2013 San Diego Bird Festival

January 30, 2013 by  
Filed under Events

Taking place from February 28 through to March 3, 2013, the San Diego Bird Festival features director of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, John Fitzpatrick and editor of Bird Watcher’s Digest, Bill Thompson, as keynote speakers. Trips include Coastal National Refuges; Coastal National Refuges; Gulls and Coastal Waterbirds; Birding Along the Border and Birding by Bike, among others. For more information on this exciting event visit sandiegoaudubon.org

Dates: 28 February – 2 March 20-13
Venue: Marina Village Conference Center
City: San Diego
State: California
Country: United States

Winter Wings Festival 2013

January 30, 2013 by  
Filed under Events

The Winter Wings Festival has been extended to four days this year with a superb lineup of keynote participants – George Lepp, Alvaro Jaramillo and Kevin Karlson. For more information on this popular event visit winterwingsfest.org

Dates: 14-17 February 2013
Venue: Klamath Falls
State: Oregon
Country: United States

Conservation of the Honduran Emerald Hummingbird

January 29, 2013 by  
Filed under Features

There are more than 338 recorded hummingbird species worldwide, and many birding enthusiasts would agree that they are top of the list as the most interesting little birds of the nearly 10,000 bird species found around the world. With their brilliant iridescent coloring, wings flapping in a blur and ability to dart in all directions, or hover in one spot, hummingbirds are extremely entertaining to watch.

Interestingly, the color of a hummingbird’s gorget (throat feathers) is not a result of feather pigmentation, but of light refraction caused by the structure of the feathers. They are unable to hop or walk, but can move sideways while perching. The smallest species is the bee hummingbird, endemic to the main island of Cuba and weighing only 1.6-2 grams with a length of 5-6 cm. Up to 30 percent of the hummingbird’s weight is in the muscles used in flight – the pectoral muscles. With wings that beat between 50 and 200 flaps per second and an average heart rate of more than 1,200 beats per minute, a hummingbird uses an amazing amount of energy and must consume up to half of its weight in sugar daily. They harvest nectar from flowers with fringed, forked tongues that lick 10-15 times per second.

The rufous hummingbird migrates a distance of more than 3,000 miles from its Alaskan and Canadian nesting grounds to its Mexican winter habitat – the longest migration of all the hummingbird species. Some hummingbird species such as the rufous, calliope, broad-tailed, Anna’s, black-chinned and Costa’s are known to inter-breed and create hybrid species, making the birder’s identification task more challenging.

Following the completion of a species status review in 2012, the US Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing that the Honduran Emerald hummingbird be listed as endangered. Endemic to five small valleys in the Central American country of Honduras, it’s estimated that the Honduran Emerald hummingbird population has decreased to fewer than 1,500. With loss of habitat being the primary cause of the decline in numbers, it is feared the decline will continue as land is cleared for establishing plantations and pastures for cattle. The good news for the brightly colored little bird is that the Honduran government is aware of the problem and has formed the Honduran Emerald Hummingbird Habitat Management Area which includes dry forest habitat suitable for the Honduran Emerald hummingbird and may very well turn the decline around.

Take a Stroll Through the Linda Loring Nature Foundation

January 15, 2013 by  
Filed under Features

Established in 1999 by Linda Loring, the Linda Loring Nature Foundation is a nonprofit organization focused on providing young people with the opportunity to enjoy and learn about various facets of the natural world. Starting in 1957, this dedicated wildlife advocate and conservationist started buying up parcels of land between Madaket Road and Eel Point Road until she had a 270 acre tract of land serving as a wildlife sanctuary for the plants and animals in this area of Nantucket. Years of work have gone into creating this spectacular open-air classroom, which boasts a number of trails and hides for visitors to view the birdlife and other animals living in this nature sanctuary.

The island of Nantucket was separated from the mainland thousands of years ago when the glacier covering the New England area retreated. The geological features of the island include a diverse range of habitats that are home to a host of animal and plant species. Within the Linda Loring Nature Foundation there are coastal heathlands, pitch pine forests, vegetated wetlands, sandplain grasslands and coastal scrub forest, all providing sanctuary for a wealth of diverse wildlife. Birds that breed within the sanctuary include the Northern Harrier (Circus cyaneus) and Osprey (Pandion haliaetus), and it provides a welcome stopover point for an abundance of migratory bird species.

The mile long loop trail is designed for visitors to access areas of the sanctuary where they can observe the wildlife while at the same time not intruding. The trail makes its way along the edge of a vegetated wetland before climbing a small hill which affords visitors a superb view over the brackish, tidal Long Pond. Continuing to the west the trail makes its way through a small group of black cherry trees before opening up a charming view of toward Nantucket Sound over sandplain grasslands, an ecosystem which is found primarily on Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard and is globally threatened. Plants that will be seen along the way include little bluestem, blue-eyed grass, Pennsylvania sedge and bushy rockrose.

Located on the north head of Long Pond, the osprey nest pole is occupied by a nesting pair of Ospreys from late-March, with fledgings leaving the nest around mid-August. Nesting boxes on poles throughout the sanctuary are used by tree swallows that also arrive in late-March, with their young leaving the nest in early July. Nantucket has the highest known density of Northern harriers anywhere in the world and the sanctuary generally has up to seven nests during breeding season. Other birds found at the Linda Loring Nature Foundation include mute swans, and red-tailed hawks. The coastal shrublands and sandplain grasslands are also home to more than twenty species of butterflies, and turtles and (harmless) snakes are likely to be seen while exploring this tranquil reserve in Nantucket.

Environmental Monitoring With the Help of Birds

January 1, 2013 by  
Filed under Features

While climate change and global warming are an ongoing cause for concern, monitoring the environment is a costly and time consuming activity for conservationists to carry out without help from local experts – of the feathered variety. Birds are tremendously valuable in assisting conservationists and researchers to pick up changes in the environment and species diversity, enabling them to take action where possible to prevent a bad situation from becoming a catastrophe.

Science has come a long way since canaries were used to detect toxic gases in coalmines, but birds continue to be the most effective sentinel species on the planet. The reasons for this are many and include the fact that birds are found all over the world, in all types of habitats, both in the wild and in urban settings. They are sensitive and adaptive to environmental changes and are relatively easy to monitor as they are highly visible. Birds are among the most researched animals on the planet and with bird watching being a popular activity around the world, birders are often keen to participate as citizen scientists in research projects and organized bird counts. Birding clubs and Audubon societies all over the world get involved in the gathering of data, which can then be coordinated by scientists. Moreover, there exists a wealth of historical data on the activities of birds, providing a baseline against which to compare current data. As birds include species that feed on a wide variety of food sources, they are vulnerable to the accumulation of toxins in both plants and animals they eat, thereby providing an indicator on soil, air and water pollution levels.

As birds are acutely in tune with seasonal cycles, even subtle changes in behavior, feeding and breeding patterns can alert scientists to broader environmental changes. Changes in arrival and departure times of migratory bird species have been linked to changes in temperature, ocean currents and wind patterns. Feeding and breeding patterns of marine predators and seabirds offer scientists the opportunity to monitor the health of the world’s oceans and seas and with many species the timing and success of breeding is dependent on food availability.

When birds seemingly inexplicably fall out of the sky, as was reported in Arkansas and New Jersey earlier this year, scientists will try to solve the mystery, because when birds are in distress, it is very likely an indicator that something is very wrong in the environment.