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Wildlife refuge cameras catch cats in the act of poaching

WILDLIFE WATCHING — A Florida research project on endangered species in the hammocks of North Key Largo uncovered an unwanted cast of video stars: Cats perched atop man-made woodrat nests.

"The cats are doing the things that cats do when they hunt," Jeremy Dixon, manager of the Crocodile Lake National Wildlife Refuge says in a story by KeysInfoNet.

"It's not the fault of the cats," Dixon said. "It's the fault of owners who allow their cats to trespass into the refuge, or people who dump cats on North Key Largo."

My stand on the issue of domestic cats that are let loose to kill birds and other critters:

Loose-running domestic cats kill for fun. These cats are not wildlife. They should be licensed and required to abide by seasons and quotas just as human hunters.

 

Biologists have high hopes for wild-hatched condor

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Groups tracking the reintroduction of the endangered California condor celebrated last year when a record four birds hatched near the Arizona-Utah border.

This year has brought increased enthusiasm with the possibility that a condor hatched in the wild will produce the first second-generation wild bird.

Eddie Feltes of The Peregrine Fund says he and others are keeping their fingers crossed.

Breeding is underway for the condors in the Arizona-Utah flock and the captive flock at The Peregrine Fund’s World Center for Birds of Prey in Boise, Idaho.

Biologists are watching from afar as adult condors incubate an egg in the Arizona-Utah flock nesting at Vermilion Cliffs National Monument.

The captive flock is expected to produce up to 20 birds this season. 

13 trumpeter swans scoping open water at Turnbull Refuge

WILDLIFE WATCHING — For 22 years through 2009, only one trumpeter swan reliably returned to Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge each winter or spring — whenever enough open water was exposed by ice thawing at the headquarters-area ponds.

Now the legacy of Solo, the lone male trumpeter that finally found love in 2009, lives on in at least a baker's dozen.

Nesting is likely.  Broods usually hatch around Father's Day.

Here's today's swan observation from Mike Rule, refuge wildlife biologist:

We watched 13 swans  flying down the creek in front of the office this morning .  They landed on Winslow Pond and Middle Pine.    There were

5 cygnets  and 9 adults. 

Four of the adults are likely the 2 breeding pairs from last year.  The age of  other  5 adults is unknown. They could be any combination of the 9 swans fledged in 2009, 2010, or 2012.   We potentially have four unaccounted for breeding age swans from Solo's 2 broods.  Hopefully we'll get another nesting pair established this year.

This same group was seen for a couple days in mid-January during a short thaw.

 

Bird migrations kicking into gear

WILDLIFE WATCHING — The spring bird migration often subtly comes to our attention. Other times, it's obvious even to the casual observer.

Here's a head's up from the weekend by birder Terry Gray in the Palouse:

Today in east Moscow there were many American Robins (300+) and many RED-WINGED BLACKBIRDS (100+) moving through.  Some of the male blackbirds were already perched on top of cattails singing for the girls!

Shape your birding knowledge with this chart

WILDLIFE WATCHING — This chart, courtesy of the Spokane Audubon Society's monthly newsletter, helps you put your birding knowledge into perspective.

Photographer offers 5 tips for better wildlife pictures

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Digital photography has made it possible to shoot photographs in such quantity that virtually anyone will bag a good one sooner or later.

But when it comes to wildlife, you'd better be ready for the action because it's often fleeting.

To add consistency to your wildlife photography, check out these five detailed tips for taking better wildlife photos from a man who's made his career with a camera. Here's a summary of his suggestions:

  1. Learn your camera
  2. Learn your subject
  3. Look for good light
  4. Your car as a blind
  5. Plan your photos

 

 

How to deal with a wild turkey attack

WILDLIFE WATCHING — A hospital medical staff had a hoot overlooking this UPS driver's recent ordeal with a menacing wild turkey tom in Minnesota. 

Note to self: When sending important packages to turkey country, go with Fed-Ex.

Dead hawk owl to live on in WSU collection

WILDLIFE WATCHING — The northern hawk owl that thrilled hundreds of birders as it ranged south to hang out around Moscow this winter was killed in a vehicle collision Thursday but will live on as an exhibit at Washington State University.  

Judging from the emails, the first bird of its species known to have visited the Palouse made a personal impact on people who enjoyed its willingness to be observed and photographed for six weeks around town.

Here's the report from Terry Gray, the Moscow birder who monitored the hawk owl and made daily reports on its whereabouts to visiting birders. Gray ultimately took the mortally injured bird to university veterinarians who tried to save it.

 The Northern Hawk Owl turned out to be a male.  The bird is now at the
Washington State University Charles R. Conner Museum and will join two more
Northern Hawk Owls in their collection.
 
I want to thank everyone for you kind thoughts and words.  I really
appreciate them and feel honored to have kept all in the loop on what was
happening with our feathered friend.   I had a tough experience today when a
couple knocked on my door from New Mexico asking for directions to see the
owl and I had to tell them that they were a day late!

Northern hawk owl visiting Moscow reported dead

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Sad news:  the northern hawk owl that's been attracting birders from far and wide to the Moscow, Idaho, area has been reported dead.

The rare visitor from the arctic has been hunting and hanging out in the area since it was spotted Dec. 3 near a Moscow shopping mall by raptor expert Erik Stauber, a retired wildlife veterinary professor from Washington State University.

Moscow birder Terry Gray, who's been watching and photographing the bird almost daily just reported the news.

The hawk owl, a bird of boreal forests in Alaska and Canada, became a sensation because of its willingness to stay in the same area and be photographed by many, many birders after Gray posted photos and began giving daily reports on where the bird could be seen.

Northern hawk owls have been recorded and documented farther south in Idaho (Hailey and in eastern Idaho)  and several had been recorded for Moscow and Pullman around 20 years ago, says birder Charles Swift.

But the bird is a rare or maybe once-in-a-lifetime bird for many enthusiasts in this region.

Birders had expressed concern about the bird's lack of fear for powerlines and vehicle traffic as it hunted for mice and voles in the wild patches along the town's edges and roadways.  The bird was found injured but alive on a road where it had been hunting. Apparently it was struck by a vehicle.  It was taken to WSU veterinarians but did not survive.

Click Continue reading for more details about the bird and from WSU News. (Note the error in reporting that this is the first documented sighting of a hawk owl near Moscow):

 

Rare visitor looks like owl, eats like hawk

WILDLIFE WATCHING — The hawk owl that's been luring birders to the Moscow, Idaho, area for more than a month continues to deliver for photographers eager to document a rare visitor to the region.

Spokane-area birder Ron Dexter offered this recent photo with interesting details from his observation of the northern Canada bird's hunting behavior:

It was hunting from a powerline on the north side of White Ave. A small creek runs along that side of the road. The banks are covered with weeds and grass and provide raptors a hunting ground for mice and voles.
 
The first two attacks from the owl came up empty except for claws full of weeds. Finally, it sprang from the power line and dove into the grass along the road only 20 feet from me and grabbed a vole. Then it flew into a nearby tree. It would pin the rodent to a tree limb and chomp at it with its beak, then pick it up and fly to another tree where it ate it. It did not swallow the meal whole like most owls do, but ripped off pieces. Hawk Owls hunt in the daytime and eat like hawks, thus the name.

Landers is always on the hunt for fowl weather

HUNTING — When I heard the weather report calling for nasty weather today I looked at Scout and said, "Sounds like a perfect day to call in sick and go hunting!"

I was right.  Perfect morning, except for the roads on the return trip.

My advice now:  It's a perfect day to stay home!

Migrations Part 3: Birds can’t fly away from habitat issues

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Yesterday, in the Idaho Fish and Game Department's 75th anniversary series of "reminders" on wildlife topics, I featured the second of a three-part post on migrations — Part 2: Fish.  The first installment was on Tuesday, Part 1: Roadkill and how the carnage along highways pegs critter movements.

Today, we look at Part 3: Birds.

Intro

Mammals do it. Birds and fish do it. Even insects do it.

They migrate as part of their inborn strategy for survival, and the arrival of winter triggers a massive migration of all kinds of wildlife.

They may travel a thousand miles or a few feet. The distance is not what defines migration; it’s that animals move between habitats during the year to survive. They may move for many reasons – to find food, breed or raise their young. Migration is a tool they use when a habitat no longer meets their needs.

Migration patterns and routes are ancient and have been influenced by the natural features of the land, water and air. The same natural features that foster wildlife movement are also attractive to human activities. Roads bisect open spaces. Wind turbines pop up on ridgelines. Dams block rivers. Communication towers light up the night sky. Houses are built in key habitat. And human structures frequently become problems for migrating wildlife.

Birds

All types of birds migrate. Some travel huge distances and while others simply move up and down a mountainside.

In Idaho, we often associate migration with waterfowl. They migrate by the thousands and noisily announce their coming and goings. Idaho is part of the migratory route called the Pacific Flyway.

Structures, such as power lines, wind farms and offshore oil-rigs, have been known to affect migratory birds. Habitat destruction by land use changes is the biggest threat, and shallow wetlands that are stopover and wintering sites for migratory birds are particularly threatened by draining and reclamation for human use.

It’s a steal! Just $10 for 2014 calendar featuring local birds

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Talk about local. This annual calendar features images of local birds captured by local birder-photographers. 

Warm up your bird ID before Christmas Bird Count

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Can you ID these two birds?  If not, you may want to attend one of the Audubon Society programs tonight and Wednesday on identifying wintering birds.

  • Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife experts say both birds are male finches and despite the difference in photo size here, they are about the same size in real life.
     
    The one on the left is a house finch (Carpodacus mexicanus) and the one on the right is a Cassin’s finch (Carpodacus cassinii).
     
    Cassin’s bright red cap ends sharply at brown-streaked nape and its tail is strongly notched. House finch’s red is more on the front of its head under a brown cap, and the red color can vary to orange or even yellow; house finch also has a more square tail.

Audubon Society invites newbies to programs on winter birds

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Excellent programs on winter birding are planned next week, a spinoff in the birding social event of the year.

Local Audubon Society chapters have tapped professional biologists to present special pre-Christmas Bird Count programs on identifying and understanding “winter birds:”

Whether you're gearing up for joining a group outing during the Audubon Society's 114th annual Christmas Bird Count or simply brushing up on your bird identification skills, check out one of these free programs:

Coeur d’Alene Audubon will feature Carrie Hugo, BLM wildlife biologist, on Tuesday (Dec. 10), 7 p.m., at Lutheran Church of the Master, 4800 N. Ramsey Rd. in Coeur d’Alene.

Spokane Audubon will feature Gary Blevins, Spokane Falls Community College biology professor on Wednesday (Dec. 11), 7 p.m., at Riverview Community Building, 2117 E. North Crescent Ave. Driving directions: tinyurl.com/SASmeeting.

The Audubon Chapters also welcome newcomers on the Christmas Bird Count field trips they've organized.  Following are the dates and the leader contacts:

NORTH IDAHO

Coeur d’Alene: Dec. 14; Shirley Sturts, (208) 664-5318, shirley.sturts@gmail.com.

Moscow: Dec. 14; Kas Dumroese, kas.birder@gmail.com.

Lewiston: Dec. 15; contact Bryan Jamieson, jami9197@aol.com.

Sandpoint: Dec. 14; Rich Del Carlo, (208) 265-8989, rich@peregrinetree.com.

Bonners Ferry: Dec. 28; Jan Rose (208) 267-7791, aljanrose@hotmail.com.

Spirit Lake: Jan. 2; Shirley Sturts.

Indian Mountain: Jan. 5; Don Heikkila, (208) 659-3389, idfinn@sm-email.com.

EASTERN WASHINGTON

Pullman: Dec. 14; Marie Dymkoski, marie-dymkoski@msn.com.

Colville: Dec. 14; Barbara Harding, (509) 684-8384, Barbara_Harding@fws.gov.

Pend Oreille River: Dec. 15; John Stuart, (509) 447-2644, ninebark@povn.com.

Clarkston: Dec. 15; Bryan Jamieson, jami9197@aol.com.

Chewelah: Dec. 21; Mike Munts (509) 684-8384, strix.nebulosa1987@gmail.com.

Spokane: Dec. 29; Alan McCoy, 448-3123, ahm2352@gmail.com. 

Northern hawk owl lures local birders to Moscow area

WILDLIFE WATCHING — The online alerts have been buzzing this week with news of a northern hawk owl hanging out out around Moscow — a rare sighting that's attracting life-listing birdwatchers from around the region.

The hawk owl was still there this morning, according to this post from Kirsten Dahl.

The Northern Hawk-Owl is still present as of 7:30 am this morning.  It is perched on top of a bush just east of the Hwy 8/Blaine intersection, along the bike trail.

The photo above is by Moscow birder Terry Gray. Here's a story about the occasion by Eric Barker of the Lewiston Tribune:

MOSCOW - When Lori Nelson heard about the northern hawk owl, she quickly devised a plan.

She dropped her son off at school Wednesday morning in Richland and headed east to the Palouse. By noon, she was standing under a tree near the Eastside Marketplace and admiring the rare bird that normally stays well north of the U.S.-Canada border.

"He has feathered feet, that is so cool," she said. "It’s (a) once-in-a-lifetime bird for me. I may not get a chance to see one again."

Many avid bird-watchers keep lists of all the species they have spotted. When a rare bird is found, they spread the word so others can not only enjoy it but also add to their lists.

The rare visitor was first spotted Tuesday morning and positively identified as a hawk owl that afternoon by Terry Gray of Moscow. He filled out a rare bird report and news of it quickly made the rounds via email listserves and websites like ebird.org. Local birders from Moscow, Pullman, Lewiston soon showed up to take a look and perhaps add a bird to their life lists.

"It’s kind of cool. It’s amazing how fast word gets out there through the different listserves and ebird on rare bird sightings," said Gray. "It’s kind of fun."

Later in the day, people from farther away started to show up. Gray said he met a carload of women from Boise who headed north as soon as they got word.

Keith Carlson of Lewiston was one of the early arrivals and said the bird didn’t disappoint.

"He’s a real piece of work," he said. "He just sits there and he’s an experienced hunter. I saw him try to, and to catch, two mice this morning. He just sits in one or two trees and watches. All of a sudden he launches off and boom, he catches one and flies back up and eats it."

According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, northern hawk owls prefer coniferous or mixed forests near open areas. They live year-round in Canada and Alaska. When food is scare during tough winters, the birds sometimes move south in large numbers, known as an irruption. Gray said there is no evidence this bird is associated with an irruption.

Audubon selling 2014 Birds of Eastern Washington calendar

WILDLIFE WATCHING — A Steller’s jay photographed in the foothills of Mount Spokane by Ron Dexter is one of 12 birds featured in the Spokane Audubon Society’s 2014 Birds of Eastern Washington Calendar.   

The calendars are a bargain at $10.

Order them at the club's online store.

Graphic illustrates wind energy impacts to birds

WILDLIFE — Following last week's milestone court settlement in which Duke Energy will pay $1 million to mitigate for the deaths of golden eagles and other birds caused by wind turbines in Wyoming, Northwest Public Radio featured this EarthFix graphic to help explain in simple terms the threats unrefined wind farms pose to bird populations.

Wind energy company prosecuted for killing birds

WILDLIFE — A wind energy company has agreed to pay about $1 million in fines and mitigation actions in the deaths of 14 golden eagles and 149 other protected birds in Wyoming. The American Bird Conservancy says its the first prosecution of a wind company in connection with bird deaths.

The Department of Justice on Friday announced a settlement on the prosecution of Duke Energy’s wind developments.

“Wind energy is not green if it is killing hundreds of thousands of birds," said said George Fenwick, ABC president. "We are pro-wind and pro-alternative energy, but development needs to be Bird Smart. The unfortunate reality is that the flagrant violations of the law seen in this case are widespread.”

The enforcement action is the first time the government has drawn a line in the sand, said Michael Hutchins, coordinator of ABC’s National Bird Smart Wind Energy Campaign.

“The boundaries for the wind industry are voluntary, meaning that companies have been able to pay lip service to bird protection laws and then largely do what they want," he said. Poorly sited wind projects exist or are being planned that clearly ignore the advice of federal and state biologists who have few, if any, means of preventing them from going ahead.”

The charges stem from the discovery of 14 golden eagles and 149 other protected birds, including hawks, blackbirds, larks, wrens and sparrows by the company at its “Campbell Hill” and “Top of the World” wind projects in Converse County between 2009 and 2013.   The two wind projects are comprised of 176 large wind turbines sited on private agricultural land. 

How fast can peregrine falcons dive? See for yourself

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Peregrine falcons have long been considered the fastest bird on the planet. But now we're getting firm numbers.

Using high-tech sensors, scientists are ending the conjecture on how fast these sleek falcons can stoop on their hapless prey.

What's your guess?

Watch this remarkable video to the very end. You'll be surprised!

Experts list 10 top gift ideas for birders

WILDLIFE WATCHING — From new birdsong collections to smartphone apps, online learning, and a kit for beginning birders, here are 10 holiday gift suggestions for the bird and nature lover in your life. All these items are available from the nonprofit Cornell Lab of Ornithology at www.birds.cornell.edu/BirdGifts.  (Purchases from this site support the Cornell Lab's bird conservation efforts.)

1. Cornell Guide to Bird Sounds: Master Set for North America

The most comprehensive guide available, featuring nearly 5,000 soundtracks for 735 North American bird species. Download includes MP3 sound files and photographs ($49.99), or receive all files on a pre-loaded USB flash drive. ($64.99)

2. Cornell Guide to Bird Sounds: Essential Set for North America
Great for beginners. This set includes the most common sounds for 737 species available as downloadable MP3 files ($12.99) or on a pre-loaded USB flash drive. ($24.99)

3. The Bird Watching Answer Book
A great stocking stuffer! Drawing from the tens of thousands of inquiries that pour into the Cornell Lab each year, author and bird expert Laura Erickson has compiled answers to more than 200 common and not-so-common bird questions. ($14.95)

4. Cornell Lab Beginner Bird-Watching Kit
This kit, available from Optics Planet, includes introductory binoculars recommended by Cornell Lab of Ornithology staff, six months free access to a Cornell online bird ID course, and other great accessories. ($199)

5. Bird Apps
Find more birds with BirdsEye, upload sightings from the field with BirdLog, or discover 24 North American birds in four games for kids with My Bird World ($3.99-$19.99).

6. Birds & Beans Coffee
A tasteful gift that supports organic shade-grown coffee farms that give shelter and sustenance to more than 60 species of migratory birds. A portion of the proceeds supports Cornell Lab conservation efforts. ($11.70 & up)

7. The Birds of North America Online
This continually updated, definitive life-history reference is authored by experts on more than 700 bird species, accompanied by images, sounds, and some video. An online publication of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in partnership with the American Ornithologists' Union. ($5 stocking stuffer for a 30-day subscription or $42 for an entire year)

8. The Warbler Guide with Song and Call Companion
This set of sound contains all the vocalizations described in The Warbler Guide, by Tom Stephenson and Scott Whittle. More than 1,000 files are presented in the same order as they occur in the text. ($5.99)

9. Cornell Lab Membership
Lab membership supports efforts to improve the understanding and protection of birds around the world. The quarterly Living Bird magazine is included with every gift membership. ($39)

10. Singing Plush Birds
The plush birds in this popular Wild Republic series make great collectibles for children and adults. Each bird contains authentic sounds from the Cornell Lab's Macaulay Library and is created with colorful anatomical details. ($8.99)

Bird dog surveys the harvest

HUNTING — My English setter, Scout, had six consecutive points on hens, then one solid find on a solo rooster.  

Stir-fry dinner coming up.

Free programs offered by local outdoor groups

Inland Northwest outdoors groups are sponsoring a wide range for free programs this week. Among them:

  • Bicycling the TransAmerica Trail, second of two programs, this one featuring the journey from Pueblo, Colo., to Florence, Oreg.,  by garry Kehr, 6:30 p.m., Monday, at Riverview Retirement Center, for Spokane Bicycle Club.

See map and directions to Riverview Retirement Center auditorium,

  • Clark Fork Delta Restoration, by Susan Drumheller of the Idaho Conservation League, 7 p.m., Tuesday nov. 12 at Lutheran Church of the Master, 4800 N. Ramsey Road in Coeur d’Alene, for Coeur d’Alene Audubon.
  • Annual Fly Auction fundraiser, 7 p.m., at St. Francis School, 1104 W. Heroy, for Spokane Fly Fishers.
  • Hanford and the Columbia River, by Theresa Labriola of the Columbia Riverkeeper, 7:30 p.m., Wednesday, at Riverview Retirement Center, for Spokane Audubon

Turnbull trumpeters a splashing autumn sight to behold

UPDATED 11-6-13 at 3:10 p.m.

WILDLIFE WATCHING — This year's crop of trumpeter swans was still putting on a snow last week for visitors to Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge headquarters area.

For the first time in decades, two pairs pulled of clutches of cygnets this spring.  The families provided plenty of wildlife viewing entertainment during the spring and summer.

Each family lost at least one of the offspring, but the survivors are looking strong and frisky and ready to migrate to wherever they go when iced-over ponds force them to leave Turnbull during winter.

Local photographer Carlene Hardt, who produced a book about the Turnbull trumpeters that's available at the Turnbull store, snapped these photos of one family and the playful cygnets last week.  Said Hardt:

 I was at Turnbull Wildlife Refuge last Friday and I was delighted to see both Trumpeter swan families on Middle Pine. It was good to see that one swan pair still has three cygnets. Unfortunately, the other pair has only two remaining cygnets (out of the 4 that hatched). One cygnet was recently found dead. 

I started photographing them just before sunset when they were very active and vocal. They were interacting with each other and sometimes chasing each other. It was fun to watch!
  

Mike Rule, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wildlife biologist at Turnbull offered these encouraging insights into what's going with the refuge swans:

The loss of the 2 cygnets from the Middle Pine Lake pair was unfortunate.  One was lost  about 3-4 weeks after hatching.  We never found the carcass.  The death of the 2nd cygnet occurred  on the   22nd or 23rd of October.   I am not sure of the cause of death , but I don't think it ever fledged like the other two in that brood.  I observed the 2 adults  and 2 cygnets flying around on the 19th and the one cygnet was still on Middle Pine. We did collect the body and it has been sent to the Madison Wildlife Health Lab.  Hopefully we will hear back soon about the cause of death.  

We have recently been seeing a group of 11 flying around  so the 2 pairs and there young of this year have picked up a couple of swans from the previous years' broods.  I expect to see more  any day now.  We are hoping more of the 2009 and 2010 cygnets will return to nest next year. Winslow Pool, which has been dry for 2 years now because of a failed water control structure, has been repaired and is refilling.  This has been an important swan pond, it is the original swan display pond  where the first cygnets were released on the refuge. So having it functioning again is a real plus for the swans. 

This is what a murmuration looks like

This video is hard to explain but it cerainly has some exquisite choreography. Sophie Windsor Clive and Liberty Smith experience one of nature's greatest and most fleeting phenomena, a "murmuration" on Ireland's Shannon River. The pair created a short film about their amazing row and submitted it for the World Wildlife Fund competition "Life, Nature and You. Make the Connection." It's a magical moment.

(Disclaimer: NSFC. Not safe for cats.)

 

 

Murmuration from Sophie Windsor Clive on Vimeo.

Announcing their presence

Unlike Deputy Barney Fife, I cannot claim to understand bird-speak.

But I have a hunch about what some of them are saying at this time of year.

"Don't rake your leaves."

I'm guessing this because I noticed something the other night. Cats lose their stealth when moving through a yard covered with dry leaves.

And if I have noticed that, I would imagine the birds have, too.

Normally silent felines create crunching and rustling that all but blares "Here comes trouble!"

At least that's how I imagine a bird would view it.

Hunting dusky grouse can give you the blues

HUNTING — Hunting dusky grouse with a pointing dog is one part bliss and several parts misery and despair.

Duskies — the name given a decade ago to the former "blue grouse" east of the Cascades — are notoriously fickle about holding to a point.  

They might hold, as did the one pictured above, or they may not.

They might fly up in a tree and look at you or they may flush at the hint that you're coming their way and rocket downhill a quarter mile into the timber.

They like high ridges and openings at the edges of timber. Often the terrain is rocky.

It can be tough going — and tough shooting.

I liken dusky hunting to a chukar hunt with timber mixed in to increase the shooting difficulty factor.

I was one for three on Saturday with two other birds flushing a full 40 yards away from Scout's solid point.

Tough quarry. 

Oregon storms blast swallows; thousands dead

WILDLIFE — Barn swallows and violet-greens took a harsh blow from storms and high winds that hammered Western Oregon in the past week.

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife veterinarians received multiple Monday about dead and dying swallows. 

Groups of 10 to 200 swallows were reported dead or near death in barns and other structures where they perch, the agency reports.  Mortality appears to be greater closer to rivers and standing water where the birds concentrate.

Colin Gillin, ODFW State Wildlife Veterinarian, estimates that thousands of birds have died. “This type of mortality event is unprecedented and considered a rare and unusual event,” said Gillin. “The effect on bird populations is unknown.”

A number of birds were examined at the Oregon State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory and pathologists determined the swallows were thin and had not eaten recently with their cause of death most likely being weather-related starvation. Veterinarians believe that the four consecutive days of rain and wind prevented the swallows from feeding at a time when they would normally be preparing for winter migration.

September was the wettest on record for the Willamette Valley.

Swallows feed on insects during flight and inclement weather events can have an effect on young and weaker birds that cannot take in enough food to meet their energy requirements. Swallows are seasonal migrants to Oregon and migrate to Central and South America during winter.

Video: How hummingbird tongues function

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Like little jewels in the sky, hummingbirds capture everyone's attention when they "hum" by.

But only recently have scientists been able to study them closely enough to understand how their tongues function while feeding on flower nectar.

The hummer's tongue is about twice as long as it s beak.  The tongue is a unique "nectar trap" with two tubes and rows of flaps attached to a supporting rod that extends and then retracts compactly into the beak.

See how it works!

Video: Raunchy dancing? Forget MTV, go to Midway

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Miley Cyrus doesn't have anything on these birds!

Take a look at the twerking of the mating Laysan albatross on Midway National Wildlife Refuge.

If this tweeks your imagination, learn more about the birds on this tiny dot of an island in the Pacific.