This article first appeared on the American Bird Conservancy Blog.
Migratory birds—which must overcome so many natural challenges as they journey from one end of the globe to another—are having a much harder time overcoming the obstacles that humans have added to the mix: habitat loss, environmental contaminants, climate change, and a lot more.But we humans can be helpful, too. I saw vivid proof of that last January in the highlands of northern Nicaragua, where declining migrants such as Wood Thrushes spend the nonbreeding season. For years, this area has been a stronghold for farmers growing quality shade coffee. Not coincidentally, it’s also known as a paradise for birds. An Island of Fertile Green
Everywhere we looked, we saw migrants: Philadelphia, Warbling, and Yellow-throated vireos; Tennessee, Chestnut-sided, Wilson’s, and Yellow warblers rolling through the understory in constant, flickering motion; Western Kingbirds and Western Wood-Pewees hawking insects in the treetops; Summer Tanagers and Rose-breasted Grosbeaks mixing with resident species like Black-headed Saltators and Clay-colored Robins. Flocks of Baltimore Orioles descended on blossoming trees and plucked the brilliant yellow flowers, dropping showers of blooms as they drank the rich pockets of nectar they’d revealed.Later, in the village of San Juan del Río Coco, I met with members of a cooperative of more than 400 small coffee producers who raise more than 2.5 million pounds of shade coffee every year. These producers raise coffee the way it’s been farmed for centuries there, below the canopy of intact, functioning forests that provide critical habitat for scores of migratory bird species. When these shade coffee farmers prosper, the outlook for migratory birds gets brighter, too.
Seen from space, though, the hills around San Juan del Río Coco are an island of fertile green surrounded by hundreds of square kilometers of land already converted to sun coffee, pasture, and grain fields.Increasingly, small shade coffee farms have been destroyed to make way for sun-tolerant coffee—an industrialized, chemical-dependent system that renders what had been prime bird habitat into the ecological equivalent of a parking lot. By some estimates, more than 40 percent of the shade coffee farms in Latin America have already been lost to satiate the demand for cheap coffee. Drink the Right Coffee Americans drink one-third of the world’s supply of coffee and are the driving force behind the shift from traditional, shade-grown coffee to habitat-destroying sun coffee. The decisions we make at the supermarket or specialty shop have profound effects on birds. Sun coffee may be cheaper to purchase, but in truth, there is no such thing as “cheap coffee.” Throughout the tropics, inexpensive sun-grown varieties exact an enormous toll on biodiversity, not to mention rural families and small cooperatives steamrollered by large agribusinesses. Fortunately, there is a surprisingly easy solution: Drink the right coffee. Scientists at the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center (SMBC) created the Bird Friendly program to certify the very highest-quality shade coffee farms—the ones that provide the greatest benefit to migratory birds. By certifying this exceptional coffee, the SMBC program elevates its grade, so it then commands a premium price in the marketplace. This increased value creates a powerful incentive for farmers to keep shade coffee farms intact. While there are other shade certification programs, Bird Friendly is widely regarded as the gold standard. It requires USDA organic certification, and to qualify, farmers must meet a rigorous list of requirements, from canopy height and native tree diversity to pollution controls when the coffee is milled. The result? Coffee that safeguards habitat for the birds we care about, while providing an opportunity for farmers to receive a higher price for their crop—and which, because it ripens slowly in the shade, tastes far richer and more complex in your cup. That’s the way it happens in the shade forest oasis that surrounds the Nicaraguan village of San Juan del Río Coco. Please, do what you can to protect this oasis and many more like it—for the bugs, fruit, and nectar these healthy forests still produce, and for the way of life that supports both rural families and migratory birds. All you have to do is choose Bird Friendly coffee. It may be the easiest and tastiest way to help migratory birds. Editor’s Note: Klamath Bird Observatory proudly drinks Bird Friendly coffee in our offices. Ask your local coffee shops, supermarkets, and food co-ops for shade grown Bird Friendly coffee. Scott Weidensaul is the author of more than two dozen books on natural history, including Living on the Wind and Of a Feather, as well as his newest, The First Frontier. He is also an active field researcher, specializing in the migration of owls and hummingbirds. Weidensaul lives in Pennsylvania.
May 30th, May 31st, and June 1st, 2014
Ashland, OregonMark your calendar, the first-ever Mountain Bird Festival is coming! Klamath Bird Observatory will host this community conservation event next spring in Ashland, Oregon. Our vision is to create a festival that combines a celebration of nature with the stewardship ethic needed to ensure thriving landscapes for humans and wildlife. Every citizen who participates in this festival will become a significant steward of the science that drives bird conservation.
The idea for this festival began several years ago with KBO Board President Harry Fuller. Harry is a dedicated birder and indefatigable birdwatching guide. As Harry took clients on birding trips throughout the region, he noticed how impressed they were with the birdlife as well as the region’s many other attractions.
We hope you attend the festival for the guided bird walks and keynote presentations and stay for the destination lunches, fine art, music, and more. We will have half-day and full day field trips both Saturday and Sunday. For non-birders Ashland provides a variety of activities. There are over a dozen boutique wineries within a half hour’s drive. The downtown has many interesting shops and galleries. There are brewpubs, book stores, coffee shops, boutiques, movie theatres and a variety of specialty shops. Of course, Ashland is home of the widely acclaimed Oregon Shakespeare Festival with afternoon and evening plays all three days of the festival; be sure and get your tickets well in advance.
Some of our target birds are: Redhead, Common Merganser, Mountain Quail, nesting Sandhill Cranes, nesting Osprey, Ferruginous Hawk, Swainson’s Hawk, dancing Western and Clark’s Grebes, Wilson’s Snipe, Black Terns, Great Gray Owl, Western Screech-Owl, Vaux’s Swift, Calliope Hummingbird, Prairie Falcon, Lewis’s Woodpecker, Red-breasted Sapsucker, Williamson’s Sapsucker, White-headed Woodpecker, Hammond’s Flycatcher, Dusky Flycatcher, Cassin’s Vireo, Mountain Chickadee, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Townsend’s Solitaire, Mountain Bluebird, Hermit Warbler, MacGillivray’s Warbler, Nashville Warbler, Green-tailed Towhee, Vesper Sparrow, Yellow-headed Blackbird, Lazuli Bunting.
This article is the sixth installment in the series Achieving Partners in Flight Strategic Goals and Objectives.
An important bird conservation goal is to integrate Partners in Flight priorities and objectives into public agency natural resource planning and action. Partners in Flight uses a science-based method for bird conservation that incorporates a multi-species approach for assessing landbird vulnerabilities and needs, setting measurable conservation targets, describing management to meet these targets, and measuring the effectiveness of conservation actions. This approach can help land managers meet their ecosystem management needs. By aligning science, planning, and implementation among partners, we can more strategically implement actions that address priority science and habitat needs.
This strategic goal builds upon ten examples that illustrate both the process and science behind bird conservation throughout the western United States. These examples were recently featured in Informing Ecosystem Management: Science and Process for Landbird Conservation in the Western United States, a Biological Technical Publication published by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. The publication (1) describes how bird conservation and effectiveness monitoring can be integrated into land management guidelines with an emphasis on partnerships, and (2) presents case studies which highlight bird monitoring within the adaptive management framework. The publication emphasizes both the science of monitoring and the process of its integration into land management because both are necessary in order for effectiveness monitoring to fully impact decision making.
Collaborating with national and regional partners, Klamath Bird Observatory is working toward better integrating the Partners in Flight approach within federal management planning and implementation. At the 2012 annual meeting of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, we had an opportunity to present specific examples of how the tools developed by Partners in Flight can tie into natural resource management planning to an array of national resource management leaders. We then teamed up with partners in Oregon and Washington to take the message on the road, presenting a traveling workshop that provided training to a wider audience on the use of Partners in Flight tools for assessing conservation needs, setting quantifiable management objectives, evaluating management alternatives, and monitoring management effectiveness.
We are now following up with regional partners to provide guidance on the process for identifying species that can serve as indicators of habitat and/or ecosystem condition at geographic scales appropriate for various land management and monitoring purposes. We are working with Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management partners to develop projects that focus on using Partners in Flight’s conservation planning process in support of broad scaled and project level planning. The recently published Habitat Conservation for Landbirds in Coniferous Forests of Western Oregon and Washington (Oregon-Washington Partners in Flight) is serving to guide these efforts. This plan identifies 25 focal species that collectively represent the important habitat components of a functioning coniferous forest ecosystem.
Klamath Bird Observatory has enjoyed and benefited from the efforts of a long string of volunteer student interns since our very beginnings in 1996. Over 170 individuals, representing 18 different countries, have participated as interns in various KBO projects. Very often, our interns are early in their careers, many just recently completing their undergraduate studies. They come to KBO for practical professional experience in preparation for graduate studies or for taking on leadership roles on various projects, mostly involving Conservation Biology.
A maxim we impart to interns from the outset is this: if they succeed, KBO succeeds. Thus, we are deeply invested in their achievements following their time with KBO. One way we measure our interns’ success is to watch as they seek higher academic degrees. More than 35 former Klamath Bird Observatory interns have earned or are now pursuing advanced degrees in the natural sciences. Specifically, 22 have earned Master of Science degrees, four hold doctorates, and nine are currently enrolled in graduate programs.
Another exciting way we measure success is to follow the accomplishments of our international interns, many of whom have gone on to make significant contributions to bird conservation outside of the United States. To date, we have hosted student interns from Argentina, Australia, Belize, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ethiopia, Holland, Hungary, Jamaica, Mexico, New Zealand, Perú, Spain, Trinidad & Tobago, and United Kingdom. Of the 36 international interns we have hosted, 18 are active banding trainers internationally and most are working with increased responsibility and impact for conservation organizations. Some have even established their own bird monitoring and research programs in their home countries.
We endeavor to impart a positive learning experience for every intern, and for their part, our interns oblige us through their considerable and wonderful contributions that help us advance bird and habitat conservation. As we follow the developing careers of these dynamic scientists and educators, their success is truly our success as well.
This article appears in KBO’s Summer 2013 Newsletter.
The Rotary Foundation and Rotary District 5110 of Oregon and northern California have awarded a Humanitarian Grant of $12,000 to fund an international capacity building project to be implemented in partnership with San Pancho Bird Observatory in Mexico and Ashland-based Klamath Bird Observatory. The Rotary Club of Ashland, collaborating with the Jaltemba Bay Rotary Club of Mexico and supported by Shasta Valley, Bend High Desert, and Cottage Grove Rotary Clubs of District 5110, initially promoted this project and provided the funding required to receive matching awards from Rotary District 5110 and The Rotary Foundation.
This grant will allow the implementation and completion of a project focused on bird conservation and sustainable community development in western Mexico. This project builds on Klamath Bird Observatory’s successful model of developing professional, economic, educational, and conservation capacities in Latin American and Caribbean countries through a grassroots science-based approach to international migratory bird conservation.
A growing tourism industry along the Nayarit coast in Mexico offers low-paying employment that draws Mexican youth out of rural communities where there are fewer career options. Away from their families, these youth become easy recruits into prostitution and drug mafias, leading to the disintegration of social structure. Furthermore, existing tourism projects cause habitat loss that can result in population declines of resident and migratory birds. San Pancho Bird Observatory will use grant funds to build local capacity for careers in science and ecotourism that can benefit communities, maintain social structure, and protect natural resources of global significance.
With support from Klamath Bird Observatory, San Pancho Bird Observatory will train 20 Mexican participants on the science of monitoring bird populations during a two-week workshop in the Pacific State of Nayarit. Workshop participants will then return to their respective communities and develop bird monitoring programs that collectively track the health of Mexican bird populations in the region. Additionally, San Pancho Bird Observatory will offer community education programs in at least six coastal villages to inspire an appreciation for birds and build capacity for birdwatching-based tourism. San Pancho Bird Observatory will also strengthen the connections among coastal Nayarit communities to create networks for support and information exchange related to sustainable development.
This project applies principles of sustainability and recognizes the links between ecosystem conservation, social equity, and economic development. The project meets an international bird conservation priority by building science capacity for Mexican conservation leaders, and also meets economic and community development goals of The Rotary Foundation. Dr. John Alexander, Klamath Bird Observatory’s Executive Director, calls the awarding of this grant “a significant event with regard to sustainability and the links between ecological well-being, economic well-being, and human well-being.”
— Brandon Breen