Eating Like A Bird

December 25, 2020  •  Leave a Comment

It’s always a very big deal when I get a (good!) photograph of a wild bird or raptor eating something that it’s caught or gathered in its natural habitat.  It’s educational and informative. We can learn a lot about a species based on how and what they hunt. We not only learn what they eat and when, we also learn the behaviors used to gather and hunt food. The places they hunt and catch food also teach us about the habitats they need to find food and survive. Over the years, I’ve captured more than a few photographs of different wild bird species in the act of catching prey or gathering food. These photographs and moments always amaze me. They always lead me to new discoveries about wild birds and they also greatly test and improve wildlife photography skills, including the skills of being educated about wildlife behavior, and patient and quiet waiting! In this blog post, I’m excited to share my favorite photographs of wild birds in the act of “Eating Like a Bird.” 

 

Many of us have heard the expression “eating like a bird” to mean someone who eats very little. One thing rings true about this for birds. When birds are healthy, they eat only enough to survive. Odds are low you’ll ever see an obese or overweight bird in the wild. If they ate more calories than they burned, became obese, or just packed on a couple extra pounds, most birds would severely limit their survival chances by becoming an easy/slower catch for predators. With that said, birds may spend a lot of their time eating because many bird species have very high metabolism, they burn a lot of calories just going about their day, and therefore spend a lot of time foraging for food.

 

Eating like a bird is good for bird health and survival, but of course not all birds eat the same things. There are seed and nut eaters, insect eaters, fruit or nectar eaters, mammal eaters, fish, amphibian, and reptile eaters, crustacean eaters, and some birds will eat a little bit of everything and anything they can find. And, guess what? There are no bread-eating birds. Bread is a creation of humans, not food for birds. Don't feed birds bread or get them accustomed to eating bread.

 

Click on each link right below for the photograph and facts behind birds in this series “Eating Like A Bird.”  More links will be added, so check back!

 

https://www.copperrangellc.com/blog/2020/12/they-call-me-epic

https://www.copperrangellc.com/blog/2020/12/loggerhead-shrike---eating-like-a-bird

https://www.copperrangellc.com/blog/2020/12/circle-of-life

https://www.copperrangellc.com/blog/2020/12/eating-like-a-bird---ceadr-waxwing-fruit-lover

https://www.copperrangellc.com/blog/2021/1/herons---eating-like-a-bird

https://www.copperrangellc.com/blog/2021/1/yellowthroat-warbler---eating-like-a-bird

https://www.copperrangellc.com/blog/2021/1/gray-catbird---eating-like-a-bird

https://www.copperrangellc.com/blog/2021/1/hummingbirds---eating-like-a-bird

https://www.copperrangellc.com/blog/2021/1/raptors---eating-like-a-bird

https://www.copperrangellc.com/blog/2021/1/american-robin

 

 

Enjoy!


Happy Holidays From Copper Range Photography

December 21, 2020  •  Leave a Comment

A holiday note of thanks and good wishes! I’m happy and grateful that you’ve followed with me and enjoyed the beautiful natural places and wildlife I’ve been able to share this year. Illuminating the truths of nature, that are unseen to most of us, opens the door to a new and honest way of seeing our world and who shares it with us. These aren’t secrets we should keep. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays everyone. See you soon on the other side of this mountain called 2020!

 

Happy HolidaysHappy Holidays

 


Conservation: The New Normal is Take the Road Less Traveled

October 13, 2020  •  Leave a Comment

Symbolically, someone who takes “the road less traveled” has come to mean a person who acts independently, is free from the conformity of others, makes their own choices, and perhaps leaves a new trail that could become the road more often traveled. Many are familiar with the celebrated poem by Robert Frost, “The Road Not Taken”, where this famous line comes from. The road less traveled might not be an easy road, it might be full of potholes, bumps and lots of uncomfortable, stressful, things.

 

On the flip side, people often choose the easiest paths through life because it’s simply less work, hassle, and it seems like it would free us up from a lot of the uncomfortable stuff of life. Many choose to be part of the group, and adhere to the social norms and expectations of families/friends/trending culture/political affiliation/religion/work environment (“the group”), and avoid the perceived, or real problems, that can come along with taking the road less traveled. Social norms, or what’s considered “normal”, are: “the written or unwritten rules that describe what a certain reference group considers to be typical or desirable behavior in certain contexts”. Norms keep societies functioning by providing rules, laws and expectations -- spoken and unspoken. Even in modern-day cultures, those who don’t follow expected norms can suffer disapproval or be rejected by “the group.” So, when people know what’s expected of them, they tend to comply. 

 

Here’s the thing, some norms -- things our groups think are a good idea – sometimes turn out to be just the opposite. Cigarette smoking used to be a social norm. Lighting up a cigarette in many settings decades ago would have been expected; now it’s almost unthinkable. Child marriage -- any formal marriage or informal union where one or both of the parties are under age 18 – is, regrettably, a social norm in some parts of the world. Slavery, racial discrimination (e.g., segregation), and sexual discrimination (e.g., women can’t vote and shouldn’t work) used to be social norms in the United States. Obviously, not all norms are good, fair, or humane. In fact, we now know that some of our past accepted and expected beliefs and practices were basically inhumane. So, what happened to restrain and change these norms? One person, somewhere, took the road less traveled and created the space to change the norm. Through work and conviction, beliefs and norms that were mistaken or no longer serve us well, can and have been remedied.

 

Globally, many cultures and countries have embraced norms for environmental conservation and sustainability. As my former employer, the United States Environmental Protection Agency defines it: “Everything we need for our survival and well-being depends, either directly or indirectly, on our natural environment. To pursue sustainability is to create and maintain the conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony to support present and future generations.”  Sustainable economies and lifestyles help us manage the impact of global climate change. Recycling is a social behavior (norm) that many of us engage in and promote to support sustainability. Other examples of sustainable behaviors include living car free, walking or biking more, eating plant-based diets, using renewable energy (wind, solar), consuming and buying less, and conserving water, among others. These are good practices and social norms. However, there’s significantly more to effective resource sustainability. There are a few groups bold enough to recognize what more is needed, to talk it about candidly, and lead us to the road less traveled. 

 

For climate change and sustainability, the road less traveled that we must now take, is our unsustainable global population growth. An organization confronting this difficult, taboo topic, is Earth Overshoot. “Earth Overshoot builds upon the key messages in 8 Billion Angels, a documentary feature film produced by Executive Director Terry Spahr (a father of three) about unsustainable population growth as a primary driver of our world's environmental emergencies.” The film and Earth Overshoot’s other activities and work, are helping to normalize the discussion about the impact of unsustainable population growth on the environment.

 

Here's Earth Overshoot’s answer to a question a lot of us have.

Is overpopulation really a problem? Based on current world affluence or wealth times the number of people on the earth, measurements indicate humans as a species are far exceeding earth’s ability to provide us the necessary resources without adverse effects to all living creatures. In fact, we would need to reduce global wealth and economic activity by half if we are going to live sustainably and allow for the abundance and diversity of life to flourish. Getting people to reduce their wealth voluntarily to a sustainable level is not happening. In fact, world bank data cites a 4% average annual growth of the world economy (GDP) since 1961, so we must be honest and address this reality, and the environmental benefits that come from growing smaller gracefully.”

 

The four actions that most substantially decrease an individual's "carbon footprint" -- in simplest terms this means your contribution to harmful air pollution -- are: (1) eating a plant-based diet, (2) avoiding air travel, (3) living car-free, and (4) having smaller families. Importantly, having one less child is the most effective means of decreasing your contribution to harmful air pollution.

 

The truth can be hard to hear and sometimes makes us uncomfortable. This kind of truth – overpopulation – might make a lot of us really uncomfortable. This is the uncomfortable stuff we encounter on the road less traveled. It might feel like an attack on our moral/personal/religious values and choices about family and children. Those who love the children in their lives, can’t imagine life without children, those who want children someday, and those who’s culture or religion expect or direct its members to have children, might find this overpopulation topic unbearably difficult or impossible to support. It's understood if that’s you. Earth Overshoot, and other organizations working to educate on sustainable population growth, have created a space and opened a door to discussing and working to fix a problem that’s kept secret and routinely ignored by those with the power to bring about meaningful change in the health of our environment.  A livable world for all people means less people. There are many myths about parenthood, just like there were about cigarette smoking.  We can grow smaller gracefully, without fear, shame, or blame.

 

In modern Western cultures, like the United States, social norms about having children, whether and when to have them, have changed in the last several decades. Widespread availability of contraception, the right to choose when and if a woman wants to become a parent, and educational and work opportunities that allow for independent living, are all factors in new social norms about parenthood. Whether by choice or circumstances about 1 in 6 US women live their lives without children, and nations around the world report comparable numbers. In most societies, and for most of human history, choosing not to have children was both difficult and undesirable. Here’s a few interesting facts about the growing new norm of non-parenting:

 

  • “…just as parenthood is not a monolithic experience that affects well-being, childlessness is not the same experience for all individuals. The available evidence suggests that childlessness has few costs for psychological well-being and may even be associated with enhanced well-being, at least for certain social groups.” SOURCE: Parenthood, Childlessness, and Well-Being: A Life Course Perspective

 

  • TRANSLATION – Being a parent is not a “one-size-fits-all” experience. It’s good for some people, for others it’s a struggle, not good, and the wrong choice at the wrong time. People without children live full, happy lives, and in cases, people without children are happier than those with children.

 

  • “Social contexts shape the meaning, experience, and consequences of childlessness in ways that may undermine well-being for some select groups (e.g., young women facing infertility and older unmarried men). Parenthood is increasingly viewed as a matter of choice, and voluntary childlessness has become more common.” SOURCE: Parenthood, Childlessness, and Well-Being: A Life Course Perspective

 

  • TRANSLATION – More and more people are voluntarily choosing not to have children. How you view being a non-parent depends on where you are in your life. If you’re an older unmarried man without a social network of friends and activities, or if you're a young woman facing infertility, being a non-parent may be difficult.

 

 

 

  • TRANSLATION – Being a parent doesn’t make you happy. A parent’s psychological state and resources can impact how your children turn out.

 

 

  • TRANSLATION – Women have to do the most of the parenting work. The strains of parenting are particularly hard for the unmarried and those with less financial resources. American society (work environments, family structures, public policies) do not fully support parents and children.

 

  • The web platform, “Meetup” has an entire section on “Childfree groups”. There are 150 Childfree groups worldwide with over 38,000 members.The Childfree groups on Meetup openly announce their rules for who can and should join their meetups. One example: “This is an inclusive group (any orientation, race, and 21+ age) for childfree couples and individuals (whether childfree by choice or by circumstance) who are looking to expand their social circles. Make friends with other non-parents for fun and supportive non-kid-related conversation, usually over lunch or dinner.”

 

  • The organization “theNotMom” has a website, annual summit, and social media presence on Facebook, and Twitter for and by women without children. This powerhouse of fresh perspective and resources on being a “NotMom” is unparalleled. A section of their web site displays the photos of well-known female actresses, media personalities, or other successful public figures that, by choice or chance, don’t have children; “Women You Know Today, With Stories Like Yours.”  The founder, Karen Malone Wright, says about the organization: “We need more spaces where women who don’t have kids, whether they define that as a choice or not, can talk about and celebrate their lives without fear of judgment or reprisal.”

 

 

Through work and conviction, social beliefs and norms that were mistaken or no longer serve us well, can and have been remedied. “Everything we need for our survival and well-being depends, either directly or indirectly, on our natural environment. To pursue sustainability is to create and maintain the conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony to support present and future generations.”  A livable world for all people means less people.  Having no children or one less child, whether by choice or chance, is believed to be the most meaningful action to address climate change and impact environmental sustainability. Those that have or will make the choice for smaller families are anonymous, hidden heroes, in a parent-centric, often harshly judgemental world. This is the road less traveled. We can grow smaller gracefully, without fear, shame, or blame. It’s already happening. In the population game, the team that recognizes that their well-being is connected to the well-being of their environment, wins.

 

“I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”

Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken

 

 

Sources and Further Reading:

Selfish, Shallow & Self-Absorbed: Sixteen Writers On The Decision Not To Have Kids, Meghan Daum, Ed., 2015; https://www.meghandaum.com/selfish-shallow-self-absorbed

Miller, D.T.; Prentice, D.A. The Construction of Social Norms and Standards. In Social psychology: Handbook of Basic Principles; Higgins, F.T., Kruglanski, A.W., Eds.; Guilford: New York, NY, USA, 1996; pp. 799–829

https://www.epa.gov/sustainability/learn-about-sustainability

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/44272/the-road-not-taken

https://www.girlsnotbrides.org/about-child-marriage/

https://www.earthovershoot.org/who-we-are/

https://www.earthovershoot.org/who-we-are/frequent-questions.html#content_a23d97bfacc2b47a2ac4e53e9e97756e_item_10632411

Trickle-down norms; Richard V. Reeves, Jan 4, 2018; https://www.brookings.edu/articles/trickle-down-norms/

https://phys.org/news/2017-07-effective-individual-tackle-climate-discussed.html


Speaking Up for Wildlife: Let’s Talk About Wildlife Trafficking

September 12, 2020  •  Leave a Comment

In a 2016 survey, 80% of Americans said they support wildlife conservation measures, but 80% of Americans aren't aware of the illegal wildlife trade in the U.S. An August 25, 2020 headline from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reads, “Hummingbird Trafficker Pleads Guilty”. This is just one of 10 wildlife trafficking cases, so far in 2020, described on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), Office of Law Enforcement, web site. The FWS defines wildlife trafficking as “the poaching or other taking of protected or managed species and the illegal trade in wildlife and their related parts and products.” Hummingbirds are just one of the species trafficked. Others include sharks, turtles, fish, song birds, and the body parts of dead and protected species including rhinos, lions, tigers, leopards, snakes, and crocodiles. The true stories of wildlife trafficking are deeply disturbing and depict a corrupt, selfish world of wildlife traffickers that -- in many cases – are linked to other large-scale criminal activity.

 

 

Think wildlife trafficking only occurs in obscure, shabby places where people are desperate or just lack information about wildlife laws?  Nope. In 2018, a 66-year-old shop owner in the upscale community of Middleburg, Virginia, only an hour outside of Washington DC, pled guilty to illegally smuggling items made from endangered animals and other protected species and then selling them in his quaint Middleburg, Virginia shop. He forfeited $275,000, 175 illegal wildlife products, and he’s out of business.  

 

 

Maybe you’re like me. I don’t particularly like to hear bad news like this. But however uncomfortable it is, and whether you’re a wildlife lover or not, we need to hear these stories.  We want to be on the right side of wildlife conservation and protection and speak up for wildlife. When it comes to the horrific and inhumane business of wildlife trafficking, information is power.  Read on for understanding what wildlife trafficking is, what laws govern it, what’s being done about it, and things we can all do to help.

 

 

What is Wildlife Trafficking?

The US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) defines wildlife trafficking as “the poaching or other taking of protected or managed species and the illegal trade in wildlife and their related parts and products.”  Wildlife trafficking is a $10-$20 billion-a-year industry that is pushing many endangered species to the brink of extinction.

 

Illegal wildlife products can include jewelry, traditional medicine, clothing, furniture, and souvenirs, as well as some exotic pets. For wildlife, trafficking often means pain, stress, death, and prolonged abuse and mistreatment.

 

Here’s a few highlights from wildlife trafficking cases that FWS announced in 2020 (up to this blog date):

 

January 2, 2020 – “Amherst Man Charged With Trafficking Exotic Cats. A federal grand jury has returned an indictment charging a 38-year-old Amherst, NY, man with violating the Lacey Act and the U.S. Animal Welfare Act based on his alleged trafficking of African wild cats in interstate commerce. The charges carry a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The indictment alleges that the defendant, doing business as ExoticCubs.com,  imported and sold dozens of caracals and servals in interstate commerce between February and June of 2018. Caracals, also known as the “desert lynx,” are wild cats native to Africa, and grow to approximately 45 pounds.  Servals, also wild cats native to Africa, grow to approximately 40 pounds. Both species are protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), and their commercial possession and sale is restricted under New York state law.  The defendant is also charged with disguising his commercial activity by falsely declaring the animals as domesticated breeds, such as savannah cats and bengal cats, on shipping records. People and businesses dealing in animals are required to comply with humane care standards under the Animal Welfare Act. The defendant is alleged to have failed to do so, and to have failed to secure the necessary license from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The defendant is charged with violating the Animal Welfare Act for selling animals without a license showing minimum compliance with humane treatment standards.”

 

July 9, 2020 – “Texas Man Pleaded Guilty to Trafficking Illegal Wildlife Worth Millions. A Texas man pleaded guilty on charges of conspiring to traffic thousands of live reptiles, amphibians, and birds, valued in excess of $3.5 million. The investigation exposed a highly coordinated wildlife trafficking ring responsible for the smuggling of wild caught reptiles destined to collectors and the commercial trade across the U.S. and globe. The number of animals suspected of being smuggled is in the tens of thousands.  According to documents filed with the court, beginning in 2016, the FWS undertook Operation Bale Out, an investigation of a network of individuals involved in the trafficking of wildlife between the United States and Mexico. “Bale” means a group of turtles, and much of the wildlife trafficked by this network involved rare turtles.”

 

August 25, 2020 -- “Hummingbird Trafficker Pleads Guilty.  A Dallas [Texas] mystic shop owner pleaded guilty to trafficking dried hummingbird carcasses in violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. The shop owner, 48, pleaded guilty to the sale of wildlife taken in violation of federal law. The owner admitted to selling dried hummingbird carcasses known as “chuparosas” without a valid permit or authorization. “Chuparosas” are believed by some to have mystical benefits and are commonly used as amulets or charms. The hummingbird, a migratory bird, is protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Pursuant to Federal regulations, it is illegal to take, possess, import, export, transport, or sell a hummingbird, or its parts, nests, or eggs, except under the terms of a valid permit. The shop owner admitted the dried hummingbird carcasses she acquired were illegally imported and smuggled into the United States from Mexico. Without a valid permit or authorization, the shop owner offered the dried hummingbird carcasses for sale in her store. She further admitted to both possessing and selling dozens of dried hummingbird carcasses of different species each of which are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.”

 

September 3, 2020 – “Operation Apex Shuts Down Operation that Profited from Shark Finning, Much More.  An international conspiracy that profited from drug trafficking and the illegal wildlife trade and conspired to hide the illegal nature of the proceeds has been shut down in a multi-agency law enforcement operation. Initiated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, Operation Apex brought together multiple agencies under the umbrella of the Organized Crime Drug Task Forces (OCDETF) to target two businesses, in Florida and California, and a dozen individual defendants whose activities included international trade in illegal wildlife products, trafficking in marijuana, and a money laundering conspiracy to disguise the massive proceeds of the unlawful activities that spanned at least a 10-year period. As alleged in the 37-page indictment, conspirators in multiple locations in the United States, including the Southern District of Georgia, and in Hong Kong, Mexico, Canada, and elsewhere, were involved in the Wu transnational criminal organization that engaged in wildlife trafficking, shark finning, drug trafficking and money laundering. Shark finning is aimed at supporting the demand for shark fin soup, an Asian delicacy. Certain species of sharks are protected wildlife under federal and state law to ensure their continued sustainability. The indictment alleges that the conspiracy began as early as 2010 as members of the conspiracy submitted false documents and used sham businesses and dozens of bank accounts to hide proceeds from the illegal activities. The indictment states that members of the conspiracy would deposit bulk cash from illegal activities, including wildlife trafficking and drug trafficking, into third-party business accounts that dealt in gold, precious metals, and jewels, to hide the illegal activities. Conspirators also deposited millions of dollars from illegal activities into third-party business accounts located in the United States, Mexico, and Hong Kong, in an effort to hide the illegal profits. During the arrests of the defendants and searches of their homes and workplaces, agents seized more than $3.9 million in multiple bank accounts; approximately $3 million in gold, silver, and other precious metals, along with $1 million in diamonds; approximately 18,000 marijuana plants and 34.5 pounds of processed marijuana; multiple firearms; and documented the harvest of more than six tons of shark fins. Agents also seized 18 totoaba fish bladders, a delicacy in Asia harvested illegally from an endangered species.

 

 

 

What Are the Laws or Other Agreements About Wildlife Trade or Trafficking?

There are quite a few laws. As with any law, governments or other organizations charged with implementing and enforcing the law must have the resources, and will, to do so.

 

 

CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) is an international agreement between governments. Its aim is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.

 

The purpose of the ESA is to protect and recover imperiled species and the ecosystems they depend on. The FWS and the U.S. Commerce Department's National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) administers the ESA.

 

Also administered by the FWS, under the Lacey Act, it’s unlawful to import, export, sell, acquire, or purchase fish, wildlife or plants that are taken, possessed, transported, or sold: 1) in violation of U.S. or Indian law, or 2) in interstate or foreign commerce involving any fish, wildlife, or plants taken possessed or sold in violation of State or foreign law. The law covers all fish and wildlife and their parts or products, plants protected by the CITES and those protected by State law.

 

All marine mammals are protected under the MMPA. The MMPA prohibits, with certain exceptions, the "take" of marine mammals in U.S. waters and by U.S. citizens on the high seas, and the importation of marine mammals and marine mammal products into the U.S. Jurisdiction for MMPA is shared by FWS and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS)

 

The Migratory Bird Treaty Act prohibits the take (including killing, capturing, selling, trading, and transport) of protected migratory bird species without prior authorization by the FWS. The list of migratory bird species protected by law is primarily based on bird families and species included in four international treaties. You can find the list of birds in the Code of Federal Regulations under  Title 50 Part 10.13 (10.13 list). The 10.13 list was  updated in 2020.

 

 

Due to the European Single Market and the absence of systematic border controls within the EU, the provisions of the CITES have to be implemented uniformly in all EU Member States. CITES is implemented in the EU through a set of Regulations known as the EU Wildlife Trade Regulations.

 

 

This law:

  • facilitates partnerships between the US government and other countries fighting terrorist organizations and international crime syndicates that profit from wildlife trafficking;

 

  • allows prosecutors to treat smuggling or selling endangered species as a predicate offense under money laundering statues;

 

  • improves transparency and accountability by directing the US State Department to explicitly identify countries that are major sources, transit points, or consumers of trafficked wildlife products; and

 

  • enhances national security while also benefiting animal welfare—from expanding law enforcement networks to providing targeted assistance via shared intelligence, equipment and training to fight poachers.

 

  • U.S. Executive Orders

In the United States, there has been bipartisan support in the Executive and Legislative branches of government for preventing and prosecuting wildlife trafficking.

 

  • The second US Executive Order was issued in 2017, “Enforcing Federal Law with Respect to Transnational Criminal Organizations and Preventing International Trafficking.”  It has a broad focus on transnational criminal organizations, and includes a policy reference to wildlife trafficking in Sec 2(a)(i) “It shall be the policy of the executive branch to: (a)  strengthen enforcement of Federal law in order to thwart transnational criminal organizations and subsidiary organizations, including criminal gangs, cartels, racketeering organizations, and other groups engaged in illicit activities that present a threat to public safety and national security and that are related to, for example: (i) the illegal smuggling and trafficking of humans, drugs or other substances, wildlife, and weapons;

 

 

What Organizations and Groups Study, Enforce or Monitor Wildlife Trafficking?

There are multiple national and international government organizations, non-profits, and other non-governmental, private organizations that study, monitor, enforce, and educate on wildlife trafficking. Some, like the FWS, were highlighted above. Several others with varying responsibilities, missions, and authority, are listed below. Click their links for information and resources.

 

  • The US Department of Justice, Environment and Natural Resources Division (ENRD), together with United States Attorneys’ Offices across the country, is responsible for prosecuting international wildlife trafficking crimes under US laws. ENRD also prosecutes crimes related to wildlife trafficking, including smuggling, money laundering, and criminal conspiracy. ENRD works with the FWS, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and other agencies in prosecuting crimes.  A summary of recent ENRD wildlife trafficking prosecutions can be found here.

 

  • The END Wildlife Trafficking Act directs the US Secretary of State, in consultation with the US Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Commerce, to submit to Congress a report that lists Focus Countries and Countries of Concern. Get the most recent report here.

 

  • The END Wildlife Trafficking Act also directs the Presidential Task Force on Wildlife Trafficking (Task Force) to submit an annual strategic review and assessment of its work that consists of the following:  a review and assessment of its implementation of the Act; evaluation of the role of governments of Focus Countries and Countries of Concern in combating wildlife trafficking; a description of Task Force priorities and objectives; an accounting of U.S. funding for combating wildlife trafficking and recommendations for improving U.S. and international efforts to prevent wildlife trafficking in the future. Get the most recent report here.

 

  • TRAFFIC is a non-governmental organization working globally on trade in wild animals and plants in the context of both biodiversity conservation and sustainable development. TRAFFIC staff around the world carry out research, investigations and analysis to compile the evidence they use to catalyze action by governments, businesses and individuals, in collaboration with a wide range of partners, to help ensure that wildlife trade is not a threat to the conservation of nature.

 

  • Coalition to End Wildlife Trafficking on-line. Launched in 2018 with the World Wildlife Fund, TRAFFIC, and the International Fund for Animal Welfare,  with Google as a key convener, the coalition now comprises 36 tech company members including Facebook, eBay, Microsoft, Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent. The collaboration aims to unite the tech industry to standardize prohibited wildlife policies, train staff to better detect illicit wildlife products such as elephant ivory and pangolin scales, enhance automated detection filters, and educate and empower users to report suspicious listings. At the core of this effort is sharing learning and best practices across company platforms to avoid duplication and prevent wildlife traffickers from shifting activities from one platform to the next.

 

  • US Wildlife Trafficking Alliance (WTA). The WTA is a coalition of more than 70 leading companies, non-profit organizations, and accredited Association of Zoos and Aquariums working together to reduce the purchase and sale of illegal wildlife and wildlife products.

 

  • WildAid. WildAid works to reduce global consumption of wildlife products and to increase local support for conservation efforts. They work with governments and partners to protect fragile marine reserves from illegal fishing and shark finning, to enhance public and political will for anti-poaching efforts, and to reduce climate change impacts.

 

 

How Do We Stop Wildlife Trafficking?

There’s things we can all do. First, speak up for wildlife and know how to spot a wildlife crime. Here are some tips from the FWS

 

 

  • Be situationally aware and trust your gut

“Trust your gut to know when things just don’t seem right. This happened to a woman in Minnesota while she was on a bike ride and saw someone putting Blanding’s turtles in their trunk. She knew that these mild-mannered turtles are protected and extremely vulnerable during breeding season as they move to nesting habitat to lay eggs. She reported the vehicle’s license plate number and other identifiable information to an officer with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and her tip ultimately helped to uncover a multistate, illegal trafficking scheme based in Wisconsin. The man involved pleaded guilty to a felony Lacey Act violation, served time in prison and paid heavy fines. During the investigation, officers recovered an incubator with 120 native map, painted and softshell turtle eggs that he had illegally collected in the wild. This wildlife trafficker also left an incriminating digital footprint, using online retailers to traffic additional wild reptile and amphibian species. Just one person speaking for a couple of turtles made a positive impact on local wildlife.” In this case, FWS was able to recognize her contributions with a $1,500 reward through the Lacey Act Reward Account, all while maintaining her anonymity.

 

 

  • Know the law

Know the laws that protect wildlife. Many bird species native to the US, including their nests and eggs are protected under the MBTA (see above). Knowing what’s in season under state and tribal law is important too, because poaching isn’t the only wildlife crime, hunting out of season and falsifying records are also criminal offenses. Ethical hunters and anglers respect the biological reasoning behind bag limits and speak up when something doesn’t seem right.

 

  • Increase whistle-blowing on corrupt border officials and poachers

The website WildLeaks has made this a little easier. WildLeaks, is the world’s first whistleblowing initiative dedicated to environmental crime. WildLeaks is set up to receive and evaluate anonymous information and tips regarding environmental/wildlife crime, and transform that information into concrete action, and possible actionable intelligence. WildLeaks has a “safe space” online, built on the Tor technology, a secure and anonymous platform so that people with information can share that information without taking personal risks, particularly in highly corrupt countries.

 

  • Increase participation in wildlife management and protection groups

 

  • Take pride in every action you take to protect wildlife species and not exploit them.

 

  • Inspire others to take pride in even the smallest actions they take to protect species and habitats.

 

Here's some more considerations

  • Volunteer. Many conservation organizations depend on volunteers in the U.S. and abroad. Do a web search to find an organization near you.

 

  • Wild animals do not make good pets and it’s illegal to buy endangered species. Do your research before making a decision to buy a pet.

 

  • Read your labels. Palm oil plantations are contributing to habitat loss around the world – valuable forests are cleared to make way for palm oil plantations. If palm oil is in your product, read the label to check if it was sustainably grown.

 

  • Before traveling abroad be sure to visit this website for a “Buyer Beware” brochure.

When you travel outside of the United States think about what you’re buying. When purchasing souvenirs or gifts, think about where that item might have come from. Does it contain wildlife products? If so, is it a species that is endangered or threatened? Was the animal harvested sustainably? Was it produced legally? One of the main ways to limit the illegal wildlife trade is to stop the demand for wildlife products. If you don’t know, don’t buy.

  • Be an eco-tourist and travel green. Eco-tourists are able to experience species in their natural habitat while supporting local livelihoods and conservation efforts. These sustainable travel practices allow visitors to experience nature while limiting human impacts on wildlife.

 

  • Buy local products and support the local economy. Tourism is a large source of income for many local communities abroad. Support these local communities’ livelihoods by purchasing unique, handcrafted goods that do not contain animal products.

 

Final Word: “Conservation ultimately comes down to people and their behaviors toward nature. Just as people are often the source of environmental problems, they are equally the potential solution.”  https://rare.org/report/behavior-change-for-nature/

 

Sources and Other References

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/public-safety/virginia-shop-owner-pleads-guilty-to-selling-illegal-wildlife-items/2018/12/20/478d68d8-0450-11e9-b6a9-0aa5c2fcc9e4_story.html

https://www.fws.gov/le/stories.html

https://www.fws.gov/international/wildlife-trafficking/

https://www.fws.gov/international/how-you-can-help.html

http://stopwildlifetrafficking.org/

https://defenders.org/blog/2015/11/4-things-you-didnt-know-about-wildlife-trafficking-and-united-states

https://www.justice.gov/enrd/wildlife-trafficking

https://rare.org/report/behavior-change-for-nature/


The Spirit of a Fallen Warrior: A New Year and More Beautiful Hummingbirds

July 28, 2020  •  Leave a Comment

Did you know, the Aztec god of war “Huitzilopochtli” is often depicted as a hummingbird? It was believed that fallen warriors would return to earth as hummingbirds and butterflies.

 

 

There’s nothing like hummingbirds. In my area they’re very active right now. The nesting season is over. The young that survived are busy trying to secure their own food sources, and the adults are doing the same to build up fat and reserves for their long migration this fall. Because of their size (typically 3-5 inches in length), their constant movement (most flap their wings about 50 times a second), and speed (they can fly about 27 mph) photographing hummingbirds is a challenge. If you want to freeze the motion of their wings and body in an image, a LOT of very bright and direct natural light or artificial light (flash) is a must. Photographs have to be taken at very high speed. Most hummingbirds don’t tolerate people close to them, and ethical photographers don’t trap or bait hummingbirds for photo ops, and this includes using flash traps. If you want to capture the fine detail of a hummingbird, your best bet is a large telephoto lens that let’s you get some distance away. The photos shared in this blog were taken in a mix of clouds/sun, partial shade, and very bright early morning light anywhere from 15-40 feet away using my 560mm Canon lens configuration (400 mm lens w/1.4 extender) with no tripod. All were processed in Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom for exposure adjustments and cropping.

 

More incredible hummingbird facts:

  • Hummingbirds are capable of acrobatic flight, but can’t walk or hop. Their feet have evolved to grip and perch, and are incredibly light so they can fly easily.

 

  • They are marathon fliers.  Most North American hummingbirds migrate south to winter in Mexico, the Caribbean Islands, or Central America. A ruby-throated hummingbird flies at about 27 miles per hour if there’s no tail wind or head wind.  This means that for those making the long 500 mile flight across the Gulf of Mexico during migration it would take about 18 1/2 hours.

 

  • To conserve energy when food is scarce, and nightly when not foraging, they can go into torpor, a state similar to hibernation.

 

  • The majority of hummingbird activity consists of sitting or perching. Hummingbirds spend an average of 10–15% of their time feeding and 75–80% perching and digesting.

 

  • Because their high metabolism makes them vulnerable to starvation, hummingbirds get highly adapted to good food sources. Many North American hummingbird species are territorial and will guard food sources (such as a feeder) against other hummingbirds.

 

  • The ruby-throated hummingbird – one of the most common species in the United States – averages 3 grams. For comparison, a nickel weighs about 5 grams.

 

  • Many hummingbirds die during their first year of life. But if they survive, they can live a decade or more. Most hummingbirds live three to five years.

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  • Trinidad and Tobago, known as "The land of the hummingbird," displays a hummingbird on its national coat of arms, its 1-cent coin and as the emblem of its national airline, Caribbean Airlines.

 

Enjoy my images of these truly amazing birds. Except for the third image below, we can't say for certain whether the other ruby-throated hummingbirds are adult females or juvenile males. Juvenile males (1st year males typically) look very similar to adult females. One of the best sources I've found on distinguishing and identifying ruby-throated hummingbirds is here: http://www.rubythroat.org/RTHUExternalMain.html.

  Ruby Throated Hummingbird, female or juvenileRuby Throated Hummingbird, female or juvenileNorthern Maryland Ruby Throated Hummingbird, MaleRuby Throated Hummingbird, Male

Juvenile Male Ruby Throated HummingbirdJuvenile Male Ruby Throated HummingbirdNorthern Maryland


Dead Trees are Do-Gooders

July 22, 2020  •  Leave a Comment

If you love birds, you have to love dead trees. I photograph raptors and other birds, a lot. I often notice one thing in common across my many bird shots, in the many different locations I’ve photographed them, and that is the birds are in a dead tree or on dead wood.  Sounds bad, but it’s not. In fact, it’s a good thing because dead trees are do-gooders.

 

Dead trees, also called “snags”, and dead wood may not look pretty in our human eyes. A lot of us have been conditioned to see dead trees and dead wood as something bad, dangerous, must be cut down, cleaned up, and moved out of sight. But do you know that dead trees are one of the best places to find a variety of birds and other wildlife?  Dead trees provide habitat, which includes nesting, feeding and perching areas for many species of birds and raptors like eagles, owls, hawks, osprey, falcons, woodpeckers, ducks, bats, and many more. Dead trees, and dead wood on the ground, also provide habitat and protection for racoons, squirrels, chipmunks, and amphibians.

 

Many animals use the nooks and spaces in dead trees and wood to store food. Out West, where the landscape still supports apex predators like grizzly bears, grizzlies can be found eating ants that live by the millions in dead tree logs scattered around forest floors. In aquatic environments, fallen dead trees or wood are excellent hiding places for fish and help them hunt bugs and other organisms.

 

Even more, a variety of beneficial organisms including moss, lichens and fungi grow on snags and help return vital nutrients to the soil. In forests, decaying logs on the ground also act as a kind of nursery for new tree seedlings. Dead trees and down wood play an important role in ecosystems by providing wildlife habitat, cycling nutrients, aiding plant regeneration, decreasing erosion, and influencing drainage and soil moisture and carbon storage, among other values. The US Forest service states, “Over 85 North American bird species rely on snags to nest, feed, or seek shelter. If they don't pose a hazard, leave snags standing.” https://www.fs.usda.gov/nac/assets/documents/workingtrees/brochures/wtw.pdf

 

With the right permits, it’s legal to obtain personal use firewood from US National Forests. However, some National Forests clearly prohibit cutting down standing trees of any type, including snags, while others try to educate the public to look for signs of wildlife using snags before cutting. For example, the US Forest Service Naches Ranger District (Washington State), created a video that is shown to woodcutters when obtaining permits at the Naches Ranger District, helping them to look for signs of wildlife in snags and leave those snags standing on the landscape.

 

Certainly, there are situations where snags and other dead wood can be dangerous. The National Wildlife Federation has some recommendations on when you should consider removing snags from your yard and other dead wood, along with tips on how to garden for wildlife, https://www.nwf.org/Garden-for-Wildlife/Cover/Trees-and-Snags.  Excellent tips and insights are also available at the US Forest Service, https://www.fs.usda.gov/nac/assets/documents/workingtrees/brochures/wtw.pdf . Just remember, if a dead tree isn’t threatening your residence, leave it be, and you’ll see the benefits.

 

I’ve witnessed it and know the benefits of dead trees. Scan the photos below and see just a bit of what I’ve captured hanging out in, or on, dead trees!

Steady - Juvenile little blue heronSteady - Juvenile little blue heron Tufted TitmouseTufted TitmouseWashington, DC Eastern PhoebeEastern Phoebe Loggerhead ShrikeLoggerhead ShrikePine Glades Natural Area, Jupiter Florida

Blue-Tailed SkinkBlue-Tailed SkinkNorthern Virginia

More reading on the value and purpose of dead trees:

https://www.fs.usda.gov/nac/assets/documents/workingtrees/brochures/wtw.pdf

https://www.thewildlifenews.com/2018/12/20/the-ecological-value-of-dead-trees/

https://www.fs.fed.us/pnw/sciencef/scifi20.pdf

https://www.friendsoftheclearwater.org/praise-the-dead-the-ecological-values-of-dead-trees-by-george-wuerthner/

https://www.fs.usda.gov/nac/assets/documents/workingtrees/brochures/wtw.pdf

https://www.counterpunch.org/2018/12/24/in-praise-of-dead-trees/

https://huntwildpa.com/2016/02/08/dead-trees-are-important-to-wildlife/

https://www.fs.fed.us/psw/publications/documents/gtr-181/025_BunnellHoude.pdf


Moonstruck

June 07, 2020  •  Leave a Comment

The full moon has a long aura of mystery and magic about it. Some say it triggers “wanderlust" -- a desire to travel, wander, or roam. Travel and new experiences offer empowerment, education, and opportunity, so I’m all-in for the Moon and its wanderlust charm. But our Moon is so much more. It plays a critical role in producing the environment required for life to thrive on Earth. If the Moon suddenly disappeared, the consequences for many forms of life would be devastating. Some species would die off and Earth’s weather and climate would be noticeably altered (https://www.discovermagazine.com/the-sciences/what-if-the-moon-disappeared-tomorrow). “The moon is the second-brightest regularly visible celestial object in Earth’s sky. As Genesis 1:16 says, “Then God made two great lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night.” (https://www.icr.org/article/moon-required-for-life-on-earth). We all recognize that life on Earth would cease as we know it if the Sun stopped shining, and it’s similar with the Moon.

 

The April 2020 Supermoon -- the largest of the full Moons in 2020 – inspired me to turn my lens on it; and now, I’m a bit "moonstruck." Below, see my April 2020 Supermoon shot taken with my tripod-mounted, Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, 560mm (400 mm Canon lens with a 1.4 Canon extender), f/8, 1/50 sec, ISO 200. All my photos, including this one, are typically processed in Adobe Lightroom and/or Photoshop to adjust exposure and preserve the best image clarity possible. Keep reading for images of the June "Strawberry Moon", and illuminating facts from the experts at NASA about our essential night light – the Moon.

SuperMoon April 2020SuperMoon April 2020

 

If you set a single green pea next to a U.S. nickel, you'd have a pretty good idea of the size of the Moon compared to Earth. The April 2020 Supermoon looked a bit bigger through my lens. It was a beauty. NASA has great facts about the Moon and the history of Moon exploration (https://solarsystem.nasa.gov/moons/earths-moon/overview/; https://moon.nasa.gov/exploration/history/). I’ve shared a few below, including NASA’s plans to create a permanent presence on the moon under its “Artemis” program. “The Artemis program will send the first woman and the next man to the Moon and develop a sustainable human presence on the Moon and set the stage for further human exploration at Mars. The program takes its name from the twin sister of Apollo and goddess of the Moon in Greek mythology.  Among other things Artemis is the goddess of the wilderness, the hunt, and wild animals.

 

The leading theory of the Moon's origin is that a Mars-sized body collided with Earth about 4.5 billion years ago. The debris left by this collision formed our Moon 239,000 miles away. The newly formed Moon was in a molten state, but within about 100 million years, most of the molten material crystallized, with less-dense rocks floating upward and eventually forming the lunar crust.

 

  • The Moon is Earth's only natural satellite.

 

  • The Moon goes around the Earth at a distance of about 239,000 miles (385,000 kilometers).

 

  • More than 105 robotic spacecraft have been launched to explore the Moon.

 

 

  • So far, the Moon is the only celestial body beyond Earth visited by humans.

 

  • Twenty-four humans have traveled from the Earth to the Moon, and twelve walked on the Moon’s surface.

 

  • In 1972, the last human visited the Moon’s surface.

 

  • NASA is gearing up to set up a permanent lunar presence on the Moon.

 

  • We always see the same side of the Moon from Earth. You have to go into space to see the other side.

 

 

  • There's a few other countries that attempted to land on the moon. Some have succeeded, some have failed. India and Israel tried to land on the moon, but failed. However, in 2019, China successfully landed a rover on the dark side of the moon. That's never been done before. NASA followed this big space news closely.

 

  • The United States and USSR/Russia have by far had the most missions to the moon, followed by China.

 

In the 11 days leading up to the June 5, 2020 full moon (also called the “Strawberry Moon”), when conditions allowed, I photographed the moon each night. The Strawberry Moon doesn't refer to the color of the moon, rather it gets its name from a decades-old naming convention established by Indian tribes (see, https://solarsystem.nasa.gov/news/1257/the-next-full-moon-is-the-strawberry-moon/). Some of the best shooting conditions were the days before the full Moon. Unfortunately, the weather was completely overcast on June 5, but I was able to shoot on June 6, when the Moon was 99% full (illuminated). Generally, I used the same settings as my April Supermoon shoot, except no tripod. Even with a longer exposure time, the tripod really made no difference in image clarity. If you have a steady hand and built strength to hoist and hold your 8-10-pound equipment a few times, you might find that a tripod is unnecessary. Hover over each image to see its date.

 

Enjoy these images and don’t forget to visit my other on-line galleries where you can safely and easily purchase prints and become a collector!

 

25-May-2025-May-20 27-May-2027-May-20 29-May-2029-May-20 30-May-2030-May-20 31-May-2031-May-20 1-Jun-201-Jun-20 2-Jun-202-Jun-20

June 3 2020June 3 2020

6-Jun-206-Jun-20


Red-Shouldered Hawk Nest ***UPDATE May 29, 2020***

May 29, 2020  •  Leave a Comment

At this time, all the young hawks are 30 days old, or slightly older. It showed today when I visited the nest. Look at the comparison photos below taken exactly one month apart! On April 29, the young hawks were barely able to stand. In just one month's time they have flight feathers, can feed on their own, and stand, hop and fly small distances.

At least two of the young hawks have fledged the nest, which means they've grown enough to fly and/or hop out of the nest onto nearby branches. The fledglings aren't mature enough to survive completely on their own. They'll stay by the nest for the next few months and continue to be fed by their parents while also practicing their own hunting. As I saw today, they may fly back into the nest to get fed by a parent. Two of the young hawks were fed today when I visited. One parent flew in and dropped the prey item down. Both young that were in the nest were able to tear apart and eat the prey by themselves. One of the young hawks displayed "mantling" of the prey item. Mantling is hunching, crouching, or arching shoulders and spreading wings over a kill to conceal it from other birds and predators who would be potential thieves. See the photo below! Here's a photo of one of the fledgling hawks perched near the nest, about 25 feet away.

Not too far from now all three young hawks will have fledged the nest, but still be nearby. If you're visiting the nest and don't see any signs of birds, look closely in the tree canopy near the nest. If they continue to do well, they'll be there for most of the summer.

 


Red-Shouldered Hawk Nest *** UPDATE May 19, 2020***, Video Included

May 19, 2020  •  Leave a Comment

My last visit to the Washington DC nest was one week ago on May 12. Today's visit reveals all three young hawks are losing their downy feathers, have sprouted flight feathers and all three are up and around in the nest, looking healthy, well fed, and trying out their rapidly growing wings. The mother hawk visited the nest once while I was there today with prey for her babies. The father was in the area and both adults were very vocal.  It won't be long before the largest of the young hawks takes its first leap out of the nest. I've included a short video of the three young hawks from today as well as a photo comparing their size from May 3 to today, May 19  - see what kind of growth occurred in just a little over two weeks!  Listen to and download the podcast I published on red-shouldered hawks. Click  "Podcast" at the bottom of the screen.


Red-Shouldered Hawk Nest ***UPDATE MAY 12, 2020***

May 12, 2020  •  Leave a Comment

They grow up fast!  In less than 2 weeks, the largest of the three young hawks, has nearly tripled in size and has grown a lot more flight feathers than just 4 days ago. There are still 3 young hawks in the nest. Mom is perched near the nest when not feeding or hunting (if she hunts). The nest is getting a little crowded, and the largest young hawk was doing a bit of flap-hopping and trying out the wings. The largest young hawk may be ready to fledge from the nest in a couple more weeks, which will create a little more room in what's becoming a crowded nest! Fledglings will typically perch in branches close to the nest and be fed by the parents until they’re capable of hunting on their own. These young hawks could be in the area for a good part of the summer. I know that many of us watching the nest were relieved that our hawk family made it through DC's most recent cold snap and rainy/windy weather.

Video 2


Red-Shouldered Hawk Nest ***UPDATE May 8, 2020***

May 09, 2020  •  Leave a Comment

When I visited the nest on May 8, the young hawks were napping and both parents were away. Even when a parent can't be seen at the nest, one is usually perched nearby keeping an eye on things. Within about 30 minutes of arriving, I heard the first call from one of the adults. This can mean that one of the parents (usually the male) has food, and is announcing he's got food to return to the nest with. The young hawks began stirring and moving when they heard the adult's call. The young hawks, within less than a week since my last visit, have started to grow flight feathers. When they stand in the nest they look considerably larger than just a few days ago - nearly double the size. I've included a comparison photo in this post that shows the largest baby on April 29 and on May 8. They're definitely growing fast, which is exactly as it should be since they could start to fledge in 3 weeks.

 

Sure enough, after a few more calls from one of the adults, one came flying into the nest with a small rodent, possibly a chipmunk. All the young sat right up and waited for feeding time!  Enjoy this video of the feeding. I hope to have another update in at least a week. 

Video 1


Red-Shouldered Hawk Nest, ***UPDATE, May 5, 2020***

May 05, 2020  •  Leave a Comment

There was some sad news from the red-shouldered hawk nest. Based on accounts from residents who live in the building next to the nest location, on May 1, the adult male was found hanging from a tree. It appears he was tangled in netting or fishing line. He was rescued. What this means is that the adult female was the only one looking after the young. When I visited on May 2, the female was in the nest and then eventually flew off. She perched near the nest and called for her mate for close to an hour. Of course, he didn't show up. Unless the adult male is well enough to be released, this very sad turn of events greatly lowers the survival chances for these young hawks. (keep reading...!!)

 

My April 30 blog post shared several risks that many raptors face, including red-shouldered hawks. The events of the last few days reveal another -- birds getting entrapped in fishing line or netting. Many wildlife rehabilitators and conservation groups have written about these risks and documented tragic, often fatal injuries wildlife receive from improperly discarded fishing line or netting. Here's a few links on this issue for further reading: Wildlife Center of Virginia: https://www.wildlifecenter.org/fishing-tackle-threats-wildlife; Audubon: https://www.audubon.org/news/this-common-form-plastic-pollution-menace-birds; Owl Moon Raptor Center: https://owlmoon.org/2017/09/29/great-horned-owl-rescued-from-entanglement-in-fishing-line/; US Fish and Wildlife Service: https://www.fws.gov/birds/bird-enthusiasts/threats-to-birds/entrapment-entanglement-drowning.php .

 

May 3rd was my last visit to the nest site and really good things were happening! Within a few moments of my arrival in late afternoon, the female showed up with a large prey item (possibly a large rat). Her young babies perked up and began feeding. I could see through my lens that the young already had very full crops, which meant they were already well fed. If you're unfamiliar with the term "crop", it's a muscular pouch near the throat, which is part of the digestive tract. In birds, and other organisms that have a crop, it's used to temporarily store food.

 

More, really good news, happened on May 4.  I posted a video I shot of the hawk family feeding and was informed through a Facebook comment that the injured male was released. I'm thrilled.

 

I'll be back at the nest in a few days and with more updates!

 

Enjoy these photos of mom and babies from May 3, 2020.

 

 

 

 

 


Red-Shouldered Hawk Nest

April 30, 2020  •  1 Comment

The red-shouldered hawk is one of the most beautiful (see the photos) and “talkative” hawks in the United States. If you’ve been fortunate to have one come across your path you might just fall in love. My first encounter with a red-shouldered hawk was seeing one, then a pair, perched in a tall tree in my backyard during a cold day at the height of winter about 5 years ago. Although I live in the big metropolitan city of Washington, DC, we have a lot of large tree canopy (urban forest) and we’re adjacent to Rock Creek National Park. The habitat is fairly good for red-shouldered hawks. It was the beauty of these birds, I could see through binoculars, that inspired me to learn more about raptors and how to photograph them. So, this past week when I came across a red-shouldered hawk nest just a few miles from my home, now over two years into my photography business, well, it was heaven-on-earth for me. In this post, I’m excited to share my first images of the red-shouldered hawk parents, their three hatchlings, and information about this species including some of the risks it faces.

 

Red-shouldered hawks are raptors, or birds of prey. Eagles and owls are raptors too, and this obviously means that there are different categories or types of raptors, each with their own behaviors, colors, sounds, and lifestyles. The red-shouldered hawk is in the “buteo” class of raptors.  Experts differ in their precise descriptions of the size and characteristics of red-shouldered hawks, and tend to give ranges on height, weight, and wingspan. That’s reasonable; there are variations. In general, red-shouldered hawks may be anywhere from 15” to 24” long; weigh 1 to 2 pounds; and have a wingspan of 38” to 42”.  Like some other raptor species, the female is larger than the male and there is no color difference between the sexes. Red-shouldered hawks get their name from the reddish-brown feathers on the upper wings. These feathers give the appearance of having red shoulders, although this part of the wing is actually the hawk’s wrist. Red-shouldered hawks live on the East and West Coast of North America. The eastern population lives from southern Canada to Florida and eastern Mexico and west to the Great Plains. Part of the eastern population is migratory. In the west, the species lives from Oregon to Baja California. The western population is nonmigratory. There is a difference in color between red-shouldered hawks in Florida and those farther north, which are darker in color. See the image directly below of a lighter colored Florida red-shouldered hawk and compare to the coloring of the adult pair from Washington, DC, that follows.  

 

Red-shouldered hawks are forest raptors. They tend to live in forested areas with an open subcanopy and a nearby water source. Like other raptors, red-shouldered hawks are strictly carnivores. They’re diurnal raptors meaning they hunt during the day; they’re adapted for daytime hunting. They feed on many types of prey including amphibians, reptiles, birds, and small mammals including voles, chipmunks, mice, and possibly rabbits and squirrels depending upon their size. An image in this post shows one of the red-shouldered parents with a captured vole. Crayfish serve as an important food source, particularly in the southeastern US. In much of eastern North America, chipmunks and voles are the main prey. Red-shouldered hawks are chiefly perch-hunters, but may sometimes hunt while in flight. 

 

 

Raptors have long been admired for their exceptional vision, which is a key element in helping them to locate and track prey. There are a few features of the raptor eye that contribute to its remarkable vision. First, like many other birds, raptor eyes are very large in relation to the size of their skull and their body mass. Second, even though raptors can’t move their eyes around like us humans, they have extra bones in their neck that allow them to move their whole head around.  As many of us know, some raptors, like owls, can rotate their heads as much as 270 degrees! Hawks can rotate their heads almost all the way around as well. Third, the forward placement of raptor eyes gives them good binocular vision, and this facilitates very accurate judgment of distance. This is an excellent adaptation if you’re a perch hunter going after small, fast prey.  Last, perhaps the most remarkable refinement to raptor vision is the ability to see in the ultraviolet (UV) light range.  For raptors, who prey on rodents like voles and mice, this ability gives them a distinctive edge when hunting.  Rodents, like many other species, use scent as a communication mechanism. For example, to mark territories, for mating, etc.  So, in these species, long scent trails become obvious signs and pointers to where the animal has been. Scent marks of small rodents become visible when the markings absorb part of the UV radiation present in sunlight, and then reemit the absorbed energy as visible light. This is also called the process of fluorescence.  Research has shown scent marks left by voles (who urinate almost continuously), are also detectable by raptors (kestrels) from reflected UV light. This ability, to perceive reflected UV, is particularly useful in the spring before the scent marks are covered by vegetation. For raptors hunting in open grassy areas this means they can rapidly scan large areas in a short period, and perceive rodents by simply following the ultraviolet trails that point to their movements and possible whereabouts.  Put simply, just remember that raptors, including red-shouldered hawks can see the “pee trail” of animals they’re hunting.

 

 

Red-shouldered hawks become sexually mature at 1 or 2 years. Red-shouldered hawks, like other hawks, are monogamous and mate for life. However, if one of the pair dies, the surviving hawk may seek out another mate. Mating occurs between April and July. Red-shouldered hawks are particularly vocal prior to incubation, and they call repeatedly while engaged in courtship flights. The pair builds a nest of sticks, which may include moss, leaves, and bark. Nests are typically built at a crook of the main trunk in deciduous trees, more than halfway up the tree but within the canopy. The female lays three or four spotty lavender or brown-colored eggs. Females nest once per year, but may lay a second “clutch” of eggs if the first is destroyed. Incubation takes between 28 and 33 days. The first chick (“eyas” is the technical term for a nestling hawk) hatches up to a week before the final one. The female has the primary responsibility for incubating the eggs, while the male hunts, but sometimes the male cares for the eggs and the nestlings. Adults most frequently bring back mammals to feed the nestlings. Young fledge the nest when they’re between 35 and 45 days old and will try to catch their own prey, mainly insects. However, the young hawks continue to depend on their parents until they’re 17 to 19 weeks old, after which they may start to catch vertebrates. Young hawks may remain near the nest until the following mating season. Only half of red-shouldered hawk chicks survive the first year and few live to 10 years. The nesting success rate is 30%, plus red-shouldered hawks face many predators and risks at all stages of life. For those that survive their first year, red-shouldered hawks can live to be 15-19 years old in the wild, with one report of a 26-year-old hawk!

 

 

Threats to raptors come primarily from humans. While all animals are subject to natural threats such as disease and predation, raptors suffer far greater harm from human causes, including the loss of native habitat and habitat degradation largely due to human development and mounting population; intentional and unintentional killing (e.g., vehicle collisions) and poisoning (e.g., pesticides, lead); electrocution; and climate change, to name a few. Red-shouldered hawks, like other raptor and non-raptor species have important protections under various state and federal laws including the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. It’s unlawful to kill, capture, collect, possess, harass, buy, sell, trade, ship, import, or export any migratory bird, including their feathers, eggs, and all other parts.  Habitat loss and degradation is the biggest risk that raptors like red-shouldered hawks face. It’s one of the reasons I believe that Land Trusts, which work to conserve land, can be a perfect partner in wildlife protection. I plan to write more on that in the near future. 

 

A short while ago I wrote a post on lead poisoning in bald eagles.  Red-shouldered hawks can face the same risk. Another distressing poisoning risk that red-shouldered hawks and other raptors face is from traditional rat poison (rodenticides).  Many rodenticides stop normal blood clotting; these are called anticoagulants. Anticoagulants work by blocking an enzyme that controls blood clotting. If an animal (rat, mouse, etc…) is exposed to enough anticoagulant (rat poison/rodenticide), uncontrolled internal bleeding and death can result. Rodenticides have the same effect when eaten by any mammal, including a cat or dog. They can also affect birds. Anticoagulant and other rat poison products designed to kill rodents are also killing birds of prey, pet dogs and cats, and many species of wildlife, including several endangered species. Secondary anticoagulant poisoning of nontarget animals is well documented in a wide range of animals including owls, buzzards, coyotes, feral cats, mountain lions, otters, bald eagles, and more.  Secondary poisoning occurs when a predatory animal consumes a poisoned animal, and ingests the poisons secondarily. Anticoagulant rodenticides are the most common method used for rodent control worldwide and they are frequently used in both residential and commercial areas, as well as in parks, cemeteries, and golf courses.  Advice from the National Pesticide Information Center is helpful:

 

“When you are deciding whether or not to use a pesticide, balance the potential benefit against the potential costs, including environmental impacts. Sometimes using a pesticide, even according to its label, may cause harm. When that's the case, it is up to the user to weigh the costs and benefits, and if necessary, choose not to use the product.

 

If you use a pesticide, always be sure you read and follow all label instructions exactly. It will reduce the risk, but it won't necessarily prevent accidents. Read the environmental hazards part of the label carefully. Could use of this product harm bees or bats, or is it very toxic to fish? If so, and if fish or bees could be exposed, you might consider finding another product. Try to find the least toxic product that will do the job. It may be possible to take care of your pest problem using integrated pest management, which may mean using fewer pesticides, or possibly none at all.

 

You know your application area best. If you know certain spots are important places for special plants or wildlife, try to prevent contamination of those sites, especially at critical times of the year. You may also contact your state wildlife agency or the US Fish and Wildlife Service for more information. There are many federal and state laws protecting migratory birds, animals, and rare plants, but the most important protections come from ordinary people taking steps to avoid accidental harm.

 

To reduce risks of secondary poisoning for pets and wildlife, search for, collect, and dispose of poisoned rodents. Use gloves when disposing of dead rodents to avoid contact and secure trashcan lids to minimize pet or wildlife access to poisoned rodents.”

 

I hope to be able to update this post or add new posts as the red-shouldered hawk nestlings grow and fledge. This brings me to one of the most crucial points of this post – use your judgement and don’t unsettle or frighten this nesting hawk pair for the sake of photographs or the desire to simply get a peek.  There’s already a lot of disturbances at this location. When I first came upon the nest site, I was stunned at how easy it was to see from the walking bridge I was on. This location is a popular, high-density, and well-traveled part of Washington, DC; not a location off the beaten path. Many people walk, bike and run across this bridge (often with leashed dogs), and there’s a lot of street traffic and noise. The habitat the hawks chose has many perfect features including high trees, open subcanopy and a beautiful stream, but there are literally people, apartments/condos, and noise all around, nearly all the time, and within easy sight of the hawks.  So, yes, these birds may be somewhat acclimated to city life. Still, it’s crucial that anyone observing or photographing the nest use good judgement concerning the welfare of the hawks and their young. The highest priority here is a successful parenting outcome for this red-shouldered hawk pair, and no harm done by humans. If you stop to visit or photograph the nest site, use your judgement and common sense. Pay close attention to whether the birds are changing their behavior or exhibiting signs of stress due to your presence, or equipment.  If so, back off.  And even if this family of hawks tolerates some noise and a few humans, doesn’t mean they’ll tolerate a crowd or their tolerance will remain static.

 

 

Sources and further reading:

http://www.moremesa.org/wordpress/raptor-vision/

https://www.hawkmountain.org/raptors/red-shouldered-hawk

https://hawkwatch.org/learn/threats-to-raptors

https://raptor.umn.edu/about-raptors/learn-about-raptors

http://www.urbancarnivores.com/poisons/

http://npic.orst.edu/factsheets/ecotox.html

http://npic.orst.edu/factsheets/rodenticides.html

https://www.raptorsarethesolution.org/ 

https://www.nps.gov/samo/learn/management/take-action-against-anticoagulant-rodenticides.htm

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Red-shouldered_Hawk/overview

https://www.wildlifecenter.org/news_events/news/frequently-asked-questions-about-red-shouldered-hawks 

https://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/red-shouldered-hawk


Earth Day

April 20, 2020  •  Leave a Comment

Earth day is April 22. It’s inspired me to write about a couple of things happening around my home, and to share resources on Earth Day and actions we can all take that support good stewardship of our planet.

PodCast Link: https://www.buzzsprout.com/711591/3449764-old-t-shirts-never-die-and-more-for-earth-day

 

Around My House

1. Happy Bees, Happy Humans, Happy Earth.

 

A little over a week ago, I was out in our garden and photographed a honey bee feeding on our Lunaria flowers. The images below were taken late in the day with very low light, so image quality is a little degraded. For science-minded gardeners, Lunaria is a type of flowering plant in the family “Brassicaceae.” It includes two varieties, the annual or biennial “Lunaria annua,” and the perennial “Lunaria rediviva.” Our garden has Lunaria annua.

 

Honey Bee and Lunaria Flower ("Money Plant")Honey Bee and Lunaria Flower ("Money Plant")

Honey Bee and Lunaria Flower ("Money Plant")Honey Bee and Lunaria Flower ("Money Plant")

 

The beautiful flowers alone make this plant worth growing, but its benefits for pollinators and beautifying our indoor spaces make this a garden sensation. Lunaria is commonly called silver dollar, dollar plant, money plant, moonwort, and honesty plant. See the photo below for what it looks like in its dried form after the season is over.  Lunaria is a colorful, attractive, honey-bee friendly plant that looks good outdoors and indoors – for years.  It’s an easy win-win for the environment and us.  Happy Bees, Happy Humans, Happy Earth.

 

Lunaria ("Mony Plant") Dried ArrangementLunaria ("Mony Plant") Dried Arrangement

 

 

Here’s a bit more about Lunaria for gardeners and growers, and in the next section I highlight why it’s critical that we’re thinking about pollinators. The Latin name Lunaria means "moon-like" and refers to the decorative seedpods.  “Lunaria annua” are 2-3 feet tall biennials with heart-shaped leaves that carry fragrant, one half inch purple or white spring flowers. Blooms are followed by brown seed pods. Ripened seed pods release their outer covering with the seeds and translucent silvery/white circles remain – this is a favorite for beautiful dried flower arrangements. Lunaria blooms in mid-summer, in hardiness zones 4-8 (https://planthardiness.ars.usda.gov/PHZMWeb/InteractiveMap.aspx), and it requires sun to part shade. Live in a space that doesn't have a garden or you have limited outdoor space? Plant your Lunaria in pots indoors or in boxes or pots on your balcony or patio. Indoor growers will not get bees but will get beautiful blooms and dried flowers if you can follow the growing guides.

 

Lunaria is properly grown as a biennial, and in its second year makes large well-branched plants, after which it will seed itself freely around the garden. You can allow the seed pods to dry on the plant or you can snip the stems after the pods turn brown, tie a few together, and hang them to dry. To collect the seeds, wait until they’re brown in the pod. Then rub the pod between your fingers to gently remove the outer layer. Store them in an air-tight container, someplace dark, cool, and dry.

 

Importance of Pollinators (see Sources)

Pollinators provide a nearly invisible service that’s worth billions of dollars and supports human life.

 

  • Birds, bats, bees, butterflies, beetles, and other small mammals that pollinate plants are responsible for bringing us one out of every three bites of food. They also sustain our ecosystems, prevent soil erosion and produce our natural resources by helping plants reproduce.

 

  • Worldwide, roughly 1,000 plants grown for food, beverages, fibers, spices, and medicines need to be pollinated by animals in order to produce the goods on which we depend.

 

  • Foods and beverages produced with the help of pollinators include: apples, blueberries, chocolate, coffee, melons, peaches, potatoes, pumpkins, vanilla, almonds, and …drum roll please…tequila.

 

  • In the United States, pollination by honey bees, native bees, and other insects produces $40 billion worth of products annually.

 

  • Global food supply is impacted due to the extensive role that honey bees play in North American agriculture, one of the largest food exporting regions of the world.

 

Pollinator populations are changing. Many pollinator populations are in decline due to a loss in feeding and nesting habitats, pollution, the misuse of chemicals, disease, and changes in climatic patterns.

 

How to protect pollinators:

 

  • Install houses for bats and native bees

 

  • Supply salt or mineral licks for butterflies and water for all wildlife

 

  • Reduce pesticide use

 

  • Substitute flower beds for lawns

 

 

2. Old T-Shirts Never Die.

 

A second thing happening around my house, which we’ve been doing for years, is re-purposing old worn-out fabrics as cleaning rags. More and more people are catching on to this. Rather than send our worn-out towels, sheets, t-shirts, sweatshirts (and the like) to the garbage, we re-purpose them as cleaning rags. Saves on paper towels and their source – trees. There's a lot more we do in my house to lessen our environmental footprint. These are a couple.

 

Old T-Shirts Never DieOld T-Shirts Never Die

 

 

3. Earth Day Resources and Tips.

 

Coronavirus has shut down a lot of things these days, but the 50th anniversary of Earth Day on April 22 is on and going digital. Check out Earth Day Network at www.earthday.org. There are so many easy things we can each do to improve our environmental footprint. You may already be doing a lot of them. Do a simple search in your web browser for “Earth Day Challenges”, or “Earth Day Tips” and you’ll uncover lots of easy and great tips. Earth Day Network has daily challenges which are very helpful and informative, https://www.earthday.org/earth-day-challenge/. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), also turns 50 this year. Check out their incredibly important and challenging work at and get some Earth Day tips, https://www.epa.gov/50.  

 

 

 

Sources on Pollinators: https://www.epa.gov/pollinator-protection, http://npic.orst.edu/envir/pollinator.html ; https://honeybeehealthcoalition.org/the-situation/ , https://www.pollinator.org/pollinators  

Sources on Lunaria: https://plants.usda.gov/core/profile?symbol=LUAN

Sources on Earth Day Information and Ideas: www.earthday.org, https://www.epa.gov/earthday, https://www.epa.gov/50.   


14 Days, Over 40 Species

March 21, 2020  •  Leave a Comment

14 days, over 40 species. After a recent trip to Florida I was struck by the number of remarkable wildlife I photographed in just a few days. Even more, in the days just before my trip, locally, I had photographed a lot of delightful and diverse wildlife. I wondered… “How many different species had I actually photographed?” I counted them up. I was stunned, startled, amazed -- you name it.

 

In the 14 (non-sequential) days, I’d been out with my camera between Feb 5 and March 12 I photographed over 40 species. All the images are at the end of the post in collage format. Not every photograph I took of every species made the cut, and this means I saw well over 40 species. The weather has been warmer and spring is definitely in the air (in most of the eastern US) which can make wildlife easier to spot. Knowledge of animal behavior and habitat are also critical in seeing diverse species. These are some of the best reminders that despite the constant change we’re experiencing there is beauty and life going on normally all around us. If you're feeling the strain of social distancing or working from home, step outside, if possible. When the weather is good, step out for a hike, run or cycle outdoors. Sit in the woods and listen to the birds; breathe in the woody smell. Head up a hill and take in views from the top. If spring has sprung where you are, start looking for early bees and butterflies in your nearest meadow.

 

Try your own 14-day nature challenge. Do it outdoors or just by looking out a window from an indoor space. Count how many species you can see or photograph in 14 days, in a row, or not in a row. Include whatever species are around you -- wildlife, plants, insects. The only rule is  – never harass, chase, or bait wildlife for photographs and never interfere or damage natural settings for the sake of a picture. Respect wildlife and nature and reap the rewards.