Thursday, September 11, 2014
Cavity Conservation Initiative
Naturalist and Founder of Cavity Conservation Initiative
Out of sight, out of mind aptly describes the steady decline of available dead and dying trees for cavity nesting species. It also illustrates how, in our well-manicured urban areas, we have accepted the loss of this valuable habitat to wildlife by continually increasing the provision of nest boxes which, though compensatory to some species, are really only a stop-gap measure.
Gillian created the Cavity Conservation Initiative project, under the umbrella of the Southern California Bluebird Club (SCBC). She will present a program on the ecology of snags and share how the SCBC is working on a long-term plan to help cavity dwelling communities, particularly in developed regions. The goal of the Initiative is to change public perception of dying trees and associated policies regarding snag management and also to provide individuals with the information and skill to become snag advocates.
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Thursday, October 9, 2014
Restoration and Protection of Aliso Creek
Executive Director of the Laguna Canyon Foundation
Laguna Canyon Foundation is dedicated to preserving, protecting, and enhancing southern California’s second largest coastal canyon wilderness. This 20,000-acre area includes marine preserves, Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park, Crystal Cove State Park, Laguna Coast Wilderness Park, and adjoining open space in Irvine, Laguna Beach, and Laguna Woods. Hallie will discuss Laguna Canyon Foundation’s current projects, including the 19-mile restoration of Aliso Creek.
Hallie was born and raised in Laguna Canyon. Her passion for environmental conservation began in childhood. She was drawn to a career in marine conservation where she spent 15 years, then moved into land conservation with the Laguna Canyon Foundation. Join us as Hallie shares the beauty and benefits of this beautiful open space!
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Wow! Where did the summer go? Well, welcome to the new year of our Audubon Club! I hope you are rejuvenated and rested and ready for an exciting year with us. We’ll start out with a great presentation on September 11 about cavity con-servation for tree-dwelling birds. Afterwards, stick around for refreshments and social time where you can make new friends and greet the old ones.
I want to briefly talk about 3 items that will affect our club this fall. (1) Our treasurer, Margaret Marflitt, reported that our finances last year closed with a small profit, even after increasing several contributions to environmental causes. Because we are a non-profit organization, we need to increase our contributions even more this year. This is a good position to be in, and I want to thank all those who donated money to us last year which made this possible. The 2014-2015 budget will be presented at the September meeting. (2) National Audubon notified our chapter of a zip code re-assignment. Please download the link that explains the re-assignment, who it will affect, and your options. If you live outside of zip codes 92653, 92654, and 92637, in order to remain a member of our Laguna Hills chapter (as opposed to being re-assigned to Sea & Sage) and continue receiving The Burrowing Owl newsletter, a simple phone call stating your request is all that is required. Please read the enclosed insert for a full explanation. Unfortunately, this zip code re-assignment reduces our membership by about half. National gives us a $3 rebate per member, so we will lose that revenue source which amounts to about $800-$900. We will discuss this more at the upcoming meetings. (3) Oct. 21 – Bus trip to Paramount Studios that includes a guided tour on a tram, and then lunch and shopping at Farmer’s Market. On the way back, our guide will take us by some architectural spectacles that is uniquely Hollywood. See the enclosed insert and reservation form for full details on this special day trip! Deadline to sign up is Sept. 15, so don’t delay!
As you can see, we’re hitting the ground running this year. It’s going to be exciting, fun, educational, and unforgettable! See you Sept. 11 at our first meeting!
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2014 Birder’s Buzz
Fossils of a Pelagornis sandersi, a giant bird with a wingspan 21 feet across, is the largest bird fossil ever found. This bird could probably have glided at around 39 miles per hour. Citing new DNA evidence, developers are pressing to end federal protections for the California Gnatcatcher. If the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decides to remove federal protections it extended to the bird in 1993, it will open the way to development of an estimated 197,000 acres of coastal land in Los Angeles, Orange, San Diego, Ventura, Riverside, and San Bernardino Counties. There’s a new exhibit at the L.A. Zoo. It’s called “Rainforest of the Americas” and gives visitors a first-hand look at some of the rare and exotic animal species that inhabit the ever-disappearing rainforests of Mexico, Central, and South America, all places where rainforests are common. A California Condor that was released into the wild at Big Sur last year was spotted in San Mateo County in June of this year, marking the first appearance of these birds in Northern California in 110 years. It’s a positive sign that the birds are expanding their range.
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The Remarkable Flight Formation of Birds
Many scientists have wondered what benefit birds get from flying not just in groups, but in V‑formation. A decade ago, scientists implanted heart-rate monitors in pelicans and found that the hearts of the trailing pelicans beat more slowly than the hearts of the leaders, a sign that the freeloaders were using less energy. That’s a key survival tactic, especially for the long, dangerous, exhausting flights of migratory birds.
A study led by Steven Portugal, a biomechanist at the University of London’s Royal Veterinary College, outfitted 14 ibises with GPS gadgets to log each bird’s position, and accelerometers to measure the up-and-down motion of their wings. The researchers found that the ibises placed the tips of their wings in the thin spirals of upward-flowing air streaming off each wingtip of the bird in front of them. It’s called upwash, and its pattern looks something like a stretched-out Slinky toy. If the trailing birds placed their wings in the leader’s upwash, it pushed them upward, and they needed less energy to stay aloft. It’s the same reason that bomber planes fly in V-formation – it often results in significant fuel savings for the trailing planes.
But since birds flap their wings, unlike a plane’s fixed wing position, the upwash is undulating, creating a wave pattern. If the trailing bird flies a full wavelength behind, it flaps its wings in phase with its leader to match the upwash flow. And if it’s only half a wavelength behind, it times its flaps so that its wings go down while the leader’s wings go up. That way, its wingtips will always meet that upwash at just the right point. Whether the birds are hard-wired for this extremely complex sense of coordination remains unknown.
Source: LA Times, “Among the birds, V is for velocity,” by Amina Khan
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The What and Why of ANTING
More than 200 bird species, mostly songbirds, have been observed to ant. There is active anting – the bird holds an ant in its bill and rubs the ant on its feathers, and there is passive anting, when the bird crouches on an anthill allowing ants to crawl through its feathers. The function of anting has been debated for years. A common belief is that anting controls parasites such as lice and mites, using the ants’ secretions as an insecticide. Another theory is that the birds are forcing the ants to empty their poison gland of formic acid so that the birds can eat them. A less common theory is that the ants’ secretions soothe the bird’s skin irritated during rapid feather replacement during molting season. The function of anting remains a mystery and reminds us of the complexities of bird behavior.
Source: “The Mystery of Anting”, by Eldon Greij (Birdwatching, October 2013)
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