Tuesday, March 31, 2009

State of the Birds

More than 800 species of birds inhabit the United States, in places as diverse as Hawaii, Alaska, Florida, and everything in between. Among these species, there are 67 federally endangered or threatened birds and 184 birds of conservation concern. This listing could be due to declining population numbers, small distributions, and/or high threats.

To help shed some light on the state of our country's birds, a variety of organizations (including but not limited to The Audubon Society, The Nature Conservancy, The American Bird Conservancy, The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, US Fish & Wildlife Service, USGS, and others) have compiled statistics spanning 40 years. In this comprehensive report, The State of the Birds looks at the past trends and current situations of bird populations that reside in each of the major habitat types.

The report expresses a specific concern on Hawaiian bird populations, noting that 71 species have gone extinct since humans colonized the islands and at least 10 more species have not been seen in as long as 40 years (draw your own conclusions here, but that sounds like 81 extinct species to me). Many surviving populations are on the verge of extinction and without swift conservation measures these birds may be headed for the history books.

Photograph by Johnida Dockens (c) 2000

Check out the full report at http://www.stateofthebirds.org/ - some of the numbers will shock you, but there is also a ray of hope. There have been successful management strategies for a number of species. The Bald Eagle, the Peregrine Falcon, and the Osprey have all rebounded from the brink. Other species including certain waterfowl populations have increased thanks to focused conservation measures. There is still a chance for the other imperiled birds, but that chance becomes smaller and smaller the longer people wait to act.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Birding for Beginners

The Bergen County Audubon Society will partner with the Meadowlands Commission to host "Birding for Beginners" on Sunday, March 29th from 1pm-3pm. The event will take place at DeKorte Park in Lyndhurst, NJ. There will be experts there to help those interested learn about optics, how to identify birds, and more. Everyone will then head outside to use their new skills. Registration is required, however the event is free to all. If interested please contact Don Torino, Bergen County Audubon Society, at 201-636-4022 or email him at greatauk4@aol.com

Check out the Bergen County Audubon page as well as the Meadowlands Commission site.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Spring is here!

While the calendar may tell you that spring beings on March 20th, rest assured, the spring season has arrived. American Woodcocks have been been moving through New Jersey for a week or two now, and within the last few days they've even begun searching for mates. The warm front over the weekend also brought up a few other early signs of spring, including Piping Plovers and Osprey!

Photograph by Bill Lynch (c) 2007

Photograph by Scott Page (c) 2008

It's not only birds that can give us a clear indicator that nature has shifted seasons - Painted Turtles, Green Frogs, and plenty of other organisms have been given the green light to get ready for warmer weather. And if you don't trust your eyes, just take a listen outside tomorrow morning to the sparrows and other songbirds that are beginning to sing. The spring chorus has begun!

Photograph by Bill Lynch (c) 2008

NJAS hosts "Maple Sugaring" event

On Saturday morning, March 14th, the New Jersey Audubon Society will host a "Maple Sugaring" event for children in grades K-3. It will begin at 10:30am in Roseland, NJ. The children will learn the story behind maple sugaring, interesting facts, and will then be able to go out and tap a maple tree! The day concludes at the environmental center with hot cocoa and real maple syrup.

Photograph by Don Brubacher (c) 2008

To find out more information and register for the event, head over to the Essex County environmental site.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

New bird species

Ok, so there haven't been any recent discoveries of new bird species in the Garden State...but these two recent additions to the list of known birds is still pretty neat!

Most new species are actually the result of 'splits', when a singular species is separated into two or more distinct taxa thanks (usually) to DNA evidence and vocalizations. This was the case with the Red Crossbill population found in the isolated hills of southern Idaho. Now considered a new species, this group of sedentary Red Crossbills has been reproductively isolated from the rest of it's usually nomadic brethren. Check out the recent article in the Condor: A New Species of the Red Crossbill (Fringillidae: Loxia) From Idaho

Recently a new species was also discovered in southwest Africa. The olive-backed forest robin was given it's scientific name, Stiphrornis pyrrholaemus, by Smithsonian naturalist Brian Schmidt. In Greek, the name literally translates to "stout bird that bears a flame-colored throat". Pretty creative, huh?

Photograph by Carloton Ward, Jr. / Smithsonian Institute (c) 2009

For the full article please visit Naming a New Species. And keep your eyes (and perhaps more importantly your ears) open...you never know who is going to discover the next new species of bird!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Bear Awareness Seminar

The Franklin Township Environmental Commission will hold a "Bear Awareness Seminar" at the Franklin Township Municipal Building on April 6th, 2009 at 7:30pm. The rescheduled seminar will discuss different aspects of bear biology, natural history, and management strategies undertaken by NJ officials. The event is free and is available for anyone over 12 years of age.

Photograph by John Hansen (c) 2007

For more information about the event and about bear awareness, please visit http://www.franklintwpnj.org/bear_030209.html