Conservation Call Notes
This page of the site provides a season long review of the actions of our conservation committee. Each of these appear in the monthly California Condor Newsletter, but are repeated here to provide a seasonal.review as we move along.
Celebrating Thirty Years of Partnering for Migratory Bird Conservation
Three decades ago, scientists realized that protecting birds across their full annual cycle required working with everyone along the way.
March 10, 2020
In 1990, Ice Baby topped the charts, Nelson Mandela was released from prison, East and West Germany reunited and people were talking about the decline of Neotropical migrant birds. (Neotropical migrants are birds that spend most of their lives in the tropics but migrate north for the nesting season.) In the previous year, John Terborgh had published his book Where Have All the Birds Gone? in which he argued that action needed to be taken sooner rather than later to address these declines. However, as the title of his book implied, there were questions among conservationists about how best to address these declines.
The same year Terborgh’s book was published, a meeting of ornithologists concluded that there was no clear consensus on whether declines of migrants were driven by changes on the breeding grounds or wintering grounds. What was clear was that addressing these declines would require many organizations and agencies to working together across the western hemisphere.
It was in this context that Partners in Flight was formed in 1990 with the mission of “keeping common birds common and helping species at risk through voluntary partnerships.” Representatives from state and federal agencies, industry, and non-profit conservation organizations signed the original memorandum of understanding. Shortly after that, the group received funding from the US Fish and Wildlife Service to hire a coordinator and other staff.
For the last 30 years, Partners in Flight has brought together these diverse stakeholders to lead science efforts to better understand bird ecology and factors that limit bird populations, as well as design and implement conservation plans to halt and reverse bird population declines.
“Partners in Flight has played a critical role in bringing together the bird conservation community and developing the resources and plans that allow everyone to work together to protect migratory birds,” says Jill Deppe, senior director of Audubon’s Migratory Bird Initiative.
The broad array of participants, including federal and state agencies, the military and various industries, “had the effect of greatly increasing the resources directed to bird conservation, and expanded our understanding of the status of and concerns about bird populations,” said Stan Senner, Audubon’s vice president of conservation.
Today, Partners in Flight is a dynamic and welcoming network of more than 150 partner organizations throughout the western hemisphere engaged in all aspects of landbird conservation.
“Partners is Flight is a true grassroots initiative that has been the catalyst for ground breaking strategies for three decades. We’ve opened new opportunities for bird conservation that have included a species vulnerability assessment that incorporates keeping our common birds common,” said Bob Ford, Partners in Flight US national coordinator.
And the work is more important than ever. Although the declines of many Neotropical migrants have continued, with coordinated action we know the recovery of these populations is possible.
“There’s still much to be done, especially in view of the recent study on the loss of three billion birds in North America and the current and future impacts of climate change,” said Senner. As it was 30 years ago, keeping common birds common is an urgent call to action.
Audubon’s Migratory Bird Initiative aims to continue and grow the mission of Partners in Flight in a similar spirit using the latest in migration tracking technology. By collaborating with researchers and partners in bird conservation organizations across the hemisphere, the Migratory Bird Initiative will develop a first-of-its-kind platform to track the migratory journeys of 520 species, identify and address conservation threats along the full annual cycle, and engage the public in the joy of migration to protect birds and the places they need, today and tomorrow.
Conservation Notes – April 2020
From Audubon California
About the Western Snowy Plover
The Western Snowy Plover is listed as Threatened under the Endangered Species Act.
Western Snowy Plovers are sensitive to disturbances along the California coast.
Photo: Mike Baird
The Western Snowy Plover is a threatened small shorebird, approximately the size of a sparrow. During the breeding season, March through September, plovers can be seen nesting along the shores, peninsulas, offshore islands, bays, estuaries, and rivers of the United States' Pacific Coast from Oregon to California. Plover nests usually contains three tiny eggs, which are camouflaged to look like sand and barely visible to even the most well-trained trained eye. Plovers will use almost anything they can find on the beach to make their nests, including kelp, driftwood, shells, rocks, and even human footprints.
Snowy Plovers have natural predators such as falcons, raccoons, coyotes, and owls. There are also predators that humans have introduced or whose populations they have helped to increase, including crows and ravens, red fox, and domestic dogs. Humans can be thought of as predators too, because people drive vehicles, ride bikes, fly kites and bring their dogs to beaches where the western snowy plover lives and breeds. All of these activities can frighten or harm plovers during their breeding season.
Energy is very important to this small bird. Every time humans, dogs, or other predators cause the birds to take flight or run away, they lose precious energy that is needed to maintain their nests. Often, when a plover parent is disturbed, it will abandon its nest, which increases the chance of a predator finding the eggs, sand blowing over and covering the nest, or the eggs getting cold. This can decrease the number of chicks that hatch in a particular year. Did you know that a kite flying overhead looks like a predator to a plover? A kite over a nesting area can keep an adult off the nest for long periods of time.
There are many key things YOU can do to help save the western snowy plover! Allowing these small birds to remain in their breeding area, undisturbed, throughout the breeding season is most important. People should be able to recreate on the beaches AND there should be room for plovers to nest too. The idea is to "Share the Shore." This means having fun while protecting our natural environment at the same time.
The Western Snowy Plover has been living on the Pacific Coast for thousands of years but was listed by the federal government as threatened in 1993, due to low population and decreased habitat. Let's help ensure the plovers' success! Remember that when a species goes extinct, it is gone forever! We are privileged to be able to be stewards of the beach, its habitat, and its occupants, including the western snowy plover. Protect your beach and the plants and animals that use it and most importantly, share your knowledge with friends and family. Get the word out; we can make a difference and that difference starts with you.
Thank you for your support and interest.
Conservation Notes March 2020
Bruce Schoppe, VP, Conservation
In January, I attended a lecture in Santa Barbara by Dr. Kenneth Rosenberg one of the main authors of the Cornell report saying that we have lost 3 billion birds since 1970. He outlined the basis for the report and its conclusions. Much of the information is available on a website called 3billionbirds.org. Worth a look! Among its recommendations are seven ways to help birds. Many of these are familiar to Audubon members but, they bear repeating:
7 SIMPLE ACTONS TO HELP BIRDS
1. MAKE WINDOWS SAFER, DAY AND NIGHT
The challenge: Up to 1 billion birds are estimated to die each year after hitting windows in the United States and Canada.
The cause: By day, birds perceive reflections in glass as habitat they can fly into. By night, migratory birds drawn in by city lights are at high risk of colliding with buildings.
These simple steps save birds: On the outside of the window, install screens or break up reflections—using film, paint, or Bird Tape or other string spaced no more than two inches high or two inches wide.
Take it further: Work with businesses or public buildings to offer a contest for creative “window mural” designs that make windows safer for birds. Support legislation for bird-friendly building designs. Start a lights-out campaign in your city.
Get started today:
2. KEEP CATS INDOORS
The challenge: Cats are estimated to kill more than 2.6 billion birds annually in the U.S. and Canada (source). This is the #1 human-caused reason for the loss of birds, aside from habitat loss.
The cause: Cats can make great pets, but more than 110 million feral and pet cats now roam in the United States and Canada (American Bird Conservancy/Avian Conservation & Ecology). These nonnative predators instinctively hunt and kill birds even when well fed.
Solutions that are good for cats and birds: Save birds and keep cats healthy by keeping cats indoors or creating an outdoor “catio”. You can also train your cat to walk on a leash.
Take it further: Speak out about the impacts of feral cat colonies in your neighborhood and on public lands. Unowned cats’ lives may be as short as two years because of disease and hardship, and they are responsible for more than two-thirds of birds killed by cats in North America (The Cornell Lab/Avian Conservation & Ecology).
Get started today: Six ways to keep your indoor cats happy
3. REDUCE LAWN, PLANT NATIVES
The challenge: Birds have fewer places to safely rest during migration and to raise their young: More than 10 million acres of land in the United States were converted to developed land from 1982 to 1997 (US Department of Agriculture).
The cause: Lawns and pavement don’t offer enough food or shelter for many birds and other wildlife. With more than 40 million acres of lawn in the U.S. alone (source), there’s huge potential to support wildlife by replacing lawns with native plantings.
Take it further: Add native plants and watch birds come in. Native plants add interest and beauty to your yard and neighborhood, and provide shelter and nesting areas for birds. The nectar, seeds, berries, and insects will sustain birds and diverse wildlife.
Get started today: Find out which native plants are best for your area
4. AVOID PESTICIDES
The challenge: More than 1 billion pounds of pesticides are applied in the United States each year (source). The continent’s most widely used insecticides, called neonicotinoids or “neonics,” are lethal to birds and to the insects that birds consume. Common weed killers used around homes, such as 2, 4-D and glyphosate (used in Roundup), can be toxic to wildlife, and glyphosate has been declared a probable human carcinogen. (American Bird Conservancy).
The cause: Pesticides that are toxic to birds can harm them directly through contact, or if they eat contaminated seeds or prey. Pesticides can also harm birds indirectly by reducing the number of insects that birds need to survive.
A healthy choice for you, your family, and birds: Consider purchasing organic food. Nearly 70% of produce sold in the U.S. contains pesticides (American Bird Conservancy). Reduce pesticides around your home and garden.
Get started today:
Send a message to protect birds and bees from toxic neonicotinoids
5. DRINK COFFEE THAT’S GOOD FOR BIRDS
The challenge: Three-quarters of the world’s coffee farms grow their plants in the sun (source), destroying forests that birds and other wildlife need for food and shelter. Sun-grown coffee also often requires using environmentally harmful pesticides and fertilizers. On the other hand, shade-grown coffee preserves a forest canopy that helps migratory birds survive the winter.
The cause: Too few consumers are aware of the problems of sun coffee. Those who are aware may be reluctant to pay more for environmentally sustainable coffee.
Insist on shade-grown coffee that’s good for birds: It’s a win-win-win: it’s delicious, economically beneficial to coffee farmers, and helps more than 42 species of North American migratory songbirds that winter in coffee plantations, including orioles, warblers, and thrushes.
Take it further: Look for Bird Friendly coffee, a certification from the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center that also includes organic standards. Educate coffee shops and grocery stores about shade-grown coffee.
Get started today: Find out where to buy Bird-Friendly coffee in the U.S. and Canada
6. PROTECT OUR PLANET FROM PLASTICS
The challenge: It’s estimated that 4,900 million metric tons of plastic have accumulated in landfills and in our environment worldwide (Science Advances), polluting our oceans and harming wildlife such as seabirds, whales, and turtles that mistakenly eat plastic, or become entangled in it.
The cause: Plastic takes more than 400 years to degrade, and 91% of plastics created are not recycled (National Geographic). Studies show that at least 80 seabird species ingest plastic (PNAS), mistaking it for food. Cigarette lighters, toothbrushes, and other trash have been found in the stomachs of dead albatrosses.
Reduce your use of plastics: Avoid single-use plastics including bags, bottles, wraps, and disposable utensils. It’s far better to choose reusable items, but if you do have disposable plastic, be sure to recycle.
Take it further: Advocate for bans of plastic bags, styrofoam, and straws. Encourage stores to offer incentives for reusable bags, and ask restaurants and other businesses to phase out single-use plastics.
Get started today: Eight easy ways to reduce your plastic waste
7. WATCH BIRDS, SHARE WHAT YOU SEE
The challenge: The world’s most abundant bird, the Passenger Pigeon, went extinct, and people didn’t realize how quickly it was vanishing until it was too late. Monitoring birds is essential to help protect them, but tracking the health of the world’s 10,000 bird species is an immense challenge.
The cause: To understand how birds are faring, scientists need hundreds of thousands of people to report what they’re seeing in backyards, neighborhoods, and wild places around the world. Without this information, scientists will not have enough timely data to show where and when birds are declining around the world.
Enjoy birds while helping science and conservation: Join a project such as eBird, Project FeederWatch, a Christmas Bird Count, or a Breeding Bird Survey to record your bird observations. Your contributions will provide valuable information to show where birds are thriving—and where they need our help. Note: If you don't yet know how to use eBird, there’s a free course to help you get the most out of the project and its tools.
Take it further: Mobilize others in your community by organizing school groups or leading bird walks and submitting your counts to eBird. Support organizations that coordinate monitoring projects.
Get started today: Find a project that matches your interests
Conservation Notes 2019-2020
Bruce Schoppe, VP, Conservation
2019-2020 Conservation Committee Goals
VAS formalized a Conservation Committee in the last program year and held several meetings. Our conservation agenda is broad and ambitious. We encourage more people to become involved to whatever extent they chose. Below are the goals established for the Committee in the current program year.
The next meeting of the committee is scheduled for Thursday evening, February 6, 2020 at 6:30 – 8:30 PM in the meeting room at Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, 4360 E. Main St., Ventura (telephone and East Main Street). We invite you to join us.
Expand committee participation
Invite volunteers from volunteer survey participants
Increase committee visibility - Newsletter articles, calendar, post the meeting date/location with an RSVP email address in the newsletter
Assess conservation topics as they arise and advise the Board of Directors
Santa Clara River
Encourage and support further acquisition and restoration along the Santa Clara River
Partner with other conservation organizations on Santa Clara River
Recruit volunteers to maintain the Reed Smith trail
Communicate important issues to chapter membership and the board
Lead guided bird walk in the spring
Ventura River – Least Bell’s Vireo Recovery
Determine next step or steps with regard to restoring LBVI to the lower Ventura River
Schedule meeting with USFWS, WFVZ
Working with Ventura Harbor Department, resolve enforcement issues and develop a plan for dune restoration at Hollywood Beach
Work with landowners and others on Ormond Beach “restoration plan”.
Develop a plan to sustain the Shorebird Restoration Program on Ormond and Hollywood beaches.