Tuesday, 15 March 2011 00:00
A birding festival designed for all levels. Come and share your interest in the birds on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula!
The central Kenai Peninsula area offers pristine beaches, beautiful state parks, a fantastic wildlife refuge and, best of all, thousands of birds. This three-day event is designed to showcase and celebrate our area birds. Suitable for the beginner as well as the advanced birder, the event includes a series of discussions and birding field expeditions. Our field excursions offer fantastic birding opportunities without going too far. We have a host of experts ready to help enhance your birding skills. This year we’ve included a children’s component to the program that is sure to excite interest.
Those who would like to volunteer for the festival should contact Benjamin_Schubert@fws.gov
Registration: This is a FREE event and open to all. There are a few programs and field excursions that require pre-registration including the Children’s Program, float trip, and van trip. Please contact Kenai Watershed Forum at 907-260-5449 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information and to register.
What to bring on the field trips: Binoculars and/or scope, rain gear, a good pair of walking shoes or boots and your field guides.
11471 Kenai Spur Highway • 283-1991
All presentations and the children’s program will be held at the Kenai Visitors & Cultural Center unless otherwise noted in the program.
Kenai Watershed Forum - Josselyn O’Connor
907-260-5449 or email@example.com
Kenai National Wildlife Refuge - Todd Eskelin
907-262-7021 or Todd_Eskelin@fws.gov
Kenai Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center 907-282-1991
Keen Eye Bird Club - Ken and Connie Tarbox
Tuesday, 04 January 2011 14:03
With the start of 2011 it is a great time to try something new and exciting for birders. There are a great number of new electronic options available for birders and a quick Internet search will find more than I and most people could afford. However, one free source of information is the Cornell Lab of Ornithology eBird program.
Launched in 2002 this source of information is adding volumes to the knowledge of birds and making bird watching even more exciting. While seeing a single robin may not seem like much when combined with thousands of observations worldwide a great story emerges.
With just a log in name and password citizens around the world are having a great time listing what they see and keeping track of their individual sightings by time, location, and number of birds. It is so easy that I can even do it. Rather than detail a long description of what one does just go to www.eBird.org and follow the directions. It takes only a few minutes to post your sightings and it does not have to be done immediately- take a day to relax and do it the next day or week.
Why sign up? Besides keeping a list of your own sightings one has access to compiled data from around the world. Planning a trip to a new location – check eBird to see what is found there and when. Do you like to chase rare birds in your area – check eBird and with the app available you can get instant updates on rare sightings. Do you like to help scientists keep track of the status of birds – your sightings are a valuable tool in this effort.
Scientists at Cornell are using citizen sightings to do wonderful projects. Data from eBird helps identify declining species, migratory routes, habitat use, invasive species distributions, seasonal use patterns and a host of other important variables impacting birds.
One new feature that all birders should check out at the Cornell web site is the eBird animated occurrence maps. With over 42 million observations in eBird Lab scientists have compiled data on a number of species and created an animated map to show seasonal migration patterns. This is truly a work of art and science and it comes out of citizens who love birds just taking a few minutes to post their observations.
Sunday, 19 December 2010 09:19
David Wartinbee found a Townsend's Solitaire in Soldotna, Alaska during the annual Christmas Bird count on December 18th. The temperature was -8F at the start of the count day. This was the bird of the day and was a special treat to hear the story of how he found it and what it meant to him.
However, it was just one of the good stories that birders shared at the end of the day potluck. A young 14 year old birder added two new species to his life list and was beaming the whole night. An adult who was with him shared one life bird and they had a special bond for the whole day. Relatively new birders had a Northern Goshawk fly right in front of them as the drove their route. Experienced birders put in perspective the counts and marveled at how birds migrate and change abundance from year to year. To add to the day a moose that was mostly white showed up along the count route and stopped the whole count for a few mintues. White moose are rare in Alaska.
We can thank ornithologist Frank Chapam in 1900 for starting this great event. Prior to this citizens gathered and had a Christmas side hunt. People made up teams and then went forth to shoot as many birds as they could for the day. Frank realized that declining bird numbers and this event did not match. So he proposed a new Christmas bird census. Twenty seven people started the event and had 90 species the first year. Today thousands of people enjoy a winter day counting birds.
Thursday, 02 December 2010 18:07
If you pick up an Alaskan newspaper one would think we are at war with the Federal Government. Lawsuits over endangered species, land ownership, funding, and a host of other issues take the headlines. However, on another front - science - the Federal and State of Alaska research biologists are cooperating and making huge strides in understanding how animals migrate in our world. Jim Johnson of the USFWS and Travis Booms of ADF&G have been tagging Short-eared owls over the last two years. In 2009 they tagged 14 owls near Nome and in 2010 a total of 12 owls near Fairbanks and Tok. The PTT tags give exact locations of the birds as they migrate.
The insert shows short-eared owl 738, tagged near Tok on July 13, 2010, and last reporting in at the end of November. One only has to view the track line and go wow - what a bird - it is almost to Texas and moving south. Other tagged birds have similar track lines. One tagged in 2009 flew 500 miles over the Gulf of Alaska without stopping - they do not swim.
If you are interested in following these birds and other animals go to www.seaturtle.org and sign up for email updates. This site is keeping track of turtles, owls, and eagles across the world
Wednesday, 01 December 2010 10:17
Soldotna Christmas Bird Count
DATE: Saturday December 18, 2010
TIME: Pre-count meeting - 8:30 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. to obtain data forms, maps, and assemble into teams
LOCATION: Kaladi Brothers Coffee Company (315 South Kobuk Avenue) in Soldotna
COST: $5.00 fee per field participant is requested by Audubon to offset the cost of providing a copy of American Birds: Summary of the 111th Christmas Bird Count. The event is free for feeder watchers and for participants 18 years of age and under.
The public is invited to participate in the Soldotna Christmas Bird Count to be held Saturday, December 18th, 2010.
The Christmas Bird Count is an annual early-winter continental bird census, where volunteers follow assigned routes within a designated 15-mile diameter count circle, counting every bird they see or hear during the course of the day.
The Soldotna Christmas Bird Count was organized in 1983. Its count circle is centered on the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge headquarters. The count area covers all of Soldotna, portions of Kenai and Sterling, and most of the lower and middle Kenai River.
The first Christmas Bird Count was held in 1900 when scientist Frank Chapman provided a small group of conservationists an alternative to the traditional "side hunt" - where teams of hunters competed to see who could shoot the most birds and other wildlife in the course of the day. Instead, Chapman proposed they identify, count, and record all the birds they saw, founding what is now considered to be the world's most significant citizen-science based conservation effort.
Participants do not have to be experts, but only have a desire to get outside, find, and record birds. The birding effort normally commences at first light and concludes at dusk or when bird activity ceases. Inexperienced birders will be teamed with more seasoned birders to assist with bird identification.
Each participant should dress warmly and try to bring a pair of binoculars and a bird identification book. You may also want to bring a camera to document any rare or unusual birds. Come and be part of the 111th Christmas Bird Count!
After a great day of birding, all participants are invited to submit their tally sheets and a bring a dish for a potluck social at 6:00 p.m. at the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge's Environmental Education Cabin, located next to the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge headquarters on Ski Hill Road. There will be signs to guide you to the cabin.
For more information, contact Toby Burke at the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, (907) 260-2816, Ken Tarbox of the Keen Eye Birders, (907) 262-7767, or Jack Sinclair the Soldotna Christmas Bird Count compiler, (907) 262-7817.
Wednesday, 24 November 2010 11:51
On a clear morning in early September 2008, a three-month-old female Osprey named Penelope pushed off from Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, and flew, alone, 2,700 miles to French Guiana in 13 days.
She touched down in coastal Maryland and North Carolina for three days, lazed along the Bahamas for four, then blew through the Dominican Republic in 29 hours. At dusk she launched out over the Caribbean, flying all night and the next day to a tiny island off the coast of Venezuela. A week later she was exploring rainforest rivers in French Guiana, her home for the next 18 months.
Twenty years ago we couldn’t imagine the extraordinary trips that these fish-eating raptors—our summer neighbors on their big stick nests—take routinely. We occasionally glimpsed them at hawk watches, or very rarely recovered their leg bands when they died en route. Now researchers can strap a 0.75-ounce, solar-powered satellite transmitter onto the back of an Osprey and know the bird’s location, within a few hundred yards, for the next two to three years.
A few dozen Ospreys each year wear these tiny backpacks. With the help of Google Earth, we can see ecological details about the places Ospreys winter by visiting http://bit.ly/ospreytrack.
After 10 years and more than 150 tracked Ospreys, this project—the brainchild of Mark Martell at Minnesota Audubon and Rob Bierregaard at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte—is providing much-needed data revealing migrational differences among Ospreys and helping pin down where threats to Ospreys lie.
For example, like many adolescents, juvenile Ospreys wander, loiter, and even get lost, crossing open ocean when they don’t have to. Adults fly faster and more direct routes, more sure of where they’re headed.
Cuba and Hispaniola are key migration hubs for eastern Ospreys hopscotching across the Caribbean. In fall these migrants funnel down the Florida peninsula, hop to Cuba, then move east across Haiti and the Dominican Republic. From there they clear the rest of the Caribbean to wind up in South America. Western Ospreys don’t migrate as far, and spend less time crossing ocean. They winter in Central America.
Sadly, we’ve also learned that Ospreys are still shot during migration and on their wintering grounds. Fish ponds are often a lethal magnet: Ospreys find what must seem like a great food resource, and fish-farmers retaliate. Efforts are now under way to work with farmers to curb these losses.
Male Ospreys forage for their mates and young on the breeding grounds. By tagging males in the Massachusetts nesting colony I study, we are learning where they forage and what fish they target, information that helps protect fish and their spawning grounds.
Ospreys wear their satellite backpacks easily and the units are designed to drop off in 2–3 years. The burden is light, and the information gained helps focus conservation efforts where they are most needed. Tens of thousands of North American Ospreys migrate to the tropics each fall; we want to make sure that they return to continue their journeys in the years ahead.
Alan Poole is the editor of Birds of North America Online and author of Ospreys (1989, Cambridge University Press).