You don’t want to miss these 10 bird-related stories from the past two weeks:
1. Let’s go fly a kite! Stunning white and black Swallow-tailed Kites were found in Kansas and Indiana early in September. The bird was also spotted in Champaign, Illinois, and Clinton County in Michigan, in late August. According to the Illinois records committee, there are only six accepted records of the kite in the state during the last 50 years.
2. New protections in the Bahamas: The Bahamas protected more than seven million acres of new marine areas. One of them, the new 113,920-acre Joulter Cays National Park, protects a group of uninhabited islands and intertidal sand flats about two miles north of the main island of Andros. The park provides habitat for thousands of shorebirds representing 13 species, including Piping Plover. September 4
3. Safe haven for hummingbirds: Scientists working with GPS technology in southeastern Arizona discovered why Black-chinned Hummingbird nests located near active Cooper’s Hawk nests are more likely to be successful than those farther away. Mexican Jays, notorious nest-robbers, change how they forage in a cone-shaped area around and under the hawk nests, say the researchers, creating a safe haven for nesting hummingbirds. September 4
4. Largest flight ever: Birders at Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory, in Duluth, Minnesota, counted over 90,000 migrating birds on September 1. The total included more than 33,000 warblers, over 28,000 Common Nighthawks, more than 12,000 Cedar Waxwings (a state record), and 198 Rose-breasted Grosbeaks (another state record). Said the official counter: “The total of 91,667 migrating non-raptors represents one of the highest counts ever recorded in Duluth and is certainly the largest flight of birds I have ever witnessed on the North Shore in nine years as counter at Hawk Ridge.” September 1
5. On newsstands now: The October issue of BirdWatching went on sale on newsstands. The issue contains descriptions of four hawk watches, an article about Snowy Owls by Project SNOWstorm co-founder Scott Weidensaul, and, just in time for International Vulture Awareness Day, a report from C. Stuart Houston about Turkey Vultures in Canada. September 1
6. It’s happening now: President Obama, in Alaska at an international conference on the Arctic, said this: “Climate change is no longer some far-off problem; it is happening here, it is happening now…. We’re not acting fast enough. I have come here today, as the leader of the world’s largest economy and its second-largest emitter, to say that the United States recognizes our role in creating the problem, and we embrace our responsibility to help solve it.” August 31
7. Plastic, it’s what’s for dinner: Researchers announced that the amount of plastic crap floating around in the world’s oceans is so huge that no less than 90 percent of all seabirds have eaten the stuff and are likely to retain some in their gut. Even worse, the investigators say it is “virtually certain” that any dead seabird found in 2050 “will have a bit of plastic in its stomach.” August 31
8. Music of his heart: Filmmaker Wes Craven died on August 30. Craven served on the board of directors of Audubon California since 2010, was a dedicated supporter of the Audubon Center at Debs Park, in northeastern Los Angeles, and took special interest in initiatives to protect the endangered California Condor.
9. Tallying wild Whoopers: Twenty-three Whooping Crane fledglings were observed in Wood Buffalo National Park, in northeastern Alberta and southern Northwest Territories, between August 7 and August 11. “During the five days of surveying, the team observed a total of 179 cranes. The 23 fledglings were found in 23 family groups,” reported the manager of Parks Canada. “No families with two chicks were observed this year.” August 28
10. Warmer water, fewer penguins: Only 100,000 African Penguins remain in South Africa’s largest colony, along the country’s west coast. There were a million in the 1930s. As shoals of anchovies and sardines have migrated south into cooler waters, the population plummeted. The decline was reported by South Africa’s Department of Environmental Affairs. August 27
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