Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Golden Gate, Santa Clara Valley Audubons answer article on Altamont

The following was published in the East Bay Express on October 27 in response to an article by Robert Gammon. The original article is here.

Climate Change Threatens Birds

While well-intended, Robert Gammon's article suffers from the author's preconceptions about the controversy in the Altamont Pass and a lack of research. For one, Mr. Gammon's article relies on data from 2007 and prematurely concludes that wind turbines in the Altamont Pass are "shredding raptors at an increasing rate." Yet, as Dr. Smallwood of Alameda County's Scientific Review Committee explained later in the second to last paragraph of the article, everyone involved is waiting for the most recent mortality estimates to be released. Until the most recent mortality estimates are released, it is premature to conclude whether the wind companies' mortality reduction measures have worked.

Mr. Gammon's article fails to provide any context for wind energy or avian mortality in the Altamont or the complexity of the controversy. According to the National Audubon Society, climate change is expected to result in the loss of 25-33 percent of all species on earth, including many species of birds. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change anticipates that climate change will be the most significant driver in the loss of global biodiversity by the end of this century. In 2008, Governor Schwarzenegger issued a widely-lauded executive order to mandate that California get 33 percent of its power from renewable energy resources by 2020. Wind power is necessary to reach this goal and to minimizing impacts of climate change. Unfortunately, some degree of avian mortality appears inevitable wherever wind farms are developed.

Notably, Mr. Gammon's article fails to include interviews with representatives of the California Energy Commission, the California Department of Fish & Game, or the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service — the agencies tasked with regulating energy development and wildlife resources in California. For decades, none of these agencies acted to reduce avian mortality in the Altamont.

Mike Boyd and Shawn Smallwood are right about many things. Too many birds continue to be killed in the Altamont unnecessarily. The settlement — to which CARE is a signatory — is a consensus document; and, we believe that the wind companies have not always met their obligations. We demanded that companies remove additional high-risk turbines after they missed some early deadlines. While we are concerned that the wind companies have not been adequately held accountable for the continued killing of birds in the Altamont, we all must wait for the most recent monitoring team report so that the Scientific Review Committee can determine whether measures implemented have been effective in reducing avian mortality in the Altamont.

We find it unfortunate that Mr. Boyd, or any observer, would consider Golden Gate Audubon (or any Audubon chapter) to be more "pro-wind" than "pro-bird." Our staff and volunteers dedicate every day to making the Bay Area a safer place for birds and other wildlife. Rather than offer cheap shots at those trying to solve these problems, we encourage everyone who cares about birds and other wildlife to get involved and help us solve this apparently intractable question: how do we develop new, renewable energy resources quickly and on a large scale in ways that protect current wildlife populations?

There are no easy answers, but we urge the East Bay Express' readers to help solve these problems by joining the stakeholder groups and public information meetings about wind power in the Altamont (and elsewhere) and by contacting their state legislators, the California Energy Commission, the Department of Fish & Game, and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to enforce environmental laws and implement policies that protect birds and other wildlife as California develops renewable energy projects. Only with input from the public and the full involvement of state and federal agencies will we even begin to develop new energy resources wisely.

Mark Welther, Executive Director, Golden Gate Audubon

Bob Power, Executive Director, Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Wintu Audubon leads wind energy mitigation effort in Shasta

Wintu Audubon led efforts to mitigate for significant impacts on Bald Eagle and Sandhill Crane at the first wind energy project in Shasta County. Construction on the 42 turbine site begins in October, 2009. Energy developer Babcock & Brown agreed to fund research on Bald Eagle and to mitigate for habitat loss for Sandhill Crane at a ratio of 4 to 1. California Department of Fish & Game is purchasing wetlands to add to a reserve for Sandhills nearby. The efforts at Wintu were led by Conservation Chair Claudia Yerion-Lyons.

Mendocino CoastAudubon offers community service to beach violators

Mendocino Coast member Becky Bowen reported at a recent Northern California Council meeting that the chapter has launched a workshop program for California State Parks and California State Department of Fish & Game rangers on beach violations as part of their SAVE OUR SHOREBIRDS program. Not only did citations for walking dogs off leash, vehicles and horses on beach and other violations increase 100% but Mendocino Coast offered to provide community service to convicted violators in the form of hours of shorebird monitoring. There's a win win.

Mendocino Coast Audubon watches Blue Whale

At a NorCAL Council Meeting, Mendocino Coast reported on a Blue Whale that got beached on their coastline recently. Seems that the krill and other nutrients are very abundant and close to shore bringing the largest mammal on the planet within sight of the shore. MCA reported that the dead whale is a research opportunity for local students at Humboldt University.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Golden Gate Audubon receives national Environmental Education Award

Golden Gate Audubon's Eco-Oakland program received the award for Outstanding Service to Environmental Education by an Organization operating at the local level at the October 5-7, 2009, conference of the North America Association of Environmental Education in Portland, Oregon. This is national recognition for a local education program. Shown here are Eco-Oakland Program Manager Anthony DeCicco and Golden Gate Executive Director Mark Welther receiving the award. Anthony and the Eco-Education youth gave one of the outstanding presentations at the March 2009 Assembly at Asilomar.

Friday, October 2, 2009

LA Audubon breaks ground on USF&W native plant garden at elementary school

On September 25th, 2009 Dorsey High School students from the Baldwin Hills Restoration Leader and Greenhouse Internship programs visited Leo PolitiElementary School to teach students how to use compasses and test soil to prepare for restoration. Leo Politi students learned how to use a compass to measure the aspect of a slope and sampled three types of soil - pure sand, pure clay, and then a sample of their campus's soil. Restoration Leaders and Greenhouse Interns will be working with students at Leo Politi Elementary throughout the school year to help establish a native habitat garden as habitat for birds and other wildlife on the Leo Politi campus. Los Angeles Audubon, Leo Politi Elementary, the Greenhouse Program, and NewFields are working together with the help of a schoolyard habitat grant from US Fish & Wildlife.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

30 Audubon chapters oppose drilling for oil in California coastal waters

In a coordinated effort led by Audubon California Director of Policy Dan Taylor and the newly formed Chapter Political Action Network (CPAN) 30 chapters joined Audubon California in opposing offshore drilling for oil in California's waters. The network opposition will be used in signing letters and opposing legislation or executive orders that might open the door to drilling offshore.

Napa/Solano's Cheryl Harris honored by Red Cross

American Red Cross of Napa County presented a Real Hero of Napa County Environment Award to Cheryl Harris, President of Napa/Solano Audubon in a ceremony on September 22, 2009 sponsored by the Napa Valley Register and Trinchero Family Estates vineyards. Harris was honored for her work restoring habitat at vineyards for birds, and for educating the community on the benefits of restoration, a program aided by a Toyota Together Green Innovation grant awarded to her chapter.
"Birds indicate the health of an environment. In the last 40 years, many bird populations have declined 70-90% as a result of loss of habitat. Harris is passionate about the need to do more to provide habitat for wildlife in Napa County," Red Cross said in honoring Harris.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

4 California chapters win 2009 Toyota Innovation grants!

San Diego, Los Angeles, Golden Gate and San Bernardino Valley Audubons were notified that they would be awarded Toyota Together Green Innovation grants totalling $ 124,632, or 33.8% of the total amount of grant awards to the 17 Audubon chapters in the U.S.

San Diego Audubon's winning project plans to connect communities with native habitat coridors for wildlife. Los Angeles Audubon will continue to restore Baldwin Hills Park using an education/intern program aimed at South Central high school students. Golden Gate Audubon will monitor shorebird populations in wetlands in the second year of a program engaging the diverse Bay Area community. San Bernardino Valley Audubon plans to restore wetlands at the Salton Sea to help Black Rail and other species of birds in partnership with the Torres-Martinez tribe.

Congratulations to these three Southern California and one Bay Area chapters!

Wintu Audubon is first chapter on wind project TAC

Wintu Audubon Conservation Chair Claudia Lyons-Yerion announced that her chapter will be the first Audubon chapter in California to sit on the Technical Advisory Committee to review wildlife impacts on a wind project. Claudia reported on the efforts of her chapter to protect Sandhill Cranes and other species that might conflict with Hatchett Ridge Wind Development Project near Mt. Shasta. She also announced the demise of the TANC powerline project. Claudia's full report is available by email from ggeorge at

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Mt. Diablo Audubon newsletter editor goes to bat once again for woodpeckers

22 Acorn woodpeckers were shot under a depradation permit issued to the Rossmoor condominium community from U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service before intervention from Mt. Diablo Audubon and Audubon California. Following the intervention, the depradation stopped and the permit lapsed. However, just before the permit lapsed, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services unexpectedly trapped over 20 woodpeckers to use in an experiment to determine the best way to discourage them. Mt. Diablo Audubon QUAIL newsletter editor Ellis Myers commented on the latest development in the ongoing Acorn woodpecker controversy at Rossmore in Walnut Creek in the Bay Area. His letter to the editor of CONTRA COSTA TIMES is here. More coverage is on Mt. Diablo Audubon's website here and in the July/August QUAIL which will be posted on that site.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Pasadena Audubon, Los Angeles Audubon, Audubon Center at Debs Park launch 3rd annual AUDUBON FILM FRIDAYS

Los Angeles Audubon, Pasadena Audubon and Audubon Center at Debs Park are hosting our third annual FILM FRIDAYS at the Audubon Center at Debs Park. The free series in Spanish and English is shown on a wide screen outdoors under the stars for families and kids.
Friday, June 26th: Over the Hedge: A comedy about a group of animals taking back the neighborhood... One snack at a time.  (Spanish with English Subtitles)
Friday, July 24th: Water and Watersheds explored through two shorts-  Stream Spirit Rising and On the Arroyo Seco and the internationally acclaimed FLOW (English with Spanish Subtitles)
Friday, August 28th: The Education of Little Tree:- Little Tree is an 8-year-old Cherokee boy, who, learns the wisdom of the Cherokee way of life.  (English with Spanish Subtitles)
Prior to the shows, we will have Birds Walks in the park starting at 6:45 p.m. and running to 7:45 p.m.  Showtime is at 8 p.m. in the courtyard of the Audubon Center at Debs Park. Refreshments are provided by Trader Joe's!
Location: Audubon Center at Deb's Park 4700 North Griffin Avenue, Los Angeles CA 90031
For more information call: 323.221.2255

Bay Area Audubon Chapters (BAAC) united for Alameda Wildlife Refuge

Bay Area chapters are advocating for USF&W Service to accept Alameda Wildlife Refuge from U.S. Navy because of Least Tern colony. Audubon California has also written a letter of comment supporting that position. 

Friends of the Alameda Wildlife Refuge, a project initiated by Golden Gate Audubon Society, trains and maintains a corps of volunteers committed to protecting and enhancing the wildlife of the proposed Alameda National Wildlife Refuge.

In cooperation with the College of Alameda and Encinal High school, Friends of Alameda Wildlife Refuge has developed an environmental education program that involves training volunteers to act as docents for the refuge.  

Good news for seabirds at Gualala!

The Sea Ranch California Coastal National Monument Task Force won a national award given by the Bureau of Land Management in recognition of its monitoring efforts at Gualala Point Island.  The Task Force was one of eight volunteer groups to be recognized this year.  Madrone Audubon’s Diane Hichwa will be going to Washington, D.C. to receive the award. 

Also, California Coastal Commission decision to consider fireworks “development” needing a permit was ratified by California State Appeals Court on Friday, April 17. 

Central Sierra Audubon hosts Central Valley/Sierra Council meeting

  • presentation of genetic study on 5 populations of Great Gray Owl that suggests the California population is isolated and distinct. (Josh Hull, UC Davis)
  • Funding availability for restoration of San JoaquinRiver. (Jordan Wellwood, Audubon California)
  • Important Bird Areas in the Central Valley/Sierra (Andrea Jones, Audubon California)
  • Building your chapter through grant funding 

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Big Day at Tejon Ranch

Audubon California Executive Director Graham Chisholm snapped this photo of eleven California Condors roosting in an oak tree during a visit to Tejon Ranch. The visit was part of a two day effort during spring migration to document species of plants, birds and other animals on the ranch. Prior to the effort, Jim Hardesty of San Fernando Valley Audubon Society led Olga Clarke of Los Angeles Audubon and others on a private field trip on the ranch as part of the Southwest Bird club. To join the club, contact Jim by email here

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Sacramento Audubon publishes bird guide

Bird enthusiasts who live in the Sacramento area really have it good. Not only does their area feature one of the state's most spectacular array of birds and wildlife, but they also have a great local Audubon chapter. Sacramento Audubon Society recently made things even better by publishing a new, greatly expanded edition of "Birding in the Sacramento Region," a must-have guide for bird enthuasiasts.

The guide covers 77 sites, nearly twice as many as the previous edition, all described by experienced birders familiar with the birding spots. New Google maps allow more precise pinpointing of site locations, and the seperate section on where to find different species is much more detailed.

The nearly 200-page guide also includes information on where to find checklists and guides for other areas of Northern California, how to contact Audubon chapters and other conservation organizations in this part of the state, with addresses and websites, and a rundown on special events throughout the year.

It's ring-bound to withstand heavy use, with a sturdy plastic cover featuring portraits by Dan Brown of Nuttall's Woodpecker, California Thrasher, and Yellow-billed Magpie, all unique to this area.

The book can be purchased for $10 from Sacramento Audubon Society and at the Effie Yeaw Nature Center, and with a slight mark-up from Wild Birds & Gardens at Madison and Fair Oaks, Wildli Birds Unlimited at Loehman's Plaza, and The Naturalist in Davis.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Assembly report - Chapter Volunteer Awards

At each Assembly, Audubon California gives the Chapter Volunteer Award for Outstanding Service to exceptional individuals who have made an outstanding contribution towards the Audubon mission. On Sunday at the Assembly,  Audubon California gave the 2009 Chapter Volunteer Award for Outstanding Service to Steve Ferry of Santa Barbara Audubon, Nick Freeman of Los Angeles Audubon, Mike Prather of Eastern Sierra Audubon, Robin Winslow Smith of Sequoia Audubon, Tam Taafe of La Purisima Audubon, and Marilyn Waits of Redbud Audubon. The group is pictured above with Glenn Olson, Audubon California’s Executive Director.

Assembly report - Sierra Celebration

Everything we do at Audubon began with a love of birds. That’s how our movement began more than a century ago. And yet, when one gets caught up in the activity of conservation, protecting, and fighting, and responding to need, it can be easy to forget the love that brought you to this in the first place. Tonight’s program at the Audubon California Assembly featured a celebration of the Sierra Nevada hosted by educator/naturalist John Muir Laws, author of Field Guide to the Sierra Nevada. What Jack Laws does better than most these days is share his enthusiasm for California’s great outdoors. And while his message tonight was all about our responsibility to steward our natural resources, he intertwined that with a call for us to connect at a personal level with nature. “What we have to do is a joyful act,” he said. While the Tresspassers played modern Sierra bluegrass music in front of projected photos by Galen Rowell, Rob Hirsch, Alison Sheehey, and a film by Larry Arbanas, Assembly attendees danced into the night. (photo by Alison Sheehey)

Assembly report - The Future of Conservation

Six youth programs from around the state gave presentations that kicked off the Assembly with hope for the future of conservation. Los Angeles Audubon brought some Eco-Warriors from Dorsey High in South Central who relaxed on the Asilomar grounds after their presentation.

Assembly Report - Birding Monterey Bay

Scott Huber of Altacal and the Board of Audubon California and his son Liam led a bird walk on Monday morning. Other field trips included birding at Carmel River, a pelagic in Monterey Bay led by Todd McGrath and Jon Feenstra, and trips to see Condor to Ventana.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Yolo Audubon holds Green Summit in November

Yolo Audubon held a Green Sumitt with other environmental orgs in Woodland, California in the Central Valley on November 15th. Workshops included climate change,  green jobs, and outreach to the Central Valley diverse community. Pictured here are Yolo Audubon President Alison Kent with other planners of the meeting.

LA Audubon conducts baseline survey at Baldwin Hills park

On Valentines Day, 2009, students from Dorsey High School, members of the Los Angeles Audubon Society, and avid birders from the community helped to conduct the first baseline avian survey at the soon-to-be open Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook State Park, recording 18 species. This information will go to databases at both California State Parks and Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Great Backyard Bird Count Program. We got the one sunny day of a very rainy holiday weekend, and were lucky enough to take in the fantastic views of the Los Angeles Basin (mountains to ocean!) that this new state park offers visitors. In addition to surveying for birds, volunteers also initiated the collection of mammal tracks at this site - casts of tracks will be used to teach students about urban wildlife through Los Angeles Audubon’s outdoor education programs. Our greenhouse advisor was also on hand to help point out and identify native plants and ongoing habitat restoration projects in the park with students and birders.  We topped off our hike and bird count with a pizza party at the Baldwin Hills Greenhouse, where students in the Baldwin Hills Greenhouse Internship  and Restoration Leadership Programs discussed the projects they are currently working on at the greenhouse. The day’s three outstanding student volunteers were awarded Audubon bird plush toys for their excellent work. Many thanks to the students who hiked the muddy trail on Valentines Day, and many thanks to the Audubon birders who helped the students with species identification!

-From LA Audubon Director of Interpretive Stacey Vigallon-

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Rossmoor homeowners vow to go ahead with woodpecker shoot

December 18th, 2008 · The Contra Costa Times reports that two homeowners groups in Rossmoor have reaffirmed their intention to use a U.S. Fish & Wildlife permit to shoot Acorn Woodpeckers that are building granaries in several homes. Despite an ongoing effort from the Mt. Diablo Audubon Society to bring in experts and even pay for possible solutions, the shooting is expected to go ahead soon. This is despite comment from several experts that the shooting is unlikely to solve the problem, and might even make it worse.

“Killing the woodpeckers is a shortsighted and very short-term solution,” Eric Walters, an acorn woodpecker specialist at UC Berkeley’s Hastings nature reserve in Carmel Valley, wrote in an e-mail to the Times this week. “Unless they plan to wipe out the entire acorn woodpecker population, shooting birds is not going to do a darn thing to stop the damage to their retirement community.”

Napa/Solano Audubon and grape growers seek partnership to save endangered birds

The Times-Herald, which serves Solano and Napa counties, reports today about a new partnership between the local Napa-Solano Audubon chapter and area grape growers to find ways to protect several Audubon Watchlist species, including the Loggerhead Shrike. The efforts will be funded by a new TogetherGreen grant. Proposed measures include teaching landowners and others how to plant hedge rows around ponds, remove invasive species and install nesting boxes and platforms for native birds. 

“By reaching out to agricultural landowners, we’ll be making California a better place for native vegetation and threatened bird species,” said Napa Solano Audubon Society President Cheryl Harris. “This is a vital first step in caring for the environment.”