Friday, September 19, 2014

New York City Rare Bird Alert

Below is the New York City Rare Bird Alert for the week ending Friday, September 19, 2014:

- RBA
* New York
* New York City, Long Island, Westchester County
* Sep. 19, 2014
* NYNY1409.19

- Birds mentioned

SABINE'S GULL+
(+ Details requested by NYSARC)

Northern Gannet
Bald Eagle
Broad-winged Hawk
American Golden-Plover
Whimbrel
HUDSONIAN GODWIT
MARBLED GODWIT
Wilson's Snipe
RED-NECKED PHALAROPE
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Caspian Tern
Black Tern
Royal Tern
Parasitic Jaeger
Yellow-billed Cuckoo
Black-billed Cuckoo
Common Nighthawk
Red-headed Woodpecker
Yellow-bellied Flycatcher
Acadian Flycatcher
Yellow-throated Vireo
Blue-headed Vireo
Philadelphia Vireo
ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER
Cape May Warbler
Bay-breasted Warbler
PROTHONOTARY WARBLER
Worm-eating Warbler
CONNECTICUT WARBLER
Mourning Warbler
LARK SPARROW
Lincoln's Sparrow
Purple Finch

- Transcript

If followed by (+) please submit documentation of your report electronically and use the NYSARC online submission form found at http://www.nybirds.org/NYSARC/goodreport.htm

You can also send reports and digital image files via email to nysarc44(at)nybirds{dot}org.

If electronic submission is not possible, hardcopy reports and photos or sketches are welcome. Hardcopy documentation should be mailed to:

Gary Chapin - Secretary
NYS Avian Records Committee (NYSARC)
125 Pine Springs Drive
Ticonderoga, NY 12883

Hotline: New York City Area Rare Bird Alert
Number: (212) 979-3070

To report sightings call:
Tom Burke (212) 372-1483 (weekdays, during the day)
Tony Lauro at (631) 734-4126 (Long Island)

Compiler: Tom Burke, Tony Lauro
Coverage: New York City, Long Island, Westchester County

Transcriber: Ben Cacace

BEGIN TAPE

Greetings. This is the New York Rare Bird Alert for Friday, September 19th 2014 at 7pm. The highlights of today's tape are SABINE'S GULL, HUDSONIAN GODWIT, MARBLED GODWIT, RED-NECKED PHALAROPE, ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER, PROTHONOTARY WARBLER, CONNECTICUT WARBLER and LARK SPARROW.

Certainly this week's highlight was a juvenile SABINE'S GULL spotted moving east off Montauk Point early last Saturday morning. A two and a half hour seawatch also produced 6 PARASITIC JAEGERS, a BLACK TERN and 5 NORTHERN GANNETS while Sunday contributed 3 PARASITIC JAEGERS. This is a good spot to see Parasitics in the Fall especially when terns and Laughing Gulls are present in high numbers off the point.

Shorebird numbers have been declining recently especially at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge where Peregrine and Merlin harassment on the East Pond has been part of the problem. A CASPIAN TERN has been visiting the East Pond periodically and another has been seen several times at Jones Beach West End where 8 LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULLS were present in the West End 2 parking lot last Saturday. A West End shorebird gathering on the bar off the Coast Guard Station at high tide has recently featured both HUDSONIAN and MARBLED GODWITS with the latter still there Wednesday. An AMERICAN GOLDEN-PLOVER was also on the bar last Saturday and 2 put down briefly at Brooklyn's Plumb Beach on Saturday.

Interesting and unexpected was a RED-NECKED PHALAROPE at Nickerson Beach just west of Point Lookout in the rain last Saturday. Also on Saturday a WHIMBREL was spotted at Fort Tilden where an ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER was also seen. Another ORANGE-CROWNED was among the moderate number of warblers at Alley Pond Park last Saturday while a couple of PHILADELPHIA VIREOS were reported there Sunday and a CONNECTICUT WARBLER was found there today.

A nice Fall find was a PROTHONOTARY WARBLER in Brooklyn's Prospect Park Wednesday and Thursday. Only a moderate number of warblers has been noted in Prospect mirroring the situation in much of the region. The migration generally being slow to quite disappointing depending on where you are. Other reports from Prospect Thursday included ACADIAN FLYCATCHER and PHILADELPHIA VIREO while in Central Park recent highlights featured a WILSON'S SNIPE last Saturday and a continuing immature RED-HEADED WOODPECKER to Tuesday. An adult RED-HEADED WOODPECKER was spotted at Riis Park today. A MOURNING WARBLER was in Queens Sunday morning and other more unusual warblers recently have included WORM-EATING, BAY-BREASTED and CAPE MAY. PHILADELPHIA VIREOS have been noted at several sites during the week and other interesting landbirds have included BLACK-BILLED and YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOOS, YELLOW-BELLIED FLYCATCHER, various thrushes, YELLOW-THROATED and BLUE-HEADED VIREOS, LINCOLN'S SPARROW and PURPLE FINCH.

Farther east on Long Island a LARK SPARROW was found Thursday at Shirley Marina County Park. A CASPIAN TERN joined two ROYAL TERNS at Mecox on Sunday.

Some decent BROAD-WINGED HAWK flights have taken place at local hawk sites recently but no huge numbers have come through locally. Some BALD EAGLES have also joined these flights and should continue especially on days with good northwest winds. And now most of the COMMON NIGHTHAWKS have pushed through our area by now. Some do remain including 121 that were counted Monday evening over Lattingtown near the border with Glen Cove.

To phone in reports on Long Island, call Tony Lauro at (631) 734-4126 or weekdays call Tom Burke at (212) 372-1483.

This service is sponsored by the Linnaean Society of New York and the National Audubon Society. Thank you for calling.

- End transcript
...Read more

Friday's Foto

The American Golden-Plover, while categorized as a shorebird, tends to prefer grassy habitats rather than coastal muddy or sandy areas. For that reason it is often referred to by birders as a "grasspiper". Breeding in arctic tundra, they have one of the longest migrations in the world. During the fall migration, most individuals fly offshore from North America's east coast nonstop over the Atlantic Ocean to South America. Some birds may fly continuously for more than 3,000 miles. Previously considered to be the same species as the Pacific Golden-Plover, the American Golden-Plover is slightly larger, with shorter bill and legs. In breeding plumage, the white stripe around its neck extends only as far as the chest, rather than to the tail as in the former. The IUCN Red list lists them as a species of least concern.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Birds of Green-Wood Cemetery

I've spent a lot of time birding in Brooklyn's Green-Wood Cemetery over the past few years and recently began collecting photos of some of its resident birds. Here are some of those photos (in taxonomic order):




























The old world spelling, perhaps.


Not quite a bird, but I liked the name.

I'll add more in the future as I find them.
...Read more

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Treehugger Tuesday

Nearly Extinct Whale Species Recovers

From CBS-News:

California blue whales rebound from near extinction
By Agata Blaszczak-Boxe CBS News

The California blue whale population has rebounded to near historic numbers after being close to extinction decades ago, according to new research.

Scientists estimate that there are now about 2,200 California blue whales, which constitutes 97 percent of historic levels. This is also the only population of the blue whale species that has recovered from whaling and from being near extinction as a consequence.

"The recovery of California blue whales from whaling demonstrates the ability of blue whale populations to rebuild under careful management and conservation measures," study author Cole Monnahan, a doctoral student in quantitative ecology and resource management at University of Washington, said in a statement.

Blue whales are the largest and heaviest animals on earth, measuring nearly 100 feet long and weighing 190 tons as adults.



According to new data published earlier this summer in the journal PLOS ONE, about 3,400 California blue whales were caught between 1905 and 1971.

"Considering the 3,400 caught in comparison to the 346,000 caught near Antarctica gives an idea how much smaller the population of California blue whales was likely to have been," study author Trevor Branch, a UW assistant professor of aquatic and fishery sciences, said in a statement.

Although the number of blue whales that get struck by ships these days likely exceeds allowable U.S. limits, those strikes do not seem to threaten the animals' recovery, the researchers noted, adding that the current whale numbers are reaching the habitat limit, as the population is growing more slowly.

"Our findings aren't meant to deprive California blue whales of protections that they need going forward," Monnahan said. "California blue whales are recovering because we took actions to stop catches and start monitoring. If we hadn't, the population might have been pushed to near extinction - an unfortunate fate suffered by other blue whale populations."

The new findings were published online Friday in the journal Marine Mammal Science.
...Read more

Monday, September 15, 2014

Upcoming Nature Trips

Below is a list of upcoming nature trips by local birding/conservation groups for the weekend of September 20, 2014 to September 21, 2014:

Audubon Center in Prospect Park
Saturday, September 20, 2014
Pop-Up Audubon
Saturdays and Sundays, April 5 – October 19, 12 – 5 p.m. / November – December, 12 – 4 p.m.
Free
The Prospect Park Alliance presents Pop-Up Audubon, now in its second season, invites families to directly engage with nature through outdoor learning in locations around the Park.

Sunday, September 21, 2014, 8 a.m.
Pop-Up Audubon
Saturdays and Sundays, April 5 – October 19, 12 – 5 p.m. / November – December, 12 – 4 p.m.
Free
The Prospect Park Alliance presents Pop-Up Audubon, now in its second season, invites families to directly engage with nature through outdoor learning in locations around the Park.

**********

Brooklyn Bird Club
Sunday, September 21, 2014
Staten Island Greenbelt Mt. Moses
Leader: Mike Shanley and Isaac Grant
Focus: Hawk watching. Passerines in flight and woodlands
Registrar: Mike Shanley, email falecore@yahoo.com
Registration period: Sept 9th- Sept 18th
Leaders note: Join Mike Shanley and Isaac Grant as we make our way to the top of Moses Mountain and scan the skies in search of raptors and other migrating birds. We will also target Neotropical migrants as we make our way through the woodlands that lead to the top of the mountain. Site profile: "In the early 1960s Robert Moses, the notorious New York City planner and Parks Commissioner attempted to construct the Richmond Parkway over Todt Hill cutting through what is today's Greenbelt. Earth and rock blasted away for the highway was hauled to a remote area eventually forming a 260-foot-high mound ironically nicknamed "Moses Mountain." The name stuck but the Parkway did not. Intrepid citizen-activists vigorously protested the highway and won their battle. Today, a steep hike up a much greener Moses' Mountain rewards visitors with a panoramic view of the Greenbelt and New Jersey's Atlantic Highlands, 15-miles in the distance."

**********

Linnaean Society of New York
Saturday, September 20, 2014
Hook Mountain Hawk Watch
Leader: Rob Jett
Registrar: Sherry Felix – info@linnaeannewyork.org or 212-255-0138
Registration opens: Monday, September 8
Ride: $25

**********

New York Botanical Garden (Bronx)
Saturday, September 20, 2014
Debbie Becker leads a free bird walk at the Garden every Saturday from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. beginning at the Reflecting Pool in the Leon Levy Visitor Center

**********

New York City Audubon Society
Saturday, September 20, 2014, 8:00am – 9:30am
Van Cortlandt Bird Walk
Guide: NYC Audubon, Van Cortlandt Park Conservancy With the Van Cortlandt Park Conservancy Meet at Van Cortlandt Nature Center. The history of birding and Van Cortlandt Park are inseparable. Influential birders such as Roger Tory Peterson and Allan D. Cruickshank got their starts on Van Cortlandt’s ecologically diverse grounds. These walks celebrate the tradition set forth by these great ornithologists. Participants will look for various species of residents and migrants and discuss a wide range of avian topics.
For more information, please call 212-691-7483. No registration necessary. No limit. Free.

Sunday, September 21, 2014, 9am – 4pm
Hook Mt. Hawk Watch
Guide: Joe Giunta, Happy Warblers LLC Part of the Palisades Interstate Park system, Hook Mountain has commanding views of all the mountains ridges in the area and fantastic views of the Hudson River. From this inland hawk watch spot we expect to see many species of migrating raptors, including possible broad-winged and red-shouldered hawks, bald eagles, accipiters, and falcons. Note: this trip requires a 35-minute walk up and down the mountainside. Bring binoculars, lunch, and water.
Transport by passenger van included. Limited to 12. $95 (66) Click here to register!

Sunday, September 21, 2014, 10am – 11am
Birding for Families in Central Park
Guide: NYC Audubon Offered by the Central Park Conservancy
Meet at the Dana Discovery Center (inside the park at 110th Street between Lenox and Fifth Avenues).
Bring the kids and visit one of New York City’s richest bird habitats. As a family, learn how to spot and identify our feathered neighbors in their natural surroundings. Binoculars can be borrowed from the Dana Center.
For weather cancellation information, call 212-860-1370.
Limited to 20. Age 5 and up.
Free

**********

Protectors of Pine Oak Woods (Staten Island)
Saturday, September 20, 2014, 8 A.M. to 10 A.M.
Cemetery of the Resurrection on Sharrott Avenue
Join birder, Anthony Ciancimino, for a birding experience at the Cemetery of the Resurrection and adjacent DEC properties. This location is a fantastic spot for birding on Staten Island, especially in the fall. Many different types of warblers, vireos, and sparrows can be seen.
Meet at the first entrance beside the cemetery’s restrooms closest to Hylan Boulevard.

Saturday, September 20, 2014, 9 A.M. to Noon
Staten Island Beach Cleanup at Sharrott and Mt. Loretto Beaches
Meet in the NYC fishing pier parking lot opposite the intersection of Hylan Boulevard and Sharrott Avenue to take part in the International Coastal Cleanup. We will collect, separate, and record trash from the beach (and enjoy the view on the Raritan Bay!). Data from this clean-up will be used to monitor the cleanliness of the beaches and the health of our shoreline waters. Protectors will provide gloves, bags and refreshments. This will be the 217th Restoration and the 10th consecutive year that we have participated in removing hundreds of pounds of trash from our beach!
For more information call Don Recklies at 718-768-9036 or Chuck Perry at 718-667-1393.

Saturday, September 20, 2014, 1 P.M. to 3 P.M.
Clay Pit Ponds State Park Preserve
Clay Pit Ponds State Park Preserve is where Protectors of Pine Oak Woods was formed nearly 40 years ago. Come stroll the trails and enjoy a combination of ecosystems, such as sand barrens, wetlands, and ponds, and a beautiful park to explore in any season. Meet at the Clay pit Ponds Park Preserve parking lot at 83 Nielsen Avenue. (http://goo.gl/maps/N5bcq).
Please call John Paul Learn at 718-619-5051 or e-mail john.paul.learn@gmail.com for more information.

Sunday, September 21, 2014, 11 A.M. to 1 P.M.
Willowbrook Park Field Study
This Protectors walk provides an opportunity to study nature closely in the field. Our route takes the small loop of the white trail from the Carousel to the Archery Range and then to the Chimney Ruin. One goal of the walk is to count how many Tulip Trees you can spot. Bring flower and tree guides, loops or magnifying lenses, and lots and lots of questions. Share your knowledge of plant, fern and tree species with us. Meet at the Carousel; enter at Eton Place off Richmond Avenue. If it’s raining at the time of the walk, the event is postponed to Sunday, September 28.
For more information, e-mail Hillel Lofaso at hillel5757@gmail.com or call 718-477-0545.

Sunday, September 21, 2014, 2 P.M. to 4 P.M.
Buck’s Hollow and Heyerdahl Hill
Located in the Greenbelt, Heyerdahl Hill is nestled in an impressive stretch of woodland, holding ruins of a stone home built in the 1800s and plants and trees rarely seen in urban woodlands. We’ll meet at the stone wall on Meisner Ave, located by the intersection of Rockland Ave and Meisner Avenue. (http://goo.gl/maps/YP1HI).
Call John Paul Learn at 718-619-5051 or e-mail at john.paul.learn@gmail.com for more information.

**********

Queens County Bird Club
Sunday, September 21, 2014
Prospect Park
Leader: Arie Gilbert 917-693-7178.
Meeting 7:30am near Prospect Park Zoo on Flatbush Avenue

**********

Urban Park Rangers
Saturday, September 20, 2014
Bird Walk at Van Cortlandt Nature Center (in Van Cortlandt Park), Bronx
8:00 a.m.
NYC Audubon experts lead the way as we marvel at quirky but logical bird behavior and delicate feathers in exquisite patterns. Bring binoculars if you have them and wear sturdy…
Free!

Natural Areas Open House at Randalls Island Natural Areas (in Randall's Island Park), Manhattan
10:00 a.m.–2:00 p.m.
Join us for our free Natural Areas Open House event, which will include a guided nature exploration, exciting exhibits detailing the in-depth human and natural history of Randall’s Island.
Free!

Sunday, September 21, 2014
Birding for Families at Charles A. Dana Discovery Center (in Central Park), Manhattan
10:00 a.m.–11:00 a.m.
Experience the coming of Fall in Central Park when it becomes a precious bird habitat and migration hot spot!
Free!
...Read more

Friday, September 12, 2014

New York City Rare Bird Alert

Below is the New York City Rare Bird Alert for the week ending Friday, September 12, 2014:

-RBA
* New York
* New York City, Long Island, Westchester County
* Sept. 12, 2014
* NYNY1409.12

- Birds Mentioned

Red-necked Grebe
Bald Eagle
Broad-winged Hawk
Sora
AMERICAN GOLDEN-PLOVER
Whimbrel
HUDSONIAN GODWIT
MARBLED GODWIT
Stilt Sandpiper
BAIRD’S SANDPIPER
Western Sandpiper
White-rumped Sandpiper
BUFF-BREASTED SANDPIPER
Pectoral Sandpiper
Long-billed Dowitcher
POMARINE JAEGER
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Gull-billed Tern
Caspian Tern
Common Nighthawk
Eastern Whip-poor-will
Red-headed Woodpecker
Philadelphia Vireo
Tennessee Warbler
CONNECTICUT WARBLER
Hooded Warbler
Cape May Warbler
Bay-breasted Warbler
Wilson’s Warbler
Yellow-breasted Chat
Vesper Sparrow
LARK SPARROW
BLUE GROSBEAK

If followed by (+) please submit documentation of your report electronically and use the NYSARC online submission form found at http://www.nybirds.org/NYSARC/goodreport.htm

You can also send reports and digital image files via email to nysarc44nybirdsorg

If electronic submission is not possible, hardcopy reports and photos or sketches are welcome. Hardcopy documentation should be mailed to:

Gary Chapin - Secretary
NYS Avian Records Committee (NYSARC)
125 Pine Springs Drive
Ticonderoga, NY 12883

Hotline: New York City Area Rare Bird Alert
Number: (212) 979-3070

Compiler: Tom Burke, Tony Lauro
Coverage: New York City, Long Island, Westchester County

Transcriber: Gail Benson

[~BEGIN RBA TAPE~]
Greetings. This is the New York Rare Bird Alert for Friday, September 12 at 7:00 PM.

The highlights of today’s tape are POMARINE JAEGER, BUFF-BREASTED and BAIRD’S SANDPIPERS, HUDSONIAN and MARBLED GODWITS, AMERICAN GOLDEN-PLOVER, CONNECTICUT WARBLER, BLUE GROSBEAK, LARK SPARROW and a pelagic trip announcement.

In a week similar to the prior one, with good shorebird variety but somewhat disappointing land bird activity, the most interesting report involved a POMARINE JAEGER moving east past Robert Moses State Park Field 2 Wednesday morning. Four LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULLS were also counted there.

At Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge two very confiding BUFF-BREASTED SANDPIPERS were present on the east pond through last weekend, joining two HUDSONIAN GODWITS, and a MARBLED GODWIT also appeared on the pond Sunday, with it and one of the HUDSONIANS still present Thursday. Other notables on the east pond included an AMERICAN GOLDEN-PLOVER Wednesday, some WESTERN, WHITE-RUMPED and STILT SANDPIPERS, a LONG-BILLED DOWITCHER last weekend, a CASPIAN TERN Saturday and a SORA along the pond’s edge Sunday.

Birders checking the low tide mud flats at Plum Beach in Brooklyn encountered a HUDSONIAN GODWIT briefly on Saturday and a WHIMBREL Sunday.

Three GULL-BILLED TERNS were again on the Coast Guard Station bar at Jones Beach West End last Saturday.

Notable landbirds in the New York City area this week included an immature RED-HEADED WOODPECKER in Central Park Tuesday to today, a CONNECTICUT WARBLER lingering in Prospect Park last weekend, a few PHILADELPHIA VIREOS in the city parks, a YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT in Prospect Park Sunday, and a VESPER SPARROW in Brooklyn’s Greenwood Cemetery Sunday, with a LARK SPARROW there today,

A decent variety of warblers, but in low numbers, has also been present, these including some TENNESSEE, CAPE MAY, BAY-BREASTED, WILSON’S and HOODED.

Moving east on Long Island, a BLUE GROSBEAK was spotted at Robert Moses State Park Saturday, another was at Sunken Meadow State Park Wednesday, and a family group of three was still present Tuesday along Route 51 north of Route 111 in Eastport, where they do nest.

Out in the sod fields north of Riverhead a few BUFF-BREASTED SANDPIPERS have been seen lately, with five Thursday south of Sound Avenue on a field between Osborn Avenue and Horton Avenue, the same number seen Wednesday on the south side of Route 25 in Calverton; other singles were also noted in that area, and the fields west of Route 105 just south of Sound Avenue also featured AMERICAN GOLDEN-PLOVER and BAIRD’S SANDPIPER at least through last weekend.

A nice collection of shorebirds Sunday at Cupsogue County Park in Westhampton Dunes featured an HUDSONIAN GODWIT, still present Thursday, and two BAIRD’S SANDPIPERS; the 20 species spread between the flats north of the parking lot and the bars in the inlet also included PECTORAL, WESTERN and WHITE-RUMPED SANDPIPERS among the more expected species.

Birds on the flats at Mecox included an AMERICAN GOLDEN-PLOVER and a MARBLED GODWIT Saturday, with an HUDSONIAN GODWIT there Thursday, and the RED-NECKED GREBE also continues there.

An EASTERN WHIP-POOR-WILL singing briefly at Marshlands Conservancy in Rye last Saturday evening and prior indicates that they, as well as decent numbers of COMMON NIGHTHAWKS, are now moving through.

And local hawk sites will be enjoying good numbers of migrants, especially BROAD-WINGED HAWKS and BALD EAGLES, in the next week or two with the right winds.

A pelagic trip to Hudson Canyon, leaving 10:30 PM on Friday, October 24 from Freeport aboard the Captain Lou Fleet’s Starstream VIII, will spend Saturday well offshore and return Saturday evening. The cost is $235, and the trip is about half full. Please call the Captain Lou’s office at 516-623-5823 for reservations.

To phone in reports, on Long Island call Tony Lauro at (631) 734-4126, or weekdays call Tom Burke at (212) 372-1483.

This service is sponsored by the Linnaean Society of New York and the National Audubon Society. Thank you for calling.

- End transcript
...Read more

Friday's Foto

The Whimbrel is a fairly large shorebird that is found within both the eastern and western hemispheres. In North America they breeds in boreal and arctic regions. They winters from the mid-coasts of the United States through parts of coastal South America, coastal Surinam, north central Brazil, and some Caribbean islands. Some migrating Whimbrels fly nonstop approximately 2,500 miles to South America from their breeding grounds in southern Canada or New England. You can see tracking maps of individuals fitted with transmitters here. They are listed as a species of least concern on the IUCN Red List.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Treehugger Tuesday

BPA is a common ingredient in plastics used as protective liners in cans, paper products and dental sealants. Scientists now agree that it poses serious threats to humans, especially women, as an endocrine disruptor.

The following was published in the New York Times:

In Plastics and Cans, a Threat to Women
By DEBORAH BLUM
August 28, 2014 12:33 pm

Deborah Blum writes about chemicals and the environment.

A few years ago, Jodi Flaws, a bioscientist at the University of Illinois, began testing a theory about the risks to women posed by the widely used industrial compound bisphenol A, or BPA.

A series of studies had suggested that it could damage developing ovaries. But nobody knew how. So for a month, Dr. Flaws dosed young female mice with a BPA solution at a level comparable to estimated human exposure in the United States. She then examined their ovaries, focusing on the follicles, which contain the eggs.

The effect of the BPA was immediately obvious.

Compared with normal mice, the follicles of the treated mice were fewer and smaller. Further analysis showed that estradiol, the sex hormone essential for normal reproductive development, was not being produced at normal levels. BPA, it seemed, interferes with enzymes essential in the production of such hormones. Another study published by her laboratory this spring found that treated mice stopped producing viable eggs at an abnormally young age.

Scientists have discovered similar effects across an increasingly broad range of mammals, from sheep to monkeys to, alas, humans. The accumulating research fuels rising concern among scientists that childhood exposure to BPA may well contribute to female infertility, and that adult exposure may result in a shorter reproductive life span.

“I think most scientists working today agree that BPA is an ovarian toxicant,” Dr. Flaws said. A review of research into BPA, published this summer in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, noted that ovarian toxicity is among the most consistent and strongest effects found “in both animal models and in women.”

Discovered in the late 19th century, BPA came into wide commercial use in the mid-20th century. It is an ingredient in products like polycarbonate plastics, thermal coatings on cash register receipts and protective linings in cans and pipes.

Concerns about its health risks didn’t really arise until the late 1990s, when researchers first reported that it appeared to disrupt normal hormone function. Consumer worry led the Food and Drug Administration to ban it in baby products, such as bottles, and manufacturers voluntarily scaled back its use in other goods. But because good substitutes are hard to find, BPA is still used in many materials, and studies have found that a majority of Americans still test positive for exposure.

What that means for our health has turned out to be a complicated subject; manufacturers have pointed out that more than decade of research has produced often inconsistent results. Still many experts worry that the evidence that this chemical damages young ovaries is consistent — and growing.

“There are so many studies of BPA that it’s often difficult to weed out the real effects,” said Tracey Woodruff, the director of the program on reproductive health and the environment at the University of California, San Francisco. “But on this question of ovarian toxicity, all the studies are starting to line up.”

Genetics, lifestyle, and other chemical exposures also play a role in infertility, and scientists are still struggling to figure out where BPA ranks among the risks. “We’re incredibly difficult creatures to study, especially because we’re looking at effects that may take a generation to show up,” said Patricia Hunt, a genetics professor at Washington State University.

She and her colleagues decided to study the compound’s effects in another primate species, the rhesus monkey. They exposed monkeys in the second and third trimesters of pregnancy to levels of BPA comparable to those that humans received. The investigators were looking for the effects on developing ovaries, similar to the changes in rodents. And they found them. The exposure in both trimesters altered follicles and oocytes (the germ cells that develop into eggs). Similar effects might easily occur in developing human females as well, Dr. Hunt concluded.

Researchers at Harvard University have been trying to assess how BPA affects humans through studies of women enrolled at in-vitro fertilization (IVF) clinics. In a recent study, 80 percent of the women tested positive for BPA in urine. Higher BPA levels were linked to a reduced number of follicles — and therefore fewer fertile eggs.

Noting that BPA also turned up in follicular fluid, the investigators also looked at 357 discarded oocytes from more than 120 women visiting the clinics. Higher levels of BPA were linked to stunted human oocytes, as well as indications of chromosomal damage – a finding also found in animals studied by Dr. Hunt. “Together with prior animal studies, the data support the negative influences of BPA on oocyte maturation,” the Harvard team concluded.

Despite the growing body of research, a more complete assessment of BPA’s effects on human reproduction remains a tricky prospect.

“As a species, we tend to have a lot more chromosomal abnormalities anyway than animals like mice,” Dr. Hunt said. “And then people are waiting longer to have children, and that’s also a complicating factor.”

Dr. Woodruff said that a detailed systematic review of BPA was in the works, part of a National Toxicology Program reassessment of chemical risks. It should provide a better sense of how to navigate through recent findings. Her best advice for now? Avoid the compound when possible and, other than that, “don’t drive yourself crazy.”

“We’re still figuring this out, and the burden is on us — researchers, healthcare providers, manufactures — to do that well,” she said.

© 2014 The New York Times Company
...Read more

Monday, September 08, 2014

Upcoming Nature Trips

Below is a list of upcoming nature trips by local birding/conservation groups for the weekend of September 13, 2014 to September 14, 2014:

Audubon Center in Prospect Park
Saturday, September 13, 2014
Family Bird Watching Tour
Free
Geared towards families with children ages 8 and older, the Prospect Park Alliance will help young naturalists learn how to observe and identify some of the 200 species of birds that pass through Prospect Park or make it their home.

Pop-Up Audubon
Saturdays and Sundays, April 5 – October 19, 12 – 5 p.m. / November – December, 12 – 4 p.m.
Free
The Prospect Park Alliance presents Pop-Up Audubon, now in its second season, invites families to directly engage with nature through outdoor learning in locations around the Park.

Sunday, September 14, 2014, 8 a.m.
Pop-Up Audubon
Saturdays and Sundays, April 5 – October 19, 12 – 5 p.m. / November – December, 12 – 4 p.m.
Free
The Prospect Park Alliance presents Pop-Up Audubon, now in its second season, invites families to directly engage with nature through outdoor learning in locations around the Park.

**********

Brooklyn Bird Club
Saturday, September 13, 2014
Prospect Park
Meet 7:00 am at Grand Army Plaza Stranahan Statue park entrance
Leader: Paul Keim

September 12-14, 2014
Three day Weekend: Wissahickon Valley Preserve and the Upper Delaware Watershed
Leader: Peter Dorosh
Focus: Diversity of passerine fall migrants
Car fee: $125.00
Registrar: Peter Dorosh, email (preferred) prosbird@aol.com
Registration period: August 15th- September 1st
Site profile: http://www.fow.org

**********

Linnaean Society of New York
Saturday, September 13, 2014
Riis Park and Fort Tilden
Leader: Richard ZainEldeen
Registrar: Pearl Broder – pbroder3@nyc.rr.com or 212-924-0030
Registration opens: Tuesday, September 2
Ride: $15 or public transportation

**********

New York Botanical Garden (Bronx)
Saturday, September 13, 2014
Debbie Becker leads a free bird walk at the Garden every Saturday from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. beginning at the Reflecting Pool in the Leon Levy Visitor Center

**********

New York City Audubon Society
Saturday, September 13, 2014, 8:00am – 9:30am
Van Cortlandt Bird Walk
Guide: NYC Audubon, Van Cortlandt Park Conservancy With the Van Cortlandt Park Conservancy Meet at Van Cortlandt Nature Center. The history of birding and Van Cortlandt Park are inseparable. Influential birders such as Roger Tory Peterson and Allan D. Cruickshank got their starts on Van Cortlandt’s ecologically diverse grounds. These walks celebrate the tradition set forth by these great ornithologists. Participants will look for various species of residents and migrants and discuss a wide range of avian topics.
For more information, please call 212-691-7483. No registration necessary. No limit. Free.

Saturday, September 13, 2014, 8am – 1pm
Birding Gems of Queens: Udalls Cove and Ravine Natural Resource Area
Guide: Jeff Kollbrunner
Udalls Cove is tucked right alongside Little Neck Bay in Queens. This small but precious park provides resources for saltmarsh, freshwater wetland, and forest species of birds and other animals. Look for great and snowy egrets, belted kingfishers, common terns, osprey, and even clapper rails.
Van transportation is included. Limit to 11. $75 (52)
Click here to register

Sunday, September 14, 2014, 9:30am – 11:30am
Fall Birding at Wave Hill, The Bronx
Guide: Gabriel Willow With Wave Hill
Meet at the Perkins Visitor Center. Naturalist Gabriel Willow contributes his extensive knowledge of bird species and their behaviors on these captivating walks. Wave Hill’s garden setting overlooking the Hudson River flyway provides the perfect habitat for resident and migrating birds. Advanced registration is recommended, either online at www.wavehill.org, at the Perkins Visitor Center, or by calling 718-549-3200 x251. (Walks run rain or shine; in case of severe weather call the number above for updates.)
Ages 10 and up welcome with an adult.
NYC Audubon members enjoy two-for-one admission

Sunday, September 14, 2014, 10am – 11am
Birding for Families in Central Park
Guide: NYC Audubon Offered by the Central Park Conservancy
Meet at the Dana Discovery Center (inside the park at 110th Street between Lenox and Fifth Avenues).
Bring the kids and visit one of New York City’s richest bird habitats. As a family, learn how to spot and identify our feathered neighbors in their natural surroundings. Binoculars can be borrowed from the Dana Center.
For weather cancellation information, call 212-860-1370.
Limited to 20. Age 5 and up.
Free

**********

Protectors of Pine Oak Woods (Staten Island)
Saturday, September 13, 2014, 8 A.M. TO 10 A.M.
Great Kills Park
Join birder, Anthony Ciancimino, at Great Kills Park and search for migrating waterbirds. Great Kills Park has an expansive shoreline, some of which includes spartina mud flats; ideal for migrating species of shorebirds. In addition to shorebirds, other possible species include Common, Forster’s, and Royal Tern, various species of gulls, and sparrows and warblers in the nearby dunes. Meet in the parking lot at the corner of Buffalo Street from Hylan Boulevard.
E-mail Anthony Ciancimino at sibirdwatcher@yahoo.com for more information.

Sunday, September 14, 2014, 10 A.M. to Noon
Monarch Watch
Join naturalist Mike Shanley as he explores Mt. Loretto Unique Area to assess the migration of monarch butterflies. Recent studies indicate that the future of monarch butterflies is not bright, as their numbers are dropping at an alarming rate across Mexico, California and other areas of the United States. Many theories are being proposed for this decline including habitat loss at their wintering grounds in Mexico, decline in their host plant (milkweed) and genetically modified farming. We will explore the fields of Mt. Loretto and conduct an informal survey of the monarchs we encounter. Please bring binoculars. Meet at the main Mt. Loretto parking lot on Hylan Boulevard across from the CYO.
For more information call Mike at 917-753-7155.

Sunday, September 14, 2014, 2 P.M. to 4 P.M.
Conference House Park
Past and present blend at Conference House Park, where history stretches back thousands of years with the seasonal occupation of the Lenape and hundreds of years with the habitation of the Dutch and English. In addition to the local history, we’ll observe the geology of the area and look for what the debris at the high tide line has to reveal. Meet in the parking lot at the end of Hylan Boulevard on the left.
For more information phone Clay Wollney at 718-869-6327.

**********

Queens County Bird Club
Saturday, September 13, 2014
Alley Pond Park
Minitrip with Eric Miller 917-279-7530
7:45 AM meet at 76th Avenue Lot
Note:
MINI TRIPS - Break after lunch +/-
ALL DAY TRIPS - BYO lunch, dinner out. {optl}
WEEKEND TRIPS - Two + days / Overnight

**********

Urban Park Rangers
Saturday, September 13, 2014
Bird Walk at Van Cortlandt Nature Center (in Van Cortlandt Park), Bronx
8:00 a.m.
NYC Audubon experts lead the way as we marvel at quirky but logical bird behavior and delicate feathers in exquisite patterns. Bring binoculars if you have them and wear sturdy…
Free!
...Read more

Friday, September 05, 2014

New York City Rare Bird Alert

Below is the New York City Rare Bird Alert for the week ending Friday, September 5, 2014:

-RBA
* New York
* New York City, Long Island, Westchester County
* Sept. 5, 2014
* NYNY1409.05

- Birds Mentioned

BROWN BOOBY+
SANDWICH TERN+
(+ Details requested by NYSARC)

KING EIDER
Red-necked Grebe
Peregrine Falcon
AMERICAN GOLDEN-PLOVER
Piping Plover
Whimbrel
HUDSONIAN GODWIT
MARBLED GODWIT
Red Knot
Sanderling
Pectoral Sandpiper
Stilt Sandpiper
BAIRD’S SANDPIPER
White-rumped Sandpiper
BUFF-BREASTED SANDPIPER
Western Sandpiper
RED-NECKED PHALAROPE
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Gull-billed Tern
Royal Tern
Yellow-billed Cuckoo
Black-billed Cuckoo
Philadelphia Vireo
Veery
Swainson’s Thrush
Golden-winged Warbler
CONNECTICUT WARBLER
Scarlet Tanager
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Bobolink
Purple Finch


If followed by (+) please submit documentation of your report electronically and use the NYSARC online submission form found at http://www.nybirds.org/NYSARC/goodreport.htm

You can also send reports and digital image files via email to nysarc44nybirdsorg

If electronic submission is not possible, hardcopy reports and photos or sketches are welcome. Hardcopy documentation should be mailed to:

Gary Chapin - Secretary
NYS Avian Records Committee (NYSARC)
125 Pine Springs Drive
Ticonderoga, NY 12883

Hotline: New York City Area Rare Bird Alert
Number: (212) 979-3070

Compiler: Tom Burke, Tony Lauro
Coverage: New York City, Long Island, Westchester County

Transcriber: Gail Benson

[~BEGIN RBA TAPE~]
Greetings. This is the New York Rare Bird Alert for Friday, September 5 at 6:00 pm.

The highlights of today’s tape are shorebirds including AMERICAN GOLDEN-PLOVER, BAIRD’S and BUFFED-BREASTED SANDPIPERS, HUDSONIAN and MARBLED GODWITS, RED-NECKED PHALAROPE, SANDWICH TERN, KING EIDER and CONNECTICUT WARBLER.

A fine week for shorebirds, the good variety including some of the more sought after species.

Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge’s east pond continues to provide decent numbers and wonderful views, especially during the high tide cycle. Last Saturday, six HUDSONIAN GODWITS dropped in at the pond’s north end and one or two HUDSONIANS have remained there through today. Also on Saturday two BAIRD’S SANDPIPERS were seen, with at least one continuing to Thursday. Other unusual visitors featured an AMERICAN GOLDEN-PLOVER Sunday, a PIPING PLOVER on Monday and a BUFF-BREASTED SANDPIPER Wednesday, with two there Thursday and today. There were also six PECTORAL SANDPIPERS found Monday and decent numbers of WESTERN, WHITE-RUMPED and STILT SANDPIPERS plus the occasional RED KNOT and SANDERLINGS among the more numerous visitors. PEREGRINE FALCONS do continue to harass the shorebirds on the pond.

Another very productive shorebird site has been Cupsogue County Park in Westhampton Dunes, birds using both the lower tide flats north of the parking lot and the large bar in the inlet viewable at distance from the beach along the inlet’s east side. A RED-NECKED PHALAROPE was seen on that bar Tuesday. Two WHIMBRELS on Sunday increased to three Monday, that day also producing an AMERICAN GOLDEN-PLOVER, a BUFF-BREASTED SANDPIPER and six HUDSONIAN GODWITS. Over twenty ROYAL TERNS have also been present at Cupsogue as well as at Tiana Beach to the east along Dune Road.

The flats at Mecox, where there are parking issues during the day, have also been rewarding. A MARBLED GODWIT was there Sunday to Tuesday, and among the other shorebirds there Monday were single AMERICAN GOLDEN-PLOVER, BAIRD’S SANDPIPER and WHIMBREL, plus eleven PECTORAL SANDPIPERS. A RED-NECKED GREBE also continues at Mecox.

A SANDWICH TERN was reported from Sagg Pond in Bridgehampton Tuesday, this another spot to check for shorebirds.

And, there are the sod fields north of Riverhead. The fields along the west side of Route 105 just south of Sound Avenue have featured a BAIRD’S SANDPIPER Sunday and still reported today, two BUFF-BREASTED SANDPIPERS Thursday, PECTORAL SANDPIPER and a varying small number of AMERICAN GOLDEN-PLOVERS. Also in that area, 71 AMERICAN GOLDEN-PLOVERS were counted Monday on the DeLea Sod Farm off Sound Avenue, and other surrounding fields could also be attractive to these grassland sandpipers.

Other shorebirds have featured MARBLED GODWIT and BUFF-BREASTED SANDPIPER Sunday and BAIRD’S SANDPIPER Monday at Plum Beach in Brooklyn, where the immature male KING EIDER was again spotted last Sunday, and an AMERICAN GOLDEN-PLOVER and two WHIMBRELS in the swale at Jones Beach West End in front of Field 2 Monday. A GULL-BILLED TERN was still on the West End bar today, and six LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULLS continue on the beach in front of field 2.

An interesting report from August 29th of a probable BROWN BOOBY moving south past Fort Tilden at a distance reminds us to keep an eye on the ocean.

For land birds, a CONNECTICUT WARBLER was being seen occasionally in Prospect Park Wednesday through today near the Upper and Lower Pools, and other sparsely seen migrants have included BLACK-BILLED and YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOOS and PHILADELPHIA VIREO. An immature GOLDEN-WINGED WARBLER was reported in Alley Pond Park Monday and a male GOLDEN-WINGED was there this afternoon. In all, over 20 species of warblers have been moving through, generally in fairly low numbers, as have many of the other seasonal migrants, including VEERY, SWAINSON’S THRUSH, various flycatchers and vireos, SCARLET TANAGER, ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAK, BOBOLINK and even PURPLE FINCH.

To phone in reports on Long Island, call Tony Lauro at (631) 734-4126, or weekdays call Tom Burke at (212) 372-1483.

This service is sponsored by the Linnaean Society of New York and the National Audubon Society. Thank you for calling.

- End transcript
...Read more

Friday's Foto

The adult male King Eider is arguably one of the world's most spectacular looking waterfowl. This young male that decided to stop off at Brooklyn's Plum Beach recently has several more months ahead of him before he develops his brightly colored head plumage and large orange bill knob. A circumpolar breeder, in eastern North America this large seaduck winters offshore in southern Greenland, Labrador, Newfoundland and New England. They will rarely go as far south as Florida. These deep divers feed on mollusks, crustaceans and aquatic insects. The IUCN Red List considers King Eider as "least concern", however because they only breed in the Arctic, they may be at risk from the impacts of global climate change.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

August Birds

The last time I posted the monthly roundup of birds I've seen in my patch of Brooklyn was back in May. It is not because I've been lazy, but rather that I only saw one new species in June (Cliff Swallow) and none during the month of July. Except for years when we see a hurricane, August around the county of Kings is generally not very productive. My five year average is 4.6 species during the second half of the dog days. Last month, however, through good timing, persistence and a bit of luck I managed to add 12 species to my Brooklyn year list. One of those species was new for my Brooklyn life list.

Last month I spent a lot of early mornings watching the sun come up over Plum Beach near Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn. Notorious bank robber Willie Sutton was once asked why he robbed banks, his reply being, "Because that's where they keep the money." If you want to see a lot of birds in Brooklyn you have to go where they go. When shorebirds, seabirds and marsh birds are on the move one of the best places to seek them out is Plum Beach.

The shorebird migration at Plum wasn't great this year but I did manage to add Piping Plover, Red Knot, Pectoral Sandpiper and Western Sandpiper. One big surprise occurred while standing at the shoreline with a few friends. We had just spent an hour there looking at a rare King Eider and were preparing to leave. Suddenly Keir looked up and spotted a large, long billed shorebird flying above us. It turned out to be a Whimbrel and after circling for a moment it landed on the beach at the east end of Plum. Rob was quick with his camera and got this excellent flight shot of the bird.

Another good bird to find at the interior, marsh side of Plum Beach is Saltmarsh Sparrow. On the 16th Heydi and I spotted a trio of them, one being a juvenile bird. She took some nice photos of the presumably family group and noticed when looking through the images at home that one was actually banded. Over the years I've seen many of these birds here and at Marine Park but never saw any that were banded. Heydi submitted the data to a website that tracks banded birds and I'll update this post as soon as she finds out where it was banded.

Finally, the best surprise of last month was when my friend Shane spotted a young male King Eider off the shore of Plum Beach. I had never seen one in Brooklyn, so immediately hopped on my bike and pedaled the 8 1/2 miles to the shore in seemingly record time. I arrived shortly after Sean parked his car and caught up with him as he was wrangling his two kids down the beach. Keir had taken mass transit and a car service to get there and was already watching the bird preening in the water about 50 yards from shore. The other Rob showed up a short time later. This was not just a good year bird for me, but also the first time I'd seen one in Brooklyn. Here's a very short video of the eider:



**********

NYS Total: 242
Kings Total: 241
Added in August: 12

230) Pectoral Sandpiper (Plumb Beach, 08/02/14)
231) Piping Plover (Plumb Beach, 08/03/14)
232) Gull-billed Tern (Plumb Beach, 08/03/14)
233) Western Sandpiper (Plumb Beach, 08/09/14)
234) Bobolink (Gerritsen Creek, 08/10/14)
235) Golden-winged Warbler (Prospect Park, 08/15/14)
236) Cerulean Warbler (Prospect Park, 08/15/14)
237) Red Knot (Plumb Beach, 08/16/14)
238) Saltmarsh Sparrow (Plumb Beach, 08/16/14)
239) Common Nighthawk (Park Slope--My Roof, 08/26/14)
240) King Eider (Plumb Beach, 08/29/14)
241) Whimbrel (Plumb Beach, 08/29/14)
...Read more

Treehugger Tuesday

Yesterday marked the 100th anniversary of the death of the last Passenger Pigeon. It was an individual named Martha who lived her entire life in the Cincinnati Zoo. There has been a lot of media coverage recently about the extinction of what was once the most numerous bird species on the planet, but I found this book review by GrrlScientist in "The Guardian" to be particularly good:

A feathered river across the sky by Joel Greenberg - review
This comprehensive book meticulously documents much that is known about the iconic extinct passenger pigeon.

One hundred years ago today, the last passenger pigeon, a captive-bred adult named Martha, died at the Cincinnati Zoo. Since we knew that she was the last of her kind, her body was frozen into a 300-pound block of ice before she was shipped by train to the Smithsonian Institution, where she was skinned, dissected and preserved as a mount.



Although none of the people who knew these birds are alive today, we can still learn more about this iconic bird through their writings and photographs, thanks to Joel Greenberg’s book, A Feathered River Across the Sky: The Passenger Pigeon’s Flight to Extinction [Bloomsbury USA, 2014; Guardian bookshop; Amazon UK hardcover/paperback/audio download; Amazon US hardcover/paperback/kindle/Audible audio]. Written by a research associate at the Field Museum and the Chicago Academy of Sciences’ Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, and co-founder of Project Passenger Pigeon, this comprehensive book meticulously documents much that is known about this iconic bird.

The extinct passenger pigeon or wild pigeon, Ectopistes migratorius, was a sleek handsome bird with a pointed tail and elongated wings, resembling the much smaller mourning dove. Adult males had slaty blue-grey upper-parts with a copper-coloured breast and shimmering iridescent plumage that changed colours from royal blue to emerald green under changing light conditions. Adult females wore more subdued plumage, whilst the juveniles, which resembled females, were paler with white spots on their wings.

Passenger pigeons were gregarious, roosting and nesting in such prodigious numbers that their combined weight sometimes uprooted entire trees or broke off branches. Most of the birds nested in tremendous colonies covering hundreds of thousands of acres and containing many millions, possibly billions, of birds. Whether these large flocks were an essential component for breeding to occur is uncertain since they also nested in small groups or even as solitary pairs in the wild, and they bred readily in aviaries.

Wild pigeons ate a varied diet. They favoured the seasonal crop of nuts (“mast”) produced by deciduous trees, especially oaks, but they also consumed corn, buckwheat and other cereal crops planted by farmers, and they ate worms and insects, especially when raising young.

Passenger pigeons were the most numerous birds in North America, and may have been the most numerous bird on the planet. Experts estimate that their population numbered somewhere between three and five billion during the early- to mid-1800s.

These elegant birds were built for speed and endurance. In historical times, they wandered low over the continent’s landscape in immense flocks, darkening the sky for days. According to written descriptions inspired by these birds, it’s easy to believe that if passenger pigeons were alive today, they would have routinely stopped all air traffic for days across large parts of North America.

History suggests that few things stimulate human ingenuity more than the challenge of killing. This is most evident when the intended targets are other human beings, for no other organism poses anywhere near the same severity of threat. But as a species, we are no slackers even when the adversary is an eighteen-inch-long bird. Safe only when they rose above high enough to exceed the range of weaponry, the passenger pigeons otherwise lived a gauntlet whereby they became the targets of an arsenal that employed an amazing array of instruments.” [p. 91]

Subsistence hunting of passenger pigeons was not sufficient. Instead, men, women and children often traveled long distances, gathering where ever the passenger pigeons congregated, and the birds were massacred by the hundreds and by the thousands -- in numbers far greater than anyone could possibly consume -- for simple amusement. Males, females and their eggs and chicks (squabs) were all targeted indiscriminately. After the pigeons were dead, they were eaten or their feathers were used to stuff pillows or feather beds, they were dressed for sale and shipped by train or carts to nearby cities, they were fed to swine or simply left to rot -- not unlike the fate of millions of American bison, for example.

Wild pigeons were slaughtered using any conceivable sort of weapon, ranging from bare hands or clubs to canons, from torching the birds whilst they slept in their nests or roosts at night to simply biting their heads off. Entire competitions were designed to celebrate the greatest number of pigeons killed by a single shotgun blast or that were killed by one person within a specific span of time. Large social events and tournaments were held where thousands of wild pigeons were jammed into crates and transported by train to large cities like New York. There, they become trap shooting targets for rich and powerful gentlemen, whilst cheering mobs gambled on who might be the eventual winner. Although viewed as a sport, these events amounted to nothing more than firing squads where the wild pigeons, debilitated by lack of food and water for days, were shot moments after release.

But at least some pigeons escaped or managed to recover from their wounds. According to one anonymous pigeon hunter in the state of Wisconsin, a close examination of his pigeon carcasses revealed “a host of wounds from ‘previous assaults’: ‘broken and disjointed legs; bills that had been shot half away and grown curiously out again; missing toes or even a whole leg; and even healed up breast wounds.’” (p. 97)

The passenger pigeons’ resilience and tremendous numbers allowed this bloodshed to continue unabated for fifty years. But in the end, the carnage came to an abrupt halt because the vast flocks of wild pigeons disappeared. Yet even at the end of the 1800s -- and despite their rarity -- the last few wild pigeons were still being singled out whilst feeding in the company of flocks of other avian species or they were shot out of the sky and, once again, their bodies were typically discarded, or were occasionally made into mounts or eaten.

The final chapters of Mr Greenberg’s book record the last few breeding attempts made by passenger pigeons across the eastern United States and Southeastern Canada. Reading this rollcall to extinction is almost like hearing the tolling of a distant bell marking a funeral, except this bell tolls for the loss of an entire nation, it documents the indefensible, deliberate decimation of an entire species that will never again grace this planet.

Even as people knew these birds were disappearing, the persecutions intensified, and several million pigeons were recorded as being slaughtered and shipped to cities from their final mass nesting attempts during their last decade on Earth. This of course leaves one to wonder how many additional deaths went unrecorded because no one bothered to collect the dead birds? And the numbers of live birds shipped to trapshoots in those final years remained undocumented, as well.

But even in the last few years of their existence, these birds often died in vain: upon reaching the cities, it was not uncommon for barrels of pigeons to be discarded as unfit for human consumption.

This carnage left just a few dozen passenger pigeons alive in private aviaries and zoos. The last one of them all, named Martha, was a captive-bred bird with a fuzzy history who resided at the Cincinnati Zoo. First, she was part of a small group, but they died one by one until Martha was the last living representative of her species. But even during the last four years of her life, the ageing Martha was sometimes harassed by the public, who gathered outside her aviary on Sundays to throw sand at her so she would move around the enclosure.

This compendium, which clearly is a labour of love, took four years to investigate and write. It is meticulously researched and thoroughly cited, containing a readable 34-page appendix of miscellany, 16 pages of chapter notes, a 14-page bibliography and a 15-page index. The index’s usefulness is limited to listing only the names of people and places, instead of additional terms that would probably interest most readers, terms such as pets, zoos, captive breeding or aviculture, especially since all these topics were mentioned in the book, even if only briefly.

The book includes numerous black-and-white photographs, drawings and a few maps embedded within the text and a special insert with full-colour illustrations -- paintings, photographs, sketches and other historical materials that add context to this shameful story.

The writing is generally pedestrian although it sometimes can be sardonic or personable. Nevertheless, the considerable effort required to hunt down and read the historical materials, some of which are newly brought to light so this book could be written in the first place, makes this the most important document about the passenger pigeon to be published since A. W. Shorger’s monograph, The Passenger Pigeon: Its Natural History and Extinction (1955). I suspect that the author’s dedication came at a price: I can barely imagine the huge emotional toll that researching and writing this book must have taken on Mr Greenberg.

A Feathered River Across the Sky is critically valuable as a reference work and as a historical document. This chronicle is a powerful record of the extinction of a species at the hands of man and for this reason alone, it is our responsibility to read this book. Further, it serves as a quietly damning reflection of our outrageous hubris and arrogance, and the myriad destructive choices that we make as individuals, as a culture and as a species.

.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..

You may wish to read about a recently published study that further explores the extinction of the passenger pigeon.

You may also wish to watch several videos that discuss Martha’s last homes.
...Read more

Exploring urban nature, birds, birdwatching, birding, hummingbirds, butterflies, dragonflies, bees, hawks, raptors, wildflowers, trees, mushrooms, environment, binoculars, spotting scope