The Birding Community E-Bulletin April

This Birding Community E-bulletin is being distributed to active and concerned birders, those dedicated to the joys of birding and the protection of birds and their habitats.

This issue is sponsored by the producers of superb quality birding binoculars and scopes, Carl Zeiss Sport Optics.

You can access an archive of past E-bulletins on the website of the National Wildlife Refuge Association (NWRA).



So, what’s with the Sinaloa Wren?

This is the species, also called Bar-vented Wren (Thryothorus sinaloa), that was first seen north of Mexico in 2008. In August of that year, a single individual was found at The Nature Conservancy’s Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve in Patagonia, Arizona. It was thoroughly photographed and sound-recorded, and the bird remained in the area for over a year. There was also an unverified report, going back to June 1989.

This wren is native to western Mexico, but it has been found nesting multiple times as close as 35-60 miles from the Arizona/Mexico border.

We briefly covered the 2008 occurrence of this rarity in the October 2008 Birding Community E-bulletin:


Since that first documented occurrence, there have been a few more reports from southeastern Arizona, including in April 2009 when a Sinaloa Wren spent a few days in lower Huachuca Canyon, Fort Huachuca, in the Huachuca Mountains. Maintaining this pattern, a Sinaloa Wren, perhaps the original individual, appeared again at the Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve in August 2010.

Last September, Sinaloa Wrens were again reported in Arizona: one at the 2009 site in the Huachucas, and one along the de Anza Trail south of Tubac near the Santa Cruz River.

These two birds have been observed – off and on – since then, including multiple reports last month. A couple of these optimistic wanderers in the past (including the current Tubac wren) have actually built nests and maintained territory, thus making it easier for visiting birders to locate them.

But this all begs the question: How come?

We know that this species has been moving north in Sonora; we might postulate post-breeding dispersal from the south, with individuals arriving in the fall; we know that there is plenty of woodland and thorn-forest habitat available in southeast Arizona; and we know there are more observers in the field than ever before.

All of these factors could contribute to finding more Sinaloa Wrens in the future. As more observers learn to recognize this species’ field marks and its loud vocalizations, more Sinaloa Wrens are likely to be found in Arizona.


Our regular “Rarity Focus” feature is limited to rare birds found in the continental U.S. and Canada, but a recent “nearby” discovery clearly deserves at least a mention. The nearby location is Bermuda, lying about 580 nautical miles off the coast from Cape Hatteras, North Carolina.

An unidentified Phylloscopus Old World warbler appeared at the Port Royal/Pompano dump area of Bermuda on 18 February 2014. Given its location and its birder-coverage Bermuda has long served as a premier “vagrant trap”. After much discussion and review of the photographs and audio recordings, the species was identified as an Arctic Warbler, an amazing find anywhere in the Atlantic Ocean.

You can follow the mystery plot here:


and here:



The early March White House release of the Administration’s fiscal 2015 budget included a number of favorable items for birds, wildlife, and land management. While the $3.9-trillion budget plan unveiled by President Obama has received a cool reception, it has also presented a marker of intent for a number of interesting natural resource issues.

Perhaps most notably, the White House budget recommends full funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), which directs a portion of revenues from offshore oil and gas leasing to save crucial habitat and increase outdoor recreation opportunities for Americans. It’s important enough to deserve separate coverage in our following news item.

Beyond LWCF, however, there are some interesting – mainly status-quo – requests:

  • North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) is requested at $34.1 million, a flat number.
  • The Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Fund is also flat, at $3.66 million.
  • The State and Tribal Wildlife Grants request is a drop, from $58.7 to $50 million.
  • There is a call to increase the price of the Federal Duck Stamp, without indicating how much.

These days even a status quo situation can be viewed as a success, with minor advances viewed as substantial victories.

For the National Wildlife Refuge System, the President’s proposal included a very small (0.9%) increase for the System’s Operations and Maintenance accounts. The request is for $476.4 million, a small $4.2 million increase over current funding ($472.2 million). However, also included is a legislative proposal to allow the FWS to recoup damages from responsible parties, a concept a concept having considerable merit. Important reforms to funding wildfire suppression – for funding surprise catastrophic fires –have also been proposed.

If you have the patience and interest to go over the full budget, look here:


The LWCF specifically deserves a closer look, as noted below.


In February, we reported on the $306 million budgeted for the LWCF in the FY 2014 budget.


Under the president’s newly proposed FY 2015 budget, the LWCF would receive a fully-funded and optimistic $900 million. The proposed division is $575 million for federal, and $325 million for stateside spending.

Within the federal proposed portion is $168.8 million for the Refuge System. Among the top potential recipients for $48.5 million designated for acquisition funding are the following NWRs:

  • Cache River NWR (AR): $1.07 million
  • San Diego NWR (CA): $5 million
  • Everglades Headwaters WR & CA (FL): $3 million
  • St Marks NWR (FL): $6 million
  • Okefenokee NWR (GA): $4 million
  • Rocky Mountain Front CA (MT): $2 million
  • Rappahannock River NWR (VA): $2 million
  • Dakota Grasslands CA (ND/SD): $7 million
  • Dakota Tallgrass Prairie WMA (ND/SD): $3 million
  • Silvio O Conte NFWR (CT/VT/MA/NH): $2 million

The remaining $120.3 million would go to a number of other refuges.

Almost to a refuge, these sites are familiar and prime birding locations… and are Important Bird Areas (IBAs).

The proposed “stateside” portion of LWCF is also particularly significant. This is usually the forgotten – or abused – portion of LWCF, with little funding coming its way, year after year. The most recent yearly total of unfunded stateside outdoor recreation projects submitted for LWCF grants listed $18 billion in unmet needs at the state level. Finally, there is a serious request for meaningful state, county, and regional funding.

As prescribed by language in the original Act that was passed in 1964, the LWCF expires in September 2015. Therefore, it must be renewed in order to continue. Consequently, 2014 will be a critical year for LWCF support.

Last year, the House of Representatives put forward a proposal to eliminate all funding whatsoever for LWCF, so this issue is of considerable importance, and it will not get by without a struggle


Experience counts. Paul Hansen’s book, Green in Gridlock (Texas A&M University Press, 2013), provides compelling evidence in this regard. Hansen, former Executive Director of the Izaak Walton League, uses his four decades of conservation experience to describe the successes and failures in wildlife and natural-resource policy-making. In his pursuit of the answer to why so many important conservation issues have never been resolved, Hansen determined that it was the failure of ostensibly opposing forces to find common ground that invariably led to defeat.

Paul Hansen, moreover, has his feet solidly placed in both the “green” and the “sportsmen’s” communities, with insights into how these two camps have been pitted against each other far too many times in the pursuit of “the perfect policy.”

This book, subtitled “common goals, common ground, and compromise,” points to clear cases in the areas of conservation funding and climate change, to sustainable forestry and wilderness designation, where a modicum of reason has – or at least could –be a determining factor.

At a time, however, when the call for constructive dialogue, coalition-building, collegiality, and constructive bipartisanship has become tantamount to a call for weakness, obfuscation, cowardice, or worse, Hansen calls for a responsible way to overcome conservation paralysis. His book’s final chapter contains “ten convenient truths of conservation progress” that summarize some real lessons and that more importantly deserve careful consideration.


It’s been a year and a half since Hurricane Sandy hammered the Northeast, and its habitat impacts still continue.

One case involves the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge in New York City. Jamaica Bay is a designated Imported Bird Area (IBA) which for many years has been known as a fabulous site for waterfowl, shorebirds, long-legged waders, gulls and terns, and migrant landbirds.

The National Park Service is currently considering new management approaches to the metropolitan area’s Gateway National Recreation Area, which includes the famous Jamaica Bay birding hotspot. (Note: Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge is not a “national wildlife refuge” under the jurisdiction of the Fish and Wildlife Service; it is the responsibility of the National Park Service.)

There are a number of issues involved in long-range planning at Jamaica Bay, but one involves the fate of the West Pond. Indeed, birders and non-birders alike from all over the world likely know of JBWR or may have visited the area themselves when traveling through NYC or nearby JFK Airport.

Unfortunately, the pond was destroyed by Sandy in October 2012, and it has not been repaired since. The land-barrier between the freshwater West Pond and the salt of the bay was breached by the storm, and it is feared that with no other freshwater in the Jamaica Bay area the entire ecosystem may ultimately suffer.

A large coalition of birders and conservationists has expressed serious concern that one of the best known birding spots and IBAs- in the eastern U.S. may vanish through simple neglect.

A detailed series of recommendations by NYC Audubon in collaboration with the conservation coalition can be downloaded here:


A shorter summary of the situation is provided on the Linnaean Society of New York website, here:


A petition to the Secretary of the Interior and senior NPS officials asking for use of Sandy recovery funds for pond restoration at Jamaica Bay may be found here:


For additional information about IBA programs worldwide, including those across the U.S., check the National Audubon Society’s Important Bird Area program web site at:



Although we usually run only one “IBA News” story in each monthly Birding Community E-bulletin, this month a coastal oil spill in Texas demands a second “IBA News” item. The 22 March collision of a bulk carrier and a barge which dumped up to 168,000 estimated gallons of oil into the water continues to threaten birds and IBA habitat. For example, the incident occurred just a few miles from the Bolivar Flats Shorebird Sanctuary.

As of this writing, the oil has not reached the Bolivar sanctuary shores, although birds in varying degrees of oiling continue to congregate there for safety.

Texas Parks and Wildlife, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Houston Audubon, Gulf Coast Bird Observatory, wildlife rehabilitators, and others are reviewing the options, providing count data pertaining to currently oiled birds, and standing by to potentially engage in habitat and bird salvage and rescue actions.

You can view the Houston Advanced Research Center (HARC) interactive map and related links on the accident site here:


There was also an informative WHSRN news alert on the situation here:


And you can review some good Q&As from Houston Audubon here:


As always, for more information about IBA programs worldwide, including those across the U.S., check the National Audubon Society’s Important Bird Area program web site at:



The Joint Venture National Communications launched its new JV Migratory Bird website late last month.

First established by the North American Waterfowl Management Plan (NAWMP) in 1986, 24 of these joint ventures in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico are today addressing the needs of all bird species.

For those who are unaware of the range of creative on-the-ground conservation activities conducted through the underappreciated Migratory Bird Joint Ventures, this site is a must visit:



If you have ever birded along a hiking/biking trail (i.e., “rail-trail”) that is built on a former rail-bed, you know how important and useful such access sites can be.

But you might also be interested in knowing that in early March, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a decision that is a blow to such rail-trails. The Supreme Court ruled (8-1) against the U.S. Government’s interest in a former rail corridor that runs through land it used to own. The ruling stated that the U.S. did not retain a “reversionary interest” in the railroad corridor after conveying the adjacent lands to private owners.

This case focused on a former rail line in Wyoming, most of which was converted to the Medicine Bow Rail Trail.

This decision should not impact rail-trails that are on “railbanked” corridors (i.e., rail corridors that are preserved under the federal “railbanking law” for future rail use by being converted to a trail in the interim). But this decision could open up certain non-railbanked corridors to further litigation.

Trail advocates anticipate more cases in the future in which the federal government will be forced to compensate adjoining landowners in order to maintain public access to some popular trails. This could add up to be a significant challenge for the trail-building and trail-use communities.

The case is described in some detail here by the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy:


It’s all about access for recreational activity, and for many readers of the E-bulletin this also means birding sites and birding activity.


In 1814, Alexander Wilson published Volume 9 of his groundbreaking American Ornithology, thus completing his descriptions of the birds of the United States. The nine-volume set was the very first major scientific publication of our young republic, and it stands today as the founding document of American ornithology.

To commemorate the 200th anniversary of Wilson’s publication, Ohio Wesleyan University is celebrating Alexander Wilson’s life and accomplishments at a one-day symposium “Alexander Wilson and the Making of American Ornithology.” The symposium will be held at the university in Delaware, Ohio on 23 April. Presenters will include:

  • Gerard Carruthers FRSE, Chair of Scottish Literature since 1700, University of Glasgow
  • Edward H. Burtt, Jr., Cincinnati Conference Professor of Zoology, Ohio Wesleyan University
  • Robert McCracken Peck, Curator of Art and Artifacts and Senior Fellow, The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University
  • Tom Blanton, an art collector who has spent 15 years seeking to acquire all editions of Wilson’s American Ornithology published in the 19th century.

There is still time to register. Full details of the symposium and the exhibition of Wilson’s artwork, publications, and notes are available here:



In February 2013, we described a situation in Fisherville, Ontario, where a Bald Eagle nest in close proximity to an area designated to support a wind-power facility was removed. We also stated that in the U.S, the Bald and Golden Eagle Act still covers active and inactive nests, making these sorts of activities difficult:


Unfortunately, there is increasing evidence that more eagle nests are being removed lately, and that more “take” permits related to wind-power are being granted across the country.

A recent count of eagle nest removals made by the Center for Conservation Biology (at the College of William and Mary in Virginia) indicates a clear uptick of this activity. The Center has been monitoring eagles and their nests within the Chesapeake Bay for decades. Since removal of Bald Eagles from the Endangered Species Act (ESA) protection, the Center has recorded an increase in nest trees cut during local logging operations. Thirteen have been recorded as cut since 2007.

In a summary, the Center states that the “recent increase in cutting of nest trees may reflect a broader public misconception that nests are no longer protected following their delisting.”

For a summary of the situation by Bryan Watts, see here:



If you have a garden, the arrival of spring provides a fine reminder to create a welcome spot for birds, especially returning migratory birds.

April is a good month to start, and as we reminded readers as long ago as April 2009, begin to “lose the lawn” since the lawn is a particularly good place to begin.

Planting another hedge, some more welcoming flowers, and possibly a fruiting tree are all things to think about right now.

And make sure that what you plant is native to your region. There are far too many invasive species out there these days, and there is no need to increase the number, no matter how “pretty” they may appear.

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You can access all the past E-bulletins on the National Wildlife Refuge Association (NWRA) website: http://refugeassociation.org/news/birding-bulletin/

If you wish to distribute or reproduce all or parts of any of the monthly Birding Community E-bulletins, we simply request that you mention the source of any material used. (Include a URL for the E-bulletin archives, if possible.)

If you have any friends or co-workers who want to get onto the monthly E-bulletin mailing list, have them contact either:

Wayne R. Petersen, Director
Massachusetts Important Bird Areas (IBA) Program
Mass Audubon
Paul J. Baicich
Great Birding Projects

We never lend or sell our E-bulletin recipient list.

Permanent link to this article: https://www.refugeassociation.org/2014/04/the-birding-community-e-bulletin-april/

1 comment

  1. RCS Optics says:

    Would like to take the opportunity to remind everyone about the upcoming birding festival at the Lake Andes National Wildlife Refuge on May 2-4 near Pickstown, SD. Hope to see you there.

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