleID=49632
Fed Action to Limit Albatross Deaths From Longline Fishing Not Enough, Says Conservation Group
Black-footed Albatross by Greg Lavaty
“It has been well-known for decades that Hawaiian swordfish boats kill and injure Black-footed and Laysan albatrosses. The birds are attracted to and dive on baited hooks, becoming ensnared in lines or impaled by the hooks and dragged under the surface to be drowned. However, the MBTA had not historically been applied to this fishery because the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS – the federal agency that oversees the U.S. fishing fleet) had asserted that the areas where it operates, federal waters and on the high seas, lie outside the jurisdiction of the MBTA. But NMFS evidently reversed their position in 2011, when they decided to apply for this permit.
One practice that could have been halted by the take permit, but will be allowed to continue for now, involves dragging baited hooks on the surface of the water behind the fishing vessel while other lines are retrieved.” More at: http://www.abcbirds.org/newsandreports/releases/120824.html
Nigel the pelican released after first-of-a-kind beak surgery
“Months ago, a pelican was spotted in Irvine tangled in fishing line, hooks and a lure. Rescuers said the bird was wrapped like a pretzel as they worked for days to free and treat her.
This week, after surgeries to rebuild her beak and mend fractures, Nigel the pelican — or Nigelina, as some began calling the bird after he was discovered to be a female — was released into the wild.
In April, rescuers found Nigel, an American white pelican, near the Sea and Sage Audubon House in Irvine with a 6-inch fishing hook and lure attached to her lower bill. Her head and right wing were entangled in fishing line.
They removed the fishing tackle, but the bird’s fractured lower bill was curved downward to the right, making it impossible for her to feed herself, according to the Wetlands and Wildlife Care Center in Huntington Beach. The nonprofit organization tended to Nigel during her convalescence. In order for her to survive, veterinarians had to attempt a first-of-its-kind procedure to straighten out her beak.” More at: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2012/08/nigel-pelican-released-surgery.html
Hummingbirds, facing drought and food shortage, get some human help
(CBS News) “With summer winding down, millions of migratory birds are on the move. But his year, things are a bit different, especially for tiny hummingbirds. Drought and climate change have shifted the landscape dramatically. Some hummingbird species fly 2,000 miles during migration. And with a heart rate of up to 1,200 beats per minutes, they often need to eat five times their body weight, every day.
This year's migration is complicated by the lack of natural wildflowers, which have been hit hard by drought and forest fires. So birds that are looking about for their usual food sources are heading elsewhere. Large numbers of birds are swarming feeding stations set up in gardens and backyards in drought areas out West. It is standing room only at many feeders -- and that has hummingbird fans buzzing.” More at: http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-18563_162-57494003/hummingbirds-facing-drought-and-food-shortage-get-some-human-help/
New technology is rapidly changing the way birds are studied
“The study of bird migration is being transformed by new technologies. Satellite transmitters and geolocators are now smaller and less intrusive. These tools are tracking birds from breeding to wintering grounds, revealing extraordinary insights into the diversity of migration patterns.
Combined with the torrent of information being gathered and entered into online databases by volunteer birdwatchers, the knowledge gained should drive more effective conservation on the ground and ward off extinctions.
Jill Deppe of Eastern Illinois University used tracking towers to pick up signals of Swainson’s thrush and other migrant songbirds fitted with automated radio-telemetry systems (ARTs), as they crossed the 1,000-kilometre-wide Gulf of Mexico, a formidable feat for any bird. Typically, ARTS have a tiny transmitter and aerial, fitted to the bird’s back or tail. For larger birds, such as raptors, cranes, geese and some shorebirds, heavier satellite systems can be used, that track over even longer distances.
Exciting discoveries have been made, especially of shorebirds, such as the non-stop, 11,500-kilometre flight of a bar-tailed godwit from Alaska to New Zealand, and the repeated journeys between Virginia and the Mackenzie River delta of a whimbrel named Hope. The bird must be caught to be fitted with a transmitter (tricky with a large bird like a sandhill crane) and care must be taken that the instrumentation does not cause the bird distress or bias the research by impeding its behaviour in any way. Birds are not recaptured and sometimes continue sending data long after the expected end date.” More at: http://www.straight.com/article-760961/vancouver/anne-murray-new-technology-rapidly-changing-way-birds-are-studied
On This Day:
Hurricane Katrina slams into Gulf Coast, Aug 29, 2005:
Hurricane Katrina makes landfall near New Orleans, Louisiana, as a Category 4 hurricane on this day in 2005. Despite being only the third most powerful storm of the 2005 hurricane season, Katrina was the worst natural disaster in the history of the United States. After briefly coming ashore in southern Florida on August 25 as a Category 1 hurricane, Katrina gained strength before slamming into the Gulf Coast on August 29. In addition to bringing devastation to the New Orleans area, the hurricane caused damage along the coasts of Mississippi and Alabama, as well as other parts of Louisiana.
Finally, on September 1, the tens of thousands of people staying in the damaged Superdome and Convention Center begin to be moved to the Astrodome in Houston, Texas, and another mandatory evacuation order was issued for the city. The next day, military convoys arrived with supplies and the National Guard was brought in to bring a halt to lawlessness. Efforts began to collect and identify corpses. On September 6, eight days after the hurricane, the Army Corps of Engineers finally completed temporary repairs to the three major holes in New Orleans' levee system and were able to begin pumping water out of the city.
In all, it is believed that the hurricane caused more than 1,300 deaths and up to $150 billion in damages to both private property and public infrastructure. It is estimated that only about $40 billion of that number will be covered by insurance. One million people were displaced by the disaster, a phenomenon unseen in the United States since the Great Depression. Four hundred thousand people lost their jobs as a result of the disaster. Offers of international aid poured in from around the world, even from poor countries like Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Private donations from U.S. citizens alone approached $600 million.”
Jay called and wanted to mow my yard for me. So Misty and I went to get him, and we had our walk down there. The yard needed to be done, but Ray’s back is bothering him right now, until he gets his new back brace. Ray likes to do his own part of the yard, as he says that Jay cuts it too short with my mulching mower. I can’t get stubborn Jay to raise the deck on it, so he used the old side-discharge mower with the raised deck on Ray’s part. Misty likes it when her back yard is mowed, as then she doesn’t run into the ‘wispies’ and get grass seeds in her eyes.
After he had mowed, we spent some time ‘operating’ on the broken handle of a battery-powered weedwhacker that Jay had acquired from somewhere. It took a while to nut and bolt it together, though it wasn’t charged up enough to use yesterday.