Last week, I talked about leaving room for wildlife through our gardening practices. This week, here’s a link to a story about the attraction wildlife has to urban spaces, and if they’re predators, this might be uncomfortable for us. For Nighthawks and urban rooftops, this might be a necessity, as their other habitats are eliminated.
Having a hard time keeping up with the neighbors? Feeling judged because your yard doesn’t evoke that Astro turf perfection? Have no fear! Letting your yard go is good for biodiversity. Check this link out.
At least Nighthawks have crypsis on their side.
Awhile back, Pacific Rim Conservation posted this story about the disturbing death of albatrosses. I would like to think that this could never happen again, but sadly, I have seen vandalism of rooftop nighthawk nest sites. Now that we are nearing July 4th, I feel it’s important to explain that it is damaging to throw fireworks at rooftop nighthawk nests. Sometimes people harass wildlife because they are bored and think they can get away with it. I want to share the wonder of bird nests, and events like these induce me to keep these nests cryptic. But, instead I keep writing about nighthawks. They deserve it.
Lately, I’ve been thinking about how how children interact with nature, free of the scientific method, with no concern about anthropomorphism, just pure exploration. Observational studies sometimes get a bad rap, but for most of us, that’s how we started. Darwin’s children certainly understood this perspective.
Here in the Midwest we often hear the term “flyover states” to describe our region. Perhaps some folks find our region not worth a visit, but for many birds who are migrating, a stop here may be crucial.
See here on Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s web site in real time how crucial.
Now that I’ve eschewed birding lists in my previous post, I’d like to publish this excellent chart for those who’d like to improve their ID skills. Sparrows are particularly vexing, and surely this chart must help. Perhaps a handy chart for small shorebirds is next?
Nighthawks just being interesting.
I’m an ornithologist who often finds herself apologizing for not being a birder, at least not in the way most people expect. I’m often more interested in watching a single bird, no matter how mundane its species is, doing something interesting. Now this writer has articulated this point of view so clearly. Huzzah!
Matthew and Will Gladstone of the Blue Feet Foundation. Photo: Courtesy of Will Gladstone via Audubon
Previously, I detailed the creative ways I have funded my research. These two gentlemen, as detailed in an Audubon post, have found yet another way to fund conservation and research of the Blue-footed Boobies of the Galapagos.
1-month-old Common Nighthawk Chick from Brookman Hall, USD
One day in the lab, there was a knock at the door. A child held out a nighthawk chick to me. He said his family had found it in the parking lot. I checked for a band, and it turned out to be a 1-month old chick I had banded 2 weeks prior on a university rooftop. It had since fledged and was, presumably, trying to use the gravel parking lot for camouflage and a staging place to be fed by its parents. I fed it some sugar water, and gave it some quiet time in a darkened room to recover from its rescue. Later that day, I was able to return it to the roof. When I checked on it again the next day, it flew away from me very successfully. Without a band I would not have known where the bird was from.
There are so many reasons researchers band birds. Mark-recapture studies can tell us the rate at which bird survive from season to season. The MAPS program has a system of bird banding stations that collects migrating and resident bird data at regular intervals. Nest success studies can determine whether birds are returning to the same nest site every year or whether they nest at the same location where they were hatched.
The crowd at Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park
Biologists can sometimes put an actual dollar value on biodiversity, whether it’s the assistance aerial insectivores, like bats, nighthawks, swallows and swifts, can provide in pest control or whether it’s the vultures that cleanse our ecosystems of pathogens or whether it’s in tourism dollars. Here’s one example the Washington Post published on the value of tourism at these biodiversity hotspots. Last year, the National Park Service proposed a hike in entry fees at a some of its more popular parks to help defray the maintenance costs of increased numbers of visitors.