1. Welcome back: Thousands of migrating birds have been welcomed back to New Zealand to the sound of cathedral bells, after making one of the longest avian migration flights in the world. Eastern bar-tail godwits, or kuaka in Māori, landed on Motueka sandspit at the top of the South Island on Tuesday, where they rested following the 10,000km (6,200 miles) non-stop flight from the Arctic. Across Nelson, the nearest city, the bells rang out to celebrate the arrival, and cathedral staff read out a prayer of thanks. Bar-tailed godwits make the mammoth journey across the Pacific from their breeding ground in the Arctic to New Zealand every year. Last year, one godwit, said to have the aerodynamic build of a “jet fighter” was tracked flying more than 12,000km (7,500 miles) from Alaska to New Zealand, setting a new world record for avian non-stop flight. (via The Guardian)
Click here for a video of the BTG.
2. It’s 8:00 a.m. on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., and Tykee James is peering through his binoculars at the tips of tree branches, scanning for the slightest movement. “People don’t think about cities as ecosystems, unfortunately. Cities have green spaces that may not rival the geographic scale of a national park, but the stories that can come from city parks are big.” For James, birding is much more than simply spotting birds — it’s a way of connecting people to their environment. James is the Government Affairs Coordinator for National Audubon Society and leads monthly birdwalks for Congressional staffers around the National Mall near the Capitol. The walks are nonpartisan and mostly nonpolitical, but James hopes that by getting people outside and engaging with the birds, they’ll start to care about them, and conservation, at a deeper level. (via The Hill)
3. No surprise: As human movements were restricted to limit the spread of COVID-19 in early 2020, dozens of bird species became more abundant in urban centers in the US and Canada. Nicola Koper at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Canada, and her colleagues analysed 4.3 million observations made by volunteer birdwatchers to compare numbers during the pandemic restrictions with those in previous years. Between March and May 2020, 66 of 82 species of birds observed by the birdwatchers across 93 North American counties displayed different land use patterns compared with those in the same months in pre-pandemic years. Most birds were seen spending more time in urban areas and near major roads and airports. (via New Scientist)
4. Different take on same story: While viral posts about dolphins returning to the canals of Venice during the 2020 lockdowns were fake news, the “nature is healing” memes weren’t altogether wrong. Reduced human activity in spring 2020, following the outbreak of COVID-19, led to considerable changes in migratory patterns and habitat use for birds across the United States and Canada, according to a study published today in Science Advances. In general, many birds seemed to have benefited from these lockdowns, spending more time within and around urban areas, according to the research. The “anthropause,” as scientists have dubbed the abrupt slowdown of human movement during the first wave of lockdowns, has allowed researchers an unprecedented opportunity to see how animals behave with less interference from us. (via National Geographic, Science Advances)
5. Important if offshore wind is to gain significant traction in US waters: While federal and state officials eagerly pursue a rapid and significant deployment of offshore wind turbines to generate cleaner power along the East Coast, scientists and advocates on Wednesday unveiled a new mapping tool designed to give developers, regulators and the public a better sense of the natural resources below the surface in the neighborhood of proposed wind projects. Last year, the U.S. offshore wind pipeline grew by 24 percent with more than 35,000 megawatts now in various stages of development, the U.S. Department of Energy said in its latest offshore wind market report. The marine mapping tool rolled out by The Nature Conservancy covers the coast from Maine through North Carolina and includes information about the makeup of the seafloor, the fish and invertebrates that live near the bottom of the ocean in a given area, the marine mammals that frequent a chosen swath of ocean, the bird species that are known to be in the area and more. (via WBUR)
6. It’s not a fly (despite its name), and it’s not a moth (though some call it that). Others have simply dubbed it a “bad bug,” and, well, that’s pretty much spot-on. The invasive spotted lanternfly, native to Asia, is a plant-eating threat to the U.S. environment and economy. First detected in Pennsylvania in 2014, it has now spread to at least 14 states in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and Midwest, damaging crops and native plants in the process. Early on, people generally thought the bug lacked natural predators here, meaning it could reproduce with virtually no limits, says Robin Irizarry, program associate for Audubon Mid-Atlantic. But birders, who spend plenty of time observing wildlife, soon noticed that wasn’t the case. In Philadelphia-area birding group chats, Irizarry saw others send photos of birds eating the invasive bugs. That got people excited. (via Audubon)
7. Eyes on Colombia: Colombia has more bird species than any other country on the planet, with a record of approximately 1,940 species, or 20% of all birds worldwide. This unique avian wealth, includes 275 migratory birds that connects Colombia to the rest of the Americas, highlights the great responsibility that Colombia has to conserve its valuable birds diversity and the habitats they depend upon for their survival. With this in mind, a coalition of organizations including Audubon, Von Humboldt Institution, and the National Association of Ornithological Organizations (RNOA), alongside many other stakeholders have come together to develop a new national strategy to address the critical needs of birds over the next decade. The strategy will build a roadmap with a focus on National Policy that effectively integrates the country's economic, social, and cultural models with the conservation, management, and sustainable use of birds and their habitats. (via Audubon)
8. Birders on birding: People spend an estimated $40 billion a year on bird-watching in the United States, according to the most recent survey conducted by the Fish and Wildlife Service. Its a hobby that has risen in popularity, especially during the pandemic. The New York Times caught up with some birders who frequent Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx and asked them about the cost of their favorite pastime. Their answers may ruffle some feathers. (via The New York Times)
9. Speaking of long migrations: Wheatears are little songbirds who perch upright on rocks in wide-open country, somewhere between a thrush and a flycatcher taxonomically. They’re a bit like a smaller version of our Eastern Bluebirds, with longer wings, as is typical of highly migratory species. A tracking study by German researchers showed that Eastern Canadian wheatears fly east to Greenland, then pop over to Northern Europe before hanging a hard right down to Sub-Saharan Africa. But wait, there’s more — the even weirder wheatears who breed in Alaska fly west across the Bering Sea, then lengthwise across the massiveness of Asia before dropping down to East Africa, where you might see one standing on a rock amongst the zebras on your next Kenya safari. That’s over 9,000 miles one way for a bird weighing only as much as four quarters. My arms are tired just saying that. (via CAI News)
10. A new study from the Kalahari Desert finds that teamwork allows birds to cope with brutally unpredictable environments. This landmark finding explains the long-standing mystery of why co-operation among birds is associated with unpredictable environments worldwide. White-browed sparrow weavers live in the Kalahari Desert, where rainfall varies dramatically and food is scarce during dry spells. The birds live in family groups, with a single breeding pair and up to ten non-breeding "helpers" that assist with chick feeding. Explaining the evolution of such seemingly selfless behavior has been a focus of evolutionary research for many years. (via Science Daily)
11. Alarming: An "unprecedented" number of seabirds have been found dead or starving along the Northumberland and Scottish coasts. Hundreds of guillemots and razorbills and smaller numbers of puffins and kittiwakes have been affected but the cause of their suffering is unknown. The UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH) has ruled out bird flu but is investigating other possible causes such as poisoning from algal blooms. CEH ecologist Dr Francis Daunt said "several hundred" birds had died. Dr Daunt said the fact that the birds appeared to be starving "might suggest a lack of good quality fish in the sea" but the presence of many feeding flocks along the coasts suggested it was "caused by something else".
Bird News Items (again) recommends Adam Nicolson’s The Seabird’s Cry to readers who want to learn more about these extraordinary birds.
Bonus – from mainland China - A bird lover’s journal (and pictures): Fang Qiaoran from south China's Shenzhen City is on the move again! Obviously, the ardent bird lover could not let this year's autumn migration season pass without venturing out and pressing the shutter. This time, together with three teammates, she planned a five-day trip, September 14-18, in Shanghai and east China's Jiangsu Province, where the beaches offer an important stopover on birds' southward journey. But the journey was postponed and reduced by one day by Typhoon Chanthu, leaving them four days on their main business. Despite the limited time and the aftermath of the powerful cyclone, she was still able to add six new names to her personal record of 957 bird species. That, according to her, is not a big number in the world of skilled bird watchers. In case you are wondering how she has managed to do that, here is her travel history in the past two years: 81 travels and 36 cities. (via CGTN)
Bird Photo of the Week
Photo by Hap Ellis, Harvest Moon.
Bird Videos of the Week
By Vice News, “The Village Where People Talk in Bird Language”.
Cornell Live Bird Cam - Red-tailed Hatchlings!
Cornell Live Bird Cam - Royal Albatross Flight School.