Tag Archives: Bird

Amusing Monday: ‘BirdNote’ telling stories for the past 10 years

Saturday will be the 10th anniversary of “BirdNote,” a public radio program about birds from all over the world, with frequent references to Puget Sound and the Pacific Northwest.

The well-produced audio segment resembles “StarDate,” which was the inspiration for the show, as founder Chris Peterson describes in a program to be aired this week. Check out the page “BirdNote at 10: 10 years of stories about birds and nature!” or listen to this clip:

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Marty, the marsh wren, is BirdNote's mascot. Click image for info about his travels.
Marty, the marsh wren, is BirdNote’s mascot. Click for info about his travels.

BirdNote originated in 2005 at a single station — KPLU in Tacoma — and expanded to 50 participating stations by 2010 with about 200 stations today, according to a list of facts put together for the anniversary. Birdnote began as a once-a-week segment before expanding to daily segments in 2008.

The searchable archive covers more than 1,200 shows, featuring more than 650 species of birds. Besides the daily audio clips, each webpage links to related sources — including photos or videos; a little history or biography; scientific explanations; occasional notes or blogs; and often more information about the featured birds.

In honor of the 10th anniversary of BirdNote, and since this is a blog about water issues, I’ve picked out 20 clips from the past two years or so that I think you will enjoy:

Marbled murrelets: As fish go, so go the murrelets (December 2012)

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Winter on the Columbia: It may be winter, but there’s a lot to see… (December 2012)

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Seabirds in decline: What’s become of them? (January 2013)

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Red-throated Loons of Deception Pass: They can’t walk on land, but they’re graceful in flight! (March 2013)

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Double-crested cormorant: What are they doing with wings like that? (April 2013)

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Probing with sandpipers: The right tool for the job (April 2013)

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Citizen scientists monitor pigeon guillemots: Dedication, information, and …. a tattoo? (September 2013)

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Tony Angell reflects on nature: From Puget Sound through an artist’s eye (October 2013)

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Buffleheads in Winter: Our smallest duck returns from the north! (December 2013)

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The Ballet of the Grebes: Birds do the strangest things! (May 2014)

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Monitoring Rhinoceros Auklets on Protection Island: Auklets are fascinating research subjects! (June 2014)

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Amazing aquatic American dipper: What’s that bird doing in the river? (August 2014)

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The heron and the snake: It’s a rough world for a young blue heron (September 2014)

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Chorus line in the sky: sandpipers in elegant fashion (October 2014)

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Gull identification: Black, white, gray… how do you sort them all out? (October 2014)

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The oystercatcher’s world: Life in the wave zone! (November 2014)

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The music of black scoters: A mysterious, musical wail… (November 2014)

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Diving birds — below the surface: If only we could see them under water! (December 2014)

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A swirl of snow geese: Barry Lopez and Snow Geese (January 2015)

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What happens when birds get wet? Their rain shell shields their down layer (January 2015)

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Amusing Monday: ‘Quack,’ means it’s time to go

Just before Christmas, my wife Sue bought a wall clock with a face that appears to be a water-color print of a nice cottage in a meadow. There’s a stream in the foreground and trees in the background. Sue said she wanted to have a clock in the bathroom to keep her on time as she gets dressed and ready to leave the house.

Audubon singing bird clock / Click on image to visit DutchGuard.com and hear the birds

The day after she put up the clock, as I was getting out of the shower, the bathroom suddenly became immersed in the sound of singing birds. Sue had purchased a clock that somehow forced a large number of birds to sing on cue at the top of every hour.

I’ve gotten used to the clock, but I was wondering if people really enjoy time pieces that make animal noises. Judging by what I found on the Internet, I guess they do. The Audubon clock, at right, features the sounds of real birds, unlike the mixture of birds calls that come from out bathroom.

The folks at DutchGuard.com are serious about their bird clocks:

“Don’t be fooled by imitations. Our original bird clocks sing longer and sound like real birds… Most people buy our bird clocks because of the wonderful songs, but we would be remiss if we did not mention the attention to detail which went into the pictures. In consultation with experts every effort was made to accurately depict in true colors each of the twelve birds. Our insistence on getting the images and sounds ‘just right’ took the better part of a year.”

Other clocks are more amusing. I’ve posted some some of the ones I have found. Click on the little MP3 player to hear the sound, or click on the image for the website where you can order any of these clocks. You may find other websites featuring the same clocks but without the sound samples.

      1. Duck Talking Alarm Clock
      2. Frog Talking Alarm Clock

      3. National Geographic: Sea Lion
      4. National Geographic: Dolphin
      5. National Geographic: Polar Bear
      6. National Geographic: Chimpanzee

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Researchers poised for Elwha ecosystem studies

The Elwha watershed promises to be an outdoor laboratory for the revival of an ecosystem after two dams are removed from the Elwha River.

Elwha Dam construction begins. (Click on image for webcam page.)
Olympic National Park photo

Dam removal began Thursday at Glines Canyon Dam, as I traveled to Port Angeles for a conference of more than 350 scientists and other interested persons. This group came together to learn about baseline studies conducted to date and to hear about anticipated changes in the ecosystem. Check out my story in Sunday’s Kitsap Sun.

Meanwhile, a controversy over a fish hatchery operated by the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe threatens to erupt into a lawsuit. Several environmental groups have issued a 60-day notice to sue under the Endangered Species Act, saying raising steelhead from another area — Chambers Creek — could imperil the recovery of threatened chinook salmon and bull trout in the Elwha. See reporter Lynda Mapes’ story in the Seattle Times.

Will Stelle of the National Marine Fisheries Service, which oversees federal protections for salmon, said discussions about the hatchery are ongoing, but federal treaties assure the tribes a right to fish, and those rights cannot be ignored. A five-year moratorium on fishing has been imposed, but tribal officials say they may need hatchery-reared fish when fishing resumes.

About a year ago, I briefly described the restoration plan for each species — including salmon and steelhead — in a package of stories for the Kitsap Sun. See “Elwha Project Expected to Blast Open Nature’s Door to Bountiful Fish Runs.”

As for last week’s Elwha River Science Symposium, it was a remarkable group of researchers who discussed all aspects of ecosystem restoration, from physical processes like water and sediment, to all kinds of plants and animals. To get a taste of the presentation, read through the conference abstracts (PDF 584 kb).

I mentioned a few of the presentations in Sunday’s Kitsap Sun, and I could talk about them for hours. There was one presentation about birds that surprised me, and I wanted to share some of the conclusions with you.

John McLaughlin of Huxley College at Western Washington University explored the question of how birds might help restore vegetation in the reservoirs and flood plains associated with the Elwha and Glines Canyon dams.

Of 39 major native plants in the watershed, 23 have their seeds dispersed by birds. That’s 59 percent of the plants of interest. If managers could get the birds working for them, they might not need to plant as much vegetation by hand.

That 59 percent is higher than most temperate regions of the world, where normally birds disperse seeds from 25 to 40 percent of the plants, McLaughlin said. But it’s a lower percentage than for most tropical regions, where birds may disperse up to 90 percent of all the plants in the area.

By watching birds fly from vegetated areas to more barren areas and collecting samples of their scat, McLaughlin found that robins disperse more seeds than all other birds combined. In fact, the total was close to 100 percent for robins. While there are plenty of other bird species in the ecosystem, most typically do not fly from one habitat type to another, McLaughlin told the gathering.

He also found that most of the seeds deposited by robins ended up in and near logjams and piles of woody debris.

“Birds are agents of restoration,” he told the group, “but for them to work with us, you have to give them what they need, and that’s large woody debris.”

If one wants to use birds to replant the forest, the first step is to consider which plants you want to disperse, he said. Then downed trees and limbs could be pulled together into a pile, or one could simply leave existing piles in strategic locations. The woody piles must be located far enough from the desirable plants that the birds can make a difference in dispersing seeds. But if the piles are too far away, the birds may not cooperate with the plan.

As for the concern about birds dispersing invasive plants as well as desirable ones, many of the undesirables were removed from the area around the dams in preparation for dam removal. The concern about invasives is reduced further by understanding that only five of the 20 invasive plants are dispersed by birds.