May 8, 2010

International Migratory Bird Day

Above: Cerulean Warbler, Rufous Hummingbird, American Redstart. Below left: Wood Duck, American Oystercatcher, Puffin, Whooping Crane. All by Robert Petty for EFTA's Bird Day 2010.

Truth be told: every day is bird day here in Southern California. OK, every day is [or should be] bird day everywhere, but especially here. From the mountains to the sea [as a SoCal news icon used to say each evening] there are beautiful local birds and cool migratory birds everywhere you look.

International Migratory Bird Day "highlights and celebrates the migration of nearly 350 species of migratory birds between nesting habitats in North America and non-breeding grounds in Latin America, Mexico, and the Caribbean," and to quote from the essay Coming together to protect birds, "IMBD is not only a day to foster appreciation for wild birds and to celebrate and support migratory bird conservation; it is also is a call to action." We celebrate Bird Day [every day] by working toward:
• Protecting and managing green space.

• Landscaping with native plants in backyards and parks.

• Adopting architecture and lighting systems that reduce collisions.

• Making our communities hospitable to breeding, wintering and migrating birds that seek safe places to spend time and find food.

"Birds can save the world," writes Dr. John Fitzpatrick, Director of the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology and professor in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Cornell:
[B]irds represent our most accessible and sensitive indicator of environmental health and ecological change. Today, thanks especially to the Internet, individual citizens have unprecedented opportunities to provide real data that answer important questions about bird populations at continental scales. Humans literally are beginning to serve as worldwide biosphere sensors. The question is, do we also have the will to self-correct? Birds present us with numerous motivations to do so, and an excellent barometer for measuring our successes and failures.
The real data Dr. Fitzpatrick is talking about can be viewed and explored at eBird, which is quite possibly the coolest data-gathering program of all time [and I'm not just saying that because I'm one of this year's top 100 eBirders in my county. Though I am]. To see just one example of eBird's citizen scientists at work, check out the eBird Gulf Coast Oil Spill Bird Tracker. The gadget displays recent sightings of ten focal species — data provided by a dedicated army of eBirders, citizen scientists providing "a real-time snapshot of the region’s birdlife, helping conservationists and researchers understand where, when, and how many of each species are currently occurring on local beaches and wetlands."

Wild birds embody the wonder and beauty of nature, its mystery and its miracles. The challenges wild birds face are challenges that sooner or later will confront us all. We owe it to ourselves, if not to the life of the skies, to celebrate Bird Day as if our future depended on it — because odds are, it does.

George Divoky's Planet. "This is a story about global warming and a scientist named George Divoky, who studies a colony of Arctic seabirds on a remote barrier island off the northern coast of Alaska. I mention all this at the start because a reader might like to come to the point, and what could be more urgent than the very health and durability of this planet we call Earth? However, before George can pursue his inquiry into worldwide climate change; before he can puzzle out the connections between a bunch of penguinesque birds on a flat, snow-covered, icebound island and the escalating threat of droughts, floods and rising global temperatures, he must first mount a defense -- his only defense in this frozen, godforsaken place -- against the possibility of being consumed, down to the last toenail, by a polar bear while he sleeps. He must first build a fence." A hands-down, must-read classic, even more important now than when it was first published back in 2002.

Media helicopters force Gulf birds to abandon nests. Holy crap, news people.

The know-how and materials already exist. We need to do the right thing

Efforts under way to douse nighttime lights on downtown Cleveland skyscrapers, saving millions of migrating songbirds

H/T to Mike McDowell for the JSOnline link.


Anonymous said...

Luisa - thanks for mentioning the NY Times Cooper Island piece. Wanted you to know things have gotten much worse since 2002 as the melt in the region has continued. This past summer polar bear predation and puffin competition resulted in a near-complete breeding failure for the Black Guillemots.


Luisa said...

Thank you for your comment and the excellent links. I made 'em direct:

Friends of Cooper Island

It Takes a Colony to Raise one Young [from Birds and Bears of Cooper Island at Adventures in Climate Change.