News & Notes: Conservation Issues


Have you seen any bald birds in your yard recently?

Posted on: Wednesday, September 10th, 2014

This seems like a fairly bizarre phenomena in birds but can easily be explained. In most cases, we are observing one of two things:

Photo by Wendy Sawyer

Photo by Wendy Sawyer

1) Molt: Birds have to molt their feathers, otherwise they will wear out and the bird could lose flight. Different species will have varying methods but the timing of molt and which groups or tracts of feathers are molted is often similar. As an example, Blue Jays are now going through a fall molt, known as a definitive prebasic molt, in which nearly all the feathers are replaced. The outer flight feathers (primaries) are replaced from the inside going out and delayed enough so that the bird never loses flight. In contrast, the capital-tract feathers, the tract along the bird’s head, are dropped nearly simultaneously, resulting in a bald bird. This only lasts about a week and can occur in Blue Jays of all ages. Note this molt only occurs in the fall, typically between June and November while the birds on still on their breeding ground. If you see a bald bird at another time, refer to the next answer.

2) Parasites: Most birds get parasites, especially mites. Usually, by bathing and preening, birds are able to clean themselves and rid their feathers of mites. The problem here arises with a birds inability, or difficulty, in preening their heads. Mites, which are in the class of Arachnids, can destroy the shafts of feathers as a result of their feeding and thus causes the balding we see in some birds.

-Doug

Doug Hitchcox Head Shot - please credit  M. Kathleen Kelly (1)Meet Doug Hitchcox, Maine Audubon Staff Naturalist

A Maine native, Doug grew up in Hollis and graduated from the University of Maine in 2011. Throughout college Doug worked at Scarborough Marsh Audubon Center and was hired as Maine Audubon’s staff naturalist in the summer of 2013, a long time “dream job.” In his free time, Doug volunteers as one of Maine’s eBird reviewers, is the owner and moderator of the ‘Maine-birds’ listserv and serves as York County Audubon board member and Secretary of the Maine Bird Records Committee.

 

Submit your question for Doug:

Rare Bird Alert: Creasted Caracara

Posted on: Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014
Photo by Steve Muise on 26 Aug 2014:

Photo by Steve Muise on 26 Aug 2014:

Most birders have heard of a Creasted Caracara. Even non-birders often recognized it from its fame as the national symbol of Mexico, where you can normally find this species. This large charismatic raptor is very closely related to our falcons (in the family: Falconidae) but acts more like a vulture (Cathartidae). So you can imagine my surprise when on Tuesday evening I received a message from Maine birder, Steve Muise, that was titled “MAINE CRESTED CARACARA.” I couldn’t have dialed Steve’s number any faster and soon the word was spread.

A handful of birders were on the scene in Unity, where the bird as originally found, first thing the next morning. Shortly after 6:00am the caracara was relocated but only stayed for about 15 minutes before flying off to the west. One very lucky birder relocated it on the side of the road, ready to devour some fresh painted turtle roadkill. It remained in this area for the next hour and a half before being flushed by the local traffic and has not been relocated since (as of Aug 29th). Here is a checklist with notes from that amazing 1.5 hours: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S19587060

Photo by Doug Hitchcox on 27 Aug 2014

Photo by Doug Hitchcox on 27 Aug 2014

This is the first record for the species in Maine and seems incredibly improbable given this species normal range, however the is some precedence of this species making it to the northeast. In fact, Massachusetts has two previous records: 1-9 Jan 1999 in Middleboro and 14 May 2007 in West Tisbury. New Jersey had one in West Windsor on 8-13 Sep 2012. Even further north of us, a Crested Caracara was seen roaming around Nova Scotia for 9 months from the spring of 2013 through the winter of 2014. Though the provenance may never be truly know, it seems perfectly likely that these birds are naturally occurring vagrants.

-Doug

Doug Hitchcox Head Shot - please credit  M. Kathleen Kelly (1)Meet Doug Hitchcox, Maine Audubon Staff Naturalist

A Maine native, Doug grew up in Hollis and graduated from the University of Maine in 2011. Throughout college Doug worked at Scarborough Marsh Audubon Center and was hired as Maine Audubon’s staff naturalist in the summer of 2013, a long time “dream job.” In his free time, Doug volunteers as one of Maine’s eBird reviewers, is the owner and moderator of the ‘Maine-birds’ listserv and serves as York County Audubon board member and Secretary of the Maine Bird Records Committee.

 

Submit your question for Doug:

Fall Migration Begins

Posted on: Friday, August 22nd, 2014

yell wwrb 2

As a follow up to our last post answering “where did all the birds go?”, many people don’t realize that there are already a lot of birds on their southern migration. Yellow Warblers are a perfect example of this as many that nested in Maine have already begun their journey back toward the Amazon lowlands in South America. Thanks to the participation of citizen scientists using eBird.org and the folks at BirdCast  interpreting their submission, we can craft a really cool visual of when our birds leave.

 

Below are two charts showing the frequency, or percentage of total checklists reporting a species, for the Northeast and Southeast:

Northeast:

BIRDCAST.GL_.NE_DEPART_1_Yellow-Warbler_

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Southeast:

BIRDCAST.SE_ARRIVE_2_Yellow-Warbler_

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As you can see, the number of Yellow Warblers being reported in the northeast has quickly decreased as they more into the southeastern US. Keep an eye out though! They will be slow to leave completely as the stragglers can last into the end of October in Maine: Bird Observations Chart: Yellow Warbler >>

-Doug

Doug Hitchcox Head Shot - please credit  M. Kathleen Kelly (1)Meet Doug Hitchcox, Maine Audubon Staff Naturalist

A Maine native, Doug grew up in Hollis and graduated from the University of Maine in 2011. Throughout college Doug worked at Scarborough Marsh Audubon Center and was hired as Maine Audubon’s staff naturalist in the summer of 2013, a long time “dream job.” In his free time, Doug volunteers as one of Maine’s eBird reviewers, is the owner and moderator of the ‘Maine-birds’ listserv and serves as York County Audubon board member and Secretary of the Maine Bird Records Committee.

 

Submit your question for Doug:

MEDIA RELEASE: Maine Audubon & MHS Mark 100th Anniversary of Extinction of the Passenger Pigeon

Posted on: Tuesday, August 19th, 2014

MEDIA RELEASE 

For Immediate Release

August 19, 2014

Contact: Michelle Smith, Marketing Manager
msmith@maineaudubon.org
(207) 781-2330 x209
Mobile: (207) 838-0511

Maine Audubon & MHS Mark 100th Anniversary of Extinction of the Passenger Pigeon

Passenger Pigeon - credit to Jada Fitch

Passenger Pigeon, Jada Fitch.

Falmouth – September 1, 2014 marks the 100th anniversary of the death of “Martha,” the last surviving Passenger Pigeon, who died in captivity at the Cincinnati Zoo. In recognition of this historic event, Maine Audubon, in partnership with Maine Historical Society, will present Passenger Pigeons, Plovers & Puffins: A Story of Extinction & Survival on Tuesday, September 4 at 5:30 pm at Gilsland Farm Audubon Center in Falmouth.

A cash bar and light food will be offered. The event is free for Maine Audubon and Maine Historical Society members and $5/person for the public.

 The Passenger Pigeon’s population in 1814 was estimated to be about 3.5 billion. There are countless first-person stories about skies turning black with pigeons in the nineteenth century. Why did such an abundant species go extinct in less than one hundred years? Attendees will learn why this bird went extinct, what other wildlife we lost over the past 100 years and what you can do today to protect threatened and endangered species. There will also be information about successful comeback species, like the Atlantic Puffin and Bald Eagle.

The talk will be led by Doug Hitchcox, Maine Audubon staff naturalist and Laura Minich Zitske, Director of the Piping Plover & Least Tern Recovery Project at Maine Audubon. Presented in partnership with Maine Historical Society. Attendees will also have the opportunity to see a series of paintings, Recently Extinct Birds of North America, by Maine artist Jada Fitch.

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About Maine Audubon
Maine Audubon’s science-based approach to conservation, education and advocacy advances wildlife and wildlife habitat conservation in Maine. Our citizen science programs connect Maine people to engaging volunteer opportunities that make meaningful contributions to conservation research. The largest Maine-based wildlife conservation organization in the state, Maine Audubon has eight centers and wildlife sanctuaries and serves over 50,000 people annually, with 15,000 members and 2,000 volunteers.

Conserving Maine’s wildlife. For everyone.

Please visit www.maineaudubon.org for more information.
Facebook: & Twitter ID: Maine Audubon

 

 

Where did all the Birds Go?

Posted on: Friday, August 15th, 2014
belted-kingfisher

Belted Kingfisher

I am often asked questions about fluctuations in bird populations. The common question is: “I’ve noticed that all my chickadees are gone this year. Are other people seeing this decline?”

Most recently, I was asked about a lack of Belted Kingfishers in southern Maine. It is easy to say that we haven’t seen any noticeable drop in their population but we can use real, publicly available data to see the proof. Below I’ll explain the process and encourage you to try this on your own with any species that you have been wondering about.

The data we will use is available from an online database at eBird.org.This is driven by citizen scientists submitting checklists of what birds they see, where and when.The tools eBird provides are available for anyone and are all free!

To start, go to eBird.org, click on the Explore Data tab, and we will be using ‘Line Graphs’ to illustrate this example. You’ll be prompted to select a species and then click ‘continue.’ You’ll want to adjust the area by clicking on ‘Change Location’ and you can narrow your data down to a state or county level. (Going lower than a county level may not give you enough data to work with). For our Belted Kingfisher example, I’ll narrow down to York and Cumberland Counties to represent “southern Maine.”

Click Here>>

figure 1

The default chart will show you information for ‘all years’, so you will want to restrict that to the current year.

Click Here>>

figure 2

Note that the scale of the frequency on the vertical axis changes on these two charts but overall the frequency (the percentage of total checklists reporting that species) is almost unchanged between the average (first chart) and this year (second chart).

You can download the raw data from each of these line graphs using the “Download Histogram Data” on the right side of each page. It makes for a better comparison if you drop this data into the spreadsheet software of your choice (Excel, Numbers, etc) and create charts there. Here is a graph comparing those two charts we created above:

figure 3

So, Belted Kingfisher look like they are doing fine in southern Maine! Here is an article I wrote on this same process, focusing on how Blue-gray Gnatcatchers are showing a fairly remarkable increase in the past few years:

-Doug

Doug Hitchcox Head Shot - please credit  M. Kathleen Kelly (1)Meet Doug Hitchcox, Maine Audubon Staff Naturalist

A Maine native, Doug grew up in Hollis and graduated from the University of Maine in 2011. Throughout college Doug worked at Scarborough Marsh Audubon Center and was hired as Maine Audubon’s staff naturalist in the summer of 2013, a long time “dream job.” In his free time, Doug volunteers as one of Maine’s eBird reviewers, is the owner and moderator of the ‘Maine-birds’ listserv and serves as York County Audubon board member and Secretary of the Maine Bird Records Committee.

 

Submit your question for Doug:

MEDIA RELEASE: Maine Audubon Announces New Executive Director

Posted on: Monday, August 4th, 2014


MEDIA RELEASE
 

For Immediate Release

August 4, 2014

Contact: Michelle Smith, Communications & Marketing Manager
msmith@maineaudubon.org
(207) 781-2330 x209
Mobile: (207) 838-0511

Maine Audubon Announces New Executive Director

Charles Gauvin - Carnegie Headshot

Charles F. Gauvin, Maine Audubon’s new Executive Director.

FalmouthMaine Audubon announced today the appointment of Charles F. Gauvin as its new Executive Director. Gauvin brings more than 25 years of experience in conservation leadership, much of it as the president and CEO of Trout Unlimited, the nation’s leading river and fish conservation organization, as well as a strong suite of management and fundraising skills.

During his tenure at Trout Unlimited, Gauvin increased annual revenue from $2.5 million to $28 million.  The organization’s staff grew from 20 to 165, as it developed best-in-class programs in water, public lands and fisheries policy and executed watershed and landscape-scale habitat restoration projects. His work at Trout Unlimited involved a number of projects in Maine, including hydropower relicensing and dam removal efforts on the Androscoggin, Kennebec and Penobscot rivers; strengthening federal and state protections for wild Atlantic salmon; and launching a multi-partner effort to protect Maine’s wild brook trout population, which now includes Maine Audubon as a lead partner through its Brook Trout Pond Survey.

In making the announcement, Andrew Beahm, President of Maine Audubon’s Board of Trustees, said “I am thrilled that Charles will serve as Maine Audubon’s next Executive Director. As the leading wildlife conservation organization in the state, Maine Audubon is a great match for Charles’ experience as a conservation program developer and fundraiser.”

Gauvin most recently served as Chief Development Officer at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, DC, where he worked with Carnegie’s management group and board of trustees to raise the funds needed to implement the organization’s strategic plan. He collaborated with Carnegie scholars worldwide to develop program strategies and support in the United States, Europe, Russia, the Middle East, Asia and South Asia.  He has also been a strategic adviser to France’s Ambassador to the United States in efforts to create and underwrite partnerships between U.S. and French research institutions. He began his career as an attorney in the Washington office of Beveridge & Diamond, PC, the nation’s premier environmental law firm.

“I am thrilled to be part of Maine Audubon,” said Gauvin. “I am passionate about Maine’s wildlife, and I want to make sure it is front and center in policy-making and in the process of educating the next generations of Maine people.” Gauvin is a magna cum laude graduate of Brown University and earned his JD at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, where he was an editor of the University of Pennsylvania Law Review. He and his wife, the painter Gina Sawin, live on a farm in New Gloucester, Maine. Gauvin will assume his new position in late August.

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About Maine Audubon
Maine Audubon’s science-based approach to conservation, education and advocacy advances wildlife and wildlife habitat conservation in Maine. Our citizen science programs connect Maine people to engaging volunteer opportunities that make meaningful contributions to conservation research. The largest Maine-based wildlife conservation organization in the state, Maine Audubon has eight centers and wildlife sanctuaries and serves over 50,000 people annually, with 15,000 members and 2,000 volunteers.

Conserving Maine’s wildlife. For everyone.

Please visit www.maineaudubon.org for more information.
Facebook: & Twitter ID: Maine Audubon

I Found a Baby Bird. What do I do?

Posted on: Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

847533868_23f1cac6de

Mid- to late-summer is prime time for hatching and fledgling birds. This means many birds will be using their wings for the first time and probably won’t be very good at it at first. If you happen to find a fledgling in this stage, think about the situation and what is best for the bird before you act. The National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association put together a very helpful flow chart that can help you assess your situation and find the best course of action.

There are a few important points to emphasize:

1) If you are observing from a distance, give the baby birds plenty of space. An adult is going to be very weary if you are present and may not come back to the bird if you are watching too intently.

2) If you do need to contact a rehabilitator, there are a few licensed individuals we highly recommend. Maine Audubon does not have the resources or permits to rehabilitate birds so there is often little we can do to help. In southern Maine, we recommend the York Center for Wildlife (207-361-1400) and if you are nearer to central Maine, Avian Haven (207-382-6761) in Freedom, is another great facility.

3) It is against the law in Maine to keep any wild animals. Many people believe they are helping the animal or bird, but without proper training and resources, there is often more harm being done. Please leave all rehabilitation up to the professionals to give our wildlife a chance.

Picture 047

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Doug Hitchcox Head Shot - please credit  M. Kathleen Kelly (1)Meet Doug Hitchcox, Maine Audubon Staff Naturalist

A Maine native, Doug grew up in Hollis and graduated from the University of Maine in 2011. Throughout college Doug worked at Scarborough Marsh Audubon Center and was hired as Maine Audubon’s staff naturalist in the summer of 2013, a long time “dream job.” In his free time, Doug volunteers as one of Maine’s eBird reviewers, is the owner and moderator of the ‘Maine-birds’ listserv and serves as York County Audubon board member and Secretary of the Maine Bird Records Committee.

 

Submit your question for Doug:

Sunset Puffin Cruise

Posted on: Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

On the evening of July 12, we held our first Sunset Puffin Cruise of the year and it was amazing!

sandyWe gathered in New Harbor to take the Hardy Boat out to Eastern Egg Rock. In the harbor we enjoyed some common waterfowl dabbling around the shore, recently fledged Barn Swallows making for a fun identification with their short tails, and an ever-so charismatic Osprey flew by looking for fish to catch.

En route to the island, Captain Al gave us a history lesson of the area and the work Project Puffin has done to restore Atlantic Puffins on the coast of Maine. As we neared the island we saw an abundance of Common Terns and Laughing Gulls and a Common Loon in breeding plumage.

 

puffinblogWe quickly spotted large rafts of puffins as we approached Eastern Egg Rock. These football-sized clown-faced alcids will often congregate in groups near the shore before they return to their burrows for the evening. We often see more puffins during our evening trips than day-time trips, when the birds may be out away from the island foraging.

 

Our other major target for this trip were Roseate Terns. This endangered species does occur in many places around the world but in very small numbers at all of those sites so it very special to have them nesting on a few our Maine’s coastal islands. And they showed off nicely! Within minutes of arriving a pair of birds made frequent passes along the side of the boat, chasing each other around and giving us great views of their frosty backs and long tails.

moonblogThe icing on the cake came as we motored over to Franklin Island National Wildlife Refuge where Harbor Seals were hauling out on a nearby ledge. The Franklin Island Lighthouse was built in 1806, making it the third oldest lighthouse in Maine and our charter is the only trip Hardy Boat will make to go see it. While watching the seals near the lighthouse we were treated to an amazing moon-rise as ‘Super Moon 2014’ peaked over Allen Island.  

-Doug

 

Doug Hitchcox Head Shot - please credit  M. Kathleen Kelly (1)Meet Doug Hitchcox, Maine Audubon Staff Naturalist

A Maine native, Doug grew up in Hollis and graduated from the University of Maine in 2011. Throughout college Doug worked at Scarborough Marsh Audubon Center and was hired as Maine Audubon’s staff naturalist in the summer of 2013, a long time “dream job.” In his free time, Doug volunteers as one of Maine’s eBird reviewers, is the owner and moderator of the ‘Maine-birds’ listserv and serves as York County Audubon board member and Secretary of the Maine Bird Records Committee.

 

Submit your question for Doug:

Wildflower Walk at Gilsland Farm

Posted on: Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

We held our first wildflower walk of 2014 last week and had a blast walking around our orchard, through the woods, and into the West Meadow learning how to identify wildflowers, shrubs, and vines along the way. You can come and see these bursts of color at our sanctuaries any time. After a quick walk through the North Meadow at Gilsland Farm, here are a few of the common wildflowers I encountered:

A very common flower you can find throughout the summer is the Oxeye Daisy (Chrysanthemum leucanthemum), a long-stalked member of the composite family with white flower heads 1-2” wide and 15-30 slender rays. Native to Europe, it was introduced in North American where is has become a noxious weed. It is very difficult to eradicate because of an ability to regenerate from small rhizome fragments.

 

 

Spreading DogbaneMultiflora Rose (Rosa multiflora) has recently gone into bloom all along the edges of our meadows. This is a non-native shrub that was introduced in 1886 and now is often used for erosion control, as “living-fences” for coraling livestock, and as a crash barrier along highway medians.

 

 

 

Cow VetchAnother very common (and unfortunately invasive) wildflower that you can find around our meadows in late June is Cow Vetch (Vicia cracca). Also known as Tufted Vetch, these violet-blue clusters grow as vines and are common in most fields and along roadsides. They are actually legumes, as apparent by their small pea-like seeds.

 

 

Multiflora RoseMany more wildflowers are ready to bloom! This Spreading Dogbane (Apocynum androsaemifolium), a lovely native wildflower now covering our meadows will be showing its small, pink, bell-shaped flowers any day now. Come on down to Gilsland Farm and see if you can find this and other wildflowers in our meadows!

-Doug

 

Doug Hitchcox Head Shot - please credit  M. Kathleen Kelly (1)Meet Doug Hitchcox, Maine Audubon Staff Naturalist

A Maine native, Doug grew up in Hollis and graduated from the University of Maine in 2011. Throughout college Doug worked at Scarborough Marsh Audubon Center and was hired as Maine Audubon’s staff naturalist in the summer of 2013, a long time “dream job.” In his free time, Doug volunteers as one of Maine’s eBird reviewers, is the owner and moderator of the ‘Maine-birds’ listserv and serves as York County Audubon board member and Secretary of the Maine Bird Records Committee.

 

Submit your question for Doug:

MEDIA RELEASE: Maine Audubon and Partners Launch Fish Lead-Free Campaign

Posted on: Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014

PrintMEDIA RELEASE 

For Immediate Release

July 23, 2014

Contact: Michelle Smith, Communications & Marketing Manager
msmith@maineaudubon.org
(207) 781-2330 x209
Mobile: (207) 838-0511

 

Maine Audubon and Partners Launch Fish Lead-Free Campaign
Passage of 2013 Loon Protection Bill spurs two-year educational initiative

Falmouth – Maine Audubon and its partners announced today the launch of the Fish Lead Free campaign. The goal of the campaign is to increase the use of lead-free tackle on Maine’s lakes and ponds by providing lead-free products and lead-tackle recycling assistance for anglers, as well as building awareness of Maine’s current lead tackle laws. Fish Lead Free is a cooperative partnership among Maine Audubon, Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, Maine BASS Nation, Maine Lakes Society and the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine. Generous funding for the Fish Lead-Free campaign has been provided by the Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund, Margaret E. Burnham Charitable Trust and Morton-Kelly Charitable Trust.

The campaign will offer lead tackle exchange kits for organizations and individuals, access to a loon multi-media presentation and other resources to help anglers transition to lead-free tackle. The campaign also funds a Tufts Veterinary student to help with the collection and necropsy of dead loons found on Maine’s lakes and ponds. To sign up for more information and to see a schedule of presentations, please visit fishleadfree.org. If you find a dead loon in Maine, please call the Loon Hotline at (207) 781-6180 x275 to report the location and to receive more information about the necropsy process.

Can you spot the lead sinkers on a lake bottom?

Can you spot the lead sinkers on a lake bottom?

2013 Lead Tackle Legislation

In 2013, the Maine State Legislature banned the sale and use of lead fishing sinkers one ounce or less, with phase-in of a ban on the sale of bare lead-headed jigs 2.5” long or less in September 2016, and the use of those jigs in September 2017.

The passage of the law was prompted by findings that lead poisoning is the leading cause of death of adult loons in Maine. Almost one third of dead adult loons recovered from Maine’s lakes and ponds over the last 25 years had died from lead poisoning. For every two loons that die in Maine from natural causes like illness or disease, one loon dies from ingesting a small lead sinker or jig-head. Adult loons catch fish with lead sinkers and jigs attached or they pick up lead objects while eating gravel they need for digestion from lake bottoms.

Lead is highly toxic and just one lead object can lead to lead poisoning in a loon. Loons can die within two to four weeks post-ingestion. Early signs of lead poisoning include abnormal behavior like beaching themselves and not swimming away from people or predators. Over time, symptoms progress to general organ failure, including tremors and muscle paralysis. Loons become easy targets for their predators and are unable to take care of their chicks once the onset of lead poisoning has begun.

How can you help?

  • Switch to lead-free tackle made from nontoxic materials like tin, bismuth and steel
  • Sign up your community group for a free “Loons and Lead” presentation
  • Attend a local tackle exchange or work with Maine Audubon to organize one in your community
  • Report dead loons to Maine Audubon’s Dead Loon Hotline at (207) 781-6180 x275.

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About Maine Audubon
Maine Audubon’s science-based approach to conservation, education and advocacy advances wildlife and wildlife habitat conservation in Maine. Our citizen science programs connect Maine people to engaging volunteer opportunities that make meaningful contributions to conservation research. The largest Maine-based wildlife conservation organization in the state, Maine Audubon has eight centers and wildlife sanctuaries and serves over 50,000 people annually, with 15,000 members and 2,000 volunteers.

Conserving Maine’s wildlife. For everyone.

Please visit www.maineaudubon.org for more information.
Facebook: & Twitter ID: Maine Audubon