Tag Archives: conservation

Birding Ecuador: Travel & Grassroots Conservation

A wintering Blackburnian Warbler in the Ecuadorean rainforest. Photo ©Will Freedberg

 

More than a dozen species of migratory birds from Massachusetts also depend on Ecuadorean forests for wintering habitat. At the intersection of five tropical biomes, Ecuador packs 1,600 bird species into an country the size of Oregon, making it a hot destination for international bird tours. But as in any part of the world, bird conservation efforts succeed far more frequently when adequately funded, or when they contribute to peoples’ livelihoods.

If You Build It, They Will Come

Take the case of the Amagusa reserve owned by two farmers, Sergio and Doris Basantes. When the young couple inherited some land in northwestern Ecuador, they wondered about hosting ecotourists as an alternative to clearing forest for agriculture. They thought that tourism would never come their way– they normally saw tourists visiting towns much closer to the capital, with better infrastructure.

They may have underestimated how motivated birdwatchers are. Word got out about some rare species nesting along the road near their land, and lo and behold, birders began to make the trip to see them. Doris and Sergio quickly set up feeders and trails on their own property, and started planning to construct cabins.

The site abounds with flashy tropical birds. Migratory Blackburnian Warblers mingle with resident Glistening-green Tanagers, and other species unique to the region. Some of these endemic birds, like the coveted and clownish Toucan Barbet, nest in plain view.

 

Feeders at Amagusa attract globally rare Moss-backed Tanagers.  Photo ©Will Freedberg

 

A Toucan Barbet at its nest cavity. Photo ©Will Freedberg

Take A Trip For Conservation!

Sergio and Doris are proud to make a living off of their bustling ecotourism operation. But as a strategy for bird conservation abroad, ecotourism is limited mostly by demand. Only increased interest on tourists’ part can allow sustainable birding lodges to multiply and protect more land.

To help ecotourism grow in Ecuadorsimply visit!  Small-scale birding lodges abound. There’s even an upcoming Mass Audubon tour that visits hotspots in a different region the eastern Andes and Amazonfeaturing two locally-owned lodges, and a dazzling surfeit of tropical birds.

 

On the Road: National Adaptation Forum

by Daniel Brown and Jeff Collins

Jeff Collins, Director of Conservation Science, and Daniel Brown, Climate Change Program Coordinator, attended the National Adaptation Forum (NAF) in May in Saint Paul Minnesota.

The National Adaptation Forum is a gathering of scientists, educators, and community leaders working to address the challenges of climate change.

The field of climate adaptation is advancing rapidly, and Daniel presented on Mass Audubon’s work with communities to identify local critical weather thresholds. Thresholds are used to plan for emergencies and design infrastructure, but those thresholds are often outdated and difficult to measure. On top of that, climate change is making extreme weather events change over time, creating a great deal of uncertainty for communities looking to stay safe, healthy, and resilient. That may be soon changing, however, based on the assessment of experts at NAF. Land managers and city planners may soon get a whole host of new tools that will help plan for the size and frequency of future extreme weather.

Some of the most common themes discussed at NAF were environmental justice and the need for ecological conservation efforts to make communities more resilient. For years, the focus has been on what’s called “green” infrastructure—using restored landscape types like parks, greenways, and rain gardens to lessen the effects of climate change. Now the focus seems to be shifting to protecting undeveloped open areas and letting nature provide a resilient, adaptable places for people and wildlife. Mass Audubon’s Mapping and Prioritizing Parcels for Resilience (MAPPR) tool will help with that effort by allowing land conservationists to identify parcels that are a high priority for protection.

Climate change poses many challenges for our communities in the decades ahead. Underserved communities with less access to open space tend to be particularly vulnerable, but the inspiring work of so many institutions across North America gives plenty of reasons to be hopeful.

 

Please consider supporting our bird conservation work by making a donation today. Thank you!

Old Baldy Gets a Haircut

By Tom Lautzenheiser, Central/Western Regional Scientist

Mass Audubon’s Old Baldy Wildlife Sanctuary in Otis offers visitors with a rare view in south Berkshire County: a near 360-degree panoramic view from the summit of its eponymous hill. The landscape below is nearly entirely forested, with few interruptions. The clearing at the summit itself was expanded around 2000, when a previous landowner sought to subdivide the property, and at the same time the forest growing on Old Baldy’s sides was heavily logged. The resulting overlook is a gem in the Berkshires.

The forest harvesting, while completed for economic return, resulted in a conservation benefit because it created much needed habitat for young-forest associated wildlife species—many of whom are experiencing steep long-term population declines throughout the region due largely to habitat loss. In the years following the harvest young-forest species like Chestnut-sided Warbler, Indigo Bunting, White-throated Sparrow, and Eastern Towhee, thrived in the thicket.

Female Eastern Towhee © Susan Wellington

However, in recent years the canopy has been closing as the trees grow, and this crucial habitat has been disappearing.

With the successional clock ticking, Mass Audubon sought and was awarded a Habitat Management Grant from the state Division of Fisheries & Wildlife, which funded the maintenance and expansion of the clearing at Old Baldy in the early spring of 2017.

Old Baldy following the 2017 clearing of trees to create habitat

The loggers did their work well, though the transition appears shocking, with stumps and downed tops strewn as after a storm, and the remnant trees seeming thin and lonely over the slash. Importantly, however, increased sunlight on the ground will stimulate a flush of sprouting, and within a growing season or two the cleared area should be lush with brambles and tree sprouts, again forming the dense cover favored by many species of conservation concern. Within a few years the site will again be prime habitat supporting populations of young-forest birds. Many other wildlife species, including white-tailed deer and black bear, will also find food and shelter in the cleared area.

Until the dense regrowth sprouts up, visitors may notice large brush piles scattered throughout the site. These brush piles are supplemental habitat for New England cottontail, our native rabbit species that is of critical conservation concern.

Mass Audubon’s decision to maintain and expand a forest clearing at Old Baldy was not made lightly, but was made in recognition that without concerted effort, populations of dozens of wildlife species reliant on young-forest habitat will continue to dwindle in the state. Just as the views from the summit of Old Baldy were beginning to be obscured by maturing trees, habitat quality for young-forest species was also declining, and active intervention was necessary to secure the area’s value for these species.

It was time for Old Baldy to get a haircut. And like a haircut, the trees at Old Baldy will grow back, without substantially affecting the land underneath.

 

Please consider supporting our bird conservation work by making a donation today. Thank you!

The Bobolink Project: 2017 season update

 

Male Bobolink © Allan Strong

The Bobolinks are arriving in New England and we’re finalizing the contracts with our participating Bobolink Project farmers. Thanks to the generosity of our Bobolink Project donors, we can protect over 630 acres of farmland this year! In return for some compensation, the Bobolink Project farmers will delay mowing on their hay fields until the young grassland birds have had time to fledge.

As in past years, we had more acres submitted into the project than we could cover with the available pool of donations. This year, we received 40 applications from farmers in Vermont, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, and New York—but our donation pool, as of April 1st (our deadline for donations), could cover only 17 of the farmers’ fields. This may sound disappointing, but we are able to cover 20% more acres this year at a lower per acre price of $60 (vs. $75 last year).

We are glad that the project is continuing to grow and look forward to welcoming grassland birds to fields enrolled in the program this summer and sharing our results with you. Keep up to date with The Bobolink Project by signing up to the mail-list or follow us on Facebook.

The Bobolink Project donations are accepted all year. The 2018 donation pool is already growing: since April 1st we have received over $8,000 in donations that will be saved for next year. Donate now to help us protect more acres and birds next year.

 

Check out the updated Bobolink Project website!

Hi all,

We are pleased to announce that we have finished updating our website for the coming 2017 Bobolink Project season. Check out the new information at www.bobolinkproject.com. The farmer applications are live and donations are very welcome.

We will be accepting farmer applications until March 20.

  • IMPORTANT: We have changed some of the criteria for eligible farms and clarified a few other things so we highly recommend that you thoroughly read through the For Farmers page.

We also encourage donors to donate before April 1 when we will begin selecting farms for the program. The reason why only donations before April 1, 2017 will be applied to the 2017 season is because the number of farms and which farms we accept into the program depend wholly on how many donations we have pooled up to that deciding date when we start creating the contracts. Any donations that come in after April 1 will be saved for the following 2018 season.

Contact us at bobolinkproject@massaudubon.org if you have any questions.

We are looking forward to a new season of The Bobolink Project!