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.
The entries for the 2012 Federal Duck Stamp Contest are now available for viewing. Judging will be done later this month to choose the image for the 2013-14 stamp. The chances of a painting by a Minnesota artist winning the competition are smaller this year. That’s because only one of the three Hautman brothers, Robert, has entered.
Brothers Joe and Jim could not enter because winners are prohibited from entry for three years following the win. Joe won the contest last year and Jim the year before. All three are Minnesota residents. Combined, they have won the contest 10 times. A win by Robert this year would give the brothers three in a row.
You can see this year’s entries at http://www.outdoorsweekly.com/DuckStamps/index.html
The contest will be Sept. 28-29 in Odgen, Utah. It’s open to the public, admission free. Final rounds of judging will be streamed on-line at www.fws.gov/duckstamps. The five species eligible for presentation this year are: Canada Goose, Northern Shoveler, Common Goldeneye, Brant and Ruddy Duck.
Funds raised by sale of the stamp support one of the world's most successful conservation programs – purchase of land for national wildlife refuges and waterfowl conservation land. The stamp currently sells for $15. Annual sales, although down from historic highs, are 1.5 million.
Waterfowl hunters age 16 or older are required to buy a federal stamp. A current stamp also provides free admission into any refuge open to the public. There are 550 National Wildlife Refuges spread across all 50 states and U.S. territories, offering wildlife-oriented recreational opportunities, including excellent bird-watching and photography.
Every birder should buy a duck stamp. The $15 investment cannot be matched for efficiency. You might be critical of some government programs, but 98 cents of every dollar raised by this one is spent on land purchase or lease. It’s as good a conservation investment as you can make. The habitat preserved by national refuges are vital to hundreds of bird species other than waterfowl, not to mention mammals, butterflies, dragonflies, wild flowers, and on and on.\
Also take a look at a new organization formed to encourage stamp purchase – Friends of the Migratory Bird/Duck Stamp. Go to http://www.friendsofthestamp.org/. You also can find the duck stamp Friends on Facebook. New members are welcome. Encouraging stamp purchases is an effort that needs help. Waterfowl-hunter numbers are declining. People who do not hunt waterfowl are needed to provide support for the program. These funds are essential to growth and maintenance of the wildlife refuge system.
Focus on Diversity: Changing the Face of American Birding
A conference focused on this important subject will be held Oct. 13 at Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge in Bloomington. The objective of the event is to offer more birding, outdoor recreation, and conservation opportunities to a wide an diverse audience. It's hoped that sharing the outdoors with more people will enhance lives and promote a strong conservation ethic.
Who should come? Anyone that cares about birds and the birding community, says the sponsor, the Fledgling Birders Insitute, located in New Jersey. The conference will be ideal for nature centers’ staff, park departments, educators, birding club members, and anyone else from the Midwest region interested in making a difference for bird conservation and fellow citizens.
Conference sponsors explain its purpose this way:
"The revered American melting pot has been stewing for generations. Based on the 2010 census, more than 35 percent of the American populace falls into the "non-White" categories of Hispanic, African-American, Asian, and Native-American. Yet, these groups make up significantly less than 10 percent of the birding community. Clearly, birding does not look like the rest of America. This under-representation poses a real threat to the sustainability of the birding community, the birds' habitat, and, ultimately, the birds themselves."
Registration deadline is Sept. 30. For registration details and more information on the conference, visit http://www.fledgingbirders.org/CFAB.html.
The conference logo, below, incorporates birds which represent several of the cultures that make up our American population.
The crane is a traditional symbol throughout China, Korea, Japan and other Asian nations as well as some Native American cultures. The cranes' beauty and spectacular courtships displays have captivated these cultures for centuries.
In addition to being a revered American symbol, the eagle also symbolizes strength in Mexican and Hispanic cultures. Eagles are considered sacred in various Native American cultures.
The goose is from the Akan culture of Ghana, Africa. The Akan term "Sankofa" translates to "go back and take." The associated Adinkra symbol was a goose removing an egg from its back which represents learning from the past and moving into future.
Are cats a threat to birds, or are cats simply part of the natural scheme of things, having a good time when outdoors, pretty much harmless when it comes to birds and other small critters?
That’s a loaded question. I know cat owners who let their cats outdoors and acknowledge that cats kill. And owners who let their cats outdoors and refuse to believe that their well-fed kitty kills anything. Why would it? And owners who do not let their cats outdoors except on a leash.
Studies are quoted all the time to show that cats kill, and kill not for food but because killing is part of that animal’s nature. But are these studies impartial? Should we believe them?
Now comes the KittyCam. This is a very small video camera created by engineers at National Geographic Remote Imaging. It was attached to 60 cats for a study of free-roaming cats in Georgia. Over 2,000 hours of cat activity were recorded.
You can read about this study on the Web site of The Wildlife Society. You could say that the very name brands this organization as prejudiced against cats. But the report simply describes what the cameras recorded.
That being, among other things, that cats do kill. And 49 percent of the animals killed were left uneaten at the killing site. Twenty-eight percent of prey was eaten, and 23 percent was taken home. Which means that 72 percent of the kills were not made for food. Cats hunt because it is their nature to do so.
Keeping cats inside or leashed is important to wildlife, birds in particular. Birds in this part of the world did not evolve with the animal we know as a domestic cat. Our birds are not equipped by nature to successfully avoid cat attacks.
The full article is at http://news.wildlife.org/twp/a-day-in-the-life-of-a-traveling-feline/
The cat below was hunting near Lake Independence in western Hennepin County.
Zebra Mussels slowly are spreading to more Minnesota lakes. This nasty invasive species changes any water into which it is introduced. The discussion you might be hearing or reading about concerns efforts by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to limit if not halt this spread.
Birders really should pay attention if they're not already doing so.
Outdoor writer Doug Smith discusses this clearly and well in a column he wrote for a recent edition of the StarTribune.
So far, we have heard from fishermen and lakeshore owners. The unfortunate divide is obvious. Lakeshore owners have money in the game; Zebra Mussels in their lakes would be a real problem in both use of the lake and sale of the property. Some fishermen find the idea a nuisance.
Most, perhaps most, fishermen understand that they are the link in the chain of concern. But not all fishermen are taking the preventive measures needed to ensure no contamination. Prevention means thoroughly cleaning tackle, boats, trailers, etc. – any surface or container that could carry the mussel or its larvae.
The DNR reports its inspection of boats at random roadside stations has shown noncompliance of more than 35 percent.
Birders should share the concern of lakeshore owners. Zebra Mussels create major changes in any water they inhabit. They multiply rapidly. A lake can go from no mussels to millions and millions in a few years. The mussels eat by filtering from the water microorganisms that currently form the base of a lake’s food chain. Fish numbers and species could change if fish compete with the mussels. Water clarity changes; it can become tap-water clear. This in turn changes vegetation patterns.
These things have impact on bird species using those lakes. The changes might be subtle, but change in nature is hardly ever for the better. Any man-made change from the conditions into which the lakes have evolved is harmful. Nature really does know best.
The Zebra Mussel discussion is characterized by some as anglers versus lakeshore owners. It’s more than that. Birders have an interest in seeing that mussels do not spread. If you have a chance, get into the conversation. Once the mussels are introduced into a lake they are there forever.
(Below, Red-necked Grebes. They are among Minnesota waterbirds that eat fish. Male grebe is in the foreground, female behind.)
When I go out birding one of the things in my car or my pocket is a bottle of water, one of those smaller plastic bottles in which you can buy water. I refill it at our kitchen tap, or at the fountian in the nature center or wherever.
The fact that it takes about three liters of water to produce one liter of bottled water should be a compelling enough reason to avoid the waste of buying a new bottle.
Suggesting we live green is almost a cliche these days. But it will be absolutely necessary very soon. Start now.
Oh, and it you haven't bought your duck stamp yet your post office still has one for you.
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