Kittlitz’s murrelets in Alaska, new study


This video says about itself:

Kittlitz’s Murrelet feeding chick

A video of two adult Kittlitz’s Murrelets at their nest site in the mountains near Kachemak Bay, Alaska.

From The Condor quarterly:

Reproductive performance of Kittlitz’s Murrelet in a glaciated landscape, Icy Bay, Alaska, USA

ABSTRACT

Kittlitz’s Murrelet (Brachyramphus brevirostris) is a dispersed-nesting seabird endemic to Alaska and eastern Russia that may have experienced considerable population declines in some parts of its range in the past few decades. Poor reproduction has been suggested as the demographic bottleneck, yet there are no direct estimates of reproduction in a glaciated area where this species reaches its highest densities at sea during the breeding season.

The lack of demographic information in glacial habitats has limited our ability to interpret population trends and to clarify whether the presence of glaciers affects reproductive performance. Between 2007 and 2012, we radio-tagged Kittlitz’s Murrelets to measure breeding propensity, nesting success, and fecundity in the heavily glaciated landscape of Icy Bay, Alaska, USA.

Of 156 radio-tagged birds, 20% were breeders, 68% were potential breeders, and 12% were nonbreeders. Radio-tagged males (29%) were more likely to be breeders compared to females (11%). Across all years, we located 34 Kittlitz’s Murrelet nests, 38% of which were successful.

Daily nest survival probability (± SE) was 0.979 ± 0.005, with most nests failing during incubation; if extrapolated to a 55-day period from nest initiation to fledging, the nest survival rate was 0.307 ± 0.083. Low fecundity was due largely to low breeding propensity, not low nesting success.

For context, we also determined the breeding status of 14 radio-tagged Marbled Murrelets (B. marmoratus), most of which were breeders (79%) and successfully fledged young (69%). Our data demonstrated that Kittlitz’s Murrelets were outperformed in all facets of reproduction compared to Marbled Murrelets. Low fecundity estimates for Kittlitz’s Murrelet were consistent with a 10% per annum decline in Icy Bay between 2002 and 2012, suggesting that poor reproductive performance contributed to the local population decline of this species.

Western sandpiper migration, new research


This is a western sandpiper video from Kotzebue, Alaska.

By Sarah Emily Jamieson, Ronald C Ydenberg, and David B Lank in Animal Migration, 2014; Volume 2: 34–43:

Does predation danger on southward migration curtail parental investment by female western sandpipers?

Abstract: Theory predicts that if extending parental care delays migratory departure, and if later migration is more dangerous, then parental care should be curtailed to make an earlier departure. Adult western sandpipers (Calidris mauri) depart Alaska in July, and the presence of peregrine falcons (Falco peregrinus) along their route rises steeply during the migratory period.

Pacific dunlins (C. alpina pacifica) are ecologically similar, but do not depart Alaska until October, after peregrine passage has peaked. Because peregrine migration begins earlier in years with early snowmelt, we predicted that the curtailment of parental investment by western sandpipers, but not of Pacific dunlins, should be more pronounced in these more dangerous years.

We measured breeding phenology of these species on the Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge during three seasons with strongly
differing snowmelt timing. We found that they initiated breeding simultaneously, and that western sandpipers, but not Pacific dunlins, ceased laying increasingly earlier, provided increasingly less parental care and departed increasingly sooner as snowmelt was earlier. Advancing departure date by the overall average of 5.2d relative to dunlin reduces migratory exposure to peregrines by an estimated 18%.

Our results support the hypothesis that natural selection has favored curtailment of parental investment by western sandpipers to advance migratory departure.

Asian songbirds in trouble


This video about Asia says about itself:

In this video you will see a pair of Purple-rumped Sunbirds, Black-headed Golden Oriole, Oriental Magpie, Common Myna, Asian Koel and Brown-headed Barbet.

All these birds I was able to film them while travelling on the road and capturing them from the roadside. Therefore you might also hear the sound of vehicles in the background :) It would have been great if I was able to capture these birds & calls in more quieter surroundings like most of my other nature videos. But I hope that you were still able to enjoy these video with the birds and their calls.

There is another variety of birds which I really like most – The Barbets. There are many species of Barbets but I was never able to get a clear capture of them. They are great fruit lovers and at the end you will see a Brown-headed Barbet. But unfortunately due to some branches of a tree I was not able to film him clearly. He is a very beautiful bird with green colours, thick beak and big yellow eyes. The call is also very unusual. I hope that you will enjoy these birds.

From BirdLife:

Asian songbird migrants in trouble

By Martin Fowlie, Mon, 16/02/2015 – 09:25

Migratory songbirds in East Asia are in trouble, according to new research. The study calls for national action and international cooperation to deal with threats, as well as more monitoring and research to help understand and protect this unique migration system.

The East Asian-Australasian Flyway, running from Siberia and Alaska down to South-East Asia and Australia, supports the greatest diversity of migratory birds on the planet, with 170 long distance migrant songbirds and over 80 short distance migrants. However, it is also one of most poorly studied of the world’s major migration routes. Remarkably little is known about the populations and ecology of many of its songbird migrants, which rely on habitats along the migratory route for their survival.

Lead by scientists from the Australian National University and Sun Yat-sen University and published in BirdLife’s journal Bird Conservation International, ‘Migratory songbirds in the East Asian-Australasian Flyway: a review from a conservation perspective’ draws together what is known and highlights gaps where more study is urgently required.

Flyway-scale protection

The study reveals many migratory songbirds are declining in the East Asian-Australasian Flyway, owing to a range of threats operating across many countries. The paper makes a strong case that both national action and international cooperation are needed for effective conservation.

“The flyways concept can help promote collaborative conservation actions between many countries”, said Becky Rush, BirdLife’s Asia Flyways Policy Officer. “More governments are recognising that conservation in their own territory is not enough and that they need to encourage protection for species throughout their migratory range”.

According to Ding Li Yong, the paper’s lead author, migratory songbirds in Asia have received less attention from conservationists compared to waterbirds even though many songbirds have lost considerable wintering habitat and are in decline. “Ecologically, these songbirds are important because they connect the ecosystems of Asia’s boreal, temperate and tropical biomes”, he said.

Small birds, large threats

Migration is tough enough for birds, and especially for small birds weighing only a few grams and needing to refuel often, so any threats that affect them along their migratory route can add up and take their toll on whole populations. Currently available evidence suggests that habitat loss and hunting are the two most significant threats on the East Asia flyway, while other threats like invasive species, climate change and collision with man-made structures can also have a big impact.

Some species, like the Vulnerable Izu Leaf-warbler Phylloscopus ijimae and Pleske’s Grasshopper-warbler Locustella pleskei are particularly at risk not just because of their small breeding ranges, but that their entire wintering ranges remain unknown to scientists, thus hampering effective conservation. The Endangered Yellow-breasted Bunting Emberiza aureola used to be abundant, but have drastically declined as large numbers are trapped annually for food in South-East Asia and southern China.’

Dealing with the threats

The study highlights ways in which these declines can be stopped. Conservation of key habitats, better protection of key breeding, migration and wintering sites, and better enforcement of national legislation will all be needed. Additionally, international and national treaties and legislations need to be extended to include migratory songbirds.

One priority identified in the paper is to expand and standardise monitoring and increase research to better understand populations and threats in more detail. This will need to target some of the most poorly known migratory songbirds in Asia, including the Vulnerable Rufous-headed Luscinia ruficeps and Black-throated Blue Robin L. obscura.

“There is a need for more monitoring, and especially more coordinated monitoring, across Asia,” said Rush. “The number of birdwatchers in Asia is increasing rapidly, and in some cases their data are already contributing to our understanding of songbird distribution and status”. One promising development is a new project which BirdLife Asia is helping to develop in China, South Korea and Japan, to promote international cooperation on the monitoring and conservation of migratory landbirds.

While data from citizen science and more formal monitoring schemes will definitely help to improve knowledge, conservation action is needed now to address the immediate threats to migratory songbirds that have already been identified.

Smith’s longspurs, Valentine’s Day birds


This video says about itself:

The Smith’s Longspur Project: 2013 Field Season

5 September 2013

© 2013 Jared Hughey
All Rights Reserved

The Smith’s Longspur (Calcarius pictus), one of the least studied songbirds in North America, breeds on the arctic tundra and has become a species of conservation concern. I spent the summer working as a field technician for Heather Craig, a Master’s student at University of Alaska Fairbanks who is studying the breeding ecology of this polygynandrous species in the foothills of the Brooks Range in northern Alaska.

From eNature Blog in the USA:

Record Setting Lovebird! The Smith’s Longspur May Be Nature’s Champion Lover

Posted on Monday, February 09, 2015 by eNature

Are you the type that has an insatiable appetite for lusty affairs?

Do you seek the same qualities in a partner?

Then you’ll probably enjoy the story of the Smith’s Longspur. This bird’s 70’s swinging style is enough to make even Hugh Hefner blush.

Arctic Summers, Midwest Winters

Small like a sparrow, the Smith’s Longspur spends its summers in Alaska and Canada and its winters in the Midwest and the South, often congregating in open fields.

In terms of range, then, it’s a lot like some other species. What sets the Smith’s Longspur apart is its astonishing libido.

An Insatiable Appetite For Love

At the peak of the spring mating season, the typical Smith’s Longspur copulates more than 350 times a week. The females solicit these encounters, and the males cooperate roughly half the time.

Otherwise the creatures are resting and refueling—for their fall migration or just to maintain their busy love lives!

You can always plan eNature’s Mating Game to find what creature you most resemble in love.

As hard as it may be to believe given the cold affecting much of the country, but spring is only a month or so away!

Have you seen any signs of the plants and animals in your neighborhood preparing for warmer times and the new life the spring season brings?

We always enjoy your stories.

John James Audubon named the Smith’s Longspur after his friend Gideon B. Smith.

More about the Smith’s Longspur is here.

Alaskan woman jailed for helping bald eagle?


This video from Pennsylvania in the USA is called First eaglet hatches at Pittsburgh Hays bald eagle nest 3-28-2014.

By Lisa Phu in Alaska:

Hiker who freed trapped eagle due in court today

January 22, 2015 at 5:35 am

A bald eagle was lying on the ground, each leg shut inside traps. When Juneau resident Kathleen Adair came across it scouting a trail for a group hike, the eagle was alive and looking at her. She spent an hour freeing it.

But there’s more to the story. Two and a half weeks later, Alaska Wildlife Troopers cited her for the hindrance of lawful trapping. She now faces a potential $500 fine and 30 days in jail.

On Dec. 24, Kathleen Adair was on Davies Creek Trail when she saw the eagle in her path. She’s familiar with the Juneau Raptor Center and knew the bird rescue nonprofit would be concerned, so she took photos of what she saw and recorded the GPS coordinates.

“I wanted to go back and tell the Raptor Center where it was. I knew that would be the best thing to do, but I also knew that it would be getting dark soon. It was 2 miles from the road and it was all the way at the end of the road, so I knew that they wouldn’t be able to get out there that day to it,” Adair says.

So she took the matter into her own hands. Before untangling the eagle from what she describes as two large long spring traps, she noticed a smaller trap on the other side of the trail. Out of concern for the three dogs with her, she sprang it. She then tied the dogs up so she could deal with the eagle.

Adair says the eagle’s legs were wrapped up in the trap chains. Before she did anything, she covered the eagle’s head to keep it docile, something she’s learned from her time around raptors. She says it took an hour to get the eagle out of two traps.

“I knew at the time that the eagle didn’t have a very good chance. I knew if I left it there all night, it would have had a worse chance of surviving,” Adair says. “But even as it was, I could tell one of the legs was just dangling, just completely broken and I knew they wouldn’t be able to fix that, but I was hoping they could at least fix the other and keep it as an educational bird.”

She placed the eagle in a large pack and hiked it out. When she got to what she estimates to be a half mile from the highway, she spotted another large trap near the trail. She sprung that one as well, worried for the hikers that would be on the trail in the coming days.

Adair is no stranger to the outdoors. She spent the early part of her life in Ketchikan and Prince of Wales Island. She moved to Juneau when she was 9 and has lived here for almost 30 years. She grew up fishing and hunting and shot a bear at age 16. She raises rabbits for food. As an avid outdoors person, she often sees traps, but had never tampered with any before this. She saw one earlier that day, but it had been hanging from a tree and off the trail.

“I’m not against trapping per se. I am concerned about the traps when they’re on the trail in such a way as these were,” Adair says.

As soon as she drove into cell phone range, Adair called the Raptor Center. She brought the eagle to a volunteer’s house and sent photos. She was told the Raptor Center would call U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other agencies to report the incident. At that point, she thought her involvement was done.

The eagle was immediately brought to a vet in Juneau where it was later euthanized.

Three days later, Adair led nine people on an 8-hour hike on Davies Creek Trail to the Thiel Glacier. It was dark as the group was finishing. Adair again saw a large trap near the trail head and sprung it. She says she was concerned for the hikers’ safety. Adair knows it’s illegal to mess with lawfully set traps. She wasn’t sure about this one because it was so close to the trail.

State and municipal codes say it’s illegal to trap within a half mile of any road and within a quarter mile of a designated list of trails. Davies Creek Trail is not on that list, but it is in the popular book, “90 Short Walks Around Juneau.” Adair says there was another group on the trail that same day.

Alaska Wildlife Trooper Sgt. Aaron Frenzel says his office received a complaint from a trapper on Dec. 30 regarding someone tampering with several of his traps. On Jan. 10, Adair was cited. The paperwork only identifies the trapper as “J.F.”

Frenzel says he doesn’t know how many traps had been tampered with. To his knowledge, no photos are part of the investigation. Since the complaint, he says no troopers have gone to the site to look at the traps.

“We got out and do routine checks of trap lines throughout the Juneau area so we had already been on this trap line once before and there was really no reason to go back in since there was nothing to investigate at that point,” he says.

At the start of the Trooper investigation, Frenzel says he didn’t know about a trapped eagle. He says that information got to him sometime after Jan. 1 via the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

“What we expect from the public is if they come upon an eagle in a trap, to notify us as soon as possible. That way we can go out there and see what’s going on,” Frenzel says.

He says hindering lawful traps is illegal, but freeing an eagle from traps isn’t.

“If a trap’s already sprung on a animal, you cannot hinder it because that trap can no longer be caught, so whatever you do to that trap, you’re really not hindering at that point. That would not be something we would cite for, if a person came in and was freeing an eagle from a trap the eagle was in,” Frenzel says.

There is no regulation against accidentally trapping bald eagles. Frenzel says in the eight years he’s been in Juneau, he hasn’t heard of any other cases of trapped eagles and troopers haven’t cited anyone for hindering traps.

Jesse Ross is a trapper in Juneau and a member of the Alaska Trappers Association. He says he sympathizes with Adair. He’s seen wounded animals in nature and he’s accidentally trapped animals he wasn’t targeting.

“It’s unfortunate. You feel bad that you caught something that is now wasted and hopefully you learn, say, ‘Hey, maybe what could I have done different?’ That’s what I tell myself when I see that,” Ross says.

But he says Adair broke the law.

Ross says trappers follow a code of ethics and go to great lengths to reduce the possibility of trapping nontarget animals, but he says they’re guidelines. Trapping is ultimately about good judgment.

“Just because it’s legal doesn’t mean it’s necessarily the right thing to do,” Ross says.

Adair is being arraigned in court this afternoon at 1 p.m. As of last night, she didn’t have a lawyer.

Oregon Is The Place To See Bald Eagles In January And February: here.

Alaska bird news update


This video says about itself:

Alaska’s Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge

11 June 2013

Every year birds from around the world migrate to the Yukon Delta to nest and raise their young. The number of birds and diversity of species that annually visit the refuge is without equal elsewhere on the globe. It is truly one of the world’s most important sites for migratory birds.

From the American Birding Association blog:

Early January Birding in Anchorage; Eagle River Christmas Bird Count

By Lynn Barber, on January 13, 2015

I was not at all surprised that the Common Raven was my first bird of 2015. They are very common in Anchorage. Shortly thereafter, in and over our yard, were Black-billed Magpies, Bohemian Waxwings, Black-capped Chickadees, Mallards, Red-breasted Nuthatches, Dark-eyed Juncos, and Common Redpolls. Then I heard a previously unheard sound for my Anchorage yard, an American Robin, flocks of which had been seen across town but not on our side of town. Day 1 of the year ended with a Downy Woodpecker, a small flock of White-winged Crossbills and a Steller’s Jay at a new feeder stocked with peanuts.

I learned that like other jays the Steller’s Jays partially swallow a peanut whole, shell and all, with the swallowed peanut still visible in the bird’s open beak, and then grab another peanut and fly off, to stash one or both nuts somewhere and return to the feeder for more right away. Following January 1, the birds in our yard were mostly repeats of day 1 birds, with added variety due to a flock of White-winged Crossbills that periodically invaded the nearby spruce trees and a small flock of Pine Grosbeaks, which began to eat from a couple of our bird feeders.

On Sunday, January 4th, I participated in my second Alaska Christmas Bird Count, the Eagle River CBC, about 12 miles north of Anchorage. The weather had been warm, but it turned cold (about 0 degrees F) that day and never got much above 5 degrees. Thankfully I was assigned a route in Eagle River itself, mostly in the car, with another Anchorage birder. Unlike lower-48 CBCs, our daylight birding could not start until about 9:30, and within 6 hours, the daylight was fading away. Not to worry, however, because there was plenty of time for us to find all the birds that were in our section, all eleven species.

Again, given the widespread nature of most of the species that stay around here in winter, it was not surprising that there was a lot of overlap between the birds we saw on the Eagle River CBC and those I had seen in my yard the previous three days. In fact, only two of the CBC species that we saw were new for the year for me – the Bald Eagles (10 of them) and the Gray Jay (a single bird seen out over a foggy area, perched up so we could find it). The most numerous species in our area were Bohemian Waxwing (95), White-winged Crossbill (56), Black-capped Chickadee (29), Common Raven (28) and Black-billed Magpie (25). I expect the results for the whole CBC circle at Eagle River will be similar to ours, but I have not yet received them.

Since participating in the CBC, I have explored a couple more local sites in the Anchorage area, upon which I will blog in the future as I learn more about these areas. The main excitement now though is backyard birding, especially the Steller’s Jays, which, like many jays, are VERY TAME. The day after I first offered them peanuts, I decided to see how close I could get to them with my hand stretched out toward them, holding an offering of unshelled peanuts. To my surprise, the very first time I tried this, one of the jays hopped on to my hand, grabbed a peanut and took off! Now, every time I see jays near or on our back porch, I go out with peanuts and feed a few to the jays. They certainly are very friendly, probably due to past efforts of neighbors of ours somewhere. I’ve been told by other Alaska birders that I may regret making the jays my friends, and in fact one person had to work for three years to try to get her jays to NOT keep following her around everywhere. We’ll see.