Date   
Ferry / Sue Bierman Park - Chestnut-Sided Warbler continues

Jack Hayden
 

The park is more birdy than last week, with a continuing Chestnut-sided Warbler and a new arrival Willow Flycatcher.

Jack Hayden
Albany

Re: Cal. Thrasher & Green-tailed Towhee @ Fort Funston (north), 9/21/19

C Lou
 

This morning, the California Thrasher continues in the same spot as Paul described. No gt towhee.

Calvin Lou
SF



Sent from my Verizon, Samsung Galaxy smartphone

-------- Original message --------
From: Paul Saraceni <paulsaraceni@...>
Date: 9/21/19 9:53 PM (GMT-08:00)
To: sfbirds@groups.io
Subject: [SFBirds] Cal. Thrasher & Green-tailed Towhee @ Fort Funston (north), 9/21/19

This morning I birded the norther portion of Ft. Funston (7:00-10:50), beginning at the parking area @ the intersection of Skyline/JFK, and then walking 2 counterclockwise loops, including various cypress groves, the Skyline Grove, dunes atop the bluff, and a brief seawatch from the bluff. Conditions were sunny, low 70s, light NE wind.


Along with small numbers of expected western migrants, I had 2 unexpected observations.


I found a CALIFORNIA THRASHER as it actively fed on the ground in a copse on the west side of the first battery (graffiti-covered) along the paved road up the hill.  To find this location, immediately after passing that battery (on the left as one walks up the hill), turn left on the wide sandy path into an open area and then turn left again. The Thrasher was first observed as it fed in a dirt clearing under some low hanging bushes near there. I re-located it 2 hours later approx. 25 yards further west on the other side of the next group of cypresses, and observed it calling as it perched and preened within a low shrub.


Further west from the Thrasher location described above, I located a GREEN-TAILED TOWHEE in a sunny, brushy patch that includes many "monkey pod" plants with brown, hanging seedpods.  The Towhee popped-up into a sapling, providing a prolonged, perched view before it flew down to the ground and then out of view. I re-located about an hour later in the same area, when it was heard making a light "mewing" call from within the brush before emerging. It was a brightly-marked individual, including bright greenish-yellow edging on its wings, a bushy rufous crown, and well-marked white throat with black malars -- presumably an adult.


Photos of the Thrasher and Towhee can be found at the following report link:

https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S59994444


The migrants around included 6 Red-breasted Nuthatches and singles of W. Wood-Pewee, Say's Phoebe, House Wren, Marsh Wren (in dune scrub atop the bluff away from water), Yel.-rumped Warbler, Savannah Sparrow, and Lincoln's Sparrow.  A brief seawatch from the bluff produced at least 5 Parasitic Jaegers (including a dark-morph) and a flyover ad. Herring Gull.


Later in the morning some skywatching from Battery Godfrey produced 2 Cliff Swallows flying N together and 3 Caspian Terns.


Paul Saraceni

San Francisco

Cal. Thrasher & Green-tailed Towhee @ Fort Funston (north), 9/21/19

Paul Saraceni
 

This morning I birded the norther portion of Ft. Funston (7:00-10:50), beginning at the parking area @ the intersection of Skyline/JFK, and then walking 2 counterclockwise loops, including various cypress groves, the Skyline Grove, dunes atop the bluff, and a brief seawatch from the bluff. Conditions were sunny, low 70s, light NE wind.


Along with small numbers of expected western migrants, I had 2 unexpected observations.


I found a CALIFORNIA THRASHER as it actively fed on the ground in a copse on the west side of the first battery (graffiti-covered) along the paved road up the hill.  To find this location, immediately after passing that battery (on the left as one walks up the hill), turn left on the wide sandy path into an open area and then turn left again. The Thrasher was first observed as it fed in a dirt clearing under some low hanging bushes near there. I re-located it 2 hours later approx. 25 yards further west on the other side of the next group of cypresses, and observed it calling as it perched and preened within a low shrub.


Further west from the Thrasher location described above, I located a GREEN-TAILED TOWHEE in a sunny, brushy patch that includes many "monkey pod" plants with brown, hanging seedpods.  The Towhee popped-up into a sapling, providing a prolonged, perched view before it flew down to the ground and then out of view. I re-located about an hour later in the same area, when it was heard making a light "mewing" call from within the brush before emerging. It was a brightly-marked individual, including bright greenish-yellow edging on its wings, a bushy rufous crown, and well-marked white throat with black malars -- presumably an adult.


Photos of the Thrasher and Towhee can be found at the following report link:

https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S59994444


The migrants around included 6 Red-breasted Nuthatches and singles of W. Wood-Pewee, Say's Phoebe, House Wren, Marsh Wren (in dune scrub atop the bluff away from water), Yel.-rumped Warbler, Savannah Sparrow, and Lincoln's Sparrow.  A brief seawatch from the bluff produced at least 5 Parasitic Jaegers (including a dark-morph) and a flyover ad. Herring Gull.


Later in the morning some skywatching from Battery Godfrey produced 2 Cliff Swallows flying N together and 3 Caspian Terns.


Paul Saraceni

San Francisco

Indigo Bunting, Mt. Davidson 9/21

Adam Winer
 

This morning, Mount Davidson was a much quieter place than it had been in previous days.

There were still lots of House Wrens and Red-breasted Nuthatches around, and a few Warbling Vireos, but just one or two Western Tanagers and the usual warblers.  But an INDIGO BUNTING (female/immature plumage) feeding low in vegetation between the summit and the plateau to the north was a very pleasant surprise.  It was only seen for about 20 seconds before it flew lower and further back in the forested side of the mountain, and I could not refind it.

Also seen were one Say's Phoebe (FOS) and a briefly seen Spizella which seemed a Chipping Sparrow. 

-- Adam Winer

Blackburnian Warbler - Strawberry Hill

Brian Turner
 

f/imm. seen at top of waterfall at about 10am in a cypress on the trail leading up to top of hill. 

Good birding, Brian

Blackpooll Warbler- Lake Merced

C Lou
 

While birding south end of Lake Merced with Robert Hall, we had a Blackpoll Warbler in the grove of trees on the east side of "Concrete Bridge" by the parking lot. By the penguin statue. This was in the morning. A later search in the afternoon failed to find it.

Calvin Lou
SF





Sent from my Verizon, Samsung Galaxy smartphone

Orchard Oriole and other sightings at Fort Mason

David Assmann
 

An ORCHARD ORIOLE in the Battery was the best bird of the morning at Fort Mason.  Expected western migrants included 3 PACIFIC SLOPE FLYCATCHERS, an OLIVE-SIDED FLYCATCHER, a HERMIT THRUSH, a SWAINSON'S THRUSH, 2 WARBLING VIREOS, a CHIPPING SPARROW, a SAVANNAH SPARROW, a WESTERN MEADOWLARK, 2 HOODED ORIOLES, an ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER, a COMMON YELLOWTHROAT, 14 YELLOW WARBLERS, 4 YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLERS, a BLACK-THROATED GRAY WARBLER, 6 TOWNSEND'S WARBLERS, 25 WESTERN TANAGERS, a BLACK-HEADED GROSBEAK and a LAZULI BUNTING. The WANDERING TATTLER was on the pier in Aquatic Park at high tide.

Strawberry Hill and East GGP on Friday Morning

Ken Moy
 

Belated report for Friday 9/20 @ 7:30-8:15am several groups of 3-5 yellow rumped warblers (both Myrtle and Audubon's) arrived in 4 pines at the top of Strawberry Hil upslope from the pavillion. They weremixing with the growing mixed flock of yellow and townsend's warblers and warbling vireos. At the part of Bowling Green Drive between the Aids Grove and Lily Pond there were over 8 Western Tanagers and 10-12 Cedar Waxwings (also spotted the day before  thanks to Bob Cullison). Out again today in a bid for rarities.

Round up-SF sightings

H Cotter
 

All,
A number of birders will be birding across SF today doing the annual rare bird round up.
Any interesting sightings would be appreciated- anyone at Hawk Hill etc.

Hugh

Re: Clay Colored Sparrows, Nashville Warbler, Blackpoll Warbler, Chestnut-Sided Warbler

Oscar Moss
 

Hi David,

Looks like a really fun day. The photo you posted from Ft Mason on your eBird list labeled “Clay-colored Sparrow” actually looks like a Chipping Sparrow to my eye. The malar looks quite dark, the auricular is dark, and it looks like this bird has dark lores from what I can tell, all of which is better for Chipping Sparrow. Unfortunately, the photo quality is quite poor. Awesome finds otherwise!

Thanks,
Oscar

On Sep 20, 2019, at 7:38 PM, David Assmann via Groups.Io <david_assmann@...> wrote:

Started the morning at Crissy Field just before dawn, and had a CLAY COLORED SPARROW in with WHITE-CROWNED SPARROWS on the field. At Fort Mason, one of the first birds I saw was also a CLAY-COLORED SPARROW, on the lawn in front of the garden. Lots of migrants on the move. While I was taking pictures, Juan Garcia had a BLACKPOLL WARBLER in the Eucalyptus trees. More WESTERN TANAGERS than I've seen on any one day (30+), at least 18 YELLOW WARBLERS, 3 WARBLING VIREOS, 1 BLACK-HEADED GROSBEAK, 3 PACIFIC-SLOPE (WESTERN) FLYCATCHERS, and a continuing NASHVILLE WARBLER. Later I was able to see the CHESTNUT-SIDED WARBLER that Jack Hayden found in Sue Bierman Park.

<P1230358.JPG><Warbling Vireo _1_.JPG>

Clay Colored Sparrows, Nashville Warbler, Blackpoll Warbler, Chestnut-Sided Warbler

David Assmann
 

Started the morning at Crissy Field just before dawn, and had a CLAY COLORED SPARROW in with WHITE-CROWNED SPARROWS on the field. At Fort Mason, one of the first birds I saw was also a CLAY-COLORED SPARROW, on the lawn in front of the garden. Lots of migrants on the move. While I was taking pictures, Juan Garcia had a BLACKPOLL WARBLER in the Eucalyptus trees. More WESTERN TANAGERS than I've seen on any one day (30+), at least 18 YELLOW WARBLERS, 3 WARBLING VIREOS, 1 BLACK-HEADED GROSBEAK, 3 PACIFIC-SLOPE (WESTERN) FLYCATCHERS, and a continuing NASHVILLE WARBLER. Later I was able to see the CHESTNUT-SIDED WARBLER that Jack Hayden found in Sue Bierman Park.

Fall Migrants at Corona Heights Today

Sarah Burton
 

It was birdy at Corona Heights this morning. Our monthly Audubon walk had a total of 14 participants. Thank you to all who attended – hat tip to Dominik and Erica for their contributions. Highlights below:

Early in the parking lot, an exciting 30 minute show: One of each 
  • Red-tailed Hawk 
  • Red-shouldered Hawk 
  • Cooper's Hawk
  • American Kestrel
competed with each other in pursuit of Red-masked Parakeet, House Finch, and Mourning Dove flocks all while our stalwart hummingbirds did their best mobbing. 

Migrants and newly arrived:
  • Western Tanager - flock of approximately 18 departed Flint St. tennis courts at 10:13a
  • Cedar Waxwing - flock of approx. 6 flyover, heading SW at 8:28a
  • Yellow Warbler - flock of approx. 7 flyover, heading S 9:02a
  • Yellow-rumped Warbler (Audubon's) - FOS, 1 in poison oak against northside hill 
  • Townsend's Warbler - FOS, 2 on grounds of museum entrance
  • Western Flycatcher, Willow Flycatcher, House Wren - FOS, respectively 2, 1, 2 (bench)
  • Warbling Vireo, Hutton's Vireo - FOS, respectively 3 and 1 ("Johnny One Note")
  • Fox Sparrow (Sooty) - FOS, 5-6 atop north side of hill
  • Hermit Thrush - FOS, 1, vocalizing below deck
  • Golden-crowned Sparrow - FOS, 2-3 foraging at base of west hillside, dog run
  • Ruby-crowned Kinglet - FOS, 1 vocalizing in oak below deck 10:18a
  • Red-breasted Nuthatch - FOS, 1 vocalizing in parking lot conifers, erupting 
Birds are on the move. This morning at Corona Heights was birdy but fall migration has not yet peaked, either in terms of abundance or variety – has not yet reached peak so get out there. Stay safe, though. Unfortunately, I found my bike stolen from the parking lot rack at the end of the walk today. A disappointment to be sure, but also an opportunity to get a new pair of wings.

Bird on, 
Sarah

Pelagic trip reports - The Black Storm-Petrels are IN.

Alvaro Jaramillo
 

Hi folks,

    We had pelagics last Thursday the 12th, Saturday and Sunday (14,15), out of Half Moon Bay. We visited parts of SF and San Mateo counties offshore and overall a great diversity was out there, and some fantastic views of some species (South Polar Skua, Arctic Tern, Buller’s Shearwater etc.). The Black Storm-Petrels arrived! They were absent on the 12th and on Friday they must have come in as we saw many on Saturday and Sunday. On Sunday they outnumbered the Ashy Storm-Petrels. One Wilson’s was seen on Sunday; no Fork-tails on any of the trips recently.

   Seabirds seen on all three trips included: both species of phalarope, all three jaegers, Common Murre, Rhinoceros Auklet, Sabine’s Gull, Arctic Tern, Black-footed Albatross, Ashy Storm-Petrel, Pink-footed, Buller’s and Sooty shearwaters. The numbers of Arctic Terns continue to be high, over 40 seen on Thursday with many close up views. As expected that day was also the best for Sabine’s Gulls and Long-tailed Jaeger, these species associate. Pomarine Jaeger numbers seem to have increased by the Sat/Sun trips. Note that very few juvenile Sabine’s Gulls have been around, that pattern continues.

   Cassin’s Auklets are uncommon here this year, the numbers appear to be up north in Bodega from our experience thus far. Two Tufted Puffins showed up on Thursday, one on Sunday, as you would expect these adults were molting out of the bright breeding plumage. South Polar Skuas put on a show on Saturday and Sunday, a close fly by over the bow on Saturday and then two different ones on Sunday. One of them lingered and made a great many passes as it fed and harassed gulls nearby. Wow! This bird was a juvenile based on its late molt timing. Some of the best views we have had at Marbled Murrelet this season happened on Saturday, they have now molted out into gorgeous black and white non-breeding plumage. One Northern Fulmar on Saturday was distant, there have been very few over-summering fulmars this season and the arriving birds from the north should be showing up real soon.

   Migrants included flocks of Northern Pintail on Thursday and Sunday, the latter date with some Green-winged Teal mixed in. On Sunday a breeding plumaged Red-necked Grebe was seen by those on the stern of the boat. A small flock of Red Knot went by offshore on Thursday, our second flock of knots this season. This species is usually rare on the San Mateo coast.

    We expect that now that we have crossed the mid-September mark, and fall migrants have started to show up on land that new birds are going to be out there offshore. Water temperatures offshore are still high so my expectation is that numbers of Black Storm-Petrel will continue out of Half Moon Bay. Perhaps the number of Buller’s Shearwaters will begin to increase now as well, and we will be on the lookout for arriving Short-tailed and Flesh-footed shearwaters. We hope we can find another Laysan Albatross this weekend out of Half Moon Bay. We shall see.

    Lots of marine mammals are out there, Humpback Whales on all of our trips, Blue Whales on one date. We also found dolphins on Thursday and Sunday, with three species – Pacific White-sided, Northern Right Whale, and Common Dolphins that looked to be short-beaked. An amazing find was another Leatherback Sea Turtle on Sunday which gave amazing views! On Thursday one that got away was a possible Guadalupe Fur Seal that Steve Howell and I saw, it was gone before we could confirm but the face looked right. Lots of sharks out there, Blue as well as at least some that might have been Short-fin Mako. We are working on the ID, and clarifying the confusion of multiple sharks being seen on different trips as well as the difficulty of getting good photos of them. Shark ID – the final frontier.

    We are heading out tomorrow, and it is not too late to sign up, contact me or head to the website. Weather conditions are predicted to be nice for tomorrow!  

http://alvarosadventures.com/boat-trips/pelagics/

good birding,

 

Alvaro Jaramillo

alvaro@...

www.alvarosadventures.com

 


Virus-free. www.avg.com

Mount Davidson this week

Adam Winer
 

I've gotten up Mount Davidson a few times this week, and found it generally busy and active with common western migrants, albeit without any rarities.  

Some of the more interesting birds have included:
- Hermit Warbler - one on Tuesday
- Black-throated Gray Warbler - two on Friday
- Yellow-rumped (Audubon's) Warbler - one on Thursday
- Osprey - one flyover headed southeast on Friday
- Ruby-crowned Kinglet - a first for the fall Friday
- Swainson's Thrush - one on Tuesday

Western Tanagers have been abundant - at least 20 today, likely more.  Seemed to be groups of 4 or 5 everywhere I looked.  Red-breasted Nuthatches have been easily detected - there's clearly a few on the mountain, and Dominik Mosur reported seeing groups of 4.  There's also at least three House Wrens.

Among the more regular birds, Fox and Golden-crowned Sparrows have decidedly arrived, with some early in the week and many now.  Hermit Thrushes have arrived too, with two seen today.  Pine Siskins have also been around, with a group of ~4 seen today.

Cheers,
Adam Winer



Crissy Clayc

Jonah Benningfield
 

Clay-colored Sparrow at the northeast corner of “The Great Lawn of Crissy”. In the grass, with the White-crowneds, in the grass...

all the best,
Jonah B.

THREAD CLOSEDRe: [SFBirds] Fw: News Alert: North America has lost 29% of its birds since 1970, study finds. Experts blame habitat loss, pesticides, light pollution and cats.

Dominik Mosur
 

Hi Bill et al.,

While such things are appreciated in appropriate venues, SFBIRDS is for the dissemination of bird sightings and related information specifically in the City and county of San Francisco.

Thank you.

Dominik Mosur
List moderator 


On Sep 19, 2019, at 11:09, William Grant <wbgrant@...> wrote:



-----Forwarded Message-----
From: The Washington Post
Sent: Sep 19, 2019 11:05 AM
To: wbgrant@...
Subject: News Alert: North America has lost 29% of its birds since 1970, study finds. Experts blame habitat loss, pesticides, light pollution and cats.

A massive study of bird populations, using decades of survey data as well as weather radar readings of migratory flocks, shows the United States and Canada have lost 3 billion birds in the past 50 years. The declines have hit sparrows, finches, warblers, thrushes, swallows and many other familiar groups.
 
Democracy Dies in Darkness
 
 
News Alert Sep 19, 2:01 PM
 
 
North America has lost 29% of its birds since 1970, study finds. Experts blame habitat loss, pesticides, light pollution and cats.

A massive study of bird populations, using decades of survey data as well as weather radar readings of migratory flocks, shows the United States and Canada have lost 3 billion birds in the past 50 years. The declines have hit sparrows, finches, warblers, thrushes, swallows and many other familiar groups.

North America has lost 3 billion birds in 50 years

Add to list
North America has lost nearly 30 percent of its bird population in the last 50 years
The continent has lost nearly 3 billion birds representing hundreds of species over the past five decades. (Video: Luis Velarde/Photo: Jay McGowan, Macaulay Library at Cornell Lab of Ornithology/The Washington Post)
September 19, 2019 at 11:00 a.m. PDT

Slowly, steadily and almost imperceptibly, North America’s bird population is dwindling.

The sparrows and finches that visit backyard feeders number fewer each year. The flutelike song of the western meadowlark — the official bird of six U.S. states — is growing more rare. The continent has lost nearly 3 billion birds representing hundreds of species over the past five decades, in an enormous loss that signals an “overlooked biodiversity crisis,” according to a study from top ornithologists and government agencies.

This is not an extinction crisis — yet. It is a more insidious decline in abundance as humans dramatically alter the landscape: There are 29 percent fewer birds in the United States and Canada today than in 1970, the study concludes. Grassland species have been hardest hit, probably because of agricultural intensification that has engulfed habitats and spread pesticides that kill the insects many birds eat. But the victims include warblers, thrushes, swallows and other familiar birds.

“That’s really what was so staggering about this,” said lead author Ken Rosenberg, a senior scientist at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and American Bird Conservancy. “The generalist, adaptable, so-called common species were not compensating for the losses, and in fact they were experiencing losses themselves. This major loss was pervasive across all the bird groups.”

The study’s authors, who include scientists from Canada’s environment agency and the U.S. Geological Survey, were able to put a number on the decline because birds are probably the best-monitored animals on Earth. Decades of standardized, on-the-ground tallies carried out by ordinary bird enthusiasts — including the annual North American Breeding Bird Survey and the Christmas Bird Count — provided a wealth of data that the researchers compiled and compared.

They then cross-referenced that with data from a very different, nonhuman source: 143 weather radars that are designed to detect rain but also capture “biomass” flying through the skies, as hundreds of migratory bird species do every fall and spring. Birds look “sort of like big blobs” in radar imagery, said co-author Adriaan Dokter, a migration ecologist at the Cornell Lab. Measurements of the blobs’ size and movements showed that the volume of spring migration dropped 14 percent in the past decade, according to the study, published Thursday in Science.

Earlier research has documented several threats that could be responsible for the large-scale bird decline. Agriculture and habitat loss are thought to be the primary drivers, with other factors such as light pollution (which disorients birds), buildings (which they crash into) and roaming cats (which kill them) amounting to “death by a thousand cuts,” Rosenberg said.

Birds, because they are so well-monitored, should be viewed as canaries in coal mines, the authors argue — harbingers of a wider environmental malaise at a time when other creatures, including insects, are also thought to be fading but are more challenging to count.

“Studies like this do suggest the potential of a systems collapse,” said Richard Gregory, head of monitoring conservation science at the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and a professor at University College London. “These birds are an indicator of ecosystem health. And that, ultimately, may be linked to the productivity and sustainability of agricultural systems.”

Gregory, who was not involved in the study, called its scale “impressive” and said the “picture of decline and general methodology is compelling and first-rate.”

The study is the largest effort yet to document a bird decline that has been detected in previous studies in Europe and elsewhere. In 2014, Gregory and colleagues reported a loss of 421 million birds in Europe over 30 years. Scientists in Germany reported this month that Lake Constance, at the border of Germany and Switzerland, had lost 25 percent of its birds in three decades.

D.C. birdwatching enthusiasts use the eBird smartphone app to add their spring sightings to a national database.  (Bill OLeary/The Washington Post)
D.C. birdwatching enthusiasts use the eBird smartphone app to add their spring sightings to a national database. (Bill OLeary/The Washington Post)

A recent United Nations report warned that 1 million animal and plant species are at risk of extinction as people log, farm and mine the natural world and as the climate warms. But in the case of most dwindling bird species, the problem is not that they are in immediate danger of vanishing.

Instead, the authors say, bird populations are shrinking at rates we do not see, and so do not act upon. Conservationists refer to this as “shrinking baseline syndrome,” and it can have devastating effects: Passenger pigeons were once so abundant that their massive flocks darkened U.S. skies. They were driven to extinction in just a few decades.

“Birds are not dropping out of the sky,” said Cagan Sekercioglu, a University of Utah ornithologist who was not involved in the new report, which he described as a “landmark” study. “When you are young, that’s your baseline. The problem is, the next generation, their baseline is lower. But they don’t know what they’re missing.”

Losing birds is not just about no longer seeing their vast array of shapes and hues or hearing their dizzying repertoires of songs and sounds. They provide essential “services” to ecosystems, the study said.

Some are “seed dispersers” — they eat seeds from tree fruits and then spread them across wide areas through defecation, helping create new trees; when they’re not around, “seed predators,” such as rodents, consume seeds from fallen fruits but crack them open, rendering them unable to grow, said Sekercioglu, who has studied birds’ roles in ecosystems. He cited studies finding that birds save conifer farms in the Pacific Northwest many hundreds of dollars per hectare by eating harmful insects and help Jamaican coffee farmers reduce the use of pesticides.

Some birds are pollinators. Some are predators, and some are prey.

“They’re integral to the system. It’s like a very large corporation in a marketplace — they’re diversified across all areas,” said co-author Mike Parr, president of the American Bird Conservancy. “If that corporation starts to have problems, then it starts showing up everywhere.”

Ducks, which are among the birds whose populations are increasing, float near Theodore Roosevelt Island during the Christmas Bird Count. 


 (Carolyn Van Houten/The Washington Post)
Ducks, which are among the birds whose populations are increasing, float near Theodore Roosevelt Island during the Christmas Bird Count. (Carolyn Van Houten/The Washington Post)

The study notes some bright spots. On the rise are wetland birds such as ducks and geese, which have benefited from conservation efforts by hunting groups. Also increasing are raptors such as bald eagles, which were close to extinction before the prohibition of the insecticide DDT. Endangered species protections helped them rebound, and they remain protected under other federal laws.

Those examples show that conservation policies and protections can work, the authors say. But sparrows and meadowlarks may be trickier: There’s no hunting constituency to rally behind them, and their numbers aren’t low enough to warrant federal protection.

Still, Rosenberg said, these birds can be helped. Sustainable agricultural practices that depend less on pesticides and programs that offer farmers incentives to set aside land for wildlife should expand, he said.

“We’re seeing this steady intensification of agriculture and pastureland being converted to pure corn … squeezing out every last bit of that habitat, getting rid of hedgerows, trees, grassy margins where these birds used to thrive,” Rosenberg said. “But we know of lots of examples where sustainable agriculture systems can produce the food we need.”

Parr said more conservation funding should be directed to the Central and South American nations where many of North America’s birds spend most of their lives, in cooler months. Ordinary people can aid birds by keeping cats indoors, turning off outdoor lights during spring and fall migrations, and reducing the use of pesticides.

“If you’ve got this rapid decline in 50 years, what’s it going to be in 1,000 years? We need to design a planet for the future, and we’re not doing that,” Parr said. “I really hope this can be a wake-up call.”

Fw: News Alert: North America has lost 29% of its birds since 1970, study finds. Experts blame habitat loss, pesticides, light pollution and cats.

William Grant
 



-----Forwarded Message-----
From: The Washington Post
Sent: Sep 19, 2019 11:05 AM
To: wbgrant@...
Subject: News Alert: North America has lost 29% of its birds since 1970, study finds. Experts blame habitat loss, pesticides, light pollution and cats.

A massive study of bird populations, using decades of survey data as well as weather radar readings of migratory flocks, shows the United States and Canada have lost 3 billion birds in the past 50 years. The declines have hit sparrows, finches, warblers, thrushes, swallows and many other familiar groups.
 
Democracy Dies in Darkness
 
 
News Alert Sep 19, 2:01 PM
 
 
North America has lost 29% of its birds since 1970, study finds. Experts blame habitat loss, pesticides, light pollution and cats.

A massive study of bird populations, using decades of survey data as well as weather radar readings of migratory flocks, shows the United States and Canada have lost 3 billion birds in the past 50 years. The declines have hit sparrows, finches, warblers, thrushes, swallows and many other familiar groups.

North America has lost 3 billion birds in 50 years

Add to list
North America has lost nearly 30 percent of its bird population in the last 50 years
The continent has lost nearly 3 billion birds representing hundreds of species over the past five decades. (Video: Luis Velarde/Photo: Jay McGowan, Macaulay Library at Cornell Lab of Ornithology/The Washington Post)
September 19, 2019 at 11:00 a.m. PDT

Slowly, steadily and almost imperceptibly, North America’s bird population is dwindling.

The sparrows and finches that visit backyard feeders number fewer each year. The flutelike song of the western meadowlark — the official bird of six U.S. states — is growing more rare. The continent has lost nearly 3 billion birds representing hundreds of species over the past five decades, in an enormous loss that signals an “overlooked biodiversity crisis,” according to a study from top ornithologists and government agencies.

This is not an extinction crisis — yet. It is a more insidious decline in abundance as humans dramatically alter the landscape: There are 29 percent fewer birds in the United States and Canada today than in 1970, the study concludes. Grassland species have been hardest hit, probably because of agricultural intensification that has engulfed habitats and spread pesticides that kill the insects many birds eat. But the victims include warblers, thrushes, swallows and other familiar birds.

“That’s really what was so staggering about this,” said lead author Ken Rosenberg, a senior scientist at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and American Bird Conservancy. “The generalist, adaptable, so-called common species were not compensating for the losses, and in fact they were experiencing losses themselves. This major loss was pervasive across all the bird groups.”

The study’s authors, who include scientists from Canada’s environment agency and the U.S. Geological Survey, were able to put a number on the decline because birds are probably the best-monitored animals on Earth. Decades of standardized, on-the-ground tallies carried out by ordinary bird enthusiasts — including the annual North American Breeding Bird Survey and the Christmas Bird Count — provided a wealth of data that the researchers compiled and compared.

They then cross-referenced that with data from a very different, nonhuman source: 143 weather radars that are designed to detect rain but also capture “biomass” flying through the skies, as hundreds of migratory bird species do every fall and spring. Birds look “sort of like big blobs” in radar imagery, said co-author Adriaan Dokter, a migration ecologist at the Cornell Lab. Measurements of the blobs’ size and movements showed that the volume of spring migration dropped 14 percent in the past decade, according to the study, published Thursday in Science.

Earlier research has documented several threats that could be responsible for the large-scale bird decline. Agriculture and habitat loss are thought to be the primary drivers, with other factors such as light pollution (which disorients birds), buildings (which they crash into) and roaming cats (which kill them) amounting to “death by a thousand cuts,” Rosenberg said.

Birds, because they are so well-monitored, should be viewed as canaries in coal mines, the authors argue — harbingers of a wider environmental malaise at a time when other creatures, including insects, are also thought to be fading but are more challenging to count.

“Studies like this do suggest the potential of a systems collapse,” said Richard Gregory, head of monitoring conservation science at the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and a professor at University College London. “These birds are an indicator of ecosystem health. And that, ultimately, may be linked to the productivity and sustainability of agricultural systems.”

Gregory, who was not involved in the study, called its scale “impressive” and said the “picture of decline and general methodology is compelling and first-rate.”

The study is the largest effort yet to document a bird decline that has been detected in previous studies in Europe and elsewhere. In 2014, Gregory and colleagues reported a loss of 421 million birds in Europe over 30 years. Scientists in Germany reported this month that Lake Constance, at the border of Germany and Switzerland, had lost 25 percent of its birds in three decades.

D.C. birdwatching enthusiasts use the eBird smartphone app to add their spring sightings to a national database.  (Bill OLeary/The Washington Post)
D.C. birdwatching enthusiasts use the eBird smartphone app to add their spring sightings to a national database. (Bill OLeary/The Washington Post)

A recent United Nations report warned that 1 million animal and plant species are at risk of extinction as people log, farm and mine the natural world and as the climate warms. But in the case of most dwindling bird species, the problem is not that they are in immediate danger of vanishing.

Instead, the authors say, bird populations are shrinking at rates we do not see, and so do not act upon. Conservationists refer to this as “shrinking baseline syndrome,” and it can have devastating effects: Passenger pigeons were once so abundant that their massive flocks darkened U.S. skies. They were driven to extinction in just a few decades.

“Birds are not dropping out of the sky,” said Cagan Sekercioglu, a University of Utah ornithologist who was not involved in the new report, which he described as a “landmark” study. “When you are young, that’s your baseline. The problem is, the next generation, their baseline is lower. But they don’t know what they’re missing.”

Losing birds is not just about no longer seeing their vast array of shapes and hues or hearing their dizzying repertoires of songs and sounds. They provide essential “services” to ecosystems, the study said.

Some are “seed dispersers” — they eat seeds from tree fruits and then spread them across wide areas through defecation, helping create new trees; when they’re not around, “seed predators,” such as rodents, consume seeds from fallen fruits but crack them open, rendering them unable to grow, said Sekercioglu, who has studied birds’ roles in ecosystems. He cited studies finding that birds save conifer farms in the Pacific Northwest many hundreds of dollars per hectare by eating harmful insects and help Jamaican coffee farmers reduce the use of pesticides.

Some birds are pollinators. Some are predators, and some are prey.

“They’re integral to the system. It’s like a very large corporation in a marketplace — they’re diversified across all areas,” said co-author Mike Parr, president of the American Bird Conservancy. “If that corporation starts to have problems, then it starts showing up everywhere.”

Ducks, which are among the birds whose populations are increasing, float near Theodore Roosevelt Island during the Christmas Bird Count. 


 (Carolyn Van Houten/The Washington Post)
Ducks, which are among the birds whose populations are increasing, float near Theodore Roosevelt Island during the Christmas Bird Count. (Carolyn Van Houten/The Washington Post)

The study notes some bright spots. On the rise are wetland birds such as ducks and geese, which have benefited from conservation efforts by hunting groups. Also increasing are raptors such as bald eagles, which were close to extinction before the prohibition of the insecticide DDT. Endangered species protections helped them rebound, and they remain protected under other federal laws.

Those examples show that conservation policies and protections can work, the authors say. But sparrows and meadowlarks may be trickier: There’s no hunting constituency to rally behind them, and their numbers aren’t low enough to warrant federal protection.

Still, Rosenberg said, these birds can be helped. Sustainable agricultural practices that depend less on pesticides and programs that offer farmers incentives to set aside land for wildlife should expand, he said.

“We’re seeing this steady intensification of agriculture and pastureland being converted to pure corn … squeezing out every last bit of that habitat, getting rid of hedgerows, trees, grassy margins where these birds used to thrive,” Rosenberg said. “But we know of lots of examples where sustainable agriculture systems can produce the food we need.”

Parr said more conservation funding should be directed to the Central and South American nations where many of North America’s birds spend most of their lives, in cooler months. Ordinary people can aid birds by keeping cats indoors, turning off outdoor lights during spring and fall migrations, and reducing the use of pesticides.

“If you’ve got this rapid decline in 50 years, what’s it going to be in 1,000 years? We need to design a planet for the future, and we’re not doing that,” Parr said. “I really hope this can be a wake-up call.”

Blackpoll Warbler at Fort Mason

David Assmann
 

A BLACKPOLL WARBLER was in the Battery this morning. A NASHVILLE WARBLER continues in the Garden. Otherwise lots of expected western migrants moving through.

Ferry / Sue Bierman Park - Chestnut-Sided Warbler

Jack Hayden
 

My first eastern warbler for the park this fall was a lovely-looking Chestnut-Sided Warbler feeding in the western section of the park. A Wilson's and Townsend's and a couple high-foraging unidentified warblers were also present, as was a Western Gull with a droopy wing. Wasn't there a droopy winged Western here in previous years?

Jack Hayden
Albany, CA

Re: A grunting finch? - How about a Lark Bunting!

Richard Bradus
 

Well...

Thanks to Josiah and Dominik, who both suggested Bobolink. Having only seen a few, it's possible that this was an unusual example, but I did not think of it during observation as it did not have the rich buffy tones typical of that species, nor the usually obvious buffy supercilium. It also was more heavily streaked, and the bill was more triangular and stout (finch-like, not meadowlark/blackbird-like).

So I went exploring references a bit more. While Bobolinks make a bunch of calls, they all tend to fit into what I'm familiar with from Blackbirds and such, including the harsh "chet", and none that I encountered was a deep (low pitched) or guttural as what I heard yesterday. Taking another dive into the guidebooks and online, the only bird that seems to match what I saw and heard is a female/immature Lark Bunting. Unfortunately, I did not look closely or get a good look at the wings (it wasn't on my radar as a possibility, obviously) so I can't say with confidence that it showed (or didn't show) the characteristic white edging of the greater coverts. But the sound is important here as well, and the beginning low notes of the Lark Bunting song (as on multiple online recordings) are the best match to the low "wonk" or "wank" that I heard. It did not make any buzz calls or burst into melody, unfortunately.

So, Lark Bunting. Understanding the rarity of such a sighting, that's my best determination for this unusual visitor. With the cloudy conditions overnight, it's possible that it may still be around. 

Good luck!

Richard Bradus
San Francisco

On Tuesday, September 17, 2019, 5:16:59 PM PDT, Richard Bradus via Groups.Io <grizzledjay@...> wrote:


Hi all

I spent a bit of time around noon enjoying this lovely day at the East Wash, where I saw multiple FOF for me (including Fox Sparrow, Hermit Thrush and Flicker) but was also completely stumped by a bird making a call like none other I've heard.

I first heard it deep in the fennel/reeds on the upper west slope of the wash along the paved path next to the golf course - a kind of deep guttural "wonk", single call, repeated at rather long intervals a couple of times. Eventually the bird popped up atop the dry stalks, seemingly foraging along with a flock of House Finches, where I saw it make that same deep call once again. While it perhaps could have been an odd female Purple Finch, my first thought was not of a finch but of an abnormally large juvenile/female (Indigo) Bunting, as it had a relatively pale streaked breast, brown head with a not very prominent superciliary line, and a paler throat with a somewhat distinct pale gray/tan band extending around the neck toward the back (but I never got a look at the back or the under tail). However, it had a stout beak, but not huge, and the overall coloration was not as bold (especially around the head) as I would expect for a female Black-headed Grosbeak. After about 30 seconds of a relatively good frontal look, it flew off upslope along with the House Finches and I did not hear or see it again.

I couldn't put the various features together into a cohesive whole in the field, and I can't find a good match in my guidebooks - it actually looks most like a cross between a female bunting and juvenile Spotted Towhee as seen in the illustrations for the third edition of the National Geographic guide (but not like those in Sibley). And, most importantly, that low grunt of a call, so unlike the melodious tones I expect from a finch or grosbeak - more fitting a corvid (raven especially).

So, I'm wondering if anyone has heard a call like that before (dang, sure wish I had thought to whip out my phone to try to get a recording; too late!), or would like to hazard a guess as to the ID. Is it something weird, or just a typical species that I'm blanking on because of its unusual call? Any thoughts welcome.

Richard Bradus
San Francisco