November 2012

- By Linda Orkin

This month the American Bird Conservancy published the first ever complete conservation assessment that details the status of the full diversity of birds of the 50 states and dependent territories. This is an ambitious report, as it includes subspecies with different ranges and different habitat requirements and encourages consideration of their conservation needs. If anyone is interested in accessing this report, including an annotated checklist detailing the amount of concern each bird warrants, you can go to More than one third of all species warrant action for conservation. What is a surprise to me is that it is only one third. Skyscraper and residential window strikes, cell tower strikes, free roaming cats, conversion of grasslands to commodity crops, long line snagging and drowning, resource degradation along migratory routes, deforestation of tropical forests and old growth temperate forests, predator control on range lands, improperly situated wind farms, the list of devastating threats to birds seems to have no end. It is hard to imagine how the billions of birds that are lost each year in our western hemisphere alone do not result in a precipitous decline in all species of birds across the board. Perhaps, it is too hard to measure all the loss. Certainly, in a historical context, since the industrialization of our landscape, the numbers of individual birds must be significantly lower. Anecdotally, we all notice the losses.

It can be totally paralyzing to think of the dangers birds face in terms of how we can best serve them. An organization like our bird club takes small steps in making a difference. We organize one seminar a month at the Lab of Ornithology, with presenters who range the gamut from travelers with wonderful photos and stories to graduate students with unique and informed perspectives on cutting edge research to artistic people who remind us where the birds’ niche in our souls is. We lead bird walks introducing people to the often unnoticed lives swirling around them. We participate in cleanups. We have funded, edited, and released two wonderful books: “Native Plants for Native Birds” and the “Guide to Birding in the Cayuga Lake Basin.” We are a group of people for whom birds are the gateway to the natural world that we want to save and share with all.

We are embarking on a venture that is new to us, at least in recent memory, the formation of a Conservation Action Committee. It is being chaired by a woman who has been involved in conservation initiatives in Tompkins County, and she was introduced to you all in the last newsletter and at the last meeting. Candace Cornell has many wonderful ideas, and she and I are both very anxious to have an enthusiastic group of people joining us in this endeavor. In this newsletter you will find her report on the Unique Natural Area meeting that she and I both attended last week. The first meeting of the Conservation Acton Committee, CAC, will be on November 17th at 7 PM at her house. Please do think about coming to this with all of your good ideas and passion. Conservation is one of the prongs of our mission statement; it is a good time to focus on that.