Bird sanctuaries to open on Friday

 Many birds have arrived and begun nesting in the Vedanthangal sanctuary. A concrete pathway, running to a length of 1.4 km, has been laid in the sanctuary to enable bird-watchers to take a closer look — Photo: N. Sridharan

Many birds have arrived and begun nesting in the Vedanthangal sanctuary. A concrete pathway, running to a length of 1.4 km, has been laid in the sanctuary to enable bird-watchers to take a closer look — Photo: N. Sridharan

It’s time to dig out and dust off those binoculars. Vedanthangal and Karikili bird sanctuaries, around 82 km southwest of Chennai, will be opened to public on Friday.

All waterbodies near the bird sanctuary, including the ones at Madurantagam, Vellaputhur and Vallaiyaputhur, are filling up fast due to rains over the past couple of days. Continue reading

Sidney seawall prompts call to better protect bird sanctuary

A sea wall under construction at Roberts Bay in Sidney is at the centre of some controversy.

A sea wall under construction at Roberts Bay in Sidney is at the centre of some controversy.

Work on a new sea wall near the shores of Roberts Bay in Sidney has been allowed to resume Tuesday morning, after being ordered to stop over the weekend by the municipality until its approval process was reviewed by the town’s legal team.

With that advice back to the town Tuesday morning, Chief Administrative Officer Randy Humble issued a statement, rescinding the stop work order and outlining the steps the municipality took before granting the property owner permission to build a poured concrete sea wall.

Biologist Kerry Finley, who lives on the shores of the bay and across from the property where the sea wall is under construction, is concerned the wall encroaches upon the Shoal Harbour Migratory Bird Sanctuary. He has asked the Town of Sidney to put a stop work order on the site until the wall’s location can be verified and the town’s own approvals process can be scrutinized.

Finley says he thinks the town did not follow its own rules in this case, and that could cause damage to the habitat in Roberts Bay.

“The town clearly violated its own policies and procedures,” Finley said, adding he thinks there have also been breaches of the Migratory Bird Act as well as Department of Fisheries and Oceans and provincial regulations.

Randy Humble, the town’s chief administrative officer, says the municipality had asked for the work to stop while they investigated what happened, but he said they followed their policy in this case.

“It is under review,” Humble told the News Review Monday afternoon. “Our legal team is looking at it, to confirm that the town took the right steps.”

Humble said the town’s policy on sea wall construction calls for the use of rip rap — or large boulders — in most cases.

He said variations are allowed — such as a concrete wall as is the case here — if an engineer states that it will not have an impact. The property owner, Humble said, hired an engineering firm that reported the use of rip rap would not be feasible due to access issues and expense. The town did, Humble said, approve a pour-in-place concrete wall.

As for concern that the sea wall encroaches on the sanctuary boundary, Humble said they had a surveyor repeat a review of the site after Finley raised the issue. Humble said the surveyor confirmed the wall is located on private property and is not encroaching on the sanctuary boundary.

The town further received sealed drawings of the sea wall design during its approvals process, as well as input from engineers, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and others. Most recently, Humble said the B.C. Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations said the matter is not an issue for them.

“We do take these concerns seriously,” Humble said. “We are waiting for confirmation from our legal team and until then, we will keep the stop work order on the (sea wall).”

Finley said he has forwarded his concerns on to the Canadian Wildlife Service, including his photos of the property from last year and this weekend. He said he’s leaving it up to them whether they can take action to stop the construction. The News Review has called the Canadian Wildlife Service for comment on the case. Humble also told the News Review on Tuesday that he had been contacted by a CWS investigator.

Finley said he’s frustrated by the continued building near the sanctuary, which he said has an impact on the habitat for migratory birds that regularly use the area to feed during their long journeys.

“Sea walls are known to cause serious erosion issues,” Finley said. “I feel it will contribute to the ongoing destabilization of the area and its habitat.

“I’ve been part of the effort to deal with this for the last 25 years,” he continued, “working with private property owners and the town to try to save the sanctuary.”

Source :

Urban raptors adapt to Louisville city life

Red tailed hawks rescued in Jefferson County inside their flying cage at Raptor Rehabilitation of Kentucky on Thursday. March 28, 2013 / Alton Strupp/Courier-Journal

Red tailed hawks rescued in Jefferson County inside their flying cage at Raptor Rehabilitation of Kentucky on Thursday. March 28, 2013 / Alton Strupp/Courier-Journal

They soar above the city, killing their prey and raising their young in dramatic fashion above 1.3 million people in metro Louisville.

Hawks, falcons, owls, osprey and eagles are finding safe nesting places in populated places that offer trees, water and “food sources you might not be aware of,” said Mark Mlynek, a bird keeper at the Louisville Zoo.

“It’s becoming more and more common practice for raptors to learn to live with humans” said Mlynek, who has seen a nesting pair of red-shouldered hawks take up residence high in an oak tree at the zoo for the last two years.

Though wildlife officials don’t track the number of raptors in Louisville and southern Indiana communities, they say they are fairly abundant with some newcomers, including the city’s first two nesting pairs of bald eagles.

Officials say that for the most part, raptors and people get along locally. But there can be conflicts.

“Overall, raptors are great to have around in urban locations,” said Kate Heyden, a biologist with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. “They help control pest species (and) they also enrich our lives by being very interesting to watch.”

But, she added, “sometimes birds can be a little loud or defensive around their nests,” putting on a show meant to scare away potential predators.

Attorney Colin Lindsay said he’s observed the raptor influx, watching action from his office window on the 25th floor of the PNC Tower downtown — where he once watched a peregrine falcon, capable of reaching speeds of 200 mph, catch a chimney swift, a quick and acrobatic flier.

“It was an amazing feat,” Lindsay recalled. “The chimney swift flew south and away. The peregrine falcon flew up and out of my sight. About 20 seconds later, he came zooming down faster than you can imagine a bird can go, and knocked the chimney swift almost in half.”

Clifton resident Cassandra Culin has watched nesting and flying hawks for years and said they foster a connection to nature and spirit. She recalled taking a walk in 2007 near the nursing home in Clifton, where her 105-year-old grandmother had died that same day.

“I saw two hawks flying in the air, calling out out to each other,” Cullin said. “I thought, ‘Oh Granny, finally flying free.’”

Adapting to city life
Depending on their preferences, they eat insects, rats, mice and snakes.

Some dine on frogs and songbirds. They call out with distinctive vocalizations, such as the “woo, woo, woo” of a great horned owl or the high-pitched “shreeaaah” of a red-tailed hawk.

Cooper’s hawks are forest fliers that have developed a knack for navigating older neighborhoods with houses and trees close together, said Kathy Dennis, a volunteer at Raptor Rehabilitation of Kentucky, which has cared for injured raptors for 25 years.

Cooper’s hawks are among those that eat other birds. “People who put up bird feeders … you are opening a McDonalds for hawks,” she said.

The American kestrel, a small falcon, naturally nests in tree cavities. But in the city, they can be found under the eaves of houses or in other building holes, said Eileen Wicker, executive director of Raptor Rehab.

A pair of peregrine falcons is raising a family 300 feet up a smokestack at the Mill Creek power plant in southwest Louisville, where LG&E has a webcam.

And as many as 10 golden eagles pass over Louisville each winter, settling into Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest, just 25 miles from downtown.

“They migrate down from northeastern Canada in the fall, residing in Bernheim until mid-March usually,” said Andrew Berry, Bernheim forest manager. “They return to breed in Canada during spring.”

The red-shouldered hawks at the zoo occupy a squirrel nest.

“It’s actually a time-share,” Mylnek said. “Squirrels still use it in the winter.”

Life in the city
It’s “extremely rare” for raptors to harm people, said Heyden. Just give them some space, she said.

John and Lucy Quesenberry have had nesting hawks for several years, though not this year, on their property in eastern Louisville.

Lucy Quesenberry recalled how one year her husband would wear a safari helmet in the yard, or sometimes he would use an umbrella for protection, from a female red-shouldered hawk.

Raptor Rehab obtained a permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to take that bird’s chicks to its center, where they were raised by “foster parent” birds until they could be released, Wicker said.

“We loved having them, really, except for the one that was attacking us,” said Lucy Quesenberry. With the raptors gone this year, “we have a lot more rabbits eating the garden.”

Wicker said fewer raptors get shot in the city than in the country. But she recalled rescuing chicks from a Louisville nest in 2009, after a shooting.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service investigation records obtained Tuesday from a March 13th Freedom of Information Act request indicate that two hawks in Louisville were shot and killed — an adult and a fledgling. The shooter told authorities that the hawks were harassing family members entering the front door.

Although the shooter faced a potential fine of $15,000 and six months in jail, the agency recommended the “minimal penalty” of $350, plus a $25 processing fee, because the hawks “did in fact pose a risk to the homeowners,” according to the records. A federal magistrate agreed, the records said.

William C. Woody, assistant director for law enforcement for the agency, refused to identify the name of the shooter, writing in a letter that the agency wanted to protect the person from “harassment or unwanted publicity.”

Dangerous work
More commonly, Louisville’s raptors are injured by cars or when they fly into a window. Babies sometimes get hurt when falling out of their nests, Wicker said.

Her group takes in 300 birds a year. About 40 percent can’t be saved, she said.

Of those that can, she said nearly 70 percent recover and are returned to nature. Others go to education programs or must be euthanized, she said.

The work can be dangerous. Holding a bald eagle is like “handling a package of dynamite,” she said.

And it takes money. Mice cost nearly a dollar each, and the center needs about 1,000 a week, she said.

The joy comes from freeing a once-injured bird, Wicker said. “It just does something to your spirit and soul.”


FAO animal flu reference center set up in N China

more than 400 million poultry died or were slaughtered after contracting avian influenza from 2003 to 2011

more than 400 million poultry died or were slaughtered after contracting avian influenza from 2003 to 2011

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations on Monday designated an animal influenza lab in northeast China’s Heilongjiang Province as a reference center for animal influenza.

The Animal Influenza Laboratory, which belongs to the Harbin Veterinary Research Institute (HVRI) of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, is located in the provincial capital of Harbin.

The center is the first FAO-recognized reference center in China and the second in the world after the Federal Research Institute for Animal Health, which is operated by the Friedrich Loeffer Institute of Germany.

The HVRI will share information and jointly carry out animal influenza supervision, prevention and control programs with the FAO, as well as provide data on epidemiology and influenza virus evolution in Asia and offer consultation on vaccines and immunity, Dr. Juan Luborth, chief veterinary officer of the FAO, said at a designation ceremony held on Monday.

“The world still faces new risks for avian influenza, as the H5N1 bird flu virus still plagues many Asian and Middle Eastern countries. If we fail to take action, the virus could cause a global pandemic worse than that seen in 2006,” Luborth said.

According to statistics released by the FAO, more than 400 million poultry died or were slaughtered after contracting avian influenza from 2003 to 2011, causing economic losses of 20 billion U.S. dollars.

More than 500 people contracted the H5N1 virus from 2003 to 2011 and 300 of them lost their lives due to the virus.

Luborth said he is concerned about cuts in funding for avian influenza prevention that occurred after the global financial crisis.

“If veterinary services are not sufficiently supported, we are more likely to face an outbreak,” he said.

He said more governments should boost funding for animal disease prevention, strengthen sanitation and guarantee safety in farms and markets.

“China has vast veterinary services and strong campaigns that can allow it to prevent avian influenza from spreading over from birds to humans. But some of its neighbors are unable to do so,” Luborth said.

In February, the Ministry of Health confirmed that two H5N1 patients had died in a hospital in southwest China’s Guizhou Province.

In the neighboring Republic of Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia and Nepal, avian influenza infections have also been reported recently.

China has paid attention to the prevention and control of avian influenza and an integrated bird flu control system has been created, said Yu Kangzheng, China’s chief veterinary officer.

“China and the FAO have cooperated a great deal in areas related to animal epidemics and laboratory biosecurity in recent years. The establishment of the center will boost that cooperation,” said Yu.

China and the FAO will also strengthen cooperative efforts to prevent and control the cross-border spread animal disease, as well as encourage exchanges of veterinary experience and information among different countries, Yu said.

“We will continue to accumulate experience and improve our capability to prevent and control avian influenza with the support of international organizations,” Yu said.

The FAO plans to designate 50 animal health reference centers around the world to research veterinary epidemiology, laboratory biosecurity, animal epidemic diseases and zoonosis.

Exploring spatiotemporal variation in migration phenology

Screen-Shot-2012-03-08-at-11-46-26-AMAllen Hurlbert and Zhongfei Liang recently used eBird data to publish a paper entitled “Spatiotemporal Variation in Avian Migration Phenology: Citizen Science Reveals Effects of Climate Change”, which appears in the journal PLoS One. Allen wanted to thank the eBird community, and provided the following overview of the article: “Your eBird observations continue to help shed light on fundamental questions regarding avian ecology and distribution. You’ve already seen the amazing animated occurrence maps that the Cornell Lab of Ornithology has developed. With former UNC undergrad Zhongfei Liang, I recently used eBird data for a slightly different purpose: we examined the extent to which birds have been shifting the timing of spring migration in response to year-to-year variation in spring temperature over the past 10 years and at sites throughout eastern North America. We found what many of you have undoubtedly observed yourselves–that many species, like the Red-eyed Vireo and Scarlet Tanager, are arriving earlier in warm years and later in cold years. Other species, however, such as the Barn Swallow and Eastern Wood-Pewee, do not seem to be as able to adapt to this variation in climate, and their populations may be suffering as a result.”

Temperature and Red-eyed Vireo arrival date by year

Temperature and Red-eyed Vireo arrival date by year

A number of previous studies have tackled this relationship between temperature and the timing of migration, but nearly all have been conducted at just one or a handful of locations–a bird observatory, or long-term banding station, for example. While these studies have the advantage of much longer time series, what they lack and what is a major strength of the eBird dataset, is geographic breadth. This breadth has allowed us to identify, for example, that birds breeding in the Southeast appear to be more sensitive to temperature, and shift their arrival earlier than birds in the Northeast given the same amount of warming. We’re still working out why this might be the case, but one hypothesis is related to seasonality and the rate of change in temperature over the course of spring. In the Southeast, that rate of change is typically slower, and so a fixed amount of warming corresponds to a longer passage of time compared to up north. At any rate, we wouldn’t have known there was an interesting pattern to investigate without all of your observations. Thanks to all of you who contribute to eBird!

This paper is published in the open access journal, PLoS One, which means that anyone can access and read the paper for free here.

Citation:   Hurlbert AH, Liang Z (2012) Spatiotemporal Variation in Avian Migration Phenology: Citizen Science Reveals Effects of Climate Change. PLoS ONE 7(2): e31662. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0031662

Contributed by: Dr. Allen H Hurlbert, Department of Biology, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Allen Hurlbert was recently interviewed by the CBC radio along with our February eBirder of the Month, Mike Burrell and Bird Studies Canada’s eBird coordinator, Dick Cannings. We think you will enjoy the interview, which you can listen to in its entirety here.

Background: All data entered into eBird are free and accessible to researchers and conservationists at the Avian Knowledge Network. A list of publications that use eBird is available


BirdCast Migration Forecast

featureImage_summaryExpect a progression of good migration conditions very similar to last week’s. Conditions for bird migration will be favorable east of the Rockies and on the Great Plains over the weekend. By Monday and Tuesday these conditions make for good migration in the Midwest and by the middle and latter half of next week, warm conditions and southerly flow with set up good conditions for the East Coast. Intermittent precipitation will complicate things, but could create some waterfowl fallouts. Watch also for a Pacific Northwest storms to bring good seawatching as well.

This weekend’s weather will feature a large high pressure system setting up off the east coast with another unseasonably mild southerly flow developing from the Plains to the east coast over the course of next week. Return flow moisture around this large high pressure system will lead to precipitation spreading into the southern and central Plains. Meanwhile storminess will be the rule for the Pacific Northwest with relatively tranquil weather in the southwest U.S. and California. Monday through Friday will feature continued mild weather in much of the lower 48 states with frequent southerly winds while storm after storm hits the Pacific Northwest with bouts of precipitation.

Conditions will not be favorable for much movement in the eastern US this weekend, but the departure of high pressure off the coast and return of southerly flow in its wake should bring increasingly favorable conditions by the middle to the end of the week, when migration magnitudes seen in the central US should also occur in the East. Widely scattered precipitation may shut down movements in many areas by very late in the week, depending on the extent and intensity of precipitation. Light winds across much of the interior western US should allow for light to moderate migration in the coming week, including across southern California, the desert Southwest, and the Four Corners region by the middle and end of the week. An unsettled weather pattern along the West Coast should bring early landbird migrants to the region, and make for good seawatching conditions in the wake of a cold front Sunday and Monday, especially in coastal Oregon and Washington.

These map show where warmer than average (oranges to red) and colder than average (blues) temperatures are projected in the next 8 to 10 days over the Northern Hemisphere. The map on the left is from the European Model and the right map is the Global Forecast System Model from NOAA. Image courtesy of the Pennsylvania State University Meteorology Department.
These map show where warmer than average (oranges to red) and colder than average (blues) temperatures are projected in the next 8 to 10 days over the Northern Hemisphere. The map on the left is from the European Model and the right map is the Global Forecast System Model from NOAA. Image courtesy of the Pennsylvania State University Meteorology Department.

These map show where warmer than average (oranges to red) and colder than average (blues) temperatures are projected in the next 8 to 10 days over the Northern Hemisphere. The map on the left is from the European Model and the right map is the Global Forecast System Model from NOAA. Image courtesy of the Pennsylvania State University Meteorology Department.

Tree Swallows

An advancing front of Tree Swallows is surging up from the south and can be expected to sweep into new areas across much of the country this week. A sign of the unseasonably warm winter and early spring, we predict this year’s Tree Swallow arrival to be 5-10 days earlier than normal in most areas east of the Rockies. Already common along the Pacific slope from southern California to southern British Columbia, Tree Swallows have also shown the beginnings of a strong arrival in the mid-Atlantic, Pennsylvania, the southern Ohio River Valley, and southern Great Plains. With favorable migration conditions fueling the northward movement, this week we expect Tree Swallows will fill in most of their eastern breeding range south of Canada (except for the Canadian border states and northern Great Plains). Extremely early pioneers have already been seen in Wisconsin, Ontario, New York, and Massachusetts. We challenge birders in Nevada, Colorado, Nebraska, Minnesota, Michigan, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine to get out and find the first arriving Tree Swallow of the year; look for them to appear on the Rocky Mountain Front Range this weekend, on the Great Plains on Monday and Tuesday, and in northern New England by late next week.

Other species that are likely to move along with the Tree Swallows are Eastern Phoebes, Eastern and Western Meadowlarks, and Wilson’s Snipe. Watch for the earliest Northern Rough-winged and Barn Swallows in the mid-continent as well.

Regional Forecasts


  • Tree Swallows will continue to advance up the West Coast, with the influx likely pushing into British Columbia. Violet-green Swallows will also be in evidence, occurring more broadly across the region.
  • Common Black-Hawks should return to breeding locales in southeastern Arizona. Also watch for migrants overhead or along riparian strips. There have already been reports from Tubac and Sweetwater Wetlands. The Arizona frequency chart shows the quick return of this species quite well.
  • Expect Rufous Hummingbirds numbers to continue to build along the West Coast with the first arrivals in British Columbia likely this week.
  • The first few Pacific-slope Flycatchers should begin to appear by weeks’ end, especially in California.
  • Strong west winds along the coast on Monday should push migrating loons and Black-legged Kittiwakes near shore.

Great Plains

  • Goose and duck migration should continue in full swing throughout the region. Observers in northern regions should watch for a continuing influx of early waterfowl, particularly geese, Northern Pintail, and American Wigeon.
  • This should be an excellent week to carefully scrutinize flocks of gulls as they continue their northward migration. Gull diversity is often at its best in mid-March, particularly along the Front Range of Colorado. Look for Glaucous, Iceland, Thayer’s, and Lesser Black-backed, among the more numerous American Herring Gulls. These should be joined by the first waves of Franklin’s Gulls.
  • Oklahoma and Kansas should see the first significant influx of migrant shorebirds that should include good numbers of Greater Yellowlegs, Baird’s Sandpiper, Pectoral Sandpiper, American Golden-Plover, and American Avocet.
  • Raptors should be on the move across the northern Great Plains, with Red-tailed Hawk, Rough-legged Hawk, and Bald Eagle dominating the mix.

 Upper Midwest and Northeast

  • Expect Tree Swallows to arrive in good numbers in all but the most northerly portions of this region. Expect the vanguard of the Eastern Phoebe movement to appear this week, with a good push occurring late in the week.
  • Watch for migrant Rough-legged Hawk and Golden Eagle. Both species should be nearing their peak migration periods for returning adults, and it would be worth spending an hour or two scanning the skies, even if you live in residential areas where these species may be rarely detected. If possible, try to photograph Golden Eagles to help document the changing status of this species in the East.
  • American Woodcocks have returned to many breeding grounds. Pick a quiet and warm evening to check likely habitat where old fields and woodlands mix. Listen for this species’ distinctive peenting and wild aerial displays. Check the March American Woodcock  eBird map first and see if you can find a few locales where the species hasn’t been previously reported. Return to old sites to see if this declining species has returned. Remember, it’s just as important to submit checklists from where you don’t find them.

Gulf Coast and Southeast

  • The first migrant warblers should begin to make landfall along the Gulf Coast, including Louisiana Waterthrush and Prothonotary Warbler.
  • Watch and listen for Chuck-will’s-widow in Florida where the species should arrive in strong numbers. If the southerly flow continues, also expect the first Chuck-will’s-widows to be detected in Georgia, but don’t expect the first in Louisiana or Texas until early April.
  • Expect most large flocks of wintering waterfowl, particularly diving ducks and Northern Pintail, to depart and be replaced by growing numbers of Blue-winged Teal. Since many species of waterfowl are on the move, it is worth carefully checking water bodies daily or even more often.


BirdCast is a project of NOAA and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology that will be studying bird migration and weather, using eBird data in conjunction with NOAA weather forecasts and novel computer modeling techniques. In Spring 2012 BirdCast will publish periodic forecasts discussing and predicting bird migration. Your observations from before and after these events will be be used to develop better predictive models relating to birds and weather. Hopefully BirdCast will provide useful alerts about the best birding days in your area and heighten general awareness about the connection between bird migration and weather.

As always, we encourage you to get out both before and after the weather event, report your birds to eBird, and let us know what you see on our Facebook page by commenting under the BirdCast story. Please include links to your eBird checklists that we can cite in next week’s summary (just copy the URL of the checklist and paste it in).

Special thanks to David Nicosia, our partner at NOAA, for the weather maps and analysis.