Report on BRUCE BEEHLER event, Nov 5, 2015:

ABC was very fortunate to snag Bruce Beehler to address the group and interested members of the public on November 5, 2015. Dr. Beehler is the Research Associate/Division of Birds, National Museum of Natural History at the Smithsonian Institution, and the world’s expert on birds and wildlife of New Guinea, having made numerous trips there over the years and co-editing the essential birding guide to this remotest of islands.

The University of Puget Sound hosted this event, thanks to Tahoma Audubon past board member and director of the Slater Museum, Peter Wimberger. Jerry Broadus of ABC, a board member of Tahoma Audubon, introduced Bruce, and then the fun began!

Bruce started out with descriptions of the terrain (no roads possible!) and the people and customs. Having met Bruce now, we can see how his friendliness and interest made him friends everywhere he went, which was certainly necessary in some of the more remote areas such as the mountains of western New Guinea. Landing strips and helicopter pads are the only points of contact for much of this area. Aerial photos brought this home to us. Out of the trees, it could be very hot, but quite bearable in the shade, if a little damp.

The slide show then switched to flora and fauna. Even the flowers (world’s largest Rhody flower!) and rats (the largest in the world, reminiscent of Conan Doyle’s “giant rat of Sumatra!”). But the birds — Wow! From huge (Cassowary) to a miniature parrot! And two POISONOUS showy birds, which were personally tested by one of Bruce’s colleagues. Wouldn’t want that job! Although the exact poison is known, the mechanism of how it made it from plant to bird is still unknown.

Amazing bower birds and birds of paradise just amazed us! One bird of paradise was “discovered” several decades ago by identifying feathers in a native’s headdress! The Raggiana Bird of Paradise is New Guinea’s national bird — sure puts the Bald Eagle to shame!

Bruce told us the amazing story of having 60 Minutes do their famous piece on him and his work in New Guinea, sending the late Bob Simon out there with him plus a full camera crew shipped in from Africa. Bruce was amazed at the professionalism and the silent acceptance they all had of the obvious hardships and how they got the job done. Bruce’s contacts saved the day for the TV crew when their helicopter failed to materialize, though, as Bruce was able to get one right away from his contacts. This TV experience turned out to be a pivotal experience in Bruce’s career, rocketing him to stardom, so to speak. And well deserved! Bruce used some of their film footage in his presentation, and it was great!

Bruce brought along a few copies of his books for sale. THE BIRDS OF NEW GUINEA: SECOND EDITION sold out to our group within 5 minutes. Luckily he brought more copies of his newer book, LOST WORLDS, ADVENTURES IN THE TROPICAL RAINFOREST, which includes New Guinea and lots of Bruce’s other expeditions.

The full house gave Bruce a round of applause and a bunch of interesting questions.

Click on the image below to enlarge:

Dec 2, 2015 Program: Sievert Rohwer of the Burke Museum on MOLT

Join ABC on Dec 2, 6:45, at the Pierce County Administration Building, 3005 112th St E, just E of Waller Rd and S of H512, for this special event, Molt and Avian Life Histories, presented by Sievert Rohwer, Curator and Professor Emeritus of the University of Washington Burke Museum!

From Professor Rohwer: Birds have played a central role in developing and testing theories of life history evolution, particularly those involving tradeoffs between reproduction and survival. Yet studies of avian life histories have seldom considered the importance of molt and feather quality as drivers of avian life history evolution. Instead, the period of molt in the annual cycle is generally ignored or unstudied with respect to molt constraining avian reproduction and evolution. Consider the survival cost of feather replacement. Flight performance is impaired during molt, yet no one has ever measured the effect of molting on survival, even though a complete molt takes 1-2 months in a small warbler, and most large birds cannot replace all their flight feathers annually. My talk will focus on how we determine the rules of flight feather replacement and on how large birds can and cannot accommodate their need regularly to renew their flight feathers.

Another important take-home message of this talk is the value of modern collections of extended wings for exploring these ideas. Beginning in the mid 1980s the Burke Museum pioneered the development of saving an extended wing from every new bird specimen added to its collections. For large birds that cannot be collected in numbers, extensive salvage programs have developed a uniquely valuable wing collection that has supported many discoveries about the rules of flight feather replacement and how these rules affect avian reproduction and life history evolution.

Brief Bio: Ph.D. University of Kansas. 1971. Curator of Birds and Professor of Biology, University of Washington 1972.


2006. AOU Elliott Coues award recognizing “extraordinary contributions to ornithological research.”

2011. Cooper Society Katma Award for “formulation of new ideas that could change the course of thinking about avian biology.”

I study 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.

REPORT on Lora Leschner event, Oct 28, 2015

MEETING REPORT – Oct 28, 2015:

Lora Leschner, Partnership Coordinator for Pacific Birds Habitat Joint Venture, mesmerized our group on October 28, 2015, with her global grasp of every facet of conservation concern and her incredible energy. Talk about the right person for the job! She says she sometimes calls herself a behind-the-scenes habitat “broker,” which is about the best description for her job of bringing together lands that need protection or rehabilitation, threatened wildlife and plant/tree species, people who can do the work, and funding sources.

Lora said these Joint Ventures have been around for decades. This particular Habitat Joint Venture is employing some new ideas in the face of less funding. Her Venture taps many funding sources, including Ducks Unlimited, Fish & Wildlife agencies, and land conservancies. It is one of 22 Migratory Bird Joint Ventures ( coast to coast. Apparently funds have been set aside for conservation nationally as mitigation from oil companies and other sources, but actual access to these funds has been stymied. These joint ventures have proved extremely cost-effective, however, working with 5700 partners over their history to enhance, restore, conserve, and protect over 24 million acres of essential habitat. They have leveraged every dollar of federal funds at a ratio of 33-to-1! Wow!

Particular targets for this Joint Venture are coastal wetlands, prairies, and oak woodlands, all of which pertain to Pierce County. What Lora and this Joint Venture provide are offering are partnerships, funding and resources, science-based prioritization, solutions to barriers, and public support. They also make sure that funds which must be matched do find that match. Rare and imperiled species are of prime importance, and focal/surrogate species have been identified for most of them. Grants usually are earmarked for acquisition, restoration, and enhancement, and lately some monitoring. This is something that ABC members can assist with!

Lora finished up with a slide show of beautiful landscapes that have been restored with the help of this Joint Venture, many of which we as birders know well.

Check out the Joint Venture’s great website which has an opportunity to sign up for their newsletters and make contact with them:

Click below to enlarge photos. Lora Leschner at ABC on October 28, 2015, and after the meeting having dialog with Joe Tieger and Jerry Broadus.

ABC EVENT October 28, 2015 – Lora Leschner

OCTOBER 28, 6:45 pm, University Place Library meeting room

Join ABC in welcoming wildlife biologist Lora Leschner of the Pacific Coast Habitat Joint Venture (PCHJV), who will present, “Times are Changing: Creating the ideal environment for bird habitat and conservation in Washington, Oregon, California, Alaska, B.C., and Hawaii.” She will be discussing the role their organization plays in connecting people and groups to resources and funding.

Leschner has been a wildlife biologist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and then the Regional Wildlife Program Manager for North Puget Sound Region. In the past, Lora worked with Marbled Murrelets and is featured prominently in the best-selling book on that subject, “Rare Bird,” by Maria Mudd Ruth. She also published a study she did on Rhinoceros Auklets breeding on Destruction Island. She received the Special Achievement Award from Pacific Seabird Group for these and many other studies she has done.

We are excited to hear about her work and about the PCHJV. For more info:

Nov 5, 2015 – SPECIAL EVENT: Bruce Beehler’s Birds of Paradise

Join the ABC Club for a very special night featuring: “New Guinea’s Lost Worlds and Elusive Birds of Paradise,” with Bruce Beehler, Naturalist and Explorer, on Thursday, November 5, 2015, from 6:45 to 8:45 PM, at Thompson Hall, University of Puget Sound. $10. Preregistration is requested so we can obtain the appropriate lecture hall. Contact Diane Yorgason-Quinn at

In this popular lecture illustrated with still and video images, Smithsonian naturalist Bruce Beehler describes his nearly four decades of field study of the birds and rainforests of the great island of New Guinea. The presentation will feature a review of the remarkable diversity of the birdlife inhabiting New Guinea, as well as a focused look at the Birds of Paradise and the amazing plumages and behaviors of the various species in this unique bird family.

In addition, the presentation will take the audience on a field expedition to the Foja Mountains of western New Guinea, perhaps the most isolated and untouched place on planet earth. The scientists on the expedition risked their lives and suffered various hardships, but came away with more than a hundred species of plants and animals new to science. These include some of the most bizarre creatures on earth, a “lost” Bird of Paradise, a Golden-maned Bowerbird unique to this tiny mountain range, a Wattled Honeyeater-bird that blushes when upset, an egg-laying spiny mammal without teeth, and a scary five-pound giant rat.

Beehler’s bio reads like a modern-day biologist Indiana Jones. He is an ornithologist, conservationist, and naturalist. He is currently a Research Associate in the Division of Birds at the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, and is focused on research and writing about nature and natural history. Beehler has spent much of his scientific career studying and working to conserve birds and their forest habitats. After conducting doctoral fieldwork in Papula New Guinea, Beehler worked for ten years at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, followed by stints at the Wildlife Conservation Socity, U.S. Department of State, Counterpart International, Conservation International, and the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation. Beehler is an elective Fellow of the American Ornithologists Union and has served on the boards of the American Bird Conservancy, RARE, and the Livingston-Ripley Waterfowl Conservancy. In addition, Beehler served for three years as Chair of American Bird Conservancy’s Policy Council (predecessor to the Bird Conservation Alliance). Beehler has published ten books and authored scores of technical and popular articles about birds and nature. In 2007, Beehler was featured in a Sixty Minutes piece highlighting an expedition he led to the Foja Mountains in the interior of New Guinea in which scores of new species of plants and animals were discovered. Today Beehler carries out natural history exploration and field research focused mainly on wildlife and natural places in the USA.

Besides the Sixty Minutes profile, Beehler was also featured on the northwest’s own Birdnote recently. Read about it here:

We are eagerly awaiting this glimpse into another world and its fantastical bird life through the eyes of this scientist-adventurer.

Click to enlarge:

ABC Event: Lora Leschner on Oct 28, 2015

OCTOBER 28: 6:45 PM, UPlace library: Join ABC in welcoming wildlife biologist Lora Leschner of the Pacific Coast Joint Venture, which focuses on bird habitats in Washington, Oregon, California, Alaska, B.C., and Hawaii, will present: Times are Changing: Pacific Coast Joint Venture to Pacific Birds Habitat Joint Venture and creating the ideal environment for bird habitat conservation.

Lora says, “Things are evolving in our organization.” For more info:

In the past, Lora worked with Marbled Murrelets and is featured prominently in the best-selling book on that subject, “Rare Bird,” by Maria Mudd Ruth. She also published a study she did on Rhinoceros Auklets breeding on Destruction Island. She received the Special Achievement Award from Pacific Seabird Group for these and many other studies she has done.

We are excited to hear about her work and about the Pacific Coast Joint Venture.

Kitsap Jaeger Field Trip Report 9-28-15

On Monday September 28, 2015, Ken Brown led an ABC field trip to Kitsap County with Jaegers as primary targets. Five carloads of birders started out on the south side of Bainbridge Island at the fish ponds where we hit pay dirt with a huge flock of Bonaparte’s Gulls with smaller numbers of at least 4 other gull species and a Common Tern. We hit the right day for Jaegers as we watched perhaps 5 Parasitic Jaegers go after the small gulls, often successfully.

We dragged ourselves away from that spectacle and headed for Point No Point. We didn’t get that same show at all there, but in the bright sunshine we turned into whale watchers as perhaps two Humpbacks surfaced over and over, delighting us and many others. The clear conditions offered incredible views of the north Cascades with Mt. Baker gleaming gaudily. Sea Lions attracted gulls close to shore, and as well there were small numbers of migrating and wintering waterfowl making an appearance.

After lunch at Norwegian Point/Hansville (where we had a 2nd cycle Herring Gull), we headed for Foulweather Bluff and enjoyed the freshwater ducks on the inland side. Driftwood Key/Hansville again took our breath away as a huge flock of Bonaparte’s Gulls arrived in a ball like so many sanderlings! A late Osprey was a pleasant surprise!

A sunny, fun, and successful day of birding. Thanks, Ken!

Click on photo to enlarge. Bonaparte’s, Humpback, Jaeger, and the group.

Shorebirding with the Man who Wrote the Book on Shorebirds

Dennis Paulson and the ABC Birding Trip

Dennis Paulson and the ABC Birding Trip

Every Pacific Northwest birder refers to Dennis Paulson’s definitive book “Shorebirds of the Pacific Northwest” when we want to get the best available help with shorebird issues. Today 15 ABC members, myself included, had the pleasure of spending a day with Dennis at Ocean Shores looking for shorebirds and learning from his vast experience. One of the major topics of the day was the dramatic absence of shorebirds to study. We made several stops at the usual places, the jetty at Brown’s point, both sides of the Oyhut Game Range, the open beach and the Hoquiam STP. We managed to see only 10 species of shorebirds, and in relatively low numbers. Still we all felt fortunate to have the opportunity to be out with Dennis, learn from his approach to bird identification, and all had a really nice day.
Our time at the Jetty was quite productive, with 3 “rock-pipers” Black Turnstone, Surfbird and Wandering Tattler seen along with good numbers of Common Murres, and intermittently large numbers of Sooty Shearwaters. Dennis helped us ID a young probably early second-cycle Herring Gull on the beach. The game range was pretty quiet, we suspect in part due to the two Peregrine Falcons and the Cooper’s Hawk who kept what shorebirds were there on the defensive.
We finished at the Hoquiam STP and had nice looks at a basic plumage Eared Grebe and a good variety of ducks and gulls, but again alas the only shorebird was a single Killdeer.
Thanks to Dennis for leading the trip, to Kay Pullen for helping to arrange it, and to the participants for helping make it possible. Good Birding.

ABC Meeting Report – Tasha’s Eiders! 9-21-2015

Steller’s Eider researcher in Alaska, Tasha Di Marzio, gave a presentation to ABC on September 21, 2015, that was riveting! Many of us have heard of Tasha over the years of birding with Shelley Parker, Tasha’s mom, but the reality was even greater than the parental bragging rights! Tasha is a first class researcher, bold adventurer, arctic explorer, fabulous photographer, and great at doing presentations!

Tasha has chosen the eider that is the most difficult to study, but because of that needs study the most. These birds are down to 200 pairs in Alaska in 3 areas, one of which has almost been abandoned. Tasha’s work has mainly been in the Yukon delta, which she knows intimately from the mud up, spending months at a time “trapped” there with just a couple of others, studying these birds as well as the other wildlife of the area. Not a glamorous profession!

The study she is currently working on involves releasing captive-bred birds back to the delta in 2016, something her team has been agonizing over for several years as they have worked through the amazingly difficult project of how to raise these birds in captivity, figuring out which birds are attracted to which birds, how to make the eggs hatch in an incubator as successfully as in a parent’s nest (much harder than you would think!), and where to raise them (salinity turns out to be the limiting factor, a fact known only for the last 2 years and not published yet), and control of predators, especially Arctic Foxes.

Part of the reason the Yukon delta was chosen was cooperation with native tribes, something apparently not possible on the North Slope, and also not possible with Russia at the moment, where there are more Steller’s Eiders. The birds nest where the females say to nest, and the males always agree, but since they’re only monogamous for a season, those same males may go to Russia the next year. This is determined early in the year when hormones start to build on the wintering grounds and matches are made. When it’s time to go nest, they migrate northwards, some turning left to Russia and a much smaller group turning right to Alaska.

The reasons for an 80% decline in Steller’s eiders are not completely clear. Spectacled Eiders are also down about 80%, but the main reason is well known for them — lead shot, which is being dealt with, and there is much hope for them. Salinity in the nesting areas has gone way up, and that is thought to be one factor. But these studies are important to help pin down other causes as well as increase the numbers.

It was a privilege to have a peek into the life of this researcher, and we hope to see Tasha again in the future when she’s down here visiting family.

Click on photo below to enlarge. Kay Pullen introduces Tasha, then Tasha gets into her subject.