Tag: Field Biology

Faces in the Dark – a field day tale

Faces in the Dark by Claudia Strijek

I stood outside the barbed-wire fence that guarded the historical barn from vandals, camera and binoculars in hand. The fence was also protecting a family of barn owls. I had seen one of the adults fly into the upper loft through an opening on the west side the barn the night before. Just seconds after the adult disappeared behind the warped, weathered wood, owlet cries poured into the night air—feeding time! I wanted a closer look at the owls.

With my binoculars I searched the interior of the barn. The evening sun pierced through large gaps in the siding creating beams of dusty light but this did nothing to illuminate the shadowy recesses of the structure. But my eyes adjusted to the dim light nonetheless. As I looked about the lower loft my eye caught sight of large wing. My mind immediately registered something was terribly wrong, for the wing was upside down and splayed open. One of the young had recently died and its body hung between some boards. Then out of the shadows a shape moved slightly. An owlet was perched on the edge of a horse stall. It slowly lifted its head using its wings to balance itself but the motion was slow, deliberate and possibly painful. Its emaciated body told me this youngster was not getting fed with the others and would likely die soon as well.

But there had to be a couple other owlets that were healthy and had made all that racket the night before. So I moved to another spot where I could see into the upper loft. The right corner was empty. On the left side however, stood a well-made owl hut complete with a pitched roof and large round opening. Perched in front were the two adult barn owls.

Their heart-shaped faces held my gaze not moving an inch. The larger female sat just in front of the male guarding her family. I took in the details of their feather patterns. The white faces were trimmed in dark grey-brown. Between widely-spread dark eyes was an elongated nose bridge that ended with a blond-colored hooked beak. There were grey and brown spots peppered around their throats, breast and underside which merged into rusty-brown wings and backs. This reversed pattern was quite beautiful.

I stood there for several more minutes, taking photos and admiring the patterned plumage of the adults but the young remained hidden and silent. I left the family to their restful state and looked forward to hearing their night activity again that evening.

 

Claudia Strijek is a KBO Field Technician conducting point counts in southern Oregon and northern California. Click here to visit her blog for more of her writings and photography.

The Old Ones – a field day tale

The Old Ones
By Claudia Strijek

The old ones were here when the erupting earth spewed forth a fire river.  They saw the red and orange molten rock fill the valley and saw huge plumes of smoke. They stared at the changing landscape for too long and the red burned into their eyes. So now we all have red eyes to remind us of a time that passed but may come again.

This is my take on a Native American tale I heard not long ago. After being in Lava Beds National Monument for two weeks walking over all that cooled lava flow, I could
not help but think of this common bird with its red eye.

 

Claudia Strijek is a KBO Field Technician conducting point counts in southern Oregon and northern California. Click here to visit her blog for more of her writings and photography.

Editor’s note—the Spotted Towhee’s iris color changes with age. Upon hatching, the young have dull grayish-brown eyes. Over its first winter the eye color progresses from brownish hues to an orangey-red to red. It is the older individuals that have deep red eyes.

Study results represent the first published documentation of El Niño’s influence on the survival of a resident tropical landbird and suggest that mature, un-fragmented forests may offer refuge in a changing climate

Oecologia July 2015

*** SCIENCE BRIEF AND NEWS RELEASE ***

*** FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE ***

June 23, 2015

Contact: Jared Wolfe, jdw[AT]klamathbird.org, 262-443-6866

Habitat alteration due to forest clearing and climate change threaten wildlife populations across the globe. To better understand the interacting effects of habitat degradation and climate on bird populations, researchers from the U.S. Forest Service Pacific Southwest Research Station (PSW), Klamath Bird Observatory, and Costa Rica Bird Observatories spent 12 years studying the White-collared Manakin, a fruit-eating tropical bird, in mature and young forests along the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica. During the study, several El Niño and La Niña events—cycles of warm and cold ocean temperatures that influence air temperature and precipitation—resulted in very marked dry and wet annual conditions that allowed researchers to measure differences in manakin survival relative to climatic shifts. Results were recently published as the cover article in the journal Oecologia July 2015 edition.

In young tropical forests, researchers found dramatic decreases in manakins’ survival during dry weather associated with El Niño. Researchers believe that, due to a sparser canopy and their fragmented nature, the young forests were more susceptible to understory drying that reduced fruit production. Conversely, manakins’ survival rates were higher during wet years associated with La Niña events in these young forests where increased moisture and sun exposure likely led to an abundance of fruit resources. In mature forests, researchers observed very stable manakin survival rates regardless of climatic shifts, suggesting a relatively constant abundance of fruit resources.

“The complex structure of mature forest is thought to serve as a climatic refuge, buffering fruiting plants from climatic changes resulting in stable manakin survival,” says Jared Wolfe, a postdoctoral researcher with PSW and Klamath Bird Observatory and the study’s lead author. “Climatic refuges, such as mature tropical forests, may be important for many resident tropical bird species faced with the decreasing availability of mature forests coupled with increases in the severity of El Niño-associated dryness.”

These study results represent the first published documentation of El Niño’s influence on the survival of a resident tropical landbird. Researchers believe that variation in manakin survival between forest types provides insight into the sensitivity of certain species to habitat alteration. “From a management perspective, understanding how climatic events affect biodiversity is critical for the development of science-based conservation strategies,” says Pablo Elizondo, the Costa Rica Bird Observatories’ executive director and co-author of the study.

This publication represents an ongoing collaboration between Klamath Bird Observatory, the US Forest Service Pacific Southwest Research Station and International Programs, and the Costa Rica Bird Observatories.

To view the Oecologia paper click here.

Click here to view a pdf of this science brief and news release.

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2015 Mountain Bird Festival May 29-31

2015 Mountain Bird Festival: Citizens and Science Elevating Bird Conservation

OfficialArtwork_2014MountainBirdFestival_GaryBloomfield

The 2014 Mountain Bird Festival was a huge success.  All attendees served as bird conservationists by helping raise over $10,000 in support of local and national conservation efforts and the science that drives that conservation. Participants flocked from all over the U.S. to bird the Klamath-Siskiyou Bioregion of southern Oregon and northern California. 171 bird species were seen by festival participants, including mountain and pacific northwest specialties such as White-headed Woodpecker, Spotted Owl, Calliope Hummingbird, Mountain Bluebird, and of course, the Great Gray Owl. Additionally, over 90 species of wildflowers were seen in bloom, as well as 21 species of dragonflies and damselflies seen zipping through the region’s diverse habitats. All data from field trips were entered into eBird Northwest, which contributes to our understanding of bird distribution and habitat use. All festival attendees purchased a Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp (a.k.a. the Duck Stamp) with their registration, contributing to wetland restoration and conservation throughout the United States; attendees also purchased a Conservation Science Stamp, supporting Klamath Bird Observatory‘s worldwide efforts to advance bird and habitat conservation through science, education, and partnerships.

This 2015 Conservation Science Stamp will feature the stunning White-headed Woodpecker!

The 2015 Mountain Bird Festival will offer guided bird walks, fine art galleries, local wine, microbrew, and food vendors, and a feel-good community atmosphere.  This year’s keynote speaker will be Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology’s International eBird project leader, Brian Sullivan. Brian will show us how eBird and its state of the art technologies are revolutionizing birding, making this popular recreation a powerful conservation science activity.

Festival registration includes half-day or full-day field trips offered on both Saturday and Sunday.

Festival goers will have the opportunity to enjoy all that is offered by the town of Ashland, Oregon. See a play at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, stroll through town to visit a variety of shops and galleries, get a massage, or enjoy a meal at one of Ashland’s many restaurants that feature local foods. We look forward to seeing you at the 2015 Mountain Bird Festival.

The Klamath Bird Observatory is grateful for your support and dedication.  Don’t forget to tell your friends about this great opportunity to see wonderful birds and contribute to their conservation while at it!

A Tradition of Field Biology and Conservation

The Klamath Bird Observatory’s foundation is rooted in the study of Natural History and the art of Field Biology.  As an Observatory we are an institution that supports observation based science.  We prescribe intentioned observation to meticulously document our human experiences in the natural world.  Using explicit protocols and well-designed studies we document these experiences, collecting scientific information that we use to inform and improve the way our society manages the ecosystems on which all of Earth’s life depends.

Of course, as a Bird Observatory, birds are the focus of our science.  Birds are our focus because the study of birds serves as a cost effective tool for learning about the health of our lands, air, and water.  Birds are indicators, and each different species serves as a measuring stick, its abundance and behavior providing invaluable information about specific aspects of our environment.  They tell us about the condition and function of our forests; they help to guage the health of the important riparian habitats that grow along and protect our rivers and streams.  For example, the presence of various birds tells us many things about a forest—Pileated Woodpeckers and Brown Creepers indicate a healthy mix of standing large trees, both alive and dead, while the occurrence of Pacific-slope Flycatchers, Wilson’s Warblers, and Orange-crowned Warblers indicates a multi-story mix of conifers and hardwoods and a complex of forest floor vegetation.   Along our rivers and streams nesting success of certain species serves as an indicator of the health of the riparian habitats that shade and cool the water, stabilize the banks, maintain the water table, and serve as a buffer during flooding.  Successfully nesting Song Sparrows indicate early development of healthy riparian habitats, and then, as that habitat matures we expect to see a broader suite of nesting riparian species, such as Yellow Warblers and Yellow-breasted Chats.

Ornithologists, and their scientific study of birds, have lead and formed the foundation for 20th and 21st century conservation.  Near the turn of the 20th Century professional and amateur ornithologists, through their affiliation with the American Ornithological Union, shed light on the alarming patterns of population decline and environmental degradation that their science was documenting, influencing Theodore Roosevelt’s ambitious conservation agenda, which included the creation of the United States’ Wildlife Refuge System.  Through sound science, the waterfowl community created one of the world’s most successful conservation programs—the North American Waterfowl Conservation Plan.  This plan guides protection and management of wetland habitats throughout the ranges of the migratory ducks that depend on these habitats during their entire life cycles.  And now more recently, the North American Bird Conservation Initiative, through the State of the Birds reports, is bringing to the attention of our top decision makers the fact that birds serve as the bellwethers of our own well-being.  Our environmental, economic, and social well-being is inseparably tied to the fate of our birds and we have the science and tools that we need to reverse declines of at risk species while keeping our common birds common—we simply need to make the investment.

With many conservation challenges yet to be overcome, Klamath Bird Observatory is striving to keep our tradition of Natural History and Field Biology alive and well, by ensuring its practice informs effective conservation and helps us to realize tangible benefits for birds and people.

This is an extended version of the Note from the Executive Director article that first appeared in the 2014 Early Winter edition of the Klamath Bird Newsletter.

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Ashland, Oregon 97520

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