Wednesday, August 30, 2006

ENV: The Black Sun

Anyone who has spent time watching the vast open fields and marshes of wintertime Texas has seen this wonderful effect, albeit with Red-winged Blackbirds. I consider it one of the great pleasures of birding, and one of its great mysteries (and frankly, i'd like to see some of these beautiful mysteries left unsolved . . .). What i have not seen before are photographs that catch it in such a way as to create such frisson. I tihnk i can trace this posting to Japan (though the content is hosted on a US server), so i presume the identification is correct, but honestly do not think it matters.

The Black Sun

In other local news, Ruby-throated Hummingbirds have outnumbered the Black-chins by over 2-1 for about a week now. In fact, i haven't seen a male Black-chin for over a week. The male Ruby-throats meanwhile are in fine, fine plumage. Have had one or two Rufous Hummers off and on in the last two weeks (making five species at my feeders in just four months since i've put them up).

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ATH: Texas Duo Make Futbol News

From Soccer America

SMU's Cruz named Men's Player of the Week

SMU's Leone Cruz won't quickly forget his college debut.

The defender from Round Rock, Texas, is the Soccer America Men's Player of the Week after scoring both game-winning goals in the No. 2 Mustangs' 1-0 victories over Wisconsin and then-ranked Wisconsin-Milwaukee at Tulsa's Great Western Downtown Plaza/Golden Hurricane Classic.

Cruz, who played for FC Texas, came off the bench to connect from 20 yards in overtime against Wisconsin and from 10 yards in the 84th minute against Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

MEN'S PLAYER OF THE WEEK
D Leone Cruz (SMU)

MEN'S TEAM OF THE WEEK
G Kevin Guppy (Cal State Northridge)
D Leone Cruz (SMU)
D Dustin Kirby (Ohio State)
D Georgios Spanos (St. John's)
M Sal Caccavale (American)
M Stephen King (Maryland)
M Paul Leitelt (Valparaiso)
M Trini Lopez (Loyola Marymount)
M Mike Videira (Duke)
F Brian Ackley (Indiana)
F Dane Richards (Clemson)


Tigers remain on fire

Is there a better duo in the country?

Clemson seniors Dane Richards and Frederico Moojen are proving hard to stop. After combining for three goals and two assists in the fifth-ranked Tigers' 4-3 win over South Carolina on opening night, they added two goals apiece in their 8-1 victory over Georgia State Tuesday night in their home opener at Historic Riggs Field. Richards, a Jamaica international, joined the Tigers last season from San Jacinto-South JC. The Brazilian Moojen transferred this year from D2 Lincoln Memorial.

Hector Quintanar isn't playing too bad, either. After contributing one goal and one assist for the Tigers against South Carolina, the junior had three assists against Georgia State. Like SMU's Cruz, Quintanar hails from Round Rock, Texas.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

ENV: Bad, Bad Butterflies . . . or?

via the most wonderful Susan Sander . . .


Butterfly Kiss-Off
By JEFFREY A. LOCKWOOD, Op-Ed Contributor NY TIMES, Published: August 24, 2006

Laramie, Wyo
AS schools reopen, teachers around the country are planning a child-pleasing science activity: raising butterflies. Butterfly kits let teachers demonstrate a basic biological phenomenon as caterpillars transform themselves into painted lady butterflies that can be freed to complete their lives in a nearby field. The students learn that metamorphosis is marvelous, insects are engaging and releasing living things is virtuous. Wonder, beauty and goodness — who could object?

Yet among entomologists and butterfly conservation groups, the painted lady, along with a handful of relatives, has provoked a controversy — a microcosm of contemporary conservation-versus-corporation conflicts.

Butterflies are big business. Although nobody knows exactly how many have been commercially produced, extrapolating from one company’s figures suggests that the 45 or so butterfly farms in the United States ship out 11 million butterflies a year.

They’re not all destined for the classroom. At weddings, butterflies provide a festive, and pricey, backdrop. Charging $95 for a dozen butterflies, suppliers provide testimonials and invent traditions to entice buyers. Teachers, meanwhile, purchase kits with their own impressive profit margin ($34 for instructions, a mesh container to house the insects, caterpillar food and three to six larvae.)

The North American Butterfly Association is as unhappy as a butterfly in a Buffalo blizzard (the association points out that these fragile creatures could suffer such a fate). Their primary concern is the release of butterflies from one locale into a different region. Federal regulations prohibit the shipments to states where a species doesn’t naturally occur, as if Long Island was the same ecological system as Albany.

The butterfly association also raises the concern that interbreeding of otherwise separate populations could cause genetic deterioration of endemic varieties that have adapted to local conditions and warp migratory behaviors. In principle, the farm-raised butterflies may also carry unfamiliar strains of pathogens, although diseased larvae rarely survive to adulthood.

A less plausible concern is that the released individuals will compete with the natives for food; nectar is rarely in short supply. But the feeding of the subsequent generation is a more complicated issue: painted ladies larvae eat thistles, which include both nasty, invasive weeds and endangered species.

Painted ladies aren’t the only issue; at $10 a pop for monarch butterflies, the butterfly association claims that commercializing these creatures generates another business: poaching. And in general, the butterfly folks have a deep, moral concern: they are appalled by having butterflies turned into fluttering playthings.

Are mail-order butterflies worth the costs? Certainly, they are beautiful, but so are flowers and most brides. Butterflies do stimulate students’ curiosity, but so do ant farms (and the insects can be collected locally).

As for the excitement of releasing butterflies, this is precisely the wrong lesson. Turning loose mail-order organisms is a recipe for disaster, given that billions of dollars are spent controlling invasive species that originated from heedless releases. So far, ecological harm by schoolroom butterflies to native fauna and flora is unproven. But the potential severity is sobering — as is the absence of any plan by industry or government for remediating damage.

So we have a classic industry-conservation conflict: the North American Butterfly Association versus the International Butterfly Breeders Association. The conservation group advocates banning the release of commercial butterflies (an unlikely development) while the breeders deny that there’s a problem (a risky wager). So what’s the answer?

There are reasonable compromises that address the most serious concerns, which, it is fair to say, are more educational and ethical than environmental. For weddings, butterfly farms could be required to ship only sterile adults. Of course, research would be needed to find the right dose of radiation or chemosterilant for a butterfly species, but the breeders claim to be concerned about wild butterflies and the butterfly association could “walk the walk” of conservation by offering some money for studies. The neutered butterflies might be a bit more expensive, but cost can’t be a big issue for a father of the bride who’s already plunking down $300 for the “Fill the Sky” package.

But what about the eager students and future (might we say, larval) entomologists?

Kill them. Not the students, the butterflies. If the point of the educational venture is to teach important lessons, then here’s one: We are responsible for the harm that we may cause in the world. So once the butterflies have emerged, pop them in the freezer. Tell the children that protecting our environment is not always easy, that we must accept the responsibility that comes with bringing a life into the world, and that like other animals produced for our needs and wants (the industry refers to the butterflies as “livestock”) we owe the butterflies a quick and painless death.

If this is too harsh a lesson to teach in a culture that assiduously avoids confronting death, then a savvy teacher could work with students to collect local caterpillars, raise them and release the butterflies whence they came. That’s a real lesson in science — and ethics.

Jeffrey A. Lockwood, a professor of natural sciences and humanities at the University of Wyoming, is the author of “Locust.’’

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

ENV: Real County Survey Part I

Results of Sunday's survey as posted to the TexOdes Listserv:

TX: Real County, Big Springs on the Frio River, Big Springs Ranch for Children, 9 miles N of Leakey E off US83 (location bounded by HEB Camp/Laity Lodge and Lost Maples State Natural Area), 29.8437dN 099.6508dW, 1900’ elev., 20 August 2006, ca. 0915 to 1500 CDT, temps. 90-97dF

Observers: Greg Lasley and Cheryl Johnson (Austin), Bob Thomas (Austin), Mike Overton (Concan), Ken Cave (Sabinal), Susan Sander (Center Point), Marcy Dorman (Kerrville), Kathy and Mitch Heindel (Utopia), Tony Gallucci (Ingram)

p = documented by photo (Thomas, Cave, Overton, Sander, Heindel, Gallucci)
v = documented by voucher (Lasley, Overton, Sander, Gallucci)
NCR = new Real County record

Sunday, 20 August 2006, ten folks with naturalist bents ranging to professional biologists, and including botanists, lepidopterists, odistas, birders, herpers, malacologists, and aquarists, gathered to conduct the first of a series of surveys of a 7500-acre Ranch on the headwaters springs of the Frio River in Real County (there was a previous survey done around the turn of the millennium, but this is the first of the current series).

I am in the process of compiling faunal and floral lists for the day, but the number of Odistas and our overall combined interest in the odonate fauna has made it relatively easy to compile our ode list for the day. The numbers appended here are estimates based on my own observations and numbers from Mike Overton (Greg has provided a list of his vouchers; and the photo list is my own and what i know of others’ work) -- our group estimates will be a part of the final report, but these numbers should represent a fair sampling of what we found. -- tg

Other noteworthy species found on the property include: Mournful Duskywing (Overton; vp), Yellow-angled Sulphur (Overton), Ringed Kingfisher (Overton and Heindel; all three kingfishers in fact), Louisiana Waterthrush (Heindel, Gallucci et al.; p), Mexican Tetra (Heindel et al.; p), and Stream Loosestrife (Sander and Dorman; v).

34 species (12 zygops; 22 anisops)
40 American Rubyspot, Hetaerina americana v
2 Great Spreadwing, Archilestes grandis NCR p (Ken Cave)
1 Citrine Forktail, Ischnura hastata v
16 Desert Firetail, Telebasis salva v
35 Arroyo Bluet, Enallagma praevarum vp
8 Double-striped Bluet, Enallagma basidens v
1 bluet species, Enallagma sp. (unusually marked individual, perhaps Stream or Arroyo Bluet) v
40 Kiowa Dancer, Argia immunda vp
3 Coppery Dancer, Argia cuprea v
100 Aztec Dancer, Argia nahuana vp
25 Springwater Dancer, Argia plana vp
6 Violet Dancer, Argia fumipennis violacea v
50 Blue-ringed Dancer, Argia sedula v
2 Common Green Darner, Anax junius
7 Eastern Ringtail, Erpetogomphus designatus v
3 Sulphur-tipped Clubtail, Gomphus militaris
1 Dragonhunter, Hagenius brevistylus
1 Gomphid sp.
8 Roseate Skimmer, Orthemis ferruginea p
8 Comanche Skimmer, Libellula comanche vp
5 Flame Skimmer, Libellula saturata p
5 Neon Skimmer, Libellula croceipennis
1 Twelve-spotted Skimmer, Libellula pulchella
5 Common Whitetail, Plathemis lydia
4 Eastern Pondhawk, Erythemis simplicicollis simplicicollis p
6 Blue Dasher, Pachydiplax longipennis
12 Swift Setwing, Dythemis velox vp
3 Checkered Setwing, Dythemis fugax
1 Black Setwing, Dythemis nigrescens
12 Pale-faced Clubskimmer, Brechmorhoga mendax vp
1 Band-winged Dragonlet, Erythrodiplax umbrata
150 Wandering Glider, Pantala flavescens
25 Spot-winged Glider, Pantala hymenaea
15 Black Saddlebags, Tramea lacerata
8 Red Saddlebags, Tramea onusta
1 Variegated Meadowhawk, Sympetrum corruptum


Several of us returned to the Hill Country Youth Ranch in Ingram, Kerr County, via Texas39, stopping at Lynxhaven, South Fork Marsh, and Rio Vista Crossing, and added these additional species to our day list.

Smoky Rubyspot, Hetaerina titia
Familiar Bluet, Enallagma civile
Powdered Dancer, Argia moesta
Red-tailed Pennant, Brachymesia furcata
Four-spotted Pennant, Brachymesia gravida
Widow Skimmer, Libellula luctuosa
Eastern Amberwing, Perithemis tenera




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NAT: End of Tribal College

California's only tribal college close to collapse

DAVIS, California (AP) -- On a remote stretch of land where stray chickens outnumber students, California's only tribal college is clinging to life against seemingly insurmountable odds.

D-Q University has had its share of hard times since it was founded on the outskirts of this liberal university town west of Sacramento in 1971, during the peak of the American Indian self-determination movement. Its turbulent history includes land disputes with the neighboring University of California at Davis, low enrollment and a loss of federal accreditation in early 2005.

But even its most ardent supporters acknowledge that the school has now hit an all-time low.

In June, the board dismissed the university's interim president, Art Apodaca, accusing him of squandering the school's few remaining assets. It also rejected his proposal to boost enrollment by dividing D-Q into an Indian-only school and a separate, non-Indian one.

With the remaining six students drifting away and no money for even a working telephone line, a handful of board members and community volunteers are desperately searching for a way to keep the school and its mission alive.

"Every day it's a new crisis," said Susan Reece, a former board member. "Every day there's a new group of bills and new debts we didn't know about."

In early August, the six-member board decided to abandon its efforts to keep students on campus for the fall semester. Instead, it will try to attract revenue by renting space for workshops and conferences.

Reece said her biggest fear is that D-Q will lose its 600 acres to the federal government if it is found to be violating its federal property deed, which stipulates that the land must be maintained as an educational institution.

The demise of D-Q University would deal a heavy blow to the tribal college movement, supporters say. D-Q stands for Deganawidah-Quetzalcoatl, two iconic native leaders.

The school was one of the six original tribal colleges in the United States, all founded between 1968 and 1972. Nationwide, the U.S. Department of Education recognizes 34 tribal colleges, most of which are two-year schools.

The programs range in size from several hundred students to several thousand, serving about 30,000 total students nationwide each year, according to Department of Education estimates. They offer two-year associate degrees, and some provide bachelor's and master's degrees and vocational certificate programs.

Indian students "were failing miserably in mainstream institutions before the tribal college movement came around," said Gerald Gipp, executive director of the Virginia-based American Indian Higher Education Consortium.

While many of the current colleges are thriving, he said they have faced their share of hardships. For example, the schools receive about $4,400 per student from the federal government -- far less than their average annual expenses require.

In addition, many of the schools are geographically isolated and have to provide basic coursework to students who arrive with a sub-par high school education.

D-Q's turbulent history was preceded by a dramatic birth. In 1971, two California-based American Indian scholars applied for control of the land, a former Army communications center.

After it was learned that the federal government intended to award the land to UC Davis instead, a group of Indian and Hispanic activists jumped the barbed wire fence and refused to leave. UC Davis withdrew its application, and the government gave in to the activists' demand that the area be made a college for indigenous people.

In January 2005, D-Q's accreditation was revoked, stripping the school of its ability to grant degrees or offer course credits that students could transfer to other institutions.

Stable leadership and support from a tribal government and the surrounding community are crucial to a tribal college's success, Gipp said. But he added that ultimately, D-Q and other struggling schools must figure out their own solutions.

"What does it take to develop a viable institution?" he asked. "We haven't really answered that question at this point."

ENV: This is a joke . . . right?

Watchers circle rare bird
Eurasian collared dove spreading across country
By Ike Wilson, News-Post Staff, Published on August 16, 2006

FREDERICK -- A Eurasian collared dove spotted at Stadler Garden Center is drawing birdwatchers far and near.
A chance to see a bird that is not native to Maryland made Steve Sanford's trip from Randallstown worthwhile, he said.

Mr. Sanford said Tuesday he heard about the Frederick spotting from the bird alert Web site operated by Maryland Osprey, mdosprey.home.att.net.

The Eurasian collared dove, originally from Asia, is new to the United States. The bird found its way to the Bahama Islands in 1975, spread to Florida and is expanding its range across the country, according to Wild Birds Unlimited Inc. (www.wbu.com).

Christy Morales, a Frederick bird watcher, said the dove is out of its range and uncommon in Maryland.

"Everyone called me, because they know I love birds," Ms. Morales said, binoculars in hand.

A customer at Stadler Garden Center heard the bird call Saturday and determined its sound was different, said Suzanne Smith, sales clerk.

Ms. Morales said the Eurasian collared dove has a distinctly different call. It's a little larger than a morning dove, with more gray coloring.

"Its flight is more pigeonlike, kind of like a hawk," Ms. Morales said.

Birdwatchers are a close knit community, and they take their hobby seriously, Mr. Sanford said.

"To me, it's a little like stamp collecting. Instead of collecting, you enjoy seeing different birds. It's like hunting without killing," Mr. Sanford said.

"It's like a treasure hunt," Ms. Morales said.

Many birdwatchers keep a list of the birds they see.

"We call it our life list," Ms. Morales said.

"And it's a sense of accomplishment when we can add something new," Mr. Sanford said.

Mr. Sanford said he's amazed at the number of young people who are taking up bird watching. Some of the sharpest birdwatchers are in their 20s.

"They've got the good eye and energy to look for them," Mr. Sanford said.

Bird watchers don't mind traveling long distances, he said.

The farthest Mr. Sanford has traveled was to see an Ivory gull in Nova Scotia, Canada. But the bird left the area before he arrived, Mr. Sanford said.

Bird enthusiasts help researchers figure out the ranges of the feathered friends, Mr. Sanford said. The more eyes helping to figure things out, the better, he said.

Seeing a non-native bird in Frederick is exciting, Ms. Morales said.

"But it's also sort of a bad thing. It means that the Eurasian dove is kind of invading the area and threatens to compete against the native birds and perhaps drive them out," Ms. Morales said. "Will they be eating the same food and taking over the nests?"

ENV: NASA And Attwater's PC

NASA, Zoo Set Ribbon Cutting For Prairie Chicken Facility
PRESS RELEASE
Date Released: Friday, August 18, 2006
Source: Johnson Space Center

NASA's Johnson Space Center and the Houston Zoo will dedicate a new breeding facility for the endangered Attwater's prairie chicken at the space center in a 9:30 a.m. CDT ribbon cutting Friday, Aug. 25.

Media planning to attend must notify the JSC newsroom at 281-483-5111 no later than 4 p.m. CDT Thursday August 24. The schedule of events includes:

8:30 a.m. - Media tour at prairie chicken breeding facility near Bldg. 423 with Houston Zoo Bird Curator Hannah Bailey.

9:00 a.m. - Invited guests arrive at facility.

9:30-10:00 a.m. - Ribbon-cutting ceremony at prairie chicken breeding facility. Welcome/Remarks by JSC Director Michael L. Coats, Houston Zoo President and CEO Deborah Cannon and Zoo Director Rick Barongi.

10:05-10:20 a.m. - Tour of breeding facility for guests.

The new facility, located on about two acres of land within the gates of JSC, stems from a 2005 agreement between the zoo and NASA. The breeding facility is part of JSC?s educational outreach program, which fosters the next generation of explorers by encouraging young people to study scientific and technical subjects. The facility gives area students an opportunity to see first-hand the importance of habitat conservation and protection.

Before the JSC facility opened, the Houston Zoo bred Attwater?s prairie chickens in a small off-exhibit facility on zoo grounds near the busy McGovern Children?s Zoo. The new facility, within the gates of JSC, provides a quiet, secure and safe environment.

The Zoo began breeding Attwater's prairie chickens in 1994 with two dozen eggs taken from the nests of wild flocks in Texas. Today there are 24 birds in the zoo?s program, with a goal to increase the number of birds so the population can survive without human intervention.

The ground-dwelling Attwater's Prairie Chicken is a medium-size grouse, with brown, black and buff-colored feathers. The birds once occupied about 7 million acres along the Texas and Louisiana coasts. Only about 1 percent of that prairie remains. Loss of habitat, predation and hunting so reduced the bird's numbers that they were declared endangered in 1967.

ENV: Black-caps Hold Up Water Plant

Bird may hold up water plant
by News 8 Austin Staff, 8/18/2006 9:04 AM, Picture courtesy of manybirds.com.

Finding a place for a water treatment plant in Austin is not easy.

"It seems like water treatment plants are always controversial," Austin City Councilman Lee Leffingwell said.

Now the city of Austin wants to build Water Treatment Plant No. 4 near Lake Travis.

The reason this is controversial is because the land is home to the black-capped vireo, federally listed endangered bird. The bird is found only in Central Texas and in three counties in Oklahoma.

"I do not believe that by relocating or moving these five nesting pairs we will endanger the black-capped vireo," Leffingwell said.

"I would rather be wrong about this but I am relying on biologist,” Chris Lehman of the Austin Sierra Club said.

A biologist said the birds won't survive, if the City tries to move them, Lehman said.

"We weren't allowed by U.S, Fish and Wildlife to ride bicycles through these preserves, because that was to invasive. But now we're going to stick a water treatment plant, not just on any part of the preserve but on the inhabited part,” Lehman said.

The inhabited part is 45 acres of the 24,000 acre preserve located just off RM 620.

Originally, the city was looking at building the treatment plant at the headwaters of Bull Creek.

"That is a fully permitted site. We do not need any approvals to build a water treatment plant there,” Leffingwell said.

The city chose the Balcones site because they thought it would be less intrusive.

"This is the lesser of two evils. Many people speaking for the environmental board say these are two horrible choices,” Lehman said.

Either choice will have a direct impact on the future of Austin's water supply and could have an impact of the future of a rare flock.

Before the city can give the go ahead for the treatment plant, the Travis County commissioners will have to approve the project. They are set to vote on the issue Tuesday.

ENV: Up and Down Geese

Urban geese put on USFWS hit list
PHIL POTTER, Tri-State Outdoors, Sunday, August 20, 2006


The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service intends to send everyone on a wild goose chase next year. The USFWS has declared war on urban geese.

Can you remember some 30 or so years ago when the discovery of a remnant flock of supposedly extinct giant Canada geese was touted as a miracle?

For years, giant Canadas were thought killed out until someone checked an old market hunters' pond and found the "extinct" geese.

These had been his live decoys, and after live decoys were banned he kept them as pets. This news prompted the USFWS to implement their comeback.

The big birds easily colonized city lakes and golf courses and were treasured until their numbers grew.

In the Mississippi Flyway, it is estimated giant Canadas now number more than 1.7 million. The same is true in the Atlantic and Central Flyways.

Faced with landowner complaints and the fact the geese rarely migrate, the USFWS has plans for a great culling with a three-part regulatory program.

The first installs control and depredation orders for airports, land owners, farmers and public health officials. Basically, this allows the geese to be "removed" without a federal permit as long as reporting and monitoring requirements are followed.

The second expands hunting methods and opportunities to increase sportsmen's bag of resident geese. States will be free to expand shooting hours and allow the use of electronic calls and unplugged shotguns during a portion of the early September season.

The third adds an Aug. 1-31 "management" kill following the first full operational year of the other regulations. The Pacific Flyway will be excluded by the states within request.

Apparently the big geese will have some modicum of protection during April, May, June and July.

For specific details, go to the Aug. 10, 2006, copy of the Federal Register or hit the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service home page.

Americans seem prone to despise wildlife that prospers after being protected. Whitetail deer, urban antelope and snow geese are other examples.

Probably the next species added to the urban hit list will be wild turkeys that are moving to the suburbs - or have suburbs moving to them.

Either way, future conflict looms as burgeoning human populations push wildlife aside.

ENV: More Old Friends and Neighbors

West Texas ranchers aid in falcon reintroduction
By TPWD, Aug 13, 2006

VAN HORN, Texas — On July 18, the Peregrine Fund, a non-profit organization based in Boise, Idaho, resumed its efforts to restore the endangered northern aplomado falcon to West Texas skies. With support from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Texas Hawking Association and private ranchers, the Fund will release 28 captive-bred falcons.
The young falcons, about 35 days old, will be placed at “hack sites” on July 18 to become acclimated to their surroundings for several days before being released, a standard practice for falcon reintroduction.

At the release sites, falcons will be placed in protective boxes on top of hack towers and fed for five to seven days. The hack boxes will be opened for the birds to escape in late July or early August.

This will take place on the Moon Ranch, Miller Ranch and Rancho Del Cielo in Jeff Davis County.

"Our release efforts have been so successful in South Texas, with 46 aplomado falcon pairs now established there, that we are now concentrating all our releases in West Texas" said J. Peter Jenny, Peregrine Fund vice president. “The habitat in West Texas is excellent for this species and landowners have been extremely supportive of our reintroduction efforts. The pay off is we are now beginning to see falcon pairs establishing territories in West Texas. We are extremely pleased to have the opportunity to release falcons on private ranches, made possible because of the Safe Harbor Program."

"As ranchers, we’re looking forward to having aplomado falcons back in West Texas,” said Jon Means, partner in the Means Ranch Company, which owns the Moon Ranch. “We’ve been partners in this program since 2002 and it’s been a pleasure working with The Peregrine Fund folks.”

The Means family has been ranching in West Texas for five generations.

The Texas Hawking Association is donating $1,000 to the Fund to support the West Texas aplomado falcon reintroduction project. The 200-member group includes people who train falcons and other birds of prey for hunting. (Falconers must have state and federal permits to practice their art.)

“To be a falconer is to be a conservationist,” said Steve Oleson, Texas Hawking Association president. “As an organization, we want to do our part to help all species flourish. Our first target years ago was getting peregrine falcon numbers back up, and our members helped the Peregrine Fund with that successful effort. Now we’re focusing on a Texas resident, the aplomado falcon. A few peregrines nest in Texas, but most just migrate through. The aplomado is here year-round. It’s not a bird traditionally used in falconry, but we want to have them back as part of natural Texas, just to be able to see them on the wing.”

“The key to this partnership is the private land stewards who are providing the habitat,” said Robert L. Cook, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department executive director. “The work of the nonprofit partners and government biologists here is important, to be sure, but without ranchers willing to host falcon releases and protect habitat to support them, these beautiful birds would not be coming back in our state.”

The release of aplomado falcons is being conducted under a “Safe Harbor” agreement between landowners, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and The Peregrine Fund.

The agreement encourages private landowners to participate in the restoration of the endangered bird by exempting additional provisions or liabilities under the Endangered Species Act.

Property owners who maintain a baseline number of aplomado falcons and agree to the release of falcons would be free to use or develop other areas of their property, even if the use results in “incidental take” of a falcon. There are currently more than 2 million acres in Texas enrolled in the aplomado falcon Safe Harbor Program.

The aplomado falcon is the one remaining falcon on the endangered species list and a top priority of The Peregrine Fund.

By the 1950s, it was no longer found in the United States until 1995, when a pair of falcons raised and released by biologists from The Peregrine Fund nested. At the end of 2005, 46 pairs were known to exist in the wild, two of those on the Moon Ranch.

Since July 1, 2002, landowners in 42 western Texas counties have been eligible to sign on to the Safe Harbor Agreement. These include Andrews, Brewster, Cochran, Crane, Crockett, Culberson, Dawson, Dimmit, Duval, Ector, Edwards, El Paso, Frio, Gaines, Hudspeth, Jeff Davis, Jim Hogg, Kinney, La Salle, Loving, Martin, Maverick, McMullen, Medina, Midland, Pecos, Presidio, Real, Reeves, Starr, Sutton, Terrel, Terry, Upton, Uvalde, Val Verde, Ward, Webb, Yoakum, Winkler, Zapata, and Zavala Counties.

ENV: Lions, Tigers and Feral Cats Oh My

Birds and Cats - The Cats Indoors! Campaign

The Problem
There are more than 90 million pet cats in the U.S., the majority of which roam outside at least part of the time. In addition, millions of stray and feral cats roam our cities, suburbs, and rural areas. Scientists estimate that free-roaming cats kill hundreds of millions of birds, small mammals, reptiles and amphibians each year. Cat predation is an added stress to wildlife populations already struggling to survive habitat loss, pollution, pesticides, and other human impacts (see: Domestic Cat Predation On Birds And Other Wildlife). Free-roaming cats are also exposed to injury, disease, parasites, getting hit by cars, or becoming lost, stolen, or poisoned. Millions of domestic cats are euthanized each year because there are not enough homes for them. Cats can also transmit diseases and parasites such as rabies, cat-scratch fever, and toxoplasmosis to other cats, wildlife or people.

The Solution
In 1997, American Bird Conservancy (ABC) launched the Cats Indoors! Campaign for Safer Birds and Cats to educate cat owners, decision makers, and the general public that cats, wildlife and people all benefit when cats are kept indoors, in an outdoor enclosure, or trained to go outside on a harness and leash. ABC developed many education materials, including fact sheets, posters, the popular brochure, Keeping Cats Indoors Isn’t Just For The Birds, an Educator’s Guide for Grades K-6, print and radio Public Service Announcements (PSAs), and more. Visit our download page for the complete list of materials.

What You Can Do
Join thousands of supporters and conduct a Cats Indoors! education campaign in your community using the materials ABC has developed. Involve conservation groups, humane societies, veterinarians, animal control agencies, county and state parks and wildlife agencies in the effort (see: Conducting A Cats Indoors! Campaign In Your Community).

For information on converting your outdoor cats to indoor cats, see the fact sheet: How to Make Your Outdoor Cat a Happy Indoor Cat. Also spay or neuter your cats before they can produce an un-wanted litter, and never abandon cats you cannot care for. Instead, find them a new home or take them to an animal shelter where they can be adopted. For a directory of humane societies and animal shelters near you, see the National Shelter Directory.

Contact your local media and ask them to run the print and radio Public Service Announcements (PSAs).
Sponsor a children’s poster competition for National Keep Your Cat Indoors Day held every year on the second Saturday in May in conjunction with International Migratory Bird Day. For a sample announcement and guidelines, click here.
Work for cat control ordinances in your city or county. See Get the Facts About Cat Laws and City of Aurora, Colorado Cat Restraint Law)
Link your organization’s web site to ours
Run an article on the issue in your organization’s newsletter.
Ask your state wildlife agency to adopt the Campaign and distribute materials.

ENV: Our Old Neighbor Black Francolin

Saving the Iraqi Partridges
A rare piece of good news from Iraq: a once-endangered bird is making a big comeback
By APARISIM GHOSH, Time, Posted Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2006


In the southwestern outskirts of Baghdad, not far from the airport, the presence of American soldiers has had at least one unexpected benefit. It has fostered the revival of a nearly extinct species of partridge.

The black partridge (francolinus francolinus) were almost hunted into extinction in the Saddam years by Iraqi sportsmen-hunters. But these days, that part of Baghdad is under U.S. military protection — it adjoins the largest military base in Iraq — and any Iraqi wielding a gun is liable to be tossed in jail on suspicion of being a terrorist. So no hunters dare go there, and the birds have made a strong comeback.

Local farmers in the area say partridge sightings, once rare, have become commonplace. One farmer told TIME his farm is being overrun by the birds. He'd like nothing better than to shoot a few — they make delicious eating, he says. But he worries that the gunshots may be overheard by the Americans. So the grouse swagger around unharmed. "They come right up to my door," he says. "It's as if they know they are untouchable."

North of Baghdad, near Saddam's hometown of Tikrit, the presence of American troops has led to a similar revival of another species once popular with Iraqi hunters: the sand grouse. The two bird species are featured in Iraqi postage stamps in the pre-Saddam era.

Hunting was a favorite pastime in pre-war Iraq; most families own at least one weapon. Saddam and his sons were keen hunters, stocking the compounds of their palaces with game birds and hares. But some of the most popular hunting areas, south of the Iraqi capital along the banks of the Tigris and Eurphrates rivers, have become strongholds of insurgent and terrorist groups; few Baghdad residents dare venture there. Late last year, the owner of one of Baghdad's largest gun stores said many of his customers were exchanging their hunting rifles for AK-47s — the better to protect their homes.

ENV: Canadian Spotted Owls

Spotted owl population dwindling
Mating pairs of Canada's rarest bird drop from six to three in space of one year
Larry Pynn, Vancouver Sun, Published: Monday, August 14, 2006

The number of known mating pairs of Canada's rarest bird, the northern spotted owl, has dropped to three from six and the overall population to 17 from 22 since last year, says the Sierra Legal Defence Fund.

The organization is urging the B.C. government to act immediately to save the endangered species. "If 17 birds doesn't constitute an imminent threat to survival, nothing does," staff lawyer Devon Page said in an interview.

"If they don't step in to save the spotted owl, they won't step in to save any species."

Spotted owls are the "most studied bird in Canada," said Page. "It's time to do something."

Page said the province continues to allow logging of spotted owl habitat while failing to protect proven nest sites, failing to expand monitoring for spotted owls, and failing to implement a strategy to augment the population, perhaps through captive breeding or relocation of birds from the U.S.

"If this is what the most endangered bird in Canada gets, how will all the other endangered species fare?"

Page said only two of the three known mating pairs had offspring this year, and one of those chicks died when the tree containing its nest fell over in the wind.

Historically, 300 to 500 pairs of spotted owls are thought to have lived in B.C.

Sierra Legal is among a coalition of environmental groups now before the Federal Court of Canada, trying to force the federal government to step in and save the owl under the Species At Risk Act given the provincial government's unwillingness to do so.

The coalition says logging in spotted owl areas increased from 492,746 cubic metres in 2001 to 602,773 cubic metres in 2004. It seeks to suspend logging of remaining forests 140 years and older that are under 1,000 metres of elevation in southwest B.C.

In response to the lawsuit, Page said, the province has provided Ottawa with a list of activities underway to save the owl. But he argued little has been done to date, and that B.C.'s actions amount to "a lot of sound and fury" that have the effect of allowing logging to continue in spotted owl habitat.

"They are clearly trying to impact timber harvesting as little as possible," he said.

Page noted the spotted owl also suffers because it is the responsibility not of the Environment Ministry but of Agriculture and Lands. "It's a divide and conquer thing," he said.

In April, the B.C. government announced it would spend $3.4 million on a five-year spotted owl recovery program that focuses on captive breeding and releases to the wild.

Environmental groups said the government plan does not do enough to protect the forest habitat of spotted owls.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

COM: Blogarithmic #135

Had my first Rufous Hummingbird ever -- and for the season of course -- today at the feeders. That makes five species at my feeders in just four months of working here. No pictures yet.

Some news -- Holly Riedel will be hosting a memorial party in honor of Roy Burney at her house on Labor Day, Monday, September 4th. More details to follow, but if you have a story to tell, or just want to listen and enjoy the company of us Burneyphiles, then mark that date on your calendar.

We, meaning the Guadalupe Stage Quartet, will be officially doing our first-ever production at the Point Theatre in October. We have been tossing the idea around for over a year, and had settled on A Lion in Winter -- showcasing Holly and Roy -- as our premiere show, and had booked the October slot. However Roy's death has made it difficult to do that show, so we are opening with Lend Me A Tenor instead. That too has its memories as Holly, Roy and i were all in it the last time it showed at The Point, and was one of the last big-run sellouts there. But it's a fun show and we think a much more lively way to honor Roy for now. Holly is producing, i'm directing.

We also plan to put on a Spring show, as well as Lion next fall. In late Spring 2007, after the One-act play run, we will be trying our hand at The Octette Bridge Club, a show we don't think has ever played the greater Kerr Theatre Zone. We're in the process now of contacting potential cast members for that one.

All the proceeds from all of these shows will fund an endowed scholarship for an Ingram theatre student in Roy Burney's name. Donations can also be made to that fund. Contact me for information on how to make donations if you'd like. We'd much appreciate that . . .


The men's list from Soccer America:

North Carolina is Soccer America's pick to win the 2006 NCAA Division I title, which will be decided at the Men's College Cup Dec. 1-3 in St. Louis. First, the Heels will have to get out of the ACC, which has four teams ranked in the top six and seven teams ranked in the top 19. The NCAA tournament committee went one better and awarded the ACC a record eight spots in last year's tournament.

Soccer America Men's Top 25

TEAM (2005 RECORD)
1 North Carolina (17-4-3)
2 SMU (14-6-3)
3 Virginia (12-5-3)
4 Maryland (19-4-2)
5 UCLA (12-5-3)
6 Clemson (15-6-3)
7 Akron (18-1-4)
8 Connecticut (16-3-2)
9 South Florida (13-6-2)
10 Notre Dame (12-8-3)
11 Penn State (13-7-2)
12 UNC Greensboro (16-6-1)
13 Creighton (15-5-3)
14 Indiana (13-3-6)
15 Duke (12-5-3)
16 New Mexico (18-2-3)
17 San Francisco (11-6-4)
18 Wake Forest (13-8-2)
19 Virginia Tech (10-5-5)
20 California (14-4-3)
21 UC Santa Barbara (13-5-3)
22 Old Dominion (15-4-2)
23 Cal State Northridge (15-4-3)
24 Wisconsin-Milwaukee (14-5-4)
25 Saint Louis (9-5-5)

1. NORTH CAROLINA. (ACC)
Elmar Bolowich’s Tar Heels have all the tools. They have a game-breaker in Englishman Ben Hunter (13 goals in his first season of NCAA ball). They have goalkeeping in Justin Hughes (13 shutouts in 25 career starts). They have experience in seven seniors (among 10 returning starters). They have youth in one of the country’s best freshman classes (striker Billy Dworsky, an Alabaman who starred on the Dallas Texans’ vaunted U-18 team, and defender Eric Lichaj and winger Eddie Ababio, both U.S. U-17 residency graduates). But perhaps most important, the Heels have the missing link in midfield (St. John’s transfer Garry Lewis replaces fellow Floridian Dax McCarty, who signed with MLS’s FC Dallas). “He plays the same position, and he is an aggressive player,” says Bolowich of his new ball-winner.

2. SMU (Conference-USA)
The Mustangs started 2-4-2 before catching fire. The secret to their turnaround? Coach Schellas Hyndman, a stern taskmaster, took a gentler approach with his young team. "For us to find a way to be competing in the College Cup semifinals was spectacular for this team," says Hyndman, who returns eight starters. The key is the sophomore class with Paulo da Silva, who scored five of his eight goals in the NCAA Tournament, Bruno Guarda, Daniel Lopez and Ryan Mirsky. They’re joined by Brown transfer Scott Geppert (Ivy League Rookie of the Year). Also transferring is junior defender Ben Shuleva, who started all 21 games for quarterfinalist St. John’s. Hyndman has raised $650,000 for renovations to Westcott Field intended to ensure that the Mustangs play NCAA Tournament games at home.

3. VIRGINIA (ACC)
The Cavaliers have perhaps their best shot at capturing a national championship since winning four in a row under Bruce Arena (1991-94). German Yannick Reyering, an All-ACC pick as a freshman, and Adam Cristman combined for 21 goals in 2005. Juniors Nico Colaluca and Jeremy Barlow return in midfield, where they will be joined by freshman phenom Jonathan Villanueva. Watch out for defender Bakary Soumare, who is healthy after red-shirting as a freshman with a foot injury.


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Wednesday, August 16, 2006

ENV: Scottish Crossbills

Many of the leads i get on cool bird stories come from Jeremy Taylor's fine daily compilations . . . thanks Jeremy!

A Scottish accent gives away Britain's only indigenous bird
By Paul Kelbie, Independent Online Scotland Correspondent, Published: 16 August 2006


After years of research, one of the longest-running disputes in the ornithological world has finally been resolved - the Scottish crossbill is officially Britain's only endemic species of bird.

For more than 100 years, since the German taxonomist Ernest Hartert claimed in 1904 that the type of finch inhabiting Scotland's conifer woodlands was a sub-species of crossbill, the bird-watching world has been divided.

Although the British Ornithologists Union has classed the Scottish crossbill as a distinct species since 1980 many ornithologists, including those in the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, have hesitated to follow suit, as they believed there was not enough scientific research to prove it was different from other crossbills.

But after undertaking years of study into the habits and characteristics of the bird, which thrives in Scotland's conifer woodland, the RSPB has at last accepted that the Scottish crossbill is unique to Britain.

"This research proves that the UK is lucky enough to have a unique bird species that occurs here and nowhere else - and this is our only one. This is very significant," said Dr Ron Summers, RSPB Scotland's senior researcher, who led the study.

Three types of crossbill live in Scotland: the common crossbill, which has a small bill best suited to extracting seeds from the cones of spruces; the parrot crossbill, which has a large bill suited to extracting seeds from pine cones; and the Scottish crossbill which has an intermediate bill size used to extract seeds from several different conifers. All three are similar in size and plumage, and DNA tests have showed they are genetically similar.

However, in trying to discover exactly what features the birds use to identify each other, ornithologists at RSPB investigated the calls of the three types of crossbill, and found that Scottish crossbills have quite distinct flight and excitement calls from others.

The researchers found that, just like native Scots people, the birds have a distinct Scottish accent or call, thought to be the method used by the birds to make sure they only attract mates of the same species.

During a long-term field study in the Highlands the RSPB scientists were able to confirm that the birds mate with those with a similar bill size and call. They also found that young Scottish crossbills inherit their bill sizes from their parents - an important piece of evidence confirming the status as a distinct species.

"The question of whether the Scottish crossbill is a distinct species, and therefore endemic to the UK, has vexed the ornithological world for many years," said Dr Summers. "Now that we have shown the Scottish crossbill exists and is endemic we must focus our conservation efforts in making sure it not only survives, but flourishes and that Scotland has plenty of the habitat that supports and maintains the population."

After years of research, one of the longest-running disputes in the ornithological world has finally been resolved - the Scottish crossbill is officially Britain's only endemic species of bird.

For more than 100 years, since the German taxonomist Ernest Hartert claimed in 1904 that the type of finch inhabiting Scotland's conifer woodlands was a sub-species of crossbill, the bird-watching world has been divided.

Although the British Ornithologists Union has classed the Scottish crossbill as a distinct species since 1980 many ornithologists, including those in the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, have hesitated to follow suit, as they believed there was not enough scientific research to prove it was different from other crossbills.

But after undertaking years of study into the habits and characteristics of the bird, which thrives in Scotland's conifer woodland, the RSPB has at last accepted that the Scottish crossbill is unique to Britain.

"This research proves that the UK is lucky enough to have a unique bird species that occurs here and nowhere else - and this is our only one. This is very significant," said Dr Ron Summers, RSPB Scotland's senior researcher, who led the study.

Three types of crossbill live in Scotland: the common crossbill, which has a small bill best suited to extracting seeds from the cones of spruces; the parrot crossbill, which has a large bill suited to extracting seeds from pine cones; and the Scottish crossbill which has an intermediate bill size used to extract seeds from several different conifers. All three are similar in size and plumage, and DNA tests have showed they are genetically similar.
However, in trying to discover exactly what features the birds use to identify each other, ornithologists at RSPB investigated the calls of the three types of crossbill, and found that Scottish crossbills have quite distinct flight and excitement calls from others.

The researchers found that, just like native Scots people, the birds have a distinct Scottish accent or call, thought to be the method used by the birds to make sure they only attract mates of the same species.

During a long-term field study in the Highlands the RSPB scientists were able to confirm that the birds mate with those with a similar bill size and call. They also found that young Scottish crossbills inherit their bill sizes from their parents - an important piece of evidence confirming the status as a distinct species.

"The question of whether the Scottish crossbill is a distinct species, and therefore endemic to the UK, has vexed the ornithological world for many years," said Dr Summers. "Now that we have shown the Scottish crossbill exists and is endemic we must focus our conservation efforts in making sure it not only survives, but flourishes and that Scotland has plenty of the habitat that supports and maintains the population."

COM: Blogarithmic #134

From Soccer America

Soccer America Preseason Women's Top 25
TEAM (2005 RECORD)
1 UCLA (22-2-2)
2 Portland (23-0-2)
3 North Carolina (23-1-1)
4 Florida State (20-4-1)
5 Santa Clara (17-5-2)
6 Notre Dame (22-3-0)
7 Virginia (18-6-1)
8 Penn State (23-0-2)
9 Texas A&M (18-4-2)
10 Boston College (13-6-2)
11 Tennessee (15-6-2)
12 Connecticut (15-5-2)
13 Duke (14-6-1)
14 Nebraska (14-8-1)
15 Texas (11-9-1)
16 Marquette (19-4-1)
17 West Virginia (12-6-3)
18 California (16-4-2)
19 Vanderbilt (17-3-3)
20 Stanford (10-7-3)
21 Illinois (12-7-3)
22 USC (13-6-2)
23 Yale (15-4-1)
24 Florida (13-6-1)
25 Georgia (12-6-2)


1. UCLA (Pac-10)The third time should be a charm for Jillian Ellis' Bruins. They fell to Notre Dame, 2-1, in the 2004 Women's Cup final and were blown out by Portland, 4-0, in the 2005 final. This year Ellis has the talent to finally capture the top prize. She graduated Jill Oakes and Iris Mora and lost Canadian star Kara Lang to a knee injury, but everyone else returns. Val Henderson is one of the country's most promising young goalies. Mary Castelanelli, Bristyn Davis and Erin Hardy anchor a seasoned backline. With Lang out for the 2006 campaign, Danesha Adams will need to carry more of the scoring load from midfield, where she is joined by Tina DiMartino. Along with Hardy, Adams and DiMartino, top recruit Lauren Cheney missed the start of the season to represent the USA at the U-20 World Championship.

9. Texas A&M (Big 12)G Guerrieri returns one of the most experienced teams in his tenure in College Station. Junior Ashley Pistorius came to A&M to play soccer and basketball, but she is now concentrating on soccer. She led the Big 12 in scoring last season with 22 goals and 12 assists for 56 points. The Aggies' other stars are also juniors: defender Paige Carmichael, who has battled back from a knee injury suffered in 2004, and midfielder Amy Berend.



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COM: Blograithmic #133

Whoa, i've been swamped. All my good intentions on posting for naught as i stay busier than i've ever been. Plus in rehearsals for A Streetcar Named Desire at the Point Theatre, directing my kids here in Making A Scene, and trying to keep up with the local fauna.

I have tons of articles stored up i've been meaning to post, lots of field reports, including a couple of important ones, some reviews, film news (really good news i think), and notes and stuff from friends that need to be passed on. For those who, or at least used to, visit regularly, i hope to get up and moving again soon. Patience. All my best, tg.

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ENV: Three Woodpeckers?

Unfortunately this, from the Smithsonian, is all i have on this right now. Will look for more info. . .

Genetic Study of Endangered Ivory-billed Woodpeckers

Ancient DNA was recently extracted and sequenced from National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) 80-150 year old specimens of endangered North American and Cuban Ivory-billed Woodpeckers (Campephilus principalis). The sequences were also compared to DNA sequences of the Imperial Woodpecker (Campephilus imperialis) of Mexico.

NMNH scientists Robert Fleischer and Carla Dove and colleagues began the project as a simple ?barcoding? effort to add the Ivory-billed Woodpecker sequence to the Barcode of Life Database (BoLD). In addition, they wanted to know whether a feather found in 1968 in Florida was really an Ivory-billed Woodpecker feather. It soon turned into a more interesting investigation about the evolutionary relationships of the woodpeckers themselves. Analysis of the DNA sequences revealed that the specimens represent three distinct genetic lineages that split from their ancestor in the mid-Pleistocene (about one million years ago). Each lineage, the Cuban and North American Ivory-billed Woodpeckers, and the Imperial Woodpecker, is likely a separate species. The DNA sequences from these woodpecker specimens provide an important resource for the identification of samples or remains of these critically endangered and charismatic woodpeckers.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

OBT: Roy Burney

our friend Roy Burney passed away this afternoon. it is a sad place here today.

i will likely be traveling out of state the next few days. will get back to everything i promised when i return.