Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Covering more than 30 years of field research in Europe and Africa, Dr. Newton will highlight the effects of land-use change, over-hunting, climate change, and other human environmental disturbances on the survival of Eurasian migratory birds and discuss ways in which these effects can be mitigated. Many migratory species are declining, and Dr. Newton’s research has targeted areas in which efforts to conserve these species might be best directed. Understanding patterns related to breeding and the wintering areas of migratory birds, including human disturbance at stopover sites, is a necessary step in conserving them effectively.
Dr. Newton began his ornithological career at the University of Oxford, where he studied the ecology and feeding behavior of finches. He then worked for the Natural Environment Research Council in Great Britain, studying waterfowl and birds-of-prey, with a particular focus on the impacts of DDT and other pesticides on avian wildlife. He has dedicated more than 25 years to the study of the European Sparrowhawk in south Scotland.
Dr. Newton has served as Chairman of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds in the U.K. and as President of the British Ecological Society and the British Ornithologists’ Union. He is currently Chairman of the Peregrine Fund in the U.S. and of the British Trust for Ornithology. He is an elected Fellow of the American Ornithologists’ Union. He has authored nearly 300 scientific papers, made frequent TV and radio appearances and written several books on avian wildlife and their habitats, including Finches (1972), Population Ecology of Raptors (1979), The Speciation and Biogeography of Birds (2003), and The Migration Ecology of Birds (2007).
After earning a Ph.D. degree at Oxford University, Dr. Newton has gone on to receive numerous awards, including the Order of the British Empire for service to the field of ornithology, the Union Medal of the British Ornithologists’ Union, and the Elliot Coues Award of the American Ornithologists’ Union.
Dr. Newton’s talk is co-sponsored by the Vermont Institute of Natural Science (VINS) and the Dartmouth College Environmental Studies Program and open to the public.
“The number of young fledged can vary from year to year,” said Mike Marchand, a biologist with N.H. Fish and Game. “A number of factors can influence breeding success, including weather.” Marchand noted that although the number of young fledged during 2009 was lower than last year, the number of territorial pairs has been consistently increasing in New Hampshire, leading biologists to believe that the New Hampshire population will continue to grow.
The 19 territorial pairs documented in New Hampshire in 2009 represent an increase of more than 25% from the 15 eagle pairs found the state in 2008. “The growing number of breeding territories lays a foundation for more productive breeding seasons to come,” said Chris Martin, a raptor specialist with N.H. Audubon who coordinates monitoring of this state-listed threatened bird of prey. “Over time, more territories lead to more fledged young.”
Biologists and volunteer observers have documented a tripling in the number of bald eagle breeding territories in New Hampshire in the past decade, from just six pairs in 2000 to 19 pairs in 2009. “This is clear evidence of an expanding population,” Martin said.
The N.H. Fish and Game Department’s Nongame and Endangered Wildlife Program and N.H. Audubon’s Conservation Science staff work together to monitor and manage the Granite State’s recovering bald eagle population. With additional support and cooperation from land owners and from other state and federal natural resource agencies, N.H. Audubon recruits, trains, and deploys volunteer observers to document eagle distribution and productivity.
A growing number of bald eagles now call New Hampshire’s Lakes Region their home. Two new pairs were identified around Lake Winnipesaukee in 2009, raising the total number of pairs found throughout the Lakes Region to eight. Further west, on the Connecticut River in Orford, another new pair raised two young in their first try. In addition, after years of waiting, biologists believe that a pair has finally established a breeding territory on Great Bay, the state’s largest tidal estuary.
Although more bald eagle pairs were found in the state this year, rainy weather and other factors limited their reproductive success. A total of 16 bald eagle chicks reached fledging age in the state this summer, down one-third from the 24 young produced in 2008. Incubation behavior was confirmed at 11 nests in 2009, also down slightly from 2008 levels. Nine of the 11 incubating pairs fledged young. Juvenile bald eagles are considered fledged at about 11 weeks old, when they first begin to fly to and from the nest.
“Several eagle pairs built nests but did not incubate eggs, and two more pairs abandoned nests at about the time of hatch,” said Martin. Productivity was also limited by fact that none of the New Hampshire nests produced three fledglings in 2009, compared with three nests with trios in 2008.
Since 1988, when bald eagles first began nesting again in New Hampshire, a total of 123 young eagles have fledged from nests in the state. Nearly 60% of those (73 eaglets) have been raised in the last four years alone.
Martin estimates that over 50% of New Hampshire’s breeding adult eagles wear coded aluminum leg bands placed on them when they were nestlings. These bands provide biologists with opportunities to identify and track movements and longevity of individuals. Included among these banded eagles is New Hampshire’s oldest known eagle, a 17-year-old female hatched in captivity in Massachusetts, placed in a Quabbin Reservoir nest and raised by foster eagle parents. She has been breeding at Nubanusit Lake in Hancock for the past 11 consecutive years.
Monday, October 26, 2009
This year, a total of five pairs of the shorebirds returned to coastal beaches in Seabrook and Hampton, an increase from the three pairs that have nested in New Hampshire in recent years. Spring weather was mild, and each pair of plovers quickly established a territory and a nest. “We started off with three nests in Seabrook and two nests in Hampton,” said Brendan Clifford, a biological technician with the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department’s Nongame and Endangered Wildlife Program. Each nest had a full clutch of four eggs, so had all of them survived, they would have produced 20 chicks. Sadly, only two plover chicks survived to the end of summer.
Even sadder, human disturbance was the most likely cause of the season’s low productivity. At Hampton Beach State Park, the first nest established had protective fencing, called an “exclosure,” set up around it to keep predators at bay. Early in the year, a person broke into the fence and stole one of the plover eggs, an incident investigated by U.S. Fish & Wildlife Law Enforcement officers. Although the adult plovers continued to incubate the remaining three eggs after the incident, only one of them hatched.
At Seabrook Beach, beachgoers were frequently observed disregarding signs and walking directly through a roped-off plover breeding area. These intrusions repeatedly scared one pair of piping plovers off of their nest, preventing them from being able to incubate their eggs. Eventually, the pair abandoned the nest altogether.
In all, two of five of New Hampshire’s plover nests were abandoned prior to hatching. Of the three nests that successfully hatched eggs, two produced a single fledgling each, while no chicks survived from the final nest.
Nongame and Endangered Wildlife Program biologists and volunteers monitored the plovers on a daily basis during the summer to determine the number of birds present, nest locations, nest success or failure, incubation periods and chick survival.
Since protection efforts began in 1997, a total of 83 piping plover chicks have fledged from New Hampshire's seacoast. New Hampshire's efforts are part of a region-wide protection program; overall, the Atlantic coast population of piping plovers continues to hold steady.
Protection of this endangered species is a cooperative effort of the N.H. Fish and Game Department, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, N.H. Division of Parks and Recreation, the towns of Seabrook and Hampton, volunteers, local residents and beach visitors.
See photos of the New Hampshire plovers and learn more about this endangered species at http://www.wildnh.com/
Five species — Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Orchard Oriole, Hooded Oriole, Yellow-breasted Chat, and Cassin's Vireo — breed primarily in the United States and Canada. Then they squeeze in a second breeding season during a stopover in western Mexico on their southward migration.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
Vermont Public Radio will air a piece from writer and naturalist Ted Levin about what he has learned in the course of editing the Vermont Breeding Bird Atlas. Tune in to get a sneak preview of results from VCE's largest citizen science project!
VPR Commentary Series
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
“With 30 endemic bird species, Hispaniola ranks high in global importance for bird conservation,” said Dr. George Wallace, American Bird Conservancy’s Vice President of Oceans and Islands. “With forests in Haiti virtually gone and an accelerated rate of forest loss in the Dominican Republic, many of these species face a bleak future—of the 30 species, 14 are ranked by IUCN as globally threatened. That’s why expanding land protected in the vicinity of Sierra de Bahoruco is so important and such a significant accomplishment.”
In addition, over 30 species of Neotropical migratory birds have been recorded there; they form an important component of the biodiversity during the northern winter, making up more than 50% of the bird life in some habitats, particularly pine forests.
“Loma Charco Azul contains populations of several threatened endemic birds and migratory species and, until now, was an unprotected portion of the Sierra de Bahoruco Important Bird Area,” said Yvonne Arias, President of Grupo Jaragua, which has partnered with American Bird Conservancy on the conservation of threatened and migratory birds in the region.. “Key among the endemics there are the Bay-breasted Cuckoo, and a good population of the vulnerable Hispaniolan Parrot. We applaud the action of President Fernández to designate this important new protected area.”
Sierra de Bahoruco National Park, an Alliance for Global Extinction (AZE) site, is the global stronghold for three endangered species—Bay-breasted Cuckoo, La Selle Thrush, and Hispaniolan Crossbill—and five more that are globally vulnerable—Hispaniolan Parrot, Hispaniolan Parakeet, Golden Swallow, Chat Tanager, and White-winged Warbler. Other endangered species such a Bicknell’s Thrush and the Black-capped Petrel are also present. Unfortunately, the park and its environs are under severe threat because some of the dry forest, especially important for the Bay-breasted Cuckoo, adjacent to the park boundaries, has been cleared for an avocado/papaya plantation.
The Bay-breasted Cuckoo is declining around Loma Charco Azul, due to the creeping expansion of this plantation which has destroyed habitat for 5-6 pairs since 2002 according to research by Lance Woolaver, a Canadian graduate student doing his thesis on the species. The new protected area will help to safeguard one of the three most important known populations.
The work to create the new protected area was part of a part of a broader effort to improve the management of Sierra de Bahoruco National Park supported by the US Fish and Wildlife Service through the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act grant program. Other aspects of the project included hiring guards to protect the Park and to establish a monitoring program for migratory, endemic and resident birds. Other important supporters of Grupo Jaragua’s efforts to expand protection in the vicinity of Sierra de Baharuco National park include BirdLife International and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.
Sunday, October 11, 2009
A Vernon man and his children have reported the first Eastern hog-nosed snake in the Green Mountain State.
Dan Waters found the eight-inch recently hatched snake with his children and their friends at the end of his driveway on Sept. 23. The snake was playing dead at the time, a trick often used by the species when it feels threatened.
Tuesday, October 06, 2009
We were an eclectic bunch, hailing from New Brunswick, Quebec, Vermont, Massachusetts, and New York. Julie Hart (the Plan’s primary architect) phoned in both afternoons from Wyoming, others from as far distant as Wisconsin and Maryland. Discussions were constructive, often spirited, and the humor quotient high. Yves kept us well-fed and libated with caffeine, and the 6th floor view was commanding. We rolled up our sleeves and made excellent progress on our stated goals, with the following resolutions:
- Emily MacKinnon will assume responsibility, via a small contract with CWS, for putting finishing touches on the Action Plan by 31 December
- The group agreed on the need to hire a full-time coordinator to communicate and implement the Plan. This will be crucial to maintain IBTCG’s momentum and address the many conservation issues faced by BITH across its migratory range. We hope to secure funding for this position by early 2010.
- We must facilitate more active involvement from partners on the wintering grounds, particularly on Hispaniola. An important aspect of the IBTCG coordinator’s role will be forging stronger working connections in the Caribbean.
- Towards this goal, we agreed unanimously and enthusiastically to hold our fall 2010 meeting in the Dominican Republic.
- We adopted standardized protocols for Mountain Birdwatch 2.0 in both the U.S. and Canada, to be launched in 2010.
We departed Quebec City with heightened enthusiasm and resolve for our multinational initiative to conserve BITH. The road may be steep and the odds against us, but the forthcoming Action Plan will provide a much-needed road map to guide collaborative efforts across the Americas.
Saturday, October 03, 2009
The 2009 award is presented with sincere appreciation to Roy Pilcher for his outstanding contributions.
Presentation of the Award at the VCE Annual Meeting
The national plan will incorporate recommendations from a structured decision-making process outlining management measures to control the spread and minimize the effects of WNS on bats. The SDM document will be finalized within the next few weeks.
The population of endangered Indiana bats in the Service's Northeast Region dropped 30 percent from 2007 to 2009, according to preliminary estimates from the 2009 count of Indiana bats. The Northeast Region has 12 to 13 percent of the Indiana bat population. We will release final results later this year.
On the evening of Sept. 10, biologists from the FWS and from the State of Vermont met at Elizabeth Mine in Strafford, Vt., for an annual bat survey. In years past the survey has yielded a sample of 900 bats. Last year this number dropped to 300, and this year biologists captured only one bat. Although the survey measures a fraction of the bat population in the mine, it seems to indicate a significant drop in bat numbers.
See the video.
Epilogue: Two nights later, Vermont's Scott Darling returned to the site. It was a perfect night for bats -- warmer than on the 10th and not too bright. Again, he found just one bat.
For the second year, the Service is funding research into the cause, control and treatment of white-nose syndrome in bats. We received 39 grant proposals totaling more than $5 million; $800,000 is available. Our scientists are reviewing the proposals and plan to announce the grant awards in September.
Research projects funded in fiscal year 2008.
More than 70 people working on WNS issues met in Pittsburgh in mid-August. Representatives of federal, state and nongovernment organizations together explored options on surveillance, chemical and biological control, rehabilitation, captive propagation, and bat genetics. More information to come.
Learn more at http://www.fws.gov/northeast/white_nose.html