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Through the Lens

Join the First eBird October Big Day this Saturday!

Wed, October 03, 2018

Participate with thousands of other birders this Saturday during the first October Big Day, on October 6, to find and record all the birds you see through eBird. You don’t need to be a bird expert or participate all day long; even birding 30 minutes in your backyard counts. The October Big Day runs from midnight to midnight in your local time zone, and you can report birds from anywhere in the world on eBird, a worldwide bird checklist program used by hundreds of thousands of birders.

On May 5, during the Global Big Day, more than 28,000 people ventured outside in 170 countries, finding 6,899 species, two-thirds of all the world’s bird species in one day, a new world record for birding! With that in mind, a fall event was conceived and the October Big Day was planned.

Why October 6? Because the northern reaches of the world are in the midst of fall migration, and spring is rejuvenating the Southern Hemisphere. No matter where you are, we’re confident you can find some great birds and share them with the world on eBird. Let’s see what we can find together on the first October Big Day!

Each year for the last four years the Global Big Day has set new heights for a single day of birding. This impressive international birding collaboration has been so great we want to have another worldwide eBird Big Day – in October. No matter where you are, we’re confident you can find some great birds on October 6th. Let’s see what we can find together on the first October Big Day!

Regardless of how you celebrate birding on October 6, have fun, enjoy the birds you find, and share your sightings on eBird – because in our world, every bird counts!

For more information about how to participate, see https://ebird.org/news/october-big-day-6-october-2018

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Creating a Continental Bird Migration Forecast

Sat, September 15, 2018





Exciting news from Cornell University! I’ve been using radar as tool in my waterfowl tool box for a few years now, but this makes it even easier!

Ithaca, N.Y. & Oxford, U.K.—September is the peak of autumn bird migration, and billions of birds are winging their way south in dramatic pulses. A new study published in the journal Science reports that scientists can now reliably predict these waves of bird migration up to seven days in advance. The study details the underlying methods that power migration forecasts, which can be used as a bird conservation tool. To learn more about this or to view real time migration videos, visit

“Most of our songbirds migrate at night, and they pay close attention to the weather,” says study lead author Benjamin Van Doren, a Ph.D. student at the University of Oxford and a Cornell University graduate. “Our model converts weather forecasts into bird migration forecasts for the continental United States.”

In this study, the researchers quantified 23 years of spring bird migration across the United States using 143 weather radars, highly sensitive sensors that scientists can use to monitor bird movements. They filtered out precipitation and trained a machine learning model to associate atmospheric conditions with levels of bird migration countrywide. Eighty percent of variation in bird migration intensity was explained by the model.


Nightly migration forecast maps for the United States.  Warmer colors indicate that the model predicts a greater number of migrating birds.  Credit:  Benjamin Van Doren

“The capacity to forecast where and when birds are likely to be flying is instrumental for conservation goals,” says co-author Kyle Horton, a Rose Postdoctoral Fellow at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Migration forecasts make it possible to reduce human-made threats to migratory birds during a journey that is already fraught with danger. In addition to the energy-depleting journey itself, birds may be thrown off schedule when they become disoriented by city lights. They may crash into tall buildings, cell towers, or power lines. Loss of habitat along their route could mean they don’t have the energy to complete the trip on time or may arrive on their breeding grounds in poor condition, making them unable to breed at all.

In addition to predicting pulses of intense migration, Van Doren and Horton also used the model to estimate nightly migratory movements across the entire country. During peak migration in early May, they say often more than 420 million birds pass overhead each night.

“We used 12 variables to model the distribution of migratory birds across the continent,” explains Van Doren. “Temperature was the most important variable. Migration intensity was greatest on warm nights, probably because warm temperatures generally bring favorable winds and the emergence of leaves and insects.”

The first migration forecast maps based on this research were released to the public earlier this year on the Cornell Lab’s BirdCast website (birdcast.info), where they are updated every six hours. In addition to maps that predict bird movements up to three days ahead, the site also features real-time bird movements based on current weather radar.

“Radars have been illuminating the movement of birds for nearly 75 years—there are still integral discoveries to be made,” notes Horton. “With migration coming into full swing, we’re excited to deliver autumn forecasts for the first time.”

Reference:
Benjamin M. Van Doren and Kyle G. Horton. A continental system for forecasting bird migration. Science. September 2018. DOI 10.1126/science.aat7526.

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A Plethora of Pollinators

Fri, July 13, 2018

The heat - oh goodness - this ugly oppressive heat wave can quit any day now. Hot weather and MS just don’t mix; so my outdoor time has been seriously curtailed the last few weeks. Thank heavens there exists the great group of prairie and pollinator plantings at Pyramid State Park. It’s lovely area, shaded, with a picnic table, just on the water’s edge that has just been bustling in very early hours just after sunrise.

This little corner of Pyramid, whether you choose to fish from the dock, sit quietly and reflect, gaze upon all the different blooming specimens of prairie and pollinator plants or hang out practicing your macro photography is just the ticket.

The sheer variety of insect species that I have been finding in the three different beds that make up these planting has been amazing. Sadly though, butterflies seem to be in short supply this year. I just am not seeing the usual number of butterflies. I am actually seeing very few. I hope this is just glitch or a timing issue and not a portent of what we may be losing. In other years these plantings have been rife with all sorts of butterflies; including monarchs.

Here’s a look at some of the niftiest looking visitors. Let me say up front, insect ID is not my forte and I am currently awaiting a new field guide to arrive so, if you have correct names, please please feel free to jump in the comment section and tell us about these nifty flying jewels and winged creatures!

The other great thing abut these dawn trips to Pyramid - well of course there are those gorgeous sunrises - but it’s the cottontails! Those little buggers are everywhere at Pyramid! Here, there, yon - hopping, skipping and plundering along the rabbit population in all of Pyramid sure is thriving! One little guy seems especially interested in being my buddy while I am standing there neck deep in bugs trying to photograph those little flying f-14’s that are feeding on the flowers.


So get out there in the early hours, find a nice planting, and look really close - there’s a whole world living in those flowers!

 

 

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