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The American Ornithological Society to partner with Oxford University Press to publish The Auk and The Condor

Research From The Auk and The Condor - Wed, 07/18/2018 - 10:10

Big news! Beginning in 2019, The Auk and The Condor will be moving to a new publishing partner, Oxford University Press. Read the full announcement here:

Eight Great Reasons to Love the Migratory Bird Stamp

All About Birds - Wed, 07/18/2018 - 09:04
The 2018–2019 stamp features a Mallard pair and was painted by Bob Hautman. The 2017-2018 stamp features a trio of Canada Geese and was painted by James Hautman.Jennifer Miller's gorgeous painting of a pair of Ruddy Ducks is on the 2015-2016 stamp.The 2013 stamp featured a Common Goldeneye and was painted by Robert Steiner, who also won the contest in 1998-1999 with a picture of a Barrow's Goldeneye.Robert Steiner's 1998 stamp of a Barrow's Goldeneye, raised nearly $25 million for refuges in a single year.The very first duck stamp sold for $1 in 1934 and was designed by "Ding" Darling (who now has a refuge named for him).The 1950-51 stamp (Trumpeter Swans by Walter A. Weber) was the first to be chosen by competition.Sherrie Russell Meline won the 2005 contest with her Ross's Goose, becoming only the second woman to have won so far.In 1960, this Redheads stamp by John A. Ruthven was the first to top $5 million in sales.Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks by James Hautman (1990). In the movie "Fargo," a character named Hautman is a strong Duck Stamp contender.These Cinnamon Teal from 1971 remain the highest-selling stamp with almost 2.5 million sold. By Maynard Reece.For more on the history and future of the stamp, join the Friends of the Migratory Bird/Duck Stamp (see link below).PreviousNext

Among the U.S.’s many spectacular federal and state lands, it pays to remember the wildlife havens that are the National Wildlife Refuge system, administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. This system of more than 500 areas are managed primarily for the benefit of wildlife, and they are great places to see birds of all kinds, including waterfowl, shorebirds, and songbirds.

One of the best ways to support National Wildlife Refuges is to buy a 2018–2019 Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp, or “Duck Stamp,” every year. It’s a win-win-win: it proudly proclaims your support of public land, it funnels money directly to the refuge system, and it gets you free entry to the refuges all year.

Tip: You can buy the 2018–2019 stamp at many post offices, National Wildlife Refuge offices, and sporting-goods stores, as well as online from USPS and Amplex.

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Buying a Migratory Bird Stamp is a simple and direct way for people to contribute to grassland and wetland conservation. In 2013, 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:

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1. Over $900 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 $900 million and helped to protect 6.5 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. The 2018 stamp, showing a pair of Mallards, was painted by Bob Hautman, a veteran of the contest who has won it twice before (see a gallery of all stamps back to 1934), who is only the third woman to win the contest.

3. A bargain at $25. Ninety-eight cents of each dollar spent on a stamp goes directly to land acquisition (and immediate related expenses) for the National Wildlife Refuge System. This $25 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 wants 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. (See a full history of how the Duck Stamp helped save North American waterfowl in this illustrated Bird Academy feature.)

5. Save wetlands; save grasslands. Since 1958, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has used stamp revenues to protect “waterfowl production areas”—over 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 $25 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!

The Cornell Lab is a strong supporter of the Migratory Bird Stamp, and we’ve often written about its value as a direct aid to conservation—for example, in this 2009 column by Lab director John Fitzpatrick. You can buy the stamp at many U.S. Post Offices, National Wildlife Refuges, and sporting-goods stores. You can also order the stamp online at the USPS store and from the stamp’s printer, Amplex (both stores add a charge for shipping).

(Thanks to the Friends of the Migratory Bird/Duck Stamp for help in preparing this post.)

Katie Kozak, June 2018 eBirder of the Month

All About Birds - Thu, 07/12/2018 - 15:35

Katie Kozak, June 2018 eBirder of the Month
By Team eBird July 12, 2018

Katie with a fledgling Ovenbird

Please join us in congratulating Katie Kozak of Stevens Point, WI, winner of the June 2018 eBird Challenge, sponsored by Carl Zeiss Sports Optics. Katie’s name was drawn randomly from the 2,136 eBirders who submitted at least 15 eligible checklists in June that had breeding & behavior codes. Katie will receive a new ZEISS Conquest HD 8×42 binocular for her eBirding efforts. Here’s Katie’s birding story:

My love of birds first took off when I was in the third grade back in 2003, when my parents bought a bird feeder to place outside of our living room window. I was fascinated by all the birds that visited. However, I wasn’t satisfied just simply calling all of them “birds”; I wanted to know their actual species names. Flipping through our one field guide at the time, I was amazed at the number and variety of birds that could be seen. Ever since identifying my first mystery bird as a Dark-eyed Junco, I was hooked on birding.

This female Mourning Warbler is one of the birds Katie found while atlasing—probable breeding! Photo ©Katie Kozak/Macaulay Library.

I was a casual eBirder until 2015, when the Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas II began its five year project. The goal of the atlas is to determine the distribution and abundance of Wisconsin’s breeding birds. The results will also be compared with the first Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas (1995-2000), to see how bird populations have changed within the state. This summer I was hired as an atlas technician to conduct point counts and field surveys in areas that haven’t been well-covered by volunteer efforts. Bird behavior has always fascinated me, and when atlasing, it is important to slow down and observe how birds are reacting to your presence and how they are interacting with the environment around them. It feels so rewarding to catch a bird in the act of carrying nesting material or food for their young, or most exciting—finding an actual nest with eggs or young!

Now, whenever I go out birding, I fire up the handy eBird app, entering birds as I go and applying breeding codes whenever I can. Using eBird has made submitting and reviewing data so much easier. I can quickly go back to my submitted checklists for the areas I’m surveying and keep track of the number of species I have confirmed as breeding in an area, so the next time I go I can have a clear goal of unconfirmed birds that I can focus on. A lot of my free time is spent looking through species maps or utilizing the explore a region function on eBird; both extremely valuable tools. I look forward to spending the rest of my summer eBirding and submitting breeding codes that will be used in important research to help Wisconsin’s birds.

Thank you so much to the eBird team for all the wonderful work that you do, and to Zeiss for the amazing new binoculars!

Ana Maria Castaño Rivas, May 2018 eBirder of the Month

All About Birds - Thu, 07/12/2018 - 15:35

Ana Maria Castaño Rivas, May 2018 eBirder of the Month
By Team eBird July 12, 2018

Ana Maria birding on Global Big Day 2018
Please join us in congratulating Ana Maria Castaño Rivas of Envigado, Colombia, winner of the May 2018 eBird Challenge, sponsored by Carl Zeiss Sports Optics. Ana Maria’s name was drawn randomly from the 8,383 eBirders who submitted at least 3 eligible checklists on Global Big Day. Ana Maria will receive a new ZEISS Conquest HD 8×42 binocular for her eBirding efforts. Here’s Ana Maria’s birding story:

I’m a huge fan of eBird, I have personal reasons for it: when I started birdwatching in Sociedad Antioqueña de Ornitología – SAO, an organization I’ve belonged to for 24 years, they were very serious in keeping lists of every bird day. We used a system called DATAves that is no longer in use, this system was created in the late 80’s and remained in place for a long time in my country being used by most of the birdwatchers in RNOA (Red Nacional de Observadores de Aves).

Since I learned while still being young, the discipline remained in me but it all became way easier using eBird on my cell.

I have the privilege to be one of the national coordinators of GBD in Colombia, participating in GBD is a pleasure for me and we are taking data very seriously too. We talk a lot with all birdwatchers about the need of submitting good quality data, information that will not only serve as a reminder for the nice time spent in the field, but that can also be used by decision makers to help preserve our beloved bird species and their habitats.

Colombian Chachalaca, one of Ana Maria’s Global Big Day highlights

On May 5th during GBD I was the person in charge of entering data for my team, and we took the data entering super seriously! We made lists for periods as short as 5 minutes in a single spot! We managed to register 99 species in 14 lists in that day. Our goal was a key ecosystem: our tropical dry forests along Cauca River, we found species as interesting as the Antioquia Wren (an endemic and threatened species exclusive to such ecosystem), Colombia Chachalaca (also endemic), Apical Flycatcher and several other. Sadly I’m a poor photographer so the evidence of our lists was provided by some of our team members like Tom Friedel and Luis Guillermo Restrepo.

I want to thank Cornell Lab of Ornithology for making eBird possible, to the amazing team that works in making this easier every day for us all, and I want to encourage all eBird users to promote the platform among their friends and to provide high quality data. Of course, thanks to Zeiss for the amazing binoculars I’m receiving as the winner for May eBirder of the Month Challenge!

AUTHOR BLOG: Ancient Fossil Bones of a Recently Extinct Cormorant

Research From The Auk and The Condor - Wed, 07/11/2018 - 10:01

Junya Watanabe

Linked paper: Pleistocene fossils from Japan show that the recently extinct Spectacled Cormorant (Phalacrocorax perspicillatus) was a relict by J. Watanabe, H. Matsuoka, and Y. Hasegawa, The Auk: Ornithological Advances 135:4, October 2018.

Live reconstruction of the Spectacled Cormorant from study skins. Artwork by Joseph Wolf, from Elliott (1869), The New and Heretofore Unfigured Species of the Birds of North America, Volume 2.

Numerous extinction events have taken place in geologically recent time, caused to varying degrees by human activity. Although relatively much is known about how humans have given “final blows” to animal species in recent history, little is known about the long-term biogeographic and evolutionary history of extinct animals. This is where archaeological and fossil records play crucial roles. One of the most (in)famous examples of historic extinctions is the case of the Great Auk, which was once widespread in the North Atlantic Ocean but was driven to extinction in the mid-19th century due to hunting by humans. There is one potential parallel, though less widely known, in the North Pacific Ocean; a large seabird species called Spectacled Cormorant (Phalacrocorax perspicillatus) was driven to extinction almost contemporaneously. This species was first discovered in the 18th century on Bering Island, part of the Commander Islands, by German explorer Georg Steller, who became the only naturalist to observe the birds in life. Following the colonization of the island by humans in the early 19th century, this species was hunted by humans, and it was driven to extinction in the 1850s. As there has been no record of the species outside Bering Island, it is considered to have been restricted to the island throughout its existence. Our new study in The Auk: Ornithological Advances, however, reports the first definitive record of the cormorant species outside Bering Island, demonstrating that the species was in fact not restricted to the island in the past.

Through our study of Japanese fossil birds, my colleagues and I identified 13 fossil bones of the Spectacled Cormorant from upper Pleistocene deposits (dated ~120,000 years ago) in Japan. The fossil bones were recovered from Shiriya, northeastern Japan, through excavations led by my co-author Yoshikazu Hasegawa of the Gunma Museum of Natural History. Through detailed examination of the bird fossils from the site, it became evident that a cormorant species much larger than any of the four native cormorant species in present-day Japan was represented in the material. At first, we suspected the presence of a new species, but this turned out not to be the case. Through a literature survey, I came across a 19th-century paper by American ornithologists Leonhard Stejneger and Frederic Lucas that described bones of the Spectacled Cormorant collected on Bering Island. The dimensions and illustrations given in the paper were strikingly similar to the Japanese fossils. I decided to visit the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., where the bones described by Stejneger and Lucas are stored. After careful examination, the Japanese fossils turned out to agree in every detail with bones of the Spectacled Cormorant from Bering Island, rather than with any other species compared, to the extent that I was convinced that the Japanese fossils belong to the same species as the Bering Island bones.

The occurrence of the Spectacled Cormorant from Japan is the first definitive record of this species outside Bering Island and indicates that the species underwent a drastic range contraction or shift since the Pleistocene. In other words, the population of this species on Bering Island discovered by Steller was in fact a relict, with most of the species’ past distribution already lost. Changes in oceanographic conditions might be responsible for the local disappearance of the species in Japan; paleoclimate studies have shown that the oceanic productivity around Shiriya dropped drastically in the Last Glacial Maximum (~20,000 years ago), which would have seriously affected the population of the species. Although it might be possible that hunting of that species by humans took place in prehistoric Japan, no archaeological evidence for that is known so far. The entire picture of the recent extinction event of the Spectacled Cormorant might be more complex than previously thought, as is becoming evident for some other extinct seabirds in other parts of the world.

Further reading

Fuller, E. (2001). Extinct Birds, revised edition. Cornell University Press, New York, NY.

Hume, J. P. (2017). Extinct Birds, 2nd edn. Bloomsbury Natural History, London.

If you build it, the birds will come—if it meets their criteria

Research From The Auk and The Condor - Wed, 07/11/2018 - 09:49

California Gnatcatchers need more than just the right vegetation. Photo credit: A. Fisher

A study published in The Condor: Ornithological Applications presents a case study on how bird surveys can better inform conservation and vegetation restoration efforts. Previous conservation methods have emphasized plants as the key to recreating habitat preferred by a sensitive animal. However, this study shows that there’s more to the coastal sagebrush habitat of California Gnatcatchers than just having the right plants present. Abiotic components such as topography and soil are important drivers of the biotic components, including plants, which pair together to make the complete ecosystem these birds need. Given this more complete perspective, future conservation efforts would be wise to consider all of the variables that make up an animal’s habitat.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Clark Winchell and Colorado State University’s Paul F. Doherty, Jr., set out to find a way to improve the traditional “single-species-oriented” conservation plan. They used bird survey data to more accurately identify favorable habitat for California Gnatcatcher occupancy and discovered that as the ratio of coastal sagebrush increased from 10% to 40%, the probability of colonization and presence of these birds tripled. The amount of openness in the sagebrush habitat also correlated with the birds’ occupancy probability (30-40% openness was ideal for the birds). Elevation and soil texture also influenced suitable habitat, with lower elevations and loam or sandy loam soils most preferred. Winchell and Doherty also found that the gnatcatchers preferred southern aspects, shallow slopes, and inland areas over other options. Being so detailed and using such a fine scale allowed more specific areas to be identified as suitable for gnatcatchers. Thorough research such as this will better aid conservation efforts, both by informing where restoration might be most successful and by providing restoration targets.

Winchell comments, “Restoration ecologists are generally not gnatcatcher biologists, and vice versa. Sometimes we tend to place restoration projects where land becomes available after political negotiations. We may want to consider what is that parcel of land trying to tell us—what does the land want to be, so to speak—versus assuming we can dictate the final outcome for a location. Considering the entire functionality of the surrounding ecosystem, including the physical components, the biological community, and understanding the dynamism of the ecosystem will lead to improved restoration and wildlife management outcomes and our study is one small step in that direction.”

These results correlating soil, vegetation, and gnatcatcher occupancy harken back to lessons that Aldo Leopold taught us—namely, to start with the land and work with the land when managing wildlife. Leopold’s holistic approach to conservation included the soils, waters, plants, and animals and is still relevant today.

Restoring habitat for coastal California gnatcatchers (Polioptila californica californica) is available at

About the journal: The Condor: Ornithological Applications is a peer-reviewed, international journal of ornithology, published by the American Ornithological Society. For the past two years, The Condor has had the number one impact factor among 27 ornithology journals.

Rainy weather predicts bird distribution—but climate change could disrupt it

Research From The Auk and The Condor - Wed, 07/11/2018 - 09:45

Precipitation is the best predictor of Eastern Kingbirds’ winter distribution. Image credit: M. MacPherson

Understanding what environmental cues birds use to time their annual migrations and decide where to settle is crucial for predicting how they’ll be affected by a shifting climate. A new study from The Auk: Ornithological Advances shows that for two species of flycatcher, one of the key factors is rain—the more precipitation an area receives, the more likely the birds are to be there during the non-breeding season.

Tulane University’s Maggie MacPherson and her colleagues combined field techniques with species distribution models to investigate which environmental factors drove the migrations of Eastern Kingbirds and Fork-tailed Flycatchers. Using geolocators, devices that record a bird’s daily location based on day length, they could track where individuals of each species went. The two species share similar behavior and habitat requirements, but differ in their range and migration strategies, and these strategies were compared to determine the influence of temperature, precipitation, and primary productivity (the amount of “green” vegetation). Precipitation turned out to be one of the most important predictors of their distribution, particularly in the non-breeding season.

MacPherson comments, “Although we understand how climate change is expected to affect regional temperature regimes, changes in patterns of seasonal precipitation remains unclear. As the locations of both species were positively correlated with the highest rainfall across the landscape during their non-breeding seasons, our research emphasizes the need for a better understanding of how flexible they may be in adjusting locations under new rainfall regimes. More research is needed to better understand how migratory birds relying on current rainfall regimes could benefit from climate-conscious conservation planning.”

“In the face of climate change, having seasonal species distribution models like these is powerful for helping understand the biology of the species, and also for predicting how a population might change in size and geography in the future, or a species’ flexibility to adjust its migratory timing,” adds Mississippi State University’s Auriel Fournier, an expert on species distribution models who was not involved in the study. “All of those predictions are vital for conservation planning and decision making. The use of two related species with different life history traits is also exciting, as it makes the results more broadly applicable.”

Follow the rain? Environmental drivers of Tyrannus flycatcher migration across the New World is available at

About the journal: The Auk: Ornithological Advances is a peer-reviewed, international journal of ornithology published by the American Ornithological Society. The Auk commenced publication in 1884, and in 2009 was honored as one of the 100 most influential journals of biology and medicine over the past 100 years.

Backyard Butterfly Gardens: Nature’s Rest Stops

All About Birds - Tue, 07/10/2018 - 09:50

Backyard Butterfly Gardens: Nature’s Rest Stops
Becca Rodomsky-Bish July 10, 2018
Native Plants Other Wildlife Pollinators Butterflies
Butterflies are beautiful backyard visitors. Below, use Habitat Network’s resources to discover ways you can support butterflies and connect to other citizen scientists who are providing habitat for these important pollinators.

From left to right: Baltimore checkerspot (Euphydryas phaeton); cloudless sulphur (Phoebis sennae), Texas; red admiral (Vanessa atalanta) Illinois.
Butterfly collage 1
The following are a list of articles relevant to butterflies and creating habitat for them. Click on the titles of interest to read more.

Pollinator Garden Plants & Practices
The Wildlife Value of A Messy Garden
Removing Lawn to Make Way for More Habitat
Support Pollinators: A Goal for Your Site?
Native Landscaping Makes Sense
Native Flowerbeds
10 Cheap Ways to Source Native Seeds & Plants
Gardening to Support Seasonal Migrations of Insects
A Monarch Butterfly Overview
Habitat Feature: Milkweeds
Nativars (Native Cultivars): What We Know & Recommend
Effective and Safe Alternatives to Insecticides
Habitat Feature: Making Mud
Leaf “Litter”
Top Five Great Berries for the Great Birds of Your Region
Encouraging Beneficial Insects Pays Off
From left to right: orange sulphur (Colias eurytheme), Nebraska; eastern tailed blue (Cupido comyntas), Indiana; American painted lady (Vanessa virginiensis).
Butterfly collage2
Planning Tool: Once you create an account with Habitat Network and start mapping, our Planning Tool will analyze your map and help guide you in meeting goals (like Supporting Pollinators). The tool will tell you what you are already doing for pollinators and provide you with ideas of other actions to take, or habitat features to add to improve your efforts.

Local Resources: If you live in the United States, on the Local Resources Page, you can type in your zip code and receive immediate information on your ecoregion. The tool also presents you with a pollinator planting guide that has information on native plants to consider having in your landscape to support the butterflies that depend on them. If you live in Canada, go directly to the Pollinator Partnership Planting Guides and type in the first three digits of your zip code.

Engage with maps: Using our mapping tool, you can identify maps that have essential, regional, host plants for butterflies. Many butterflies have co-evolved with native plants and use only a certain species or family of plants for laying their eggs. For example, spicebush swallowtail (Papilio troilus) requires a member of the Lindera genus, or spicebush shrub for reproduction. Pictured above is a map in Connecticut that has identified spicebush as one of the plants in their landscape, thus they are likely to receive a visit from beautiful spicebush swallowtails.

Pollinator Group on Habitat Network: Consider joining +100 other mappers from all over the United States and Canada who are interested in creating habitat for pollinators. This group will help answer questions and provide ideas for your pollinator gardens. You can also view the maps of others who have pollinator gardens. To join a group on Habitat Network, you must create a map first.
Join Pollinator Group

Pictured is a Habitat Network map that has Allegheny monkeyflower (Mimulus ringens), which is a host plant for the caterpillar of the common buckeye butterfly (Junonia coenia).
Common Buckeye
Pollinator Group on Facebook: During the spring of 2018, Habitat Network ran a campaign to encourage people to create pollinator gardens. As a part of this campaign we created what has become a very active group (+1,200 members) on Facebook called Pitch in a Patch for Pollinators. If you are looking for inspiration, consider joining this Facebook group of people from all over the United States and Canada who are creating habitat for pollinators.
Join Facebook Group

Planting for butterflies is a FUN & REWARDING challenge!
Let Habitat Network help guide and inspire you on how to create habitat for these important pollinators.

Piping Plovers want people to get off their lawn

Research From The Auk and The Condor - Wed, 07/04/2018 - 09:26

Banded Piping Plover in non-breeding plumage (Photo Credit: Kelley Luikey)

A new study in The Condor: Ornithological Applications presents negative associations between anthropogenic disturbance (human recreational use of beaches, coastal modifications) and Piping Plovers on their non-breeding grounds. Shorebirds are one of the most threatened bird families in the world. Numerous studies have shown the negative impacts of humans on these birds, whether it be large-scale (e.g., habitat loss, climate change) or small-scale (e.g., ATV use, running with pets, flying kites). This research indicates that there are direct consequences of disturbance. Most Piping Plover research has focused on the breeding season in an attempt to directly influence population numbers, however this study argues that efforts are required throughout the year in all locations to assist Piping Plover conservation.

Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University’s Dan Gibson and colleagues monitored Piping Plovers year-round to determine the health and behavior of individuals. Body condition, survival, and site fidelity were of most interest. Plovers in disturbed areas proved to be significantly lighter in mass, due to the birds not procuring enough food. Given poorer body condition, it should be no surprise that birds in these disturbed areas also had lower survival rates. Piping plovers have strong site fidelity on the breeding grounds and this study supports that fidelity continues on the non-breeding grounds. While physically capable of changing location, it was not common for individuals to do so even if there was a high level of disturbance. The lack of movement by disturbed individuals suggests that aspects of the species’ life history (i.e. fidelity) constrained individuals to make seemingly adaptive habitat-use decisions. Some of the strategies used on the breeding grounds (reduced human recreation, roped-off areas, no dogs on beaches) may be beneficial to also do on the non-breeding grounds to ensure year-round conservation and oversight on this threatened shorebird species.

Lead author Dan Gibson comments, “We have a lot of of opportunity to engage with the public in what exactly our research is about. We often try to stress that the impact an individual recreationist has on a shorebird is practically non-existent. However, if every person who uses a beach in a given day influences how these shorebirds feed or rest, those minute impacts can begin to add up over the course of a season that can manifest itself as reductions in individual body condition and ultimately their ability to withstand bad weather conditions or successfully migrate and find a mate. We try to stress that small changes in how we use a beach (e.g., keep dogs on leash, avoid running through groups of birds) can really add up to substantial improvements in the overall quality of coastal habitat for shorebirds.”

“This study availed itself of a unique resource that range-wide banding efforts have provided for the study of the demographics of the endangered piping plover,” adds College of Environmental Science and Forestry Associate Professor Jonathan Cohen, a shorebird expert who was not involved with the research, “and successfully attempted the difficult task of teasing out the sometimes subtle effect of disturbance in nonbreeding areas on annual vital rates.  The finding that this endangered species may not readily abandon habitat that is detrimental for fitness was surprising, and warrants immediate attention from the conservation community.”


Impacts of anthropogenic disturbance on a non-breeding shorebird’s body condition, survival, and site fidelity is available at

About the journal: The Condor: Ornithological Applications is a peer-reviewed, international journal of ornithology published by the American Ornithological Society. The journal began in 1899, and in 2016 The Condor had the number one impact factor among 24 ornithology journals.

Crows are always the bullies when it comes to fighting with ravens

Research From The Auk and The Condor - Wed, 07/04/2018 - 09:25

Three Crows (left) versus one Raven (right) (Photo credit: PhillipKrzeminski)

A study from The Auk: Ornithological Advances presents citizen science data which supports that American Crows and Northwestern Crows almost exclusively (97% of the time) instigate any aggressive interactions with Common Ravens no matter where in North America. The data showed that aggression by crows was most frequent during the breeding season, most likely due to nest predation by ravens. This study not only gives insight into interspecies dynamics, but also how citizen science data can aid behavioral studies at large geographic scales.

Cornell University’s Ben Freeman and colleagues used more than 2,000 publicly collected and submitted observations from across North America via eBird to analyze the interspecific aggression between crows (American and Northwestern) and Common Ravens. From these records, it was determined that crows were the predominant aggressor. Crows primarily attacked in small groups rather than one-on-one confrontations with ravens. The breeding season was when most of the attack observations were made, suggesting that nest predation by ravens influences this behavior. Aggression during the winter is potentially explained by crows preemptively deterring nest predation and defending resources needed for nesting later in the year. This study was made possible by citizen scientists who were not even asked to submit such observations. Given this was passively collected data that aided in a behavioral study on a large geographic area, it could act as a model for other research and potential studies conducted.

Lead author Ben Freeman comments, “There are two take-home messages. First, we show that bigger birds do not always dominate smaller birds in aggressive interactions, and that social behavior may allow smaller birds to chase off larger birds. Second, this is a case example of the power of citizen science. It would be next to impossible for even the most dedicated researcher to gather this data across North America. But because there are thousands of people with expertise in bird identification and an interest in bird behavior, we can use data from eBird to study behavioral interactions on a continental scale.”

“Given that aggression between crows and ravens can be quite conspicuous, birders and the general public are often the observers of such interactions,” adds Kaeli Swift of the University of Washington, who was not involved with the research, “yet despite the ease and frequency of witnessing these events, there was little scientific information for curious minds to turn to for explanation. It’s quite rewarding then, that the citizen scientists that may have wished for this information are the very people whose observations made this publication possible.


Why do crows attack ravens? The role of predation threat, resource competition and social behavior is available at

About the journal: The Auk: Ornithological Advances is a peer-reviewed, international journal of ornithology published by the American Ornithological Society. The Auk commenced publication in 1884, and in 2009 was honored as one of the 100 most influential journals of biology and medicine over the past 100 years.

To help save Northern Spotted Owls, we need to prevent kissing cousins

Research From The Auk and The Condor - Wed, 07/04/2018 - 09:25

Spotted Owl (Photo Credit: Alan Dyck)

The Auk: Ornithological Advances presents a study on a Northern Spotted Owl pedigree, consisting of almost 14,200 individuals over 30 years, which determined inbreeding varies across the species’ range. Selection against inbreeding based on decreased future reproduction, fewer offspring, and overall survival of individuals was also supported. These results indicate that Spotted Owl conservation efforts need to address owl breeding more. Another implication of this work is the need to increase genetic diversity to prevent further population decline.

Mark Miller of the United States Geological Survey (USGS) Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center, and colleagues employed field and statistical methods to create a family tree for Northern Spotted Owls living in California, Oregon, and Washington. From this, the researchers determined how often inbreeding occurs in the wild for these birds. Fourteen types of matings among relatives were determined with most inbreeding relationships being between half or full siblings. It was discovered that inbreeding is most common in the Washington Cascades (~15% of individuals are inbred), while the lowest inbred population was Northern California (~2.7% of individuals). The explanation for this geographic variation may be the rate at which specific populations are declining and experiencing bottlenecks. Conservation efforts are vital today given that Northern Spotted Owls are already facing habitat loss and competition with a similar species, the Barred Owl. This study showed that both the physical consequences of inbreeding (physical deformities, reduced ability to adapt) and the reproductive fitness of individual birds (infertility, future reproduction, decreased survival) need to be taken into account since both influence this species’ success. Translocating birds among populations to help increase the genetic diversity may be a potential management strategy.

Lead author Mark Miller comments, “Long-term studies, similar to the one described in this paper, are key to understanding how common or rare inbreeding is in natural populations. An understanding of the extent of inbreeding can help resource managers better identify appropriate measures to conserve threatened and endangered species.”


Variation in inbreeding rates across the range of Northern Spotted Owls (Strix occidentalis caurina): Insights from over 30 years of monitoring data is available at

About the journal: The Auk: Ornithological Advances is a peer-reviewed, international journal of ornithology published by the American Ornithological Society. The Auk commenced publication in 1884, and in 2009 was honored as one of the 100 most influential journals of biology and medicine over the past 100 years.

Crows Have a Mob Mentality Toward Ravens

All About Birds - Wed, 07/04/2018 - 06:47
American Crows may not literally stack up against Common Ravens, but they do stack up in numbers before mobbing the larger bird. Illustration by Cornell Lab Bartels Science Illustrator Phillip Krzeminski. hbspt.cta.load(95627, 'a8fe3c9a-217b-40fd-b1ff-2bb76ebe2cf3', {}); --> hbspt.cta.load(95627, '394b2cc2-4447-4677-b18b-d2f2de5b57cd', {}); -->

When species come into conflict, as birds so often do, we learn a lot about the way the world works by studying where, when, and how these interactions play out in nature’s arena.

“In nature, when you look at aggressive interactions between species, usually the big guys beat up on the smaller guys,” notes Ben Freeman, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, and a former Cornell graduate student. “But I’ve personally witnessed 17 encounters between crows and ravens and in every case I saw multiple crows harassing a single raven, even though a raven is two to three times heavier than a crow.”

Freeman wondered if the flip-flop he witnessed in the crow-raven dynamic would hold true at a much larger geographical scale and if he could determine what motivated crows to take on the bigger bird. Freeman turned to a surprising source of untapped behavioral information—the voluntary species comments entered on checklists submitted to the Lab’s eBird program. The results from this analysis were published today in The Auk: Ornithological Advances.

First, Freeman downloaded all North American crow and raven reports to eBird from areas where both species occur (American and Northwestern Crows were lumped together for the study). Of those reports, more than 307,000 contained comments. Checklists that did not specifically name both species, did not describe an interaction, and did not clearly state which species was the aggressor and which the target of the aggression were filtered out. In the end, more than 2,000 observations remained for analysis. Statistical methods were used to “normalize” the data so it would not be affected by the fact that birders typically spend more time watching birds at certain times of the year, which would otherwise produce biased monthly sample sizes. The data showed that crows were nearly always the aggressors during encounters with ravens—but only if crows had the edge in numbers.

More than 2,000 eBird observations showed that crows were nearly always the aggressors during encounters with ravens—but only if crows had the edge in numbers. Listen to Mobbing Crows Media Player Error
Update your browser or Flash plugin Mobbing calls from a large flock of American Crows. From Cornell Guide to Bird Sounds: Master Set for North America by Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

“In the comment descriptions we used, bird watchers noted that crows usually did not take on a raven one-to-one,” says study coauthor Eliot Miller, a postdoctoral researcher at the Cornell Lab. “Instead, multiple crows would gang up, cawing loudly, to harass a single raven, a familiar behavior called ‘mobbing.’ What’s new here is that our extracted eBird behavioral data show that when there are chases between crows and ravens, 97 percent of the time it is crows chasing ravens, not the other way around, a much higher rate than we expected.”

According to behavioral comments on eBird checklists, crows most commonly mobbed ravens during the crow breeding season (March–May), but also attacked ravens during all other months. The raw numbers of crow attacks on ravens are given above the bars. In their analysis, the researchers statistically offset the differing amounts of time people spend watching birds throughout the year. View larger.

Though previous behavioral studies have shown bigger birds usually have the upper hand during feeder interactions, it’s also clear that having a mob mentality can upend the size dominance hierarchy.

Crows may do the mobbing or be mobbed in turn by other smaller birds they prey upon. In this case, the fact that crows are very social and can join forces in a mob seems to work in their favor. Ravens are much more solitary. Mobbing is a common behavior among many species of birds because it levels the playing field just a bit for the little guys. There is usually no physical contact.

Five crows mob a Common Raven (far left). Photo by Kevin McGowan.

Freeman and Miller also found a seasonal spike in crows harassing ravens. Though the two species carry a grudge year-round, the data showed crows mobbed ravens more often during the crow breeding season from March through May—a bump in aggression that may also be influenced by changing hormone levels. During the 3 months of the crow breeding season, eBirders made note of nearly 1,200 crow mobs going after a raven as compared to just 124 such descriptions during July, August, and September—dropping from an average of 394 mobs per month to a low of 41 per month. Ravens raid crow nests to eat the eggs or young, clearly plenty of motivation for crows to gang up for a raven rout. Freeman and Miller also suggest that higher levels of mobbing during winter months could reflect increased competition for scarcer resources.

The findings raise an obvious question beyond the scope of this study: Do the ravens even care about all this mobbing or is it just a minor annoyance because they’re “too big to fail”? Cornell Lab researcher Kevin McGowan, though not involved with this analysis, has spent 30 years studying American Crows and has seen his fair share of crow-raven encounters.

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“Ravens do respond to the mobbing if the crows are diving at them in flight,” McGowan says. “In fact, the raven will actually do a barrel roll to get out of the way because there’s still a potential danger of being hurt by one of these smaller ‘punks’ diving on you. But if the raven is perched and the crows don’t get too close, the raven doesn’t have much to fear from them. Most of the time, a raven might be annoyed by mobbing crows but just keep on doing what it wants.”

It’s possible that the two species may be coming into contact more often. Ravens are no longer being indiscriminately shot by humans as they were in the past and that may be one reason the species is expanding its range. According to The Second Atlas of Breeding Birds in New York State published in 2008, the Common Raven population increased fivefold during the previous 20 years. There have been similar increases in other Eastern states.

Given their continent-wide distributions, crows and ravens have many opportunities to encounter each other:

eBird reports of American Crow in North America, 2008-2018. See whole map.eBird reports of Common Raven in North America, 2008-2018. See whole map.

After testing this new source of behavioral information from eBird, Freeman and Miller would like to extract observations about other species interactions. For example, as Western Scrub-Jays have expanded northward in the Pacific Northwest, there are reports of very aggressive encounters between the scrub-jays and Steller’s Jays. “Citizen scientists can really tell us a lot about bird interactions and behavior,” says Miller. “We think there’s a lot of potential for future behavior studies on a larger scale.”


B. G. Freeman and E. T. Miller. 2018. Why do crows attack ravens? The roles of predation, resource competition, and social behavior. Auk: Ornithological Advances.

Celebrate July 4th With Our All-“American” Slideshow

All About Birds - Tue, 07/03/2018 - 08:54
Let's kick things off with one of the most beautiful and graceful of all "American" birds. American Avocet by Ilsproat via Birdshare.The American Wigeon is a duck that doesn't quack; instead it has a soft whistling call with a hint of kazoo in it. Photo by Brian Kushner via Birdshare.Similar to a female Mallard but with a purplish wing patch and a greenish-yellow bill, this is our continent's very own American Black Duck. Photo by John Owen via Birdshare.The outrageous color of the American Flamingo makes its own statement. Photo by Jesse Kramer/Macaulay Library.Three cheers for the humble, dependable American Coot. Photo by Tony Clements via Birdshare.With a bill almost as bright as the stripes on the American flag, this is the American Oystercatcher. Photo by Ray Hennessey via Birdshare.This long-distance migrant breeds in Alaska and Canada, but can turn up almost anywhere in the U.S. during migration. American Golden-Plover by Eric Gofreed/Macaulay Library.The American Woodcock delights birders on chilly spring evenings with its peent call and flight display. Photo by Chris Wood/Macaulay Library.Americans are rumored to have voracious appetites, and this one—the American White Pelican—lives up to the hype. Photo by Rick Dunlap via Birdshare.American Bitterns prowl our continent's marshes, staying largely unseen despite being quite common. Photo by Roy DeLonga via Birdshare.This small woodpecker is one of the most powerful of all excavators, able to carve out nest holes in the hardest of trees. American Three-toed Woodpecker by Tim J. Hopwood via Birdshare.These tiny, fierce, colorful falcons are a common sight on telephone wires over much of the continent. American Kestrel by Ken Phenicie Jr. via Birdshare.A bird with prodigious smarts, strong family ties... and a nose for french fries. How much more American could the American Crow be? Photo by Keith Drevecky via Birdshare.A 2-ounce bird that dives into river rapids for its meals, the American Dipper has a unique way of making a living. Photo by Jason Kazuta via Birdshare. Almost as if auguring the outcome of the Revolutionary War, the feisty American Robin outweighs the dainty (and unrelated) European Robin by almost 4 to 1. Photo by B.N. Singh via Birdshare.The American Pipit's range covers all of North America, from the far north of Alaska and Canada in summer to the entire breadth of Mexico in the winter. Photo by David Stephens via Birdshare.This brilliant yellow bird with the "po-ta-to-chip" call is a fitting accompaniment to Fourth of July picnics. American Goldfinch by Linda Petersen via Birdshare.As a New World sparrow that breeds mainly in Canada, the American Tree Sparrow is a good reminder of the full geographic meaning of "America." American Tree Sparrow by Adam Bender via Birdshare.And finally, a bird that seems to be part warbler, part firecracker: the flashy American Redstart. Happy Fourth! Photo by Todd Fellenbaum via Birdshare.PreviousNext hbspt.cta.load(95627, 'a8fe3c9a-217b-40fd-b1ff-2bb76ebe2cf3', {}); --> hbspt.cta.load(95627, '394b2cc2-4447-4677-b18b-d2f2de5b57cd', {}); -->

Every Fourth of July here in the United States, the airwaves, newspapers, and social media channels get covered with Bald Eagles. And while we love that majestic bird and its inspirational conservation comeback, this year we wanted to share the spotlight with some other deserving birds.

It turns out that 19 species in the U.S. and Canada have “American” in their common names. That includes birds as flamboyant as the American Flamingo, as daring as the American Dipper, and as demure as the American Pipit. And of course, there’s the American Redstart, which is about as close to an exploding firecracker as any bird gets. We hope you enjoy this slideshow, and enjoy the Fourth!

Soldadinho-do-Araripe, o guardião das nascentes

All About Birds - Sun, 07/01/2018 - 13:37
More From Living Bird

Da revista Living Bird, edição de primavera 2018.

Para ver um dos achados ornitológicos mais interessantes dos últimos 20 anos, preciso ficar na fila. Na minha frente há um cara de camiseta regata e chinelos de dedo. Atrás, duas mulheres enroladas em toalhas de praia. Com elas, algumas crianças muito animadas, pulando para cima e para baixo, prestes a explodir de impaciência.

Eu estou animado, também, mas não pela mesma razão. Quando o parque aquático abre, às 10h da manhã, passamos pelas catracas e descemos pelo caminho principal. Depois de uma barraca que vende óculos de natação e golfinhos infláveis, a galera de chinelos segue à esquerda, em direção aos toboáguas. Eu quebro à direita, em um caminho vazio, calçado com pedras em meio à mata.

Quase imediatamente, começo a ouvir um chamado curioso vindo das árvores: piii riii, piri-piri. Alberto Campos, o biólogo que me acompanha, sussurra então uma palavra: Soldadinho!

Soldadinho-do-araripe é o nome comum de uma espécie descrita pela primeira vez em uma publicação científica há 20 anos. Rapidamente, entrou para a lista de aves mais procuradas pelos observadores do mundo todo que vêm ao Brasil. Endêmica e isolada, é uma conquista rara para qualquer life list: uma espécie que só pode ser encontrada em um fragmento de mata de 50 km de comprimento no interior do Ceará, no sopé da Chapada do Araripe. O principal atrativo da ave, no entanto, não é sua raridade, mas a sua beleza estonteante.

O macho do soldadinho-do-araripe tem um topete que "brilha como uma lâmpada vermelha".A fêmea do soldadinho exibe cores mais discretas e tem um topete menor.

Outro canto cheio de energia vem das árvores, e a silhueta de um passarinho emerge entre galhos secos. Foco o binóculo em uma ave de plumagem branca reluzente, com um topete de penas vermelho-sangue, lembrando um oficial dos Dragões da Independência em seu uniforme de gala. O soldadinho olha para a esquerda, depois para a direita, me dando a visão do seu perfil e do penacho carmim vivo. Olhar para esse passarinho brilhante é um pouco como mirar o sol: pontinhos vermelhos ficaram estampados em meus olhos mesmo depois da ave ter voado para longe.

Um riacho borbulhante passa ao lado do caminho de pedras. Cerca de 400 m mais à frente, um grotão esconde uma nascente, fonte de água do ecossistema úmido e também do parque aquático mais além. Aqui mora o perigo para o soldadinho e a razão para que ele esteja na lista vermelha de espécies criticamente ameaçadas da IUCN  (União Internacional para a Conservação da Natureza). Tanto o passarinho como as pessoas precisam da água. Os soldadinhos fazem ninho perto dos riachos e vivem em florestas úmidas; pessoas contam com a água para todas as suas atividades – agricultura, saneamento urbano, parques aquáticos.

Mas o sodadinho e as pessoas aqui não são inimigos. Na verdade, o povo local celebra a sua existência: o passarinho pode representar a melhor chance de manter a água fluindo para a população.

As encostas da Chapada do Araripe abrigam um trecho de 50 km de floresta úmida – o único hábitat no planeta para o soldadinho.Listen Ave com crista de fogo

Alberto Campos teve sua própria experiência luminosa com o soldadinho em 2003. Ele dirigiu cerca de oito horas desde Fortaleza, capital do Ceará, para investigar os relatos de que havia sido descoberta uma nova ave na Chapada do Araripe. “A primeira vez que bati os olhos nele… ele brilha, sabe? A crista brilha como uma lâmpada vermelha”, ele lembra. “É uma experiência incrível e inesquecível”.

A primeira vez que bati os olhos nele… ele brilha, sabe? A crista brilha como uma lâmpada vermelha.
~ Alberto Campos

Naquela época, o biólogo havia acabado de fundar, com outros colegas, uma ONG chamada Aquasis, dedicada a proteger animais marinhos, como o peixe-boi e os golfinhos no Nordeste. Agora, uma década e meia depois, Campos me guiava numa incursão de seu grupo de conservação na Chapada do Araripe, a quase 500 km do litoral. Pode parecer estranho que uma ONG marinha tenha se tornado uma das mais ardentes defensoras de um passarinho florestal. Mas a explicação está na biologia da espécie – a ave conta com a água tanto quanto um peixe-boi.

Este video mostra um raro registro do ninho de soldadinho-do-araripe, com a fêmea, toda camuflada, alimentando a prole.

“Nós encontramos ninhos não exatamente na superfície da corrente, mas muito, muito perto, logo acima dela”, diz Campos. Segundo ele, ao longo dos riachos cercados de mata ciliar, o soldadinho constroi os ninhos em forma de uma pequena tigela entre os galhos que pendem à flor d’água.
Além disso, a ave de florestas úmidas vive no bioma da caatinga, uma região semi-árida sete graus ao sul do Equador. Para ser mais preciso, o soldadinho-do-araripe vive num oásis de floresta verde em meio a uma paisagem de arbustos secos e retorcidos na maior parte do ano, em uma região peculiar que se parece com uma floresta úmida de altitude nascendo no meio do sertão.

A água da chuva cai no topo da Chapada do Araripe, se infiltra no solo e se acumula no lençol freático. Então alcança as bordas e ressurge em nascentes nos lados da chapada - um processo que pode levar milhares de anos. Ilustração por Phillip Krzeminski, Bartels Science Illustration. Veja imagem em tamanho maior.

Essa mistura é uma cortesia da chapada, palavra do português ancestral para planalto. O topo da Chapada do Araripe age como um receptor de água de chuva com 1 milhão de hectares: ela se infiltra no chão do planalto é armazenada no lençol freático abaixo. A água então ressurge em centenas de nascentes nos sopés da chapada, permitindo a formação de florestas úmidas. Pode levar milhares de anos para que uma gota de chuva percorra esse caminho, da poeirenta vegetação do topo até as fontes cristalinas nas matas de galeria abaixo.

O soldadinho ocorre apenas nestas florestas úmidas no sopé da Chapada do Araripe, numa área total pouco menor que a do Parque Nacional da Tijuca, na cidade do Rio de Janeiro. Como vive escondido em uma pequena porção de floresta na América do Sul, a espécie só foi descrita para a ciência no apagar das luzes do século XX, embora quase tenha sido descoberta duas vezes antes disso. Em 1860, um zoólogo do Museu Nacional (RJ) coletou 4 mil espécimes de diversos animais numa pesquisa científica na Chapada do Araripe. Esta coleção quase certamente incluía uma pele do soldadinho-do-araripe. Mas hoje esse exemplar descansa no leito do oceano: o barco da expedição sofreu um naufrágio no retorno ao Rio. Muito depois, em 1930, uma equipe alemã de geólogos, entomologistas e ornitólogos fez uma série de coletas pela área. Mas a coleção, depositada na Universidade de Friburgo, na Alemanha, desapareceu após um bombardeio na Segunda Guerra.

Eles alertavam o jovem Francisco … nem deixar o passarinho irritado, pois ele era o dono das águas.

Como costuma ocorrer, o povo local conhecia o passarinho muito antes dos cientistas o descreverem. Um antigo morador do Crato, aos pés da chapada, ainda se lembra dos avisos que recebia quando era um garoto que percorria as florestas com seu facão, na década de 1950. Agora com 77 anos, Francisco Xavier Rodrigues diz que na época os moradores falavam de um passarinho de cabeça vermelha que vivia nos riachos, o galo da nascente. Eles alertavam o jovem Francisco a não atirar na ave com seu bodoque, nem deixar o passarinho irritado, pois ele era o dono das águas. Se o bicho fosse perturbado, eles diziam, as águas parariam de correr.

Os rumores locais sobre um estranho passarinho de topete vermelho atraíram um estudante de biologia chamado Weber de Girão e Silva para a região da chapada em 1996. Ele foi convidado pelo seu professor na Universidade Federal de Pernambuco, Galileu Miranda Coelho, a observar aves nos grotões da floresta. Não havia o parque aquático na época, nem outras contruções ou rodovias, apenas uma trilha de terra ao longo do riacho.

O ornitólogo Weber de Girão Silva mostra o lugar onde descobriu o soldadinho-do-araripe em 1996. Vinte anos atrás a região era toda coberta por mata, mas hoje há um parque aquático no local da descoberta. Na pequena reserva particular em um canto do parque alguns soldadinhos ainda resistem.

“Vamos para o ponto exato”, disse Weber quando me encontra no parque aquático – hoje ele é um ornitólogo de meia idade com os cabelos já ficando grisalhos. Ele pula uma cerca e sobe correndo pela encosta uns 100 metros, até apoiar-se em uma árvore. Um emaranhado de cipós desce em cascata pela rocha atrás dele, em direção ao riacho. Quando ele se apoiou na mesma árvore, duas décadas antes, fez o primeiro avistamento oficial do soldadinho para a ciência – justo o que entrou para a história.

“Nós vimos um passarinho branco voar entre as copas”, Weber se lembra, sobre o dia que mudaria sua vida. “Naquele momento o sol estava atrás da ave e a luz refletida no topete era como uma lâmpada, ou como o fogo. “O Galileu me perguntou: que diabos é isso? E eu respondi: não é um passarinho comum.” Então Weber lançou um olhar para o seu braço: “Eu fico assim, arrepiado, quando conto essa história!”

A notícia da descoberta foi destaque no jornal da cidade, mas a reportagem terminava com uma nota sinistra:

Embora desconhecido da ciência, a espécie já se encontra ameaçada. O lugar onde ela foi encontrada será transformado em um parque aquático, lamenta Galileu.

Lamentar era tudo o que eles podiam fazer. O parque aquático era um projeto do poderoso prefeito local. Ele foi construído em 2000, com a nascente do grotão fornecendo a água para as piscinas e toboáguas.

Weber ainda hoje fica perturbado ao lembrar de como tudo aconteceu, com a construção do parque aquático logo após a descoberta de uma nova espécie de ave. Ele se sentiu impotente para impedir os acontecimentos.

“Eu tinha apenas 20 anos de idade”, ele diz com pesar. “Era uma aposta perdida”.

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Foi Weber quem procurou Alberto Campos na ONG Aquasis e o convidou a incluir o soldadinho-do-araripe no programa de espécies ameaçadas. Depois de ver a ave, Alberto concordou e contratou Weber como ornitólogo-chefe do projeto para salvar a espécie.

Uma grande parte do projeto é a atuação local. A Aquasis realizou diversas consultas públicas sobre a conservação do soldadinho – reuniões que tiveram a participação de representantes do Arajara Park, o parque aquático que surgiu onde o passarinho foi descoberto.

O Arajara é o único de cinco parques aquáticos da região que se envolveu no trabalho com o soldadinho, transformando a trilha para a nascente numa reserva privada e mantendo a vegetação nativa de árvores frutíferas e arbustos, que são vitais na dieta da ave. O parque também adotou o soldadinho como uma de suas atrações, recebendo grupos de observadores e vendendo camisetas com a imagem do passarinho nas lojas de suvenires.

“Se podemos colocar as pessoas em contato com o passarinho, com a natureza, queremos dar a elas essa experiência”, diz Caroline Sambaio Saraiva, filha do falecido criador do parque. Ela atualmente ajuda sua mãe na gestão do Arajara. “Há muitos parques aquáticos no mundo, mas você não pode copiar esta floresta. Penso que os dois podem conviver: o parque aquático e a conservação ambiental”.

“Os ninhos que encontramos não estão exatamente na superfície da corrente, mas muito, muito perto, logo acima dela”, dis o biólogo da Aquasis Alberto Campos. Ele notou que o soldadinho-do-araripe prefere construir o pequeno ninho em forma de cesta entre as folhas e galhos que pendem bem acima dos riachos.As fêmeas chocam e cuidam dos filhotes, enquanto o macho dedica seu tempo a vocalizar para demarcar território - cantando mais de 500 vezes por hora.

Hoje o soldadinho-do-araripe persiste no parque e seu canto alegre é uma prova da capacidade da espécie de se adaptar, desde que as condições do hábitat sejam mantidas. E mesmo Alberto admite que o parque é um bom lugar para ver o passarinho.

“Em outros locais da floresta, o soldadinho fica muito alto, na copa das árvores”, ele diz. “Mas aqui, como as trilhas são elevadas, ele pode ser visto no nível dos olhos. É perfeito para fotos”.

Eu passei a tarde toda me deliciando com os soldadinhos por toda a trilha – até pude ver um deles num galho abaixo da passarela, permitindo observar como o topete vermelho-vivo desce pelas costas – e ouvindo o canto enérgico vindo do topo das árvores. Finalmente vou com Alberto para o restaurante do parque, tomar uma cerveja e comer salgadinhos de queijo. A música alta sacode o lugar, pontuada às vezes pelos gritos felizes das crianças no toboágua.

“Algumas pessoas a favor da conservação queriam remover o parque daqui, mas isso não funciona”, Alberto diz, franzindo a testa. “Mas, se pudéssemos parar a construção de novos parques aquáticos… Uma interdição, nenhum parque a mais, gerenciando os que existem de forma sustentável – poderíamos viver com isso”.

Alberto toma um gole da cerveja e aponta para um garoto descendo um toboágua e saindo pela boca de uma estátua em forma de dinossauro. Ele sorri: “esse parque faz as pessoas felizes”.

Batateiras um dia foi um ribeirão de águas corrente. Hoje é um emaranhado de canos de PVC saindo de velhas cisternas de concreto."As pessoas pegam a água na nascente, pois têm medo de que outros lancem mão", diz o biólogo Alberto Campos, da Aquasis.A área tem um histórico de disputas pela água. Alguns canos são protegidos com arame farpado, para evitar roubos. A água das nascentes é usada tanto para atividades essenciais quanto para a recreação. Aqui uma tubulação traz água para abastecer uma piscina particular.PreviousNext O General diz ao povo, ‘Protejam as águas!’”

Os parques aquáticos não são a maior ameaça ao soldadinho-do-araripe.

Para mostrar o que está drenando a floresta úmida que serve de hábitat para a ave, Alberto me leva ao lugar onde antes ficava a maior fonte de água de toda a chapada, a nascente Batateiras.

Nos anos 1850, Batateiras era um rio pujante. Hoje se transformou em um emaranhado de tubulações de PVC saindo de cisternas de concreto envelhecidas. Alguns canos são marrons, outros azuis, outros pretos. Juntos, eles percorrem um leito seco em direção à cidade do Crato.

A população da cidade do Crato cresceu mais de 30% nas duas últimas décadas. A procura por novas casas incentiva a abertura de novos bairros residenciais na direção da Chapada do Araripe—invadindo o hábitat do soldadinho.

Parece uma instalação em ruínas. Muitos dos canos têm vazamentos; fontes de água em miniatura jorram de pequenos buracos. Muitas das torneiras das cisternas estão travadas com correntes e cadeados.

“Cinquenta anos atrás, havia muitas disputas por água aqui”, diz Alberto. “Pessoas se matavam quando alguém desligava as torneiras”.

Ele caminha entre os canos e se abaixa para um olhar mais atento à maior tubulação, com o diâmetro aproximado de uma bola de sinuca. Depois franze a testa e ajeita o boné branco, que usou durante toda a semana que passamos juntos. Eu sigo outro cano de PVC com os olhos, um bem fino, de cor azul, que se desvia do aglomerado e segue por baixo do portão de uma casa murada ali perto. O muro tem arame farpado e cacos de vidro no topo.

Por trás do muro eu posso ouvir vozes de crianças contando: um, dois três…

Provavelmente são garotos brincando de pique-esconde, talvez com os pais, que só querem garantir água para a família.

Você pode saber quem recebe a água pelo tamanho do cano de PVC. Os tubos maiores vão para os grandes proprietários de terras. Você pode identificar todos os estratos sociais aqui.
~Alberto Campos

“Você pode saber quem recebe a água pelo tamanho do cano de PVC”, diz Alberto, ficando de pé depois de inspecionar o aglomerado. “Os tubos maiores vão para os grandes proprietários de terras e os pequenos seguem para as casas pobres. Você pode identificar todos os estratos sociais aqui”.

Este é o principal adversário de Alberto Campos no trabalho de salvar o soldadinho-do-araripe. E não é tão simples como combater uma única empresa petrolífera, como a que ele derrotou na justiça para proteger o peixe-boi. Em Batateiras e outras nascentes da região da chapada, Alberto e a Aquasis enfrentam questões sociais.

A agricultura usa a maior parte da água disponível na região. Cerca de 70% da demanda por água vem das fazendas, principalmente para irrigação das plantações de banana. O uso doméstico é de cerca de 20% e os 10% restantes vão para empresas, incluindo os parques aquáticos.

Por lei, 20% da água que vem das nascentes deveriam estar fora do alcance da influência humana, correndo livres para permitir benefícios ambientais, como a formação de florestas úmidas e hábitats para a vida selvagem. Mas isso não acontece em muitas das nascentes da Chapada do Araripe – e certamente não é o caso de Batateiras.

José Yarley Brito é o encarregado da água de Batateiras e de outras nascentes da Chapada. Ele é presidente da Sociedade Anônima de Água e Esgoto do Crato, a agência que gerencia o saneamento na cidade. Mas ele prontamente admite que seu papel é proteger a água para o uso das pessoas, não para as florestas ou para as aves.

O co-fundador da Aquasis, Alberto Campos, mostra a nascente Batateiras, cercada de tubulações que levam água até a cidade do Crato. Foto por Gustave Axelson.

“Pela lei, minha prioridade é o fornecimento de água para as pessoas”, diz Yarley. “O passarinho não é prioritário, mas eu me preocupo com ele também”.

O dilema de Yarley é que sua agência foi criada depois que estes emaranhados de canos já tinham raízes nas nascentes de Crato. E, diz Alberto, a agência carece de recursos para regular a aplicação da água.

Ano após ano, há mais e mais pessoas que querem esse recurso. A população de Crato cresceu 34 % nas últimas duas décadas. Yarley encolhe os ombros para o que sua agência pode fazer em face desta crescente base de consumidores de água: “se mais pessoas estão se mudando para novas casas, isso não pode ser interrompido. A única pessoa que pode parar o crescimento populacional no Crato é Deus”.

Através da Chapada do Araripe, as fontes de água não abastecem apenas a cidade do Crato, mas também duas outras cidades vizinhas, a metrópole Fortaleza (a 500 km de distância), e o estado vizinho de Pernambuco (cortesia de empresas privadas que usam caminhões-pipa).

A Aquasis estima que mais de 2 milhões de pessoas dependem das fontes do Araripe para subsistir. E uma crise pode estar surgindo, porque a água está desaparecendo. Ao longo dos últimos 100 anos, centenas de fontes de água da região perderam uma média de 75% da vazão. Batateiras perdeu 36% de seu fluxo de água apenas nos últimos 12 anos.

E, no entanto, Yarley sinceramente acredita que há água suficiente para todos. O problema, diz ele, é que o uso da água não é sustentável. Banana é uma plantação muito exigente, diz Yarley. Ele pensa que se os agricultores mudassem para outras culturas não iriam utilizar tanta água. E mesmo se houver mais e mais pessoas, podemos aprender a ser mais sábios com o recurso.

Neste ponto, Yarley espera que o passarinho que não é sua prioridade possa fazer um favor à agência. Ele espera que a história do soldadinho, um pássaro em extinção totalmente dependente de água corrente, possa mover as pessoas a reconsiderar o uso da água, e abrir suas mentes para uma melhor gestão.

Yarley é um chefe de torcida organizada quanto aos esforços de Aquasis para a conservação do soldadinho.

“Para nós, o passarinho é um mensageiro das nascentes”, diz. “Ele é chamado de soldadinho, mas podemos dar um posto mais alto. Vamos dizer, um general. E o general está dizendo ao povo: ‘Proteja a água!’”.

A Reserva Oásis, mantida pela Aquasis, abriga uma floresta rica em biodiversidade.Apesar da reserva ter sido criada para proteção do soldadinho, seus benefícios para o ecossistema vão além. A reserva abriga mais de 130 espécies de aves, além de mamíferos e répteis. Um sagui-de-tufo-branco na Reserva Oásis. A jararaca - uma das mais conhecidas serpentes dos Neotropicos - fica quase invisível no chão da mata.Uma das diversas espécies de plantas com flores na Reserva Oásis, da Aquasis.Uma samambaia na reserva da Aquasis. PreviousNext Um novo modelo de uso da água traz esperança ao ecossistema

Para que eu tivesse uma experiência mais imersiva com o soldadinho – e mais próxima do mundo real do que a conveniência de um parque de diversões – Alberto organizou uma visita à Reserva Oasis Araripe.

A reserva tem 135 hectares, adquiridos com a ajuda da American Bird Consevancy, entidade norte-americana baseada em Washington. O terreno foi comprado em duas etapas: uma, em 2014, para proteger uma área de reprodução do soldadinho e outra, em 2016, que dobrou o tamanho da reserva. A ONG também cedeu fundos para a substituição do antigo canavial que havia no lugar, com o plantio de 10 mil mudas de árvores nativas. Mais do que uma simples reserva, a Oasis também é um tipo de experimento florestal.

Para um marinheiro de primeira viagem vindo do Hemisfério Norte, a selva dá a sensação de querer matá-lo a todo momento. Jiboias tomam sol na estrada toda esburacada que corta a mata, serpenteando morro acima  em direção à reserva. Uma vez dentro da floresta escura, há diversas árvores com espinhos crescendo no tronco. E mais cobras: ao longo da trilha, uma jararaca – uma das mais venenosas serpentes da América do Sul – estava tão camuflada encolhida entre as raízes de uma árvore que eu nunca a teria visto, até que fosse tarde demais.

Ainda bem que George a viu. George Leandro Barbosa é outro membro da Aquasis que serviu como meu guia durante a visita à Reserva Oasis. É um guia experimentado, que passou algum tempo entre tribos indígenas na Amazônia. E ele também vestia um chapéu branco, desta vez um de tecido, como o usado por pescadores. Quando cheguei à reserva ele checou se as minhas perneiras contra serpentes estavam ajustadas. Então entramos na floresta espessa, com cipós que pendiam da copa das árvores até o chão.

Seguimos por trilhas que correm ao lado das levadas, pequenas valas de irrigação que remontam às plantações de açúcar do século XIX. Um crash do mercado nos anos 80 fez diminuírem muito as plantações de cana na região, mas as levadas ainda conduzem água para os fazendeiros locais.

O biólogo da Aquasis Weber Silva estudou em detalhes o comportamento reprodutivo dos soldadinhos em seu hábitat, a floresta úmida. Ele diz que o topete vermelho do soldadinho macho vem dos pigmentos encontrados nos frutos vermelhos que a ave consome. A plumagem vermelha da cabeça tem um papel importante na seleção sexual. O macho se exibe em poleiros nas aberturas da vegetação, onde raios de sol incidem e "acendem" o topete vermelho-vivo.

Em duas horas de trilha pelas levadas, pude escutar o canto amigável do soldadinho em todos os lugares acima de mim – piii riiii… piri piri! Mas os meus olhos não podiam vê-lo, exceto por pequenos relances de algo branco voando ao longe. A floresta estava repleta de outras aves, no entanto, e muitas surpresas surgiam após uma investigação mais aprofundada. Um olhar atento para uma silhueta que lembrava uma pomba empoleirada revelou um surucuá-de-barriga-vermelha, com sua cabeça de plumagem azul iridescente. O som que vinha da água batendo nas pedras do córrego de repente tomou a forma de um rabo-branco-acanelado, um beija-flor de tamanho grande que mergulhava no ribeirão, subia e parava no ar como um helicóptero gotejante e depois mergulhava de novo, espirrando água para os lados.

Finalmente, vejo um flash branco vindo da ponte suspensa de cipós entre duas árvores. Foco o binóculo rápido o suficiente para ver o topete vermelho de dragão no alto da cabeça de um soldadinho.  Ele vira o corpo no cipoal, ficando de frente para mim e, então – piii riii – outro flash branco vindo de suas asas batendo e ele desaparece. O encontro inteiro não durou mais que cinco segundos.

Não por coincidência, estávamos ao lado de uma pequena elevação ao lado da levada, com arbustos e cipós pendendo sobre ela. Cerca de metade da água que vem das nascentes dentro da reserva segue pela levada para os fazendeiros vizinhos. A outra metade é canalizada.

O plano da Aquasis para a restauração do hábitat do soldadinho inclui plantar árvores ao longo da levada para permitir o aumento do fluxo de água, tornando assim a vegetação mais espessa. Isso pode aumentar a área propícia para o soldadinho em mais de 20 vezes. A ONG também planeja uma reengenharia nas cisternas próximas às nascentes, com um desenho mais moderno e eficiente. “Não teremos mais vazamentos, como em Batateiras”, diz Alberto.

Nós compramos a área para que ela sirva de modelo.
~ Alberto Campos

Ele prevê que o modelo da reserva Oasis, com um melhor gerenciamento das nascentes, irá melhorar o fluxo de água para os habitantes locais. “Podemos ter dispositivos de coleta de água e dispositivos de gestão da água. Acho que vai ser mais eficiente, e eu realmente acredito que podemos ter mais água ao pé da chapada do que temos agora. Isso é algo que iremos provar em talvez três ou quatro anos”.

Em vez de proteger o soldadinho-do-araripe cercando os hábitats da espécie na região, a Aquasis aposta em usar a reserva como um modelo de conservação da água – e por consequência também da conservação da ave.

“Nós não queremos comprar todas as áreas de ocorrência do soldadinho, todas as nascentes, isso seria loucura”, diz Alberto. “Nós compramos a área para que ela sirva de modelo”.

Yarley, da companhia municipal de saneamento, forneceu as licenças para a Aquasis reestuturar as nascentes da reserva Oasis. Ele está ansioso para ver o modelo ter sucesso, com a esperança de que possa levá-lo a outras fontes de água em toda chapada.

O modelo pode ser amplamente adotado,  diz Alberto. Além de ajudar na conservação da água, outro benefício é permitir que o soldadinho e outras aves que comem frutas retomem seus papéis do ecossistema (como a dispersão de sementes) e colaborem a manter as florestas úmidas. Mais matas de galeria melhorariam a retenção de água em todo o planalto, ajudando também a manter o fluxo nas nascentes.

É por isso que as pessoas que há décadas alertavam os meninos a não atirar nos passarinhos de cabeça vermelha estavam certas. O soldadinho-do-araripe é o guardião da água.

“O que fazer quando a sua área de estudo é inteiramente queimada?”, perguntou a pesquisadora Milene Gaiotti, após um incêndio florestal em 2015. Pequenas vitórias, grandes contratempos

Milene Gaiotti não compartilha o entusiasmo e o otimismo de Alberto Campos e o pessoal da Aquasis. Pesquisadora da Universidade de Brasília que estudou a genética e as estratégias de conservação do soldadinho-do-araripe por mais de sete anos, Milena tem visto tantos locais de pesquisa destruídos que fica difícil ter muita esperança com relação ao futuro da espécie.

Em novembro de 2015, ela chegou à sua melhor área de pesquisa – uma nascente onde ela havia anilhado mais de 200 soldadinhos – e encontrou a mata pegando fogo.

“Os soldadinhos adoravam tomar banho por lá”, ela diz.

Um fazendeiro vizinho havia posto fogo para “limpar” uma área, mas o incêndio saiu de controle e atingiu boa parte da encosta. Milena não pôde fazer nada a não ser veu seu campo de pesquisa queimando. Ela desabafou em um post no facebook aquela noite:

É com lágrimas nos olhos que escrevo isso… eu encontrei os brigadistas agora, e são apenas seis. SEIS pessoas com baldes para controlar um grande incêndio… eu estou devastada!

Em toda a área de ocorrência do soldadinho-do-araripe – ao longo de apenas 50 km de encosta da chapada, onde a maioria da cobertura de floresta está sendo desmatada ou secando – a população total da espécie é estimada em menos de 800 indivíduos. Os dados se baseiam em pesquisas do Programa de Prevenção às Extinções da Birdlife International, conduzidas por Weber Silva, da Aquasis, entre em 2015 e 2016. A pesquisa apontou uma diminuição de 12% na população de soldadinhos na comparação com pesquisas realizadas apenas dois anos antes.

Indo fundo na pesquisa de Weber, o declínio de cada nascente onde o soldadinho se reproduz é uma conta no rosário de ameaças à espécie. O número de aves em um dos locais estudados caiu de 27 para 20 graças ao fogo, outro foi de 21 para 15 após a abertura de um condomínio e um terceiro caiu de cinco para apenas dois indivíduos após a instalação de novas tubulações que drenam a nascente.

O desmatamento para a agricultura é uma das várias ameaças ao hábitat do soldadinho. Muitas vezes o desmatamento é feito através de queimadas que saem do controle, atingindo uma área muito maior do que a prevista para a criação de gado ou plantações.

A ameaça mais imediata ao soldadinho hoje, de acordo com Milena e Weber, é o vazio que está se formando bem no meio da área de ocorrência da espécie. Há quatro nascentes neste espaço, mas a área foi degradada pela abertura de pasto para o gado e pela coleta de água para abastecimento. Apenas uma população de soldadinhos vive nesta faixa de 8 km de extensão. Se este grupo desaparecer, a distribuição comtígua na área será cortada em duas, com as populações das extremidades correndo o risco de ficar geneticamente isoladas – o que acelera a possibilidade de extinção.

A Aquasis está respondendo a essas ameaças da maneira que pode e consegue. Contratou brigadistas para ajudar os bombeiros locais. Realiza campanhas de conscientização em comunidades próximas à Chapada do Araripe e consulta com proprietários de terras para conquistar áreas de proteção para os soldadinhos. Quase todas as semanas, Alberto e Weber se reúnem com algum funcionário de governo (em várias esferas de poder) sobre a situação de conservação do soldadinho, um lobby contínuo para conseguir ajuda, mesmo que às vezes isso pareça não trazer grandes avanços.

Houve pequenas vitórias na relação com os governos, embora seguidas de grandes contratempos. Em 2007 a Aquasis realizou pesquisas de hábitat em toda a Chapada do Araripe e apresentou mapas e uma proposta aos líderes governamentais para proteger totalmente as encostas. O plano obteve rapida aprovação nos níveis local e estadual e parecia que iria resultar na criação de uma área totalmente protegida pelo Ministério do Meio Ambiente naquela época. Mas então sobreveio uma crise econômica, seguida pela troca de governo e o plano da Aquasis foi por água abaixo.

Foi essa experiência desanimadora que levou a ONG a mudar de estratégia e criar a Reserva Oasis como um modelo. Mas alguns vizinhos são resistentes à mudança

O lugar pode ser perigoso, violento. Masé por isso que estamos aqui.
~Weber Silva

Após a compra da reserva, Weber traçou um plano de renovar as cisternas nas nascentes e distribuir de modo mais eficiente a água através das levadas. Ele começou o trabalho construindo um pequeno projeto piloto, um novo sistema de tubos para alimentar apenas uma das levadas. Depois de pronto, não demorou para que o sistema fosse destruído e os canos, arrancados.

Silva procurou nas fazendas vizinhas por alguém que pudesse empregar para ajudar com o projeto-piloto. Com isso, se espalhou a notícia de que a Aquasis estava tentando mudar o sistema de abastecimento de água por ali. Seja quem for o responsável por destruir os canos, nem mesmo deu chance de ver se o projeto iria funcionar, para o bem o para o mal. Destruíram a ideia antes dela ter tempo de prosperar.

Enquanto Weber verificava os canos arrebentados, o trabalhador contratado disse que ele era um homem de sorte. E contou que, quando criança, ele viu o pai recuar sob a mira de uma arma durante uma disputa pela água.

“O lugar pode ser perigoso, violento”, Silva diz com um suspiro desanimado, enquanto me conta essa experiência. “Mas…”, falou, cravando os olhos em mim, “é por isso que estamos aqui”.

Grafite que homenageia o soldadnho-do-araripe em um muro da periferia, na cidade do Crato. Um espírito com cabeça de fogo se torna uma celebridade local

Em minha última tarde no Crato, vou à cidade provar uma feijoada. Enquanto cruzo a praça central em busca do restaurante, percebo que há soldadinhos-do-araripe por toda parte.

Uma ave de cerâmica como enfeite na porta da sorveteria. Um adesivo com o soldadinho colado no vidro de um táxi parado no ponto. Uma pintura mural como tributo à espécie na fachada de uma lanchonete.

Dez anos atrás a Aquasis lançou uma campanha de relações públicas para estimular o orgulho local pelo soldadinho. A secretaria de turismo da cidade encampou a ideia e tornou a ave um símbolo oficial da cultura do Crato. Agora o espírito das nascentes de água da chapada, com seu topete de fogo, voa nas canções que se ouvem nas ruas e na arte urbana dos muros da cidade. Uma fotografia do soldadinho foi pirateada e apareceu até mesmo em um outdoor que anunciava a construção de um condomínio – justamente o tipo de empreendimento que ameaça o hábitat da ave.

A rua Soldadinho-do-Araripe é outra referência à espécie que virou símbolo da cidade. Foto por Helio Filho.The Soldadinho do Araripe is a muO soldadinho-do-araripe é hoje um símbolo para a cultura caririense, uma inspiração para os artistas que valorizam a região do Crato. Foto por Helio Filho.O soldadinho pode ser visto por toda a cidade, em adesivos nos táxis e na arte popular exposta nos muros e paredes. Foto por Helio Filho.O proprietário de uma das casas decorou o número de sua residência com o mosaico de um soldadinho. Foto por Helio Filho.PreviousNext

Alberto Campos reconhece que há um descompasso entre o conhecimento sobre o soldadinho e as ações práticas da população para preservá-lo.

“Há dez anos, ninguém sabia o que era o soldadinho-do-araripe. Agora é uma celebridade local”, ele diz. Mas se levou dez anos para as pessoas conhecerem a ave, serão mais dez anos para convencê-las a mudar o comportamento e a preservar de verdade as nascentes e a floresta”.

E assim a vida segue para Campos, que conclui: “Eu era um biólogo, depois virei um biólogo conservacionista. Agora eu me sinto como um cientista político”.

Seu colega Weber Silva já participou de 10 comissões de planejamento, em diversas jurisdições. Ele continua a viajar a Brasília regularmente, desde que recomeçou as conversas sobre a criação de um parque nacional na Chapada do Araripe.

À esquerda do soldadinho, as palavras escritas com spray fazem uma defesa da conservação. Foto por Helio Filho.

Na cidade do Crato, há um novo prefeito. A Aquasis, junto com Yarley Brito, da companhia de saneamento, trabalha junto com o novo Secretário de Meio-Ambiente da cidade para criar uma área municipal de proteção, que incluiria 40% da população atual de soldadinhos. O secretário também concordou em aumentar a brigada de incêndio e reavaliar a política da cidade para o uso de cisternas e tubulações nas nascentes.

Alberto é cauteloso: “eu não acredito muito nas promessas dos políticos”.

Weber ainda não está contente: “Tudo o que fizemos até agora eu considero um grande trabalho, mas ainda não é o suficiente para livrar a espécie da extinção nos próximos 15 anos. Acredito que é possível salvá-la, mas vai ser necessário trabalhar o dobro.

Em dezembro de 2017, Weber comemorou o vigésimo-primeiro aniversário do dia em que ele descobriu o soldadinho-do-araripe para a ciência. Ele completou 42 anos e tem trabalhado todos os dias para salvar o soldadinho desde o primeiro dia em que viu o topete de fogo brilhante voando, o que significa metade de sua vida. Ele é um homem assombrado pelo passado, que se sente compelido a fazer um futuro melhor para o soldadinho.

“Uma vez me perguntaram se eu me sentia especial ou predestinado por ter descoberto uma nova espécie”, ele diz. “É bem o oposto. Eu tenho perguntado a mim mesmo: ‘O que eu tenho de fazer para fazer valer esta honra, para merecer ter descoberto o soldadinho?’”.

Perspective: Let’s Start Teaching Ornithology in High School

All About Birds - Sun, 07/01/2018 - 11:02
Public high school students in Jeff R. Manker’s yearlong ornithology class study American Robins near the top of a redwood tree. Photo by Jeff R. Manker.

Note: This article first appeared in Birding, the magazine of the American Birding Association. It’s reprinted here with permission.

It is the oft-stated goal of the American Birding Association to bring more birders into the ranks. The purpose is ultimately to find more people to advocate for conservation, which saves more birds, which in turn leaves us with more birds to watch. This is a goal I support as well.

Birders of a certain age may remember the Uncle Sam “I Want You for U.S. Army” posters. That campaign effectively brought shy recruits out of the shadows and into the induction centers. Instead of going directly to the average man or woman on the street with posters to enlist birders, I believe there is another way: education.

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I believe ornithology should be taught in U.S. high schools because I believe high school ornithology can save the world. (I do not mean to exclude ABA educators and students from Canada; I am simply limiting my comments to my own country, the one I know best.) I have been teaching the subject in my own high school for the past five years. I created the class myself, and I believe there are thousands of other biology and life science teachers out there, birders like me, who could do the same in their schools.

As far as I know, I teach the only year-long high school ornithology class in California and possibly the U.S. (I would love to hear from you if you teach it, too). I want to change that. I want to see more schools expand their repertoire to include ornithology.

I think ornithology can save the world because I interact with young people who are on the cusp of figuring out who they are and what they want to do. They can become conservation-minded citizens. I am convinced that high school ornithology is an excellent way to achieve that goal.

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The problem is that almost no one teaches it. Most schools focus on biology, chemistry, and physics for their science offerings. But if there is room in the curriculum for electives, then why not ornithology?

Ornithology is an elective class at our school. Students have to first pass biology, but most come in knowing next to nothing about birds except that they can fly, that they have feathers, and that they lay eggs. The majority are not taking advanced physics or chemistry. They have a casual interest in science and need something to fill out their graduation requirements, so they take the unpronounceable elective with the teacher they heard wasn’t too hard. In the end, the class reignites their curiosity for nature and may even put them on a path for a science major in college.

Illustration by Sally Ingraham. Catching the Birding Bug

I am continually amazed by the diversity of students who catch the birding bug. Athletes, cheerleaders, stoners, wannabe gang members, special education kids, African-Americans, indigenous Americans, Euro-Americans, Asian-Americans, rich kids, poor kids, quiet kids and loud kids, fashionistas, drama queens, hunters, vegetarians, LGBTQs. I have seen birds take over the lives of every kind of student.

Most of what they know of science when they enter my class is cold, hard laboratory facts about atoms, macromolecules, DNA, and genetics. I turn this around and get them outside looking at birds. On Tuesdays, we are out the door by 8:05 a.m. with binoculars, field notebooks, smartphones, and field guides—and we’re looking for birds. The rest of the week we are learning about the mechanics of flight, how dinosaurs developed feathers, metabolism, digestion, nest building, egg production, and more.

Students learn critical thinking. And grit. Much of what they discover in the classroom they can see in the birds all around them. When they leave my class, most will be birders for life. They have picked up a hobby—in some, a full-on passion—that makes them look up from their phones, pull over to the side of the road, and stop in mid-sentence at lunch when they notice a silhouette overhead, hear a song, or see a flash of color in the bushes.

I did some long-range planning with the fine people who run the BirdSleuth K–12 program at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology a few months ago, and an idea that kept recurring is that birding is a natural gateway to conservation. If you love birds, you pay attention to what is going on with the environment, and you are more likely to become involved.

Illustration by Sally Ingraham. Birding Can—and Should—Appeal to the Young

When I go to birding festivals, bird walks, and bird talks, I see mostly gray heads—mine included. That worries me. We are not engaging kids in outdoor pursuits like we used to. Our recruitment rate, to use the biological term, is below the threshold needed to sustain the population of engaged and conservation-minded citizens. So what do we do? My suggestion is to go to where young people are: high school. College may be too late. It is well known that many people form their opinions of the world at a young age; if Americans dismiss or are unaware of the natural world by the end of their teens, they may never change. If we get them interested in birding in their teenage years, they will probably continue with it. I have a number of students from my first year of teaching ornithology, five years ago, who still let me know about the cool birds they saw or ask for help with identification.

High-school ornithology teachers are as rare as a Spix’s Macaw. I wish we were more like European Starlings.

Resources from Bird Academy

I recently found out about another high school teacher clear across the country in Massachusetts who teaches an 18-week ornithology course. He and I are as rare as a Spix’s Macaw. I wish we were more like European Starlings. I think more teachers who are birders would pick up teaching this class if they knew it was already being taught by someone. I threw caution to the wind and created the class, but I would hate for it to go extinct when I retire later this year.

Can you imagine if every high school across the country taught ornithology? Think about it for a minute. High school graduates would not only know birds, but would also be more aware of the native plants, insects, fish, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians that inhabit the woodlots, grassy fields, sea cliffs, and other habitats around their homes. They would know the local streams, lakes, and marshes. They would care about land-use decisions involving urban sprawl, agriculture, transportation, waste disposal, pollution, deforestation, desertification, invasive species, climate change, and even population control.

How do we get there? My class is a start, but we need more teachers to join in. We need an appropriate curriculum and textbooks. We need districts and parents asking for ornithology in their schools. You can help make this happen by calling your local school or district office; tell them about the school in California that is teaching ornithology and ask why your school doesn’t have it. Biology teachers could be especially valuable in this effort. All I did was ask, and the ball started rolling. Now my principal brags about this class.

A big component of my class is taking students birding one day every week. The rest is biology: evolution, flight, feathers, taxonomy, ecology, cardiovascular, digestive, musculoskeletal, and reproductive systems. Throw in some conservation, and you have a class.

Ornithology students birding along Uvas Creek, within walking distance of Gilroy High School, stop to watch Acorn Woodpeckers in a tree across the creek. Photo by Jeff R. Manker. Turning Young Students Into Environmentalists

During my whole career as a teacher, I have had the partly hidden agenda of turning my students into environmentalists. Because I teach science, it has been easy to mention deforestation, overfishing, and pollution in the context of a regular life science or biology class. But as instructional standards and frameworks became more standardized and centralized, biology became more about medicine, microbiology, and genetic engineering. I fought to retain the last shreds of botany, ecology, and life forms and conservation, but bigger forces were at work. As our state standards for high school biology have changed, we have lost the common connection to nature that would benefit all high school graduates.

As high school instruction shifted into the laboratory, science students lost the thread that connected biology to the world outside their door.

Birders alert scientists to population fluctuations that may signal disruptive changes in the environment. Students in my class learn how their observations are part of a worldwide upsurge in “citizen science” that has become the eyes and ears of environmental scientists all over the globe.

This ornithology class is real science that follows the newest educational standards. It fills a gap in K–12 science for students who are interested in more than microbiology or medicine.

While this class focuses on birds, students also pick up some botany, geology, hydrology, forestry, fisheries, meteorology, and wildlife management. They learn the names, habits, and importance of local animals and plants. There are thousands of careers that study, manage, and utilize organisms from the natural world, and this class provides an overview of such careers.

Over the years, as high school instruction shifted away from natural science and into the laboratory, science students lost the thread that connected biology to the world outside their door. I found myself increasingly uninspired to teach. Luckily, along came a fellow teacher who proposed teaching a marine science class and wanted my help to get it off the ground. It was an instant hit with students, and we co-taught it for many years.

Seven years ago, this colleague transferred to another school and left me as the sole teacher of this course at our school. When you teach one thing five periods a day, year after year, even if it is a great and engaging subject, it can get stale. Honestly, I needed a new challenge. That is when I decided to try to create my dream class: ornithology!

Illustration by Sally Ingraham. My Dream Class: Ornithology

I have been a birder for more than 50 years, and, early on in my teaching career I thought ornithology would be a great high school class. The only problem was that, for the first 15 years, I could not get a high school job. I taught a combination of middle school and junior high school. I did the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s FeederWatch program with my students. I wrote a grant proposal and got binoculars and field guides for birding with my students in inner-city Oakland. But there still was no ornithology class.

A "yellow-butt" (Yellow-rumped) warbler. Illustration by Sally Ingraham.

After helping to create marine science, I was ready to tackle ornithology. The first step was convincing my principal. It was surprisingly easy. We already had many popular science electives at our school. With his permission, I began the research to see if anyone else had taught the subject. I found one private school in San Francisco that had a semester class which had previously received state permission, known in California as “UC approval,” referring to the University of California’s recognition of a class as sufficiently rigorous to qualify as “college prep.” When I contacted the school, I found out the teacher had retired and the class was no longer offered. Undeterred, I tracked down the teacher and got his syllabus and some lessons.

My district required science classes to be year-long. After working out the extended curriculum, I sought approval from the University of California, and was “UC-approved” on the first try!

Next was the school board. Lucky for me, the superintendent and one of the board members were birders. Another board member was sympathetic. I only had to convince one more to tip the balance on the seven-member panel. With the unflagging support of my principal against the opposition (one board member called it “just a subset of a subset of biology”), the class was approved.

Getting binoculars was a hurdle, but I got over it. Textbooks do not exist for high school ornithology, so I cobbled together lessons and references from multiple sources, especially from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology—a great partner in helping me get this fledgling off the ground.

Students enroll in ornithology with little prior knowledge of the world of birds—although all are required to have completed a year of biology. Here they are on the campus of Gilroy High School, looking at a pair of Red-tailed Hawks roosting on the stadium lights above the football field. Photo by Jeff R. Manker. We Can Do This

Birding biology teachers out there: I Want You! We can do this. Teaching this class is a blast. The students are curious. They connect to the real world. They are engaged in lifelong learning. This class has critical thinking, grit, citizen science, Next Generation Science Standards, and Common Core State Standards all rolled into one package.

Birders who are parents: I Want You! Lobby your local school and school board to get this class in your high school. Let administrators and officials know that birding is one of the fastest-growing hobbies in the country—and that the chances of success are high.

We can’t save the world without awareness of the world’s problems. High school ornithology can reach a huge audience and create a connection to the natural world perhaps unlike any other class.

Can we work together to spread the word?

Jeff Manker is an ornithology and marine science teacher at a public high school in Gilroy, California. He currently holds board positions with the Bird School Project and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s BirdSleuth K-12 program. He has birded on every continent save one. Plans for Australia are in progress. This article first appeared in Birding, the magazine of the American Birding Association. Reprinted with permission. The ABA offers a PDF of this article in its original magazine layout.

Living Bird Magazine—Latest Issue

All About Birds - Sun, 07/01/2018 - 10:39
Common Loon by Roberta Olenick. More From Living Bird hbspt.cta.load(95627, '096b8ce3-0e2d-46c5-bbf7-12de3323c8da', {}); Feature ArticlesLead Fishing Tackle Is Still a Problem for Common LoonsBy Lauren Chambliss Common Loon by Bill Wynneck via Birdshare.A Galaxy of Falcons: Witnessing the Amur Falcon’s Massive Migration FlocksBy Scott Weidensaul Background photo by Ramki Sreenivasan, Amur Falcon by Kevin Loughlin.Who Lives and Who Dies? Endangered Species Funding and Conservation “Triage”By Sarah Gilman Northern Spotted Owl by Alexander Clark.Analysis: Failing To Invest In Endangered Species Is A Tragedy Of The CommonsBy John W. FitzpatrickKeeping Hope Alive For Hawaii’s IiwiBy Kim RogersAmong Ruffs, Some “Fight-Loving Fighters” Don’t Like to FightBy Leonardo Campagna; Photos by Gerrit Vyn Columns & DepartmentsView From Sapsucker Woods: The Inspiring Optimism of Imogene Powers JohnsonBy John W. FitzpatrickRecovering America’s Wildlife Act: Bill Would Boost Bird FundingBy Gustave AxelsonTake a Child Into Nature: 5 Tips for Fun Field TripsBy Hugh PowellThe People Behind the Birds Named for People: Georg Wilhelm StellerBy Alison HaighNew Vogelkop Superb Bird-Of-Paradise Changes Up the Old Song and DanceBy Marc DevokaitisBrainpower Wins Over Brawn When Male “Hermit” Hummingbirds Display for MatesBy Hugh PowellClimate Change Could Reduce Critical Food Supplies for Migratory BirdsBy V.M. CampbellWhat Does A Dawn Chorus of Bird Song “Look” Like?By Gustave Axelson2018 Global Report: 40% Of World’s Birds Are In DeclineBy Marc DevokaitisGallery: Page From An Artist’s SketchbookBy Catherine Hamilton

July 2018 eBirder of the Month Challenge

All About Birds - Sun, 07/01/2018 - 09:08

July eBirder of the month challenge
By Team eBird June 30, 2018
Ruddy Turnstone
Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres
© Evan Lipton
Macaulay Library
This month’s eBirder of the Month challenge, sponsored by Carl Zeiss Sports Optics, encourages you to get out birding every day in one of the least-eBirded months of the year. The eBirder of the Month will be drawn from eBirders who submit 31 eligible checklists during July. Winners will be notified by the 10th of the following month. July is an interesting time in much of the world, when the boreal breeding season is winding town and spring is around the corner in to the southern reaches of our planet. Many birds are wandering from their normal habitats, and there’s a lot for us to learn about where and when birds occur. Let’s get out and see what we can find in July!

One of the most interesting phenomena of July, yet something that often goes undetected, is post-breeding dispersal. You may have seen us write about post-breeding dispersal before, and that’s because it’s so cool! Many species that are habitat-specific in the breeding season become more generalist, moving out to areas that they wouldn’t normally occur in during the breeding season. For a great example of this, check out our Indigo Bunting eBird abundance model.

During the breeding season, you’ll see that that many of the major metropolitan areas in the eastern United States appear as darker: fewer buntings breeding there. However, as July rolls around, these dark patches disappear, as the buntings move across the landscape after breeding. These fine-scale population shifts are detectable thanks to your eBird checklists. Learn more about the Indigo Bunting abundance model here.

These subtle movements can be really important to document, as the use of these additional habitats after the breeding season can be critically important for conservation. If you have a forest-breeding bird, conserving the forest will help during that season, but what if the majority of the population relies on a specific type of scrubby habitat for young juveniles and molting adults? Understanding the full annual cycle and habitat use of a species is essential for most effective conservation. Your checklists this July, wherever you are in the world, will help make a difference in our shared understanding.

Each month we will feature a new eBird challenge and set of selection criteria. The monthly winners will each receive a new ZEISS Conquest HD 8×42 binocular. In addition, don’t forget about the 2018 Checklist-a-day Challenge—can you submit 365 eligible checklists this year?

Carl Zeiss Sports Optics is a proven leader in sports optics and is the official optics sponsor for eBird. “We are thrilled to continue our partnership with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and support the vital scientific data being collected by dedicated eBirders.” – Richard Moncrief, Birding and Nature Observation Segment Manager at Carl Zeiss SBE.

It’s go time for Hawaiian bird conservation, and luckily there’s a playbook

Research From The Auk and The Condor - Thu, 06/28/2018 - 16:56

‘I’iwi (Photo credit: Lucas Behnke)

A new study in The Condor: Ornithological Applications presents some of the best guidance to date on the priorities and actions that can be taken to help Hawaii’s endemic birds. Hawaii’s ecosystems, including its native bird populations, are struggling. Of the 21 species of forest birds left on the islands, almost two thirds (12 species) of are endangered or threatened. The current conservation status of the wildlife and vegetation on the island is almost entirely attributable to humans. The actions needed to stabilize or reverse these trends need stronger support and coordination, however funding and resources are limited. This new paper lays out a plan to better guide and empower conservation efforts for Hawaiian birds.

Eben Paxton of USGS Pacific Island Ecosystems Research Center and colleagues synthesized the key points that came out of a collaboration of more than 60 stakeholders in Hawaiian bird conservation. The focus is on actionable research and management approaches that can be employed today. Habitat loss, invasive plants, non-native predators, and introduced diseases were identified as the largest threats to Hawaiian birds. Climate change is projected to exacerbate all threats. Given limited resources, the stakeholders decided on eight main priorities as well as several actions specific to the island of Kauai. In addition to helping Hawaii and its birds directly, the goal of this collaborative report is to make Hawaii a model for other areas of the world, especially islands, that are in need of strong conservation efforts.

Lead author, Eben Paxton comments, “Our challenge in Hawaii is how do we conserve forest birds from multiple threats with just a fraction of the resources needed to fully address all the threats. Our solution was to bring researchers and managers together to share ideas, and as a community, identify priority research and management needs necessary to save these unique species. We believe these priorities will help focus resources where most needed and bring together different organizations to work together for the maximum benefit of the birds.”

“New Technology is being proposed to help stem the tide of extinctions in Hawaiian native birds. Eben Paxton and his co-authors recognize that all the native birds in Hawaii are Conservation Reliant Species and propose utilizing new technologies to assist with the preservation of this unique island avifauna,” adds Charles van Riper III, a ST Research Ecologist and Professor Emeritus, USGS and SNRE, University of Arizona. “This very complete paper also recommends enhancing Citizen Science and captive breeding in the Islands, along with continued monitoring and translocations to unoccupied habitat. The immediate target for this plan are the birds on Kauai – the authors feel that the native avifauna on this island is rapidly approaching extinction, and time will tell how successful this proposed plan is in implementing conservation actions in time to save these unique birds.”


Research and management priorities for Hawai’i forest birds is available at
Research contact: Eben Paxton,

About the journal: The Condor: Ornithological Applications is a peer-reviewed, international journal of ornithology published by the American Ornithological Society. The journal began in 1899, and in 2016 The Condor had the number one impact factor among 24 ornithology journals.


Gray Jays Get Their Old Name Back: Hello Canada Jay!

All About Birds - Thu, 06/28/2018 - 16:44
Gray Jay by Tim Harding via Birdshare.

Perisoreus canadensis was known as the Canada Jay from the 19th century until 1957—when the American Ornithologists’ Union changed the bird’s common name to Gray Jay.

The name change was considered a double slight by many Canadian ornithologists and birders: the loss of a national moniker compounded by an Americanized spelling of gray (not grey). [See Canada’s Gray Jay Debate, Winter 2018]

But now, the bird is the Canada Jay again, after a 9-to-1 vote by a committee of the American Ornithological Society (as the AOU is now called) to restore the species’s official common name.

Retired Algonquin Provincial Park naturalist Dan Strickland, who has studied the jays in the field for decades and pioneered research into their unique winter survival strategies, made the proposal to the AOS for the name change.

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“I am pleased that the AOS has accepted our findings, corrected the mistake made by their predecessors, and restored ‘Canada Jay’ to its original and rightful place as the official English name of this quintessentially Canadian bird,” Strickland said.

Strickland and other Canadian ornithologists hoped that the name change would add momentum to a two-year campaign to get the Canada Jay recognized as the country’s official national bird. But the federal Department of Canadian Heritage seemed unmoved by news of the Canada Jay’s restoration, reiterating the response it has given repeatedly that the government is not currently considering the adoption of a bird as a national symbol.

Shea Tiller, April 2018 eBirder of the month

All About Birds - Thu, 06/28/2018 - 11:22

Please join us in congratulating Shea Tiller of Charlottesville, Virginia, winner of the April 2018 eBird Challenge, sponsored by Carl Zeiss Sports Optics. Shea’s name was drawn randomly from the 2,543 eBirders who submitted at least 15 eligible checklists in April that had eBird Mobile ‘tracks’ shorter than 8km (5mi). Shea will receive a new ZEISS Conquest HD 8×42 binocular for his eBirding efforts. Here’s Shea’s birding story:

I first became interested in birding at my house in central Virginia. Seven or eight years ago, I was flipping through a field guide trying to identify some black-and-white birds visiting a feeder that my mom put up. All of a sudden, I thought I’d found what they were: Black-capped Chickadees! But then I flipped another page, and saw the nearly identical Carolina Chickadees. Realizing that I couldn’t tell them apart by basic appearance or by the tiny, whole-country range maps in the book, I wanted to learn more, so I began to research common backyard birds. Soon, I found myself attending a local birdwalk, where I saw my first non-backyard bird: a Hermit Thrush. I also joined the Blue Ridge Young Birders Club. For multiple years, I went on club field trips and found my life list steadily growing. However, because my schoolwork limited my participation in club outings, I developed a desire to find birds for myself on my own time.

An American Oystercatcher photographed at Chincoteague NWR by Shea Tiller/Macaulay Library

I began using eBird in 2016 to look at data in order to know where to find certain birds when I traveled to other states. in 2017, with encouragement from other birders, I made my own eBird account and started creating checklists in order to keep track of my own sightings and give back to the birding community. At that time, I still relied on existing data on eBird to tell me where to find species even within my home state of Virginia, but I found such data sorely lacking in my home county of Fluvanna. I also noticed another young birder in a different underbirded part of the state who went out and found his own new hotspots and 1st county records. Inspired by this example and many others, I took up the task of county listing at the end of October, 2017. I was fortunate that during my first winter of county listing, a bomb cyclone pushed into my neighborhood some great birds including Greater White-fronted Goose, Tundra Swan, and Common Merganser.

In the spring, I made a point to log breeding codes for the Virginia Breeding Bird Atlas whenever I went birding, because many of the blocks in Fluvanna haven’t even been started, let alone completed. The combination of county listing and local atlasing took me to a number of interesting places this past April. These sites included a small swamp along the James River, where I found a bright yellow Prothonotary Warbler on territory and my lifer Northern Waterthrush; a bridge over the James River, under which a colony of Cliff Swallows have been nesting; and a local park containing sprawling scrub and riparian forest, where I found Yellow-throated and Prairie Warblers in abundance.

A Purple Martin from Shea’s local colony. Photo by Shea Tiller/Macaulay Library.

I also birded a lot right around my own neighborhood. While observing a Purple Martin colony at a pond just down the road from my house, I stumbled upon a Solitary Sandpiper foraging around the muddy, flooded edge. Near the beginning of April, I witnessed a late-season push of waterfowl on my neighborhood lake, which included Common Loons and a flock of Red-breasted Mergansers.

I also birded some around the state, including in the mountains where I photographed some early warblers before the leaves came out, and a one-night trip to coastal Virginia highlighted by a visit to Chincoteague NWR. On this trip, I found my lifer Piping Plover; enjoyed an extended close study of my lifer Marbled Godwits; and saw many other nice birds, including a slightly early Whimbrel, a flock of Northern Gannets, and a group of Brown-headed Nuthatches.

Despite the fact that I have had to work to find good hotspots and birds in my underbirded county, I greatly appreciate that eBird lets birders see each other’s data and therefore get an idea of both the specific locations and general types of places to look.


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