Thursday, December 24, 2009

Monroe, MI CBC - 19 December 2009

On Saturday, 19 December 2009 we conducted the NAS Christmas Bird Count in Monroe, MI. Twenty-six folks participated in the count, which netted 77 species and 91,705 birds. It snowed throughout most of the morning and later in the afternoon, with winds from the NE at 5-15 mph. Inland ponds were frozen, and moving water was partly/mostly open. Lake Erie was open, but ice flows were pushed into shore, leaving many of the gull and duck spp. to move farther out. Highlight birds of the day included 125 Bald Eagles, 8 Great Egrets, 2 Rough-legged Hawks, an Eastern Towhee, and 10 Pine Siskins. A Snow Goose was my highlight bird and earned me a shiny dime (Thanks, Scott!). Mollie Wood had 22 Wild Turkeys in her yard this morning, but we're unable to count them in our totals. The following is my account of the day's birding:

5 am - I parked at the end of the trail next to the boat launch at Sterling State Park in Monroe. It was snowing, and winds were blowing from the NE at ~10 mph. After repeated attempts at calling in a Screech Owl (and Great Horned Owl) w/ the iPod, Iwas getting nothing. I gave it an hour.

7 am - I had no luck owling, so headed south to the J.R. Whiting Plant in southern Monroe Co. I would be birding the shore of Lake Erie this morning w/ Allen Chartier, Will Weber and Scott Jennex. Scott and I would then head to the Monroe Power Plant at noon.

As we started our morning it was still snowing, and the winds were constant at 10-15 mph NE. It did not really get light enough 'till 8 am to see anything, so we had to wait. The shoreline was coated w/ an inch of snow, and the winds had blown ice into the bay. Though it was still dark, we could tell that there were very few birds around.

Through the snow and wind visibility was poor, but as daylight increases we began to make out small rafts of scaup, Mallard, Black Ducks, Common Goldeneye and Common Mergansers. A few Herring Gulls were about, and a significant flock of Canada Geese were visible to the north. As we headed toward the warm water discharge to the south we began to see a few Great Black-backed Gulls and several Lesser Black-backed Gulls.

We approached the growing flocks of birds slowly, but suddenly everything lifted off the ice. The first Bald Eagle of the day flew in low over the ice and scattered the birds. With few birds now to scope, we headed up the bank to the service road along the east shore.

The discharge canal held about 100 Mallard, but we were able to spot a pair of Hooded Mergansers, and at least three American Coot. A Great Blue Heron was tucked into the overhanging phragmites.

The road to the south toward Woodtick Peninsula yielded few birds. We managed to scare up a couple dozen American Tree Sparrows a couple of Song Sparrows, White-throated Sparrows, Northern Cardinals and Downy Woodpeckers. The inland ponds were frozen, and Great Blue Herons were unusually scarce. Allen heard a fly-over Horned Lark, and I was able to hear its 'tsid-ip' flight call. We managed only a few more gulls, including a single GBB Gull, and soon retreated south down the hill toward the peninsula.

As we walked a Muskrat appeared on the ice ahead of us. It took little notice of our presence, so I stopped to digiscope it. The guys were teasing that it looked an awful lot like the fur hat I was wearing... Though we'd hope to scare up a few Swamp Sparrows, there were none to be found. With few birds on the water we soon headed back north toward the plant and the cars.

We again scoped the discharge canal but found nothing new. We did hear our first Carolina Wren from somewhere within the phragmites. Near the outlet a small raft of Greater Scaup swam toward shore, and I began to digiscope them from up above. A few Lesser Scaup and a single Canvasback were among them.

Suddenly, Will and Allen watched as a Bald Eagle chased an American Black Duck over the ice and toward them. As the birds reached the edge of the ice shelf and open water the eagle, flying below the duck, swooped up and swiped at the duck. It missed, but the duck flopped into the water. With the duck isolated the eagle continued its attack. The eagle hovered and swooped several times as the duck dove beneath the surface to avoid capture. From the photos I took of the eagle we could determine that it was probably a 3rd-year bird: it had a white tail w/ feathers tipped with a distinct black band. After several more unsuccessful passes at the duck, the eagle retreated to the ice shelf to rest. The duck retreated toward the group of scaup near shore, and I managed a few digiscoped images of it. I could tell it was scared! Three more eagles flew in moments later to join it. This is a composite of one juvenile bird. We concluded that there must be at least 8 eagles in the area. With it getting close to 11 am Scott and I left Allen and Will to bird the Lady of the Lakes Woods and headed toward Monroe Power Plant.

Noon - Scott and I arrived at the Monroe Power Plant to meet Matt Schackelford, Tim Walsh, Don Burlett, Mike McCullough, and Jane Van Kirk at the power plant. We arrived to news of at least 10 Bald Eagles. While we waited for the rest of our group to arrive Scott spotted 3 Great Egrets along the discharge canal nearby. We walked over to the bridge and counted 7 birds scattered along the shoreline. I took numerous photos of each bird, knowing that documentation would be required. I was able to put a composite image together of all seven birds. We would later spot an eighth bird at the mouth of the canal.

Piling into two vehicles we headed down the trail along the warm water discharge and counted dozens of Bald Eagles and Great Blue Herons lining the far shore and trees. Gulls were spotty along the canal, and only Ring-billed Gulls were present among the few dozen birds we counted.

Although we tried, we couldn't find any Bonaparte's Gulls. 150 Mallard were in the frozen pond to our left, along w/ several Black Duck and dozens of Canada Geese. Don found a drake Gadwall through his scope.

The Raisin River was mostly fenced-off due to security issues, but we managed to find another half-dozen eagles, and 8 Hooded Mergansers. Common Mergansers were nearby, as well. The lake shore was surprisingly absent of birds, mostly due to the loose ice flows. It wasn't until we drove a half-mile toward the discharge canal that we came upon a large flock of Herring Gulls on the ice. Fly-by flocks of scaup and mergansers broke up the monotony of scattered gulls.

As we continued on Matt spotted a half-dozen White-tailed Deer hiding in the grass. I grabbed a few pics from the truck as they bounded off into the woods.

An adult Bald Eagle perching along the near shore provided an opportunity for some digiscoping. A nearby juvenile bird perched nearby flew off before we could get close enough to photograph it.

We drove over to the fly-ash onsite and checked the grasslands and burms for Northern Harriers (none) and sparrows (few). Scott managed to find a hovering Rough-legged Hawk. When we drove over to the lakeshore near Bolles Harbor we heard, then saw a large flock of several hundred Tundra Swans swimming among another couple hundred Canada Geese. How I managed to find a Snow Goose among them I'll never know, but luckily one was swimming amid a group of Canada Geese that were separated from the rest of the swans. With attempts to call in a Great Horned Owl w/ the iPod a failure, we packed up and called it a day.

5 pm - We met at the Michigan Bar and Grill and tallied results. Despite the weather we managed some nice results: 77 Species and 91,000 birds. Highlights of the count included a Snow Goose, an Eastern Towhee, 125 Bald Eagles, 8 Great Egrets, 2 Rough-legged Hawks, and 10 Pine Siskins. Area totals are shown here.

As always, I'm grateful for all who participated in the count. Thank you, all!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Monroe, MI CBC - 19 December 2009

This year marks the 110th National Audubon Society Christmas Bird Count. The Monroe, MI (MIMO) count will be conducted on Saturday, December 19, 2009.

For more information about the count, see the menu (at right).

Contact Jerry Jourdan @ if you wish to participate.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

CBC Data Analysis 2009 - 24 Mar 2009

A new report has been issued by the National Audubon Society based on data gathered by our Christmas Bird Counts. An exerpt:

"We were able to look at the winter distribution of 305 species to see if their winter range had shifted over the last 40 years. We discovered that 177 of these species showed a significant shift north and this northward shift was correlated with an increase in mean January temperatures in the contiguous 48 states of almost 5 degrees during that time."

Check out the Audubon Website for more details and to download the report (in PDF form).

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Birds Movements Reveal Global Warming Threat in Action

WASHINGTON, DC, February 10, 2009-The northward and inland movement of North American birds, confirmed by thousands of citizen-observations, provides new and powerful evidence that global warming is having a serious impact on natural systems, according to new analyses by Audubon scientists. The findings signal the need for dramatic policy changes to combat pervasive ecological disruption.

Analyses of citizen-gathered data from the past 40 years of Audubon's Christmas Bird Count (CBC) reveal that 58 percent of the 305 widespread species that winter on the continent shifted significantly north since 1968, some by hundreds of miles. Movement was detected among species of every type, including more than 70 percent of highly adaptable forest and feeder birds. Only 38 percent of grassland species mirrored the trend, reflecting the constraints of their severely-depleted habitat and suggesting that they now face a double threat from the combined stresses of habitat loss and climate adaptation.

Population shifts among individual species are common, fluctuate, and can have many causes. However, Audubon scientists say the ongoing trend of movement by some 177 species-closely correlated to long-term winter temperature increases-reveals an undeniable link to the changing climate.

"Birds are showing us how the heavy hand of humanity is tipping the balance of nature and causing ecological disruption in ways we are just beginning to predict and comprehend," said report co-author and Audubon Director of Bird Conservation, Greg Butcher, Ph.D. "Common sense dictates that we act now to curb the causes and impacts of global warming to the extent we can, and shape our policies to better cope with the disruptions we cannot avoid."

Movements across all species-including those not reflecting the 40 year trend-averaged approximately 35 miles during the period. However, it is the complete picture of widespread movement and the failure of some species to move at all that illustrates the potential for problems.

Purple Finch, Pine Siskin, and Boreal Chickadee have retreated dramatically north into the Canadian Boreal, their ranges moving an estimated 313, 246, and 211 miles respectively over 40 years. Continuing warming and development are predicted to have adverse impacts on the Boreal forest and the species that depend on it.

Red-breasted Merganser, Ring-necked Duck, and American Black Duck, normally found in southern-tier states, have all taken advantage of warmer winter waters and have shifted their ranges north by an estimated 244, 169, and 141 miles. Still, they are likely to be negatively impacted by the increased drought expected in many parts of North America as global warming worsens.

Only 10 of 26 grassland species moved north significantly, while nine moved south. Species such as Eastern Meadowlark, Vesper Sparrow, and Burrowing Owl were likely unable to move despite more moderate northern temperatures because essential grassland habitat areas have disappeared, having been converted to intensive human uses such as row crops, pastures, and hayfields. In combination, global warming and ongoing overuse of grasslands by humans will doom grassland birds to continued population declines.
"Experts predict that global warming will mean dire consequences, even extinction, for many bird species, and this analysis suggests that that the process leading down that path is already well underway," warned Audubon President John Flicker. "We're witnessing an uncontrolled experiment on the birds and the world we share with them."

Butcher explains that many birds move great distances to find suitable food and habitat, but questions how far they will be able to move in the face of climate change before they run out of habitat, food or even luck. "The long term picture is not good for many species, and even in the short term, a single harsh winter could have a devastating impact on birds that have moved too far," he adds.

New forward-looking research from Audubon California reinforces the national findings, predicting that about 80 of that state's native bird species will experience significant climate-driven reductions in their geographic range over coming decades.

Scientific models indicate that the magnitude of losses in California depends largely on steps taken now to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The California Gnatcatcher could lose as much as 56 percent of its range, or as little as 7 percent, depending on how climate change is addressed. Projected range losses for the Bay area's popular Chestnut-backed Chickadee vary from 49 percent to as little as 16 percent.

Detailed GIS maps produced using the California research project where the birds are likely to be in 50 to 100 years. Findings will help policymakers and land managers augment efforts to mitigate the severity of global warming impacts with better habitat conservation investments to address changes that can't be avoided.

"The birds are giving us yet another warning that it's time for urgent action," added Flicker. "People hear about melting glaciers and changing weather, but now they can witness the impact global warming is having with the birds they see or don't see right outside their doors. These birds are our 'canaries in the coal mine' and they're telling us that we'd better do something fast to curb global warming and to protect habitat."

Scientists say bold action is needed to overcome threats from global warming. Audubon calls on Congress and the administration to advance policies that will drastically reduce global warming pollution, cut oil dependence in half, and invest in a clean energy future and the economic benefits it offers. Americans can sign a petition at to demand aggressive federal policy action.

Habitats already under siege from development, energy production, agricultural expansion and other human uses will require enhanced protection and restoration to sustain bird populations and provide ecological benefits essential to human health, economic prosperity and quality of life. Conservation efforts based on forward looking projections such as those from Audubon California are essential.

Audubon anticipates that the new avian evidence will help attract attention and spark action among more than 40 million U.S. bird-watchers, including tens of thousands who contributed to the Christmas Bird Count data on which the studies are based. The 109-year-old census provides the world's longest uninterrupted record of bird population trends. "Citizen Science is allowing us to better recognize the impacts that global warming is having here and now. Only citizen action can help us reduce them," said Butcher.
Now in its second century, Audubon connects people with birds, nature and the environment that supports us all. Our national network of community-based nature centers, chapters, scientific, education, and advocacy programs engages millions of people from all walks of life in conservation action to protect and restore the natural world.

Reporters may join in a live, telephone briefing on the findings at 1 p.m. (Eastern) on February 10. To participate, dial 1-866-710-0179. Give the operator the pass code: Audubon 1

Here is the direct link to the technical report

This is the homepage for technical report, which includes links to figures, table, and appendix:


All of us have a role to play in reducing the worst impacts of global warming. As individuals and engaged citizens, we can all take steps to reduce our energy use, switch to cleaner sources of power, conserve habitat and encourage our leaders to take immediate action. Here's a short list:

1. Be an Active Citizen
Join Audubon's activist team and urge our elected official to make global warming a top priority by signing our petition at Voice your support for new approaches to help solve global warming, move us toward a 100 percent clean energy future, reduce our dependence on oil, and protect our environment. Stay informed, write letters to your leaders, and support candidates who promise to take the aggressive and farsighted actions necessary to curb global warming.

2. Get Involved in Your Community
Support conservation efforts that protect and restore essential bird habitat, keeping it healthy to better withstand global warming. Visit to learn how the Important Bird Areas program is building a national network of conservation stewards. And join in "Citizen Science" efforts like the Christmas and Great Backyard Bird Counts

3. Determine Your Energy Profile and Carbon Footprint
An energy audit assesses how much energy you consume. A carbon footprint shows how much greenhouse gas you emit into the atmosphere. These figures can help you determine steps you can take to make your home, school, or office more energy efficient. Many footprint calculators are available online.

4. Reduce Energy Consumption
Save money and energy by switching to compact fluorescent light bulbs and maximize the use you natural sunlight for daytime lighting needs. Reduce excessive use of home heating and cooling and weatherize your home. Buy energy efficient appliances such as those that are "Energy Star" compliant.

5. Eat Locally Grown and Organic Produce
The fewer miles your products travel, the less energy is used for refrigeration and transport. And buy organic. That reduces the use of pesticides that kill the organisms which help keep carbon in the soil.

6. Shop Smarter
Manufacturing, packing, transporting, and selling goods not only use huge amounts of energy but also release excessive amounts of greenhouse gases. When shopping, always ask, "Do I really need this? Does the Earth really need this?" You'll probably save money as well.

7. Save Gas and Money
Use public transportation, ride your bicycle, walk, carpool, and drive a more energy-efficient vehicle. Keep tires properly inflated to increase fuel efficiency-it will lower your fuel costs.

8. Plant More Trees and Buy Good Wood
An average tree absorbs ten pounds of pollutants from the air each year, including four pounds of ground level ozone and three pounds of particulates. So, plant leafy trees around your house to provide windbreaks and summer shade. When shopping for wood, ask about certified wood to support sustainably managed forests that are bird-friendly.

9. Switch to Green Power
Power plants are the single largest source of heat-trapping gases in the United States, but in some states you can switch to utilities that provide 50 to 100 percent renewable energy. You may also want to consider installing solar panels on your home.

© 2009 Snow Geese in sunrise (Chen caerulescens) Lonoke, Arkansas Photo/Kelly Chitwood

Embargoed for Release: Contacts: Nancy Severance: (212) 979-3124
February 10, 2009 Tony Iallonardo: (202) 861-2242 X-3042
Delta Willis: (212) 979-3197