This school year, Lane County Audubon Society has put a record number of Audubon Adventures kits in classrooms! We couldn’t have done this without our generous sponsors. Thanks to them, we were able to place 62 kits in 51 classrooms across 21 Lane County schools! That’s about 1,275 students that have been enriched with standards-based science content about birds, wildlife, and their habitats.
Fom Portland Audubon: East Sand Island was once the largest Double-crested Cormorant colony in the world, home to more than 28,000 cormorants representing 40 percent of the entire population west of the Rocky Mountains. However, for the past three years, federal agencies have been waging a relentless and inhumane war on Double-crested Cormorants, shooting thousands of the birds out of the sky with shotguns and destroying their active nests. More than 5,000 cormorants have been shot, and more than 6,000 nests have been destroyed. Because of this, the world’s largest colony of Double-crested Cormorants has collapsed. The birds abandoned the colony at the peak of nesting season in 2016, and only a couple hundred birds returned to nest in 2017.
The collapse of the entire colony went far beyond what was allowed under the Corps permits and puts the entire western population of Double-crested Cormorants at risk. Yet, the US Army Corps has applied for permits to continue destroying cormorant nests on East Sand Island if the birds return in 2018, and has plans to modify their habitat to limit nesting in the future. This kind of activity could precipitate another colony collapse in 2018.
Oregon’s rocky coastal shores are not currently receiving sufficient analysis or protection. Oregon Shores and Audubon chapters, along with the other organizations that cooperated to institute Oregon’s marine reserves, share this concern. These groups believe that more up-to-date information is needed to make strategic plans. Specifically, we need well-defined objectives, based on scientific data about marine resources and uses.
On Friday, March 2, there was a Hermit Thrush in our yard apparently foraging. It was the first time I saw “our” thrush move to the ground of all its visits (I’m assuming it was the same bird I was seeing a couple of months ago). While it was searching, I noticed its legs shivering. I was close, I was just on the other side of a glass door to the yard, and could see the bird quite well. The shaking was unmistakable.
Many of us share an appreciation for migratory birds. One hundred years ago (that’s 1918), people recognized the need to protect migratory and native species. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) that resulted is one of the finest and most far-reaching environmental laws ever passed in the United States. Now it’s in trouble.
The 76th Eugene Christmas Bird Count (ECBC) on Sunday, December 31, 2017, started on a cold and foggy morning. We had all hoped it would be sunny like the day before, but the fog persisted all day long. Luckily, the 149 field participants also persisted, and we saw 130 species of birds, a total of 71,084 individuals. Another seven species were seen during Count Week.
The details of those sightings are reported by Vjera Thompson, see Resources/Christmas Bird Counts on this website. Vjera was Species Compiler for the first time this year, replacing Dan Gleason, who has been involved with the ECBC for more than four decades. We appreciate his hard work throughout that time.
The 149 field participant total was high, approaching our previous record of 157, set in 2012. The 130 species seen was about the average of what we’ve been seeing over the past 15 years, but high compared to the first 60 years of the ECBC. Despite the cold, foggy conditions, the teams walked 118 miles in 172 hours and drove 571 miles in 69 hours. Six teams even went owling in the dark for 6.5 hours and covered 22 miles.
Drongos are short-legged birds who literally speak with forked tongues, as do many passerines. They are good mimics. Birds mimic for many reasons, but the drongo can use this ability for tactical deceit. When they see a meerkat carrying food, the drongos loudly mimic a meerkat alarm call. This causes the duped individual to drop their food and run for cover. Guess who gets the food?
Similarly, some people in Congress are giving an alarm call about forest practices and wildfire danger. Proponents of HR 2936 and SB 1731 claim that these new laws would make our forests healthier. What seems more likely is that they will provide benefits to timber companies without protecting the forests. The ironically named “Resilient Forest Act” just passed in the House. The Senate version, “The Forest Management Improvement Act”, has been introduced and may soon be up for a vote. Some troubling aspects of the bills are that they exempt forest projects from review and from the protection of environmental laws, such as the Endangered Species Act and NEPA, the National Environmental Protection Act. For example, the Forest Service would no longer need to consult with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service experts to determine if a project would harm a protected species, and they would no longer need to do an environmental review to determine what the impacts of their project would be.
Roadside herbicide spraying has long been a controversial issue in Lane County, and that hasn’t changed.
Lane County served as a model for environmental stewardship when it banned roadside herbicide spraying in 2008 in response to community concerns. Mowing and other mechanical/manual techniques have proven largely effective at managing our county roadsides since then. Unfortunately, inadequate funding has negatively impacted that effectiveness, so a task force was convened in 2015 to deal with the problem. While some members of the task force were reportedly skeptical about lifting the moratorium on herbicides, they understood the need for addressing problem areas. As a result, ordinance 16-07 was passed in July 2016. The task force recommended several well-considered measures to protect and inform the public while allowing for limited use of herbicide spray.
Most of the problem areas relate to guardrails that are not easily reached by mowers.
In a research study published in July, ravens learned how to get food out of a puzzle box using a stone tool. The next day, when the ravens were given a choice of items to collect, they preferentially selected the stone tools, even when the puzzle box was nowhere in sight. The stones might come in handy later on, when the puzzle box was around. They also learned to trade bottle caps for food. Later, when given a choice between bottle caps and other items (even small food treats), they choose the bottle caps—a fun demonstration that birds are good at planning for the future.
Like ravens, humans also need to plan for the future. National monuments protect species, biodiversity, and important habitat. But the effectiveness of the protected areas decreases over time, due to encroaching development and shifts in species’ ranges due to climate change. How to plan for the future?
One way is to expand existing national monuments. This is just what was done with Oregon’s Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, first designated in 2000. This area is part of the Pacific Flyway, a migratory corridor essential to birds. At the crossroads of four distinct eco-regions, it was created to protect the area’s unique biodiversity. Scientists expressed concerns that the original boundaries were not large enough to preserve the connectivity between species, and that an increase in area development threatened habitat. These concerns, plus evidence indicating that the area was not large enough for species to withstand range shifts due to climate change, prompted an expansion of the monument in 2016. Good planning for the future.