Tuesday, March 31, 2009
The Northeast Bird Monitoring Handbook: Ten Steps to Successful Bird Conservation through Improved Monitoring contains practical ideas for increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of bird monitoring in the northeastern U.S. It offers biologists and their colleagues in natural resource management clear guidance on maximizing the value of bird monitoring when designing new programs, modifying existing ones, or applying monitoring results to the practice of bird conservation. The ten steps echo themes contained in Opportunities for Improving Avian Monitoring and “A Framework for Coordinated Bird Monitoring in the Northeast”. The themes include: coordination and collaboration, peer-reviewed and standardized protocols, statistical rigor in survey design and data analysis, and use of modern data management tools. The 32-page handbook serves as a quick-reference guide that can be applied to birds of any habitat. Each step is illustrated with an example from coordinated efforts to restore and monitor Peregrine Falcon populations in the Northeast.
The handbook is available as a 1.4 MB PDF file at http://www.nebirdmonitor.org/handbook/nehandbook. Hundreds of hard copies will be distributed to National Wildlife Refuges, Joint Ventures, and state wildlife agencies. For hard copies of your own, email requests to Ed Laurent at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The handbook’s design and printing were funded by members of the Northeast Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies to support implementation of a priority action of the State Wildlife Action Plans. The Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Migratory Bird Division provided additional support for publication and distribution.
2. MORE NEW RESOURCES AT NEBIRDMONITOR.ORG AND THE NORTHEAST AVIAN DATA CENTER
The Northeast Coordinated Bird Monitoring (NECBM) Partnership has recently completed updates to its website (http://www.nebirdmonitor.org) and to the Northeast Avian Data Center (http://akn.nebirdmonitor.org), which is North America’s second regional node to the Avian Knowledge Network. Visit the framework section of nebirdmonitor.org to download protocols and standard operating procedures for monitoring grassland birds, migrating shorebirds, mountain birds, nightjars, owls, tidal marsh birds, chimney swifts, and rusty blackbirds. Then contact the protocol developers to help pilot and implement the monitoring programs at a regional scale. Technical and working group progress reports are also available for birds at sea and in coastal waters, colonial and beach-nesting waterbirds, and scrub-shrub birds.
The Northeast Avian Data Center (NADC) makes it easy to archive, download, explore, and visualize bird monitoring and other geo-referenced avian records from throughout the Northeast. View raw data, maps, or seasonal frequency histograms by user-specified region, project, or species. Recent data uploads include results from the International Shorebird Survey, the Maryland Marsh Bird Survey, and Mountain Birdwatch,. Multistate efforts to monitor grassland birds (CT, NJ, NY) and tidal marsh birds (DE, MD, NJ) have also used NADC to archive data. Downloads and visualizations for these projects will be available by April, depending on the level of access permitted by the data owners.
3. NORTHEAST COORDINATED BIRD MONITORING PARTNERSHIP CHARTS COURSE FOR 2009
Northeastern bird monitoring made great strides in the past year, with the release of regionally coordinated protocols, the Northeast Avian Data Center, and The Northeast Bird Monitoring Handbook. The Partnership is poised to build on these accomplishments in 2009, with leadership from an energetic steering committee focused on:
* Helping biologists and decision makers integrate monitoring into bird management and conservation
* Refining, implementing, and expanding multi-state monitoring initiatives
* Promoting preservation and exchange of monitoring data through the Northeast Avian Data Center
* Aligning monitoring and fund-raising efforts with Southeast and Midwest regions
Northeast Partners In Flight (NE PIF) will provide the administrative structure and coordination services previously provided by American Bird Conservancy and former Northeast Bird Monitoring Coordinator, Dan Lambert. After three years with the NECBM project, Dan will be spending some time at home, monitoring his two young sons. He remains a research associate at the Vermont Center for Ecostudies and can be reached at email@example.com.
4. NECBM PARTNERS TO GATHER AT APRIL MEETING OF NORTHEAST PARTNERS IN FLIGHT
Coordinated bird monitoring will be on the agenda at the next NE PIF meeting, which will be held April 8-9, 2009 in conjunction with the joint meeting of the Wilson Ornithological Society and the Association of Field Ornithologists. The scientific meeting, hosted by The National Aviary and Powdermill Nature Reserve, is scheduled for April 9-12 in Rector, PA. Partners In Flight will meet on April 9 from 9am-4pm at the Powdermill Nature Reserve. For more information, contact Randy Dettmers at Randy_Dettmers@fws.gov or monitor the NE PIF listserv. To subscribe to the listserv, send an email to Ken Rosenberg at firstname.lastname@example.org, stating that you would like to be added.
Sunday, March 29, 2009
Monday, March 23, 2009
CONCORD, N.H. -- With spring comes your chance to get involved in reptile and amphibian conservation by taking part in the Reptile and Amphibian Reporting Program (RAARP). RAARP is a volunteer-based activity, part of the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department's Nongame and Endangered Wildlife Program, in which people report sightings of reptiles and amphibians to help biologists determine the distribution of species in New Hampshire. All observations, from spotted salamanders to spotted turtles, will help!
The full report of 2008 observations made by RAARP volunteers has just been released and can be seen at http://www.wildnh.com/Wildlife/Nongame/reptiles_amphibians.htm. 2008 was a record-setting year for RAARP. More than 200 volunteers submitted a total of 774 reports of reptile or amphibian sightings. This information is entered into a database maintained by Fish and Game; a grand total of 7,565 records of reptile and amphibian sightings throughout New Hampshire have been recorded since the program started in 1992.
The Reptile and Amphibian page of the Fish and Game website, http://www.wildnh.com/Wildlife/Nongame/reptiles_amphibians.htm has everything you need to get started as a RAARP volunteer, including:
*Species identification pages for New Hampshire's turtles, salamanders, snakes and frogs -- with descriptions photos and town distribution maps. You can even listen to and learn the different frog calls;
*Forms for reporting RAARP observations (by mail or email) to Fish and Game;
*Field techniques and other guidance on identifying and photographing reptiles and amphibians in the wild.
You can also call N.H. Fish and Game's Wildlife Division at 603-271-5859 to request a RAARP volunteer information package to be mailed to you.
Then hit the field, swamp, pond, or wetland and see what you can find! "Participating in the RAARP program can be as simple as looking under rocks and logs in your back yard for frogs, snakes and salamanders," said Mike Marchand, a wildlife biologist for the Nongame and Endangered Wildlife Program. "One of the great things about it is that you can find reptiles and amphibians almost anywhere."
You can hear Mike Marchand talk about the RAARP program and how you can get involved by tuning in to the March 2009 Fish and Game podcast. Just go to http://blog.wildnh.com.
Verified reports and photographs of reptiles and amphibians provided by the RAARP program help biologists at Fish and Game determine where species live in New Hampshire, assess changes in where species live over time, and develop conservation strategies for reptiles and amphibians including those considered to be less common. Since the completion of the N.H. Wildlife Action Plan, land protection and other projects have been prioritized, in part based on key reports of wildlife from RAARP participants. Recently, the Nongame Program has initiated surveys for marbled salamanders, Blanding's turtles, hognose snakes and timber rattlesnakes, and plans are in the works to do pilot surveys for black racers this spring.
So, ready, set RAARP! March and April are great times to get out, listen to wood frogs and spring peepers and maybe even find spotted salamanders as they emerge from their underground wintering sites, move down woodland slopes and reach vernal pools to court and lay eggs.
In May, June and July, look for snakes basking in the sun and turtles crossing roads or traveling through residential areas. Turtle nesting season extends from late May through early July, reaching its peak in early June. Female turtles may travel several hundred meters or more, seeking a sandy or other well-drained area that is open to sunlight and appropriate nesting habitat.
Keep in mind that RAARP reports with photographs and specific locations are the most useful to Fish and Game.
An extensive undercover investigation into the poaching, smuggling and illegal sale of protected reptiles and amphibians by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has led to charges against 18 individuals for 14 felonies, 11 misdemeanors and dozens of violations, DEC Commissioner Pete Grannis announced today.
The investigation, dubbed “Operation Shellshock,” uncovered a lucrative, international black market for poaching and selling native, protected New York species – turtles, rattlesnakes and salamanders – through the Internet and at herpetological shows, Commissioner Grannis said. Investigators found thousands of New York turtles being laundered through “middlemen” in other states, then getting shipped overseas for meat and other uses. More than 2,400 individual turtles, snakes and salamanders were involved in the documented crimes, with DEC currently holding nearly 400 live animals in evidence.
The undercover investigation began in 2007,coordinated through DEC’s Bureau of Environmental Crimes Investigation (BECI). Investigators spent hundreds of hours afield and at shows with reptile poachers and illegal collectors. They built cases from the ground up through initial contact with violators online, at shows, and in the field.
Through the investigation, New York DEC investigators worked closely with officials from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Florida, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Service, the New York State Attorney General’s Office, Environment Canada and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. Some of these agencies have filed separate but related charges (details below).
“Our investigators began this operation with a simple question: Is there a commercial threat to our critical wildlife species? What they found was alarming,” Commissioner Pete Grannis said. “A very lucrative illegal market for these creatures does exist, fostered by a strong, clandestine culture of people who want to exploit wildlife for illegal profit. I’m proud of the success of our officers. Their work sends a strong message that the buying and selling of New York’s native species will not be tolerated.”
“Operation Shellshock is one of the largest, most extensive undercover operations DEC has ever undertaken,” said Henry Hamilton, DEC Assistant Commissioner for Public Protection. “It stands out for its magnitude and impact, and it hopefully will be a springboard for positive change on all fronts involving ecologically significant species.”
“Illegal trafficking of turtles, snakes and other animals is a serious matter precisely because such activities can produce long-term, detrimental effects to the eco-system. No one wants to see populations of vital species put at risk for short-term profits,” said Kathleen M. Mehltretter, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Western District of New York. “Operation Shellshock should serve not only as a deterrent but also should raise public awareness about the need to protect wildlife.”
“Environment Canada believes in ensuring that companies and individuals comply with the conservation goals of environmental and wildlife protection acts and regulations,” said Albin Tremblay, Chief Enforcement Officer with Environment Canada. “The department carries out its enforcement work in cooperation with other federal, provincial and territorial governments and with international organizations. Operation Shellshock is a good example of how working together can produce positive results.”
“Reptiles and amphibians are important environmental indicators that tell us much about the health of the planet. As such, they must be protected -- not exploited,” said David Critchlow, Provincial Enforcement Specialist of the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. “Through the cooperative work of Canadian and American agencies, we hopefully have not only put a dent in the black market for these animals but also sent a strong message to legitimate collectors and the general public.”
Investigators found New York’s timber rattlesnakes and wood turtles being shipped out of state and out of the country to support high-end collectors. They found thousands of snapping turtles laundered through a Louisiana turtle farm, then shipped illegally to China. They found poachers stealing turtle eggs as soon as they were laid. And they successfully traded with a smuggler from Canada to recover a population of endangered Massasauga rattlesnakes – nabbing him in a Niagara Falls parking lot with a van stuffed with 33 rattlesnakes in hidden compartments.
Other snakes confiscated during the operation were timber rattlesnakes, copperheads and eastern hognose snakes. The types of turtles confiscated included snapping turtles, Blandings turtles, box turtles, North American wood turtles and two Yellow Spotted Amazon River turtles, which are federally protected as an endangered species.
Charges Beyond New York
In addition, as a result of Operation Shellshock, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of New York are pursuing Federal Lacy Act charges against a Maryland meat processor for the knowing purchase of illegally trapped New York State snapping turtles, and against a Louisiana turtle farm operator for the knowing purchase of illegally taken New York State snapping turtle hatchlings and the export of such hatchlings to China.
Pennsylvania authorities have charged six individuals and are continuing their investigation. Canadian officials so far have charged one individual.
New York prohibits the illegal commercialization of wildlife; a law enacted in 2006 gives protection to all reptiles and amphibians. The state also bans unlawful possession of protected species. A list of individuals cited and the charges filed by New York officials is available.
Commissioner Grannis re-constituted BECI in 2007. The investigation was led by Capt. Michael Van Durme, Lt. Richard Thomas and Investigator Daniel Sullivan. DEC reptile and amphibian specialist Alvin Breisch and wildlife educator Tom Hudak of Livingston County provided valuable support in numerous phases of the operation, as did DEC Environmental Conservation Officers throughout the state.
Thursday, March 19, 2009
Secretary Salazar Releases Study Showing Widespread Declines in Bird Populations, Highlights Role of Partnerships in Conservation
At the same time, the report highlights examples, including many species of waterfowl, where habitat restoration and conservation have reversed previous declines, offering hope that it is not too late to take action to save declining populations.
“Just as they were when Rachel Carson published Silent Spring nearly 50 years ago, birds today are a bellwether of the health of land, water and ecosystems,” Salazar said. “From shorebirds in New England to warblers in Michigan to songbirds in Hawaii, we are seeing disturbing downward population trends that should set off environmental alarm bells. We must work together now to ensure we never hear the deafening silence in our forests, fields and backyards that Rachel Carson warned us about.”
The report, The U.S. State of the Birds, synthesizes data from three long-running bird censuses conducted by thousands of citizen scientists and professional biologists.
In particular, it calls attention to the crisis in Hawaii, where more birds are in danger of extinction than anywhere else in the United States. In addition, the report indicates a 40 percent decline in grassland birds over the past 40 years, a 30 percent decline in birds of arid-lands, and high concern for many coastal shorebirds. Furthermore, 39 percent of species dependent on U.S. oceans have declined.
However, the report also reveals convincing evidence that birds can respond quickly and positively to conservation action. The data show dramatic increases in many wetland birds such as pelicans, herons, egrets, osprey, and ducks, a testament to numerous cooperative conservation partnerships that have resulted in protection, enhancement and management of more than 30 million wetland acres.
“These results emphasize that investment in wetlands conservation has paid huge dividends,” said Kenneth Rosenberg, director of Conservation Science at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. “Now we need to invest similarly in other neglected habitats where birds are undergoing the steepest declines.”
“Habitats such as those in Hawaii are on the verge of losing entire suites of unique bird species,” said Dr. David Pashley, American Bird Conservancy’s Vice President for Conservation Programs. “In addition to habitat loss, birds also face many other man-made threats such as pesticides, predation by cats, and collisions with windows, towers and buildings. By solving these challenges we can preserve a growing economic engine – the popular pastime of birdwatching that involves millions of Americans – and improve our quality of life.”
“While some bird species are holding their own, many once common species are declining sharply in population. Habitat availability and quality is the key to healthy, thriving bird populations,” said Dave Mehlman of The Nature Conservancy.
Surveys conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Geological Survey, including the annual Breeding Bird Survey, combined with data gathered through volunteer citizen science program such as the National Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count, show once abundant birds such as the northern bobwhite and marbled murrelet are declining significantly. The possibility of extinction also remains a cold reality for many endangered birds.
“Citizen science plays a critical role in monitoring and understanding the threats to these birds and their habitats, and only citizen involvement can help address them,” said National Audubon Society’s Bird Conservation Director, Greg Butcher. “Conservation action can only make a real difference when concerned people support the kind of vital habitat restoration and protection measures this report explores.”
Birds are beautiful, as well as economically important and a priceless part of America's natural heritage. Birds are also highly sensitive to environmental pollution and climate change, making them critical indicators of the health of the environment on which we all depend.
The United States is home to a tremendous diversity of native birds, with more than 800 species inhabiting terrestrial, coastal, and ocean habitats, including Hawaii. Among these species, 67 are Federally-listed as endangered or threatened. In addition, more than 184 species are designated as species of conservation concern due to a small distribution, high-level of threats, or declining populations.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service coordinated creation of the new report as part of the U.S. North American Bird Conservation Initiative, which includes partners from American Bird Conservancy, the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Klamath Bird Observatory, National Audubon Society, The Nature Conservancy and the U.S. Geological Survey.
Sunday, March 15, 2009
The findings offer the first evidence that such "signal jamming" and "jamming avoidance" occur between mates, according to the researchers.
"In human terms, signal jamming is most commonly associated with attempts to scramble information in radio, radar, or cell phone signals," said Joseph Tobias of the University of Oxford. "The females in our study try to do a similar thing with the songs of their partner, but the overall situation is more analogous to a wife continually interrupting her husband to stop him from flirting with a single woman."
Social animals produce a wide range of communal displays, many of them remarkable feats of complex coordination, the researchers said. One example is the duets sung by pairs of Peruvian warbling antbirds. So far, scientists have disagreed about how temporal coordination between displaying individuals evolved, some seeing it as a cooperative signal of coalition quality, others as a selfish means to avoid signal overlap.
According to the research team, the new study provides the first evidence that the avoidance of signal overlap is sufficient to explain the coordination and complexity of communal signals.
In a series of playback experiments, the team found that resident pairs of antbirds sing coordinated duets when responding to rival pairs. But under other circumstances, cooperation breaks down, leading to more complex songs. Specifically, they report that females respond to unpaired sexual rivals by jamming the signals of their own mates, who in turn adjust their signals to avoid the interference.
Tobias said the females' attempts to jam their partners' songs are presumably intended to make the males less attractive, or to make it clear that they are "taken." He added that the results in antbirds may have broad implications for understanding how communal signals have developed over evolutionary time in many animals, and perhaps even in humans.
First, Tobias said, the findings reveal that group signals such as duets and choruses represent a subtle blend of cooperation and conflict. The balance between those two forces depends on the context. Their study also suggests that if there is some conflict in the system, then multiple singers can combine to produce rhythmic, precisely coordinated, and increasingly complex songs simply by avoiding overlap.
"Most evidence points to vocalizations in early humans having a function in both mate attraction and resource defense, so it seems plausible that 'signal jamming' and especially 'jamming avoidance' played a role in our evolutionary history. If so, our results may help to explain the first steps towards complex, coordinated group signals in humans, which themselves are the likely forerunners to modern music."Joseph A. Tobias, and Nathalie Seddon. Signal Jamming Mediates Sexual Conflict in a Duetting Bird. Current Biology, 2009; DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2009.02.036
Thursday, March 12, 2009
White Nose Syndrome, a mysterious illness affecting bats in the Northeast, has been spreading this winter. Now scientists are racing to protect populations all along the east coast before it's too late.
VPR's Jane Lindholm reports....
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
At precisely 8.30pm on March 28 the diesel generators will be switched off on the Chatham Islands, a small archipelago off the east coast of New Zealand, heralding the start of the greatest community event the world has ever witnessed - Earth Hour 2009.
As the first country to flick the switch for the global event, WWF New Zealand's Earth Hour organiser, Dairne Poole sees her country as playing a vital role in Earth Hour’s journey to reach one billion people in over 1,000 cities, across 25 time zones.
"New Zealand will be the first country in the world to turn its lights off for Earth Hour 2009 with 43 councils and local bodies taking part. Even though we are a small nation, we are setting an important example for others to witness and hopefully follow," says Ms Poole.
The global wave of participation will gather momentum through Asia Pacific with major cities such as Sydney, Seoul, Beijing, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Manila, Singapore, Bangkok, Jakarta, Mumbai and Delhi dimming the lights as millions flick the switch to express their concern for the planet.
Across the globe Earth Hour will provide the platform for a collective voice to be heard from each and every time zone. From the streets of Cape Town to the Hills of Los Angeles, Earth Hour will unite people from all walks of life as the call for action on climate change makes its transglobal journey.
Paris, the ‘City of Lights’ will make a powerful statement by turning off its famous lights, including the Eiffel Tower, for Earth Hour. In the birthplace of democracy, thousands of Athenians will gather to watch the lights go out at the Acropolis in acknowledgement of their vote for action on climate change.
Metropolises across the Americas including New York, Rio de Janeiro, Toronto, Buenos Aires, Chicago, Mexico City and Las Vegas will see their united voice accompanied by unfamiliar lighting – stars.
Earth Hour Executive Director, Mr Andy Ridley, said that Earth Hour signals the beginning of the journey to Copenhagen, where the future of the planet rests with world leaders.
“Earth Hour will focus global attention on addressing the issue of climate change. We are asking one billion people to take part in what is essentially the first global vote for action on climate change by turning off their lights for one hour and casting a vote for earth,” he said.
“Earth Hour hopes to provide a global mandate for action on climate change to the world’s leaders at the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December this year, where an agreement will be made to supersede the Kyoto Protocol.
“It is imperative this agreement leads to a sustainable outcome that suitably addresses climate change. Earth Hour presents an opportunity for every person in the world to have a say in that agreement’s outcome and ensure it isn’t merely an insubstantial token effort by our world’s leaders,” said Mr Ridley.
Monday, March 09, 2009
Tuesday, March 03, 2009
On Tuesday, March 10, at 9 p.m., “Birding in Vermont” returns to Vermont Public Television, just in time for birders to sharpen their skills and get outside and look for feathered signs of spring. Lifelong birdwatcher Bryan Pfeiffer leads a year-long tour around the state in search of species ranging from common backyard birds to the elusive Spruce Grouse and Bicknell’s Thrush with VCE biologists. Along the way, he offers tips on how to make birding fun and successful.
- Birding Spots Visited: Information about the locations visited in the program, including maps and directions.