Pacific Flyway Migratory Birds Assisted by Rice Farmers

July 3, 2012 by  
Filed under Features

Following the introduction of rice as a food crop during the California gold rush, farmers reportedly battled to find the ideal growing conditions for decades before discovering the right combination of terrain and rice varieties which has turned California into the largest producer of medium and short gain japonica (sushi) rice in the United States. Its annual production of more than two million tons of rice makes it the largest rice producer in the nation and contributes over $1.3 billion to California’s economy. However, all of this success has come at a cost to the birdlife that depends on the wetlands that have now been claimed as rice paddies.

The good news is that more than 165 rice farmers have committed to the implementation of a plan to rectify this situation, and working along with the US Natural Resources Conservation Service a system of islands and suitable habitats will be built to provide migratory birds with a place to rest, feed and hopefully breed. An amount of $2 million has been allocated to fund the project in an effort to build up bird populations that have been declining at an alarming rate. California’s Sacramento Valley forms part of the Pacific Flyway which stretches from Patagonia to Alaska, so the planned improvements will make a significant difference to the welfare of migrating birds which already deal with a perilous journey each time they migrate. In addition to building new habitats and islands, the farmers are adapting their irrigation methods for their paddies. Instead of draining the fields completely in winter in preparation for the new season, the farmers will drain the fields slowly, leaving some partially flooded to provide feeding a nesting grounds for water birds, thereby aiding conservation efforts.

Despite the fact that rice paddies now cover up to 95 percent of the native wetland area of Sacramento Valley, dozens of migratory water bird species can be seen here, including American avocets, cinnamon-teal ducks, dunlins, dowitchers and black-necked stilts. Scientists will need at least two years of monitoring and data gathering to determine the success rate of the project, but with the willing cooperation of local farmers, they are hopeful that the new measures, which require only a fraction of the farming land, will result in a significant increase in water bird populations.

Kern River Valley Hummingbird Celebration

May 21, 2012 by  
Filed under Events

This free unhosted event is held at the Kern River Preserve. Features of the event include bird walks, bird feeding workshops, t-shirt sales and an information booth. For more information visit the Audubon California Kern River Preserve Website.

Date: 11 August 2012
Time: 8am – 2pm
Venue: 18747 Highay 178
City: Weldon
State: California
Country: USA

2012 Mono Basin Bird Chautauqua

April 17, 2012 by  
Filed under Events

Individuals attending the 2012 Mono Basin Bird Chautauqua have a fantastic program to look forward to. A number of exciting field trips have been organised in a variety of habitats. Interesting presentations and workshops will be hosted including: Aerial Predators and Ecology, Nature Awareness: Fire by Friction and Primitive Shelters, Meet the Chipmunks, Bird Vocalizations, Field Sketching, Great Basin and Sierra Nevada Odonates 101, Who Gives a Hoot, Introduction to Image Editing, Bird Words, The Art of Seeing and much more. Don’t forget to register for the Mono Basin Bird Chautauqua.

Dates: 15 to 17 June 2012
Location: Lee Vining
State: California
Country: United States of America

Morro Bay Winter Bird Festival 2012

December 21, 2011 by  
Filed under Events

This will be the 16th time the Morro Bay Winter Bird Festival is taking place. The keynote speaker for the event will be Jon Dunn, a well known expert in North American bird identification. Each year the event sees more than 450 birding enthusiasts coming to Morro Bay to view its many birds. The festival includes a vast number of field trips of varying levels. There will also be talks and workshops suited to the whole family. Be sure to visit the Morrow Bay Winter Bird Festival website for schedule details.

Dates: 13 to 16 January 2012
Venue: Morro Bay
State: California
Country: United States of America

Rice Farmers Support Migratory Bird Habitat Initiative

October 25, 2011 by  
Filed under News

Beginning this fall, and continuing through to 2014, rice farmers participating in the Migratory Bird Habitat Initiative (MBHI) will work with the Natural Resources Conservation Services (NRCS) of the US Department of Agriculture on a pilot project aimed at benefiting waterfowl and shorebirds by adapting certain rice production practices. Seventy farmers in Colusa and Glenn County, California, have signed contracts to support the MBHI in a project which is the culmination of many years of research and cooperation between rice farmers and conservationists, represented by Audubon California, PRBO Conservation Science, the NRCS and the California Rice Commission.

Speaking on behalf of the California Rice Commission, Paul Buttner noted that they have worked together in testing practices that appear to make a difference to the birds, while at the same time being acceptable to rice farmers. Under the new agreement, rice farmers will extend the time period that their fields are flooded, either starting earlier or draining the fields later, thereby accommodating the birds’ breeding and migratory needs. Also the depth of the water will be adjusted, specifically at agreed upon times in the season. NRCS Assist State Conservationist, Alan Forkey, explained that generally shorebirds and waterfowl prefer a habitat of between 2 and 6 inches deep, but rice fields are usually flooded deeper than that. This will be adjusted, and instead of draining the fields in January, farmers have agreed to keep them flooded for longer and drop the water levels more gradually.

To accommodate the nesting requirements of the birds, levees between fields will be modified, with sloped levees being flattened to provide a better nesting surface and allow easier access to the water for chicks. Some farmers have also agreed to provide artificial nesting structures. A number of the proposed changes will not only benefit the birds, but will be to the farmers’ benefit as well. For the farmers who have agreed to use portions of their fields as wetlands, incoming water will have the opportunity to warm up a bit before running on to the young rice plants which will be beneficial for them, plus longer periods of flooding the fields will help to degrade the rice plants after harvesting, making it easier to clear the fields.

The cooperation of farmers in implementing the pilot project has been very encouraging, and the Migratory Bird Conservation Partnership will be measuring the results of the MBHI with a view to extending the project to other areas of importance to migratory birds.

« Previous PageNext Page »