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Blog Birding #348

Santa Ana NWR remains one the finest sites for birding in the ABA Area, but birding there in the metaphorical shadow of proposed border wall is a bit bittersweet, writes Jason Crotty at 10,000 Birds.

When the news broke about a possible border wall through Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge in Texas, I decided to make plans to visit before it got bisected by a concrete barrier.

I have been to refuges across the United States, but I never thought that I would have a deadline to visit any particular refuge.  After all, each refuge has been set aside to permanently protect birds and other wildlife.  Indeed, The U.S. Fish and wildlife Service has a legal mandate to manage national wildlife refuges for “the benefit of present and future generations of Americans.”  But in the current political climate, even permanent environmental protections can prove transitory.

The numbers are in. According to a recent study summarized at Phys.org the presence of a Black-backed Oriole in Pennsylvania pumped more than $200,000 into the local economy.

“More than 1800 birders from all over the Unites States and parts of Canada came to see the Black-backed Oriole, which was first spotted in a suburban backyard on 26 January 2017,” says study first author and UNSW Science PhD candidate Corey Callaghan.

“The bird stayed for 67 days, until 10 April, and we estimate this ecotourism event generated more than $3000 a day for the local and extended economy as a result of the travel, food and accommodation costs of the avitourists.”

As the end of the year approaches, Yve Morell, writing at The Dancing Birder, begins to take stock of her incredible big year, adding her name to the rolls of those birders who traveled the continent before her.
In my wildest dreams, I did not envision breaking Sandy Komito’s nor Neil Hayward’s record. Yet I have now broken Sandy Komito’s record even without my provisionals, technological advancements notwithstanding. I don’t personally know Sandy Komito but I consider Neil a friend now. I am humbled to think that after my next bird, I will officially break Neil’s record.

Project SNOWstorm provides a wealth of information about Snowy Owls, some less happy but no less important. Scott Weidensaul writes about the fate of one Maine owl and what it means about the challenges these owls face in the south.

But when York checked in the evening of Monday, Dec. 11, it was clear something was amiss. All of his GPS locations from the previous 24 hours were clustered on a back street in Wells Beach, not far from the marsh. I alerted our partners in Maine, but a snowstorm was moving in, and by the time refuge staff were able to get out to search the next morning, snow plows had already gone through. There was no sign of York anywhere.

The little Florida Grasshopper Sparrow is an endangered species that flies under the radar for many, as the nominate subspecies is widespread in the east. But as reported at BirdWatching Daily, the subspecies is slipping quietly into extinction.

In 2017, the subspecies reached a record low of about 75 wild birds — down from 1,000 birds in 2004. Trends suggest the population will be less than 40 wild birds in 2018. Only about 50 birds are being sustained in two captive populations. Restoring a self-sustaining wild population seems unlikely, the agency says, but groundbreaking scientific strides are underway in an effort to beat the odds.

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Nate Swick

Nate Swick

Editor, Social Media Manager at American Birding Association
Nate Swick is the editor of the American Birding Association Blog, social media manager for the ABA, and the host of the American Birding Podcast. He lives in Greensboro, North Carolina, with his wife, Danielle, and two young children. He is the author of Birding for the Curious and The ABA Field Guide to Birds of the Carolinas.
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