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First big herring run in San Francisco Bay creates feeding (and birding) frenzy

January 13th, 2015 · by Anna Weinstein

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This past week marked the first big Pacific herring run of the year in San Francisco Bay. Herring is serious business for many of the birds we love, providing a rich, nourishing winter smorgasbord for hungry waterbirds on the Pacific Flyway. With climate change causing big changes in the availability of prey for waterbirds and seabirds, it’s more important than ever to protect this vital food resource. (photo above by Kerry Wilcox)

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Categories: Audubon California · Bird Habitat · Birding · Richardson Bay Audubon Center & Sanctuary · S.F. Bay · seabirds

Mass die-offs of birds and fish are on the rise, say researchers

January 13th, 2015 · by Garrison Frost

Mass die-offs for birds, fish and marine invertebrates have been steadily increasing for the past 70 years, according to a new study published Monday. The study, published Monday, Jan. 12 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, was led by researchers at UC Berkeley, the University of San Diego and Yale University.

Overall, disease was the primary culprit, accounting for 26 percent of the mass die-offs. Direct effects tied to humans, such as environmental contamination, caused 19 percent of the mass kills. Biotoxicity triggered by events such as algae blooms accounted for a significant proportion of deaths, and processes directly influenced by climate — including weather extremes, thermal stress, oxygen stress or starvation — collectively contributed to about 25 percent of mass mortality events. The most severe events were those with multiple causes, the study found.

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Categories: Audubon California · Bird conservation · Conservation research

Feds open discussion on potential delisting of the Coastal California Gnatcatcher

January 12th, 2015 · by Garrison Frost

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Responding a petition submitted this summer from California builders associations, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has opened the process for discussing removing Endangered Species Act protections for the Coastal California Gnatcatcher. Audubon California has joined several other conservation organizations and researchers in denouncing the effort.

“The fact that the California Gnatcatcher is a distinct subspecies worthy of protection was established in 1993, and there’s nothing in this latest petition that casts doubt on that determination,” said Brigid McCormack, executive director of Audubon California last June. “The California Gnatcatcher is emblematic of the rich ecology of southern California, an enduring remnant of our wild coast that has been lost to such a great extent.”

We’ll have more on this issue within the week. Stay tuned.

(photo by Marci Koski/USFWS)

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Categories: Audubon California · Bird conservation · Brigid McCormack · Endangered Species Act

Submit your photos to the annual Audubon Photography Awards

January 12th, 2015 · by Garrison Frost

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You love birds, and you love taking photos of them. Now show us your best work by entering the Audubon Photography Awards! There are spectacular prizes up for grabs, including fabulous trips and high-end photo gear. Winning photos will run in both Audubon and Nature’s Best Photography magazines. Judges include birding legend Kenn Kaufman and famed photographer Joel Sartore. Winning photos will be displayed within the Nature’s Best Photography Exhibition at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington for a year. The deadline if Feb. 23, 2015. Learn more audubonphotoawards.org. (photo of a Loggerhead Shrike by Patricia R. Pierce)

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Categories: Audubon California · Birding · National Audubon Society · Wildlife photos and video

A year in newsletter art

January 12th, 2015 · by Daniela Ogden

It’s been another great year of Audubon California enewsletter art. Here’s a look back:

January: Sandpiper, Cathy Daniel. Acrylic.

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February: Gull, Christine Petersen. Monochrome.

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March: Juvenile Common Murre, Leonna M.

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April: Great Blue Heron, Pen and ink, Stephen Weston.

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May: Snowy Egrets in Bodega Bay, Oil Paint. Colleen Caubin.

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Categories: Audubon California · birds and culture

California Condor pair introduce new chick to the surprise of many

January 12th, 2015 · by Garrison Frost

Because their species hovers precariously on the edge of extinction, California Condors are watched carefully by wildlife researchers to make sure everything is OK. So it came as a pretty big surprise this week when those same researchers discovered that there was a 9-month-old condor chick out there. Apparently, a pair of condors in a remote locations had managed to raise the chick without anyone knowing it. This news is particularly welcome as it comes on the heals of news that the first condor chick to be born in Utah in decades has not survived.

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

California’s emissions goals are for the birds

January 9th, 2015 · by Brigid McCormack

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California Gov. Jerry Brown stunned many political observers when, during his unprecedented fourth inaugural speech Jan. 5, called for the Golden State to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels by as much as 50 percent in the next 15 years. Many applauded. Others heaped criticism.

But I’ll tell you one group that was fully in support: birds.

OK, birds aren’t really set up to support or oppose legislative agendas, but if they were, they would love what the Governor is trying to do. More than 300 North American bird species are at risk of extinction due to global warming, and that includes 170 bird species in California. All of these birds are going to see dramatic changes in their ranges as the climate changes.

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Categories: Alternative energy · Audubon California · Bird conservation · Climate Change · Conservation research · Global Warming · National Audubon Society · Pollution

Seabird die-off in northwest continues to baffle researchers

January 7th, 2015 · by Garrison Frost

The Los Angeles Times weighs in on the mysterious die-off of Cassin’s Auklets in the Pacific Northwest that has baffled researchers, and cause a great deal of concern for conservationists. Audubon California has long said that seabirds are among our most imperiled species. The root cause is almost always related to the food chain, and we’re fairly certain that issues with krill (the preferred food of Cassin’s Auklets) is somehow the cause of all this.

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Categories: Audubon California · Bird conservation · seabirds

Counting towhees in the cold on the Oakland Christmas Bird Count

January 6th, 2015 · by Brigid McCormack

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Five o’clock in the morning is tough. Particularly in December. But if you want to see the birds, this is what you must do. But this was no ordinary birdwatching excursion. I was in Oakland, Lake Merritt, taking part in the Audubon Christmas Bird Count, joining thousands of others around the country in the country’s largest volunteer science project.

It was so cold I could barely hold my binoculars.

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Categories: Audubon California · Birding · Brigid McCormack · Christmas Bird Count · National Audubon Society

U.S. Interior addressing threats to Sage Grouse habitat

January 6th, 2015 · by Daniela Ogden

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Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewel announced today that the Department of the Interior will be creating a task force to create a science-based solution to the fires destroying vital sagebrush and rangelands that comprise the Sage Grouse habitat, including areas of California.

Fires have had a devastating impact on these sensitive ecosystems. As recently as August 2014, the California Department of Fish and Game canceled this year’s Sage Grouse hunting season in eastern Lassen County after wildfires ravaged much of the area’s pristine sagebrush habitat. The continued threat of fires is troubling, the bird’s numbers have fallen from 16 million to just a few hundred thousand in recent years scattered across 11 western states, including California.

The entire news release: [Read more →]

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Categories: Audubon California · Audubon Watchlist · Bird conservation · Bird Habitat · Federal Policy · Working lands conservation

The Wreck of the Kulluk

January 6th, 2015 · by Beth Peluso

130101-G-KL864-009-Kulluk overflight day 3_500pxThis New York Times article is a great summary of the dangers of trying to drill in the Arctic Ocean, as Shell has demonstrated with its long string of mishaps. The story includes the hair-raising rescue of the drill-rig the Kulluk’s crew, not by Shell, but by an incredible Coast Guard team.

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Categories: Arctic · Audubon Alaska

What animal appears most on National Geographic’s covers?

January 6th, 2015 · by Daniela Ogden

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If you guessed bird, then you are correct! Of the 153 covers that featured animals, 32 of them were of birds. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, birds matter.

To see the entire story, click here.

Image from Emily M. Eng, National Geographic staff; Shutterstock; iStock.

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Categories: birds and culture · Infographics

All about the California Gull

January 6th, 2015 · by Daniela Ogden

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By Pam Huntley of KZYX FM 88.3, 90.7, AND 91.5

Reprinted with permission from The Black Oystercatcher, Mendocino Coast Audubon Society Newsletter January 2015

Birders don’t use the term “sea gull” because many gulls spend most of their lives far from the ocean.

The California Gull breeds around Mono Lake, but spends so much of its time in Utah that it’s the state bird. A Salt Lake City monument honors California Gulls because the birds twice saved crops of Mormon settlers from grasshopper plagues.

It takes four years for California Gulls to attain adult plumage. Adults have gray backs, show white spots on their black wing tips; their feet and legs are greenish-gray. Bills have black spots on the lower mandibles. Breeding adults have clean white heads, and narrow red rings around dark eyes, and they add a red spot to the black on the bills. First winter California Gulls are dark brown with black- tipped pink bills and pink legs. [Read more →]

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Categories: Audubon Chapters · Birding · seabirds

Kern Audubon Society spreads the word about global warming and birds

January 6th, 2015 · by Garrison Frost

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When Audubon earlier this year released its long-awaited research on the projected research on the potential impacts of global warming on birds, Harry Love and his colleagues at the Kern Audubon Society realized that their local elected officials needed to hear this startling information. Within just a few weeks of the September release of the Audubon report, Love, who is chapter president, made presentations to both the Bakersfield City Council and the Kern County Board of Supervisors.

“This study isn’t just an Audubon concern, it’s everyone’s concern,” Love said.

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Categories: Audubon California · Audubon Chapters · Climate Change · National Audubon Society

Check out the #WorstBirdPic entries from Twitter

January 5th, 2015 · by Garrison Frost

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We had a little fun on Twitter over the break, asking people to share their favorite bad bird photos. We got some amazing entries. They’re still coming in, but we pulled together a bunch using Storify. Check them out below:

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Categories: Audubon California · Birding