Auction Success for the Spoon-billed Sandpiper

In late January David A. Sibley, the well recognized wildlife artist from the United States, posted a news about an auction for his original Spoon-billed Sandpiper painting. As he wrote “100% of the proceeds going to support the efforts of the Bird Conservation Society of Thailand“. The auction is now closed and the painting raised $1,610 for critically endangered Spoon-billed Sandpiper conservation. Well done!

$1,610 Raised

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Critical Habitat for Snowy Plover May More Than Double Under New Proposal

Written by American Bird Conservancy

Under a new proposal from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), land designated as Critical Habitat for the Pacific Coast population of the Western Snowy Plover, a threatened species protected under the Endangered Species Act, may dramatically increase. If the current proposal is fully implemented, the total number of acres designated as Critical Habitat would more than double.

Total designated Critical Habitat would increase from 12,145 acres to 28,261 acres, while individual units would increase from 32 to 68. Three West Coast states would be affected – California would have the biggest increase (from 7,477 acres to 16,777 acres) followed by Washington (from 2,526 acres to 6,265 acres) and Oregon (from 2,147 acres to 5,219 acres).

Of the total acreage, 9,040 acres are on federal lands; 12,740 acres are owned by states or local agencies; and 6,145 acres are located on private lands. In addition, 336 acres are tribal lands in Washington. 

American Bird Conservancy (ABC) is hopeful that the new Critical Habitat will help the plovers, but unfortunately feral cats don’t recognize such designations, so we are going to need additional measures to prevent cat predation in addition to this habitat protection,” said ABC Vice President Mike Parr. For example, feral cats at Elkhorn Slough in Monterey, California are known to take adult Snowy Plovers, chicks, and eggs.

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Snowy Plover. © Greg Lavaty

The Snowy Plover is a small shorebird with pale brown to gray upper parts, gray to black legs and bill, and dark patches on the forehead, behind the eyes, and on either side of the upper breast. The Pacific Coast population breeds primarily on coastal beaches from southern Washington to southern Baja California, Mexico.

The proposal is the result of a lawsuit and two additional factors — the anticipated adverse effects of rising sea levels resulting from climate change that will significantly impact the bird, and a new policy direction for FWS that stresses the role that unoccupied habitat can provide for the conservation of the species.

In 1999, FWS designated about 19,500 acres as critical habitat, however in 2005, as a result of a lawsuit by developers, that number was reduced to 12,145 acres. This proposal follows another lawsuit from an environmental group seeking greater protections for the bird.

Critical Habitat is a provision under the Endangered Species Act that identifies geographic areas containing features essential for the conservation of a threatened or endangered species, and which may require special management considerations or protection. Designation of Critical Habitat does not affect land ownership, establish a refuge or preserve and has no impact on private landowners taking actions on their land that do not require federal funding or permits.

The Snowy Plover was listed as threatened in 1991, and biologists estimate that no more than 2,270 Snowy Plovers breed along the Pacific Coast of the United States, with approximately an equal number breeding on the west coast of Baja California. The largest number of breeding birds occurs south of San Francisco Bay to southern Baja. The species’ decline has been attributed to loss of nesting habitat, human disturbance, encroachment of European beach grass on nesting grounds, and predation. The Pacific Coast population of the Western Snowy Plover was listed as a “distinct population segment,” on March 5, 1993.

FWS is seeking comments and information on all aspects of this proposed rule and will accept comments and information until May 23, 2011. Comments and information can be submitted electronically to www.regulations.gov. In the box that reads “Enter Keyword or ID,” enter the Docket number for this finding, which is FWS-R8-ES-2010-0070. Check the box that reads “Open for Comment/Submission,” and then click the Search button. You will see an icon that reads “Submit a Comment.” Please ensure that you have found the correct rulemaking before submitting your comment.

If submitting comments by hard copy or hand delivery, please send them to: Public Comments Processing, Attn: Docket No. FWS–R8–ES–2010-0070, Division of Policy and Directives Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, Suite 222, Arlington, VA 22203.

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American Bird Conservancy (ABC) is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit membership organization which conserves native birds and their habitats throughout the Americas by safeguarding the rarest species, conserving and restoring habitats, and reducing threats while building capacity in the bird conservation movement.

Offer Your Ideas by April 22 to Help Shape the U.S. National Wildlife Refuge System???s Future!

Written by WHSRN

The shorebird conservation community has an opportunity to help the National Wildlife Refuge System (NWRS) improve how it fulfills its mission, which includes migratory bird conservation, through an ongoing public dialogue called Conserving the Future: Wildlife Refuges and the Next Generation. The effort will refine how the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) implements the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997, the law that directs the NWRS’s conservation actions. This process is designed to ensure that the NWRS is on track to achieve its mission, while being ready to meet the many new challenges of a changing world.

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To date, 37 of the 44 WHSRN sites in the United States (84%) are also part of the NWRS – encompassing 51 properties in all! The USFWS has already made a strong commitment to have shorebird conservation be a priority on these lands, an important criteria for receiving a WHSRN site designation. Now is the time to submit your ideas for how that commitment can be better carried-out or strengthened.  

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wants to be sure that the shorebird community’s ideas are well represented in the public discussion about the NWRS’s future currently taking place online through April 22, 2011. If you value shorebirds and national wildlife refuges, the USFWS needs to hear from you!

Go to http://americaswildlife.org to voice YOUR vision for the Refuge System! The website, hosted by the National Wildlife Refuge Association, is a forum for your biggest, best ideas. Read and vote on others’ ideas. Post your best shorebird photos from wildlife refuges. 

The National Wildlife Refuge System National Wildlife Refuge System is the nation’s premier network of public lands dedicated to protecting wildlife and habitat. Comprising 553 national wildlife refuges, there’s at least one in every U.S. state and territory. The system protects more than 150 million acres of biologically diverse habitat that includes wetlands and forests, prairies, and seashores. Some 20 million of these acres are designated as Wilderness.

Help Shape a Future for Shorebird Conservation and the National Wildlife Refuge System
Add YOUR voice to the discussion at http://americaswildlife.org by this Friday, April 22, 2011!

Join us in celebrating World Migratory Bird Day!

Written by UNEP/AEWA Secretariat

World Migratory Bird Day 2011 is coming up soon! So far for 2011, we have 42 event registrations from 25 countries and are expecting many more in the coming weeks. However, we will need your help if we wish to break the record of 150 registered events set by the 2009 campaign!

This year’s theme for World Migratory Bird Day is “Land use changes from a bird’s-eye view”. We want to raise awareness on the dramatic effects human land use has on migratory birds and the ecosystems upon which they depend. Many aspects of human land use are extremely damaging to the birds’ habitats.

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World Migratory Bird Day 2011 Poster.

For example, urbanization and intensive agriculture can fragment and replace complex networks of habitats needed by the birds. Deforestation and mineral extraction can damage entire regions used along the birds’ annual migration paths. In addition, land reclamation and biofuel production remove or degrade crucial wetlands and other habitats for many migratory bird species.

Please join others around the world and take part in World Migratory Bird Day on the weekend of 14 -15 May 2011 by organizing birdwatching events, educational programmes, lectures, art exhibitions and other public activities.

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World Migratory Bird Day Event (New Caledonia)

Your WMBD event can be as large or as small as you like. Please share your activities with us by registering your event on the WMBD website and we will send you WMBD 2011 posters and other materials to help you promote your event!

However you decide to participate, your contribution will help make this campaign a great success!

For more information please see: www.worldmigratorybirdday.org

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Deepwater Horizon: One Year Later

Written by Cornell Lab of Ornithology

A year has passed since the start of the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster—the largest accidental oil spill in history. Over a span of five months, a total of more than 170 million gallons of oil gushed into the Gulf of Mexico and swept toward the fragile ecosystem of the Mississippi River Delta and adjacent Gulf Coast.

It’s still too early to measure the full extent of the oil’s impacts on Gulf Coast waters, beaches, and saltmarshes, to the region’s economy, or to its millions of birds. In this video, Cornell Lab director John Fitzpatrick summarizes what we do know, and reflects on our obligation to restore this national treasure’s health. Below the video, you’ll find other resources about the spill, its aftermath, and the way forward.

Read more…

Hope returns to the Delmarva Peninsula

Written by Dr. Bryan D. Watts/Center for Conservation Biology, Virginia Commonwealth University & Barry Truitt/The Nature Conservancy

The odyssey of Hope, a whimbrel carrying a satellite transmitter, continues to amaze scientists. Hope was originally captured on 19 May, 2009 on the southern Delmarva Peninsula of Virginia. She left Virginia on May 26 and since that time has logged more than 21,000 miles (33,000 kilometers) flying between a breeding territory on the MacKenzie River near Alaska and a winter territory on St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands. On Friday (8 April, 2011), Hope returned to Virginia following a 75 hour, 1,850 mile (2,900 kilometer) flight out over the Atlantic Ocean.

During the course of two full migration cycles, Hope has clearly demonstrated how distant locations are interconnected in the life of migratory species and how their conservation requires collaboration on a multi-national scale. For three consecutive springs, Hope has returned to the same creek in Virginia where she has fed on fiddler crabs preparing for a transcontinental flight to her breeding grounds. The creek, located in the  the Conservancy’s Virginia Coast Reserve, is part of the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network, a network of international sites considered critical to populations of declining shorebirds. Hope’s breeding grounds on the MacKenzie River are part of an International Important Bird Area and one of the areas of highest conservation value in Canada. Efforts are ongoing to protect the area considered by many to be one of the most pristine watersheds remaining in North America. For the past 2 years, Hope has wintered at Great Pond, a Birdlife International Important Bird Area on St. Croix. Protection of long-distance migrants like Hope requires that countries recognize the importance of vulnerable populations and work together toward effective conservation solutions.

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Tracking map – Map of Hope movements from May of 2009 through April of 2011. She has been tracked using a 9.5-gram, solar-powered satellite transmitter.

Hope is one of several birds that have been fitted with state of the art 9.5-gram, satellite transmitters in a collaborative effort by the Center for Conservation Biology at the College of William and Mary – Virginia Commonwealth University and the Virginia Coast Reserve of The Nature Conservancy to discover migratory routes that connect breeding and winter areas and to identify en route migratory staging areas that are critical to the conservation of this declining species.

Updated tracking maps may be viewed online at
http://www.ccb-wm.org/programs/migration/Whimbrel/whimbrel.htm

Satellite tracking represents only one aspect of a broader, integrated investigation of whimbrel migration. During the past 4 years, the Center for Conservation in partnership with The Nature Conservancy has used conventional transmitters to examine stopover duration, conducted aerial surveys to estimate seasonal numbers, collected feather samples to locate summer and winter areas through stable-isotope analysis, and has initiated a whimbrel watch program. Continued research is planned to further link populations across staging, breeding, and wintering areas. Funding has been provided by The Nature Conservancy, the Center for Conservation Biology, The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Virginia Coastal Zone Management Program, Georgia Department of Natural Resources, The Toronto Ornithological Club, the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority, and the Northern Neck Audubon Society.

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Hope fitted with satellite transmitter. © Barry Truitt

Updates Made to Key Features on WHSRN Webpage

Written by Meredith Gutowski/WHSRN

The WHSRN Executive Office is pleased to announce recent important updates made to key features within the WHSRN website. The links within the descriptive pop-up boxes associated with each icon on our interactive Google map of WHSRN sites have all been thoroughly reviewed and updated as needed. The same was also done on the accompanying Google Earth map file (.kmz). For your convenience, this map file is available for downloading on our interactive Google map webpage as well as our List of Sites webpage.

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Google Earth map of WHSRN sites, with pop-up box displayed.

Visitors to our website may recall that in 2010 not all of the Site Profiles were available in the newer, more attractive and informative format. Now they are! And, any links to and within each Site Profile have been methodically checked and corrected as needed. As you might imagine, however, keeping current with certain content is an ongoing and dynamic process, and we are continuing to work with partners whose Site Profiles need updated, or additional, details and features.

If you serve as a primary contact or partner for a WHSRN site, the start of this new year is the perfect time to review your Site Profile for accuracy and to let us know of any updates needed. All Site Profiles are accessible via the table on our List of Sites webpage.

For more information, please contact Meredith Gutowski (mgutowski@manomet.org ), WHSRN Conservation Specialist, or Lisa Schibley (lisa@zoompuppy.com), Technical Assistant, Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences.

Waders and birders to benefit as saltmarsh restoration project begins in South Devon

Written by James Hamilton/Birding247

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This week, the UK’s Environment Agency will start work on an exciting new project to restore an inter-tidal habitat on land alongside a South Devon estuary.

South Efford Marsh, at Aveton Gifford, was reclaimed from the Avon estuary in the late 18th century. It was temporarily reconnected with the estuary when a hole, made by a wartime bomb, allowed the tide to flow in and out.

Apart from this thirteen year period, the marsh has remained separate from the estuary ever since.

Now, as part of the Environment Agencies ‘Regional Habitat Creation Programme‘, the Environment Agency will restore the link. The newly created inter-tidal habitat will benefit both wildlife and people.

Mike Williams, Technical Specialist at the Environment Agency, said: ‘We are working with Devon Wildlife Trust and the local community to manage the site in the long term. Public access will be encouraged and we hope to be able to create opportunities for schools and colleges to learn more about saltmarsh and estuaries. We will monitor the changes that take place over coming years.’ The Environment Agency is using a new design of tide gate which will carefully control water levels in the lowest-lying parts of the marsh.

The gate will close automatically to prevent increased flood risk to properties around the marsh. Water will drain out again as the tide falls.

The Environment Agency is also creating shallow freshwater pools higher up the marsh to improve the habitat for waders, ducks and other birds. Which will in turn encourage birders to the area.

Stay tuned and follow Birding24/7on twitter for Birding24/7’s daily round-up of news everyday at 2pm.

Stop Speedboats in Bushells Lagoon!

Written by Birds Australia

The Hawkesbury Environment Network asks for your support in protecting Bushells Lagoon from Speedboats:

Bushells lagoon (6 km North of Windsor, NSW) is a sanctuary for internationally threatened bird species. Almost 140 species of birds have been recorded on this lagoon at various times including 17 species of shorebirds protected by international treaties. The habitat itself is protected under Bilateral Migratory Bird Agreements between Australia & Japan and Australia & China.

The lagoon also contains important habitat vegetation and marine life such as the Red Crowned Toadlet also listed under the TSCA. Finally, the human residents of the Bushells Lagoon area also suffer from the effects of speedboats, especially the noise.

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It’s almost impossible to imagine speedboats on this sanctuary for Birds and people, yet the Maritime Services Board has issued a licence to a water ski club to ski on this lagoon. The club even built a slalom course down the centre of the lagoon already! These activities put in danger species that Australia is obliged to protect through international agreements.

The controversial decision to breach of Australia’s international obligations and grant speedboats access to this pristine sanctuary, therefore needs to be reversed!

Please act as a matter of urgency and e-mail a short request reminding our government of it’s obligation under the JAMBA and CAMBA agreements and requesting intervention to overturn granting of the license issued by the NSW Marine Services Board.

Send your submission to:

Hon. Tony Burke MP
Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities
Tony.Burke.MP@aph.gov.au

COPY TO

The Hon. Eric Roozendaal BA LLB MLC
Minister for Ports and Waterways
enquiries@treasurer.nsw.gov.au

Hawkesbury City Council
council@hawkesbury.nsw.gov.au

Please also consider forwarding a separate letter to letters@smh.com.au and get it in the main media! (Sydney Morning Herald)

Kentish Plover Status Assessment Project launched

Written by Gyorgy Szimuly/WorldWaders

WorldWaders today launched a project on understanding recent population status of Kentish Plover across its western Eurasian range. The Kentish Plover have been a regular and abundant breeder on sandy coastal sites as well as on bare inland steppes and soda/natron lakes. By today Kentish Plover have been showing dramatic decline through its entire range particularly due to habitat loss and human disturbance.

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The cute project icon will be guiding the users on WorldWaders website. Any use of this artwork is allowed without prior contact to WorldWaders.

Actual population figures are mainly locally available. Dr Tamás Székely, the Professor of Biodiversity from the University of Bath, who is one of the initiators of this project underlined, “Probably the most recent update on this species is the Atlas of Wader Populations in Africa and w Eurasia. As a contributor of the Kentish Plover chapter, I was surprised how over-optimistic the current estimates are: people keep citing old data which were dubious already back in 1990ies.

The International Ornithologists’ Union, formerly International Ornithological Congress (IOC), already accepted the split proposal (Küpper et al, 2009) of Kentish Plover subspecies. As a result, American races of Kentish Plover, was raised to species level and named as Snowy Plover (Charadrius nivosus nivosus and C. n. occidentalis) leaving Kentish Plover (Charadrius alexandrinus) an Eurasian and North African species. The project focuses on the western Eurasian population of Kentish Plover from the Canary Islands to Ukraine including coastal sites of North Africa.

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Kentish Plover is still a regular breeder in the Danube Delta. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Dr Tamás Székely also states “My group is working with Kentish Plovers in several countries, and in many sites the populations have rapidly declined compared to 10 or 15 years ago. With the Hungarian colleagues we’re designing a project to re-assess the status of this species, especially in Western Eurasia. I presume, we may have a similar situation in Kentish Plover to that of the Black-tailed Godwit.” It is supposed that the actual IUCN Red List status of Kentish Plover (2010) should be upgraded from Least Concern to at least Near Threatened or even Vulnerable. For this the taxonomic status of Kentish Plover must be approved by BirdLife International as well.

Questions the project aims to be answered are as follows:

  • What is the actual population size of Kentish Plover in Western Eurasia?
  • Which are the key breeding sites of Kentish Plover within the study “area”?
  • Are there local or national population trends available?

The project is divided into two major phases as well as following up implementation of recommended actions to be published in the final status assessment. Status review is planned to be carried out regularly.

For the success of field surveys a network of both professional and amateur surveyors are going to be established. Field workers of many countries have already joined to our initiative and the first nesting records have already been submitted to the dedicated database. We highly appreciate everyone’s help in field surveys in 2011 and 2012. More details of the project is published on Project page of WorldWaders website.