Daily Archives: July 28, 2013

Cornell Lab: 8 Great Reasons to Love the New Migratory Bird Stamp

The Birding Wire

A brand-new piece of fine art goes on June 28, and at just $15 it’s going to be hard to pass up. Its official name is the 2013-2014 Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp, but many people know it as the Federal Duck Stamp. Here at the Cornell Lab, we call it the Migratory Bird Stamp because it benefits many kinds of birds and is a great idea for any bird watcher or conservationist.

Buying a Migratory Bird Stamp is a simple and direct way for people to contribute to grassland and wetland conservation. The New York Times ran a piece on the annual stamp art competition; now here’s our own list of eight reasons to love the stamp:

1. $850 million for conservation and counting. The first stamp was issued in 1934. It cost $1 (about $18 in today’s dollars) and sold 635,001 copies. By law, the funds raised go directly to habitat acquisition in the lower 48 states. By now, stamp sales have surpassed $850 million and helped to protect 5.5 million acres of wetland and grassland habitat.

2. A 79-year tradition of beautiful wildlife art. The Migratory Bird Stamp is a beautiful collectible and a great artistic tradition. Since 1949, the design of each year’s duck stamp has been chosen in an open art contest. This year’s stamp, showing a Common Goldeneye, is by Robert Steiner, who also won the 1998-1999 contest with a Barrow’s Goldeneye-a stamp that sold 1,627,521 copies and raised more than $24 million on its own.

3. A bargain at $15. Ninety-eight cents of each dollar spent on a stamp goes directly to land acquisition (and immediate related expenses) for national wildlife refuges. This $15 purchase is perhaps the single simplest thing you can do to support a legacy of wetland and grassland conservation for birds.

4. It’s much more than ducks. Waterfowl hunters have long been the main supporters for the program-the stamps are a requirement for anyone over 16 who want to hunt. But the funds benefit scores of other bird species, including shorebirds, herons, raptors, and songbirds, not to mention reptiles, amphibians, fish, butterflies, native plants, and more.

5. Save wetlands; save grasslands. Since 1958, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has used stamp revenues to protect “waterfowl production areas”-to the tune of 3 million acres-within the critical Prairie Pothole Region. The same program also protects declining prairie-nesting birds in the face of increasing loss of grasslands. As a result, refuges are among the best places to find grassland specialties such as Bobolinks, Grasshopper Sparrows, Clay-colored Sparrows, Sedge Wrens, and others.

6. The benefits are gorgeous. Some of the most diverse and wildlife-rich refuges across the Lower 48 have been acquired with stamp funds. Check out this map – chances are there’s a wildlife refuge near you that has benefited:

7. It’s your free pass to refuges. A migratory bird stamp is a free pass for an entire year to all refuges that charge for admission-so your $15 could even save you money.

8. As bird watchers, let’s get in on the secret. Though it’s long been a fixture in hunting circles, the Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp is one of the best-kept secrets in all of bird conservation. It’s time to buy and show your stamp!  

Wisconsin Wardens Caution on Balloon Releases, Wildlife Dangers

The Birding Wire

DNR Marine Warden Amie Egstad of Bayfield County gets how balloons add fun to parties or ignite silent heart-felt reflection when set free to dance in the sky at a friend’s memorial.

She gets it — she really does.

The other thing she really gets — on a daily basis — is the balloon in another form. And that form is litter, posing problems for marine wildlife and boats in Lake Superior when these party favors and memorials plummet to the waves and shoreline.

“It’s not unusual to pick up eight of these balloons a day,” Egstad says. Plus, she says, they come with some mystery.

Wardens are never sure what they are coming upon when they spot something floating at the water’s surface, she says. “We can see something silver from a distance, or a color reflecting off the water. We get there and find it is a balloon with a very long string still attached.”

Egstad says sometimes it is the larger balloon plastered with the big-letter party message. Or, the wardens find a batch of flattened balloons still held together by ribbon and lots of string.

“It seems to be a case where people, who have no intention of littering or causing potentially deadly consequences for our native and migratory birds or fisheries, are not stopping to think that what goes up does come down,” Egstad says. “And in this case, what’s coming down in Great Lake Superior are a lot of balloons.”

And the problem is not just with Warden Amie and Lake Superior.

DNR Marine Warden Dave Allen and Warden Lynna Gurnoe also have been picking balloons out of Lake Michigan. “After the day was done… we had about a dozen total, like bread crumbs out there!” Gurnoe said in a text message to Egstad.

Egstad says the solution to protecting the wildlife, water and shoreline quality from this party favorite is a simple one.

“Just take the balloons home with you. Please don’t release the balloons into the air because they will come down. And when they do, these once inflated balloons pose real threats to wildlife which can attempt to eat them — or even get tangled in the strings and either choke or drown,” Egstad says. “As pretty and fun as balloons are, they can become dangerous, unsightly litter if not properly disposed of by the owners.

The impacts of released balloons in Wisconsin are the same in Kansas. Don’t litter or imperil wildlife by releasing balloons.

“If the balloons are to make memories, keep them!” she says.  

Society for Ecological Restoration 5th World Conference

The Society for Ecological Restoration (SER) is building momentum for its 5th World Conference on Ecological Restoration and 21st Annual Meeting, “Reflections on the Past, Directions for the Future,” to be held October 6-11, 2013 in Madison, Wisconsin, USA.

The four-day scientific program will include over 100 concurrent sessions on a wide range of topics related to restoration, as well as pre-conference training courses, post-conference field trips, and various networking opportunities. Plenary speakers include author and environmental entrepreneur Paul Hawken; climate change and restoration researcher Margaret Palmer; the Executive Secretary of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification, Luc Gnacadja; EPA Great Lakes advisor Cam Davis; and the founder of Costa Rica’s national parks system, Alvaro Ugalde.

The SER2013 conference will draw a large, diverse group of attendees that come to network and share information on the science and practice of ecological restoration. We have received nearly 1000 abstracts from the U.S,Canada, and 40 other countries. Attendees and presenters range from consulting firms, federal and state agencies, NGOS, academia and research institutions, and international organizations.

In addition to the rich scientific program, the conference will also include a volunteer restoration event on Sunday, October 6, as well as a Welcome Ceremony, special VIP reception for sponsors, and a Gala Awards Dinner.

Conference partners include: Aldo Leopold Foundation, International Crane Foundation, Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum, and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

We hope you will join us in Madison for this exciting event. Early registration closes on July 15, 2013, so register now for a savings of up to $125 on the cost of registration. Sponsor and exhibitor opportunities are also available.

More information is available on the conference website.

Nests in Kansas City Area Produce 13 Peregrine Falcons

The Birding Wire

Peregrine falcons nesting high atop buildings and power plant smokestacks in the Kansas City area produced 13 offspring this spring. The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) and cooperating partners monitor five sites in the metro area where nest boxes are placed on structures.

A falcon pair used a nest box on a ledge at Commerce Tower in Downtown Kansas City to raise three chicks. They fledged (flew for the first time) in June. One young bird glided to the sidewalk. The falcon was found and recovered by Joe DeBold, an MDC urban wildlife biologist. DeBold banded the bird and released it again atop the skyscraper. It successfully flew on the second try.

The public was able to watch the falcon nest at Commerce Tower via a camera and web link. Viewers saw parents sheltering eggs and newborn chicks through sleet, snow and rain. Yet the chicks survived. Parents would arrive at the nest and feed the young. DeBold said plans call for the nest to be offered for web viewing again next year.

The Kansas City Power & Light Co. provides nest boxes on smokestacks at the Iatan, Hawthorne and Sibley power plants that are near the Missouri River in the metro area. Four chicks fledged at the Iatan site and three chicks fledged at Sibley. Eggs at the Hawthorne site did not hatch. But that nest has been successful in the past and DeBold expects it will be again in future years.

A video is available on You Tube of biologists removing peregrine falcon chicks from the nest at the Iatan Power Plant and placing leg bands on the young birds. It is available at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KlizWc7tYqE. The leg bands help biologists track peregrine falcon movements and survival as adults.

Falcons nesting in a box placed atop the American Century Investments building near the Country Club Plazaproduced three chicks that fledged successfully.

Ledges on cliffs and bluffs were the original nesting sites of peregrine falcons. They can dive at more than 200 mph when full grown, plucking birds from the sky or rodents from the ground for food. The high-flying raptors are endangered in Missouri. But restoration programs like the nest boxes placed on tall structures is helping them recover. The recovery program began in Kansas City in 1991.

For more information on falcons or other watchable wildlife, http://mdc.mo.gov.

Duck Breeding Population Estimates Show Promising Numbers

Duck populations are strong, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) 2013 Report on Trends in Duck Breeding Populations. The preliminary estimate of total duck populations from the traditional survey area (northcentral United States, southcentral and northern Canada, and Alaska) is 45.6 million birds­- a six percent decrease from last year’s estimate of 48.6 million birds, but a 33 percent increase from the long-term average. In addition to estimating duck populations, the survey also examines habitat conditions.

Habitat conditions during the 2013 survey were generally improved or similar to last year due to above-average precipitation, despite a delayed spring throughout most of the traditional survey area. Most of the Canadian portions of the traditional survey area were rated as good to excellent, in contrast to 2012 when drier conditions existed across northern Alberta and Saskatchewan. Although the U.S.prairies received record snowfall in April, habitat conditions were still rated only fair to poor, similar to last year. The total pond estimate (prairie Canada and the north-central United States combined) is 6.9 million, 24 percent higher than the 2012 estimate of 5.5 million ponds and 35 percent above the long-term average.

In the eastern survey area – eastern OntarioQuebec, the Maritime Provinces and Maine – estimated mallard abundance is 500,000 birds. Habitat conditions across most of the eastern survey area generally were good with the exception of Maine and the southern Maritimes, which were rated only as fair.

The report also notes:

• Estimated mallard abundance is 10.4 million birds, similar to the 2012 estimate of 10.6 million birds and 36 percent above the long-term average.

• Blue-winged teal estimated abundance is 7.7 million. Although this is 16 percent below the 2012 estimate of 9.2 million, the blue-wing population is 60 percent above the long-term average. Similarly, the green-winged teal estimate of 3.1 million is 12 percent below last year, but still 51 percent above the long-term average.

• The northern pintail estimate of 3.3 million is similar to the 2012 estimate of 3.5 million and 17 percent below the long-term average.

• Estimated abundance of American wigeon is 2.6 million and 23 percent above the 2012 estimate and similar to the long-term average.

• The combined lesser and greater scaup estimate of 4.2 million decreased 20 percent from last year and is 17 percent below the long-term average of 5 million.

• The canvasback estimate of 787,000 is similar to the 2012 estimate and 37 percent above the long-term average.

The surveys are conducted by the USFWS and Canadian Wildlife Services’ Waterfowl Breeding Population and Habitat Survey, sampling more than 2 million square miles of waterfowl habitat across Alaska, the northcentral and northeastern United States and southcentral, eastern and northern Canada.

The information guides the USFWS waterfowl conservation programs under authority of the 1918 Migratory Bird Treaty Act. The USFWS then works in partnership with state biologists from the four flyways – the Atlantic, Mississippi, Central and Pacific – to establish regulatory frameworks for waterfowl hunting season lengths, dates and bag limits. 2013 Kansas duck hunting season dates and bag limits will be approved at the Aug. 1 commission meeting in Yates Center.

For more information about the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2013 Report on Trends in Duck Breeding Populations, visitwww.fws.gov/migratorybirds.

For more information on Kansas waterfowl hunting, visit www.ksoutdoors.com and click “Hunting/Migratory Birds/Ducks.” 

USDA Group Working to Protect Native Plants

By Ciji Taylor,

NRCS Public Affairs

Native plants in many parts of the U.S. are struggling because of changes in land use and climate, posing problems for the wildlife species that depend on them for sustenance and sanctuary.

To combat this, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service is working with private landowners to promote native plants on their land for conservation plantings such as in field borders, buffers and other planted areas.

“Native plants provide food and shelter for wildlife and most importantly their structure allows for better survival rates. Native warm season grasses tend to create bunches of vegetation and leave open ground between them providing breeding room and an escape from predators,” said Jason Keenan, wildlife biologist for NRCS in Mississippi.

Native plants, those that have grown in a particular area since before human settlement, provide food and habitat for native wildlife. Fewer native plants often lead to decreasing populations of native wildlife.

For example, the Southeast is home to a suite of grassland birds facing population peril, such as quail, grasshopper sparrows, lark bunting, eastern meadowlarks, dickcissels, Henslow’s sparrows and loggerhead shrikes. The decrease of these birds is attributed to the loss of their natural grassland habitat.

These birds are like the “canary in the coalmine,” serving as indicators of ecosystem health. If bird populations are declining, it signals other environmental issues.

Our ecosystem benefits from native plants – stabilizing soil, filtering water, purifying air and supporting wildlife. Using native plants on sites they are best adapted to can have significant benefits to mitigating environmental stresses, such as extreme temperatures and drought, to retain productive lands for both agriculture and wildlife.

Wildlife is also part of what defines our country.

“Many people grow up, sit outside and listen to the birds,” Kyle Brazil, National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative Agricultural Policy coordinator and liaison to USDA Farm Service Agency said. “Especially with quail, people want to hear that whistle, and it’s amazing how excited they get when they hear it.”

In addition to environmental and ecological benefits, the work of NRCS and private landowners generates outdoor recreation and economic activity, benefitting local communities and landowners. Disappearing habitats can stifle these economic benefits.

NRCS and other USDA agencies, like FSA, are helping enhance ecosystems, leading to healthier flora and fauna.

By incorporating native plants into conservation practices, a landowner can achieve their primary resource concern and provide wildlife habitat. For example, using native grasses in filter strips reduces nutrient runoff and provides habitat for several species of wildlife.

Native plants can be used in several conservation practices or planted in your home garden.

Small changes in native vegetation can cause a disproportionate positive return on wildlife, so every little bit helps, Brazil added.

For more information on selecting the right plants for your land, contact your local service center or visit the NRCS website for resources on using plants for natural resource conservation.