Conservation Corner by Suzan Delozier
MIGRATORY BIRD TREATY ACT
The National Audubon Society is asking birders and all those who enjoy watching birds to send a letter to President Obama urging him to strengthen the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. This act came into being 100 years ago because of the trade in feathers that threatened to wipe out many bird species. According to Audubon, the law needs to be updated to protect birds from ‘21st century threats such as oil pits, power lines, communications towers and other deadly hazards.’ There is still time for President Obama to do this. Sign and send the letter at https://action.audubon.org/onlineactions/rXX3GXqnmEGeiqP9erh9qA2
IT’S ELECTION YEAR – DO YOU KNOW YOUR PRESIDENTS? The Sierra Club has a short online quiz on the environmental legacies of our presidents. One of the questions is: Which president signed the first piece of legislation to preserve Yosemite Valley and the Sequoia groves of California? a. Abraham Lincoln c. William Howard Taft b. Ulysses S. Grant d. Harry S. Truman You can find the whole quiz at here. Answer at bottom of Conservation Corner.
WEBSITES FOR BIRDERS AND GARDENERS
Cornell offers websites to enhance the enjoyment of birds year-round. On www.yardmap.org you can map your garden and create a bird friendly habitat. www.ebird.org allows the birder to keep track of checklists while contributing to citizen science. During the fall and winter, you can record the birds at your backyard feeders with Project Feeder Watch located at http://feederwatch.org/ (the only site with an annual fee).
“Jersey-Friendly Yards – Landscaping for a Healthy Environment” (www.jerseyyards.org) is a project of the NJ Department of Environmental Protection, Barnegat Bay Partnership and Ocean County Soil Conservation District. The goal of Jersey-Friendly Yards is clean water for drinking, fishing, swimming as well as for wildlife and the environment. It has a Jersey friendly plant database, a Jersey friendly interactive yard tool, information on rain barrels, lawn care, pollinators, pest management, and much more.
THE RUSTY PATCHED BUMBLE BEE
At the beginning of this month, the US Fish and Wildlife Service announced the listing of seven Hawaiian bees to the endangered species list. This was a first for any bees in the US. The listing followed years of study by the Xerces Society, state officials and independent researchers. Responding to information provided by the Xerces Society and other groups, the Fish and Wildlife Service now has proposed listing a bee that was once common in New Jersey as an endangered species. This bee is the rusty patched bumble bee.
The rusty patched bumble bee (Bombus affinis) was once common throughout the east and the upper Midwest but it is estimated that they have disappeared from 87% and possibly more of their former range. The worker bees have a rust-colored patch in the middle of their second abdominal segment. This bee is an excellent pollinator of wildflowers, cranberries, apples, plums and other important crops. All wild bumble bees face several threats including fragmentation of their habitat, use of highly toxic pesticides containing neonics, use of herbicides like Round Up that contain glyphosate which kills nectar plants, and the loss of native plants (which our bees co-evolved with) due to invasive non-native plants. Commercially bred bumble bees, which have been shown to carry a high pathogen load, interact with wild bees near greenhouses and spread the diseases to the wild bees. Finally, climate change may also have a negative effect.
https://environmental-action.webaction.org/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=18757&utm_source=Salsa&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=EAC4-FCNS:WILDLIFE-1016&utm_content=EM0:01A:0BH-AAP&uid=515381 One third of US crops are pollinated by bumble bees. The Xerces Society believes that endangered species protection is the only way to give the rusty patched bee a chance to survive. You may express your support for the proposal by signing a petition at https://environmental-action.webaction.org/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=18757&utm_source=Salsa&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=EAC4-FCNS:WILDLIFE-1016&utm_content=EM0:01A:0BH-AAP&uid=515381. For more information on the rusty patched bee and all pollinators go to http://www.xerces.org/rusty-patched-bumble-bee/ Additional source: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-bumblebee-idUSKCN11R2TI Also, there is a 20 minute video at http://www.rustypatched.com/ called “A Ghost in the Making: Searching for the Rusty-Patched Bumble Bee” which follows the quest of one man to find and photograph the bee.
Answer to above question – A. Lincoln
HUMANS, ANIMALS, AND NOISE POLLUTION
In the May 2016 issue of our newsletter, the effect of light pollution on humans and animals was discussed. Often we do not think about the effect of noise pollution on people and animals. The February 2016 edition of Bay Nature magazine (see www.baynature.org) included an article about white-crowned sparrows in the San Francisco area and how the birds are changing their song in order to cope with human generated noise. One way that males have adapted to the noise is to sing at a higher frequency in order to be heard. However, evidence shows that females may prefer males that sing at a normal, lower frequency resulting in a possible negative impact on mating. Noise can affect an animal’s ability to locate prey, find a mate, communicate, and avoid predators.
What can be done about noise?
- Studies have shown that scrub jays in the US avoid nesting in noisy areas near gas wells and compressors. Because scrub jays are critical to the health of a pine forest (they collect and bury pine seeds), the pine forests around gas wells are disappearing. Black-chinned hummingbirds will build their nests in noisy areas to avoid predators who are more sensitive to noise. By discouraging those birds sensitive to noise and replacing them with birds that do tolerate noise (house sparrows, starlings and crows in particular), whole ecosystems can be changed and environments that would never have been created in nature will emerge.
- Migratory birds are also susceptible to noise. Noise was played near an important rest stop for migrants resulting in a significant decline in numbers. When the noise was stopped, the number of migrants bounced back. Noise can influence a bird to skip a chance to rest and feed.
- It has also been shown that traffic noise negatively affects the ability of bats to locate prey.
- Male frogs, like the white-crowned sparrows above, must also call at a higher frequency to be heard at noisy sites. Female frogs of some species prefer lower-pitched calls which indicate larger and/or more experienced males. Again, as with white-crowned sparrows, breeding for frogs may be negatively affected. Also, the distance that a call travels is severely reduced by noise.
- Marine species are not immune to the effects of noise. Intense underwater noise is caused by shipping traffic, military sonar, seismic surveys, and industrial noise from oil and gas exploration. Noise travels faster and further in water. Whales, dolphins, and porpoises emit pulses of sonar clicks to locate food and pinpoint features in the environment – they can hear sounds thousands of kilometers away from waves breaking on a shore to cracking ice. Evidence increasingly shows that loud noises, particularly high-intensity sonar used by the Navy and powerful air guns used in oil and gas exploration, interfere with whales’ navigation systems and cause the animals to strand themselves. The beached whales show signs of trauma such as bleeding around the ears and brain as well as bubbles in their organs which can occur due to sudden pressure change caused by sound. Noise has also been shown to reduce humpback whale communication.
- And humans are not immune either. People living with constant noise have increased levels of stress hormones and increased risk of heart attack.
Noise won’t suddenly disappears. We won’t suddenly stop driving. But an awareness of the harm done by noise may spur the development of quieter technologies. Science will certainly be of help. People need to be active in getting legislation passed restricting noise. And we can all take small steps to mitigate our own noise. (Source: http://www.nova.org.au, key in ‘noise pollution and the environment’ in the search field.)
- Traffic noise can be reduced by developing quieter roads and cars and installing noise-reduction barriers around major traffic areas. Lower speed limits also reduce noise.
- Before construction on houses and industrial sites is allowed detailed environmental assessment should be done. Use of better materials and improved site planning is also necessary.
- Establish ‘quiet zones’ for marine life. Developing greener technologies including quieter ships, hull shapes and machinery is being looked at by industry and government.
PETITION TO STOP SEISMIC AIRGUN BLASTING IN THE ATLANTIC
Oceana (www.oceana.org), an organization dedicated to ocean advocacy, asks that citizens tell NOAA (The National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration) to deny the use of seismic air-gun blasting used by gas and oil companies in the Atlantic Ocean. The blasts are so loud that they can be heard 2500 miles from the source and pose a threat to the last remaining North Atlantic right whales. Find the petition here.
HUMMINGBIRDS ON THE MOVE
Adult male ruby-throated hummingbirds migrate first, giving juveniles and adult females more time to fuel up (less competition from the adult males) and to prepare for their migration. How can you tell a juvenile male from the females? Juvenile males have noticeably streaked throats. The streaks can be green, black, or tan. A few red feathers may peek through. These little birds must eat 1.5 to 3 times their body weight each day and so must visit hundreds of flowers a day. Your garden and feeders are an important resource for them. Visit Journey North at http://www.learner.org/jnorth/ in the Spring to track the progress of hummingbirds headed north and to record your sightings if you wish. www.Hummingbirds.net/ also tracks the ruby-throated hummingbird's progress north.
A WEBSITE DEDICATED TO FORESTS
American Forests is an organization dedicated to protecting and restoring forests not only in wild places but in urban environments. Its website is www.americanforests.org/ and contains mounds of information on the relationship between forests and life on our planet. It has a question and answer page about tree care, a carbon footprint calculator, and an action center to enable citizens to become involved. And if someone says to you that planting trees does not benefit people and the planet consider these few points.
- A tree can absorb as much as 48 pounds of carbon dioxide per year, and can sequester one ton of carbon dioxide by the time it reaches 40 years old.
- One large tree can provide a supply of oxygen for two people.
- The net cooling effect of a young, healthy tree is equivalent to ten room-size air conditioners operating 20 hours a day.
- In one day, one large tree can lift up to 100 gallons of water out of the ground and discharge it into the air, thus providing a critical link in our weather patterns. And there are many more such facts on the website. THINK GREEN – PLANT A TREE!
Government Links: Unsure about how to contact your elected officials on those important conservation issues? Want to learn when the next election is? For answers to these and many other government-related questions, check out the New Jersey Citizens' Guide to Government here.
Also, you can view our list of local state senators and assembly people by clicking here.
10 simple things you can do to help the cause of Conservation:
The following 10 suggestions will help you to become a better steward of our natural resources and in most cases help you to save money as well. Each item on the list below is something that only requires a little effort on your part to make a big difference in the environment. Each of us can make a difference no matter how small you start.
- Use compact fluorescent light bulbs - They are more expensive to start but they will save you money and energy in the long run.
- Use cloth napkins instead of paper - You are saving paper resources and have a better product.
- Mow your yard less - Instead of mowing every week, mow every other or plant grass that needs less mowing.
- Compost grass clippings and kitchen scraps - You can save valuable landfill space and provide valuable nutrients for your soil.
- Replace or fix leaky faucets - Water is expensive and more than a gallon of water a day can be lost from a leaky fixture.
- Plant a tree - You can help offset the CO2 emissions by simply adding a tree or two that will lower CO2 and increase oxygen.
- Buy recycled and recyclable products - Recycling uses less energy and saves CO2 from entering the atmosphere. Recycle!
- Buy used products or reuse old products - Yard sales or eBay can be great places to pickup used tools, dishware, etc.
- Go Green for Electricity - Switch to an electricity provider that uses renewable energy sources like solar, wind, and geothermal.
- Use Mass Transit - Even if you only use it one day a week or carpool one day a week you can save hundreds of pounds of CO2 per year.
Contact the Conservation Committee: If you would like to contact the club with suggestions, pictures (large files) or information about our endangered habitats and planet, please click on the following button.
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