Saturday, December 31, 2011

Resources I'll be using in planning my Conservation Big Year

On the eve of 2012, it's time for me to start seriously planning for my Conservation Big Year in 2013. Some of the most important resources are, quite naturally, publications of critical bird conservation organizations that I wish everyone would support. All the illustrations and logos are clickable to get information about that actual resource.

The single most important resource for getting started is the American Bird Conservancy Guide to Bird Conservation. This book has species accounts of all of ABC's Watch List birds. Each provides an overview of the species, its current conservation status, the threats it faces, and what actions are necessary to help restore it to population health. It also has overviews of the Important Bird Areas essential for protection of birds.

The American Bird Conservancy Guide to the 500 Most Important Bird Areas will be essential for plotting out the places I visit to see my Watch List birds. The American Bird Conservancy has a large number of well-researched reports about important bird conservation issues available for free on their website that I'll also be referring to. I've been a supporter of ABC since they first came into existence.

When The Birds of North America was originally being published by the American Ornithologists Union, the Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences, and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, I started subscribing as soon as I could pull together the $800 for a discounted subscription. It was one of the best purchases I've ever made. I also started subscribing to the online version as soon as it became available, and have given a few subscriptions to people as gifts, because it is such a superb resource for people serious about learning more about birds. As wonderful as my hard copies are, BNA Online can be updated and includes more photos, and also includes videos and sound recordings. I'll be consulting this as I gather information about each species.
I've been a member and supporter of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology since the 1980s, long before I thought of applying for a job there. I think the achievement I've been proudest of in my entire life has been being asked to serve as science editor there. If my home and family in Minnesota hadn't beckoned, I'd still be happily working full-time at the Lab. This amazing world-class institution's mission is "to interpret and conserve the earth's biological diversity through research, education, and citizen science focused on birds." They live up to this, providing a huge number of resources to people to learn more about birds, many of them free, supported by those of us who support the Lab. I'll be using the Lab's All About Birds site for quick reference and their wonderful maps.

eBird, an amazing resource from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Audubon, has all kinds of interactive maps and apps that will make finding rare species on my list much, much easier. I intend to submit all my daily checklists from my Conservation Big Year to eBird, too.

A huge group of cooperating organizations and agencies, including the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the American Bird Conservancy, Audubon, and The Nature Conservancy, have been putting together an annual State of the Birds report since 2009. These full reports are all available for free online.

The American Birding Association's unique niche is the sport of birding, but they have a great many resources that are going to help with the nitty gritty of seeing birds. ABA's amazing bird-finding guides give detailed directions to the best places for seeing birds and the best timing for finding each species. I'll be using these extensively. I'm been a proud member of ABA since the 80s, and though I let my membership lapse when I was just not earning enough money to afford it, happily joined again in 2010, long before they thought of profiling me in Birding or making me an ABA blogger.

I was also a big fan of Birder's World long before I spent a day birding in northern Minnesota with Chuck Hagner (a day when virtually no birds were to be found in the Sax-Zim Bog!!), and long before he asked me to write an article for the magazine, which has now evolved into BirdWatching. BirdWatching provides a lot of resources that I'll be using to plan out trips, especially their Hotspots Near You, which covers many areas that aren't included in ABA bird-finding guides. BirdWatching, both the magazine and their wonderful online resources, also help me keep up-to-date on important conservation issues.

Friday, November 4, 2011

How I'll use this blog

Whooping Crane
As I plot out my 2013 Conservation Big Year, I'll be working out an itinerary to allow me to see as many of the 174 species on my "target list" somewhere where active work is ongoing to protect them. For example, for Whooping Cranes, that could be in Aransas National Wildlife Refuge on the wild flock's wintering grounds, Wood Buffalo National Park on their breeding grounds, the Audubon Rowe Sanctuary where they often pass through on migration, Horicon Marsh State Wildlife Area where some of the reintroduced migratory birds are being released, and/or Chassahowitzka or St. Mark's National Wildlife Refuges where those birds winter.

I'll be trying to find ways to travel that minimize the energy used for this, because I do see the irony in calling something a conservation anything when it involves so many miles traveled.

There's a permanent link to my target list at the top on the right: I'll be adding hot links to each species as I build a webpage explaining why the bird is a species of concern, what issues it faces, what is being done to help it, what its prospects are, and my plans for seeing it.

The Target List

Conservation Big Year target species, from American Bird Conservancy’s Watch List 2007. I’m modifying it to add a handful of species that seem to me to be in trouble. This list may change, and one by one I’ll be adding hyperlinks to each species to send you to a page with a lot of information about it.

Red List: Highest Continental Concern

✓ 1. Mottled Duck (Seen in Florida January 24)
Mottled Duck
Mottled Ducks photographed in Viera Wetlands this year on January 24)

2. Steller’s Eider (Threatened) LIFER
3. Spectacled Eider (Threatened) LIFER
4. Gunnison Sage-Grouse LIFER
5. Sooty Grouse
6. Greater Prairie-Chicken (“Attwater’s” ssp. Endangered) Subspecies lifer
7. Lesser Prairie-Chicken
8. Bermuda Petrel (Endangered) LIFER
9. Black-capped Petrel
10. Pink-footed Shearwater LIFER
11. Black-vented Shearwater LIFER
12. Ashy Storm-Petrel LIFER
13. Black Storm-Petrel LIFER
14. Least Storm-Petrel LIFER
15. Magnificent Frigatebird
✓ 16. Reddish Egret (Florida, January 19)
Reddish Egret
Reddish Egret

17. California Condor (Endangered) LIFER (Nope--not a lifer! I saw one for my 60th birthday 11/11/11)
18. Yellow Rail
19. Black Rail LIFER
20. Whooping Crane (Endangered)
✓ 21. Piping Plover (Endangered) (Florida, January 19)

Audubon's Piping Plover

22. Mountain Plover
23. Eskimo Curlew (Endangered) LIFER (But probably extinct)
24. Rock Sandpiper
25. Buff-breasted Sandpiper
26. Ivory Gull LIFER
27. Least Tern (“California” and “Interior” ssp. Endangered)
28. Kittlitz’s Murrelet
29. Xantus’s Murrelet LIFER
30. Craveri’s Murrelet LIFER
31. White-crowned Pigeon
32. Green Parakeet
33. Thick-billed Parrot LIFER
34. Red-crowned Parrot
35. Spotted Owl (N., MX ssp.Threatened)
36. Lewis’s Woodpecker
37. Red-cockaded Woodpecker (Endangered)
38. Gilded Flicker
39. Ivory-billed Woodpecker (Endangered) LIFER (But probably extinct)
40. Bell’s Vireo (“Least” ssp. Endangered) subspecies lifer
41. Black-capped Vireo (Endangered)
✓ 42. Florida Scrub-Jay (Threatened, but in my opinion should be designated as Endangered) (Florida, January 23)
Florida Scrub-Jay
Florida Scrub-Jay

 43. Bicknell’s Thrush LIFER
44. Bendire’s Thrasher
45. Bachman’s Warbler (Endangered) LIFER (but probably extinct)
46. Golden-winged Warbler
47. Golden-cheeked Warbler (Endangered) North American LIFER
48. Kirtland’s Warbler (Endangered)
✓ 49. Bachman’s Sparrow (Florida, January 23)

Audubon's Bachman's Sparrow
50. Black-chinned Sparrow
51. Baird’s Sparrow
52. Henslow’s Sparrow
53. Saltmarsh Sparrow
54. Seaside Sparrow (“Cape Sable” ssp. Endangered) Subspecies Lifer
55. Tricolored Blackbird

Yellow List: Declining or Rare Continental Species

56. Emperor Goose LIFER
57. Trumpeter Swan
58. Greater Sage-Grouse
59. Mountain Quail
60. Scaled Quail
61. Montezuma Quail LIFER
62. Yellow-billed Loon
63. Clark’s Grebe
✓ 64. Cory’s Shearwater
65. Great Shearwater
66. Buller’s Shearwater LIFER
67. Sooty Shearwater
68. Manx Shearwater LIFER
69. Audubon’s Shearwater
70. Masked Booby
71. Red-faced Cormorant
72. Swallow-tailed Kite
73. Swainson’s Hawk
74. Clapper Rail
75. King Rail
76. American Golden-Plover
77. Snowy Plover (“Western” ssp. Threatened)
✓ 78. Wilson’s Plover (Florida, January 19)

Audubon's Wilson's Plover

79. Wandering Tattler
80. Bristle-thighed Curlew LIFER
81. Long-billed Curlew
82. Hudsonian Godwit
83. Bar-tailed Godwit LIFER
84. Marbled Godwit
85. Black Turnstone
86. Surfbird
✓ 87. Red Knot (Florida, January 19)
Red Knot
Red Knot this year at Merritt Island, January 19
✓ 88. Sanderling (Florida, January 19)
Sanderling from Sarasota area, January 20

89. Semipalmated Sandpiper
✓ 90. Western Sandpiper (Florida, January 19)
91. White-rumped Sandpiper
92. Stilt Sandpiper
93. Heermann’s Gull
✓ 94. Thayer’s Gull (Minnesota, January 3)
Thayer's Gull
Thayer's Gull photographed this year in Duluth, January 5

✓ 95. Iceland Gull (Minnesota, January 5)
Iceland Gull
Iceland Gull

96. Yellow-footed Gull LIFER
97. Red-legged Kittiwake LIFER
98. Ross’s Gull
99. Gull-billed Tern
100. Elegant Tern
101. Roseate Tern (NE pops. Endangered, remainder Threatened)
102. Aleutian Tern LIFER
✓ 103. Bridled Tern (Florida, January 28)
Bridled Tern
Bridled Tern seen on this year's pelagic trip, January 28)

✓ 104. Black Skimmer (Florida, January 27)
Black Skimmer
Black Skimmer

✓ 105. Razorbill (Florida, January 28)
Audubon's Razorbill

106. Marbled Murrelet (WA, OR, CA pops Threatened)
107. Ancient Murrelet
108. Whiskered Auklet LIFER
109. Mangrove Cuckoo
110. Flammulated Owl
111. Elf Owl
112. Short-eared Owl
113. Antillean Nighthawk LIFER
114. Black Swift
115. Blue-throated Hummingbird
116. Costa’s Hummingbird
117. Calliope Hummingbird
118. Allen’s Hummingbird
119. Elegant Trogon
120. Red-headed Woodpecker
121. Williamson’s Sapsucker
122. Nuttall’s Woodpecker
123. Arizona Woodpecker
124. White-headed Woodpecker
125. Olive-sided Flycatcher
126. Willow Flycatcher (SW ssp. Endangered) Subspecies lifer
127. Thick-billed Kingbird
128. Gray Vireo LIFER
129. Island Scrub-Jay
130. Pinyon Jay
131. Yellow-billed Magpie
132. Mexican Chickadee
133. Oak Titmouse
134. California Gnatcatcher (Threatened)
135. Wood Thrush
136. Varied Thrush
137. Wrentit
138. California Thrasher
139. Leconte’s Thrasher LIFER
140. Sprague’s Pipit
141. Blue-winged Warbler
142. Virginia’s Warbler
143. Colima Warbler LIFER
144. Lucy’s Warbler
145. Bay-breasted Warbler
146. Hermit Warbler
147. Grace’s Warbler
148. Prairie Warbler
149. Cerulean Warbler
150. Prothonotary Warbler
151. Swainson’s Warbler North American Lifer
152. Kentucky Warbler
153. Canada Warbler
154. Red-faced Warbler
155. Abert’s Towhee
156. Rufous-winged Sparrow
157. Five-striped Sparrow
158. Brewer’s Sparrow
159. Sage Sparrow
160. Lark Bunting
161. Le Conte’s Sparrow
162. Nelson’s Sharp-tailed Sparrow
163. Smith’s Longspur
164. Chestnut-collared Longspur
165. McKay’s Bunting LIFER
166. Varied Bunting
✓ 167. Painted Bunting (Florida, January 24)
Painted Bunting
Painted Bunting taken this year on Merritt Island, January 25

168. Rusty Blackbird
169. Audubon’s Oriole
170. Black Rosy-Finch LIFER
171. Brown-capped Rosy-Finch
172. Lawrence’s Goldfinch LIFER

Laura’s List: Declining Species Not Included Above
173. Northern Bobwhite
✓ 174. Wood Stork (Florida, January 18)
Wood Stork
Wood Stork taken this year at Lake Kissimmee State Park, January 23

✓ 175. Northern Gannet (Florida, January 27)
Northern Gannet
Northern Gannet photo taken from pelagic trip, January 28

176. Common Nighthawk
✓ 177. Loggerhead Shrike (Florida, January 23)
Loggerhead Shrike
Loggerhead Shrike
178. Purple Martin
✓ 179. Evening Grosbeak (Minnesota, January 2)

Evening Grosbeak
Evening Grosbeak