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TopThe first migratory birds I spotted this spring were a pair of swans silently flying overhead as I crossed a parking lot earlier this week. A few minutes later and I would never have known they were there. Birding is so often like that, a brief unexpected moment that gives you a glimpse into the lives of our nomadic birds. We often like to think of them as "our" birds returning, but they are just as much birds of other places, other backyards or forests or plains, connecting different parts of the globe. As the great spring flood of birds returns to Alaska, in this issue of eNews get an update on festivals, plan a migration of your own to Belize next winter, learn about how you can help birds with your binoculars, help the Arctic Refuge, and more.

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Rusty Blackbird by Dave Shaw
This Saturday, April 9, kicks off the third and final year of the Rusty Blackbird Spring Migration Blitz in Alaska. Through May 31, we're asking people to enter their Alaska bird sightings, whether they see a Rusty Blackbird or not, in eBird , the online bird sighting database. If you live outside of the state, no problem, you can participate from anywhere in the US and Canada. (Be sure to check dates of the Blitz if you live outside Alaska as the end date may vary for different areas.)

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Pelagic Cormorant by Mike Baird, Creative Commons
This month there's a new birding festival in Alaska, the Seward Migration Celebration the weekend of April 22. Audubon Alaska's Executive Director Nils Warnock will give a one of the science talks, called "Feathered Tracks in the Sky-The Migration of Alaska's Birds," about how birds connect our state to the rest of the world. The festival includes other events, culminating in a Resurrection Bay wildlife cruise on Sunday. Space on the cruise is limited so check out this new festival today!
In other festival notes, Major Marine Tours is offering a  Copper River Delta Shorebird Festival Cruise departing from Whittier to Cordova on Friday and returning on Sunday. A great opportunity for wildlife viewing on the way to the festival!
Visit our website for a list of 2016 bird festivals across the state.
Photo by Noble Proctor
On Friday, April 29, from 6:00pm to 8:00 pm join Audubon Alaska, Arctic Audubon, and author/photographer Bob Armstrong for a presentation "Enjoying Nature in Alaska through Video" followed by a book signing at the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center on 101 Dunkel Street. Bob is a longtime Alaskan and has written a number of books on Alaska natural history. His presentation will feature some of his experiments with how to video birds and animals without disturbing them from their natural activities. Audubon Alaska's board and staff will be on hand for you to meet. This event is free, with books available for purchase, as well as Audubon hats and birding maps. We hope to see you there!
Crimson-collared Tanager by Dominic Sherony
In addition to its rich Maya history and Caribbean-influenced culture, the small country of Belize offers birders a huge diversity of migrant and resident species in lush and varied ecosystems. Join Audubon Alaska February 19-28 and explore habitats that include wetlands, pine forest, tropical moist forest, and a mangrove island on this unforgettable adventure. Go birding at Crooked Tree Sanctuary, a vital habitat for migratory and resident wetland species; hike through the towering jungle of Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary, also known as Jaguar Preserve; learn about endemic butterflies; and visit Mayan ruins at Lamanai. Support sustainable, bird-based tourism and hemispheric conservation in Belize, as well as Audubon Alaska's work in the Great Land. This trip will fill quickly!
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American Golden-Plover by Dave Shaw
For the first time ever, on February 26, Congress took a vote on whether or not to provide permanent protection for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Although the measure did not pass, it received bipartisan support and represented a significant moment in the history of this long-threatened Refuge.  

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Brown Bear by Dave Shaw
At the end of March, the Supreme Court decided not to hear a case that would have removed the Roadless Rule from applying to the Tongass National Forest. First created about fifteen years ago, the so-called Roadless Rule banned logging, roadbuilding, and other development in unroaded areas of national forests. The Bush Administration exempted the Tongass and later the Chugach from the logging ban, and the issue has been in and out of court since then, with the Roadless Rule reinstated and removed from the Tongass at various times. This is a good step forward for protecting some of the Tongass' old-growth trees, but there are other areas of the forest with some roads that are also valuable habitat.

This KRBD radio story explains why the Supreme Court's refusal to hear the case isn't quite the end of the story.
Photo by Milo Burcham
Previous Quiz Bird
The previous quiz bird was the White-winged Scoter.
This Month's Quiz Bird
The Upper Tanana River Valley is widely known as an important migration corridor for birds that travel to and from Alaska and western Siberia to breed each year. Hundreds of thousands of migratory birds pass through the valley each spring and fall. More than three-quarters of the entire mid-continental population of this quiz bird pass through the site annually in addition to thousands of swans.
Audubon Alaska partners with the International Rusty Blackbird Working Group and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game for this project. Rusty Blackbirds, although numerous, are declining alarmingly, putting them on the Red List of the Alaska WatchList. The causes of decline aren't well understood, so researchers are scrambling to find out more. Visit our Rusty Blackbird Blitz webpage for resources about Rusty Blackbird identification

All you have to do is enter your bird sightings in eBird, whether you do or do not see a Rusty Blackbird. If you went out looking for them but didn't see any, that's useful information too. We want to document when Rusty Blackbirds first start appearing in Alaska and when migration seems to wind down. When you login to eBird, on the second data entry page under "Observation Type," select "Other-Rusty Blackbird Spring Migration Blitz," then enter your sightings as usual. That's all there is to it!

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ArcticRefugeAs part of the debate on the Sportsmen's Heritage and Recreational Enhancement (SHARE) Act (H.R. 2406) in the U.S. House, Representative Jared Huffman (D-CA) offered an amendment that would have designated the vulnerable coastal plain of the Arctic Refuge as Wilderness, which would prevent oil and gas development. The amendment mirrors the bill that he introduced with Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (R-PA) to provide the Arctic Refuge with permanent protection (H.R. 239), and has been introduced in Congress for more than 25 years.

Although Audubon strongly opposed other aspects of the SHARE Act, this vote presented a historic opportunity to support and protect the iconic Arctic Refuge, and a vote for the amendment was not a show of support for the overall bill. The final vote for the amendment was 227-176, with 30 members not voting.

Along with 167 Democrats, nine Republicans supported the amendment, including Representatives Clawson (R-FL), Dold (R-IL), Gibson (R-NY), Hurt (R-VA), LoBiondo (R-NJ), Paulsen (R-MN), Reichert (R-WA), Royce (R-CA), and Smith (R-NJ). Three Democrats opposed the amendment, including Representatives Bishop (D-GA), Costa (D-CA), and Peterson (D-MN).

Audubon continues to push Congress to pass the Arctic Refuge legislation. If you haven't already, please ask your members of Congress to cosponsor the bill to permanently protect the Refuge.

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For almost 40 years Audubon Alaska has worked to conserve Alaska's natural ecosystems, focusing on birds, wildlife, and the habitat crucial to them. Audubon Alaska is financially independent, raising all our own funding. This means your support is critical to protecting the birds and wildlife you care about.Thank you for supporting Audubon Alaska!

Happy Birding!

Beth Peluso, Communications Manager
Audubon Alaska

Audubon Alaska
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