We have three rarity stories from Maine to kick off this Birding Community E-bulletin.
First, on 19 April, Jeff Cherry was driving along Sheepscot Road to his local antique store. En route at Sheepscot Village, just west of Newcastle in Lincoln County, Maine, an odd bird caught his eye. The bird was accompanying a small group of American Robins. He pulled over to investigate and discovered that this strange, thrush-like bird that was slightly larger than the American Robins was a Fieldfare!
The Fieldfare is an Old-World species, breeding from Iceland to eastern Russia. Since the late 1970s, the species has also nested in southwestern Greenland. Fieldfares normally winter in Europe and the Middle East. The species is rare in eastern North America and even rarer in the west. It is assumed that birds occurring in eastern North America, especially in Atlantic Canada and New England probably arrive via Iceland or Greenland. Their robin-like habits also include a tendency to associate with American Robins when found in North America.
The Maine bird was later re-found that same afternoon in the Sheepscott neighborhood, again with robins, with which it associated through 23 April.
See further details and Jeff Cherry's photos here:
For a news story from the Portland Press-Herald, which also includes a report of an astounding Vermilion Flycatcher (see that story below) see:
ACCESS MATTERS: WATCHING THE FIELDFARE
On Saturday, 22 April, a local landowner at the Fieldfare site in Maine let dozens of birders stand on and cross her lawn to get closer views of the rare thrush. This is not necessarily a rare courtesy, but it was duly noted and equally appreciated.
Thanks were extended to Donna Krah, the landowner, and a Fieldfare T-shirt from Code5Design was sent to her from the Internet T-shirt design company. This shop wants to give back to the birds, habitat, and community, including thank-you gifts to landowners and hosts of rarities. In the words of Seabird McKeon, from Code5Design, "If we can help hosts feel a little more appreciated and a little less overwhelmed by our enthusiastic community, Code5 is happy to do it." What a wonderful service!
Here's more on Code5Design:
In any case, it's often friendliness and cooperation from non-birders that makes access to birds possible... and most enjoyable and appreciated.
ASTOUNDING VERMILION FLYCATCHER
We've written about the famous Hog Island Audubon Camp in Maine a number of times, focusing on the fascinating bird-study programs available there. We announced this year's suite of classes in November, and the selection can be reviewed here:
Remarkably this third story on Maine birds starts with the very popular web-cam at the Hog Island Camp, with the real-time viewing of a pair of local celebrity Ospreys and their eggs/young.
Incredibly, on the morning of 17 April, a bright and beautiful immature male Vermilion Flycatcher alighted on one of the sticks on the Osprey nest, when it was reported by one of the cam operators. This is a remarkable sighting for three reasons:
First, Vermilion Flycatchers occur normally no closer to Maine than the southwestern U.S. In fact, this flycatcher represents the very first verified occurrence of the species in Maine. (There is a hypothetical record from 1994, however.)
Second, the bird was "verified" by web-cam technology under circumstances that are truly amazing. Of all the stick-nests in all the places in the state of Maine for the bird to land, this male Vermilion Flycatcher chose this one! The entire coincidence is described here, along with accompanying video of the bird:
Third, the initial report of this strange bird was actually made by a web-cam operator in Germany. Yes, you read this correctly. Regina Hornung in Germany who writes the newsletter about the Hog Island Ospreys first notified the Hog Island staff in Maine of this bird when it appeared on her screen in Germany. The presence of the flycatcher was immediately posted it on the MaineBirds listserv. This is, of course, triply astounding.
The flycatcher remained in the area of the nest and nearby buildings into the afternoon, and quick-responding area birders were able to see it, even though it was at a quarter-mile distance, viewing Hog Island from the mainland dock. This is the penultimate in birding technology birding!
MBCC AND DUCK STAMP DOLLARS
On 26 April, the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission (MBCC) met to decide about wetland and grassland acquisition (fee-title and easements) for the National Wildlife Refuge System, using funds acquired through Duck Stamp dollars. Approximately 70 percent of the available funds are spent on wetland and grassland habitats in the crucial Prairie Pothole Region, especially in the Dakotas. But at this meeting an additional four National Wildlife Refuges were enhanced through the expenditure of about $7.8 million in these decisions:
- Blackwater NWR (MD) - for fee title of 126 acres of forested wetlands in the Kentuck Stamp to adjoin existing refuge wetlands. This is intended to benefit waterfowl (e.g., Mallard, Wood Duck, Blue-winged Teal, Gadwall, and American Black Duck), Virginia Rails, and forest interior-dwelling songbirds. The price was $415,900.
- Upper Klamath NWR (OR) - for permanent easements of 2,412 acres on two adjacent ranches that would allow the crucial flooding of parts of these properties. A breach in existing levees would then restore the historic marshes and shallow wetlands for about 14,000 acres. The easements would be compatible with working ranch operations. This would benefit waterfowl and a number of other wetland-associated birds. The price was $7,144,000.
- Dale Bumpers White River NWR (AR) - for 53 fee-title acres of bottomland hardwood forest, excellent for waterfowl (e.g., Mallard, Wood Duck, Hooded Merganser, Ring-necked Duck, Gadwall, and Green-winged Teal) and for Neotropical migrants. The price was $186,000.
- Felsenthal NWR (AR) - for 39 fee-title acres to protect and restore bottomland hardwood forest habitat for waterfowl (e.g., Mallard, Northern Pintail, and Wood Duck), wading birds, and Neotropical migrants. This is an isolated inholding at a bend in the Saline River whose acquisition would help consolidate management. The price was $101,000.
Curiously, the meeting occurred shortly after an article appeared in Human Dimensions of Wildlife, titled, "Where Does the Money Go? Awareness of Federal Duck Stamp Fund Expenditures among Illinois Waterfowl Hunters." The researchers, Craig A. Miller and Adam A. Ahlers, found through 2 separate surveys that a large majority (>70 percent) of hunters could not identify how Duck Stamp funds were spent to benefit conservation, specifically to grow the Refuge System. The authors concluded, "Considering the length of time federal duck stamps have been in existence and their meaningful contribution to habitat protection, these results indicated waterfowl hunters are unaware of the benefits provided through their purchase. Hunters, bird watchers, and a wide array of wildlife species are direct recipients of benefits from this program. Management agencies need to ensure an informed public continues to support the federal duck stamp program."
TIP OF THE MONTH: TIME TO SHARE
May is the month when, for many birders at least, migration draws us outdoors to revel in the wonder of it all. For some of us in the South, the pull may even start earlier, for those in the North, the attraction is often strongest in May or early June. Regardless of the precise time, this is usually a busy month, and we encourage all readers to get outdoors and enjoy it!
But don't enjoy it alone; don't keep it to yourself. Invite someone new to birds, birding, and bird migration to join you. Share the connections between the joys of birding and learning something about the risks and the importance of migration to our bird populations. This is a season rich in birds and equally rich in opportunities.
BOOK NOTES: NEOTROPICAL COMPANION REVISITED
John Kricher's well-known Neotropical Companion (Princeton University Press, 1997) was a major contribution, even in its much smaller first 1989 edition, fondly known as the "little green book." The 1997 iteration was a remarkable breakthrough, and it has since been used by thousands of birders, travelers, and guides to understand the natural complexities of Neotropical biology. And now, John Kricher has presented the world with an astounding new iteration of his original works in The New Neotropical Companion, also by Princeton University Press.
This lavishly illustrated 432-page volume with its high-quality color photos of birds, plants, and other Neotropical organisms and their habitats is a book for anyone who aspires to travel in the Neotropics, who has ever been fortunate to do so, or who may never have the opportunity but wants a wonderful primer and reference to this most extraordinary biological realm. With hundreds of beautifully organized examples, often enhanced by Kricher's ever-colorful language, the book is at once a useful reference and a bedside read. For anyone contemplating a trip to Latin America with all that it has to offer, don't go without either reading it first, or taking it with you. Its size is its only shortcoming, in that it's really not designed to be taken into the field, but should nonetheless have a place in your luggage.
John Kricher's newest book can only be described as an outstanding contribution to our knowledge of tropical ecology.
IBA NEWS: JBWR WEST POND
In April 2014, we wrote about the fate of the West Pond at the famous Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge in New York City. This is a well-known and popular Important Bird Area (IBA). Unfortunately, the pond was destroyed by Hurricane Sandy in October 2012, and for several years it had not been repaired. The land-barrier between the freshwater West Pond and the salt of the surrounding bay had actually been breached by the storm:
Gradually through the years since the storm many regional National Wildlife Refuges and their impoundments impacted by Sandy were repaired and restored. But Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge was an exception. Its administration is curiously under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service and not under the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which manages the "regular" National Wildlife Refuges.
In April of last year, we wrote about the progress in restoring the West Pond:
Now, after four and a half years, the breach on the West Pond is repaired. The final renovations are being made and the associated loop trail is almost ready to open. Many organizations were involved in the push for final restoration, especially New York City Audubon (NYCA) and like-minded organizations, birding groups, and environmental advocates from Long Island, Queens, and Brooklyn. The concern for this famous locality even had national appeal, resulting in a petition with over 7,500 signatures and personal comments from people who had visited Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge. There was even political support from encouraging quarters, including Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) who went on record to support the pond restoration, and also from Canadian poet, novelist, literary critic, essayist, and environmental activist Margaret Atwood, who voiced her support.
All this support helped to back the efforts of National Parks Superintendent Jen Neresian and her staff to secure the essential funding to make the restoration happen. The final repair will once again allow for the West Pond to be a critical freshwater source and accommodate visitors wishing to experience this unique IBA.
You can find more details here:
For additional information about worldwide IBA programs, including those in the U.S., check the National Audubon Society's Important Bird Area program web site at:
MESOAMERICAN/PIF JOINT MEETING IN THE WORKS
The 21st Congress of the Mesoamerican Society of Biology and Conservation (SMBC) and the 6th International Meeting of Partners in Flight (PIF) is planned for San Jose, Costa Rica 30 October - 03 November 2017 at the Hotel Crowne Plaza Corobicí.
The theme is "Conservation of biodiversity in the hands of Mesoamerican women." Proposals for workshops and symposia are due 19 May. Abstracts for oral presentations or posters are due 31 May; early registration ends 31 July.
See the SMBC website for more info:
(There should be an English-version up shortly, but if you need immediate information, contact Greg Butcher: firstname.lastname@example.org
ANOTHER CUBA CONNECTION
And finally, here's another inter-American Neotropical conference coming up, this one in July. It is the biennial meeting of BirdsCaribbean which will take place 13-17 July, at Topes de Collantes Nature Reserve Park, Cuba. The usual participants at this meeting are involved in ornithology, conservation, education, and birding from across the Caribbean, as well as their colleagues from beyond the Caribbean. This meeting in particular will be another way to improve dialogue with our Cuban counterparts. You can review the BirdsCaribbean website for details: