Archive for the ‘Endangered Species’ Category

Last week I was on the Georgia coast for a work trip. I stayed an extra day to tag along on a couple of field trips arranged by one of my colleagues and got to visit a huge nesting colony of Federally Endangered Wood Stork, Mycteria americana at Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge.

Here are a couple of my photos from the visit, taken from the bird observation tower that U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists use to study the birds:

Wood Storks nesting at Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge

Wood Storks nesting at Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge

Wood Stork at Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge

Wood Stork at Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge

Earlier in the week, an article appeared in The Brunswick News about the Wood Stork in Georgia:

Wed, Jul 9, 2008

Perched in a towering thin tree on Jekyll Island, a colony of tall slender birds sits above the sand.

It is an unusual site, causing passersby to stop and take a second look.

What the spectators are seeing is more than a striking scene. It is proof of nature restoring itself.

When wood storks began nesting on the Georgia coast about 50 years ago, the endangered species was seeking refuge. In the decades since the birds have been nesting in the area, their numbers have steadily increased, although they are still listed on the federal endangered species list.
In recent years, the Coastal Resources Division of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources has partnered with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Department of Interior, as well as other private entities, in an attempt to restore the wood stork population by monitoring the birds, creating protected wildlife areas and artificial nesting platforms.

It seems these efforts have paid off.

This year, the Coastal Resources Division has declared that the birds are making a strong comeback. When counting nests throughout the region, the CRD tallied an estimated 2,225 nesting wood stork pairs, said Brad Winn, program manager for the DNR Nongame Conservation Section.

More than 500 pairs of nesting birds were found in the Harris Neck Wildlife Refuge in McIntosh County, making up about a fourth of the state’s entire wood stork population.

Because the refuge can manipulate water levels, it makes nesting and feeding easier for the bird, allowing them to thrive, Winn said.

“Those are impressive numbers,” Winn said. “But I wouldn’t give us the credit. That belongs to the birds. They are most responsible for their own growth.”

Historically, the long, skeletal-looking birds made their home in the Florida Everglades. But development and massive changes to water sources created harsh conditions for the birds, pushing them to find a new home on the Georgia coast.

The recent high count of wood storks is proof that the birds have successfully adapted to their Peach State habitat, Winn said.

How long that will hold remains to be seen. The draining of wetlands along the coast to make room for development is threatening the habitat and nesting areas of the birds.

“Humans are taking water off the marshes and wetlands, and they can’t successfully nest,” Winn said.

Despite the disturbance of human development to nesting grounds, Winn has hopes the creatures will continue to thrive.

“Wood storks have a long life, about 20 years,” he said. “As long as we can maintain a healthy wetland system and as long as they are able to reproduce, we expect the wood stork numbers to increase.”

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Last night, I went to see a screening of The Lord God Bird, a movie produced and directed by George Butler of Pumping Iron Fame. The event was co-hosted by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and The Nature Conservancy. I really enjoyed seeing it, although I don’t feel strongly about whether or not the Ivory Billed Woodpecker is alive or extinct. If it can be a symbol for the importance of conservation, then that’s great, but the important thing is that unique habitats are disappearing and we are leaving the earth in horrifically bad condition.

John Fitzpatrick, the Director of the Cornell Lab and Scott Simon, the State Director of the Arkansas Chapter of The Nature Conservancy (hosted by my State Director) were there and answered questions at the end with the producers and U.S. Fish and Wildlife personnel.

My favorite parts of the movie: Nancy Tanner (what a pistol), photos of a baby IBW, learning about the methods scientists are using to survey likely habitats for IBW.

Anyway, I’m not a movie reviewer and there are several good reviews written by specialists in a couple of interesting areas:
Cryptomundo – a group seaching for sasquatch and the like
John Trapp – a birder (post includes a trailer of the film)
Hillbilly M.F.A. – an Arkansas nature writer

The theme song for the movie was written by Sufjan Stevens originally for the NPR story on the original “re-discovery” of the bird in 2004. You can listen to it here and read about it here.

I saw a Pileated woodpecker a few weeks ago at FDR State Park near Columbus, Georgia and although they are not the least bit rare, I can honestly say my reaction was, “Lord God! Look at that bird!” And the IBW is supposed to be much more impressive.

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Video of The Nature Conservancy blowing up a levee on Oregon’s Upper Klamath Lake. It was “an unprecedented move to improve wildlife habitat, water storage and water quality downstream.”

More coverage of the event here from KATU TV. I love how they keep repeating the video of the blast over and over.

P.S. Subscribe to The Nature Conservancy’s YouTube channel for more videos of their activities worldwide.

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Leatherback Sea Turtles: They’re Going Faster Than You Think

I found a link to a great site about Leatherback Sea Turtles in Science Magazine this week The site, The Great Turtle Race sponsored by Leatherback Trust, is actually quite fun for adults and kids alike. According to Science:

Close to 95% of leatherback turtles in the Pacific have disappeared in the past 2 decades. The Costa Rica population has decreased to fewer than 100.

To raise support for the critically endangered beasts, several conservation organizations have created The Great Turtle Race. From 16 through 29 April, 11 turtles will be tracked as they migrate from their nesting areas in Costa Rica to south of the Galápagos Islands off Ecuador. The racers are equipped with satellite tags so their locations can be tracked online. The data will provide a nearly real-time, turtle’s-eye perspective on the ocean, including measurements of water temperature and depth.

Definitely take the time to check out the site, follow the progress of the turtles, learn a few facts about turtles and how scientists are studying their movements, and cheer on your favorite tortuga.

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NPR has a two-part series this week on the comeback of Bald Eagles in the Chesapeake Bay area.

The first part includes a lengthy interview with a biology professor from my alma mater, William and Mary (in the Center for Conservation Biology, which did not exist while I was there). Even better, there is this animated map showing nesting locations from 1970 to 2000 (go to the site to see the animation).








The second part focuses on the competition for Bayfront property between private land owners and the eagles. Eighty percent of the eagle breeding areas are on private land, so their fate is in the hands of individuals

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