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Bay Area Bird Blog » 2010» October

Archive for October, 2010

24th 2010
Better to wipe out a species than to play football on Saturdays?

Posted under endangered species

I recall an article about this several months ago.  The New York Times has an article about some high school football in Hawaii being switched to Saturday during the day instead of Friday nights as has been usual, in order to reduce deaths of Newell’s shearwater.  ”The birds take their first flight a few months after hatching from ground nests in Kauai’s wet mountain forests. These fledglings, some still with down feathers, are prone to mistaking the bright lights at sports fields, hotels, parking lots and other places for the moon and stars, leading them to repeatedly fly around in circles. They become exhausted and eventually drop to the ground, where they are often attacked by cats or hit by cars unless they are rescued by volunteers.”  The government threatened big fines if the bird deaths continued.  The school district is going to put in specially shielded lights, but until they do (a year or two) the kids have to play football on Saturdays instead of Fridays.  Doesn’t sound all that bad, right?

Sadly, but all too predictably, lots of people don’t like the new policy. “They have been showing up to games wearing T-shirts that disparage the policy, and occasionally voicing their displeasure from the stands.”

Here’s a quote that really gets me: “They chose the bird over our keiki,” [parent Rich Rapozo] said after a Saturday game, using the Hawaiian word for children.  Hey, listen Rich: nobody chose to kill your children instead of killing birds, OK?


15th 2010
Bird deaths from collisions: shocking numbers

Posted under birds (general) & science

Golden Gate Audubon Society just put up an information page about how many birds are killed in collisions. The uncertainties are pretty high, but even the low-end estimates are huge: at least 100 million birds per year killed in collisions with windows, for example.  A lot of these happen one collision at a time — a bird gets hit by a car, or runs into a window that it doesn’t realize is there.  But sometimes there are horrific mass-kill incidents, when huge flocks of birds get confused by radio tower lights and fly in circles around them, with birds running into the guy wires at every circuit and falling to the ground with wings broken.  There are known things that can be done to reduce all of these causes of mortality, if we can get people to care.

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12th 2010
Army Corps of Engineers goes to war against habitat

Posted under government & wildlife (general)

The Chronicle has a story about the recent order to clear all vegetation — everything but grasses — from every levee in the country. It’s absurd.  It’s also a huge, huge waste.  After some big floods on the Sacramento River in 1986, there was a study about what parts of the levee system did better or worse than others.  The sections with trees did a lot better: the trees protected them from erosion. They did better than sections that were reinforced by rock, in fact.  And there have also been studies about animals burrowing into levee banks (which weakens the levees), and the levees that only have grasses have more burrows (mostly from ground squirrels).  Basically the Corps is implementing a hugely expensive system to make the levees weaker.  Of course it will also be absolutely devastating to riparian habitat—huge, huge swaths of it mown down.  What a terrible, terrible thing.  As the Chronicle article describes, some state agencies are trying to avoid complying.  Good for them!  But if the Feds want it done, it’s hard to fight.

You know, I’m used to the idea of one side losing and the other side winning, and all too often it’s the environment that is on the losing side. In this case it’s even worse, both sides lose.  The Army Corps of Engineers really needs to reverse this decision.