«Prairie Tweet Issue 8 October 2012 Friends of Arrowwood National Wildlife Refuge Baird's Sparrow by Rick Bohn 2012 Potholes & Prairie Festival Birds ...»
Friends of Arrowwood
National Wildlife Refuge
by Rick Bohn
2012 Potholes & Prairie Festival Birds
Summer is the season for birding festivals in North Dakota. Birders come from all across the
country to see specialty birds on the open grassland prairies of North Dakota. Even though some of
these species can be found elsewhere on wintering grounds, birders come to hear the grassland species of birds belting out a symphonic song, rich with an assortment of chips, squeaks, bells, and whistles. These grassland birds may be drab in plumage, but they easily make up for it with a pleasing dawn chorus of songs. The passion that birders have for this growing hobby is a strong one if they are willing to arise before the sun to board a bus in total darkness in eager anticipation of this dawn prairie chorus.
Invariably several species always top the lists of visiting birders. Sprague’s pipit is a bird that not many think about from our avian assortment on the prairie. This highly specialized bird is known for a skylarking flight chorus rather than glamorous flashy looks. Males will spend long periods of time high up in the air performing a musical song while flying a figure eight that goes on sometimes more than an hour continuously. When the song is done, the male drops like a rock to the ground, disappearing in the vegetation with its well camouflaged brown streaky plumage.
Another sought-after specialist of the short-grass prairie is the Baird’s Sparrow. This bird also has a relatively non-descript plumage. The unique field marks include a couple check marks on the side of the face, and an ocher crown stripe. This bird also belts out a complicated melodious song consisting of a few thin ringing notes followed by a drawn out metallic trill. Both the pipit and this sparrow also require open short-grass prairie devoid of any trees or heavy vegetation. They are in danger due to their preferred habitat quickly disappearing from our landscape due to native prairie plowed up for agricultural use.
The next two birds highly sought after are marsh specialists. They are both very secretive, residing in thick wet meadows or freshwater marsh vegetation. The nelson’s sparrow (formerly nelson’s sharp-tailed sparrow) has a rather attractive plumage with a rich orangey-yellow tone with subtle streaking on the breast,gray ear patch, and crown stripe and gray collar. The song is described as a hissy two parted buzz, likened to the sound of a hot poker dipped in water. Very similar to the Nelson’s, is the Leconte’s sparrow. Its plumage differs slightly from the Nelson’s in that the Leconte’s sparrow has a more yellow toned plumage and crown stripe, and lacks the gray collar of the Nelson’s sparrow. The Leconte’s sparrow song is a very high pitched grasshopper like buzz with a beginning and ending ‘tic’.
To a lesser extent several other prairie birds deserve mention. The beautiful and musical chestnut-collared longspur is another short grass prairie specialist found in western North Dakota. Surprisingly the gray partridge and sharptailed grouse are always mentioned on the visitor wish lists. Birders also love to see the wide variety of nesting waterfowl species along with yellow-headed blackbirds and Wilson’s phalaropes in their splendid summer colors of alternate (breeding) plumage.
I had the privilege of guiding for two festivals recently. The first was at Lostwood NWR west of Kenmare, and the second was based in Carrington. Tours included trips to Arrowwood NWR, Chase Lake NWR, and Horsehead Lake just east of Bismarck in Kidder county. Seventy some birders came from all across the country to partake in the festivities. With the tours averaging 90 some species and a festival list that included all of the profiled species, hopefully everyone went home with lasting memories and a newfound appreciation for our birds, our people and the disappearing fragile prairie landscape.
June 12-16, 2013 – Potholes & Prairie Birding Festival. www.birdingdrives.com **************************************************************
Cornell Lab e-News:
Winter Finches-Coming to a Feeder Near You?
Daylight is fading and pumpkins are starting to appear on doorsteps-there can be no doubt winter birds are on their way. And this year could be a big one, suggests the annual Winter Finch Forecast hosted by e-Bird. Poor cone and berry crops from this year's drought mean northern finches are likely to move far and wide in search of food, according to longtime finch forecaster Ron Pittaway. The project focuses on Ontario data but often uncovers trends that apply more widely across the continent.
In particular, Red-breasted Nuthatches and Red Crossbills already seem to be on the move. Also keep your eyes out for Pine Grosbeaks, Common Redpolls, and
Evening Grosbeaks. Read the full species-by-species forecast at:
(excerpt from press release from NAS 9/18/12) Important and Exciting news for the Christmas Bird Count program Two major changes will come to the Christmas Bird Count (CBC) program effective with the upcoming 113th Count in December, 2012.
First, the CBC is now a free program. Audubon will no longer charge the $5.00 fee of field participants.
Second, to minimize the effects of the loss of fee income, American Birds will no longer be printed on paper and mailed to participants, and Audubon will move to an online delivery of the summary results of the CBC.
Thanks very much, and have a wonderful FREE Christmas Bird Count season. Good birding!
Geoff LeBaron Gary Langham Director, Christmas Bird Count Vice-President & Chief Scientist National Audubon Society National Audubon Society
PELICAN BANDING 2012 This year 62 staff from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center (NPWRC), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), Youth Conservation Corps (YCC), Minnesota Conservation Corps (MCC), and Student Conservation Association (SCA) banded 1,163 juvenile American White Pelicans at Chase Lake National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by Rick Bohn Each year we seem to get questions about this unique experience, so here are a couple questions that you might have in mind.
What bands are used? There are 2 bands used when banding a pelican. There is a light-weight aluminum band that is placed on their left leg. There is a colored plastic band that is placed on their right leg.
What are the 2 bands used for? Each band is used at Chase Lake NWR for migratory research purposes. A color band is much easier to re-sight versus a metal band although both provide important life history information such as foraging locations and distribution. The colored bands make it easier to track pelicans to and from wintering grounds, dispersal to other colonies, and approximate age at nesting.
Why band pelicans? The recorded band information is used to track the pelicans through their migration. If a band is found, USFWS is notified and the recorded information from the band is used for research purposes. Population estimates and avian health is monitored with the help of bands.
Will the pelicans fly away when you try to band them? No. The pelicans that are banded can’t fly because they are juveniles. Juvenile pelicans are at the stage of developing muscles and feathers used for flight.
What, when, and where? We band pelicans when they are past the newborn (pinky) stage. Pelican chicks are approximately 6-8 weeks when we band them. Pelican technicians monitor the island and decide when the pelicans are old enough to band. Banding usually occurs in either late June or July at the south island of Chase Lake NWR.
Once we set a banding date, we meet at the refuge early in the morning a little before sunrise. It gets hot in the summer, so the banders use the cool morning to ensure the birds will not get too hot!
Page 6 Prairie Tweets News from: E-Bulletins of National Wildlife Refuge Association (NWRA) website: http://refugeassociation.org/news/birding-bulletin/
At its annual meeting this spring in Vancouver, British Columbia, the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network (WHSRN) Hemispheric Council voted unanimously to approve two new sites of "Regional Importance" into the network. One of these is the Greater Skagit/Stillaguamish Delta in Washington. There are now a total of 87 WHSRN Sites in 13 countries covering more than 32 million acres of shorebird habitat.
The 91,429-acre Greater Skagit and Stillaguamish Delta, located in northwest Washington State, consists of Port Susan and Skagit Bays. This area's marshes, mudflats, and channels are among the most important in Puget Sound for migrating and wintering shorebirds. Surveys conducted in the mid-1990s regularly recorded concentrations exceeding 20,000 wintering shorebirds. Shorebird counts run in 2007–2011 revealed annual totals ranging from 30,390 to 57,100 birds. Dunlin and Western Sandpiper were the dominant species. Concentrations of this magnitude meet WHSRN’s criteria for designation as a Site of Regional Importance.
This WHSRN site overlaps the smaller, 8,747-acre Port Susan Bay IBA, which includes northeast portion of Port Susan Bay, the mudflats of Livingston Bay, the Stillaguamish River Delta, and the surrounding farm fields which also support large numbers of wintering waterfowl.
For additional information about IBA programs worldwide, including those across the U.S., check the National Audubon Society's Important Bird Area program web site at: www.audubon.org/bird/iba/ **************************************************************
Come celebrate with us and tickle your sense of wonder as you experience the fall waterfowl and shorebird migration on Arrowwood National Wildlife Refuge (NWR).
Arrowwood NWR was established by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1935 as a refuge and breeding ground for migratory birds. The refuge straddles the James River and is an important stopover for waterfowl and many other species of birds as they journey south. Here’s what is available to help you celebrate National Wildlife Refuge Week
1. The Arrowwood NWR Complex Visitor Center is open! Visitor hours are Monday through Friday from 7:30 am to 4:00 pm, excluding Holidays.
2. The Auto Tour Route is open until opening day of the Deer Gun Season – Friday, November 9th..
3. Warbler Woodland located on the east side of Arrowwood Lake, the site of the Big Sit! is always an interesting place to visit and explore whether you are looking for warblers, woodpeckers, or white-tailed deer.
Americans have a proud tradition of working together to protect and preserve our Nation’s natural resources. You can be part of all that, right here at the Arrowwood NWR. Consider volunteering or just visiting and exploring.
National Wildlife Refuges across the country will be holding events for National Wildlife Refuge Week.
National Wildlife Refuges offer a variety of outdoor activities: fishing, hunting, environmental education, wildlife observation, wildlife photography, and interpretive activities. Many wildlife refuges also offer nature hikes, bird watching tours, wildlife drives and trails, and other adventures. Each year, about 42 million Americans discover the wonders of nature by visiting a wildlife refuge. There is at least one wildlife refuge in every state and one within an hour’s drive of most major cities. For more information about National Wildlife Refuges, to go: www.fws.gov/refuges.
Prairie Tweets Page 7 New Artwork for Next Stamp Very good art and a great investment The Federal Duck Stamp Art Contest took place at Weber State University (WSU) in Ogden, Utah, on Friday and Saturday, 28-29 September, There were 192 art submissions, with artwork for five eligible waterfowl species: Brant, Canada Goose, Northern Shoveler, Common Goldeneye, and Ruddy Duck. Of the 192 entries in this year's two-day competition, there were 17 entries that made it to the final round of judging.
The acrylic painting that won the contest, and will appear on the 2013-2014 Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp (as the Duck Stamp is officially called), was created by Robert Steiner, from San Francisco. His winning piece was of a male Common Goldeneye, shown on the right. This was actually Steiner's second Federal Duck Stamp Contest win. His art previously appeared on the 1998-1999 Federal Duck Stamp. Curiously, that image was of a closely-related species, a Barrow's Goldeneye. There were over 1.6 million of those 1998-1999 stamps sold, and they produced more than $24 million for land acquisition in the National Wildlife Refuge System.
This next 2013-2014 Federal Duck Stamp will go on sale in late June 2013. Of course, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service produces the Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp, which sells for $15 and raises about $25 million each year to provide critical funds to conserve and protect wetland and grassland habitats in the National Wildlife Refuge System. The stamp, moreover, is not something that benefits only ducks. Many other bird species - from shorebirds to songbirds - and other wildlife are dependent on habitat secured through stamp purchases.
For example, last month, the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission (MBCC) met in Washington, DC, to approve the addition of more than 10,000 acres in fee-title (direct purchase) and easements (or leases) to seven units of the National Wildlife Refuge System in Montana, Texas, New York, Oregon, South Carolina, and California. The funding for these acquisitions came from the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund, commonly understood as the account where Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation [Duck] Stamp funds are deposited.
Choose from these three classes of Birding Drives Dakota memberships: