Wow! What a speedy response! I really appreciate your taking the
time to reply.
And while I don't hunt, I admire those who are as knowledgeable
about bird behavior as you are, so of course I'm not opposed to consulting a
hunter-expert like you! From reading your reports, I can see that you've
spent countless hours in the field making observations.
Sharing that knowledge is an invaluable contribution. Thank you!
View our Natural History Tour Videos - on YouTube
not join us on a Natural History Tour you and your family will really enjoy?
Turkey Fight Video hereI Turkey Fight Photoshere I Turkey "Rustle" & Fighting
Purr Sound Here
Turkeys Flying Up To & Down From the
Roost Video here I Turkey Mating Dance Video here
Canada Goose Fight Video here I Canada Goose Landing Video here
Trumpeter Swan Mating Display Video here I Trumpeter Swan Mating /
Breeding Sequence Photoshere
Sandhill Crane Mating Dance Video here I Sharp-tailed Grouse Mating
Dance Video here
Hooded Merganser & Mallard Mating Display Video here I Drake Mallard Whistle & "Raeb"
Department of the Interior The mission of the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service's Division of Bird Habitat Conservation is, to support
partnerships that conserve habitat for migratory birds and other wildlife.
National Wetlands Inventory The National Wetlands Inventory
(NWI) of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service produces information on the
characteristic, extent, and status of the National Wetlands and deepwater
Navajo Nation Department of Fish
& Wildlife Navajo Department of Fish and Wildlife. Preserving Wildlife on the
Navajo Nation with services from Animal Control, Wildlife Enforcement,
Research and Management and Natural Heritage Programs.
NWT Wildlife and Fisheries
NWT Wildlife and Fisheries Division web site provides information on NWT
wildlife species, hunting and fishing regulations, legislation, publications
and links to related wildlife sites.
The Bureau of Land Management The Bureau of Land Management
administers 264 million acres of public lands, located primarily in the 12
Western States, containing natural, historical, cultural, recreational, and
USDA Forest Service USDAForest Service national headquarters
website; the home page and gateway to all Forest Service websites.
Because the outdoors is where I spend the majority of my free time, and
where (when I am guiding) it is where I make my living; because I have
extensively researched white-tailed deer, turkeys, elk, ducks and geese;
because I enjoy looking for and photographing birds, wildflowers and natural
scenery; because we are now offering natural-history/eco-tours to the public;
and because I am an outdoor writer, I thought it only natural that I start a
magazine devoted to articles on the natural history of some of the birds and
animals we have seen on our trips, articles describing our trips, and
articles or information on tips, techniques and products to use for watching,
listening or viewing birds, animals, wildflowers and natural scenic areas.
In this magazine I'll talk about products you can use while looking and/or
listening to wildlife, and for photographing wildlife. We'll also have
Product Field Tests and Product Reviews.
I hope you enjoy our newest magazine, and reading about our adventures and
tours. If you have article ideas or comments on how to improve this magazine
feel free to contact me at TRMichels@yahoo.com.
Enjoy the Great Outdoors and may Yahweh-God bless all of you,
As an outdoor writer, author, seminar speaker, outfitter, guide,
consultant, researcher, animal behaviorist, naturalist and wildlife
photographer - I've always felt that the more I know about the biology and
behavior of the animals, the better I will be at understanding what makes
them click - meaning why they move, when they move, and where they move.
Whether you hunt, photograph or just watch or observe the animals, the key to
being successful - is to be in the right spot at the right time - and to do that , you have to understand the animals. As a result of
that belief - all of my books start our with what I
have learned about the biology and behavior of the animals, through my
personal research, and the research of some of the top biologists and
researchers in the world. Why? Because I cannot teach you to do what I do, to
get as close to the animals as I do, and to be there at the right times,
unless I help you to understand the biology and behavior of the animals.
I can't count the number of times I've been hunting, photographing or just
enjoying wildlife, that I've heard other people say.
"There aren't any animals here", or
"where are all the animals". Usually, people say that, because they
are either not in the right place, or they are not there at the right time,
or they are there under the wrong weather conditions. One of my axioms about
animal behavior is, "If it is too hot, too cold, to windy, or too wet -
the animals aren't gong to do what they would normally do." Through my
personal research, and the researcher of others, I've learned the right
weather conditions to see animals, in specific types of habitat.
Through my articles, book and seminars, I will try to help you understand
the biology and behavior of the animals, so you can choose the right weather
conditions, the right places, and the right times, to see the animals on a
semi-regular basis, because there are after all, things that affect the
animals, that no one can predicts.
So, if you want to learn more about the animals. and learn abut some very
successful tips, tactics and techniques, to get you close to the animals,
read my articles and get your copy of my books. I honestly believe I can help
you enjoy the animals and get closer to them.
As I looked out the kitchen window at the farm one warm spring day I was
astonished to see three male indigo buntings and five male rose-breasted
grosbeaks on the ground. It was the first time I had ever seen an indigo
bunting, and I was amazed. Their blue color was astonishing,
I don't know that I have ever seen anything as beautiful before.
I quickly called my wife Diane, and my two youngest children Dallas and
Tawnya, to see the birds. For the next hour we watched as they fed at the
bird feeder, and on the ground underneath it where some seed had fallen.
I don't know what it was about that day, but we saw several other birds.
There were the usual house sparrows, black-capped chickadees, white-breasted
nuthatches, downy and hairy woodpeckers and mourning doves. But there were
also cardinals and blue jays, and a family of four red squirrels. It was a
great day of bird watching.
Throughout the spring and summer we have red-headed and red-bellied
woodpeckers, yellow-bellied sapsuckers, northern orioles, common grackles,
starlings, red-winged blackbirds and brewer's blackbirds, brown-headed cowbirds,
chipping, white-throated and white-crowned sparrows, white-breasted
nuthatches, dark-eyed juncos, house finches and goldfinches visit the yard.
Since we were living on an old farm site we also had house wrens, cedar
waxwings, crows, barn swallows, bank swallows, common Flickers, robins,
ring-necked pheasants and wild turkeys visit the yard. At night Diane saw
several raccoons, a family of opossums and several white-tailed deer and
Behind the house, in the sky over the old pasture, we regularly saw
red-tailed hawks and turkey vultures. In the pasture we had eastern
bluebirds, American kestrels, (incorrectly called sparrow hawks), eastern
kingbirds, great crested flycatchers, bobolinks, meadowlarks, and common
yellowthroats; in the spring we saw and heard upland sandpipers, which are
actually a type of curlew - a prairie dwelling "shore bird".
In the grove behind the house I saw catbirds and brown thrashers. I even
and snow geese, and gray partridge in the bean field not more than a 1/4 mile
from the house.
As a hunter and game researcher I spend a lot of time watching animals. I
have seen barred and great horned owls, brown creepers and pileated
woodpeckers while hunting. I once had a eastern
screech owl come within five yards of me while archery hunting for deer.
While we were doing turkey and deer research last spring Diane spotted an
immature and a mature bald eagle behind the neighbor's house, and we had an
osprey hang around the river for about a week one spring.
I'm still hoping to see a scarlet tanager in this area, I've seen only
since I was a child near Spicer, Minnesota
in the early 1970's. Along the river I regularly see great blue herons, great
egrets, black-crowed night herons, mallards, wood ducks, kildeers
and sandpipers. In the spring we had a pied-billed Grebe and a pair of common goldeneyes stay
on the river. I also saw a horned lark and several snow buntings in the field
east of the house.
Obviously I see a lot of wild turkeys and deer while doing my research.
But, when I don't see deer or turkeys I use my binoculars to see what birds
are making all the noise around me. I spent one whole morning calling turkeys
while I watched yellow-rumped and palm warblers catching bugs. I've also been
lucky enough to see a pair of coyotes and a pair of cross-phase red foxes
while they were hunting.
I've been scared half out of my wits when I jumped several American
woodcock while deer hunting, and I've heard ruffed grouse drumming in the
woods, but I never saw see one in the three years we lived on the farm. I
plan to make bird watching, bird feeding and bird photography a part of our
business, through our newly established Trinity
Mountain Outdoor Adventures Birding Tours, which you can access by
clicking the link.
If you are an avid bird watcher, and want to add a few birds to your Life
List, you can view the list of rare and notable birds of Minnesota
on our Minnesota
Bird List. If you are interested in joining us on a Natural History, Big
Game Animal, Birding or Wildfowl Tour, let us know.
Watching birds is a great way to learn about animals and nature. And a
great way to get parents and kids involved in the great outdoors.
Enjoy the outdoors,
Don't use generic bird feeds - most of it contains a lot of millet - which
will be used by sparrows and starlings and pushed out or spilled by other
birds. Cracked corn will attract ground feeding birds, including doves.
Black sunflower seed and safflwoer are used by
Suet (cooked deer, elk or beef fat) and peanut butter area used by many
birds including woodpeckers.
Birds that don't normally visit feeders, such as bluebirds, robins, wrens,
and some warblers, are attracted to mealworms. You can offer them in old
breakfast food bowls or shallow plastic food dishes that are too slick on the
sides for the mealworms to climb. Place the bowls or dishes in an open area
where the movement of the mealworms will attract the attention of the birds.
Fruits will attract orioles and woodpeckers. I use a half an orange
impaled on a nail to attract orioles. the bright
color may cause them to believe another male is in their area, and the juice
keeps them coming back. you can also use apple halves.
Ripe bananas and grapes have two potential uses for the bird-feeding
enthusiast. First, try placing several overripe bananas in a mesh bag and
hang it near your hummingbird feeder. The fruit will soon attract a colony of
fruit flies. The hummingbirds will drink the sugar water and alternately
visit the "banana bag" to capture the fruit flies, which provide a
good source of protein.
A second use of bananas and grapes or grape jelly is to place some on a
feeder tray in the spring and early summer, especially during the warbler
migration. Peel one side or split the banana lengthwise to expose the fruit.
Tennessee warbler, Summer tanangers, and Northern
orioles may eat at your feeder.
I don't claim to know a lot about habitat conservation, other than to say
I know we need it, for a variety of reasons. I've lost at least two good deer
hunting areas to development since 1997. Obviously those areas also contained
songbirds, small mammals, trees, shrubs, herbs, forbs (wildflowers),
butterflies and other invertebrates. I've also noticed the destruction of
good wildlife habitat (for housing or business development projects) in Minnesota,
Mexico and many other states. As a result of this I
find myself becoming more interested in, and hopefully more knowledgeable
about, both wildlife and habitat conservation.
As I've traveled around the country during the past several years on our
Natural History Eco-Tours and family adventures, I've had the opportunity to
meet and talk to several different outdoorsman. I
recently met the biologist for the "Northern Trail" at the
Minnesota Zoo, who manages the wolf, tiger and other exhibits. Then I met the
Outdoor Education Manager for the Three Rivers Park District in Hennepin and
Scott Counties of Minnesota (which includes the recognized IBA
[Important Birding Area] of Murphy Hanrahan Park), and an attorney with the
state of Minnesota who writes legislation for threatened or endangered
species. And with all of them - our conversation got around to habitat and
As a result of talking to Minnesota's State Farmland Wildlife Manager, Al Berner, about such various species as deer, ducks,
pheasants, turkeys, sharp-tailed grouse and prairie chickens - I've come to
realize that the loss of habitat for many game species also means loss of
habitat for many non-game species, such as insects, fish, small mammals and
songbirds. In other words what is good for the game birds,
is also good for the songbirds and other types of birds.
While I was talking to Al he impressed upon me the need for habitat
restoration such as Conservation Reserve Program lands, and other habitat
conservation, such as preserving or maintaining existing prairie and wetland
habitat. Many upland bird (game) species, such as pheasants, sharp-tailed
grouse, prairie chickens, gray partridge, and even turkeys, need large areas
of prairies, meadows, swamps, sloughs, fens, oak savanna, etc., for breeding
and nesting habitat. Those areas also support Dickcissel, Bobolink,
Meadowlark, and various species of sparrows. Many of those areas, because
they are often on fairly level ground that might not be suitable for farming,
are destroyed to make room for business complexes and housing. I see we just
lost an area where I used to photograph Dickcissels in 2007, to farming.
To those outdoorsmen and nature lovers who don't hunt, this might not seem
like a concern, except that those areas are also prime habitat for many
species of birds, small animals, reptiles, amphibians, fish, wildflowers and
other plants. As I lead our natural history tours I've begun noticing the
wide variety of native plants, wildflowers and birds that use wetlands,
meadows and prairies. I've also begun to realize how much of their habitat is
destroyed by human encroachment, in the name of progress.
After watching several programs on the Discovery, History and Animal
Planet channels, I've come to realize the importance of wetlands (that serve
as important habitat for birds) as barriers to the negative effects of storm
surges and flooding. Cattail, sawgrass, rushes and
other wetland plants have the ability not only to reduce erosion due to
flooding and storm surges, they also have the
ability to reduce the harmful effects of pesticides, herbicides and
fertilizers on the water and plant life, which provides needed habitat for
the wildlife (including birds).
When rain falls on land covered with natural vegetation, the plants can
slow the flow of run-off until it has a chance to sink into the ground,
resulting in only a 10 per cent run off. However, when rain falls on a
parking lot, 55 per cent of the water can run off into local brooks, creeks
and wetlands; and from them into larger bodies of water.
Run-off water may contain a variety of contaminants including oil, grease,
heavy metals and sediments, plus harmful herbicides and pesticides, and
fertilizers containing phosphorus, which can promote the growth of algae,
often resulting in mass of green scum floating on the surface of the water,
and result in algae "blooms" which often turn the water red-brown
Any of these conditions can result in less sunlight entering the water,
causing less photosynthesis by native aquatic plants, resulting in less
oxygen content in the water, and the possible spread of less beneficial and
/or non-native and invasive plants, which do not help maintain the balance of
The preservation or creation of shallow swamps, sloughs, ponds or lagoons,
between run-of water and/or streams, and deeper bodies of water, with their
native vegetation, can greatly increase the natural filtration of water.
Plants such as cattails, saw grass and sedges that may have extensive root
systems which survive in shallow water, not only slow the speed of the water,
but also trap sediments, and can filter out and use some of the contaminants
that may cause a negative impact on the ecosystem plants in deeper waters.
Habitat Destruction for Economic
Destruction of prairies and meadows for the development of agricultural,
business and residential property reduces grasses, sedges and forbs
(wildflowers) that provide seeds, pollen, forage and nesting habitat for
birds, habitat for small mammals, which in turn support raptors and predatory
mammals. Without beneficial ground cover (used by ducks, geese, grouse,
songbirds, small mammals, insects, etc.), much of the precipitation that
falls on the ground (which would normally soak slowly into the ground) may run
off, often eroding the land (which causes further destruction of the habitat)
and form gullies that may quickly funnel the water, with any contaminants,
into creeks, streams, rivers, sloughs, marshes, ponds, lakes and larger
bodied of water.
The construction of even the most primitive of roads in any type of
habitat often leads to this same type of erosion, and the same type of
habitat destruction and surface and water pollution. Off-road vehicle use
often destroys ground cover, which again results in water runoff, and the
eventual erosion of the topsoil, and the creation of more gullies; and the
cycle continues. I've seen the destruction that the development of gravel
roads into the sagebrush flats and foothills of the Rocky
Mountains near many towns creates.
Agricultural fields and livestock pastures often allow runoff of
pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers and animal waste into creeks, streams,
rivers, sloughs, ponds, lakes and rivers; which affects aquatic plants, fish
and invertebrates; in turn affecting mammals and birds. This can easily be
alleviated by creating buffers of natural vegetation to stop or slow the
water from running directly into the water. These buffers can act as habitat
for birds and other wildlife. Livestock also cause erosion of the banks of
watersheds when they destroy natural vegetation and breakdown the banks. This
can be avoided by erecting fences to keep the cattle away from the water
Section Line (as in road-ditch)
Al Berner informed that by law, the 33 feet on
either side of the right of way on all section lines (four of them in on
square mile, running from east to west and north to south surrounding the
square mile) belongs top the state, and if it was left in natural conditions,
would provide thousands of acres of habitat for wildlife in Minnesota.
Basically what this means is that the 33 feet on either side of many roads in
Minnesota, plus all of the land on section lines without roads, could be left
in natural habitat, But, farmers rarely recognize these lines, or honor the
laws that forbid them from burning, plowing, mowing and planting those
right-of-ways. And to top it off the city, county and state often mow the
ditches, effective destroying the habitat, which is not only used by
pheasants and ducks to raise young (which often gets the hunters and trappers
up in arms), it also is used by many birds and small mammals.
Fires, whether from natural causes such as lighting, or caused by humans
(intentionally or unintentionally) on prairies and meadows, and in brushy
areas and forests, have been part of the natural process of plant
regeneration for centuries. Even naturally caused wildfires can be beneficial
as they reduce natural fuels, which in turn reduces
the chances of wild fires in the near future. Wildfires also expose mineral
soil for seedbeds for regeneration of wind-disseminated species, such as
fungi, mosses, grasses, forbes and many tree
species. The reduction in vegetation in turn helps in the control of insects,
diseases, and competing vegetation. As a result of this
wildfires often result in the improvement of natural ecosystems and wildlife
habitat as varied as wetlands, prairies, brushy areas and forests.
Native Americans often deliberately set fires to clear the land for
horticulture, to improve access to some areas, and to change the composition
of the plant community to attract game animals (such as bison). Early
settlers set fires to assist in preparing the soil for agriculture and to
eliminate stubble from the fields in the fall.
However, because of the destruction of human life, property, and resources
by wildfires, the general government policy for most of this century has been
to utilize man-made fire for the suppression of wildfires. The use of media
campaigns such as Smokey the Bear, and Bambi fleeing from a fire, combined
with fire suppression practices has resulted in a build up of vegetative
fuels in many areas. Fire ecologists expect it will take several years of
wildfires to establish a natural fire regime in many ecosystems.
In some areas where fire has been prevented from conducting its natural
role in the environment, private and governmental agencies and scientists are
setting controlled fires to mimic natural fire and improve landscape health
and community safety. "One of the hard lessons we've learned is that
eliminating or suppressing all fires actually increases the risk to people,
damages natural habitats and drives up fire fighting costs" said Susan
Harris, state director for the Nature Conservancy of Missouri.
Years of forest management practices that have eliminated wildfires has
resulted in many forests becoming choked with thick undergrowth and small
trees, that naturally occurring fires would normally eliminate. After years
without fire, these forests become tinderboxes that are prone to hotter burns
that are harder to control and pose a greater risk to communities than
normal. These intense fires can have the ability to severely damage plant and
The Benefits of Fire
Many plant and animal species need fire to reproduce and thrive. Plants
that need fire to reproduce and thrive are referred to as
"burn-species". Some of the "burn species" plants are
ephemeral annual herbs and forbes that have found
an unusual means of adapting to environments that are for the most part
unfavorable to their survival.
In the first year after a fire has temporarily diminished dominant forms
of vegetation these herbs and forbs may appear and flourish, and upon
maturation, they leave their sees behind. Although these plants may disappear
from the landscape within a few years of a fire, the seeds can remain viable
for up to 100 years or more. The goal of the seeds is to re-colonize the area
after another fire. The plants may also appear from time to time in areas
disturbed by other means, such as along sections of recently cleared trails,
on land slides, and even along the areas of new road construction.
White-tailed deer, doves, quails, turkey, sharp-tailed grouse and prairie
chicken are game species that benefit from prescribed fire. Habitat
preferences of several endangered species, including the Florida
panther, gopher tortoise, indigo snake, and red-cockaded woodpecker, are also
enhanced by burning. The benefits to wildlife from fires can be substantial;
fruit and seed production is often stimulated; herbage, legumes, and browse
from hardwood sprouts may increase in both quality and quantity; and openings
are created for feeding, travel, and dusting.
After years of fire suppression in many areas, land managers now have to
go back and ignite fires to mimic the natural fires these species depend on.
Prior to settlement by the Europeans, occasional fires were an integral part
of many ecosystems, and native plants and animals had adapted to the occurrence
of wildfires. Forests were a more varied blend of old and young trees, and some forests were more open in character. Fire
recycled the nutrients of the dead wood for use by growing plants, and
conditioned the forest floor for the regeneration of species that are
dependent on disturbance of the forest floor.
Pine trees of many species are a prime example of species that benefit
from fire. During high intensity burns, the sealed cones of many pines open
up, allowing dispersion of seeds over the fire-cleared ground. Anyone who has
since the latest wildfires there has seen the abundant re-growth of not only
the pine trees, but of many grasses, wildfires and shrubs; which have
provided new habitat for many species or birds and mammals. In many areas
pine trees are failing to regenerate due to past fire control practices.
The federally endangered Red-cockaded Woodpecker is a fire-dependent
species. It nests only in mature pine trees that are free of surrounding
underbrush. Researchers believe the Red-cockaded Woodpecker colonies in many
areas have been abandoned because the sites have become too brushy. Periodic
fires would control the brush, which may provide predators with access to
Entire ecosystems often need fire to maintain their natural diversity of
plants and animals. Many pine-oak, oak forests, and
oak savannahs have poor reproductive success without occasional fires. Little
or no oak regeneration has occurred in some areas as a result of fire
suppression. Oaks provide acorns in the fall, which are an important food
source for black bear, white-tailed deer, turkey, and other wildlife.
Part of the problem with "the idea of conservation" is that we
humans may have begun to realize too late that in order for this planet, and
us, to survive, we must conserve, and preserve, much more of the native
habitat of the entire world, than we ever realized - until just the last
century, after much of the important and needed habitat has already been
destroyed - by us. We need to look at not only saving a particular wildlife
or plant species, but saving the surrounding habitat and other species that
are all dependent on each other for survival and reproduction.
Eco Systems and Eco-system Management
What is an Ecosystem?
In recent years conservationists have begun to realize that in order to
properly maintain and manage wildlife habitat, they need to look beyond just
the immediate area or species of concern, to a much broader area, in which
the microbes, animals, plants, and geology of the habitat interact as an
entire system, that interacts within itself.
The Glossary of Forestry Terms for the Province
of British Columbia defines an
ecosystem as "a functional unit consisting of all the living organisms
(plants, animals, and microbes) in a given area, and all the non-living
physical and chemical factors of their environment, linked together through
nutrient cycling and energy flow. An ecosystem can be of any size-a log,
pond, field, forest, or the earth's biosphere - but it always functions as a
Most Americans are familiar with the term "Yellowstone
Ecosystem" which the US Government uses to define the interaction of
microbes, plants and animals of the area surrounding YellowstonePark. This area encompasses not
only the caldera or crater of the Yellowstone volcano, but also stretches of
the Bechler, Fall, Firehole, Gallatin, Gardiner, Gibbon, Lamar, Lewis, and Yellowstone rivers. One of the original
descriptions of the "ecosystem" of Yellowstone
took into account the range of the endangered grizzly bear. The Yellowstone
Ecosystem was later defined as the range of the cutthroat trout in the area,
and later still to the range of the antelope, bison, elk, whitebark
pine and other species - until the ecosystem has grown to what it is today, a
large part of northwestern Wyoming, and smaller parts of southern Montana and
One definition of ecosystem management was expressed by J. Stan
Rowe in 1992. "Ecosystem management is the application of the
ecosystem approach in the conservation, management, and restoration of
regional and local landscape ecosystems. It means that everyone attends to
the conservation and sustainability of ecosystems, instead of sharply
focusing on the productivity of individual or competing resources -- which
has been our traditional mode of operation." An ecosystem can be as
small as a backyard or small watershed, or as large as the planet earth.
T.R. Michels photo
Unfortunately, on the day when I saw a wide variety of birds at our bird
feeder, all I had was a Canon Sure Shot, which wasn't up to shooting pictures
of birds at 15 yards.Fortunately
(for me) my children bought me a Canon Rebel EOS 2000 35mm camera for my
fiftieth birthday, with Canon's 35-80mm EF lens and 80-200mm EF lens.
In 2006 I bought a Canon PowerShot S3 IS Digital
(that I mainly use for video and audio files, to identify birds if I can't
see them). The nice thing about the digital cameras is that they have
eliminated the need to buy film and have it developed. I have also added a
Canon Rebel XTi digital to my camera arsenal, a
Tamron 70-300mm AF telephoto lens, a Tamron 2x converter, and a tripod. But,
I'll still use the Rebel 2000 35mm because there are times when I need slides
For most deer photos you will need a 200mm or stronger lens, possibly a
1.4x or stronger converter, and a sturdy tripod. You may also want to
purchase a mono-pod or window mount camera holder, so you can take pictures
from your vehicle. My wife and I have worked it our so that she drives slowly
down the road, while we both look for deer. When we see a deer close enough
to photograph, she slowly drives to as close as we think we can get without
alarming it, and I shoot photos from inside the car. To steady the camera you
can use pillow to lay across the top of the window,
and then place the camera on top of the pillow.
If you are serious about wildlife photography, I suggest you either use a
portable blind, or buy one or more sets of camouflage clothing to match the
vegetation and season when you are photographing, and appropriate camouflage
fabric or netting to cover the tripod and camera. The more concealed and
camouflaged you and your gear are the closer you can get to animals, and the less likely you are to alarm them.
For serious wildlife photographers one of the best formats is still a 35mm
SLR camera, with several lenses, using
film or slides, with slides preferred by many magazine editors. But, it is
much cheaper in the long run to switch to digital cameras, which may use
optical or digital magnification. Optical magnification is what you should
look for, because it provides clearer images with the higher magnification
needed at distances. And, more and more magazines are not only accepting, but
requesting digital images, because they are much easier to process.
Obviously digital cameras can save the average photographer a lot of
money, even in the short run. I recently took about 20 rolls of film to my
daughter, who manages a Sam's Club photo shop. For single 3x5 prints it cost
me $55 to get them developed; plus the $30 to purchase the film. If I want to
use them on the internet I have to scan them, and I loose come clarity.
With a digital camera I can download the photos to my computer, delete the
ones I don't want, and then use either a color printer or a photo printer to
print my own photos; or I just upload them to my web site, or my Flickr account. I can also have them developed at a photo
If you want to get better photos, have them saved at larger sizes, and be
able to more powerful lenses, without spending too much, I'd suggest a Canon
Rebel XT or XTi digital ($400-$650), and a lens of
at least 200mm or larger. The XTi has 10 megapixels, and saves photos as large as 36x54 inches, so
you can take far-off photos and crop them to whatever size you want. I picked
up a used Tamron 70-300mm zoom lens for $129, and a Tamron
2x converter for $99 at National Camera exchange. For serious
photography, at distances beyond 20 yards on big game, you might want to step
up to the Tamron 200-500mm zoom lens (as low as $700),
or the Canon 100-400mm (as low as $1100).
The cameras I see most frequently on our birding tours are the Canon
"D" bodies, and the lens I see most often is the Canon 100-400mm autofocus, with a 1.4x or 2x adapter.
I'm guessing at least 50 % of the people we meet are using this setup.
If I ever get rich - that is the setup I'll buy.
these Canon PowerShot S3 IS Videos by T.R. Michels
on You Tube
I'd just finished digging up some ground for a vegetable garden when I
heard a long, drawn out "wolf whistle"; whit - whew. As I listened
again I realized the sound was coming from the air above the neighbor's CRP
field, where I could see some large birds flying.
I went to the house, grabbed a pair of binoculars and looked at the birds.
They had long wings, a small oval head and a short bill. In order to get a
better look I walked across our pasture and then into the CRP field.
That's when I saw one of the large birds perched on the power lines. It
looked like huge sandpiper or shore bird. I'd seen something of similar size
when I saw long-billed curlews while I was turkey hunting west of Valentine, Nebraska.
But, these birds didn't have a long curved bill like those birds, and the
bill was not curved, so it couldn't be short-billed curlew.
I watched the birds for a few minutes, then
headed home to get out my Petersen's Field Guide to North American Birds.
Once I reached the section on shore birds I found my birds. They were upland
a member of the curlew family. I'd added a new bird to my Life List. I plan
to go back and get some pictures of these birds.
Upland sandpipers can be found along states and provinces bordering the Great
Lakes, and throughout the plains states from northern Texas
to southern Canada.
They are primarily birds of open prairies.
Some of the most interesting wildlife behaviors in nature involve the
mating rituals of birds, such as the flight displays of ravens and crows, and
raptors such as eagles. Sandhill and whooping cranes have elaborate mating
dances, during which they flap their wings and jump up and down.
The birds of the Phasianidaefamily,
including prairie chickens, sharp-tailed grouse, ruffed grouse, pheasants and
turkeys use calls or other sounds to establish dominance or proclaim their
readiness to mate. Ruffed grouse and pheasants drum by beating their wings.
Turkeys strut, spit and boom (often incorrectly called drumming) by inflating
an air sack in the middle of their chest then expelling excess air from the
sack to create a loud "spit" and then the remaining air is let out
to produce a low pitched boom; vrrooom.
Prairie chickens and sharp-tailed grouse often come together on mating
grounds referred to as "'leks" where the
males perform elaborate mating ritual by stomping their feet, lower their
wings, shake their tails and use sounds such as clicks, rattles and booms
from inflated air sacks on their neck or chest to establish dominance,
declare a territory and attract females.
Some species of grebes have elaborate aquatic mating displays during which
they raise their bodies up from the water, stretch their necks skyward, bow
their heads and dance or run across the water.
Both trumpeter and tundra swans have beautiful aquatic mating displays
during which they raise up from the water, face each other, spread their
wings, bow their necks and swim side by side.
Observing these mating rituals is one of the most captivating experiences
in wildlife watching. Why not join us on one of our spring tours to watch,
photograph or video these fantastic displays?
Waterfowl biologists refer to the mating behavior (courtship behavior as
opposed to actual breeding) of ducks, geese and swans as "pair
bonding". Many people know that geese mate, or pair bond, for life.
After they pair bond the male and female stay
together during nesting, and the young stay with the parents through the fall
and winter. The young geese don't usually leave their parents or begin to
pair bond until they are on the wintering grounds during their fist or second
year. This means that, during the hunting season, most geese are still in
family groups consisting of the male, the female, and their young.
Ducks, on the other hand, do not mate for life; they regularly form a pair
bond with a new partner each year. But, the male and female don't stay
together to raise the young, and the young don't stay with the females very
long. The drakes of most duck species leave the hens as soon as they start to
nest, or shortly after. The hens then raise the ducklings by themselves.
During the summer the hens molt (which leaves them flightless); and the young
ducks grow their first flight feathers and begin to fly. After the young
ducks learn to fly they may no longer associate with the hen, and they are
generally on their own.
Both young and old ducks then begin forming loose pair bonds from late
summer through early winter. Pair bonding by older Mallards may begin as
early as mid-August. Pair bonding by other puddle duck species may occur from
mid-October through winter, and by divers from mid-winter through early
spring. Pair bonding is often accompanied by aerial courtship flights and
displays, and by calls that are associated with pair bonding behavior. As a
result of this social behavior, ducks are not normally in family groups
during the hunting season; they are usually in flocks consisting of unrelated
individuals and newly bonded pairs.
Because adult ducks (those over a year old) pair bond in the fall, the
males often exhibit what is referred to as 'breeding plumage" in the
fall, winter and spring, this breeding plumage is often the most colorful
plumage they exhibit during the year. Since ducks often breed (as opposed to
pair bond) in the spring, they continue to exhibit breeding plumage from
fall, until after they have bred and nested in the spring. Male ducks often
have what is referred to as "eclipse plumage" in the summer.
Because the males cannot fly when they molt, they often exhibit colors
resembling females, which are often brown or gray for camouflage purposes, to
help them avoid predators when they are nesting.
Giant Canada Goose Facts
T.R. Michels photo
The giant Canada
maxima) 45 inches in length, with up to 72 inch wing spans, and weights
up to 15 pounds. They were thought to be extinct until Dr. Harold Hanson of
the Illinois Natural History Survey, and other researchers, rediscovered them
in Rochester, Minnesota
in 1962. They now number over a million birds, comprising over a third of all
Canada goose subspecies in North America. All of the
geese that nest in Minnesota,
about 50,000, are giant Canada's.
Giants are the largest subspecies of Canada goose, and because their size
allows them to withstand cold temperatures better than smaller geese, they
are able to stay farther north in the winter than the smaller subspecies.
in urban areas like Minneapolis
and St. Paul. Minnesota,
and Chicago and Elgin,
Illinois, may not migrate at all.
Unlike most other geese, giant Canadas often mate at
two years of age; the smaller subspecies of Canada
geese often mate when they are four years old. Giants generally nest farther
south than the smaller Canada goose subspecies, often in areas where there is
more abundant forage for their large appetites. Because giants don't nest in
inhospitable sub-arctic regions like their smaller relatives, they often
breed earlier than other geese and they generally have better nesting success
than other geese, with clutches of from 2-12 eggs; smaller geese usually have
2-6 eggs per clutch.
As a result of their large body size, and their
habit of living in urban areas, giant Canada
geese are less susceptible to predators than other geese. In the urban areas
where many giant Canada
geese live, all of the young may reach six months of age. Since giant Canadas nest farther south and winter farther north than
other geese, they also receive less hunting pressure (as little as 50 days)
than geese that migrate from as far north as Canada and the Arctic Circle to
the Gulf Coast (which may be subjected to as much as 120 days of hunting).
The earlier mating habits, higher reproduction rates, lower predation rates,
and less hunting mortality of giant Canada geese has led to a population explosion
of giants in many areas. Giant Canada
geese have become a nuisance in many urban areas, where they leave droppings
and destroy grass on parks, golf courses and lakeshore properties.
The giant Canada geese that nest in the Interlake region of Manitoba,
between Lake Winnipeg and Lake Winnipegosis, stage
on Silver Lake in downtown Rochester, Minnesota and the surrounding rivers,
ponds and gravel pits on the Rochester (Minnesota) Goose Refuge. About half
of the 35,000 geese that stage on the Rochester Refuge each year remain in
the area through the winter; the others migrate to areas near Kansas
Trumpeter swans (Cygnus buccinator) reach
lengths of 60 inches, with wind spans of up to 95 inches. They weigh from 21
to 35 pounds, and can live up to 25 years. Nesting trumpeters can be found in
western Montana, along the
borders where Wyoming, South
Dakota and Nebraska
meet, and in central Minnesota
and east central Wisconsin.
They were once common throughout North America, but
due to market hunting for down and feathers, plus subsistence hunting and egg
collecting, they were presumed to be exterminated by the 1880's. In 1919 two
nests were found in YellowstonePark.
Minnesota swan restoration
began in 1996 by the Hennepin County Parks commission. In 1982 the Minnesota
Department of Natural Resources began a recovery program. By 1994 the project
and released 215 swans, and there was an estimated free-flying flock of 250
birds in Minnesota. These birds
winter on the Mississippi River just north of Minneapolis.
This wintering area currently hosts about 900 swans from mid-November through
Swans are bottom feeders, using their long necks to search for plants and
tubers to eat from the bottoms of ponds, lakes and rivers. They begin nesting
in mid-April, with nests as large as sex feet across, they often use muskrat
or beaver hives as nesting platforms. They lay from
3 to 8 eggs, but have only a 30% hatching success ratio. Incubation lasts 33
Newly hatched swans, called cygnets, may gain 20% of their body weight
each day; they are fully feathered by 7-8 weeks, but are unable to fly until
15 weeks, they begin daily practice flights in mid-September. Cygnets are
gray-colored for their first year.
The young swans remain with their parents throughout the winter. They are
usually chased away from the parents during their second winter, but may stay
with their siblings up to two years, thus most of the small groups seen
flying consist of a mated pair, and their young of the past two years. During
their second year young swans choose a mate on the wintering grounds; they
remain mated to until one of them dies.
Young swans usually nest the first time between 3 and 6 years of age, on
nests in remote areas, where they claim a territory of 3-6 acres; with a long
expanse of open water, which they use to taxi before they take flight.
Lead poisoning from shotgun shell pellets, illegal hunting, power lines,
predators and loss of habitat are the main threats to trumpeter swans.
Tundra swans (Cygnus columbianus) reach
lengths of 52 inches, with wingspans of 85 inches. They can be distinguished
from trumpeter swans by the yellow patch between the dark bill and their
Male swans are called cobs; females, pens; and young, cygnets. The clutch
size varies from 2-8 rough-shelled, pale yellow creamy-white eggs, which
hatch in about 35 days. The cygnets stay with the adults for about one year;
at about 15 months they get their adult plumage.
Swans mate for life, however, if one of a pair dies the other will find a
new mate. They gather and pile up grass, sedges, and mosses to make nests,
often within 100 yards of the Arctic coastline. The nests measure about 6
feet across and 12-18 inches high. During incubation the females care for the
eggs by themselves while the males stand guard.
To achieve flight, swans face into the wind, run along the surface of the
water for 15 to 20 feet, flap their wings and beat the water with their feet
alternately until they gain sufficient headway to become airborne. They fly
in v-shaped formations, and achieve speeds up to 100 miles per hour with tail
winds. They have been sighted at elevations of 6,000 to 8,000 feet.
Formerly known as whistling swans, tundra swans nest in the Arctic
and stay there during the spring and summer. Birds of the western population
winter along the west coast into California,
southern Idaho and northern Nevada.
Birds of the eastern population winter from Chesapeake Bay
to North Carolina. They often
stop along the Mississippi River in southern Minnesota
and western Wisconsin before
they continue on to their eastern wintering grounds.
Pairs and flocks of these large beautiful birds can often be seen along
the lakes and back waters of the Mississippi River from Read's
Landing, Minnesota and Alma, Wisconsin to northern Iowa from mid-October to
February, with peaks of up to 16,000 birds in November. As many as 9,800
tundra swans have been sighted near Brownsville,
Minnesota in the fall.
Their spring arrival is unpredictable; they often arrive in small flocks
and remain for only a short time. Large concentrations of swans arrive in the
fall beginning in late October, and they often stay until late November or
until the water freezes.
Sandhill cranes (Gruscanadensis) are generally gray in color with
occasional rust-colored streaks. Adults have a red forehead, while yearlings
have a dark brown forehead. Adult sandhill cranes vary in height from
thirty-four to forty-eight inches. The differences are not due to age, but
rather to the genetics of the individual subspecies. Lesser sandhill cranes
have a wingspan of approximately six feet; greater sandhill cranes have a
span of seven feet. Although they appear large when they fly they only weight
six to ten pounds.
Snadhill cranes mate for life, pairing up for
the first time during the winter before their third birthday. They always lay
two greenish-brown eggs; both parents take turns incubating. The first egg
laid hatches a few days before the second egg. However, it is rare that both
of the young survive the first year of life. Yearling birds stay with their
parents for one year. When the parents return to the nesting grounds, last
year's offspring are kept out of the parents' territory. When cranes fly in
groups of three, the middle bird is usually the single surviving offspring.
The typical diet of a crane depends upon the time of year. On wintering
grounds in Texas, about half
their diet is tubers from sedge, a grass-like plant. On the staging grounds
along the PlatteRiver
and other areas, over eighty percent of the diet is corn. On their nesting
grounds over fifty percent of the diet is made up of bulbs of arrow-grass and
other aquatic and semi-aquatic species.
At one time there were more than 10,000 whooping cranes in North
America. But, due to hunting, human encroachment, egg poaching
and habitat loss the population of the tallest bird in North
America was reduced to 21 in the 1940's.
There are 237 cranes in the flock that summers in Canada
and another 280 that live in captivity or as part of a flock reintroduced in
the eastern U.S.
The only population of wild cranes, which migrates each year between WoodBuffaloNational Park
in northern Alberta, Canada,
and Aransas National Wildlife Refuge in Texas,
this year researchers found 224 birds in Texas
after the migration. A smaller, reintroduced group of 60 whooping cranes now
lives in Florida year round.
On October 5, 2006, 18
whooping cranes left the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge in Wisconsin,
and began their 1,228 mile trip to the Chassahowitzka
National Wildlife Refuge in Florida,
where they arrived on December 13, 20o6. The cranes
followed a group of ultra-light aircraft on their first migration. In,
addition, a pair of whooping cranes that had previously made the trip brought
their one offspring with them.
Researchers are hopeful that this reestablished flock will flourish in the
Wild Turkey Facts
Wild Turkeys (Meleagrisgallopavo) are a large grouse-like bird reaching
lengths of 17 inches, with weights of large mature males reaching 25 pounds.
Their heads and upper necks have very few feathers, and the males are able to
change the colors of the head and neck from white, to blue and red.
During the spring mating season (March- June) the males or
"toms" as they are called, fan their tails, fluff up the feathers
of their chest by inflating the air sack underneath the skin of the chest,
tuck in their heads and drag their wings o n the ground to proclaim dominance
and attract the females. They also gobble loudly, and use air from their
inflated air sacks to "spit" (a loud exhale) and "boom"
(often incorrectly referred to as drumming) in their attempts to mate with
There were originally six subspecies of the Wild Turkey (Meleagrisgallopavo)
in North America and one related species, the Ocellated Turkey (Meleagrisocellata) in Central America.
The originally discovered subspecies (M. gallopavogallopavo) is now extinct due to hunting. Of
the other five subspecies only the Gould's Turkey
is in danger; it occurs in extreme southwest New Mexico,
southeast Arizona and adjacent
regions of Mexico.
It is listed on the endangered species list.
The Eastern Turkey(M. g .silvestris)
is the most widely distributed subspecies of the wild turkey. It occurs east
of the Missouri River to the Atlantic ocean,
the southern and western parts of Minnesota,
the eastern third of Kansas and
Oklahoma, and eastern Texas
and northern Florida. The Florida
subspecies (M. g. osceola) occurs in the
southern portion of Florida.
The Rio Grande (M. g. intermedia) subspecies occurs mainly in the western
portions of Kansas, Oklahoma
and Texas, with transplants in
small portions of Washington, Oregon,
and South Dakota. The Merriam's
(M. g. merriami) subspecies occurs in South
and portions of most of the mountain states from Canada
Hybrid or intergrade turkeys are found in areas where
two or more subspecies occur; these birds may exhibit characteristics of one
or the other subspecies, characteristics of both subspecies, or
characteristics between the two subspecies.
Sharp-tailed grouse (Tympanuchus phasianellus)
are a stocky, round-winged, chicken-like bird reaching lengths of 15 inches.
They have a short crest on the crown of their heads, and a narrow, pointed
tail with white outer tail feathers. The males have yellow combs over their
eyes, and pinkish to pale violet ir sacks on their
necks, which they inflate to make mating calls when they dance on the
breeding grounds, or "leks" in the
spring. They have brown plumage with darker brown, black and tan chevrons
around the head, neck, back and under parts; their legs are feathered to the
base of their toes.
They can be found in mixed grass prairies from western Nebraska,
North and South Dakota and
eastern Montana into Alberta,
Manitoba and Saskatchan, with populations in northwest Minnesota
and west central Wiscsonsin.
Listen to Sharp-tailed Grouse at BirderBlog.com
by typing "Sharp-tailed Grouse" in the Search Box and clicking on
"Sharp-tailed Grouse Sounds".
Greater Prairie chickens (Tympanuchus cupido)
are medium-sized, stocky, round-winged, chicken-like birds with a short,
rounded, dark tail. Their bodies are buff colored with barring on the breast,
back and wings; the belly has darker bars. Adult males have a yellow-orange
comb over their eye, dark, elongated head feathers that can be raised or lain along their neck, and a circular, orange unfeathered neck patch they inflate when they are calling
and displaying on the spring mating grounds called "leks".
They inhabit much of Nebraska
and Kansas, with populations in
eastern North Dakota, northwest
Minnesota and east central Wisconsin.
The lesser prairie chicken is similar, but has a differently shaped pink
neck patch and generally paler plumage, with more finely barred sides on its
body. The two species almost never overlap in range and habitat.
The national bird of the United States, the bald eagle (Haliaeetuslecuocephalus),
reaches lengths of 31-37 inches, with wing spreads if 70-90 inches, and
weights of 8-15 pounds. While it was an endangered species in the 1950's and
1960's, it has made a fantastic comeback. As a result of conservation
measures, and the ban of several pesticides, bald eagles can once again be
found throughout North America. Nesting populations
can be found along the Atlantic coast, the Mississippi River
drainage, and the Rocky Mountains as far south as Nevada.
While the birds are often identifies by their white head and tail,
different ages of eagle exhibit different amounts of white on their heads; 1
year old birds are uniformly brown in color and the beak and eye are dark; 2
year old birds have gray-brown or whitish, they have a white line on their
head, and their back and bellies become speckled with white; 3 year old birds
become lighter, with a contrasting dark eye stripe, and the bill and eye
become yellow; 4 year old birds are mostly dark with some white spots, the
head and tail are generally white, but the tail may have a dark band at the
One of the largest wintering populations of these birds can be found along
the Mississippi River from southern Minnesota
to northern Iowa. In some years
hundreds of these great birds can be seen along the river, but numbers depend
a lot on the weather. Because fish are one of the major food sources of bald
eagles, they need open water where they can catch fish. When lakes, rivers
and streams freeze up in many areas, hundreds of eagles may be seen on the
upper Mississippi from December
Western grebes (Aechmophorusoccidentalis) have long streamlined bodies for
diving. The upper parts of the body are black, lower parts are white. The
back of the long slender neck is black; the front is white from chin to
belly. They have a pointy black crown on their head, a red eye surrounded by
black, and a long thin yellow bill. They reach lengths of 20-24 inches.
They perform several elaborate dances during spring mating. One in which
the two birds rapidly "run" across the surface of the water until
both birds dive down into the water. In another dance the two birds raise
their bellies out of the water and rub each other with vegetation held in their
These birds nest in dense, noisy colonies on large lakes and marshes. The
nest is built floating on water and anchored to reeds. They lay 3-4 eggs with
an incubation period of about 23 days. They young chicks can often be seen
riding on the back of the female. They feed on small crustaceans and fish.
National Geographic News reports that independent researchers in Great
Britain have concluded that hunting and
shooting are positive aspects of wildlife conservation.
Scientists from University of Kent
in southeast England
published a study in Nature saying that farmers who hunt and shoot can help
lost wildlife. The study found that hunting and shooting provide an extra
incentive for landowners to voluntarily get involved in environmentally
sustainable farming practices.
"According to our research, it's people
involved with country sports who take up these subsidy schemes," said
Nigel Leader-Williams, professor of biodiversity management at the University
of Kent. "They plant new
woodland because they want foxes and pheasants to live in it."
Wolf Management in the Doghouse
Two recent court rulings have set back wolf management in the U.S. SCI
has expressed concern over these two federal court decisions that have
prohibited effective management of growing gray wolf populations, and hindered
the potential for sportsman participation in said management.
In one case last August, the honorable Judge Garvan
Murtha, of the U.S. District Court of Vermont, issued another disappointing
ruling against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's attempt to reclassify the
gray wolf species from "endangered" to "threatened"
status. On Sept. 13, wolf management received a third judicial setback when
the honorable Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle, of the
U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia, took action prohibiting
Michigan and Wisconsin from lethally taking problem wolves preying on
livestock and other domestic animals.
"Who else but our appointed state and federal wildlife officials have
the expertise and the authority to ensure that the Endangered Species Act is
properly enforced and our nation's wildlife is scientifically
conserved?" said SCI Executive
Director Tom Riley. "SCI will
continue to support the reclassification of the gray wolf and will support
the Service's efforts to rectify these erroneous judicial rulings."
The contention surrounding wolf reclassification began in October of 2003
when a cabal of animal rights organizations, including Defenders of Wildlife,
Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club and others, brought to the U.S.
District Court for the District of Oregon a case challenging the USFWS'
authority to change the gray wolf's ESA
classification. SCI intervened in that
case, together with the Oregon Hunters' Association, the American Farm Bureau
and the Oregon Cattlemen's Association, to support gray wolf recovery
achieved by the USFWS and to help the USFWS defend against the challenge that
had been waged against the rule to reclassify wolves.
Instead of recognizing the USFWS' monumental conservation efforts that
resulted in the recovery of large, healthy and viable wolf populations in
both the Eastern and Western United States, the Oregon Court invalidated the
USFWS' Final Rule to reclassify gray wolves from "endangered" to
"threatened" status. As a result, gray wolves throughout the United
States retained their
"endangered" classification. The USFWS has reserved the right to
appeal the Oregon Court's ruling, but has indicated that an appeal is
The Vermont case, brought by
a second set of Plaintiffs, also offered a disappointing result for gray wolf
recovery. The Vermont Court's opinion does nothing to overturn or modify the
current "endangered" status of gray wolves imposed by the Oregon
Court's determination. In addition, Judge Murtha addressed some issues that
were outside the focus of the Oregon Court's previous ruling. He ruled that
the USFWS had improperly deleted a proposed Northeastern Distinct Population
Segment of wolves, without first giving the public an opportunity to comment
on the matter, and that the USFWS improperly lumped the Northeastern states
into a single Distinct Population Segment that also included the wolf
populations of Michigan, Minnesota
In the Sept. 13 ruling, Judge Huvelle
invalidated the permits that Michigan
and Wisconsin had been using
under permit authority issued by the USFWS to cull the two state's problem
wolves, and ordered that no further wolves be taken under those permits. The
USFWS admitted to the Court it had inappropriately issued the states' permits
without first publishing notice of the permit applications and without
allowing public comment on the applications. Both Michigan
and Wisconsin have submitted
new permit applications and the USFWS has published
a Federal Register Notice to solicit comments on the wolf depredation
permits. Once a thirty day comment period is completed, the USFWS can move
forward to issue new permits to replace those invalidated by the Court.
SCI-First For Hunters is the leader in
protecting the freedom to hunt and in promoting wildlife conservation
worldwide. SCI's 173 Chapters represent
all 50 United States
as well as 13 other countries. SCI's
proactive leadership in a host of cooperative wildlife conservation, outdoor
education and humanitarian programs, with the SCI
Foundation and other conservation groups, research institutions and
government agencies, empowers sportsmen to be contributing community members
and participants in sound wildlife management and conservation. Visit www.safariclub.org or call 520-620-1220
for more information.
SCI's record-breaking 33rd Annual
Hunters' Convention hosted more than 19,700 sportsmen from 50 countries
around the world. Thanks to over 1,100 top exhibitors helping hunters realize
dreams around the globe, the Convention raised nearly $11 million for SCI
and the SCI Foundation. To register to
attend SCI's 34th Annual Hunters'
Convention, in RenoJan. 18-21, 2006, call 888-746-9724
toll-free or visit www.safariclub.org.
Alaska Sportsmen Step Up
A coalition of conservation-sportsman groups, including SCI's
5.3) and Alaska Kenai Peninsula chapters,
are challenging a proposed animal-extremist-backed ballot measure seeking to
5.3) in that state.
According to the Fairbanks Daily News-Mirror, the coalition is
informing voters that backers of the ballot initiative are not registering
with the Alaska Public Offices Commission in an effort to hide their true
out-of-state origins. The coalition also has engaged Pac/West Communications to assist in
its advocacy efforts.
"One of our main themes is, 'Don't let out-of-state extremists come
in and manage Alaska's game,'"
said Pac/West spokesman JerodBroadfoot.
The measure is slated for vote during the Nov. 2, 2004 general election.
Poacher Capture Reward
The Associated Press reports Alaskan authorities are investigating
a series of poaching incidents which began along the KnickRiver approximately two months
A $4,500 reward is being offered for information leading to the arrest and
conviction of those responsible for poaching more than six Dall sheep, a moose, and a mountain goat. According to
wildlife officials, there are no leads yet in the investigation.
New Mexico's oryx herd (ROAR
3.5), which was first introduced in the 1960s, is closely monitored by
wildlife management professionals. It has shown an ability to push out
indigenous species, to cause habitat damage, and now may represent a new
threat to that state's wildlife.
According to The Associated Press, state wildlife biologists are
investigating if a previously unknown virus similar to malignant catarrhal
fever that was found in a recent oryx study poses a
threat to New Mexico's other wildlife. Catarrhal fever is difficult to
transmit but, once deer and elk acquire it, the disease almost always is
According to NMGF Director, however, the investigation is not far enough
along to "sound the alarm on the oryx."
Bald Eagle Boost
Good news regarding the United States'
official bird, the bald eagle. ESPN.com reports that for the first
time in more than 100 years, two of the regal raptors have been spotted
nesting near the Little Calumet River on the southern border of Chicago,
Illinois. According to US Fish &
Wildlife, until now, most Illinois
eagle sightings have been along the Mississippi River.
The eagles' exact location is being kept secret by state officials and
bird enthusiasts so the pair will not be scared away from their nest by
SCI urges Chicago
residents to heed the concerns of state wildlife officials to help expand the
range for bald eagle.
The US Fish & Wildlife Service announced a proposal to give Idaho
and Montana more wolf
management authority over their packs, which are part of the reintroduced northern
Rockies wolf population. At some 750 animals, northern
Rockies wolves have more than doubled initial USFWS
population growth projections.
Sportsmen can submit comments on the Idaho/Montana proposal by writing to
USFWS; Western Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator; 100 North Park,
Number 320; Helena, MT;
In Alaska, according to The
Associated Press, aerial sportsmen culled some 114 wolves in the NelchinaBasin
near Glennallen and near McGrath. The action was
taken to help stem moose predation.
Conflicts between humans and animals continue to underscore the need for
proactive wildlife management programs using legal hunting as a tool to help
ESPN.com reports a deer broke into a Kalamazoo,
Mich. business, causing damage and
startling employees before escaping and being stuck by two vehicles.
Foxnews.com notes a sea lion weighing some 1,500 pounds dragged a
fisherman off his boat in Alaska.
The fisherman suffered minor injuries and a shredded pants seat.
Associated Press says an alligator bit the leg of a 65-year-old
woman riding in the back of a pickup truck through Florida's
JW Corbett Wildlife Management Area.
Reuters reports a retired crocodile hunter saved the life of an
11-year-old girl attacked by 10-foot crocodile while she was swimming.
Just Plain Sick
PETA continues to show a total lack of sensitivity and propriety.
Its new Canadian billboard campaign leverages the horrific acts allegedly
perpetrated by accused British Columbia
serial killer Robert Pickton. According to news
reports, Pickton allegedly mixed his victims'
remains with pig meat from his farm. The PETA billboard depicts a girl and a
pig, with the statement "Neither Of Us Are Meat".
SCI sends condolences to the family
members of the murder victims ruthlessly exploited by the shocking anti-meat
campaign. To sign a petition calling for greater IRS
scrutiny of PETA's tax-exempt status, visit: www.petitiononline.com/rvkptaex.
More on SCI
Founded in 1971, SCI is the leader in
protecting the freedom to hunt and in promoting wildlife conservation
With some 200 chapters around the globe, the 501(c)(4)
non-profit association is a tireless advocate for the more than 45 million
sportsmen and sportswomen who, through their legal hunting activities,
represent the single largest source of money necessary to maintain wildlife
populations and habitats, to conduct wildlife research and to enforce
wildlife laws. For more information about SCI,
or its government relations Web site at www.sci-dc.org.
SCI Foundation funds and manages
worldwide programs dedicated to wildlife conservation, outdoor education and
humanitarian services. For more information about the 501(c)(3) Foundation,
visit www.sci-foundation.org or
its International Wildlife Museum Web site at www.thewildlifemuseum.org.
Bird Observatories in North America -
Find all the bird observatories in North America
through this site: http://www.nmnh.si.edu
American Bird Conservancy - This organization is doing important
work in a number of different bird-conservation area: http://abcbirds.org/
BirdLife International - BirdLife is a global alliance of organizations working to
preserve the world's birds: http://www.birdlife.org/
Birders' Exchange - A fine project of the American Birding
Association, designed to get binoculars, field-guides, scopes, and other
vital equipment to our counterparts in Latin America
and the Caribbean: http://www.americanbirding.org/bex/
Visit Owling.com, A Site Dedicated
Exclusively to Owls.
One of the pieces of equipment. that hunters use,
that can greatly enhance your wildlife viewing experience while you are
birding, is a pair or amplified hearing aids or headphones. I've used them
for years to research deer, elk, turkeys and pheasants, and recently I began
using them on birding trips, so that I can hear and can locate birds in wooded
areas, and here far off birds, or hear them better.
I've used hearing aid type amplification from Blast Busters, and amplified
headphones such as the Sport Muff from Silver Creek Industries and Walker's
Game Ears manufactured by Affinity
Medical Technology. They have greatly improved my ability to hear the
softest calls of the birds, and enjoy the total experience of observing
If you are serious about looking for birds, animals, wildflowers and
scenic areas you are going to have to do some walking. Although you can enjoy
nature from the car in many areas, in most instances you will have to walk,
sometimes several miles, to find and observe rare birds, big game animals,
wildflowers and the scenic views of rivers, streams, lakes, waterfalls,
flower covered meadows, ravines and snow covered mountain peaks.
I've covered many, many miles in my studies of deer, turkey and black bear
in the woods, swamps, hills and ravines of Minnesota, and many more miles
walking in high meadows, rock-strewn slopes, blow-down covered woods, and
steep mountains looking for elk, mule deer and black bear in New Mexico,
Colorado, Wyoming, Montana and Idaho. And I've worn out several pairs of
boots along the way.
Notice I said boots, not shoes. Although I've worn shoes on birding and
wildflower trips, I generally put on a good pair of waterproof hunting boots,
with soles that can grip anything from loose sand to lose or wet rocks,
because I usually find myself wanting to look over the next hill or across a
stream to see what is there.
Hunting boots are made to support your arches, and provide you with
comfort when you walk long distances. A good pair of hiking boots can also
provide the ankle support many people need when they ascend or descend steep
terrain. And, if nothing else, boots cover your socks, which means you won't
get them covered with burrs and stickers.
I've been wearing La Crosse
and Danner boots for a long time. In fact, I've never worn anything else
since the late 80's. My latest pair of La Crosse
boots are their Broadside GTX models with GoreTex and leather uppers, and 400 grams of Thinsulate. They are, without a doubt, the lightest, most
comfortable boots I've ever worn.
I have two pinched nerves in my left leg, one is
the sciatic nerve, which causes me pain in the left buttocks and hamstring.
The other is the femoral nerve, which causes me extreme pain in the inner
thigh and the heel of my foot. Normally when I stand or walk for a long time
I am in a lot of pain. I don't know how many hours I've worn my Broadsides or
how many miles I've covered in them since I got them, but it has been a lot.
But, not once have I been in pain, and not once have my feet felt sore.
If you do a lot of hiking or walking in the outdoors I strongly suggest
you invest in a good pair of hunting boots, because, unlike many hiking
boots, they are made to be quiet, which if you are looking for birds or big
game, is a must.
To view the wide variety of boots that LaCrosse and Danner
offer click on their links.
Years ago I received a Heat Exchanger face mask from Polar Wrap. The mask,
which contains a coiled breathing tube which goes through a small
radiator-type heat exchanger, is designed to keep the person wearing it warm,
by warming cold outside air before it got into the wearer's lungs; thereby
keeping the lungs and the blood flowing through the lung warm.
I was skeptical at first, but after I took a 45 minute walk, dressed in
jeans, shirt, a medium insulated jacket, baseball cap and no gloves, in a 15
degree windchill, I was absolutely amazed. Although
my hands were exposed to the cold air, and the skin was cold I did not feel
the cold. And my entire body was warmer than if I had not been wearing the
After years of wearing the mask I believe it is the single most important
piece of gear a person can wear if they want to stay in temperatures below 40
degrees F. It comes in several different colors and camo
patterns, and in both face mask and fool hood designs.
Another important aspect of the mask is that it has proven extremely
helpful for anyone who suffers from respiratory diseases, such as asthma. My
daughter has chronic asthma, which causes her lungs to stop functioning when
the temperatures are below 40 degrees.
Warm Air Mask & Health Mask
Polar Fleece recently sent my daughter a Warm Air Mask, a neck sleeve
containing the heat exchanger coil designed for non-hunters; and a Health
Mask, a surgical style mask, designed with electrostatic material to keep the
Tawnya can now enjoy the outdoors and her passion for wildlife photography
For more information on these products log on to the Polar Wrap website
Check Bird Migration Radar - as it
Check this in the evening, when dusk migrations begin. Look for
northerly winds pushing into your area. Here
WorldTwitch Reports on Rare Birds around the World Here
Journey North A Global Study of Wildlife Migration and Seasonal Change Here
History of the Grizzly Bear & the
challenges they face Here
MN Audubon News
The Minnesota legislative
session ended on May 18. In the five-month session, Audubon Minnesota, state
chapters and our Environmental Issues Committee played a pivotal role in
passing legislation that will provide long-term, strengthened protection for our
state’s native birds. Here
"Lights Out" Law Protects
Migrating Birds Saint PaulMN,
May 18, 2009
The Mississippi Flyway just became a little safer for migrating birds as a
result of legislation signed into law by Governor Tim Pawlenty
over the weekend. The "Lights Out" law was sponsored by State
Representative Phyllis Kahn (DFL – Minneapolis)
and inspired by Audubon Minnesota’s
"Lights Out" program. Here
Audubon Victories in the Legislature
Audubon Minnesota, state
chapters and our Environmental Issues Committee played a pivotal role in
passing legislation this year that will provide long-term, strengthened
protection for our state’s native birds. Here
Declining MN Bird Numbers
Audubon study reveals
dramatic declines for many of Minnesota's most familiar birds.
Some of the most
recognizable and beloved birds in Minnesota and the nation are declining at
an alarming rate, according to the National Audubon Society. The recent
analysis by Audubon reveals that many of the nation's common birds nose-dived
over the past 40 years, with several down nearly 80 percent. Read more Here
Volunteers play an important role in protecting the natural resources and
maintaining the recreation areas managed by the Corps of Engineers.
Nationwide, over 50,000 volunteers contribute 1 million hours of services
annually at Corps lakes and projects an estimated value of $18.7 million. Read
Bird Song Changes - Sound Alarm Over Habitat FragmentationJune
New research published in the British Ecological Society's Journal of
Applied Ecology has found that changes in bird song could be used as an
early warning system to detect man-made ecological disturbances. Although
much previous research has focused on bird song and vocal mimicry, this is
the first study to analyze the role played by habitat loss and fragmentation
Editors Note: Many birder have seen this
habitat fragmentation, particularly with grasslands and grassland bird
species. With the ending of CRP contracts on a lot of property in southern Minnesota
- I've seen , and we all will see, more
fragmentation of prairie/grassland habitats. And I've heard what may be the
changing of bird songs in these smaller habitats as a result of it.
On a recent trip to the Randolph,
Kenyon, Nerstrand area of SE Minnesota,
I noticed that a lot of former CRP lands were now planted in row crops. In
two areas the Bobolinks were forced to move from the field they had been
using for several years - to another field across the road - in order to find
suitable breeding territories and nesting habitat. At the RandolphIndustrial Park I heard a male
Western Meadowlark perform several different songs, some of which I did not
recognize. You can listen to these different songs here.
Not only may the change of songs in a bird species be an indicator of
habitat fragmentation; habitat fragmentation could eventually lead to several
new types of bird songs, with the eventuality of new subspecies of birds as a
result of habitat fragmentation. It is this disconnect, of not hearing and
seeing their neighboring birds (as a result of varied or fragmented
habitats), that led to the division of one finch species into the diversity
of finch species on the Galapagos Islands - which later led to Charles
Darwin's theory of the Origin of Species.
Are we on the verge of the split of many animal and plant species into
several new subspecies, and eventually into new species, as we humans
continue to alter and fragment the habitat of the planet we live on? Read the
whole article here.
Gray Wolf Management Transferred to StatesMay 4, 2009
Gray wolves in parts of the northern Rockies and
the Great Lakes region are officially off the endangered
species list today, opening the possibility of public hunts in some states
for the first time in decades.
New Bird Biodiversity Study
Study suggests bird counts and birding efforts are best before .
Birds May be able to Smell - Better than we Thought
Sight and hearing are the most important senses for birds,
at least this is what was thought. Bird DNA
studies by researchers have now provided genetic evidence that many bird
species can smell. Here
20 Top Bird Habitats in Trouble
This is a great "paper". Every bird lover should read it. Here
Fish and Amphibians in Trouble
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, about 40 percent of
American freshwater fish and amphibian species, including this red-sided
dace, are classified as being at risk.
NEARLY $12 MILLION FROM STAMPS FOR REFUGE AQUISITION
In early March, the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission approved the
purchase of wetland and grassland habitat that will be added to seven units
of the National Wildlife Refuge System to secure breeding, resting and
These acquisitions are funded mostly with proceeds from sales of the
Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp, otherwise known as the Duck
Stamps (mainly from hunters, TR).
The Migratory Bird Conservation Commission oversees the use of Stamp funds
for the purchase and lease of these wetland and grassland habitats for the
The commission includes Senators Thad Cochran of Mississippi
and Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas,
Representative John Dingell of Michigan
and Rob Wittman of Virginia, Secretary of the
Interior Ken Salazar, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack,
and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa P. Jackson.
These recent Refuge System acquisitions include:
Great Dismal Swamp
National Wildlife Refuge, Camden,
Gates and Pasquotank Counties, North
Carolina - acquisition of 51 acres.
San Bernard National
Wildlife Refuge, Brazoria and Matagorda Counties,Texas - acquisition
of 1,454 acres.
O. Conte National Wildlife Refuge, Pondicherry
Divisions, Coos County, New
Hampshire - acquisition of 80 acres.
Grand Cote National
Wildlife Refuge, Avoyelles and Rapides Parishes, Louisiana
- acquisition of 265 acres.
National Wildlife Refuge, Wapato Lake Unit, Washington and Yamhill
Counties, Oregon -
acquisition of 225 acres.
North Central Valley
Wildlife Management Area, Colusa County,
California - acquisition of 388
Management Area, Merced County, California
- a permanent easement of 1,077 acres.
This year marks the 75th anniversary of the 1934 amendment to the
Migratory Bird Treaty Act that created what we know today as the Migratory
Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp.
New Study Pinpoints Extinction Epicenters
Safeguarding 595 sites around the world would help stave off an imminent
global extinction crisis, according to new research published in the Proceedings
of the National Academy of Sciences. Read the article here.
Millions of migratory birds are being killed every year by
communications towers. April 14,
The global extinction crisis - ignores thousands of affiliated species
that are also at risk of being wiped out, making the list of endangered
species much larger and more serious than originally thought. Here
Global Warming Could Be Affecting Wolf-Moose Balance
Wolf population up, moose population down in Isle
Park, the home of a 46-year study of predators
and their prey. Researchers suspect that a global warming trend may be behind
the shift. Here
6,000 Rare, Large River Dolphins Found in BangladeshMarch 31, 2009
A previously unknown population of Irrawaddy
dolphins discovered in Bangladesh
has given scientists "great hope" for the survival of the rare
Up to 2,000 New Orangutans Found on BorneoApril 13, 2009
Nearly One In Four Of World's Mammals At Risk Of Disappearing Forever
Comprehensive assessment of the world's mammals has confirmed an
extinction crisis, with almost one in four mammals at risk of disappearing
Mammals That Hibernate Or Burrow Less Likely To Go Extinct Feb. 2, 2009
The best way to survive the ill-effects of climate change and pollution
may be to simply sleep through it. Here
Vocalizations Help Lemurs Pick Mates of the Right Species
Some Malagasy mouse lemurs are so similar that picking a mate of the right
species, especially at night time in a tropical forest, might seem like a
matter of pot luck. However, new research suggests that vocalizations help
them pick a partner of the right species. Here
Pygmy Tarsier Rediscovered
Rare member of primate family rediscovered on SulewesiIsland.
Tree Lizard's Quick Release Escape System Makes Jumpers Turn
Somersaults Feb. 23, 2009
Up to fifty percent of some lizard populations seem to have traded some
part of their tails in exchange for escape. Here
New Amphibians June 16,
A bug-eyed salamander and a colorful poison frog are among 12 species
possibly new to science recently found in the mountains of Ecuador.
Recent global decline of frog and salamander populations caused by
emerging diseases as major causes. One particularly new pathogen, the chytrid fungus Batrachochytriumdendrobatidis appears to be especially lethal,
and is implicated in massive declines and extinction in Central
America and Eastern Australia. Here
Creation of Oases for Endangered Monarch Butterflies
Waystations for monarch butterflies are
sprouting up around the country, with milkweed plants and flowers such as
zinnias that produce lots of nectar. These gardens will provide oases for the
butterflies to lay eggs and feed during their migration. Here
Fish Researcher Demonstrates First 'Non-visual Feeding' By African
Cichlids Apr. 13, 2009
Most fish rely primarily on their vision to find prey to feed upon, but a University
of Rhode Island biologist and
colleagues demonstrated that a group of African cichlids feed by using their
lateral line sensory system to detect minute vibrations made by prey hidden
in the sediments. Here
Click here to see how a
few different fish species have evolved into the colorful Malawi Cichlids of
Endangered Species Profile
NEW SPECIES PHOTOS: Jumping
Spiders, Odd Gecko, More Here
The Vancouver Island marmot is a housecat-sized
rodent weighing 3 - 6.5 kg (6.6 - 14.3 lb). It prefers sub-alpine open areas
above 1000 m (3300'), in south to west-facing meadows. The flowering parts of
alpine plants are its preferred food. The Vancouver Island
marmot prefers open areas that provide good soil for burrowing, plentiful
herbs and forbs to eat, and suitable
rocks for lookout spots. It lives in colonies comprised of one or more family
groups, and monogamous pairings are
The Vancouver Island marmot has never been abundant
in historic times. It is endemic to Vancouver
Island, British Columbia, Canada. By 1990 it had been
reduced to 1/3 of its former range in the mountains of Vancouver
Island, due in part to habitat disruption caused by logging.
"With a population numbering fewer that 100 animals, Vancouver
Island marmots must be considered as one of North
America's most critically endangered mammals. Only by increasing
both their numbers and distribution can the future of this engaging rodent be
secured. For this reason the Recovery Plan emphasizes captive-breeding
combined with marmot reintroductions to formerly occupied sites." (Bryant 1998)
MONTHLY RARITY FOCUS
On the morning of May 14, park survey volunteers Doris Leary, Lesley
Royce, and Carole Adams discovered a Greater Sand-Plover (Charadriusleschenaultii) in breeding plumage at HuguenotMemorial Park in Jacksonville,
This species regularly breeds from Turkey
to western Mongolia
and southern Siberia, and winters in the southeastern
Mediterranean area, South Africa,
and Australasia. There is one previous record for this
accidental species in North America - a bird at
Bolinas Lagoon, Marin County, California,
29 January to 8
April 2001. The Jacksonville
bird appears to be only the second record for the Western
The Greater Sand-Plover was initially seen at Huguenot lagoon. Later, it was
located closer to the park’s family beach, where it was observed a number of
times chasing away Wilson’s
Hundreds of observers went to the park to see the sand-plover, with some
flying into the Jacksonville
airport, or else driving to the park from far away out-of-state locations.
The bird was seen through 26 May, except for a couple of days when extreme
weather conditions, including wind, rain, and severe storm surges made
To see a photo of the bird taken by Roger Clark, see: Sandplover For an article on the sand-plover in the
ORLANDO SENTINEL, see: Sandplover
Important Bird Areas (IBAs) are not simply
meaningful for identifying sites, but they can be crucial in highlighting and
deepening the protection of these sites.
An example of this transpired in early September, when the Canadian
government announced that it will protect more than 1,737 square miles of
Arctic wilderness in the NunavutTerritory
by establishing three new National Wildlife Areas. These three sites, all
located on or adjacent to the northeast side of Baffin Island,
are Niginganiq (IsabellaBay), Qaqulluit
and Akpait (ReidBay). The areas include two
globally significant IBAs.
"This is great news for Canada's
birds, biodiversity nd the cause of wilderness
preservation," said Julie Gelfand, president
of Nature Canada.
"Two of Canada's
Important Bird Areas are found within the Qaqulluit
and Akpait National Wildlife Areas. This means
critical breeding and feeding grounds for millions of migratory birds will be
The Qaqulluit (ka-koo-loo-eet)
and Akpait (ak-pa-eet)
National Wildlife Areas are inhabited by many seabirds, including, respectively,
largest colony of Northern Fulmars and one of Canada's
largest colonies of Thick-billedMurres.
Once a site is designated as a National Wildlife Area, natural features
integral to the location are protected from disturbance, and activities
considered harmful to species or their habitats are prohibited. Wildlife
research and interpretation may take place in these areas, but these
activities require a permit.
And while we are on the subject of hurricanes, reports are still coming in
about the impact of Hurricane Ike on the immediate Texas
coast, and we can share some news items pertaining to destruction at birding
areas and bird habitats. The 110-mph winds and a 20-foot storm surge certainly
had an impact.
As an indication of the force of Ike, the five-mile-long Texas City Dike
across from Galveston was almost
washed away. Celebrated as the world's longest manmade fishing pier, the dike
is in such disrepair that city leaders say it will remain closed
indefinitely. The dike is primarily a birding observation site, though not
necessarily vital bird habitat. But, in case you were wondering, the adjacent
habitat was clobbered.
The Bolivar Flats and High Island Sanctuaries, run by the Houston Audubon
Society, suffered. Bolivar Flats was littered with debris, including at least
two large shipping containers. Oil and hazardous material spills have been
reported. At HighIsland,
litter, broken trees, dead and bloated cattle, and vegetation saturated by
intrusive saltwater mark the scene.
A number of TexasState
properties have reported damage, including the J. D. Murphee
Wildlife Management Area (with an oil spill impacting an estimated 1,200
acres) and the Bessie Heights Marsh of the Lower Neches
WMA (with some oiling on about 2,000 acres). Concern over these spills
involves threats to waterfowl, ducks and geese expected to start arriving in
The impact to three local National Wildlife Refuges - Anahuac,
McFaddin, and Texas Point - has also been
considerable. Aransas NWR, a bit farther down the coast, was also hit.
Hurricane Ike caused an estimated $260 million in damage to the refuges. The
destruction of structures, roads, and visitor facilities was one element, and
habitat devastation, especially the saltwater inundation of freshwater and
brackish habitat, along with oil leakage, was another. In many areas,
prescribed burning may prove to be the first step in recovery. Elsewhere, it
is hoped that a good rain will flush out some of the salt, reviving a zone
currently brown for miles.
For more details on the cost of the effort at refuges, see the National
Wildlife Refuge Association assessment:
About 6,000 birds are killed by cats in the United
States each minute This includes feral
cats, farm cats, and the pet cats that are often put out for the night or allowed
to roam freely during the day. The American Bird Conservancy has led an
important campaign called "Cats Indoors." This effort can only be
strengthened with knowledge and action by bird lovers, such as the groups and
individuals that participate on this list. For more information, visit: http://www.abcbirds.org/cats/
USSA Briefs Senators on Connection Between Endangered Species
Recovery and Sportsmen
premier sportsmen's rights organization today testified before U.S.
Senators on the key connection between hunting and successful wildlife
United States Sportsmen's Alliance (USSA) Director of Federal Affairs William
P. Horn testified before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works
on the Endangered Species Act (ESA), and
why the proposed listing of polar bears as threatened throughout its range
will prove detrimental to healthy and presently sustainable polar bear
Horn was invited to testify by Senator Barbara Boxer, Chairman of the
Committee and Senator James Inhofe, the ranking Republican on the Committee.
Horn served as Assistant Secretary of he Interior
for Fish, Wildlife and Parks, the agency responsible for the ESA,
from 1985 to 1988, before joining USSA. He is considered one of America's
top lawyers on endangered species law, and also serves on the Board of
Environmental Sciences and Toxicology of the National Academy of Sciences.
Environmental organizations want polar bears listed as threatened because
of projections that Arctic sea ice will diminish in 50-plus years as a result
of greenhouse gas emissions and global warming.
In his testimony Horn pointed out that listing polar bears as threatened
based on a 50-year prediction would produce adverse consequences, not only
for polar bears, but for all wildlife. Environmentalists plan to use the
listing as a means to force reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from
automobiles and power plants among other things. The groups will likely bring
lawsuits to force the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to enforce
pollution and greenhouse gas emissions regulations. The enormous costs of
overhauling and fundamentally changing the FWS mission will leave little if
any money for actual endangered species or other traditional fish and
"The USSA is committed to making sure that lawmakers are aware that
sportsmen continue to be the key element in the conservation of
wildlife," said USSA president Bud Pidgeon.
"Listing the polar bear as threatened will stop limited hunting, and cut
off key revenues that fund vital polar bear research. We are proud to
represent sportsmen before Congress on this critical issue."
Science shows that many polar bear populations are at historic highs and that
there are no imminent threats to the healthy, huntable
It is well established that many polar bear populations are at or near
record highs, have increased substantially since the 1960s, and sustain
carefully managed subsistence and sport hunting programs. The latter
programs, conducted primarily in Canada,
generate important local income and ensure that Native communities are vested
in polar bear conservation. The partnership between these communities and
Canadian wildlife officials has yielded effective scientific bear
conservation and management resulting in improved sustainability of 11 of 13
polar bear populations in Canada.
American sportsmen comprise approximately 90 percent of the foreign
hunting clientele in Canada,
pouring millions of dollars into polar bear conservation and management, not
to mention the financial benefits to the local communities. American hunters
are the primary source of essential funding for conservation and research
that allows for continued success of the populations.
The U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance is
a national association of sportsmen and sportsmen's organization that
protects the rights of hunters, anglers and trappers in the courts,
legislatures, at the ballot, in Congress and through public education
programs. For more information about the U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance
and its work, call (614) 888-4868 or visit its web site: www.ussportsmen.org.
This Birding Community E-bulletin is being distributed through the
generous support of Steiner Binoculars as a service to active and concerned
birders, those dedicated to the joys of birding and the protection of birds
and their habitats. You can access an archive of our past E-bulletins on the website of the
National Wildlife Refuge Association (NWRA), and on the birding pages of Steiner
RARITY FOCUS, April 2009
There were not many accessible or lingering rarities for the month of
March. There were, however, several one- or two-day wonders including a
Baikal Teal in WashingtonState,
a Rufous-backed Robin in Arizona,
a Garganey in Louisiana,
and a Western Spindalis in Florida.
One bird that did stay for a few days and entertained a lucky group of
birders during its stay was a Common Crane in Nebraska.
March, as many people probably know, is when the crane migration occurs along
in Nebraska. Hundreds of
thousands of Sandhill Cranes, along with thousands of bird watchers, annually
assemble between Grand Island and
to witness the spectacular early spring crane migration. In 2008, about 180 miles
west, and upriver from Nebraska's
"crane central," a Common Crane appeared on March 18th.Gail Bleidt first observed the Common Crane in a field on the
45-acre Crane Valley Ranch that she and her husband, Pete, own near the North
Platte River just outside of Lewellen, Nebraska.
The Bleidts often have over a thousand Sandhill
Cranes using their lower fields in the spring. The Common Crane was present
for several hours on 18 March, and was re-found on the mornings of 20 and 21
March. Interestingly, some Colorado
birders actually spotted a Common Crane in the same area two years ago.
The Common Crane is an Old World species, a vagrant to
the United States.
In North America the species is usually found with
migrating Sandhill Cranes. (See page 152 of the latest National Geographic
Guide for more details.) There have been approximately 17 previous reports of
this species in North America (some almost certainly
representing multiple sightings of the same individual), most having occurred
in September-October or March-April. It is assumed that some of these birds
have become "attached" to Sandhill Crane groups originating in Siberia
and following them during their migrations. There are more sightings of this
species in the lower-48 states in Nebraska
than in any other state.
WHOOPING CRANES LEAVING TEXAS
IN REDUCED NUMBERS
As March ended, we learned at the last hour about the drop in numbers of
Endangered wintering Whooping Cranes on the TexasCoast. Apparently, 2008-2009 was
the worst winter on record for these regal birds. Total winter mortality in
the vicinity of Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, the primary wintering area
for this species, is estimated at six adults and 15 chicks, a loss of almost
8 percent of the wild flock - a flock that contained a record 270 birds in
The remaining cranes are now on their return northward journey to WoodBuffaloNational Park
on the border of northern Alberta
and the southern Northwest Territories of Canada where they nest.
We hope to have more details in May.
MORE ON BIRDSTRIKES
Immediately after the February Birding Community E-bulletin was sent out, the
National transportation Safety Board (NTSB) indicated that there was organic
material - "snarge" - found in both
engines of the commercial jet that was dramatically ditched in the Hudson
River on 15 January. (Snarge is the
name used by investigators when referring to organic remains found on planes.
Snarge actually means "snot and
garbage.") To see our February report, check: here
By mid-February, researchers at the Smithsonian Institution confirmed that
the snarge removed from the A320 aircraft was from
Canada Geese. There is no way to know how many geese were involved in the
To read an interview with Carla Dove, director of the Smithsonian‚s feather
identification lab, see: here
SHEDDING SOME LIGHT
Also on the topic of birds and aircraft, in early February the Federal
Aviation Administration (FAA) announced plans to conduct a study to determine
whether steady-burning sidelights on tall communications towers can be safely
eliminated without endangering air traffic. These steady-burning sidelights
are known to attract nocturnal migrating birds and cause fatal collisions
with such structures.
Current FAA guidelines on towers over 200 feet require the utilization of red
or dual-type lighting systems including the use of steady-burning sidelights
mounted at various intermediate levels (depending on tower height). These
requirements, now over 30 years old, may no longer be applicable, based on
current lighting technology. Furthermore, blinking lights are suspected of
causing far fewer bird deaths than steady-burning lights.
The study should begin later this year, with a report and recommendations
hopefully announced before the start of 2010.
We have reported multiple times in the past on the expectations for "sodsaver" in the last Farm Bill, most recently in
June 2008: here
A "sodsaver" element in the Farm Bill
would be vital to an entire spectrum of grassland birds. The "sodsaver" provision was originally intended to
eliminate taxpayer incentives to cultivate crops on virgin native grasslands,
and it was that it would be mandatory nationwide. (Ripping up 10,000-year-old
prairie would not have been forbidden, just not eligible for subsequent
federal subsidy.) Final passage altered the bill's language to apply only to
parts of five prairie states (i.e., Montana,
North Dakota, South
and Minnesota), and then only
at the option of those states' individual governors.
The sign-up target for the governors to respond was 15 February 2009. Guess what? To date the
governors have passed on taking advantage of this conservation opportunity.
Democrat? Repubican? No matter. No takers. The
"sodsaver" so far remains ignored and
unused. Still, some optimists feel that the governors may be waiting for some
further ruling on language.
If anything, an almost toothless "sodsaver"
on the books is evidence for the need to strengthen the provision in the next
Farm Bill, as well as the need to make it compulsory across the country. America's
native prairies deserve as much.
CONCERN OVER THE SEMIPALMATED SANDPIPER
Astute bird conservationists are well aware of the plight of the Red Knot - a
situation closely associated with the decline in the availability of
horseshoe crab eggs at the crucial Delaware Bay
stopover site for Red Knots. Researchers have recently raised concern over
yet another species, Semipalmated Sandpiper, whose
decline may also be linked to the Delaware Bay.
Swan, Bald Eagle and Wintering Northern Bird Tours
November, right after the northern lakes and rivers freeze up is usually
best time for tundra swans, and there are generally some bald eagles around.
The swans will leave for the east coast when the back waters of the Mississippi,
or the Mississippi River itself, freezes. Tour information.
January through March is usually best time for trumpeter swans north of Minneaplis/St. Paul, and for bald eagles south of
Minneapolis/St. Paul. However, we regularly see bald eagles in the twin
cities throughout the year.
Winter is a good time to head to northern Minnesota
to see boreal chickadees, black-billed magpies, Canada Jays, ruffed and
spruce grouse; plus wintering crossbills, several owl species, long-tailed
and harlequin ducks, scoters and many pelagic birds such as gulls, terns and
jaegers. Duluth may also have a
few western migrants, such as Townsend's solitaire, western tanager etc. If
you would like to join us on any of these tours e-mail us at TRMichels@yahoo.com.
Windpower: NationalAcademy of Sciences
Announces the Obvious
In early May, a report was released by the National Academy of Sciences on
the environmental impact of wind-energy projects.
Among other things, the report criticized "the lack of any truly
coordinated planning" in the rapid growth of wind farms across the
country. It specifically encouraged federal, state, and local governments to
pay more attention to the planning, regulation, and location of wind-energy
projects at sites where there could be threats to wildlife, or where scenic
landscapes could be adversely impacted.
Wind currently provides less than one percent of he nation's electricity;
however, it is still the fastest-growing alternative to fossil fuel-produced
The report noted that the percentage of birds killed by collisions with
wind towers and their spinning blades is relatively low compared to the
numbers killed by automobiles or collisions with buildings and other lighted
structures. As wind power increases during the next two decades, wind
turbines could also begin to threaten local populations of certain bat
species and continue to impact birds, especially along unspecified
Although the report failed to break any new ground, it did report that,
"In light of the lack of follow-up by environmental impact studies . . .
more careful tracking of bird and bat populations, behavior, migration
corridors, and other factors that may affect their risk of collisions with
turbines is warranted, especially for threatened or endangered species."
To provide an organized approach to the use of wind energy and its effects on
the environment, the report's evaluation guide recommended using systematic
pre- and post-construction studies to explore potential wildlife and other
impacts to improve how such facilities are built, located, and operated.
Mandated by Congress, this report was drafted by a group of academics
assembled by the National Research Council, an arm of the National Academy of
That the obvious findings were accompanied with trumpet and fanfare came
as a surprise to some observers, as did the recommended guidelines on
"aesthetic impacts" since the recommendations came from a body
ostensibly assigned a "scientific" task.
Although this article is primarily about how biofuel
production may affect waterfowl nesting, it also applies to many
ground-nesting prairie bird species, and other organisms. Read the entire
Bird DNA Studies
DNA studies reveal new species, and
combine other species.
In February of 2007 it was announced that genetic testing among North
American birds may have revealed as many as 15 new bird species among 643
types of birds studied between Arctic Canada and Florida.. Scientists from the University of Guelph (the Biodiversity
Institute of Ontario) and RockefellerUniversity, along with colleagues
at the Smithsonian Institution, the Canadian Wildlife Service, and the RoyalOntarioMuseum
revealed the Canadian-led results were.
Look-alike species representing 15 potential "splits" into two
different species include the Northern Fulmar, Solitary Sandpiper, Western
Screech-Owl, Warbling Vireo, Mexican Jay, Western Scrub-Jay, Common Raven,
Mountain Chickadee, Bushtit, Winter Wren, Marsh Wren, Bewick's
Wren, Hermit Thrush, Curve-billed Thrasher, and Eastern Meadowlark.
The split in these 15 species would result in 30 species, with 15
The study also revealed 14 pairs of birds currently classified as separate
species are so genetically similar that they could actually represent
varieties of the same species. The 14 pairs of birds with separate identities
were almost genetic "twins," a trio of birds representing a DNA
"triplet," and eight gull species that were practically identical.
The study also determined that many of these species are actually
indistinguishable to the human eye and ear.
The "lumps" of "virtually identical" taxa potentially include the Snow Goose and Ross's Goose;
Black, Mallard and Mottled Duck; Blue-winged and Cinnamon Teal; King and
Common Eider; Western and Clark's Grebe; Laughing and Franklin's Gull;
California, Herring, Thayer's, Iceland, Lesser Black-backed, Western,
Glaucous-winged and Glaucous Gull; Red-naped and
Red-breasted Sapsucker; Black-billed and Yellow-billed Magpie; American and Northwestern
Crow; Townsend's and Hermit Warbler; Golden-crowned and White-crowned
Sparrow; Dark-eyed and Yellow-eyed Junco; Snow and McKay's Bunting;
Great-tailed and Boat-tailed Grackle; and Common and Hoary Redpoll.
The only birds of these species that are so differently marked/colored
as to appear to be two distinct species are the King and the Common Eider.
Note: This lumping of species would result in 39 species being
reduced to 14 species.
The possible result of these DNA
studies could be a loss of 10 North American bird species.
Wildlife Viewing & Photography Insights
After years of researching white-tailed deer, elk, turkey and waterfowl,
and photographing them, I've learned that in order to observe the natural
behavior of birds and animals, and get pictures of them you need to: 1.
Understand their behavior, so you know when and where they are most active,
2. Be where they are when they are most active, 3. Get as close as you can
without disturbing them, 4. Use good high-powered optics such as binoculars,
spotting scopes and camera lenses and, 5. Use amplified earphones to hear
their sounds better
You can learn about the daily and seasonal behavior of birds and animals
by reading books about them, going to seminars, learning from others, or by
personal experience. I suggest you do the first three before you learn by
personal experience, because it will cut down on your learning curve time.
Then spend as much time as possible observing and listening to the animals as
For years I've told people in my seminars, "If you let them (meaning
if you pay attention to the animals), they will teach you something." I
don't think there is any substitute for personal experience, especially when
it comes to understanding wildlife.
You can help your chances of seeing more birds and animals, and see them
closer, by looking for them where they are either accustomed to human and
human related behavior (in which case you may not have to worry as much about
disturbing them); or look for them in areas where they are not disturbed by
humans and human related behavior (in which case you may have to use ways to
avoid alarming the animals, such as camouflage and concealment).
In many instances you may also have to take steps to avoid making loud or
unnatural sounds, such as talking, sneezing, coughing, the noise of your feet
as they touch the ground, or your clothes rustling
as you move or brush up against vegetation. Quietness and stealth are
important when you try to get close to birds and animals.
Keep your voice low, open and close the doors of your vehicle as quietly
as possible, don't stop your vehicle suddenly if you see something; either
slow down until you come to a stop, or go by, turn around and then approach
slowly. Use vegetation or terrain to stay out of the visual range of the
animals, wear soft, quiet camouflage clothing, or use a blind when you can.
If you are trying to get close to mammals you may also have to use
products to help you reduce human and unnatural odors, which will often alert
the game to your presence, with the result that they hide or flee. Use
unscented antibacterial hair and body washes, antiperspirant, and body sprays
designed for hunters, and odor-reducing clothing designed for hunters (not
activated carbon suits, they don't work). Use Contain antibacterial clothing,
or No Trace or Eliminator scent reduction clothing. Wear latex or rubber
gloves on your hands, and rubber or rubber bottom boots to eliminate odors
from your hands and feet, especially if you are looking for any mammal.
Unnatural scents alert more mammals than most hunters, non-the-less
photographers and animal watchers realize.
In many cases you can look for birds and animals that are accustomed or
semi-accustomed to humans in city, county, regional, state or national parks.
You can expect many big game animals, migratory waterfowl, and hunted upland
birds and small game to be more wary and elusive than some birds, because
they are hunted, even if they are in parks. The same can be said about birds
and animals in many wildlife management areas (WMA), because some type of
hunting is often allowed on management areas.
Since many wildlife refuges (WR, NWR) don't allow human activities within
their boundaries, expect the birds and animals to be more wary and elusive
there; unless there is a lot of human activity nearby, or the birds and
animals have become accustomed to human intrusion. You can also use food to
attract birds and animals to your location. Many wildlife photographers use
food, or "bait" as it is called, to get carnivores such as mountain
lions, wolves, coyotes, foxes and bears to come to particular areas where
blinds are set up. You can also use bait or food plots to attract
white-tailed and mule deer. Since hunting and baiting is often prohibited on
public land, using bait can be very productive on private land that borders
private land, especially for white-tailed deer. Bird feeders are nothing more
than bait for bird watchers.
One of the biggest problems I notice when people try to locate, see or
watch wildlife, especially at the national parks I visit, is that they wake
up at their normal times, have a big breakfast, and then expect to see birds
and animals between the hours of 9 AM and 5 PM (which is often the resting or
loafing period for many birds and animals).
Looking for many birds and animals during
hours is often futile, because of them are what
scientists refer to as "crepuscular"; which means they are most
active within a few hours before and after both dawn and dusk. This is
particularly true of most big game animals.
If you want to see more animals you have to get up well before sunrise and
stay for 1-3 hours, and get to where the animals are most likely to feed,
mate or otherwise be active at or before the time when they are active. Or
you need to get there 1-2 hours before sunset and stay until you can no
Scientific studies have shown that some songbirds are most active during
particular hours of the day; the only way to figure out when,
is to look for information on the internet, or do your own study.
Birding; Locating The Birds
There are a few simple steps you can use to be more successful as a
1. Be quiet. Birds are easily startled by loud noises and will flee
to cover. It is almost impossible to sneak up on a bird, because birds hear
much better than human beings do. By minimizing noise, you can get much
closer to a bird. The overwhelming temptation, when seeing an especially
exciting bird, is to yell: "WOW! LOOK
AT THAT! IT'S RIGHT OVER THERE!" Bird watchers learn quickly that the
same message can be whispered. The result is that the bird is more likely to
remain for everyone to see, for a long and leisurely look.
2. Avoid sudden movements. Just as loud noises startle birds, so
does sudden movement. Getting close to a bird means stalking it, moving
slowly and deliberately. Sudden, jerky movement, even when swinging your
binoculars up to your eyes, can make a bird nervous enough to fly away. The
closer you are to a bird, the more slowly and quietly you should move.
3. Follow the crowd. In the nonbreeding
season (the winter months in most of North America)
many small songbirds join flocks of mixed species both for protection and to
make finding food easier. Typically these flocks are largely silent, but
there will almost always be one or two birds making call notes. Following a
single calling bird will often lead you to a larger feeding flock. In fall, a
single chip note from high in the trees may signal the presence of a
dozen or so warblers. In winter a seep sound from down in the
thicket may mean that 20 or more sparrows, towhees, cardinals, and other seed
eaters are present. Following a solitary chick-a-dee-dee
call may lead you to a mixed flock of chickadees, titmice, nuthatches,
kinglets, and woodpeckers.
4. Study the habitat. Each bird is specially adapted to a
particular habitat. Meadowlarks prefer large open fields, woodpeckers need
trees, sparrows favor thickets. What you see will
depend in large part on where you look.
5. Work the flocks. Your chance of finding an unusual bird is far
greater in a flock, just because you have more birds to look at. Banding
studies have shown that when you think you have ten chickadees in your yard,
there are probably 20, and when you think you have seen all 20 sparrows in
the brush pile, there are probably 20 more.
6. Be patient. A sparrow hopping around in a bush will eventually
move into a spot where you can get a good look. Bird watching is often about
being patient and waiting for the birds to show themselves.
7. Get the sun at your back. It is not always possible, but moving
around so that the sun is behind you will make it much easier to see and
identify birds. When the bird is between you and the sun, color disappears,
and the bird you are trying to identify may be just a black silhouette.
8. Try pishing.
Sometimes, no matter how patient you are, no matter how slowly and quietly
you move, you just cannot get a good look at the bird. When this happens,
bird watchers try a technique called pishing.
Pishing involves making small, squeaky noises by
kissing the back of your hand or making a low whistled pish
by blowing air through your closed teeth. Small birds are attracted to such
sounds and will often pop into view to investigate. Here's how to pish: Clench your teeth, open your lips and whisper the
9. Avoid brightly colored clothes. Many birds have poor color
vision, but bright clothes, like whites, will contrast with the surrounding
environment and enhance the appearance of movement. Wear darker colors or
earth tones to blend into the background. There is no evidence that actual
camouflage clothing works better than neutral, dark clothing.
10. Look around. Many bird watchers, focused on the flock in the
thicket, forget to look at the other habitats around them. In particular,
they forget to look up and thus miss the flock of geese or the soaring hawk.
Or, while studying the ducks on the lake, unaware bird watchers may ignore
the flock of kinglets in the trees behind them, and miss seeing a new bird.
Wildlife Photo Shots
Color and Contrast
When you take photos just to show you saw a bird, animal or flower, it
doesn't make much difference what the setting or background looks like. But,
if you want to have a pleasing photo, one that looks good, or that you may be
able to sell, try to look for a contrasting background or contrasting or
bright background colors, to make your pictures "pop" or have eye
Taking photos of a bald eagle against a gray sky (like the one above) is
not very eye-appealing. Compare this photo with a gray sky to the following
photos with blue sky.
When you take photos of birds and animals, especially large animals such
as deer elk, sheep etc., and many bird and flower shots, you should take at
least three different photos:
1. Take a photo at a distance showing the subject and its
surroundings, leaving lots of space around the subject - enough space that an
editor can add text to the photo without obscuring the subject
2. Take a close up photo of the subject with some background around
it, preferably with some offsetting color or texture, to make the photo have
"eye appeal" and to highlight the subject.
3. Take a "tight shot" of the subject, such as an
individual flower, or a bird or animal's head, or head and shoulders, so that
you can clearly see the textures, features, horns, antlers or coloring of the
Patience & Speed
While these two words seem to be at odds with each other, when it comes to
wildlife photography, they often must go together.
Patience is a definite asset when you are trying to photograph any
wildlife. What you want is a clear, possibly photogenic, shot - where you can
see all or most of your subject. Small birds in particular present a problem.
Many insect eating birds, such as warblers and flycatchers, are constantly on
the move. What you have to do to photograph them is be sure your camera is
set for fast moving photos, and be patient enough to wait for the subject to
present you with a clear shot.
At the same time, because many birds do not hold still for long, you must
be able to get on the subject quickly, and focus your camera quickly. One way
to do this is to focus the camera on the general area of where you see the
bird, and do not zoom in too tight. What you want is a fairly large photo,
with lots of background, in which you can quickly take a photo when the
subject presents a clear shot. You can then crop the photo when yo9u get
I recently had to do this when my wife and I played "hide and go
seek" with a pair of Eastern Towhees foraging in the leaf litter beneath
a row of shrubs. Eastern Towhees are one of the most colorful of the Emberizid(sparrow) group.
What I saw at first was a small bird with a patch of reddish-brown on it.
And then I realized what they were, and had to try for a photo. The birds
would flit from branch to branch, and from the branches to the ground -
rarely holding still enough, or presenting themselves in the open, long
enough for a clear shot.
They would move, and we would quickly walk to where they were, get our
cameras up, and hope for a shot. I eventually got two focused photos,
either of which was in the open. But, eventually,
I got the two photos below.
I had basically this same scenario occur five days later. We had been
seeing lot of migrating Yellow-rumped Warblers, hoping to see some other
warblers with them. But, seeing nothing but Yellow-rumps we had almost given
And then, suddenly, Diane said, "That one has an orange head." I
quickly brought my camera to focus on the bird, and was astonished to see the
bright orange head of a Blackburnian Warbler. I'd never seen one before, but
had been hoping to see one sometime in my life, because they are undoubtedly
one of the most colorful warblers in North America . I never dreamed I'd be able to photograph them.
This one was no more than 20-30 feet away as it foraged in the trees just
above our heads. I focused my camera on the trees, and waited. As the bird
showed itself from time to time, I pressed the shutter button. I eventually
got about 10 shots. And, while most of them were either out of focus, or the
bird was not in the open, I ended up with the two photos below.
T.R.'s Tips: Locating, Viewing and
Become part of the Environment
1. Wear natural colors or camouflage, or use a hunting blind.
2. Don't wear scented perfume, lotion or sprays; you don't want the
animals to smell you.
3. Try to keep the wind from blowing from you to game animals.
4. Keep movement to a minimum, walk softly, and be quiet' you don't want
the animals to be disturbed by the sight or sound of you.
5. Use vegetation and terrain to hide from animals, or break up your
6. Try not to show a shadow.
7. Remember that your reflection may be caught in water; and alert the
Observe, but Don't Disturb
1. Choose locations where you can watch and learn, without the birds or
animals smelling seeing or hearing you.
2. Be patient. Wait in areas where you think animals may come to, let them
come to you, don't purposely spook them in order to see them or get a
picture. If you see animals, and they don't present the shot you want, be
patient until they do, or wait for another time or place.
3. Use your vehicle as a blind. While animals in many state and national
parks are accustomed to humans, and will put up with a lot of human intrusion
and disturbances, those in many Wildlife Refuges (WR) and Wildlife Management
Areas (WMA) may become alarmed when you stop your vehicle, especially if you
get out of the vehicle. Learn to observe and photograph the animals from within
the confines of your vehicle.
4. Savor the experience of seeing the animals in their natural
environment, and learn from them, and about them.
Use Your Senses
1. Observing birds and animals and learning about them requires all of you
senses. Use your sense of smell, your hearing and your sight to take it all
in, and help you locate the animals.
2. Start by taking in the foreground, then take
in a wider area. Use binoculars or spotting scopes to view animals better in
dark conditions, or when they are far away.
3. Use your peripheral vision rather than moving your head. When you do
move, do it slowly, or when the animals aren't looking, or can't see you.
4. Look for out-of-place shapes or colors (bright colors, dark colors in
light places, light colors in dark places), horizontal lines in areas of
vertical lines, vertical lines in areas of horizontal lines, shapes that
don't resemble or fit into the surroundings.
5. Look for out-of-place motions; a sudden movement, a stealthy movement,
the jumping around or flight of a bird or small animal may be all that gives
6. Look above and below you; birds and animals inhabit niches from the
ground to shrubs, from the lower branches of trees to the tips of trees, and
all elevations of the air above you.
7. Increase your hearing ability by cupping your hands behind your ears,
and turning around to hear sounds from any direction, or use amplified
headphones to hear better, and hear sounds from farther away.
8. Pay attention to your instincts. If you feel a chill, or the hair on
the back of you neck stands up, it may mean an animal is nearby. If you think
birds or animals might be in one direction or place, instead of another,
check it out. The more time you spend observing birds and animals in natural
environments, the better your instincts will become.
9. When birds or animals stop moving or calling, or begin calling urgently
or loudly, pay attention, it may mean a predator or large animal is nearby.
Take it Easy
1. Relax your muscles, walk slowly, going step by step in some situations,
and don't swing your arms; birds and animals can detect tension and unnatural
2. Make yourself small or unnoticeable; if birds or animals see you, stop
moving. When they aren't looking or can't see you, take cover or slowly lower
yourself to the ground or crouch on your heels. If you can hold still
(without an animal smelling you) for 3-4 minutes, they will usually forget
you are there, or forget exactly where you are.
3. Don't stare at animals; they often interpret a direct stare as a threat
4. If you alarm a group of birds feeding or resting in wooded area, and
they fly away, hold still for several minutes and be quiet. If nothing more
disturbs them they may come back and give you a chance to identify them.
Think like an Animal
1. Figure out the best time of day to see the animals during particular
activities. When do they rest, eat, drink or breed? Dusk and dawn are often
2. Animals and birds may not move when it is too hot, too cold, too windy,
or too wet; they are generally most active when it is nice. If the weather is
inclement think about what you would be doing, and how you would react to the
current weather conditions if you were the birds or animals. Where would you
go to find forage, to rest, to breed or find protection from the elements. Read field guides and articles or attend
seminars to learn more about the normal daily and seasonal activities of the
animals, and how they react to the weather. To learn how game animals react
to the weather read the "Biology and Behavior" columns in Trinity
Mountain Outdoors Hunting Magazine.
3. The "edges", where two types of habitat meet, are good places
to look for birds and animals. Generally speaking, birds and animals use
edges (the borders between two different types of habitat) because edges
provide a wider variety of foods and cover. You may also see species from two
or more types of habitat in areas where those habitats meet.
4. Look for birds and animals in "high use" areas; resting
areas, forage areas, watering areas, and breeding areas, and trails or travel
corridors between them. Look for vegetation, water or terrain that might
cause game animals to move through a bottleneck. Game animals often use
trails and old roads; look for places where they join or intersect. Birds and
animals often use branches, ledges or high terrain overlooking water and
forage areas before they come in to drink or eat.
5. Take note of the season and the weather conditions; consider whether
the animal may be interested in breeding, feeding, resting, migrating or
looking for security or thermal cover. Then use that knowledge to locate the
animals and choose the best places to see them. After a rain, snowstorm or
strong winds, or after a prolonged hot or cold spell, birds and animals often
6. Know what foods bird and animals eat, and which foods they prefer; and
look for them. Many birds and animals feed heavily on berries, nuts and
acorns, ripening fruits, flowers, grass seeds and invertebrates and insects
during certain portions of the year. Locate those food sources at the right
time and you will probably locate the birds and animals. Or "bait"
the animals by using their preferred foods to get them to come to specific
locations; like bird feeders and deer or bear feeding stations.
Bird and Wildlife Viewing - Gear List
Warm socks (for
winter, preferably wool)
Sturdy shoes or boots
Wind pants (optional)
Warm fleece jacket or sweater, or insulated vest
paper, moist towelettes)
Leak proof water
and topographical map if needed
Site map for natural
Day pack or fanny pack
(large enough to carry water, snacks, toiletries, extra clothing and
Snacks (granola bars,
chocolate, peanut butter cups, hard candy)
Camera with 35mm lens
for close ups, at least 400mm lens for birds, tripod etc.
Binoculars, at least
butterfly and animal check lists for specific areas
Animal, bird, tree
flower, butterfly reference books for identification
Cell phone for
Good optics are essential for observing birds and
animals. If you are serious buy the best optics you can afford. For many
situations you want optics with light-gathering capabilities, which means
good objective lenses and coatings. I'm no expert, but I've read that for
hunting purposes the magnification (first) number of your binoculars should
be four to five times the objective lens (second) number, such as 7x32, 7x35,
8x40, 10x42 or 10x50.
The first number of the binoculars is the magnification power; 7x
binoculars magnify the image seven times.
The objective lenses of binoculars are the front lenses. The diameter of
one lens, given in millimeters, is the second number on the binoculars; 7x42
binoculars have objective lenses of 42mm. The diameter of the objective lens
determines the light gathering ability of the binocular; larger objective
lenses generally mean greater detail and clarity. This is particularly
important in low light conditions.
Doubling the size of the objective lens quadruples the light gathering
ability; a 10x50 binoculars has almost twice the
light gathering capability as 10x35 binoculars, and four times the light
gathering capability of 7x25 binoculars. However, bigger objective lenses are
not always better. The size of the objective lens should be considered along
with exit pupil, and the intended usage of the binocular.
The diameter, in millimeters, of the beam of light that exits the
eyepieces of each side of a pair of binoculars is the "exit pupil".
The larger the exit pupil, the brighter the image obtained will be. Large
exit pupils are advantageous under low light conditions and at night. The
exit pupil of the binoculars should correspond with the amount of dilation of
the pupil of your own eye after it has adapted to the amount of light while
you are using them. This is normally between 5mm and 9mm, which is the
maximum dilation of the human eye; which tends to
decrease with age.
To calculate the size of the exit pupil of an optical eyepiece divide the
size of the objective lens by the magnification of the binocular; the exit
pupil of 7x42 binoculars is 42 divided by 7, which equals 6mm.
Field of View
The size of the area that can be seen while you are looking through a pair
of binoculars is referred to as the "field of view". The
"angular field of view" is usually marked on the outside of the
binocular in degrees. This is the width of the angel, in degrees, that you
can see out of the binoculars.
The "linear field of view" refers to the how large an area can
be seen at 1,000 yards; it is generally expressed in feet. A larger
"field of view" means you can see a larger area through the
The field of view is related to magnification power. Generally speaking
greater magnification creates a smaller field of view. A large field of view
is often needed when the object is moving, or when the user is moving.
You can use the "angular field of view" to calculate the
"linear field of view" by multiplying the angular field by 52.5;
binoculars with an 8° angular field of view have a 420 foot linear field of
view; 8x52.5 equals 420.
The lenses of binoculars are often coated to reduce light loss within the
binoculars, and to reduce glare.
Reduction of light loss and glare results in improved clarity and contrast
of the image.
Lens coatings range in quality from "coated" and "fully
coated", to "multicoated" and "fully multicoated".
Coated lenses are the lowest quality and may result in a poor product. Fully
coated lenses are economical and can work well, depending on your needs.
Multicoated or fully multicoated lenses are the best; fully multicoated
lenses give the best light transmission and the brightest images. However,
beware of optics using lenses that are heavily colored. They will cut down on
light transmission. High quality lens coatings will be fairly light shades of
blue, green or violet.
The Right Binoculars
Obviously price, size, weight and what you use binoculars for will
determine which binoculars you should use, and what you do use. Hunters can
get by with compact 7x35 binoculars because they are often looking for large
animals, but light gathering capability is important, because big game
animals are often most active at dusk and dawn, when there are low light
Birders often need more magnification, because they are looking for
something small, and often far away. Light gathering capability may be a
factor for birders, especially if they are looking for birds in dense woods,
when it is overcast or at dawn and dusk.
Focal length is the distance (in mm) of an optical system, from the lens
(or primary mirror), to the point where the scope is in focus (focal point).
The longer the focal length of the scope, the more power it has, and the
larger the image and the smaller the field of view it has. A scope with a
focal length of 2000mm has twice the power and half the field of view as a
Most scope manufacturers specify the focal length of their scopes, but if
it is unknown and you know the focal ratio of the scope you can use this
formula to calculate it: focal length is the aperture (in mm) times the focal
ratio. The focal length of a 200mm aperture with a focal ratio of f/10 is
200x10, which equals 2,000mm.
The power, or magnification, of a scope is the result of the combination
of the focal length of the scope and the focal length of the eyepiece used
with it. You can determine the power of a spotting scope by dividing the focal
length of the telescope (in mm) by the focal length of the eyepiece (in mm);
a 20mm eyepiece used on a 2000mm scope has a power of 100 (2000 divided by 20
At Trinity Mountain Outdoors we use
Master Series 20-60x42x. I found it for as low
as $414 at Adorma Camera on the internet. It comes
with a soft case for the scope, a table-top tripod, and a hard sided carrying
TIP OF THE MONTH: CLEAN IT UP!
Invariably the most important and most expensive pieces of equipment that
birders have are their binoculars and spotting scopes. Sure, cameras and
recording equipment can fit this description, but for most birders it's their
optics that are most valuable.
The only maintenance that optics regularly need is a periodic cleaning of
the lenses. By "regular" we mean after every few field trips, or
whenever conditions such as wind-blown dust or sand, salt spray, or
breadcrumbs from a lunch afield mandate that they
be cleaned. The key to optical maintenance is to be careful. Whenever
possible use a camel-hair brush to remove dust from the lenses, either water
or spray-on lens-cleaning liquid to wash them, a clean chamois cloth or soft
optical cleaning cloth to wipe them dry. In a pinch you can use your own
saliva and the end of a cotton t-shirt, but this should be avoided whenever
possible, since this is how the fine coating on expensive lenses can become
scratched or otherwise compromised. There is no good reason why a lens-cleaning
kit can't be regularly brought into the field in a small plastic bag, or
carried in your backpack or field-guide pouch. Always remember to blow on the
lenses before cleaning them, too. This helps to remove larger dust and dirt
particles before applying liquid to the lenses. If fine optics are treated appropriately, they can last a lifetime.
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copyrighted material of T.R. Michels / TrinityMountain Outdoors,
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