Jim Williams has been watching birds and writing about their antics since before "Gilligan's Island" went into reruns. Join him for his unique insights, his everyday adventures and an open conversation about the birds in your back yard and beyond.
Bird-friendly glass in the new Vikings’ stadium? Audubon Minnesota and Audubon’s national office have been working very hard to get that done. They are unlikely to win this battle, but they certainly have raised national awareness of the war on needless bird death.
They have put the issue on the map. Give them credit.
The Vikings gave this effort wings even though team officials have said not a word. You can’t challenge a National Football League team without making news. The glass effort was reported in The New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, on CBS national news, on sports channels, in magazines serving the glass, construction, and architectural communities, and in local media.
A campaign to specifically address dangers posed to birds by the reflections found in ordinary window glass would not have earned as much national news coverage.
The issue, as you must know by now, is that ordinary window glass reflects the outside environment. Birds fly toward the reflections, hit the glass, and die in large numbers. There is a glass that contains a visible pattern, fritted glass, that is supposed to alert birds to the glass, and prevent collisions. This is the glass that Audubon wants for the stadium.
The Audubon Minnesota team Wednesday delivered to the office of Gov. Mark Dayton the names of 73,000 people supporting the effort. Audubon collected names via its local and national web sites.
There had been no word from the governor on his thoughts about this.
Matt Anderson, executive director of Audubon Minnesota, said Thursday he still sees a narrow window of opportunity even now, after the stadium glass reportedly has been ordered.
Regardless, Audubon has done more for the bird/glass issue in the past few weeks than has been accomplished in years of trying to make people widely aware of the problem.
The fritted glass photo posted a few days ago showed, as I explained, an extreme example of fritting. Fritting is imposition on window glass of a visible pattern. That photo was taken at the Minneapolis Public Library, downtown branch. Fritting there is decorative. Below are photos of fritted glass intended to allow vision while making the window obvious from the outside. The idea in the current discussion is to let birds see windows so they don't try to fly through a reflection. In this case, the fritting consists of small white circles covering the glass at equal and small intervals. This fritting is closer to that which would be used in the Minnesota Vikings' new stadium, in the extremely long chance that the team agreed to use such glass. Added expense is always mentioned as a reason the team has expressed no interest in using fritted glass. A bigger reason, I believe, is that the glass has been ordered; production is underway. To replace that glass now certainly would impact the stadium construction schedule. I doubt if team owners and the sports facility authority would accept that delay. The first photo shows the glass from the inside looking out. The second photo is the reverse.
Below, the two panels of glass upper left have the fritted pattern.
This is an example of fritted glass as used in windows at the downtown branch of the Minneapolis Public Library. The pane on the right contains the elements which make the glass visible, and/or the interior of the building less visible. Light does pass through this glass. The pane on the left is normal window glass, showing the reflection common in certain situations. Birders have requested the Minnesota Vikings to use fritted glass in the stadium under construction in an effort to lessen collisions by birds with exterior stadium glass, some 200,000 square feet of it. The photo is of the only fritted glass I could locate locally, with modest effort. I don't know the degree to which this example contains the fritting material -- high degree, medium, or low. It does, however, show how fritting can appear. It certainly shows why birds would be less likely to collide with the pane on the right versus the pane on the left, and, if vision through the glass is desired, it shows why fritting, at least to this extent, might not be chosen.
The decision to use ordinary glass in the Minnesota Vikings new stadium was about more than money. Money might have been reason number three, particularly at this moment.
I visited by phone this afternoon (Friday) with Jennifer Hathaway, director of communications for the Metropolitan Sports Facility Authority (MSFA), and authority chair Michele Kelm-Helgen. The MSFA is the agency guiding construction.
The design of the stadium, I was told, was specific in use of glass that allowed people inside to see outside and people outside to see inside. This will be an enclosed stadium with as much open-air ambiance as can be provided.
Bird-safe (fritted) glass would not accommodate that design.
In addition, manufacture of the glass takes five months, Ms. Kelm-Helgen said. Installation of the glass is scheduled to begin in December.
September, October, November ….
The construction schedule does not allow for a two-month delay.
Cost of the bird-friendly glass, given in earlier stories as $1.1 million, actually would be closer to $1.4 million, according to Ms. Kelm-Helgen.
She pointed out that the MSFA has agreed to Audubon Minnesota requests for particular kinds of stadium lighting. Audubon presented the MSFA with a list of operational and design elements that would add a lighting-based bird-safe dimension to the stadium.
Fritted glass appears to never have been an option.
I took a trip in July to spend a day with members of Minnesota’s Quail Forever organization. QF is a conservation-based group devoted to perpetuation of its favorite bird, the Bobwhite quail.
QF guys firmly believe they are working in the interests of a wild bird.
Bob Janssen, a Chanhassen resident who is godfather of Minnesota birding records and author of a book on the same, disagrees. He told me a day before my trip to Houston County that there hasn’t been a wild Bobwhite in the state for decades.
This is what wild means to the American Birding Association:
1) A population large enough to survive a routine amount of mortality or nesting failure. 2) Sufficient offspring produced to maintain or increase the population. 3) A population meeting those conditions for at least 15 years.
Members of Quail Forever in Houston County insist quail there have always been wild. For Janssen and others, the issue is quail raised and released.
Quail devotee Paul Schutte, who is crafting quail paradise on 190 acres of farmland there, said he knows of no one in that corner of the state who raises and releases quail.
We met on Schutte’s land. Since 1999 he has tuned it to the needs of quail. He has mowed and cut. He has planted trees and wildflowers. He has planted what most of us would consider weeds, including ragweed, a quail favorite. How can you doubt a guy who plants ragweed?
Modern agricultural practices — pesticides and herbicides and crops replacing cattle — have reworked quail-friendly landscape. The needs of the birds barely match reality.
Quail populations here once were undisputed, dropping into suspicion in the 1980s. This was about the time neonicotinoid chemicals began to be agriculture staples. Neonicotinoids are one of the suspects in loss of honeybees.
That makes the conservation efforts of groups like Quail Forever and cousin Pheasants Forever important. They raise money and provide hands-on labor that offer habitat and hope.
Belief has put quail on the landscape, their whistled calls bouncing over the green hills of Houston County in the early morning. Wild or not, the pleasure of the song is the same.
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