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Controversial desert solar project dropped

September 28th, 2014 · by Garrison Frost

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The backers of a controversial solar energy plant in the desert near Joshua Tree suddenly pulled their application for the project late last week, surprising Audubon California and other environmental groups that were still gathering their forces to oppose the dangerous technology the developers sought to use. The original permit for the Palen solar project called for the use of “solar trough” technology, but BrightSource and other partners recently moved to use “power tower” technology. This technology, currently in use at the controversial Ivanpah solar project in the Mojave Desert appears to harm birds at a high rate, sometimes burning the birds as they pass through intense heat fields. Audubon California had opposed the use of this technology until the actual impact of birds was completely known, and we were very concerned when the California Energy Commission gave preliminary approval for its use at Palen, right in the middle of a key migratory pathway. According to reports, the developers’ action come more from economic concerns, and not environmental ones, but the result is all the same for the birds. (Above, a bird with burnt feathers from the Ivanpah solar plant in the Mojave Desert.)

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Categories: Alternative energy · Audubon California · Bird Habitat · Climate Change · Global Warming

As if we didn’t know already — birds are pretty smooth

September 26th, 2014 · by Daniela Ogden

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Researchers from The University of Queensland have found exactly how birds get through narrow spaces without crashing. They focused their study on budgies and how this popular childhood pet is able to navigate narrow sports. From a Futurity article on the study:

Previous research has shown that humans unnecessarily turn their shoulders to pass through doorways narrower than 130 percent of their body width. Birds are far more precise.

“We were quite surprised by the birds’ accuracy—they can judge their wingspan within 106 percent of their width when it comes to flying through gaps,” says Ingo Schiffner, researcher at the University of Queensland Brain Institute.

“When you think about the cluttered environments they fly through, such as forests, they need to develop this level of accuracy.

“When they encounter a narrow gap, they either lift their wings up vertically or tuck them in completely, minimizing their width to that of their torso,” he says. [Read more →]

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Categories: Science

How much wood can an Audubon volunteer chuck?

September 26th, 2014 · by Daniela Ogden

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Last Sunday, a group of 40 adults and 40 kids came to Audubon Center at Debs Park from the Young Presidents Organization, San Gabriel Chapter to volunteer and picnic. The group generously donated wood chips for the Children’s Woodland. The children enjoyed Audubon-themed activities including a scavenger hunt, bird house building, live animals, and special cookies with birds. Thank you YPO! [Read more →]

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Categories: Audubon Center at Debs Park · Bird L.A. · Nature education and activities · Volunteer

Stupid bird humor

September 25th, 2014 · by Daniela Ogden

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Categories: Birding · stupid bird humor

Oil Companies Ask to Skimp on Spill Cleanup Equipment for Arctic Ocean

September 25th, 2014 · by Beth Peluso

130101-G-KL864-009-Kulluk overflight day 3Oil companies pushing to drill in the Arctic Ocean in 2015 want to cut spending by skimping on oil spill cleanup equipment.

Here’s a review of Shell’s string of careless mishaps during its 2012 Arctic season: its oil well containment dome “crumpled like a beer can” during testing in mild weather near Seattle, it grounded the drill rig Kulluk off of Kodiak Island near an Important Bird Area, its specially made tug’s engines failed while trying to help the Kulluk, and the drill rig the Noble Discoverer faced air quality and safety violations.

You can see why they don’t want “mechanical cleanup” requirements. The Arctic Ocean just isn’t the place for oil drilling.

Photo: The drill rig Kulluk ran aground on New Year’s Eve 2012.

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Categories: Arctic · Audubon Alaska · Pollution · seabirds

Most people don’t ever make it here

September 24th, 2014 · by Daniela Ogden

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Lake Almanor is a 4.5  hour drive from San Francisco and a 3 hour drive from Sacramento, to say it is remote is to be kind. This tucked-away lake in Plumas County is one of the four lakes included in Audubon’s Western and Clark’s Grebes conservation program. Plumas Audubon Society has managed and staffed grebe monitoring and research at Lake Almanor for the past four years.  [Read more →]

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Categories: Audubon Chapters · Bird conservation · Bird Habitat · Conservation research · Volunteer

How do you deal with birdfeeder invaders?

September 23rd, 2014 · by Daniela Ogden

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Categories: Bird videos · Birding

A chance to have our cake and eat it, too, with desert renewable energy

September 23rd, 2014 · by Garrison Frost

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Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell today is in Palm Springs with federal and state officials to announce the completion of a draft blueprint for solar and wind energy development on 22.5 million acres of public and private land in the California desert. The goal of the plan is to identify areas of the desert suitable for large-scale renewable energy development projects, while protecting areas with particularly high values for wildlife and habitat. As California and the United States move aggressively toward ambitious renewable energy goals, it is also vital this rush toward renewables not degrade our valuable natural treasures.

The draft Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan covers desert areas in San Bernardino, Los Angeles, Riverside, Imperial, Inyo, Kern and San Diego counties, and will designate 200,000 to 350,000 acres as development focus areas, enough to meet California renewable energy goals through 2040. Despite being in the works for some time, the document is far from final. After it is formally filed in the federal register on Friday, a 90-day comment period will begin, after which a final document will be finalized.

To those not familiar with it, the desert might seem barren and uninhabitable. But in fact it is rich with a wide diversity of wildlife, particularly birds. And that’s why Audubon California was part of the broad coalition of environmental groups, government agencies, land managers, and renewable energy developers working on the plan for the last four years. This is complicated: The great threat to birds from global warming reinforces the need for us to move toward renewable energy, while at the same time, we must also protect the habitats that birds need to survive. We don’t want have to choose between renewable energy and wildlife protection. We want both if we can get it, and this plan offers that chance to have our cake and eat it, too.

[Read more →]

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Categories: Alternative energy · Audubon California · Bird Habitat · Climate Change · Federal Policy · Global Warming

Audubon at the climate march

September 22nd, 2014 · by Garrison Frost

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Audubon members and staff took to the streets of New York with 600,000 others yesterday (that’s our president, David Yarnold, there on the left) to demand more action to address the challenges of global warming. No surprise to see us there, given recent research showing the very real threat to birds if we do nothing.

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Categories: Alternative energy · Audubon California · Conservation research · Global Warming · National Audubon Society

Testing the Waters: Scientists Train in Arctic Ocean for Oil Spill Response

September 18th, 2014 · by Beth Peluso

800px-USCGC_Healy_(WAGB-20)_north_of_AlaskaNothing beats hands-on experience, especially when dealing with an unpredictable place such as the Arctic Ocean. Scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration just spent several weeks on the US Coast Guard icebreaker Healy to test out what an oil spill response in the Arctic Ocean would entail. Listen to this podcast about the trip as they prepared to depart from Seward, Alaska.

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Categories: Arctic · Audubon Alaska · Pollution · Science · seabirds

First wild-hatched condor in Big Sur dies

September 17th, 2014 · by Garrison Frost

Sad news out of Big Sur this week, as word of the passing of California Condor #444, also named Ventana, was made public. While the cause of death apparently hasn’t been confirmed, the bird was treated in May for lead poisoning.

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Categories: Audubon California · Bird conservation · California Condor · Endangered Species Act · Lead ammunition

2nd annual Halloween costume contest

September 16th, 2014 · by Daniela Ogden

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We had such fun during last year’s Halloween costume contest and cannot wait to see this year’s entries. Above is last year’s grand prize winning crow costume created by Olivia Miseroy. She won a signed movie poster from Wes Craven! Here is the contest 411:

We want to see your inner bird and are looking for bird-tacular creations in the following categories:

  • Best kid/pet bird costume
  • Best adult bird costume
  • Scariest bird costume
  • Best group/pair bird costume

Post your photo on our Facebook page, tweet them, Instagram them with the hashtag #bestbirdcostume (or you can email us them at auduboncalifornia[at]audubon[dot]org). Winners will be determined by the number of likes each photo receives on our Facebook album combined with the number of likes it garners on Instagram. Each category winner will receive a prize and and the person who gets the most votes will win something SUPER special. We hope to announce what that is soon.

Submissions will be accepted until October 31 and voting will close November 7.

Good luck!

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Categories: birds and culture · Polls

Are we listening?

September 16th, 2014 · by Garrison Frost

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Categories: Audubon California · Bird conservation · Climate Change · Conservation research · Global Warming

Fresno’s Jeff Davis talks about the Yellow-billed Magpie and global warming

September 16th, 2014 · by Garrison Frost

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Categories: Audubon California · Audubon Chapters · Climate Change · Global Warming · Yellow-billed Magpie

Help us avoid a disaster for birds in the Klamath

September 16th, 2014 · by Garrison Frost

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Lack of water in the Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge has resulted in dangerous overcrowding at nearby Tule Lake, where thousands of vulnerable birds have already died from disease. What makes this situation even worse is the fact that it is totally avoidable. Our reports tell us that there is water available for the refuges — we just have to put pressure on the Bureau of Reclamation to release it. That’s where you come in. Take a moment to send an email right now to the Secretary of the Interior demanding help for migratory birds. With enough voices, we can make this happen. Send your email today.

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(photos by Lacey Jarrell/Herald and News)

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Categories: Audubon California · Bird conservation · Bird Habitat · fall migration · Important Bird Areas · Pacific Flyway · Water issues