December is the 40th anniversary of the U. S. Endangered Species Act. It has protected America’s imperiled plants and animals—from the carnivorous green pitcher plant of Southeastern wetlands, to the western snowy plover of northwestern beaches, to the polar bear of the Arctic. Read more and see video at: Endangered Species | ESA 40th Anniversary
The U.S. Forest Service announced that Wisdom the Laysan Albatross returned to Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge! They report
Wisdom laid her newest egg on November 29, 2013 – exactly a year and one day since she laid her last egg! She and her mate are currently brooding the egg. Wisdom is the oldest banded, wild bird in the world and has nested consecutively at the refuge since 2008. Wisdom’s continued contribution to the albatross population is remarkable and important.
Press Release from Center for Biological Diversity
Polar Bear Hunting on Rise Despite Species' Decline
MOSCOW, Russia— As the biennial meeting of the international Polar Bear Agreement began today in Moscow, Russia, new data points to an unsustainable rise in hunting that threatens the species. Despite the grim outlook for polar bears due to the growing threat of climate change, Canadian polar bear kills have risen at alarming rate, in excess of 10 percent over previous years.
“Canada’s claims at this conference that polar bear hunting is not harming polar bear populations are disingenuous,” said Teresa Telecky, director of wildlife at Humane Society International, referring to a recent report by Canada’s Polar Bear Technical Committee. “Canada’s own scientists are raising alarm about over-harvest not only in the past year but in the past three to five years. Canada and the other parties to the Polar Bear Agreement urgently need to address this problem.”
reposted from Golden Gate Audubon
Speak up for wildlife in the GGNRA
Posted: 05 Dec 2013 05:04 PM PST
By Ilana DeBare
Golden Gate National Recreation Area is a national treasure, some 80,000 acres of wild coastland in the middle of our very urban San Francisco Bay Area.
It is also the center of a political battle – between uncompromising dog advocates and people who believe the GGNRA should balance the interests of wildlife, dog owners, and visitors who want a dog-free nature experience.
The National Park Service is currently undertaking a long-overdue process of updating its GGNRA dog management policies to provide a more balanced approach.
Golden Gate Audubon supports the proposed new policies as an improvement over the status quo, where a combination of outmoded rules and lax enforcement allows dogs to run uncontrolled through important wildlife areas like Ocean Beach and Crissy Field.
But San Francisco dog activists are mounting a loud, emotional campaign against the new policies, which they call a “plan to get rid of people with dogs” and an “attack on all recreational use and access on GGNRA land.”
If you care about wildlife and a healthy balance of uses within the GGNRA, the National Park Service needs to hear from you.
The Park Service is accepting comments until January 11th. Click here to file a comment online.
Crissy Lagoon at the GGNRA, which provides year-round habitat for birds / Photo by David Assmann
Anza-Borrego Desert Natural History Association has yet another wildflower bloom repot:t
Today’s hike started just before third crossing in Coyote Canyon, part of Box canyon, a fork of the Box canyon that leads in to Coyote canyon and back toward the lower willows.
What you can find right now are sand verbena\’s, rabbit bush and very early smoke trees blooming.
You can see the result of the August rain; a huge deposit of sand from Box canyon into the lower willows.
The smoke trees were a unexpected surprise.
On the return, towards the lower willows, the wash was almost unrecognizable.
And the hike was more like a bush walk crossing the willows, the trail runs completely different from last year.
Watch out for very deep holes.
The road up to third crossing is very good this year.
See photos, full hike description and more wildflower bloom reports at: Anza-Borrego Wildflowers
- Anza-Borrego Wildflower Report 12/3/13 (naturalhistorywanderings.com)
- Anza-Borrego Wildflower Report 11/12/13 (naturalhistorywanderings.com)
- Anza-Borrego Wildflowers Nov. 23 & 24, 2013 (naturalhistorywanderings.com)
- Anza-Borrego Wildflower Report 11/26 &27/2013 (naturalhistorywanderings.com)
Press Release from WildEarth Guardians
Eleven “Tarantulas” Will Be Considered for Endangered Species Act Listing
Beautiful Spiders Threatened by the Pet Trade
Washington, DC – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) announced today that eleven species of parachute spider (sold as “tarantulas” in the pet trade) may need the protection of the Endangered Species Act to escape extinction. The Service is beginning a 12-month review process to determine whether to list these species under the Act.
“Endangered Species Act protections will mean security for these spiders in their forest homes,” said Taylor Jones, Endangered Species Advocate for WildEarth Guardians. “The pet trade is driving these beautiful creatures to extinction and it’s our responsibility to stop it.”
These large, colorful, and ornate spiders are native to India and Sri Lanka. Spider enthusiasts drive the trade in these species in many countries, including the United States. A single adult can sell for $250 U.S. dollars, a strong incentive to collect them from the wild. The metallic-blue, jewel-like peacock parachute spider (Poecilotheria metallica) is in particularly high demand.
Habitat destruction, small populations, and fragmented ranges threaten all the species. Local people also intentionally kill some species due to myths about the effects of their poison.
Press Release Audubon Newsroom
Interior Dept. Rule Greenlights Eagle Slaughter at Wind Farms, Says Audubon CEO
New Rule Will Authorize 30-Year Permits for Killing America’s National Bird
New York, NY - In a stunningly bad move for eagles, the U.S. Department of the Interior is close to finalizing a new rule that would make it possible to grant wind energy companies 30-year permits to kill Bald and Golden eagles. Audubon’s CEO released the following statement:
“Instead of balancing the need for conservation and renewable energy, Interior wrote the wind industry a blank check,” said Audubon President and CEO David Yarnold. “It’s outrageous that the government is sanctioning the killing of America’s symbol, the Bald Eagle. Audubon will continue to look for reasonable, thoughtful partners to wean America off fossil fuels because that should be everyone’s highest priority. We have no choice but to challenge this decision, and all options are on the table.”
Now in its second century, Audubon connects people with birds, nature and the environment that supports us all. Our national network of community-based nature centers, chapters, scientific, education, and advocacy programs engages millions of people from all walks of life in conservation action to protect and restore the natural world. Visit Audubon online at http://www.audubon.org.
Wild in Arizona has a fall color report for Southeastern Arizona for 12/5/2013:
Aravaipa East is just past peak for fall color this week with one or two more weeks of ok color. Bonita Creek is just at peak color and the Gila Box looks to peak in a week with this cold front. Still some fall along the Gila River below San Carlos Lake. This should be the last few weeks for Arizona Autumn except for some Lower Colorado River cottonwoods that last into next year.
To see photos and older reports go to: Wild in Arizona
NPR has an article on the downside of mushroom foraging – the damage done by some mushroom hunters to the habitat such as state parks. This quote about what has happened at Salt Point State Park in California is a good example of the problem:
As a result, known mushroom grounds are taking a beating. At Salt Point State Park, mushroom hunters sometimes carve new trails into the forest, trample small plants, and illegally use rakes and shovels to turn over the forest floor in search of young, budding mushrooms, according to Farcau. Some, he adds, leave trash piles by the road and toilet paper in the woods.
Anza-Borrego Desert Natural History Association has a new wildflower report for December 3 and 4, 2013:
See photos, full hike description and older reports at: Anza-Borrego Desert Natural History Association
Henry Coe State Park has a new wildflower bloom update for 12/3/13 at the Pine Ridge Association website. To see what is in bloom including photos of flowers in bloom go to: Henry W. Coe – Wildflower Guide.
Press Release from Center for Biological Diversity
Petition Seeks to Reform Secretive Federal Agency That Kills Millions of Wild Animals
‘Wildlife Services’ Shoots, Traps, Poisons Animals With Little Regulation, Public Accountability
WASHINGTON— The Center for Biological Diversity and allies petitioned the Obama administration today to reform the federal wildlife-killing agency known as “Wildlife Services,” which kills nearly 1.5 million coyotes, bears, otters, foxes, birds and other animals each year without any requirement to disclose its activities to the public. The secretive killing — which includes aerial gunning, traps and exploding poison caps — has gone on for decades with little public oversight or rules requiring the use of the best available science or techniques to reduce the deaths of nontarget animals.
The 2013 Geminids Meteor Shower are from 12/4 to 12/17 and will peak 12/13 to 12/14. However there will a bright moon that will make this a poor year to view the Geminids. The Geminid Meteor Shower is named for the constellation Gemini from where the meteors seem to emerge from in the sky. The Geminids do not come from a comet like most meteor showers but rather the asteroid the 3200 Phaethon . When there is less moonlight the Geminids are usually considered to be one of the best spectacular meteor showers of the year, with the possibility of sighting around 120 meteors per hour at its peak. The best time to view the Geminids is between 9 p.m. and before dusk.
The New York Times recently had an article on the continuing decline of Monarch butterflies. They reported
This year, for or the first time in memory, the monarch butterflies didn’t come, at least not on the Day of the Dead. They began to straggle in a week later than usual, in record-low numbers. Last year’s low of 60 million now seems great compared with the fewer than three million that have shown up so far this year. Some experts fear that the spectacular migration could be near collapse.
The article also talked about the decline of wild bee species. Major causes of decline in butterflies, bees and other insects populations are the nicotine-based pesticides called neonicotinoids, the loss of native vegetation and the herbicide Roundup.
Insects are critical to the cycle of life as they convert plants into organic matter, disperse seeds, are a major food source for birds and pollinate about 80 percent of our food crops. Read more at: The Year the Monarch Didn’t Appear – NYTimes.com.
There has been lots of talk of a Painted Redstart in Berkeley over the last two weeks. It is the first recorded sighting of a Painted Redstart in Alameda County.
It has been in the newspapers (and online) First local sighting brings flocks of birders to Berkeley | Berkeleyside.
It has been on television: Rare Bird Spotted In Quiet Berkeley Neighborhood « CBS San Francisco.
Today we decided to go see for ourselves. The landlord of the address where most of the sightings have taken place asked that we not go on his property due to work being done in the yard. We looked from various angles from a number of the streets and saw a bird that MAY have been the Painted Redstart, but at the distance, partially hidden view in the tree and in the bad light it was difficult to tell. Other birders who came after us did not see the bird today. We did see a Raven being mobbed by crows, a couple of Lesser Goldfinch, Bushtits, American Robins, a Scrub Jay and heard Anna’s Hummingbirds but no confirmation of the Painted Redstart. Did we see the Redstart today? We will never know.
There is still some seasonal color in Berkeley so I took a few photos of some street trees. I did Photoshop out some of the wires so I could imagine what Berkeley would look like if we put the many electrical, phone and cable wires underground.
January 17 to 20, 2014 is the Morro Bay Winter Bird Festival. The Keynote speakers are Kimball Garrett and Jon Young. There will be many field trips and presentations. Registration is open and trips enrollment is limited.
To see the full program, schedule, list of birds seen at last year’s festival and registration go to: Morro Bay Winter Bird Festival – California Bird Watching at its Best.
NPR reported on a University of Texas study that found seahorses were top at capturing prey compared to all other fish tested. They caught their prey, Copepods a tiny crustacean 90 per cent of the time. Capepods are actually extremely fast but the shape of seahorses’ heads allows them trick the Copepods. Science News wrote
“New imaging reveals a seahorse trick. As its head nears the prey, a zone of water above the front of the tip of its snout stays calm. … The trick fools copepods, which rely on antenna hairs to pick up the incoming whoosh of water in front of an attacking predator.”
See video and read more at:
The International Union for Conservation of Nature has recently updated its red list of endangered species. Their assessment of 71,576 species concludes that 21,286 are now threatened with extinction.
Some of their recent updates
serious declines in the population of the Okapi (Okapia johnstoni), a close relative of the giraffe, unique to the rainforests of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
almost 200 species of bird are now Critically Endangered, facing the highest risk of extinction. The White-winged Flufftail (Sarothrura ayresi), a small, secretive bird which occurs in Ethiopia, Zimbabwe and South Africa, is the latest species to join this category.
Leatherback Turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) – the largest of all living turtles – has improved from Critically Endangered to Vulnerable, the species continues to face serious threats at a subpopulation level.
Two species of albatross – one of the most threatened of the planet’s bird families – are now at a lower risk of extinction due to increases in their populations. The Black-browed Albatross (Thalassarche melanophrys) has moved from Endangered to Near Threatened and the Black-footed Albatross (Phoebastria nigripes) has moved from Vulnerable to Near Threatened
The Island Fox (Urocyon littoralis), previously Critically Endangered, has also improved in status and is now listed as Near Threatened. Found on six of the California Channel Islands
NPR reported that a recent federal study shows U.S. coastal wetlands losses were 25 percent greater from 2004-2009 than previously thought. An average of 80,000 acres of coastal wetlands were lost with over 70 percent of the estimated loss in the Gulf of Mexico. Most of the loss was due to farming, development (both urban and rural) and powerful storms.
Here are estimates of how the four major U.S. area for wetlands did during the course of the study:
- Gulf of Mexico: Net loss of 257,150 acres
- Atlantic Coast: Net loss of 111,960 acres
- Pacific Coast: Net loss of 5,220 acres
- Great Lakes: Net gain of 13,610 acres
There were also wetland gains in the coastal watersheds of South Carolina, Georgia and parts of central Florida. Most of the loss was in freshwater wetlands which lost about 34.6 million acres compared to a loss of 6.4 million acres of saltwater wetlands.
To see a full copy of the report go to; Status and Trends of Wetlands In the Coastal Watersheds of the Conterminous United States 2004 to 2009 – Status-and-Trends-of-Wetlands-In-the-Coastal-Watersheds-of-the-Conterminous-US-2004-to-2009.pdf.
Today we went to Pt. Reyes primarily to see the artists’ open studios. We especially wanted to see Tom Killion whose blockprints of California are among my favorites. The open studios continue throughout the weekend.
Marin County like the rest of California is suffering from a lack of rain. Nicasio Reservoir was the lowest I have seen it. Significant parts of it were completely dry.
Before we went to any of the open studios we did about an hour bird walk behind the town of Pt. Reyes Station near the Giacomini Wetlands, although many parts were dry lands. It started out slow, but we eventually saw 20 species including raptors and water birds, many of which were in the distant waters of the bay and required the scope to be seen. There were about six Cinnamon Teal in the nearby pond along with the Canadian Geese, Mallards and Coots. There were many White-crowned Sparrows. Raptors included Red-tailed and Red-shouldered Hawks, Kites and some smaller unidentified raptors. Also seen was a Painted Lady Butterfly.
After going to a number of the open studios we spent about a half hour birding behind the grocery store in Inverness near the wreck of the old Pt. Reyes boat and saw eleven species. There were at least hundreds of scaup and many Bufflehead in Tomales Bay.
Today’s bird lists:
Anza-Borrego Desert Natural History Association has wildflower reports for November 26 and 27,2013:
November 27, 2013 Today we hiked Oyster wash and took a wash to the right. We found that wash last year by accident. Next we hiked over the saddle and along the cliff of Fish wash. Steep with very nice views. Really nice flowers for this time of year. Flowers in bloom include
- California Fagonia Fagonia laevis
- Climbing Milkweed Sarcostemma cynanchoides
- Trailing Windmills Allonia incarnata
- Desert Hibiscus Hibiscus denudatus
November 26, 2013 Today we hiked two forks of Plum Canyon as a loop. The hike was great and the flowers were better than expected. Blooms include
- Wire Lettuce Stephanomeria pauciflora
- Ground Cherry Physalis crassifolia
- Desert Trumpet Erigonum inflatum
See photos and map links at: Anza-Borrego Desert Natural History Association
Golden Gate Audubon December Field Trips
For more information go to Field Trips
- Alameda – Elsie Roemer Sanctuary and Environs Sunday, December 1, 10:00 AM – noon
- San Francisco Botanical Garden Sunday, December 1, 8 – 10:30 a.m.
- Tilden Nature Area/Jewel Lake (1st Friday Bird Walk) December 6, 2013, 8:30 -10:30 am
- Martin Luther King, Jr. Regional Shoreline, Oakland Sunday, Dec. 8, 9 am to noon
- Martin Luther King Jr. Regional Shoreline—Arrowhead Marsh, Oakland Thursday, December 12, 2013, 9:00am-11:30am
- North Beach/Telegraph Hill, San Francisco Saturday, December 14, 8:00 – 10:00 a.m.Note: Date changed from regular fourth Friday due to SF Christmas Bird Count on Dec. 27
- Biking and Birding in Marin - Corte Madera Saturday, December 14, 2013 9:30 a. m.- ~12:30 p.m.
- Corona Heights, San Francisco Friday, December 20, 8 – 10 a.m.
- Aquatic Park and Waterfront, San Francisco Saturday, December 21, 10 – 11:30 a.m.
- Lake Merritt and Lakeside Park, Oakland, Alameda County Wednesday, December 18, 9:30 a.m. – noon Note: Date changed from regular fourth Wednesday due to Christmas.
Press Release from EarthJustice
Court Sets August 2014 Deadline to Protect Whales and Dolphins from Navy Sonar in Pacific Northwest
The National Marine Fisheries Service has eight months to issue a new plan to protect thousands of whales, dolphins, porpoises, seals, and sea lions from U.S. Navy warfare training exercises ranging from Northern California to Canada.
The ruling by Magistrate Judge Nandor Vadas of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California sets a deadline of August 1, 2014 for the agency to ensure that the Navy’s training activities comply with the Endangered Species Act. Today’s decision stems from a September 2013 Court ruling finding the Fisheries Service at fault for green lighting Navy training based on incomplete and outdated science.
“This ruling will require the National Marine Fisheries Service to issue a responsible new plan based on the most up-to-date sound science for ocean noise,” said Representative Mike Thompson (CA-5). “It is the right decision. The Navy should train in a way that respects local communities, natural resources and our environment.”
This morning we did a Thanksgiving Day bird walk in the Eastshore State Park in Berkeley along the Bay Trail and Berkeley Meadow. Even though a number of the “usuals” weren’t out we still saw thirty-nine species. The most numerous birds were Scaup, Ruddy Ducks, Coots, Buffleheads and White-crowned Sparrows. There were even a few flowers in bloom including California Poppy, Zauschneria, and Evening Primrose. To see the list from today go to: Eastshore State Park Bird List 11/28/13
Press Release from Center For Biological Diversity: Tea Party Bill Would Eviscerate Endangered Species Act
As America Celebrates 40th Anniversary of Landmark Law, Right-wing Senators Seek to Tear It Apart
WASHINGTON— Tea Party senators introduced a bill this week that would effectively end the protection of most endangered species in the United States and gut some of the most important provisions of the Endangered Species Act. Senate Bill 1731, introduced by Tea Party Sens. Rand Paul, Mike Lee and Dean Heller, would end protections for most of the species that are currently protected by the Act and make it virtually impossible to protect new species under the law. It would also eliminate protection for habitat that’s critical to the survival of rare and struggling animals and plants around the country.
Audublog reported that Duke Energy has agreed to pay a $1 million fine for killing 14 eagles and 149 other birds at two Wyoming wind farms. This is the first time that the federal government has enforced environmental laws protecting birds against wind energy facilities. Read more at at the Washington Post: Wind energy Company pleads guilty to eagle deaths
Press Release via Tahoe National Forest Wins Court Protections | Earthjustice.
Court rules to restrict motorized off-road vehicles
NOVEMBER 25, 2013
SACRAMENTO, CA — A U.S. District Court ruled in favor of increased protections for Tahoe National Forest from motorized off-road vehicles. In a lengthy oral ruling delivered from the bench last Friday, Judge John A. Mendez of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California denied a challenge to the forest’s plan to limit the damages that motor vehicles inflict on the forests. Earthjustice, representing The Wilderness Society, the Sierra Club, Forest Issues Group, Sierra Foothills Audubon Society, and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, intervened in defense of the U.S. Forest Service’s plan for Tahoe National Forest. Earthjustice argued that there is no way to adequately protect a forest while allowing motor vehicles to trammel all over the forest with no restrictions or limits. Under the plan upheld Friday, while much of the forest is open to motorized vehicles, some especially sensitive parts of the forest are off limits.
Said Earthjustice attorney Greg Loarie, who argued the case:
“This is a good decision that strikes a balance to give Tahoe National Forest some necessary, basic protections. One thing both sides of this case agree on: Tahoe National Forest is a stunning, special place. With millions of people visiting Tahoe National Forest each year and the rapid increase of motor vehicles throughout the forest, we need some basic limits on motor vehicle use to make sure that we don’t love this place to death. It’s in all of our interests to preserve and protect Tahoe National Forest so that we all can enjoy it.”
Said Karen Schambach of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility:
“This decision sends a clear message: The days of allowing destruction of our National Forests from uncontrolled and unregulated off-road vehicles are at an end. We all have a right to enjoy our public lands, but no one has a right to destroy them.”