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.

Posts about Bird conservation

Recent carbon dioxide measurements

Posted by: Jim Williams Updated: March 25, 2015 - 11:12 AM

Week beginning on March 15, 2015:     400.76 ppm
Weekly value from 1 year ago:     400.61 ppm
Weekly value from 10 years ago:     381.26 ppm

Daily Average
March 23 - 401.61 
March 22 - 401.22 
March 21 - 400.73 
March 20 - 399.92 
March 19 - 400.06


Recent Monthly Average 
February 2015:     400.26 ppm
February 2014:     397.91 ppm

What isn't disturbing?

Posted by: Jim Williams Updated: March 24, 2015 - 10:13 AM

What impact do we have, as birders, as we walk trails in parks and reserves and other places we look birds?

A study in New York state concluded that disturbance from recreational use — noise and motion — of such land had “at least temporary effects on behavior and movement of birds.”

The study concluded:

Children and photographers were especially disturbing to birds.  

Direct approaches caused greater disturbance than tangential approaches. 

Rapid movement by joggers was more disturbing than slower hikers. 

Passing or stopping vehicles were less disturbing than people on foot. 

No studies specifically addressing bicycles were found in the research-paper search that formed the basis of this study. (Just wait.)

Road noise negatively affects birds (reduced nesting, etc.) at distances of up to 1,000 meters, so noise from trail users might also affect birds but presumably over shorter distances.

(Another study found that staying at home and thinking about birds wasn't disturbing. Just kidding.)

World Sparrow Day: we missed it

Posted by: Jim Williams Updated: March 22, 2015 - 2:27 PM

Saturday last was World Sparrow Day. You probably missed it. I found out a day late. 

The sparrow being honored was the House Sparrow, one of more than 40 species in that family. House Sparrows generally are ignored by birders unless as a check mark on a list. House Sparrows deserve recognition, and even concern, for a couple of good reasons. And I say this as someone who has pulled sparrow nests from my bluebird nest boxes, then killed those intruders. (I think in the future I will work to simply keep them at bay.)

What’s the big deal? As was pointed out by more than one commenter on the email list BirdChat, House Sparrows, along with pigeons, are many people’s only contact with birds. House Sparrows are bird ambassadors in the city, particularly in its inner parts. Without House Sparrows, many city residents have less contact with wild animals than they already do; such contact can be almost nil.

Second, in Great Britain, from which our sparrows were brought in the 1800s, this species is on a steep decline. There was a loss of 71 percent of the estimated population from 1977 to 2008. No one knows why this is happening. This is scary. What is the cause of  the loss? What species birds are next? Is this an indication of our future, of an environment headed in such a direction that now House Sparrows are having survival problems? (I know, that's alarmist. The small chance is distant and remote and small, right? Then there is the canary in the coal mine.)

House Sparrows are tough. They have been recorded as living in coal mines in Great Britain, and breeding high on mountains. They are the most human-adapted bird species on earth. If we can’t keep the planet hospitable for them, what then?

House Sparrows, male above, female below. They're really rather handsome birds.

UV liquid marks windows, alerts birds

Posted by: Jim Williams Updated: March 18, 2015 - 10:22 AM

The National Eagle Center in Wabasha uses the usual choices of window decals to discourage bird strikes on the very large expanse of glass covering its south wall. We have some of those decals on our patio doors. They work, sort of. We bought something at the center during a recent visit that might do a better job, a product used by the center in addition to those decals. It’s a small container of fluid, much like a Magic Marker. The fluid rollls on, and once dry leaves an ultra-violet track, visible to birds but virtually invisible to you. It’s called UV Liquid, price $19.95 for enough to treat several windows through the year. It should be washed off and replaced every two months or so, we were told. It is visible until it dries, then all but disappears. We’re giving it a try. If it works, it’s clearly a good idea. 

Eagle Center found window-strike solution

Posted by: Jim Williams Updated: March 17, 2015 - 10:03 AM

You are looking (photo below) at a wall of glass, the entire south side of the National Eagle Center building in Wabasha, Minnesota. Lots of reflections in what is plain old window glass. The building is 100 feet from the Mississippi River, and faces due south, into the teeth of spring migration.

And how many birds die here each spring season? It used to be about 100, the small warning decals here and there on the glass (look closely) making little difference. That number has been reduced by 80 percent in recent years by one simple change: All — ALL — the lights in the building are turned off every night during migration months. Even security lights go dark. (A close look also will reveal the interior lights on the high ceiling.)

Eagle Center staff discovered that the birds — mostly night migrants, as is the usual case — were attracted to lights. Whatever was applied to the glass made little or no difference in the dark because the birds could see neither glass nor warnings. The birds flew to the light, even the smallest glimmer. 

Putting the building into dark mode made a big difference.

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