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BLM Rejects Solar Development in Silurian Valley, Calif.
The right-of-way application for an expansive, 200-megawatt photovoltaic solar project on 1,616 acres about 10 miles north of Baker, Calif. along highway 127 was rejected last week by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM)
Interior to Auction More Than 742,000 Acres Offshore Massachusetts
Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) Acting Director Walter Cruickshank announced that more than 742,000 acres offshore Massachusetts will be offered for commercial wind energy development in a January 29, 2015, competitive lease sale.

Two New Birding Programs at Hog Island NWR
In response to the need for an in-depth birding program for beginners, the Hog Island Audubon Camp in Maine will be offering for the first time in June of 2015 a residential session entitled "Breaking into Birding," Staffed by Pete Dunne and other ornithologists.

Mass Audubon Urges Members to "Make the Switch"
Mass Audubon is suggesting its members support sustainable energy sources for home electricity-and move away from fossil fuels-by signing up for "Make the Switch," a partnership between Mass Audubon and the nonprofit Massachusetts Energy Consumers Alliance (Mass Energy).
Audubon and Toyota Award $765K in Conservation Grants
Toyota TogetherGreen, a conservation initiative of the National Audubon Society and Toyota, has announced new awards of $765,000 to 39 innovative and diverse conservation projects nationwide.

USFWS Director Praises House Action on Duck Stamp
Last week's US House of Representative's action on a measure to increase the price of the Federal Duck Stamp from $15 to $25 received praise from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director, Dan Ashe.

36th Annual Eagle Days at Missouri's Squaw Creek NWR
The 36th annual Eagle Days at the Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge is set for Saturday, Dec. 6, and Sunday, Dec. 7, where visitors can see and photograph waterfowl and eagles during a driving tour through the refuge.

Owl Program at Indiana Dunes State Park
Indiana Dunes State Park will celebrate the wonder of owls during a special program, "Night Hunters," featuring live birds on Sunday, Dec. 7.
December Owl Prowls at Michigan State Parks
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources invites people of all ages to bundle up and head outdoors for a nighttime adventure at Michigan state park Owl Prowls, which feature a guided walk through the woods in search of owls and other wild nightlife.
Duck Stamp

Enter Cornell Lab's BirdSpotter Photo Contest
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology's BirdSpotter photo contest is underway! Sponsored by Vanguard, the contest offers weekly prizes for the photos that receive the most votes on the contest website.

Columbus Audubon Honored for its Service in the Preserves Program
The Ohio Division of Natural Areas and Preservers recently honored Columbus Audubon for its long-running Service in the Preserves (SiP) program with an award presented to SiP coordinator Katryn Renard at the annual DNAP conference at Mohican State Park.

Arizona Master Falconer, Rehabber Honored for Eagle Work
Jerry Ostwinkle's eagle conservation work and efforts to educate the public about eagles was recognized by SAGE Society (Sonoran Antelope and Golden Eagle Society) with the first-ever Jerry Ostwinkle Golden Eagle Conservation Award named in his honor.

American Redstart: "Little Torch"
In Latin America, the eye-catching American Redstart, named for the male's vivid reddish-orange tail patches is often called candelita, or "little torch."
Giving Thanks for a Recovered Species
There are five subspecies of wild turkey: Eastern, Merriam's Gould's, Osceola, and Rio Grande, which are all found throughout the US, with. the Eastern subspecies the largest and most common with more than 5.3 million within its range.
Project to Provide Food for Declining Bay Area Duck
Ecologists with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) are working with the Richardson Bay Audubon Center & Sanctuary to test a potentially new way to provide food for declining Surf Scoters, a large sea duck that was once much more common in San Francisco Bay.

Report Dead, Sick or Injured Swans in Washington
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) has re-established a hotline to report dead, sick or injured swans in three northwest Washington counties as part of its ongoing effort to assess the impact of lead poisoning on trumpeter swans.
Lyme Disease Carrier Established in Buckeye State
It's more critical than ever for birders to watch for ticks in eastern Ohio, as researchers say the Lyme disease-carrying Blacklegged deer tick is now established certain counties of the Buckeye State.
Light-footed Ridgway's Rails Released in San Diego County
Six light-footed Ridgway's rails (previously known as light-footed clapper rails) were released into the Batiquitos Lagoon Ecological Reserve in San Diego County on Nov. 18.

'Rescued' Rufous Hummingbird Transported to S. Texas
The Rufous hummingbird trapped in Minnesota and kept a rehabber facility in St. Paul as reported in last week's Birding Wire has been transported to Texas, where it will be released, according to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife press release.

Whooping Cranes Arrive at Aransas NWR
Wade Harrell, U.S. Whooping Crane Recovery Coordinator with the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, reports that most of the 25 marked whooping cranes being tracked via GPS leg bands arrived on the S. Texas wintering grounds by Nov. 14.

The Birding Wire Photo Gallery

Birding Wire reader Dave Peck submitted this photograph of these striking Common Mergansers, captured in the reeds of Lake Havasu, Ariz. Dave shot the image with his Nikon 40D camera, Nikkor 55-200 zoon lens at f/5.6, ISO 250 at 1/1000 sec.


Do you have a favorite photo you'd like to share with thousands of Birding Wire readers? Send an electronic image, along with the species, location, date, additional details and technical data to birdingwire@gmail.com.

Prominent Groups Oppose North Dakota Wind Energy Project
The endangered Whooping Crane is one of the many species at risk from wind energy development in sensitive habitats.
Two leading bird conservation groups, American Bird Conservancy (ABC) and the International Crane Foundation (ICF), have sent a joint letter to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) voicing strong concerns about renewed consideration of the Merricourt wind energy project in North Dakota.

The November 17 letter from the groups identified concerns about the wind development that would straddle southeastern North Dakota's McIntosh and Dickey counties. It was sent to Noreen Walsh, Director of the FWS Mountain-Prairie Region.

The Merricourt project, proposed by EDF Renewable Energy, was thought to have been aborted when another company, Xcel, terminated a contract to buy the energy generated by the turbines after EDF failed to secure a site permit from state regulators in 2011. However, EDF has since modified its application and reduced the number of proposed turbines from approximately 100 to about 75 and reduced the apparent amount of land impacted from 22,457 acres to 10,960 acres. The turbines would stand about 425 feet tall. The North Dakota Public Service Commission has scheduled a public hearing on the proposal for December 22.

According to the ABC/ICF letter, the project would "... be located in a key migratory pathway for many federally-protected birds in the Prairie Pothole region of North Dakota, including the federally-listed Whooping Crane and Piping Plover. The loss of even a few Whooping Cranes could result in a population-level effect, so the bar for approval of this project must be set very high. With such serious Endangered Species Act concerns, we would hope that a(n) ... Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) would be required before the Service would even consider issuing the first incidental take permit for Whooping Cranes."

Under FWS' current voluntary permitting guidelines for wind energy development, companies are not required to apply for permits authorizing the killing or impacting of wildlife when a project such as Merricourt sits on private property. However, ABC and ICF assert that this does not allow developers to break the law and kill federally-protected wildlife with impunity. The groups ask that post-construction bird deaths be monitored independently (by a third party) to accurately assess wildlife mortality.

The letter continues: "How will the FWS assess and take into account the cumulative impact of nearly a hundred large, commercial turbines, including disturbance on Whooping Cranes, especially considering that 5,500 turbines already exist in the species' migratory corridor and that 18,518 are planned. ... We are also concerned that Whooping Cranes may be impacted by the considerable habitat disturbance that will result from this and other energy development projects in the migratory corridor."

In addition, many new transmission lines and towers-the most significant threat to Whooping Cranes posed by the wind installation-will also be installed to carry the electrical energy produced by these turbines into the grid.

While a host of bird and bat mortality mitigation techniques are touted by the industry, the bird conservation groups point out that few have actually been tested for effectiveness. Those techniques include the use of radar to detect birds, combined with temporary or seasonal shutdowns such as during migration; lighting adjustments to reduce attraction; habitat management, including removal of standing water and vegetation under turbines; prey population management to make the habitat less attractive to raptors; and retrofitting associated transmission lines and towers to reduce the risk of collisions and electrocution. ABC and ICF call for testing of these techniques under a variety of circumstances that take into account variables such as seasons, time of day, landscapes, and weather conditions.

"All of these factors can influence the risk of wind energy development to federally-protected birds, such as the highly-endangered Whooping Crane, upon which tens of millions of tax dollars have been spent on recovery," says the letter. The letter is signed by Dr. Michael Hutchins, Bird Smart Wind Energy Campaign Coordinator for ABC, and Dr. Julia A. Langenberg, Vice-President of Conservation for ICF.

ABC and ICF support the development of clean, renewable sources of energy such as wind and solar power, but also believe that it must be done responsibly and with minimal impact on our public trust resources, including native species of birds and bats, and particularly threatened, endangered, and other protected species, such as Bald and Golden Eagles. ABC and ICF support Bird Smart Wind Energy, which is described in detail on the ABC website.

- American Bird Conservancy is the Western Hemisphere's bird conservation specialist-the only organization with a single and steadfast commitment to achieving conservation results for native birds and their habitats throughout the Americas. With a focus on efficiency and working in partnership, we take on the toughest problems facing birds today, innovating and building on sound science to halt extinctions, protect habitats, eliminate threats, and build capacity for bird conservation. (http://www.abcbirds.org)
- The International Crane Foundation works worldwide to conserve cranes and the ecosystems, watersheds, and flyways on which they depend. We provide knowledge, leadership, and inspiration to engage people in resolving threats to cranes and the diverse landscapes they share with us-finding new pathways to sustain our water, land, and livelihoods. (http://www.savingcranes.org)


If your company, agency or organization is involved in the business of birding, we invite you to consider The Birding Wire for advertising or Corporate Membership. Please contact editor J.R. Absher at birdingwire@gmail.com for complete information.

Dec. 5 - Dec. 7
A Wild Bird Conference
San Domingo Ranch of South Texas
Dec. 6 - Dec. 7
Missouri Eagle Days
Squaw Creek NWR, Mound City, Mo.
Dec. 13 - Dec. 14
Breakfast With The Sandhill Cranes
Moody Gardens Golf Course, Galveston Island, Tex.
Dec. 14
Roosting With The Sandhill Cranes
Galveston Island, Tex.
Jan. 10 - Jan. 11
Missouri Eagle Days
Springfield Conservation Nature Center, Springfield, Mo.
Jan. 17 - Jan. 18
Missouri Eagle Days
Old Chain of Rocks Bridge, St. Louis, Mo.
Jan. 24 - Jan. 25
Missouri Eagle Days
Lock and Dam 24, Clarksville, Mo.
Feb. 20 - Feb. 22
Bird Watcher's Digest Reader Rendezvous
Birding Basics and Beyond, Titusville, Florida
Feb. 21
Orlando Wetlands Festival
Orlando Wetlands Park, Orlando, Fla.
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