Conducting field research always comes with its fair share of unexpected obstacles, and the 2018 season was no exception. This year KBO began a new partnership with the Salmon River Restoration Council (SRRC) in northern California. The Salmon River has a long history of human impacts, particularly due to mining, and the SRRC has plans to restore several sites along the North and South Forks to
The accomplishments of Klamath Bird Observatory’s Science Director Jaime Stephens have been recognized by the international bird conservation consortium Partners in Flight (PIF)—presenting her with its prestigious Leadership in Conservation Award. The Leadership Award honors an individual or group that demonstrates outstanding guidance and direction that contributes, or has contributed, to advancing Partners in Flight conservation efforts. Jaime accepted the award at the North American Wildlife & Natural Resources Conference in Virginia earlier this year.
In nominating Jaime, colleague Barb Bresson, Regional Avian Program Manager with the US Forest Service and 2013 Leadership Awardee, stated “Jaime exemplifies excellence in leadership as KBO’s Science Director supervising and mentoring a team of incredibly effective, passionate, and productive biologists while also actively engaging and taking on leadership roles in PIF and within other conservation focused initiatives.”
Since her start with KBO in 2002, Jaime has placed her indelible stamp on bird conservation at all scales, local to international. It is the breadth and depth of her accomplishments that prompted this recognition. As Science Director, she directs the science program at KBO, conducting and publishing her own work on bird conservation but collaborates extensively with colleagues on other science. She has been instrumental in driving the discussion on bird data management nationally, has led the way for bird conservation partnerships across the west to greater and more permanent conservation action, and continues to seek new opportunities to improve and align bird conservation. Her effectiveness stems from her steadfast belief in a data-driven approach to bird conservation science, and from her infectious enthusiasm, optimism, and engaging leadership style which brings together partners from similar and disparate groups.
Jaime served as Chair of the Western Working Group of Partners in Flight (WWG) for three years (2012-2015). During her tenure, the WWG established new internal policies of governance lending long-term stability to the organization, expanded the Group’s reach and diversity of participants, and advanced new conservation initiatives which continue today. This is consistent with her steady and reasoned leadership style which engenders trust and credibility. When Jaime talks, people listen. Despite having rotated out of the Chair position, Jaime continues to lend her expertise and experience to the WWG, and continues her strong and positive influence on the direction of the WWG’s conservation initiatives in the west, from Mexico to Canada.
Jaime embodies the mission of Partners in Flight—to advance full life-cycle conservation of landbirds in the Americas via sound science, integrated conservation partnerships, habitat delivery on public and private lands, and targeted citizen outreach. Her accomplishments hold significance. Please join us in congratulations to Jaime for this well-deserved recognition.
SCIENCE BRIEF: KBO Research Associate and Yurok Tribe Collaborate on California Condor Reintroduction Feasibility Study
California Condors are not only the largest avian scavenger in North America, they are a species of cultural significance for the Yurok Tribe of Northern California. Yurok ancestral territory is in the heart of the historical range of California Condors and the tribe has been working with Klamath Bird Observatory research associate, Dr. Jared Wolfe, to assess the feasibility of condor reintroduction. The researchers used Turkey Vultures and Common Ravens as surrogate species to determine the amount of lead and mercury avian scavengers are exposed to in Humboldt and Del Norte counties of Northern California. Their results were published by the American Ornithological Society’s Condor: Ornithological Applications journal as “Feasibility of California Condor recovery in northern California, USA: Contaminants in Surrogate Turkey Vultures and Common Ravens”.
“Lead poisoning is the number one threat to condor recovery thus far and an understanding of exposure in local avian scavengers is crucial prior to establishment of new release sites” says Chris West, Senior Wildlife Biologist with the Yurok Tribe. “Condors ingest lead from scavenging animals or offal from animals that were shot with lead bullets. In addition to lead, mercury exposure from feeding on washed-up marine mammals may represent an additional, at this time unassessed, threat that reintroduced condors must contend with.”
Here are three important highlights from the study:
• Although lead levels detected in ravens were lower than levels detected from a similar study conducted in Wyoming, there was still a significant increase in lead exposure during the hunting season in Humboldt and Del Norte counties.
• Lead detected in vultures and ravens increased with distance from coastline suggesting a connection to the greater availability of inland public lands accessible to hunters in Humboldt and Del Norte counties where the study occurred.
• Mercury detected in vultures and ravens decreased with distance from the coastline indicating that scavenging birds are likely exposed to mercury from marine resources rather than at inland locations in Humboldt and Del Norte counties.
“These results highlight some of the conservation challenges associated with condor reintroduction” says Dr. Wolfe. “Recognizing these challenges, the Yurok Tribe has done an excellent job working with the hunting community to switch from lead ammunition to condor friendly non-lead ammunition.”
The researchers believe that continued outreach to hunting communities will limit the amount of lead on the landscape for all avian scavengers and, crucially, for future populations of condors. Hunter outreach and a California-wide ban on the use of lead ammunition for hunting scheduled to go into effect in 2019 may present new opportunities for California Condor recovery in Yurok ancestral territory and beyond.
CLICK HERE to view the paper Feasibility of California Condor recovery in northern California, USA: Contaminants in Surrogate Turkey Vultures and Common Ravens by Christopher J. West, Jared D. Wolfe, Andrew Wiegardt, and Tiana Williams-Claussen.
Native Hawaiian birds are renowned for their beauty and unique evolutionary history, where numerous species rely on native plants for food in the form of nectar and fruit. Many of these important native plants that provision food for birds rely on climatic cues – such as rain and temperature – to time their flowering and fruiting activity. Understanding how birds respond to climatically-induced changes in their food web represents an important step towards predicting the effects of climate change on vulnerable wildlife species.
To better understand these complex relationships, Klamath Bird Observatory research associate, Dr. Jared Wolfe, and KBO research advisor, Dr. C. John Ralph, used data collected from the Big Island of Hawaii to measure long-term relationships between changes in climate, fruit and flower production, and the timing of breeding and molting in native and non-native birds. Their results were recently published in the scientific journal Ecology in a paper titled “Bottom-up Processes Influence the Demography and Life-cycle Phenology of Hawaiian Bird Communities”.
“Flower and fruit abundance at our study site were strongly affected by seasonal changes in rain, which had cascading effects on the timing of important lifecycle events of birds, such as breeding seasonality”. says lead author Wolfe. “Our results suggest that changes in climate can cascade up the food chain and strongly affect wildlife at higher trophic levels.”
Results from the analysis suggest that three native birds that commonly feed on nectar, the ʻiʻiwi, ʻapapane and Hawaiʻi ʻamakihi, all timed their breeding season with the availability of ʻōhiʻa lehua flowers, which in-turn, used heavy rains to time flowering activity.
“Our project is one of the first from Hawaii to combine long-term climate, plant phenology and bird monitoring data to disentangle these complex trophic relationships” says co-author Ralph. “These types of studies are rare because they rely on long-term and labor-intensive field work. But, findings from long-term studies such as this one are critically important because they provide insights into how changes in climate might affect native Hawaiian birds.”
Dear KBO Friends and Supporters,
Please Contribute to our 2018 Membership Drive.
Thank you KBO Community, for your sustained financial support of KBO. We recognize and appreciate the choice you make by donating to Klamath Bird Observatory — your contributions encourage and inspire us. As a non-profit, KBO relies heavily on federal and state funding, however private donations are a key part of the revenues that help us achieve our science-driven mission.
As we are well into our 2018 field season we continue to seize opportunities to advance bird and habitat conservation through science, education, and partnerships. We are also now facing a new set of challenges — extreme changes in federal funding are putting our work at risk, making private sector support more important than ever. Therefore, the success of our annual spring membership drive is critical. Please support KBO by contributing to our spring membership drive. Your donations support our success.
Your contributions support our research and long-term monitoring.
- Our results recently informed the expansion of Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument and influenced improved management of this protected area. The science is now a key tool for defending our Monument.
- Our science is also elucidating details about unique threats to birds here in our region. For example, forest birds appear to be in steeper decline here in the Klamath-Siskiyou Bioregion, as compared to the broader Pacific Northwest region. This makes our science relating to forest protection and restoration that much more critical.
Your contributions support our collaborative approach to bird conservation.
- Jaime Stephens (KBO Science Director) was just recognized for her exceptional contributions to the field of bird conservation with the Partners in Flight International Leadership Award. Jaime’s active collaboration with land managers ensures that our science translates into conservation success. She is using science to put oak woodland and forest restoration on-the-ground on both private and public lands.
Your contributions support our education programs.
- We are building generations of conservation practitioners. Over the past 20 years we have trained and mentored more than 250 student interns from 18 countries. They are now working to advance conservation as young leaders at universities, natural resource management agencies, and NGOs throughout the world.
- Our Community Education programming offers a diversity of learning opportunities that foster an appreciation for birds and an interest in conservation. These include our regular Talk and Walk series of classes and our outreach at festivals throughout the region.
Please support our successful science-driven bird conservation. Right now, your support is critical!
Make your tax-deductible membership donation online (CLICK HERE) or by mailing your donation with our membership form (CLICK HERE FOR OUR MEMBERSHIP FORM) at Klamath Bird Observatory, PO Box 758, Ashland, Oregon.
John D. Alexander, Ph.D, Executive Director
Shannon Rio, President, Board of Directors
Migratory birds live complex lives—spending parts of their year in places hundreds or thousands of miles apart and in different habitats. Ornithologists face challenges at least equally complex in their study of these far-ranging and fleeting creatures. So it should not be surprising that they find ways to collaborate … and to migrate great distances in is this pursuit of understanding.
Klamath Bird Observatory has long recognized the value of international engagement. Since 1999 we have worked to build the capacity of like-minded individuals, organizations, and networks dedicated to the conservation of the birds we share. Through our international internships, training workshops, partner bird observatory support and mentoring, and collaborative network participation, we plant seeds and help grow bird conservation efforts that have taken root all over the world.
KBO has hosted 54 interns from 17 countries over the past 20 years. Many of these individuals are now engaged in careers that are creating exchange opportunities for information and training, and participating in international bird conservation organizations, partnerships, and networks. Our high-impact training opportunities have been possible only through partnerships with the US Forest Service International Programs, Oregon State University’s and Southern Oregon University’s International Programs, National Park Service’s Park Flight Migratory Bird Program, and with KBO member donations. KBO biologists have completed migrations as instructors to banding training workshops in nine countries outside the US—gatherings where we have met many of our interns and partners. And KBO is a close partner with bird observatories in Brazil, Costa Rica, and Mexico, and an active partner in several international information networks.
One of the collaborative networks in which we are closely involved is the North American Bird Conservation Initiative. Their current newsletter features the article “The Value of International Engagement for Birds and People” by Environment for the Americas ornithologist Carol Beidleman. The article highlights the considerable achievements and wide-ranging impacts of the NPS Park Flight Migratory Bird Program.
Migratory birds live their lives oblivious to the borderlines people have drawn all over the world. As scientists and conservationists, we need to continue in finding ways to freely exchange information, ideas, and people across those lines to better understand and so more effectively help these international travelers—our foretelling ‘canaries in the coal mine’ for environmental well-being.
Birds in the western United States time their breeding and molting (annual replacement of feathers) behaviors with seasonally abundant food resources. Understanding how birds move across the western landscape to acquire the food they need to successfully breed and molt represent critical pieces of information for wildlife managers.
To measure bird movements in the western United States, researchers from Klamath Bird Observatory and U.S. Forest Service Pacific Southwest Research Station have been capturing and marking birds throughout northern California and southern Oregon. These data have now been used to analyze movements of breeding and molting birds to better understand the habitat requirements of multiple species throughout their annual life-cycle.
“After the breeding season, many species were found to move away from their breeding grounds before they began molting” says Jared Wolfe, co-author and KBO research associate. “My graduate student leading this research, Andrew Wiegardt, and I, in addition to the KBO scientific team, believe that dry, late-summer environments prevent many birds from remaining on their breeding grounds late in the season. To find the insect and fruit-rich habitats necessary to molt, many birds left their breeding territories and made small-scale movements to environments with more food, such as wet meadows and riparian forest”.
Results from this recent research highlight that most migratory species are reliant on multiple locations and habitats in northern California and southern Oregon to breed and molt prior to fall migration. For long-distance migrants, such as Wilson’s Warblers, these different locations used for breeding and molting often occurred on an altitudinal gradient where birds tended to breed in lower elevations during the spring, and then moved upslope to molt at higher elevations late in the summer.
KBO Research Associate Dr. Jared Wolfe received his BS and MS from Humboldt State University. He completed his PhD at Louisiana State University studying landscape demography of Amazonian birds. Dr. Wolfe is a science advisor for Costa Rica Bird Observatories, co-founder of the Louisiana Bird Observatory, North American Banding Council certified trainer and current board member serving as a trainer-at-large, and a permitted master bander in the USA and Brazil. He regularly coordinates bird monitoring and statistical workshops in the USA, Costa Rica, Peru and Brazil. Dr. Wolfe is an Assistant Professor at Michigan Tech University.
Jared’s affiliation with KBO has been long and fruitful, resulting in multiple scientific publications focused on migratory and resident bird demography as well as the influence of climate on migratory bird condition, molt patterns and novel ageing systems for tropical birds.
World Migratory Bird Day (WMBD) in the Year of the Bird is May 12, 2018—a day to celebrate the amazing annual migrations of the birds who know no borders. The day is also for raising awareness of conservation challenges that these world travelers face and what we can do to help.
This WMBD (formerly known as International Migratory Bird Day) is a special one for Klamath Bird Observatory. We are part of a group being recognized for its collaborative achievements in migratory bird conservation. KBO will also be part of two local WMBD celebrations—Rogue Valley Bird Day in Ashland and the WMBD Birdwatching Field Trip at Shasta Valley Wildlife Area near Montague, California.
It has just been announced that the Western Hummingbird Partnership has been given the U.S. Forest Service’s 2018 Wings Across the Americas award. This is a prestigious award that recognizes outstanding achievements in the conservation of migratory birds—to be presented at a special World Migratory Bird Day ceremony in Washington, D.C. this Tuesday May 1st. KBO’s Executive Director Dr. John Alexander will join other members of the Western Hummingbird Partnership Advisory Group in receiving the award.
KBO will join many local partners for the City of Ashland Department of Parks and Recreation’s Rogue Valley Bird Day Saturday May 12th at North Mountain Park from 8 am to 1200 pm. KBO biologists will demonstrate mist netting and banding songbirds as a part of the festivities. We will also join A World Migratory Bird Day Birdwatching Field Trip at Shasta Valley Wildlife Area starting at 7:30 am. This event is sponsored by Klamath National Forest.
CLICK HERE to view the Rogue Valley Bird Day 2018 flyer.
CLICK HERE to view the Shasta Valley Birdwatching Field Trip 2018 flyer.
Join us for World Migratory Bird Day!
The Western Hummingbird Partnership addresses a critical need in hummingbird conservation—engaging researchers, educators, and governmental and non-governmental groups in collaborative science and education. Key partners include Klamath Bird Observatory, Environment for the Americas, Point Blue Conservation Science, University of Guadalajara, and U.S. Forest Service. Since 2006, the Partnership has contributed to projects in biosphere reserves, botanic gardens, and national forests and has provided funding in support of projects where western hummingbirds nest, stop during their migrations, and winter.
Friends of Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, with support from the Bureau of Land Management, will host the 2018 Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument Research Symposium this Thursday March 15 evening. Come learn about recently-conducted fieldwork from both students and professional scientists within the Monument in our backyard.
KBO Executive Director Dr. John Alexander will present the Symposium keynote with a talk titled “KBO Science Informing Adaptive Management and Conservation in Our National Monument”. His talk will explore the more than 20 years KBO has been conducting monitoring and research in the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument in collaboration with the BLM and many other partners. The results have and continue to inform adaptive management that improves ecological conservation. Dr. Alexander will summarize these results, focusing on how KBO’s science has helped to shape management actions that have benefited migratory birds, ecosystem health, and biodiversity in the Monument.
The Symposium will be held at the Southern Oregon University Science Auditorium (CLICK HERE for map) March 15, 2018 from 7 pm to 9 pm.
Volunteers from Humboldt State University help KBO recapture Yellow-breasted Chats returning from Mexico with valuable data
Introduction by Sarah Rockwell:
We described the start of the Yellow-breasted Chat geolocator project in a previous blog post (CLICK HERE TO VIEW). Geolocators are lightweight devices designed to track a birds’ whereabouts by recording daily light levels. These novel data can then be used to determine migratory routes and wintering grounds—we need to know where birds go when they leave their breeding grounds before we can understand potential conservation needs during migration and winter. Since then, we have recruited a Ph.D. student, Kristen Mancuso, who is supervised by researchers at the University of British Columbia and Environment and Climate Change Canada. KBO’s Executive Director, John Alexander, is an advisor on her committee. She is studying chats in British Columbia, northern California, and Mexico—throughout the range of the western subspecies. Here is a project volunteer’s account from last year’s field season!
By Kelly Commons, HSU Master’s student
On my first day with the Yellow-breasted Chat project, I woke up to a dark, early morning with more than a bit of chill to the air. Since it was my first day, I would have the help of veteran chat-catching volunteer Kachina Rowland and the project leader Kristen Mancuso. We were on the hunt (to catch and release!) chats that wore color bands on their legs which meant they also wore a geolocator device we needed to remove for its record of where they had been since last year.
We had made our way to a site the team had been to several times before (unsuccessfully) to catch the notorious Dark Blue-White-Dark Blue-metal (DWDX for short). As the sun rose high over the hills and the day turned long, Mr. DWDX had managed to evade our nets. In fact his constant chattering song seemed to mock our best efforts. Disappointed but still game, we tried elsewhere looking for color-banded chats in riparian forest overgrown with blackberries that chats seem to love. Chats make a confusing variety of grunts, chatters, and whistles, so we had to keep a sharp ear out for any of their more subtle call notes. We found several singing males, but none of them were color banded. The day ended warm and sunny but with just three more days left to find our chats!
The next morning we trudged through streams, rocky hills, and blackberry bushes and while we found several chats, none of them were banded. About to give up, we finally heard one last male singing in the distance and scouted his territory before calling it a day. We split up to opposite sides of this chat’s bramble. I caught glimpses of him flying back and forth across an opening in the trees, but I couldn’t see his legs well enough to tell if he had any color bands. I was moving to a better location when Kristen spotted him—and his bands! This male had a geolocator and we were determined to catch him the next day. A successful day deserves a reward and after we got back to camp we treated ourselves to s’mores around the campfire.
On the next to last day in the field, we trudged over and through yesterday’s streams, rocky hills, and blackberry bushes to set up nets for our newly found bird. We set up wooden decoy males by the nets even though the other birds the team had tried to catch weren’t falling for this trick. However, within minutes of playing a recorded male song at the decoy, our male flew in the net! Gotcha! We removed his geolocator, took measurements, feather samples, and snapped a few pictures before setting him on his merry way. We even had enough time left in the morning to try for old DWDX again! Nets and decoys were deployed for him but we weren’t able to repeat our morning’s luck. A lovely female Black-headed Grosbeak in the net did brighten my mood before we headed back to camp.
The last morning was full of promise as we attempted to catch DWDX one more time. We set up nets in a different location, but still weren’t able to convince him to come into our nets. We did, however, catch his previously unbanded neighbor and outfitted him with some spiffy new bands before we let him go. As the day wore on, we became less and less hopeful. However, a feisty Red-breasted Sapsucker caught in the net was just the pick-me-up we needed to end the day on a good note. We may not have caught our nemesis, but we left with smiles on our faces. Now Kristen moves on to British Columbia to catch returning chats there, as Kachina and I return to regular life, with a bit more knowledge and experience under our belts.
Editor’s note: The 2017 Yellow-breasted Chat banding team, comprised of PhD student Kristen Mancuso, KBO Research Biologist Sarah Rockwell, and Humboldt State University volunteers Kachina Rowland and Kelly Commons, recaptured three males with geolocators this season, nearly doubling the sample size from the Trinity River region. We even recovered one from a male who had dutifully carried his geolocator backpack since 2014!