Feral cats, blackberries, and rats, oh my! Conserving the threatened bird community of the Juan Fernandez Islands, Chile

COMING: September 12, 2017, 6:45 PM, UPS Thompson Hall room 175. Suggested donation $10.

Prof Peter Hodum returns to ABC to bring us up to date on his conservation efforts on the Juan Fernandez islands.

Peter Hodum in the Juan Fernandez Islands

The Juan Fernandez Islands, Chile, are considered to be a globally significant and highly threatened biodiversity region. Our long-term conservation program in the islands focuses on conserving critically endangered and threatened bird species, many of which are found nowhere else in the world, controlling invasive species, restoring native habitat and building capacity, awareness and engagement in the local community.  In this talk, Peter Hodum will provide an update on recent projects led by Oikonos Ecosystem Knowledge/Univ. of Puget Sound to advance community-based conservation and restoration in these uniquely special islands.

Peter Hodum originally spoke to Tahoma Audubon about this project several years ago, and we are anxious to hear the latest.  He also spoke to ABC recently about his work on seabirds off the Washington coast.

ABC’er makes the Cornell news – Living Bird, June 26, 2017

Melissa Sherwood’s now-famous Junco nestbox story that she told ABC about last year has now gone national.  This week, Cornell’s Living Bird Magazine, June 26, 2017, ran the article from their NestWatch program about it.

Melissa knew right away that something was different when she saw Juncos using one of the nestboxes on her Gig Harbor property, and she immediately let the NestWatch people know.  They coached her into getting more photos including the successful fledglings.  So add House Juncos to the list that includes House Finch, House Sparrow, and House Wren!

Read all about it in your copy of Living Bird or go directly to their NestWatch link here:  http://nestwatch.org/connect/news/nestwatcher-finds-first-dark-eyed-junco-nesting-in-a-birdhouse/?__hstc=75100365.ebf053831420272d508e86fe31317063.1473628434158.1497838879795.1498609836848.17&__hssc=75100365.4.1498609836848&__hsfp=3743668368#_ga=2.52654574.733933187.1498609834-300106280.1473628433

Cornell has announced that this will be published in the Wilson Journal of Ornithology in the near future, and we’ll let you know when that happens.

In the meantime, pay attention to ordinary birds doing extraordinary things!

Thanks to Ed Pullen for noticing this publication.

ABC READS 2017: CAT WARS — Discussion August 14, 2017

Come to our book discussion, August 14, 2017, 6:45 PM at the University Place Library.  Read the book or just come to find out what all the fuss is about.  This will be the third book that ABC has read together in the summer, and previous discussions have been fun and informative.

Cat Wars

Named one of Forbes.com’s 10 Best Conservation and Environment Books of 2016, CAT WARS was written by Peter Marra, head of the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center and coauthor of the authoritative Birds of Two Worlds: The Ecology and Evolution of Migration, and by prolific nature writer Chris Santella, author of Fifty Places to Go Birding Before You Die, etc.

 
This book has predictably drawn great praise and great hatred, illuminating the war between pet lovers and bird lovers. It has a definite western and northwest perspective, too, mentioning other such “wars,” such as Spotted Owls vs Barred Owls, as well as Double-crested Cormorants vs. salmon. Some of the best quotes are from noted California birder Rich Stallcup.  On-line reviews range from “great documentation with lots of studies,” to “this is just junk science.”

 
Sure, I know all about this, you might think. But think again. It’s much worse than previously thought. New information and conservative extrapolations of data are downright scary.

 
In the near future, ABC will welcome back Dr. Peter Hodum, who has previously spoken to ABC. Besides northwestern pelagics, he also studies birds on small islands off Chile, and he has had experiences with cats’ predation on rare seabirds there. So we expect to hear some first-hand information in connection with this book’s thesis.

 
The “other” ABC, American Bird Conservancy, also has been campaigning for years to keep your pet cats indoors and has issued at least two helpful brochures in the past. Their current information is here: https://abcbirds.org/program/cats-indoors/

 

 

HOW TO GET THE BOOK: Although the list price is 24.95, it is readily available cheaper:

 
VIRTUAL: AMAZON KINDLE: 15.72
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VIRTUAL: BARNES & NOBLE NOOK: 17.99
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AMAZON 3rd PARTY USED: 10.72 + 3.99 S&H
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HALF PRICE BOOKS: 9.99 & 3.99 S&H
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ALIBRIS – 7.98 + 3.99 S&H
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ABEBOOKS – 7.99 + 3.99 S&H
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JUNE 2017: JOE & MAGGIE’S PENGUIN WORLD – SOUTH GEORGIA ISLAND

On June 6, 2017, Joe and Maggie Tieger, both biologists, invited us to enjoy their recent adventure — South Georgia Island in October, spring in the Antarctic. What a surprise to find out that this was part of the UK, thanks to the interesting questions asked by the ABC’ers.

Joe and Maggie Tieger show us the maps

Their group made landfall up and down the east coast of the island via Zodiacs, but on the west coast the terrain was too difficult to land, so they had to be content with having the ship cruise the stunning glaciers and fiords on that side.

ABC’ers cool down with Joe and Maggie

Lacing their personal adventures on a Cheeseman’s cruise with Shackleton’s history made a very interesting story. Among the birders and photographers on board, there were also trekkers wanting to try their stamina on the harsh terrain, sometimes being picked up at a different spot than where they were dropped off, surviving Shackleton-style for a day. The whole shipload visited Shackleton’s grave, returning to luxury accommodations gratefully.

The Kings ignore our staging area with all of our gear in drysacks

Three species of penguins dominated their birding, King, Gentoo, and Chinstrap, with a single specimen of Macaroni, thought to actually be the most numerous. The penguins in general were doing well and increasing in numbers in spite of many predators including Skuas, Giant Petrels, Orcas, and the fearsome Leopard Seals. King Penguins are the king of this penguin kingdom and the second largest Penguin in the world, but it was hard to think of them like royalty once we saw the photos of Kings in molt! It’s amazing they survive since it takes forever and they lose 50% of their weight because they are prevented from going to sea to eat.

Fearsome Leopard Seal looking for fresh Penguin

Other wildlife included the previously endangered Fur Seals and the incredibly huge Elephant Seals. Another new word for me: Weaners! Young Elephant Seals being weaned by their mothers, often against their will, who will cuddle up to anything warm-blooded hoping for some comfort and feeding.

 
Although the Tiegers didn’t see whales, they’re there. Whaling was only shut down in this area in 1965.

More than just Penguins for the birders.

There are a number of different Albatrosses nesting on the island, but unlike the penguins, their numbers are gradually decreasing. Snowy Sheathbills and Antarctic Terns added to the interesting bird list, as well as the South Georgia Pipit, the ONLY passerine, brought back from the brink of extinction by solving the rat and reindeer problems.

Joe Tieger, looking for Albatross

All the wildlife was tame as far as humans were concerned, which made it a photographer’s paradise. Luckily Joe and Maggie are among the best when it comes to bird photography!

Everything “cute” is not a penguin

I was so surprised they actually came upon the edge of Gondwana, part of the almost mythical first big land mass on earth!

King Penguins with their gold jewelry glowing

When they packed up and boarded ship for the last time, they still weren’t finished, with the odd bird landing on the boat, as well as pretty good pelagic birding, considering they didn’t chum. Maggie was delighted to see up close and on board the usually very elusive South Georgia Diving-Petrel, a very tiny seemingly delicate seabird.

 
Joe and Maggie logged 2410 nautical miles! And yes, they have more adventures ahead!

 

 

All South Georgia Island photos are by Joe and/or Maggie Tieger.

PEREGRINE FLASH MOB, Memorial Day 2017

A flash mob materialized after only 2 days’ notice on the evening of Memorial Day in downtown Tacoma to check on the happy family of peregrines, Murray and Harriet and their four chicks, three males and one female, Jake, Chris, Eeyore, and Hope. The names were picked in a contest drawing by Tahoma Audubon and were assigned after banding revealed the genders of the chicks.

Fergus Hyke, chief observer and photographer of this nest, at left with many of our group.

Lots of you came and were not disappointed! Guests of honor were Fergus Hyke, a professional-level photographer who has been monitoring the birds from his office in their building on behalf of FRG (Falcon Research Group, Bud Anderson’s organization), as well as TAS President Jerry Broadus and local raptor expert Roger Orness who participated in the banding operation.

Murray the Peregrine

This turned out to be one of the first days that the chicks left the nest, “branching” out onto the art-deco ledge of the 17th floor of the Heritage Bank Building, best viewed from various spots on 12th Street looking north. We were treated to Peregrines flying over our heads, negotiating the canyons of skyscrapers expertly, while Rock Pigeons went about their business with an eye to the sky. One of the falcons spent considerable time plucking a pigeon one building east of the nest, feathers snowing down like cottonwood seeds. Soon pieces were brought to the chicks, who were enthusiastic eaters. The parents used the food to lure the chicks ever further from the comfortable and luxurious penthouse provided by falcon lovers.

Jerry tells the group about banding the chicks at the nest (arrow)

This drama will be ongoing, and all of you are urged to look up from this intersection in Tacoma and see what’s happening and tell your friends, but soon!

Raptor expert Roger Orness with Willettes

It is thought that the chicks will fledge within a couple of weeks. This will be a time of vigilance for all of us, as we watch for chicks suddenly appearing on the busy roadway. Jerry says they are approachable and can be picked up at that stage. Take it into the building. The security people can get it to Fergus or someone to put it back in the nest box.

 

Some of Fergus’ great shots of this family close up, as well as by others who have been able to see these birds head to head are on the Tahoma Audubon website at http://www.tahomaaudubon.org/Peregrine-Falcons-Downtown-Tacoma, as well as on the TAS Facebook page.

 

More photos by others taken from the ground are on the TAS FLICKR site: https://www.flickr.com/photos/tahomaaudubon/albums/72157681477342223

More photos have been added recently by Heather Roskelley, who seems to be specializing in bloody prey shots!!

 

Downtown Tacoma has been the site of almost continuous Peregrine nesting attempts since the 1990s, first on the Murray Morgan 11th Street bridge, just a stone’s throw from the current nest. In fact, the dad of the current family, “Murray,” was fledged and banded on that bridge 13 years ago, so he’s getting to be an old guy. He’s had many mates over the years and has had great success at the present nest box site for the past several years. Jerry tells us there is another Peregrine family under the highway 509 bridge right now who also have 4 chicks.

Peregrine family eating dinner

Happy Peregrine family shares dinner

Dad Murray goes to work after dinner

What a wonderful adaptation this proud species of raptor has made since coming back from the brink during the DDT years!
Go there! See them!

 

NEWS FLASH!  Just after this was posted, the Tacoma News Tribune published a story on the Peregrine family:

http://www.thenewstribune.com/outdoors/article153431734.html

UPDATE – JUNE 16, 2017:  After Chris’ sad demise, it was heartening today from Jerry & Fergus to hear that Hope was out of rehab after her fledging misadventure.  Roger is also out there, still waiting to see whether she’ll be okay.  A watcher in a nearby building said she was holding her wing a little askew.  X-rays have shown no break.

Yesterday during the Tall Ships’ arrival, a Peregrine was seen flying in the area by Diane and Adam, although they were not very close.

New photos have been posted on both websites above (Tahoma Audubon and FLICKR).

ABC brings back Sievert Rohwer – May 1, 2017

ABC teamed with Tahoma Audubon and the Slater Museum at UPS to bring back one of our favorite speakers from 2015, Sievert Rohwer of UW/Burke Museum, to explain molt migration to us. He decided we understood his previous talk on types of molt, so instead of reviewing, he plunged directly into molt migration. It was a privilege to have him return to see us, as we learned a lot last time and felt we had made a friend.

Sievert Rohwer and Peter Wimberger with ABCers

Peter Wimberger, director of the Slater Museum, introduced his previous professor to the crowd and presented him with a Slater Museum T-shirt!

ABCers Diane & Faye assist Sievert with his new Slater Museum shirt

Professor Rohwer got right into it with evidence that previous researchers had gotten it wrong, assuming that since they knew the pattern of molt migration in eastern species — that western species would have a similar pattern. Wrong! Turns out Sievert’s team found Lucy’s Warbler molts on its wintering grounds in Mexico and not in the U.S. before migration, and they were just the first inkling of a larger pattern. The Adolfo study turned over the old paradigm by studying specimens from every collection they could get, showing western molting birds to be much more likely in Mexico than the U.S.

Western molt migration discovery

And these passerines weren’t just molting in Mexico, but in the coastal lowlands. Some older studies had been skewed by the fact that collectors liked the mountains, but birds didn’t. There was a true difference from eastern U.S. neotropical migrants who molted before flying south. Our western birds followed the Mexican monsoons. Sievert vividly recounted how rich in birds an area would be, then his team would go elsewhere, only to return 2 weeks later and find the area devoid of birds after the swarms stripped monsoon growth bare. Many of the birds had the ability to put on huge stores of fat overnight that allowed them to lead this kind of life.

Coastal lowlands species richness

Seasonal monsoon precipitation

 

Painted Buntings’ migration patterns showed molting grounds and wintering grounds that didn’t match up, as shown by new monthly population maps. These are more up-slope movements, and again the maps show this trend when overlaid by elevation and moisture. (See https://peerj.com/articles/1871/#supp-1)

Painted Bunting migration animation

A disturbing piece of research has revealed that passerine females who molt down south have a rougher time of it than the males, arriving later for a shorter molt cycle, finding the males have eaten all the best food, and then being stuck having to grow a set of primaries simultaneously instead of taking their time.

Sievert spiced up his slide show with giant grasshoppers being eaten by beetles and other grasshoppers, as well as tarantulas and instructions on how to catch them!

Sievert offered instructions on catching tarantulas like this

 

Species discussed included Lucy’s Warbler, Lazuli Bunting, Indigo Bunting, Bullock’s Oriole, and then when Sievert was trying to tie up his talk, he started in on Yellow-billed Cuckoos. Apparently they used to breed all over the western U.S., but they really haven’t decreased in the way we think up here in Washington. Instead, cuckoos found lots of food closer to where they molted and quit coming north. Unless you’re talking strictly about Washington State, these birds are not endangered at all, but very common! We need to know more about this, Sievert!

Sievert’s last slide posed the question, “How did collections fail us?” This turned out to be a major theme for this research. Numbers of specimens and times of collection in the past bore little correlation to where the most birds were and what they were doing. Thanks to Sievert Rohwer, that is changing.

Sievert Rohwer with ABC program whiz, Kay Pullen

April 12, 2017 – ABC’s new best friend – Noah Strycker!

BIRDING WITHOUT BIRDERS: ABC welcomes Noah Strycker

Noah's Arc led him to 41 countries and 6042 birds.

4-12-17 – Noah made one long trip to get his 6042 birds in 41 countries.

Noah Strycker struck gold on April 12, 2017, when he visited Tacoma and was treated by ABC like the VIP he has become.  Getting Noah for ABC was a dream come true for Kay Pullen who had been plotting ever since she got ABC to read Noah Strycker’s book, The Thing with Feathers, a couple of years ago.  The event mushroomed into the biggest event ABC has held to this date, necessitating a change in venue to the Rotunda at UPS, finagled by Peter Wimberger, director of the Slater Museum, and Kay’s fellow conspirator for this event.  Fellow sponsor, Tahoma Audubon, managed collection of fees and checked people in. There were over 150 people in the rotunda when Noah arrived after meeting earlier with UPS students and ABC principals.

Noah Strycker’s appearance filled the UPS Rotunda

4-12-17 – Tahoma Audubon & UPS/Slater Museum selling souvenirs & Noah’s books

We already knew Noah had a talent for birding and a talent for writing, but tonight we found that he has a talent for holding a large audience in the palm of his hand! With his expertly-curated collection of photos, the Power-Point presentation hummed along in harmony with Noah’s story, which started before he was even born and proceeded into his unknown, but brilliant, future. After shattering the previous record by approximately 1500 species, Noah finished 2015 with 6042 birds!! He wore the crown for a year, but challenger Arjan Dwarshuis of the Netherlands broke it in 2016, and the two have become friends with many stories to compare.

4-12-17 – Kay Pullen & Peter Wimberger introduce Noah Strycker

4-12-17 – Noah Strycker has our attention!

Noah wrote a daily blog during his Year, which many of us followed, and which is being expanded into his upcoming book, Birding Without Borders: An Obsession, a Quest, and the Biggest Year in the World, due this fall. While you’re waiting for the book, you can still read his blog: http://www.audubon.org/features/birding-without-borders

4-12-17 – Noah is mobbed after his talk (photo/Art Wang)

4-12-17 – The people who made it happen: Kay Pullen, Ken Brown, Our star – Noah Strycker, & Ed Pullen

4-12-17 – Jody Hess, Kay Pullen, Laurel Parshall below, Noah Strycker, Diane Yorgason-Quinn, Vera Cragin, Faye McAdams Hands

Noah made it clear that he couldn’t have done this year alone.  He used native guides as much as possible and as a result had as many people stories as he did bird stories.  We predict much to come from this young man and are very happy to have become some of his people.

June 6: Joe and Maggie Tieger present: “South Georgia Island, Seabird Paradise”

Join the Advanced Birding Club (ABC) of Tahoma Audubon as our own ABCers Joe Tieger, retired from the US. Fish and Wildlife Service and Super Fund Program at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and his wife Maggie, also retired from working on the international endangered species program at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, discuss their recent adventure to South Georgia Island. Experience this remote island with its wild, spectacular landscapes and special wildlife (penguin, seal and seabird colonies) in the vibrant spring.  The island’s snow-covered mountains rise almost straight out of the sea and provide a backdrop for wildlife behaviors seldom seen elsewhere.  See vast colonies of King Penguins with their offspring “Oakum Boys”, Southern Elephant Seals nursing young, and bulls starting to fight for breeding rights, and awkward Wandering Albatross young on their nesting grounds.

 

Lecture Location:

Wednesday, June  6, 2017:  6:45 to 8:45pm

University Place Library Meeting Room

3609 Market Place W, Suite 100

University Place, WA 98466

Price: Free

Maggie Tieger, Tahoma Audubon director Emily Kalnicky, & Joe Tieger

Dr. Sievert Rohwer back for May Day 2017!

Sievert Rohwer presents “Molt Migration in Western Passerines”
Monday, May 1, 2017, $10 (details below)
Join the Advanced Birding Club (ABC) of Tahoma Audubon and the Slater Museum of Natural History at the University of Puget Sound in presenting curator and Professor Emeritus of the University of Washington Burke Museum, Dr. Sievert Rohwer, who will discuss his inside view of molt and what we don’t know about it.  He will review his work that feather regrowth can’t be hurried, with the main differences between molt strategies having to do with how many feathers are molted at the same time: Simple (one at a time), Complex (various strategies including stepwise), and Simultaneous, with most feathers molted together.  He will start with an addendum to the earlier talk in December 2015 by reviewing new data for Golden Eagles showing that rectrices are replaced by need, rather than in a set sequence.  He’ll be talking generally about many years of work by Burke staff and students on molt migration that took us on surveys to great places in the SW and, finally, to coastal NW Mexico, where they discovered huge numbers of molt migrants.  This molt migration talk will review this issue in western passerines, and consider possible effects of habitat changes due to irrigated agriculture on the decline of some western breeders. 

Lecture Location: 

University of Puget Sound

1565 N Union Ave

Tacoma WA 98416

Building: Thompson Hall, Room 175

Price: $10, payable online through Tahoma Audubon at https://tahoma.z2systems.com/np/clients/tahoma/event.jsp?event=28380

 

Brief Bio:

Ph.D.  University of Kansas. 1971.

Curator of Birds and Professor of Biology, University of Washington 1972.

 

Dr. Rohwer studies “evolutionary ecology and behavior, mostly of birds, with interests in avian coloration, adoption of unrelated offspring by replacement mates, avian hybrid zones, brood parasitism, phylogeography, and life history implications of feather renewal.  Under my curatorship the ornithology collections at the Burke Museum became internationally distinguished, with the largest collection of extended wings in the world and the second largest collection of avian tissues in the world.”

 

Honors: 

  1. AOU Elliott Coues award recognizing “extraordinary contributions to ornithological research.”
  2. Cooper Society Katma Award for “formulation of new ideas that could change the course of thinking about avian biology.”
Review a short report on his earlier talk for ABC in December 2015 on molt here: http://abcbirding.com/abc-event-dec-2-dr-sievert-rohwer-on-molt/

ABC LEARNS EBIRDING IN THE FIELD, March 11, 2017

March 11, 2017 – eBirding in the field with Wendy Connally!

Wendy at Luhr Beach in the rain

Wendy Connally of WDFW took us in the field on a very rainy morning to try out our new eBird cell phone app abilities after we heard her and Bill Tweit on Tuesday evening tell us just how to do it.

First to Luhr Beach where, except for one crazy Red-breasted Merganser, the waterfowl stayed well out there.

eBirding as a group activity

Then to Mounts Road and then birding our way home, where we did a “traveling” list in our car which added a California Scrub-jay and more of those nasty Eagles.  It wasn’t a Big Day for birds, but the small numbers were probably good for learners.

eBirders with Wendy front & center

More photos on FLICKR plus Wendy’s “Cheat Sheets.” https://www.flickr.com/photos/76552838@N03/albums/72157681252825816

Don’t forget to read Ed’s careful notes on HOW TO:

How to Use the Mobile eBird App ABC Meeting Summary

And the MOVIE!!!  Very good:

http://abcbirding.com/basic-video-on-how-to-create-a-checklist-using-ebird-mobile-app/

Thanks, Wendy! We’re better birders now, at least some of us.