In the past five months, Audubon California has been leading a campaign to stop a fast-tracked proposal to massively expand oyster farming into highly sensitive habitat for birds in Humboldt Bay, CA, a global and state Important Bird Area and overall one of the most important sites for birds on the Pacific Flyway. Now, following an outpouring of opposition from Audubon activists who sent over 3,050 letters, and comments from waterfowl hunting and commercial fishing stakeholders, proponents are being forced to reconsider these plans to account for the needs of birds, other wildlife and their habitats.
Parent birds may abandon a nest if they’re disturbed repeatedly. Even one disturbance can leave their chicks temporarily vulnerable to predators. And flushing birds while they’re roosting or feeding makes it harder for them to build up the energy reserves for successful breeding and migration.
Many bird species today are already under severe pressure from loss of habitat and climate change. They will find it even harder to survive these challenges if their rest and feeding is constantly being interrupted by drones.
Human members of the metal band Hatebeak spoke to Vice about the secret behind their unique sound — a 21-year-old African Grey named Waldo. Here is a part of the Q&A with band member Blake Harrison:
What is it like collaborating with a bird? Are there animal-specific challenges? You know, there’s the old Hollywood trope: “Never work with kids and never work with animals.” It can be a little bit of a pain at times. Most of it is getting Waldo to relax. The mimicry is a form of play for him. So, to get him to do anything, he’s got to feel comfortable. And then he kind of spouts out whatever. But he likes to bite your ear when he’s on your shoulder sometimes. He likes to whistle the Andy Griffith theme song. A lot. And obviously that’s cool, but it’s not something I can use on a metal record. There are challenges, but I’ve been in tons of bands, and lead singers typically tend to have pretty big egos. I know because I sang for a band myself. So I would say it’s not much different than working with a [human] lead singer because there are still challenges.
Do you put Waldo in a vocal-recording booth? Yeah, kind of. We don’t go to a studio to record this stuff—we do it in Mark’s band room or a spare room. We have set up a microphone in front of him, like a studio setting, but it’s not really a vocal booth. With modern recording technology, it’s a lot easier to get stuff done than it used to be. So it’s not like we have to put him in there with a bottle of Jack Daniels and whatever else, like—
A pair of tiny headphones? Right, no headphones, no pop-screen. That’s a funny image, but we don’t really have to do that.
Discovery Communications recently celebrated its annual “Discover Your Impact Day” with a volunteer event in conjunction with the Friends of the Los Angeles River. After spending the day at the river collecting trash and completing biodiversity surveys, the 80 volunteers got to work building nesting boxes to bring bluebirds and other native species back to their river habitat. The 74 birdhouses completed at the end of the day were donated to the Audubon Center at Debs Park, where Audubon staff will distribute them through Audubon’s school programs.
In yet another sign of the devastating impact of the drought on California waterfowl populations, a new report from the state’s Department of Fish and Wildlife shows that breeding waterfowl populations in California are down 30 percent from last year. While this decline is being driven by a number of species, breeding mallards show the largest decline, falling 28 percent from last year, and 42 percent from 2013.
“While these numbers are startling, they are not surprising given the impact of the drought on waterfowl habitat in California,” said Audubon California Executive Director Brigid McCormack. “Our birds are a tremendous natural legacy, and these numbers are of great concern.”
As if we needed more evidence of the drought putting California birds at risk, the Los Angeles Times takes a look at how falling water levels at Mono Lake are putting the massive nesting population of California Gulls at risk. Scary stuff. (photo of California Gull at Mono Lake by S. Rae)
With the images of dead and injured birds from the recent oil spill at Refugio State Beach in Santa Barbara fresh in our minds, Audubon California is stepping up its support of new legislation which will close the last remaining loopholes allowing offshore oil drilling in California waters. Senate Bill 788, authored by State Senator Mike McGuire, was approved by the State Senate a couple weeks ago, and is now moving through the State Assembly.
Legislation that would require a coordinated response from state agencies to the changes brought about by global warming passed a key committee in the State Senate. Assembly Bill 1482, which will require the Natural Resources Agency and the Strategic Growth Council to oversee and coordinate state agency and department actions to adapt to climate change impacts, was approved by the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee today. The bill is authored by Assembly Member Richard Gordon and co-sponsored by Audubon California.
The bill now moves on to the Senate Environmental Quality Committee.
As you probably know by now, we at Audubon love our bird-related street art. So when we saw these amazing pigeon murals by Dutch artist Stefan Thelen (aka Super A), we just had to share. There are more here.
When balls of tar started washing up in Manhattan Beach just days after the 105,000 gallon oil spill a hundred miles to the north in Santa Barbara, people were quick to associate the two incidents. But officials balked, saying that it was unlikely that the Santa Barbara oil was landing so far south. But now there’s conclusive evidence that the oil is the same. Not that we needed more proof that oil spills are always a little worse than you think they are.