Posted by ardeidae on January 03, 2006

  • It's estimated that at least a billion birds a year are killed by flying into windows. Swarthmore College near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is using a $71 million science center to test a new kind of glass designed to ward off oncoming birds. NPR has the details.
  • Increased farming causing threat to the Missouri Coteau, a haven for some of the world's largest concentrations of waterfowl and grassland birds. A study led by Ducks Unlimited showed 144,000 acres of grasslands were converted to cropland in the Coteau between 1984 and 2002, a grassland conversion rate of 2 percent annually. At that rate, half the Coteau grasslands could be lost in 30 years. If the plowing accelerates, as it has since 2002, half the grasslands could be lost in 15 years.
  • Raptor Education Group in Antigo, Wisconsin currently rehabilitating 75 birds, one of them a Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) suffering from rat poisoning. It's an unusually high number for them. "Normally, winter is a quieter time for us, so we count on it, with no baby birds to feed. But this year we've been seeing a lot more poisonings, some shootings and trapping incidents," said Executive Director Marge Gibson.
  • 22nd annual Bald Eagle Watch to take place on Saturday, January 7 near the Iowa/Illinois border. Clinton Community College in Clinton, Iowa will host exhibits, while eagle Watching will take place at Lock & Dam #13 in Fulton, Illinois. A free courtesy bus will take participants from the college to the viewing site starting at 9am.
  • Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus) attracting attention in Berks County, Pennsylvania. It's the first sighting of the bird in the area since 1996.
  • Bird Island at Lambert's Bay on South Africa's West Coast deserted after seal attacks on bird colonies. It's normally home to more than 30,000 gannets. Between 200 and 300 breeding adult gannets have been killed by seals. The rest, frightened by the night attacks, have left the island and no one knows where they have gone.

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Holiday Birding

Posted by ardeidae on January 02, 2006

Happy belated New Year! I hope everyone’s holiday seasons were good ones. With all the business going on in our lives these days, it seems like these are the best times for families to get together. I spent mine in Nebraska. In my last post of last year, I figured I’d be “trading the warm California sunshine for the more ‘seasonal’ weather”. I was hoping for a postcard White Christmas, but some California weather must have snuck in my luggage, for Nebraska had some record high temps. But I’m not complaining…that weather allowed me to get out and appreciate the local wildlife.

My parents have lived in the same town most of their lives and know the land exceptionally well. When I was growing up, they taught me how to enjoy and respect nature, which I am truly grateful for. My dad recently retired and has had extra time to observe some of the wintering residents. He also knows his wildlife and birds and was more than accomodating in sharing his knowledge.

Birding in Nebraska is a bit different than the birding I’m used to in California. Sunrise is almost an hour later in Nebraska than it is in California, and instead of an hour or more of driving, we were out of town in five minutes. It’s not unusual for me to wake up at 4:30 or 5 to go birding, but I was able to sleep in until 7am, shower, and still be out on location before sunrise!

Red-tailed Hawk at dawn
Red-tailed Hawk
at dawn

Sunrise on the 26th was at 7:51, so we headed out around 7:40. It was a chilly 31 degrees, but clear and calm. Just after leaving town, we made our first spot of the day—a Prairie Falcon (Falco mexicanus). It was a good way to start the day. My dad pointed it out nonchalantly, but I now see that the guide books are listing it as “rare”. A few minutes later put us at our first stop, with a field and row of trees to the right, and a slight, tree-lined valley on the left. Ahead and to the left was a pond protected by some low hills. Just as my dad was mentioning Bobcats (Lynx rufus or Felis rufus) in the area, one magically appeared about thirty yards in front of the pickup, paused for a second, and was gone as quickly as it appeared. Bobcats are elusive and don’t like to be in open area for very long; it was nice to see one in real (wild) life. I realized how cold it really was when setting up my digiscope to get a shot of a Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) perched in one of the trees. It’s a good thing I had gloves; metal tripods can get really cold. I was able to snap off a few shots before the hawk took off.

For most of the morning we drove around, spotting birds in flight and stopping for some occasional photo opps. Among some of the specimens seen were White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus), Western Meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta), American Kestrel (Falco sparverius), Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis), European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris, and Ring-necked Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus) and Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos). One more thing about birding in Nebraska: birds are really skittish. Maybe it’s due to all the hunting, but birds in California seem much more cooperative when posing for pictures and giving autographs. After we got home a little after noon, the GPS showed a round trip of 64 miles.

As a kid, our family did most of our camping at Lovewell Lake in Kansas. From my grandparents’ house, it was a quick fifteen-minute ride across the Nebraska/Kansas border. My grandparents used to spend nearly the entire summer there enjoying the outdoors, camping, boating, and fishing. They left for a day every two weeks to restock and satisfy park requirements. Both of my grandparents were bird watchers. They both had bird books, marked up with the dates they saw their first of the species. They knew all the birds in the area and taught us the names, but I didn’t really have a great interest in learning about them at the time. It’s funny how things come around.

I saw my grandma on Christmas day and on the 28th, my parents and I took the hour drive to spend some more time with her. On our way there, we spotted a Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) feeding on a dead calf about 20 yards from the road, we slowed down to take a closer look, but by the time we stopped, the eagle had taken off. Still, we got a great look at such an awesome and powerful bird. Ten minutes later, we were at Grandma’s. We had lunch and headed to the lake, arriving around 2pm. It was 55 degrees, clear skies, and breezy.

Mystery Goose
Mystery Goose
A lot has changed at the lake since I was a kid; there’s now more paved roads, bathhouses, cabins, and boat ramps. Not like “roughing” it like we had to do years ago. My grandpa is no longer here, but the birds he taught me are. The winter doesn’t bring nearly the amount of species as in the other seasons, but the population count of the species that are here are great. Our first stop near the marina turned up birds taking advantage of the good weather and ice to take a nap. Here we spotted Mallard and Canada Goose (Branta canadensis). There were some other geese that weren’t recognizable: mostly brown, white face with black cap, orange bill, white vertical stripe on the chest, and yellow legs. I snapped off a few digiscoping shots, They came out a little blurry due to the wind, but they’re still good proofs. Varous birding guides show that it may be a Canada Goose/domestic hybrid, but if you have any other ideas, please email me or leave them in the comments.
Snow Geese
Snow Geese - a
portion of the flock

Driving around the lake near Cedar Point, we came upon a large gathering of Snow Geese (Chen caerulescens), mixed with Canada Geese and Mallards. I’m no expert counter, but I think it’s safe to say there were tens of thousands of them in the middle of the lake. What an amazing sight!

On the 29th, my parents and I decided to try the same route we’d taken on the 26th, this time in the afteroon. It was around 3pm, 38 degrees, and breezy, with drizzling rain. As we walked through the back yard to the pickup truck, we noticed the neighborhood Cottontail Rabbit (most likely Sylvilagus floridanus) “hiding” in the grass near the bird feeder. She has been seen on a regular basis; and she raised her babies by our garden. She was rather trusting, or thought she was well hidden since we were less than 10 feet away from her when we stopped to take a couple of shots. I didn’t bother her for an autograph.

Cottontail Rabbit
The neighborhood
Cottontail Rabbit

There wasn’t much out and about that afternoon, even as it started to clear off around 4:30. Mostly Red-tailed Hawks and European Starlings. We saw a larger hawk sitting on a wire but with the cloudy sky it was difficult to identify and whenever we tried to stop and set up the scope, it would hop down a pole or two. It finally took off for good behind some trees, but when we started driving away, it came back around. After a couple of short flights it stayed still long enough for me to get a proof shot. It turned out to be a Rough-legged Hawk (Buteo lagopus), which is a common sight in the winter. On our return home later that evening, the rabbit was still tucked away in the same place we saw her earlier.

Sunset from the
plane on the way back

On Interstate 80 on the way to the Omaha airport Friday, I saw the occasional Red-tailed Hawk sitting on a telephone pole or fence post, just like I see on the West Coast. As the saying goes, “There are hawks everywhere. All you need to do is look.” It’s so true. I don’t remember seeing any hawks when I was younger, but I guess I just wasn’t looking. I took notice of nature in general, but not in specific. I knew the names of animals that were hunted and the fish that were caught, but I took much of it for granted. It’s different now. I spent many years in a place that I just visited for a week, and it seems like I just saw much of it for the first time. I’ve been actively observing birds for almost a year now, and the joys of birding never fail to amaze me.

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Happy Holidays!

Posted by ardeidae on December 21, 2005

Beakspeak will be taking a short hiatus. I’m packing up my camera gear and trading the warm California sunshine for the more “seasonal” weather the Midwest has to offer. Actually, the outlook for Nebraska looks favorable, so hopefully there will be some good days out to see the various birds and wildlife the country has to offer. There isn’t any snow in the forecast yet, but a little would be a welcome sight. You never know; like they say, “If you don’t like the weather, wait a minute.”

In the news, it’s good to see that it’s the season of giving, not taking. The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge will see another day without drilling. And with all the other ongoing battles—windfarms, pollution, development, logging, and the strippping of the Endangered Species Act—this shows hope that some of our elected officials are standing up to preserve the nation’s wildlife and wilderness. Birds are the best indicator of the condition of the world. And considering all the struggles they’re going through right now, they need all the help they can get.

I hope to be back at full swing around the end of the year. Happy holidays!


p.s. If you feel, you’re feeling too much stress from the holidays, maybe the turkey can help you survive.

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Posted by ardeidae on December 19, 2005

  • Study by biologists at the University of California, Berkeley shows that overfishing could be causing the endangered seabird Marbled Murrelet (Brachyramphus marmoratus) to rely more on less-nutritional food sources. The full study will be published in the journal Conservation Biology in early March 2006. "The dietary patterns of today's Marbled Murrelets might be artifacts of the profound changes that coastal marine ecosystems world-wide have undergone because of overfishing," said Steve Beissinger, professor of conservation biology in UC Berkeley's Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management.
  • Stankuses and Riemenschneiders receive Great Egret Award from the National Audubon Society. The two Indiana couples were honored for their work in turning Spicer Lake into a nature preserve and bird sanctuary. They lead fundraising efforts and contributed their own money to make sure the land was preserved.
  • Michigan teen, Kyle Howell, sentenced to 300 days in jail after admitting to killing and mutilating a Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) at the Muskegon State Game Area in 2004. He and a friend each shot a Bald Eagle then chopped them up with a hatchet. Howell claimed he was shooting at a crow, but the judge didn't buy it. "I find it hard to believe that you did not know that in shooting a bald eagle, you were killing a symbol that is sacred to this nation," Family Court Judge John C. Ruck said. "The court feels this is a very serious offense."
  • Providence, Rhode Island library auctions off John James Audubon's 1938 edition of "The Birds of America". The lucky winner spent $5.6 million. Another complete copy of "Birds of America" broke a record when it was sold by Christie's auction house for $8.8 million in 2000.
  • Cooper's Hawk (Accipiter cooperii) found tangled in driving range net at Massachusetts golf course. It was cut down and taken in for a checkup and later released near where it was found.

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Posted by ardeidae on December 15, 2005

  • Pair of Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) returns to Chicago. It's the third winter in a row and experts are optimistic that the eagles will make a permanent nest along Little Calumet River. If so, it will be the first known Bald Eagle site in the Chicago area since 1897. In support of the eagles, the City Council voted unanimously to buy 26 acres of land and turn it over to the Forest Preserve District of Cook County.
  • Commissioners in Palm Beach County, Florida vote to stop the shooting of carrion-eating birds at a landfill, a project that started last June. The US Department of Agriculture, who was shooting the birds, claims that displaying a dead, upside-down vulture is the best weapon to turn vultures away, but the commissioners want a nonlethal solution. Audubon of Florida wrote a letter to the chairman of the waste authority board that lead to the commission's decision.
  • Stoned Screech Owl (Otus asio) found perched in a Christmas tree while being decorated by Sarasota, Florida family. They called the Pelican Man's Bird Sanctuary to rescue the bird. "The owl was leaning back on its backside and 'vegging' out," said Jeffrey Dering, the sanctuary's executive director. A blood test confirmed the presence of marijuana. The owl has been named "Cheech the Screech".
  • Department of Parks and Recreation in Edwardsville, Illinois offering eagle-watching trips for senior citizens on Tuesday, January 31 and Wednesday, February 8. A van will take participants to the Visitor's Center at Pere Marquette State Park to see a short film on Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) and then follow it up with stops at several lookout points. Contact the Edwardsville Parks Department for more information.
  • Eagle Owl (Bubo bubo) sets up home in a tree in Inverness, Scotland. It's thought that it's been imprinted by humans, possibly an escaped or released bird. Some fear that the bird may swoop down to pick up a dog or a cat. Brian Etheridge of the Royal Society for Protection of Birds, dispelled the fears, saying "They are obviously a big predator. They mainly feed on rabbits but it could possibly pick up any smaller wild bird or animal if it goes hungry. But they are no real threat to domestic animals or people."
  • California's Coastal Commission approves $25 million to fight effects of DDT posioning in Southern California. Part of that money will be spent on returning Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) to Santa Catalina Island.

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Posted by ardeidae on December 12, 2005

  • Alliance for Zero Extinction researchers compile list of sites where animals and plants face imminent extinction. The list contains 595 sites, some costing less than $1,000 year to protect. "Safeguarding this suite of sites is not the only thing we need to do; but if we don't protect them, these are guaranteed extinctions," said Stuart Butchart, global species programme co-ordinator with BirdLife International, one of the groups comprising the AZE.
  • Female eagle released at Caledon Natural Area in Virginia. The Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) was found with an infected elbow six months ago and treated at the Wildlife Center of Virginia. She was originally thought to be in her teens, but the band on her leg revealed that she was born in a captive breeding program more than 28 years ago. Eagles in captivity can live upwards of 35 years, but in the wild the average age is only around 20.
  • Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus) rescued at Rec Park in Grand Marais, Minnesota. Nancy Dalbec was on a walk with her dog when they spotted the owl pop out from under a tree. After being dive-bombed by crows and ravens, she picked it up and went for help. At first it was assumed that it had a broken wing, but it turns out that it was actually starving to death. "They come down out of Canada when they haven't got enough food," rehabilitator Bob Brooks said. "If they can’t find it here, they'll just sit and starve themselves to death." The owl's food source, the lemming population in the Arctic, has crashed, resulting in an unusually high number of Snowy Owls looking for food in the United States.
  • Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus) rescued in Quitman, Arkansas. The bird quickly ate five hamsters as soon as it was fed. This could be another visitor looking for food since its main food supply in the Arctic is low. The Snowy Owl has only been seen in Arkansas three times; the last sighting was in the 1950s.
  • Chinese scientists using satellites to track migration routes of the endangered Black-necked Crane (Grus nigricollis). In China, the crane can be seen only in remote areas of northwest China's Qinghai, southwest China's Yunnan, Sichuan, Guizhou and Tibet.
  • Conservationists on a mission to revive the Red-billed Oxpecker (Buphagus erythrorhynchus) population in the Eastern Cape of South Africa. The bird, which has been decimated by pesticides, is invaluable to farmers since it feeds on the ticks from cattle. The Mpongo Private Game Reserve is working to reintroduce the oxpecker into the greater East London area.
  • Residential communities planned on Florida's Lake-Sumter county line could threaten a prime breeding ground for the endangered Whooping Crane (Grus americana). Builders are planning on converting 6,000 acres into two residential communities. "It's kind of heartbreaking," said Steve Nesbitt, a crane expert with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, who said people may assume the cranes will go somewhere else when development encroaches on them. "Sooner or later there is nowhere else, and we're almost at that point." The population of Whooping Cranes is slowly rising, but as of the end of last year, only 468 remain, with 213 in the wild.

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More about the Problems with Pigs at Jasper-Pulaski

Posted by ardeidae on December 11, 2005

The Jasper-Pulaski Fish and Wildlife Area and the tens of thousands of cranes that visit it each year are facing a looming threat from a hog factory being built near the area. In the previous entry “The Problem with Pigs at Jasper-Pulaski”, I touched on a recent article that brought to light the disturbing lack of concern by the local government over the effects this operation could have on people and wildlife in the area. The project is being allowed to continue despite a 1,000-signature petition against it and Jasper-Pulaski’s designation of Important Bird Area by the National Audubon Society. Residents have appealed to the State of Indiana Animal Health Board, requesting an environmental impact report be completed to assess the damage the hog factory could have on the area’s residents and wildlife.

On December 7, I received a couple of emails from residents that live in the immediate area. The first from Marcella Marlatt, who also emailed me the original article I wrote about in the last post. Marcella expressed her concerns.

I’m Marcella Marlatt, and I am an adjoining landowner to the proposed site.  My husband and I have lived here for 39 years. We own 80 acres of which, our shallow well will be within 75 ft. of the field where this hog farm plans to inject this manure. We have been able to have the crane migrate all around us—on our farm, right at our back door. They feel very much protected and thrive in this area!

Jasper-Pulaski Fish and Wildlife was recently honored by being designated as IBA (Important Bird Area) in November 2005. This means it is one of the most significant staging area for Sandhill Cranes in the world; in fact, virtually the entire Eastern population of the “Greater” subspecies of this bird stops at this site during fall migration! This proposed area provides necessary diurnal feeding grounds for migratory cranes to continue south.

More than 20,000 individual cranes amass in this area during the autumn season, and about 30,000 visit to watch them.  The consequences of an accidental release of bacteria or toxin could have a severe impact on wildlife health.

We have major concerns from the Audubon Society who have invested decades of research and experimentation on these birds. They, along with our whole neighborhood know how important wildlife areas and wetlands are to both the cranes and human well-being.

I was appalled to read Jim Bergens’ statement saying, QUOTE….“If something were to happen to these birds,” Bergens said about the Whooping cranes, “they’re not essential to the actual wild population.” Bergens is property manager of Jasper-Pulaski area. His casual, unconcerned manner, is an insult to all the bird-lovers, and organizations around the United States. I question as to why we have him associated with such an important Wildlife Area such as this?

Later in the day, I received a second email from another resident, Karen Myers. Her email also included some strong points.

I moved here to live with my husband 6 years ago. We have a little boy and a Labrador puppy who both enjoy playing outside. Being originally from Northwestern Ontario (Canada) myself, I grew up deep in the bush with a healthy respect and admiration for nature, something I’ve done my best to pass on to our son.

It’s interesting to note that hunters are not allowed to shoot Sandhill Cranes in our area, a fact for which I personally am very glad ...and yet an industrial farm operation is allowed to potentially destroy 500 acres of their habitat and put the lives of tens of thousands of cranes at risk with a massive operation of this size, on land adjoining an 8,000 acre State game reserve teeming with other wildlife.

The operation will be spreading tons of untreated hog sewage, potentially loaded with growth hormones, antibiotics and deadly pathogens on those 500 acres—habitat used by all manner of wildlife species and precious feeding grounds to tens of thousands of Sandhill Cranes each year.

It’s difficult to explain to a little 5 year old boy why protecting our soil, our water, our air, our forests and our precious wildlife is so important when he will be witnessing first-hand how little his own State/Country does to protect them, too.

I’m still in shock and can’t quite believe the USA government and industry could heartlessly turn their backs on the wildlife in this Region without so much as even one environmental impact study to ensure no harm will come from this operation.

Thank you for hearing our story and bless you for caring.

On her personal blog, WAHM Diary, Karen covers a lot of the dangers associated with the waste and byproducts produced by pig factories. There’s too much information to go into detail here, so go read it for yourself. It’s quite an eye-opener.

In her email, Karen brings up a good point about what little the government is doing to protect the area. And that’s what’s bothering me the most. No environmental impact report has been required for this facility to be built. If a credible EIR was conducted and concluded that there would be no negative impact to the area, its inhabitants, and wildlife, then the hog factory should allowed to be continue. But it doensn’t seem like anyone knows, or wants to disclose it. When the manager of Jasper-Pulaski was asked about what sort of research has been conducted, he responded “No direct research.” So what are the harmful effects, and what’s the mitigation plan if there are problems? Maybe the State of Indiana Animal Health Board will help to make sure those are determined.

It’s also sad to see how little press this issue has received. The only article that really challenged the decision to allow this pig factory was on a website that removes its stories after a day. And where’s the National Audubon Society? Shouldn’t they be doing something to help protect their newly-designated Important Bird Area? I’m over 2,000 miles away from Jasper-Pulaski and I haven’t been there yet, but I still feel the need to help protect it. I was raised to respect nature; I enjoy it and appreciate it. The cranes and other wildlife that enjoy, appreciate, and rely on Jasper-Pulaski could use a little help. Perhaps if this issue got more national recognition, politicians would feel more pressure to do what’s right and research the problem with pigs at Jasper-Pulaski. The government wants to spread manure, but you can help the cranes by spreading the word.

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The Problem with Pigs at Jasper-Pulaski

Posted by ardeidae on December 08, 2005

While reviewing news for Fledglinks on November 21, I ran across an article about plans for a hog factory near the Jasper-Pulaski Fish & Wildlife Area in Indiana, which was designated as an Important Bird Area by the National Audubon Society on November 1. The Belstra Milling Company’s 2,496-sow hog factory got the green light by Jasper County’s Board of Zoning Appeals on November 14, despite the IBA designation of the area and a 1,000-signature petition against the project. Area residents have contacted the State of Indiana Animal Health Board to request an environmental impact report be completed to assess the hazards to the area’s wildlife and natural habitat. About 20,000 cranes migrate through there every year.

On Tuesday, I received an email from one of the area residents that included an article from the Post-Tribune called “Hog farm ruffles haven in crane migration trek” authored by staff writer Jon Seidel. I went to their site and the article was the first story listed for the day. But the next day it was gone, with all the other stories that had been there. It’s a good thing the article was sent in an email because it seems that the Post-Tribune doesn’t keep archives. I emailed Seidel to find out if this article will be available again, but he responded saying it might be a couple of weeks. I’ll link to it if it turns up.

It’s an excellent piece, and Seidel included some quotes from the involved parties that made this whole hog factory issue a little disturbing. Belstra has the support of the Department of Natural Resources, and the DNR’s Jim Bergens, the property manager of the Jasper-Pulaski area, is in charge of the welfare of the birds. Bergens has a degree in Wildlife Management from Humboldt State University in California. Didn’t sound too bad, but then I read this:

The DNR recently told Bergens not to speak to reporters about the Belstra development. However, that order came after he spoke to the Post-Tribune last week.

Bergens said his opinions on the Belstra matter are based strictly on his background knowledge of the cranes and the Jasper County area. He said he has done no research on what the Belstra farm might do to the area.

“No direct research,” Bergens said.

Why not talk to reporters? Is the DNR afraid something is going to come to light? Maybe they’re concerned that Bergens will speak the truth. And if there hasn’t been any “direct” research done, how can Bergens ensure that no harm comes to the visiting cranes? Things like this scare me. Something that could affect such and important area is being allowed to continue without a formal environmental impact report to determine what impact it could have on the surrounding area. If the EIR is done in a credible manner and shows there will be no harm, then the project should be allowed to continue. If the project goes on without a proper assessment and mitigation plan, there could be irreparable damage.

Recently, Bergens said, endangered whooping cranes have joined the migration path. Some of them have been found in Jasper County as recently as mid-November. They are part of a “nonessential experimental” project, Bergens said.

“If something were to happen to these birds,” Bergens said about the whooping cranes, “they’re not essential to the actual wild population.”

The Whooping Crane (Grus americana) is on the federal endangered list. As of a year ago, there were a total of 468, with 213 in the wild. Their numbers are slowly climbing, but with such a small population size, no bird should be considered “not essential”.

The amount of waste created by 2,496 pigs on a daily basis can add up quickly. A quick search turned up a study done on the Ontario Pork Industry. “A 2400 sow unit is projected to produce 90 litres/day/sow including offspring. This amounts to 14.4 to 17 million gallons of waste per year.” That sounds like a lot to deal with. According to Belstra’s Vice President, Malcolm DeKryger, the manure produced by the farm will be injected six to eight inches under the soil and they plan on using GPS to make sure the waste doesn’t go where it won’t cause any damage. What they fail to mention is the kinds of bacteria and drugs will be in this manure. I received an second email from another citizen who covers all the sewage dangers on her blog; more on that later.

Bergens said he is not concerned about the cranes eating the manure when they probe into the soil with their beaks for food. Most of them are eating waste grain off fields that people have already tampered with, Bergens said.

“There’s fertilizer, there’s all kinds of other things in the soil,” Bergens said. “When they’re feeding on waste grain, they’re probably not probing the soil at all.”

Just because other sources of food might not be ideal, it doesn’t make the waste produced by the hog factory any less harmful. And the birds may not be probing the soil for food, but they’ll be walking in it.

Bergens said his two-decades worth of background knowledge on the birds is enough to help him come to these conclusions.

“I’ve watched Jasper County develop,” Bergens said. “I’ve watched the Sandhill crane population develop.”

Also, he said, he made no absolute promises about the safety of the birds to the Board of Zoning Appeals.

It’s probably a good thing he didn’t make any promises since he did “no direct research”. And as watching the crane population develop, you’d think he’d be more concerned with the possible dangers.

I hope this article becomes available once again. It really is worth reading as a whole. If you want to read it, email me and I’ll forward it to you. The way this whole project is being allowed to progress is really disconcerting. Allowing it to go through without any sort of environmental impact assessment seems like a really bad idea. Who knows, maybe Belstra and Bergens are correct and nothing will happen. But what if they’re wrong? There’s too much at stake to not do the research.

As I mentioned earlier, I received emails from two of the residents that live near the developing hog factory. They have a lot of insight to provide…in the next post.

Note: The wildlife area in this article was previously referred to as “Jasper/Pulaski”, but the formal name is actually “Jasper-Pulaski”. The article has been updated to reflect this.

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Posted by ardeidae on December 08, 2005

  • Environmentalists file suit under Canada's Species at Risk Act to help save the Spotted Owl (Strix occidentalis) from extinction in British Columbia. They claim the BC government isn't doing enough to save the bird from logging. There's an estimated 23 birds remaining. "If the spotted owl goes extinct it will be the first vertebrate species in British Columbia's history that will have gone extinct as a result of logging," said Ken Wu, a Western Canada Wilderness Committee spokesman.
  • House subcomimittee awards Elizabeth S. Hartwell posthumous praise and moves to add her name to the Mason Neck National Wildlife Refuge. Hartwell was credited with establishing the refuge and stopping at least 21 environmental threats in Fairfax County, Virginia. She died in 2000 at the age of 76.
  • Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus) found shot dead at Coos Bay's North Spit in Oregon. It was a rare bird for the area; the last one seen there was nine years ago. Owls are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and violators face a stiff fine.
  • Doctors baffled as young Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) continues to lose feathers. He was rescued from drowning in August and has lost primary flight feathers three or four times as he recovers at the Chintimini Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Corvallis, Oregon.
  • Cockatoo parented by two different species hatches naturally in a zoo of Children's Grand Park in Nungdong, Seoul. The mother is a Ducorp's Cockatoo (Cacatua ducorps), and the father a Taebek parrot. "The new-born cockatoo chick from the two species is really an unprecedented case both in natural and artificial hatchings in the nation," said Cho Kyung-ok, director of the zook.

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Posted by ardeidae on December 05, 2005

  • Eagle chick hatches at the Philippine Eagle Foundation. The new Philippine Eagle (Pithecophaga jefferyi) is the first of the 2005-2006 breeding season. It's the nineteenth to hatch in captivity and the first one to hatch in the new the Elias Lopez Facility for Incubation and Rearing. The newborn chick will be made available for adoption and naming under the PEF's Adopt-an-Eagle program. There are a number of birds at the center that need Godparents, and for only US$2000 a year, you could become a Godparent yourself. This bird is critically endangered and could use a little help!
  • Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) released along the banks of the Androscoggin River in Maine. It was found injured in June and rehabilitated at Avian Haven. The bird was fitted with a satellite transmitter before release; the first for eagles in the state. "Bald eagle recovery is still in the early stages across Western Maine, and only 13 breeding pairs now nest in the entire Androscoggin River watershed. Breeding eagles disappeared from the region for 17 years until a gradual return began in 1990," said Charlie Todd, a biologist with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.
  • Environment officials warn about imminent extinction of as many as eleven endangered species of sedentary and migrant birds in Yemen. Logging and wetland destruction are accelerating population declines.
  • Twenty volunteers show up at 5am last Friday to count Mississippi Sandhill Cranes (Grus canadensis pulla) during the 22nd annual crane count at the Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Refuge. Refuge officials estimate only 120 of the Mississippi cranes exist, all residing in Jackson County.
  • Pair of Hyacinth Macaws (Anodorhynchus hyacinthinus) at the Central Florida Zoo are now able to wander freely thanks to a new $25,000 aviary donated by Bob and Inez Parsell of Sanford, Florida. The birds' wings were previously clipped, but they're now allowed to grow back so the birds can fly freely, and hopefully mate. In the 1980s Hyacinth Macaws were heavily trapped for pet trade, resulting in a population crash of more than 90 percent.

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