Rare birds and conservation in Illinois, USA


This video from the USA says about itself:

Bell’s Vireo (Vireo bellii) singing 6-05-2014 Catalina Grove – Orland Park, Illinois.

From the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in the USA:

Conservation efforts help some rare birds more than others

January 23, 2019

Land conservation programs that have converted tens of thousands of acres of agricultural land in Illinois back to a more natural state appear to have helped some rare birds increase their populations to historic levels, a new study finds. Other bird species with wider geographic ranges have not fared as well, however.

The research, reported in the journal Ecosphere, finds that one of the four species studied, the Bell’s vireo (Vireo bellii bellii), has bounced back from historic declines to more than double its last estimated abundance in Illinois.

“This increase surpasses state goals set for the bird in 2004, and speaks to some of the successes of the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program, a national effort begun in 1996 to improve water quality, reduce erosion and restore lands and wildlife once lost to agricultural expansion,” said Illinois Natural History Survey avian ecologist Bryan Reiley, who led the study. “Other rare birds — particularly those most reliant on early succession grasslands — are still struggling, however.”

The growth of agriculture “has negatively affected biodiversity throughout the world,” the study authors wrote. Grassland species have experienced some of the sharpest declines. Conservation programs like CREP use monetary incentives to entice private landowners to voluntarily convert some of their land back to grasslands, wetlands or forest. More than 140,000 acres have been restored so far in Illinois through CREP.

To determine how this conservation effort affects populations of specific rare birds, Reiley and his colleagues surveyed 172 randomly selected restored fields in 10 counties in central and west-central Illinois during the 2012-15 breeding seasons. They focused on the Bell’s vireo and three other species in decline: the field sparrow (Spizella pusilla), northern bobwhite (Colinus virginianus) and willow flycatcher (Empidonax trailli trailli).

“We found that private land conservation efforts in Illinois are probably effective in achieving state population goals for some rare species, such as the Bell’s vireo, which prefers shrubby areas near grasslands,” Reiley said. “They also may help other species with similar habitat needs, like the willow flycatcher, which we estimate to be at 92 percent of the goal.”

The field sparrow and northern bobwhite still appear to be in trouble, however. Based on the researchers’ estimates, CREP has increased northern bobwhite populations by only 6 percent of the goal. Field sparrow abundance is better, but the conservation program has achieved only 33 percent of the goal for this species.

Reiley and his colleagues estimated that the amount of restored land would need to increase by 5 percent to rebuild populations of willow flycatchers to historic levels. Substantially more habitat would be required to support historic populations of field sparrows and northern bobwhites, however. To achieve state goals, those species would need habitat increases of 118 percent and 598 percent, respectively, the researchers found.

“Interestingly, all the species we studied, and probably many others not studied, would likely rebound to historic levels if 1 percent of the agricultural land in Illinois was restored through CREP,” Reiley said. “This program is clearly important to populations of declining wildlife — not only in Illinois, but also in the other 26 states where it operates.”

The Illinois Natural History Survey is a division of the Prairie Research Institute at the University of Illinois. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources supported this work.

Big clerical sexual abuse cover-up in Illinois, USA


This 19 December 2018 video from the USA is called 500 more Illinois priests accused of abuse.

From CNN in the USA:

Illinois AG says Catholic Church failed to disclose abuse accusations against 500 priests and clergy

By Daniel Burke, CNN Religion Editor

Updated 0003 GMT (0803 HKT) December 20, 2018

In yet another blow to the Catholic Church in the United States, Illinois’ attorney general says the state’s six dioceses have failed to disclose accusations of sexual abuse against at least 500 priests and clergy members.

Illinois’ dioceses have released lists publicly identifying 185 clergy members who had been credibly accused of child sex abuse. But state Attorney General Lisa Madigan said preliminary findings in her ongoing investigation reveal that the church failed to disclose sexual abuse allegations against at least 500 additional priests and clergy members.

In many cases, the accusations have “not been adequately investigated by the dioceses or not investigated at all”, Madigan’s office said in a statement Wednesday. What’s more, the statement added, the church often failed to notify law enforcement authorities or state Department of Children and Family Services about the allegations.

“By choosing not to thoroughly investigate allegations, the Catholic Church has failed in its moral obligation to provide survivors, parishioners and the public a complete and accurate accounting of all sexually inappropriate behavior involving priests in Illinois”, Madigan said in the statement.

“The failure to investigate also means that the Catholic Church has never made an effort to determine whether the conduct of the accused priests was ignored or covered up by superiors.”

Madigan began her investigation in August, after a Pennsylvania grand jury released a 900-page report detailing horrific abuses by 300 Catholic clergy against more than 1,000 victims. Since then, 36 dioceses have publicized self-reported lists of clergy “credibly accused” of abusing minors. (There are 197 dioceses in the United States.)

But advocates for survivors of sexual abuse have challenged many of the lists, calling them incomplete or evasive. Few of the lists detail exactly when the abuse claims were made, or what was done about them. Madigan’s criticism seems to lend credence to those claims.

“The preliminary stages of this investigation have already demonstrated that the Catholic Church cannot police itself“, Madigan said. “Allegations of sexual abuse of minors, even if they stem from conduct that occurred many years ago, cannot be treated as internal personnel matters.”

Based on their review of the Illinois dioceses’ internal files, the dioceses have received sex-abuse-related allegations for approximately 690 clergy, according to the attorney general’s report. But they publicly reported just 185 of the allegations.

Nearly 75% of the allegations were either not investigated or were investigated but not substantiated, according to the report.

In many cases, the dioceses said they had not conducted investigations because the priest or clergy member was dead or had already resigned by the time the allegation was reported to the dioceses, according to the attorney general’s office. It did not specify which of Illinois’ six dioceses were responsible for the unreported accusations.

In other cases, the dioceses failed to “substantiate” an allegation when it came from only one survivor, even when church officials had reason to believe that survivor and reason to investigate further, according to the report.

“The dioceses also often found reasons to discredit survivors’ stories of abuse by focusing on the survivors’ personal lives,” the report says.

The six dioceses in Illinois are: Chicago, an archdiocese, and Belleville, Joliet, Peoria, Rockford and Springfield.

“The Dioceses of Belleville, Peoria, Rockford, and Springfield did not take the basic step of publishing a comprehensive list of clergy who had been ‘credibly accused’ until the Office became involved”, the report says.

Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield said his diocese has cooperated with the attorney general’s investigation, but the decision to withhold names in the past was done with “a virtuous intent.” …

“A virtuous intent to protect the faithful from scandal …” …

In December, the Society of Jesus, popularly known as the Jesuits, released lists from four provinces of more than 230 priests who had been credibly accused of abusing minors.

CNN’s Rosa Flores contributed to this article.

Catholic Church in Illinois Withheld Names of at Least 500 Priests Accused of Abuse, Attorney General Says: here.

Alligator snapping turtles back in Illinois, USA


This 2015 video from the USA is called Alligator Snapping Turtle vs Common Snapping Turtle.

From the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in the USA:

First wild alligator snapping turtle in Illinois since 1984

November 13, 2017

Researchers report the first sighting in 30 years of a wild alligator snapping turtle in Illinois. The discovery may be a sign of hope for this state-endangered species, or the animal could be the last of its kind to have survived in Illinois without human intervention, the researchers say.

The team reports the find in the journal Southeastern Naturalist.

In October 2014, when Illinois Natural History Survey herpetologist Chris Phillips donned a wetsuit and dove to the bottom of Clear Creek in Union County, Illinois, he was looking for a young male alligator snapping turtle with a radio transmitter on its back. That turtle had recently been released in the area to bolster the state-endangered turtle population in southwest Illinois.

“I was just about out of breath when I felt the turtle shell,” Phillips said. “I thought I had found the male turtle I knew was there because I detected its radio signal. I felt along its back to where I thought the shell should end, but my hand just kept going.”

Phillips plucked from the water a 22-pound, 15-inch long female alligator snapping turtle that was twice as long as the one he was looking for, and at least 18 years old. Since she had no tracking device, she was not one of the turtles that had been released into the area. DNA tests showed that she belonged at the site and was not a lone traveler from a southern state. Southern Illinois is at the northern end of the turtle species’ range.

For years, INHS researchers have conducted extensive trapping, and have called for citizen observations along Clear Creek for signs of wild alligator snapping turtles, but to no avail. Populations of this state-endangered species have declined because of habitat changes including dams, drained swamps and river dredging. Only Union and Jackson counties offer the habitat that the turtles need to reproduce and thrive. Locating any wild turtles in these counties will help determine the next steps — whether to preserve a population or reintroduce more alligator snapping turtles in Illinois.

“Bolstering a hidden population of an endangered species is better than starting a new population in the area,” said Ethan Kessler, a graduate student of natural resources and environmental sciences at the University of Illinois and a co-author of the study. “However, since no wild alligator snapping turtles have been found in Illinois since 1984, reintroduction efforts make sense.”

For several years, researchers have purchased turtles reared in a facility and released them at ages 2, 3, 4, 5 or 6. They also released about 90 adult turtles. Most of the animals go into creeks with radio transmitters attached to their backs so they can be relocated and tracked.

Researchers were conducting their biannual catch-and-release program when they found the wild turtle, close to the same spot and 30 years, almost to the day, after their last wild alligator snapping turtle was found.

“Finding this individual does not indicate that there is a functional, stable population of wild alligator snapping turtles in Southern Illinois,” Kessler said. “When a population dies out, a single turtle may wander around like a zombie waiting for the end of its days.”

Alligator snapping turtles can live 100 years, so the researchers working on this project today likely will not witness the advancing seasons of this female’s life. After finding her, the team marked her shell with a notch and attached a radio transmitter to her back for tracking. The transmitter battery died, however, and finding her again in the sediment-filled depths of Clear Creek or elsewhere would be like finding a needle in a haystack, Phillips said.

“She is marked, so in case of an incidental encounter, we will know it’s her,” he said.

One of the challenges of tracking turtles that have been introduced in Illinois is that they disappear underwater and may not be seen again until divers retrieve them.

“If we succeed with our project in introducing a new, viable population of alligator snapping turtles, it’s likely that no one will see them,” Phillips said. “It’s not as if we’re studying bald eagles that soar above us. I may never know the fate of these turtles, but it’s cool to know that this wild space exists in Illinois.”

The alligator snapping turtle is listed as threatened in the U.S.

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources funded this research. Mike Dreslik of the INHS and Scott Ballard of IDNR are co-authors of the article. The INHS is a division of the Prairie Research Institute at the University of Illinois.

Clean out used nest boxes or not?


This beautiful Eastern Bluebird nest is located in our OOEF Nestbox #7 on our Old Oak Estate Farm Bolden Bluebird Trail. The nest features some horsetail hair from our black horse. Photo by Gisela Borawski-Hayes, Belleville, IL, United States

This photo of an eastern bluebird nest is from Belleville, Illinois in the USA.

From the Cornell Lab of Ornithology‘s NestWatch eNewsletter in the USA, September 2017:

Cleaning House…or Not

With the nesting season drawing to a close, our once bustling nest boxes are now quiet and filled with leftover nesting materials. What should be done with old nests? Do cavity-nesting birds prefer to reuse nests, or do they like a fresh start?

Unfortunately, the answer is not clear-cut, and a lot depends on the species and the geographic location. Find out more about whether or not to clean your nest boxes on the NestWatch Blog.

United States professor witch-hunted for opposing Islamophobia


This video from the USA says about itself:

7 December 2015

Larycia Hawkins is a tenured Christian professor at Illinois Wheaton College. She was recently placed on administrative leave after expressing her belief that Christians and Muslims worship the same god. Cenk Uygur, host of the The Young Turks, breaks it down.

By Joe Williams in the USA:

Illinois professor fired for expressing sympathy for Muslims

18 January 2016

In a craven capitulation to anti-Muslim agitation, Wheaton College has begun termination proceedings against Dr. Larycia Hawkins, a tenured professor who attracted national attention in December by wearing a hijab during the Christian Advent period to show solidarity with Muslims.

Explaining on social media her decision to don the Islamic garb, Hawkins wrote, “I stand in religious solidarity with Muslims because they, like me, a Christian, are people of the book. And as Pope Francis stated last week, we worship the same God .… As part of my Advent Worship, I will wear the hijab to work at Wheaton College, to play in Chi-town [Chicago], in the airport and on the airplane to my home state that initiated one of the first anti-Sharia laws (read: unconstitutional and Islamophobic), and at church.”

Wheaton is a private evangelical Christian college located 25 miles west of Chicago. The college was founded by abolitionist opponents of slavery in 1860.

In response to Hawkins’ actions, the college released a statement to the media declaring that the “theological implications” of Hawkins’s claim violates the Wheaton College “Statement of Faith,” which all students and faculty are required to sign.

On December 15, four days after she posted her statement, Provost Stanton Jones presented Hawkins with a document accusing her of “blasphemy,” and Hawkins was placed on paid administrative leave. On December 17, Hawkins submitted a four page theological statement re-affirming her commitment to the Statement of Faith.

College officials are nevertheless moving forward with procedures to terminate Hawkins. A committee of nine tenured Wheaton professors is expected to arrive at a decision within several weeks about Hawkins’s future employment at the college. College president Phillip Ryken will then refer the professors’ recommendation to Wheaton’s Board of Trustees for a final decision.

Hawkins has received support from students and colleagues, who have denounced the administration’s justifications for her termination. On January 11, the first day of the spring semester, over 100 students staged a protest outside the school’s main chapel. Students are also continuing a sit-in, begun last semester when Hawkins was put on leave, outside the offices of Jones and Ryken.

This video from the USA says about itself:

Rally in support of Dr. Larycia Hawkins (Complete)

6 January 2016

Dr. Larycia Hawkins provides information regarding the notification she received from Wheaton College moving to terminate her tenure and employment from the evangelical institution. The disciplinary action comes as Dr. Hawkins maintains Christian support for the Muslim community amidst the ongoing anti-Muslim climate.

The Provost’s notification also cites as the basis for seeking her termination that Dr. Hawkins’ made an “unqualified assertion of religious solidarity with Muslims and Jews.”

Background:

On December 10, 2015, Dr. Hawkins posted a message on Facebook expressing solidarity with her brothers and sisters of the Muslim faith.

On December 15, 2015, Dr. Hawkins was placed on administrative leave by Wheaton College, and relieved of all teaching and programmatic duties for the Spring 2016 semester.

Dr. Hawkins continued her Christian act of embodied solidarity, wearing the hijab, through Advent, leading up to Christmas.

On January 4, 2016, Dr. Hawkins received an email notification of the Provost’s Recommendation to Initiate Termination.

The Joe Williams article continues:

One participant, senior Annika Bouwsma, told the Wheaton Daily Herald, “I don’t think there’s been enough transparency and I don’t think that she (Hawkins) deserves termination or leave.” Protest leader Joshua Mangis said he is hopeful that the college will reconcile with Hawkins, adding, “There’s definitely an atmosphere on campus just that this is an important thing…A lot of professors are opening class with a statement about it and encouraging students to read up on it.” One student held a sign reading “Academic rigor = academic freedom.”

A group of faculty has also registered a protest of the administration’s decision, declining to take part in a mandatory prayer service at Bedman Chapel, choosing to hold an alternative service in a nearby chapel instead. Gary Burge, professor of New Testament Studies at Wheaton, told Time, “I have seen no theological argument from the college that would deem her commitments unacceptable…[Hers] is a clear, compelling affirmation of what we believe in Wheaton’s Statement of Faith.”

Benjamin L. Corey, writing for the liberal Christian news site Patheos, observed that “the glue that holds fundamentalism together is the agreement upon a common enemy to fight, and Dr. Hawkins has rejected the notion that Muslims are the common enemy.”

Internal emails from the college administration appear to confirm that the move against Dr. Hawkins is a concession to the anti-Muslim hysteria that is being whipped up by the political establishment and the media. In one email, Jones acknowledged that Hawkins’ statement was “innocuous,” but complained, “Articles are already being written in a variety of news sources, and the media are pounding on our door asking for comments about our faculty who are endorsing Islam.” In another email, he wrote that “her theological comments are being taken up as an endorsement of Islam.”

This episode at Wheaton College is part of a broader trend on college campuses of chilling and suppressing dissent. In October, George Washington University student Ramie Abounaja was forced by police to remove a Palestinian flag he had hung from his dorm window. The school was unable to cite any regulation he had violated and eventually apologized under threat of legal action from a Palestinian civil rights organization.

In 2012, Wheaton College joined a number of other religious institutions in a lawsuit against the Obama administration over the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that health insurance for employees or students include contraceptive coverage. The Obama administration had decided in February of that year to allow religious institutions to exempt themselves from the requirement, instead requiring insurance companies to cover the expense.

All that an institution would have had to do under the Obama administration’s regulations was to fill out a two-page form and submit it to the government. Wheaton argued that this requirement was unduly burdensome and violated the college’s religious freedom. In Wheaton College v. Burwell (2014), the US Supreme Court decided in favor of Wheaton College.

The college has since discontinued health coverage for students altogether.

Sandra Bland funeral in the USA


This video from the USA is called Sandra Bland Funeral – Draws Hundreds Of Mourners In Illinois. It says about itself:

25 July 2015

Sandra Bland Funeral: Hundreds have been attending the funeral in Illinois of Sandra Bland, who died in a Texas prison cell nearly two weeks ago after being arrested.

From NBC News in the USA:

Mourners Attend Illinois Funeral for Sandra Bland Who Died in Texas Jail

by Elizabeth Chuck

July 25 2015, 1:41 pm ET

Sandra Bland, the woman found dead in a Texas jail cell, was remembered Saturday as a courageous fighter for social justice.

Family and friends gathered at her wake and funeral in Lisle, Illinois, the Chicago suburb where she grew up. …

Before the service at the DuPage African Methodist Episcopal Church in Lisle, the Rev. Theresa Read said mourners would remember Bland as a “young lady that refused to be subdued and silenced.”

“Our service will be one of celebration. We’ll be celebrating the life of Sandy Bland. We have much to celebrate. We’re happy that she found her voice, found her purpose in social justice. We celebrate that she walked and lived in her truth,” she said

Supporters don’t believe the autopsy findings, she added, saying officials’ account of the incident is “plagued with inconsistencies.”

From the New York Times in the USA:

At Sandra Bland Funeral, Mourning a Life Cut Short in Texas

By MITCH SMITHJULY 25, 2015

LISLE, Ill. — Hundreds of mourners gathered Saturday at the suburban Chicago church that Sandra Bland attended for many of her 28 years, turning out in such numbers that even the overflow viewing room ran out of chairs. From the pulpit, relatives and friends recounted happy memories of Ms. Bland’s faith and social activism, and restated their belief that her death in a Texas jail was no suicide.

“That baby did not take herself out of here,” said Geneva Reed-Veal, Ms. Bland’s mother, during the funeral here at DuPage African Methodist Episcopal Church.

Ms. Reed-Veal spoke at length, telling mourners about a recent road trip she had taken with her daughter. On their way to visit relatives in Tennessee, Ms. Reed-Veal said, Ms. Bland told her she had found a calling and planned to pursue it by returning to Texas, where she had attended college.

“Her purpose was to stop all injustice against blacks in the South,” Ms. Reed-Veal said at the funeral.

Many here believe that in seeking to fulfill that newfound purpose, Ms. Bland became another victim of the injustice she wanted to end. Shortly after arriving in Hempstead, Tex., where she had moved to take a job at Prairie View A&M University, the historically black school that was her alma mater, she was pulled over by a state trooper. …

Leaders at DuPage remembered Ms. Bland as a smart, outspoken woman who once sang in the youth choir and had participated in the church’s Girl Scout troop. After graduating from college, she returned here, serving on church committees, befriending older members of the congregation and earning a reputation as a prolific taker of selfie photos.

The Rev. Theresa Dear, an associate minister at DuPage A.M.E. who knew Ms. Bland since she started attending the church as a young girl, said the official account of the death conflicted with her own memories of an ambitious, educated Christian who was excited about the future and who had helped organize the church’s recent Women’s Day event.

“This is someone who had over 50 selfies, healthy self-esteem,” Ms. Dear said in an interview. “Someone who had two job offers. Someone who just talked to her family and knew that help and rescue was on the way. This is someone who knew the Lord and was extremely close with her church family and her sisters, her biological family.

“We’re not funeralizing a martyr or a victim,” said the Rev. James F. Miller, who officiated. “We’re celebrating a hero.”

But the circumstances around her death were discussed openly and repeatedly, and Mr. Miller had harsh words for the Texas officials handling the investigation.

“The authorities in Waller County are going to discover something that I learned and each of us learned at our mother’s knee,” Mr. Miller said from the pulpit. “You can disrespect a strong black woman if you want, but you’re going to pay for that.”

Speaker after speaker encouraged mourners to continue to use social media to seek justice. Twitter hashtags used by activists were printed in the funeral program and displayed by a handful of people on T-shirts. Ms. Reed-Veal also asked that supporters take cues from her and her lawyer on how the family wanted to proceed. She said protesters should not demonstrate outside the home of Brian T. Encinia, the trooper who arrested Ms. Bland.

“We want to do this the right way,” Ms. Reed-Veal said.

Senator Richard J. Durbin and Representative Bill Foster, both Democrats of Illinois, each spoke briefly at the funeral. They said they had asked the Justice Department to investigate Ms. Bland’s death.

Mr. Durbin said the circumstances started with a “highly questionable traffic violation.” Trooper Encinia, of the Texas Department of Public Safety, has said he pulled Ms. Bland over after seeing her change lanes without signaling. Mr. Durbin noted that he had seen plenty of people change lanes without a turn signal during his drive to the church on Saturday.

“It was an amazing life that was cut way, way too short,” Mr. Durbin told the congregation. …

Ms. Bland’s death spurred skepticism and outrage on Twitter, where her name became a trending hashtag invoked alongside tags for Michael Brown, the black 18-year-old killed last year by a police officer in Ferguson, Mo., and Freddie Gray, the black man who died this year after being arrested by the Baltimore police.

Members of DuPage A.M.E. held a march in Ms. Bland’s honor last weekend, and demonstrators in Texas have protested her death.

Ms. Bland herself had been active online in recent months, posting videos that called for improvements to race relations in America and questioned how police officers treat black people. She “found her voice in social media and the civil rights realm and space,” Ms. Dear said. …

But on Saturday, even amid all the talk about Ms. Bland’s death, even as white flowers were tossed on her coffin as it was lowered into the earth, those who knew her made an effort to keep a focus on her life. This was the woman everyone here called Sandy, a gifted musician who grew up in the church, loved spicy foods and was just getting settled in her new home in Texas before the arrest.

“Sandy was ours,” Mr. Miller said at the funeral. “We take care of our own. We love her.”

From Reuters:

Her former sorority sisters from her alma mater, Prairies View A&M University, read an obituary highlighting her religious faith and her blogs about social injustice, race politics and police brutality.

Thousands of ‘freedom fighters’ in Cleveland for first national Black Lives Matter conference: here.