Klamath Bird Observatory is currently serving on a national team of scientists and communications specialists working to produce annual State of the Birds reports. The reports link bird conservation to the fundamentals of sustainability. They recognize that bird populations, like the famous canary in the coal mine, serve as bellwethers of the health of whole ecosystems, and thus our economic and social well-being.
As the State of the Birds Team works on the upcoming report, which will provide an update on bird population trends in our country since the initial report five years ago, we reflect on the centennial commemoration of the Passenger Pigeon. Once North America’s most abundant bird, the Passenger Pigeon was driven to extinction 100 years ago. A lesson that emerges from this travesty is that we must use proactive approaches to natural resource management and excellent applied science to avoid such unnecessary losses in the future.
While the State of the Birds reports highlight many inspiring conservation success stories, such as the recovery of the Peregrine Falcon, and the effective management of migratory birds through the North American Waterfowl Management Plan, they also outline some alarming trends. For example, declines of western forest birds appear to be sharpening, a reflection of the forest management challenges facing local communities, economies, and ecosystems in the Pacific Northwest.
So, by placing a birding festival within a conservation context, we are balancing troubling news about declining bird populations with the optimism that science-based conservation can work. The Mountain Bird Festival celebrates how citizens and science can reverse bird population declines through strategic habitat conservation, an engaged citizenry, and stewardship for resilient ecosystems. During the festival, field trip goers will be exploring the Klamath Siskiyou Bioregion, an area renowned for its high diversity of western forest migratory birds. This is also an area where opportunities abound for improved conservation of these species.
By signing up for the Mountain Bird Festival, every registrant will be purchasing a Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp and thereby directly contributing to habitat protection within the National Wildlife Refuge System. Additionally with registration, every festival attendee will be purchasing a Mountain Bird Conservation Science Stamp, with proceeds supporting Klamath Bird Observatory’s scientific programs that are driving western forest bird conservation in the Klamath Siskiyou Bioregion and throughout the Pacific Northwest.
We hope you attend our inaugural Mountain Bird Festival and help us write a new conservation success story starring citizens, science, and mountain birds.
An anonymous donor granted this award recognizing the festival’s central theme – citizens elevating conservation. Every Mountain Bird Festival attendee advances bird conservation in multiple ways; they contribute to habitat protection, they participate as citizen scientists, and they support scientific programs aimed at achieving sustainable natural resources management. “Receiving this award as we prepare to host our first conservation-focused festival adds to our momentum and gives us encouragement that we’re on the right trajectory,” said John Alexander, Klamath Bird Observatory’s Executive Director.
The Mountain Bird Festival’s conservation impacts are far-reaching. First, each festival attendee receives a Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp (a.k.a. the Duck Stamp) purchased with a portion of their registration fee. The Federal Duck Stamp Program is considered one of the most successful conservation programs ever; proceeds from stamp sales are used to purchase or lease wetland habitat for protection within the National Wildlife Refuge System. More than 6 million acres of strategic wetland habitat have been preserved through this program over the last 80 years.
Second, all bird sightings made during Mountain Bird Festival field trips will be entered into eBird, a real-time, online checklist program that is the fastest growing biological database in the world. The birding community – simply by uploading bird abundance and distribution data into this program – is contributing to an unprecedented understanding of the dynamic health of the natural world; such information allows scientists to identify conservation priorities and better use limited conservation funds. eBird Festivals, such as the Mountain Bird Festival, are accelerating this valuable citizen science trend.
Third, festival attendees also receive a new and attractive Mountain Bird Conservation Science Stamp, modeled after the Duck Stamp and designed by local artist Gary Bloomfield. Each festival attendee purchases this stamp though their registration fee and proceeds support Klamath Bird Observatory’s scientific programs that inform management for healthy lands, airs, and waters in the Klamath-Siskiyou Region of southern Oregon and northern California.
The Mountain Bird Festival is a unique community conservation event that celebrates the globally outstanding Klamath Siskiyou Region, recognized for its abundance of different habitats and species. The festival offers two days of field trips that will search for mountain bird specialties, such as White-headed Woodpecker, Mountain Quail, Calliope Hummingbird, and Great Gray Owl. The festival also features a fine art auction, live music, local foods and beverages, cocktail parties, and stimulating evening presentations.
Klamath Bird Observatory is hosting the 2014 Mountain Bird Festival in partnership with the City of Ashland, the Ashland Chamber of Commerce, ScienceWorks Hands-On Museum, and many other organizations.
Birding festivals are growing in popularity across the world, and, increasingly, these community events are becoming “eBird Festivals.” eBird is a real-time, online checklist program that has revolutionized the way that the birding community reports and accesses information about birds. eBird festivals use the eBird program to track the many birds seen on the field trips offered during these events that celebrate birds and birding. eBird Festivals also provide outreach, promoting the use of eBird by helping festival attendees set up their own eBird accounts and providing information about the powerful data entry and exploration tools offered by eBird. By integrating eBird within festival activities these eBird Festivals are building on a significant opportunity for the birding community to contribute to the science that drives conservation worldwide.
Two of the first birding festivals to adopt eBirding as part of their annual celebrations were the Winter Wings Festival, held in February in Klamath Falls, Oregon, and the Godwit Days Spring Migration Bird Festival held in April in Arcata, California. These festivals first adopted eBirding as an integral part of their activities in 2008 in collaboration with Klamath Bird Observatory, who at that time created the regional eBird portal, Klamath-Siskiyou eBird. This portal celebrates the globally outstanding biodiversity of the Klamath-Siskiyou Bioregion of southern Oregon and northern California, and provides stories on the extensive conservation science efforts that have been developed in the region through the Klamath Bird Monitoring Network. This eBird Portal will soon be transformed into eBird Northwest, which will serve a broader geographical area while also acting as the citizen science application of Avian Knowledge Northwest. Avian Knowledge Northwest is a regional node of the Avian Knowledge Network that provides information from comprehensive datasets on birds and the environment for scientists, natural resource managers, and other individuals interested in conservation and science in the northwestern United States.
Between 2008 and 2013, the Winter Wings Festival in southwest Oregon logged 309 checklists documenting 195 species into the regional Klamath-Siskiyou eBird portal. During this same time period, the Godwit Days Festival in northwest California logged 449 checklists documenting 283 species. A new eBird Festival, the Mountain Bird Festival, will be hosted by Klamath Bird Observatory and held for the first time this spring in Ashland, Oregon. These festivals are nurturing citizen-driven conservation by promoting eBird among their festival attendees and by helping each attendee contribute to one of the largest and fastest growing biological data resources in existence, eBird.
eBird was launched in 2002 by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society.
On Saturday January 4th, the Klamath Bird Observatory family, including staff, interns, board members, volunteers, partners, and supporters, participated once again in Ashland’s annual Christmas Bird Count. The Christmas Bird Count is an American tradition and the longest running citizen-fueled biological survey in the world, dating back to the year 1900 when the count was initiated by the Audubon Society as a blood-free alternative to the existing Christmas tradition of hunting birds.
Now, each year during the winter season, tens of thousands of volunteers venture outside for a day of fun and birdwatching. The information they collect sheds light on the health of bird populations, which itself speaks to the health of our society.The day of the Christmas Bird Count in Ashland began with persistent fog in the lower portions of the valley and bright sunshine in the higher elevations. American Robins and Cedar Waxwings were out in abundance, and a few species never before recorded during Ashland’s count were observed, including the Northern Goshawk. A local newspaper reporter joined one of the Christmas Bird Count teams to learn more about the event as well as Klamath Bird Observatory’s activities, including our efforts to elevate bird conservation through our upcoming Mountain Bird Festival. You can read the full Ashland Daily Tidings article by clicking this link.
I had gotten my truck stuck in the snow, and had dug it out, three times before finally stopping six miles from the location where I was going to survey for Great Gray Owls. This was not a problem; I had backcountry skis for exactly this scenario although I hadn’t yet learned how to use them. I buckled into my skis, put on my pack, and strapped my hiking boots onto one side of my pack and a bucket of mice to the other. I looped the strap of my bright yellow boom box (for broadcasting owl calls) over my shoulder and I started skiing.
I fell three times going down the first hill and was grateful to see a steady incline in front of me, figuring uphill would be easier and ignoring the fact that I would have to navigate down that same incline later in the day. By the time I reached my survey site I had only the lid of the mouse bucket, the rest had apparently been swallowed by the snow during one of my tumbles. I quickly realized that it would be impossible to track an owl to its nest tree because I could neither hike in these snow conditions nor ski through the forest without injury. Lacking mice and limited to the road, it was the only day in two seasons of surveys that I was grateful that I didn’t detect an owl. With the survey complete, I turned around to follow my tracks back to my truck.
I was making my way up the final hill, equally exhausted and frustrated, when a few feet in front of me there was a songbird the exact color of Crater Lake on a sunny day, perched on a barren shrub above the shimmering snow. I smiled, grateful to have found a profession where I could challenge myself in amazing places and see beautiful things every day. Although I did not hear an owl response that day, I later learned I had skied right by the nest tree and expect she had watched the entire spectacle unfold.
The first scientific specimen of the Ferruginous Hawk was shot by Ferdinand Deppe near Monterey, California in 1834. The first scientific description, based on that specimen, was written by Martin Heinrich Lichtenstein in 1838 in Berlin.American naturalists, including John James Audubon, remained ignorant of the species for another decade until specimens were collected by Edward Kern, the artist on Colonel Fremont’s expedition to California in 1846. Kern observed, as it happened, that the Ferruginous was very good eating. When John Cassin published his lone volume of Illustrations of the Birds of California, Texas, Oregon, British and Russian American (1856) his book contained the first colored illustration of the Ferruginous Hawk. It was known at that time as “Ferruginous Buzzard.” Cassin wrote, “Since Mr. Kern, the only American naturalist who has noticed this bird is Dr. Heermann, who has met with it during both of his visits to California…” Then he quotes from Heermann’s journal: “During a previous visit to California, I had seen this species in the valley of the Sacramento river, and had considered it as rare in that section…but during the recent survey…in the southern part of the state, I found it very abundant, and on one occasion saw five or six individuals in view at the same moment, in the mountains, about sixty miles east of San Diego… “As large tracts of that country inhabited by this bird are often entirely without trees, it alights on the ground or on some slightly elevated tuft of grass or stone, where it sits patiently for hours watching for its prey….” Even as late as 1874 Elliott Coues wrote about the dispute over whether the Ferruginous Buzzard was truly a separate species. There were some who thought it was a form of the Rough-legged Hawk. Both have insulating feathers along their legs. In Birds of the Northwest, A Handbook, Coues declares the Ferruginous to be a separate species and later decades have proven him correct. Coues wrote, “According to me observations…the Ferruginous Buzzards have no partiality for watery places, thus differing from the eastern Rough-legs. About Fort Whipple [Arizona] the birds mostly resorted to the open plains and the grassy glades intervening between patches of pinewoods… “This hawk is known as the ‘California Squirrel Hawk’ in some localities…the name is gained from their feeding extensively, in California upon ‘ground squirrels’….” The Ferruginous Hawk is one of the many species that can be seen during Klamath Bird Observatory’s Mountain Bird Festival, to be held May 30th – June 1st in Ashland, Oregon in 2014.