The Wild Side by Donna Quinn
Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul…
If you recall last spring’s story, “Imagine…”, you will know why I rejoiced when I read the following:
From: “Wilson, Michael D” <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent: Thursday, April 05, 2012 4:12 PM
Subject: [Va-bird] Hope: satellite tracked whimbrel returns to Virginia again
Hope returns to Virginia
The bird has been tracked by a team of researchers through her migratory travels since she was captured on Box Tree Creek in Northampton County, Virginia on 19 May, 2009.
Since that time she has traveled more than 44,100 miles (71,000 kilometers) back and forth 3 times between breeding grounds on the MacKenzie River in western Canada and Great Pond Important Bird Area on St. Croix.
She likely left Great Pond on the evening of April 1st and arrived in Virginia on the morning of April 4th, covering the 1600 miles in approximately 60 hours. She had been wintering on Great Pond since September 14, 2011.
Hope has taught the research community a great deal about the migratory pathways and habits of whimbrels. She has made tremendous nonstop flights, moved great distances out over the open Atlantic, confronted storms while at sea, navigated with precision to stopover sites and shown high fidelity to her breeding site, her wintering site, and several staging areas.
Hope is one of more than a dozen birds that have been tracked in a collaborative effort between The Center for Conservation Biology, The Nature Conservancy and other partners designed to discover migratory routes that connect breeding and winter areas and to identify en route migratory staging areas that are critical to the conservation of this declining species.
A single flight of 60 hours non-stop flying across ocean! 44,100 miles logged since May 2009! To give a little perspective on this, the planet is 24,906 miles in circumference so Hope has traveled the equivalent of almost twice around the globe just in the past 3 years. And Hope weighs only about 15 ounces. Imagine that!
While Hope’s travels truly inspire hope and give us pause to reflect on the wonders of birds and migration, decreases in many bird species tell another story. Devastating loss of habitat, increased levels of toxins in the environment, and environmental hazards such wind turbine installations, glass-fronted buildings, bright lights at night, and hydraulic fracturing exact heavy tolls on birds. If that isn’t bad enough, birds represent the fate of countless other animals, insects, and plants whose habitats are being destroyed at an unprecedented rate. Ancient symbols of wisdom, love, hope, peace and freedom, we must listen carefully to what birds are telling us today about the health of our environment.
Saving whimbrels and other imperiled species requires large-scale, often international, cooperative efforts. Here in Belmont, it’s essential for each of us to keep in mind how the choices we make each day impact the lives of so many others. By making small but significant changes in our daily lives, we can make a big difference in the overall health of our local community as well as our larger community, Planet Earth. When we save birds and their precious ecosystems, we utilize our humanity to nurture and protect, rather than to destroy. In doing so, we also create hope for birds like Hope to continue their amazing transcontinental migrations.
10 Easy Ways To Help Birds:
1. Prevent Bird Collisions with Your Windows. Collisions are one of the most frequent causes of bird deaths. Birds see nature reflected in the window or mistake houseplants inside the building for outdoor plants and fly into the glass. Putting up curtains or window decals helps make the window visible to birds.
2. Protect Birds From Pets. Unleashed dogs and outdoor cats can harm birds by disturbing, chasing, and even killing them. Keeping your cat indoors and your dog from straying saves millions of birds each year.
3. Clean Your Bird Feeders. Dirty feeders can spread disease. Disinfect and clean out old seed from feeders frequently and put fresh water in your bird bath every day.
4. Recycle, Use Cloth Grocery Bags and Reusable Bottles. Birds that mistakenly eat plastic trash can become ill or even die. Avoiding plastic bags and bottles reduces plastic pollution and conserves resources.
5. Restore Natural Habitat in Your Community. Birds need a place to live and many bird habitats are disappearing. Work with your community to recreate the habitat that once existed in your area. Plant native plants in your garden to provide food, nest sites, and cover for birds. Avoid the use of pesticides and other chemicals.
6. Buy Bird Friendly Products. You can preserve our birds’ winter habitat in Mexico, Central and South America, and the Caribbean by buying shade-grown coffee and cocoa. Shade farms, which imitate native forests, support more bird species than full sun farms. And the coffee tastes better!
7. Keep Your Distance. Birds need space for feeding, nesting, and other daily activities. Leave fledglings where you find them. They may spend several days on the ground after they leave the nest. You can help by keeping people and pets away so their parents can continue to feed them. If a bird is truly an orphan, call a rehabilitator for instructions (see phone numbers below).
8. Slow Down When Driving. Cars kill millions of birds each year. Driving slowly gives you more time to respond if there is an animal in the road and gives the animal plenty of time to get out of the way.
9. Get Outdoors and Enjoy Nature. Find a local park and go for a walk or just stroll around your neighbourhood (www.loudounwildlife.org/Great_Places.htm).
10. Support Conservation. Join a bird club or other conservation organization to learn more and contribute to protecting birds. Support organizations that preserve habitat and help birds.
Rescue League: 703-440-0800
Raptor Conservancy (specialize in hawks & owls): 703-578-1175
Donna Quinn is a Loudoun resident and on the board with Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy.