Hazards of Being a Bird, Part 1

Blackburnian Warbler at Magee Marsh during migration

Anyone interested in wild birds will sooner or later find themselves dismayed over all the hazards these fragile little feathered creatures must navigate in their daily lives.  Of course most of us already know, in a general and detached way unfortunately, about how pesticides and lead ammunition decimated populations of Bald Eagles and California Condors, nearly leading to their extinction from the planet. But what about the other issues affecting the lives of birds? In my own progression as a birder, the awareness of these other issues was raised a great deal when I attended my first Biggest Week in American Birding in May of 2011. And as I started connecting with other avid birders through my Audubon Society membership and birding listservs, I was inundated with information about all sorts of threats to bird life. Among other things, they get killed by cats, by flying into windows, by disease and habitat destruction, or by exhaustion on their long migration flights.

Black-throated Green Warbler, one of my favorites

Since I’ve grown to love these amazing creatures, I want to do what I can to help protect them.  Which is why I want to spread the word about an urgent and important issue that needs your support. You’re not being asked to contribute money for anything, you just need to say,  “Yes, sign my name on your letter about this issue.” That’s all.  Easy enough, right? (And you don’t need to live in Ohio to sign on either; this affects birds all over North and South America.)

Ok, here’s what’s going on. It involves a proposed wind turbine, but I want to say right up front that this is NOT a protest against wind energy. Not at all. It’s about the specific location of a proposed turbine in a Globally Important Bird Area on the shore of Lake Erie in Ohio. This is the area we visit each May to watch the spring migration of warblers and other songbirds. What makes this area so important to birds is that this is where they rest and replenish their energy before continuing their dangerous journey over Lake Erie and on to their summer territories.

Nashville Warbler saying, “Please don’t put a windmill on my migration route! They spin so fast we can’t see them until it’s too late.”

And this is not about the debate over whether wind energy is really “green” — that’s a legitimate discussion to have, but it’s secondary to the immediacy of this particular project. First I want to share the Citizen Call for Action issued by Black Swamp Bird Observatory — they explain in detail why this location is a bad choice for a wind turbine. If you have a Facebook account, use this link to see it, along with lots of comments from people signing on to the effort. If you’re not on FB, use this one.

Here are some excerpts from their Call to Action: “Black Swamp Bird Observatory (BSBO) has learned of a proposal to place a huge wind turbine at the Camp Perry National Guard facility on the Lake Erie shoreline, just a few miles east of the world-famous birding hotspot of Magee Marsh.   The Camp Perry facility itself includes wooded areas near the Lakeshore that provide important stopover habitat for migratory songbirds. ….  In other words, the site lies deep within one of the most sensitive migration stopover habitats in the Midwest.  ……  Local bird enthusiasts are also likely to recognize the facility as home to an active Bald Eagle nest visible from State Route 2. “   I think just that part should be enough to convince you to help, but please go read the full details if you have time.

BSBO will send a letter with our signatures to the local, state, and federal officials involved with the proposed Camp Perry turbine project, in hopes of stopping the project, or at least delaying this turbine until there’s time for studies to determine the more specific impact it could have on the migrating birds.  Here’s what you should do to get your name added to their letter: Email your Name, City, State, Zip, (with “RWE” in the subject line) to: ResponsibleWindEnergy@bsbo.org. I really hope you’ll take a minute to think about this and add your support to this important effort.  All of the birds shown here were photographed during migration in northern Ohio. So from them and from me: Thank you!!

By the way, if you want to read about what wind turbines have done to Golden Eagles in Altamont Pass near San Francisco, check this out. The American Bird Conservancy has more information about how wind turbines impact birds, including the fact that the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service estimated that 440,000 birds per year are killed by U.S. wind turbines. That really saddens me, and I sincerely hope the human race comes to its senses before we’ve destroyed all that’s beautiful about this rare planet that continues to somehow sustain our lives, despite all we’ve done to it.

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3 Responses to Hazards of Being a Bird, Part 1

  1. Pingback: Hazards of Being a Bird, Revisited | Nature is My Therapy

  2. kenschneider says:

    Beautiful warbler shots, Kim. I got all my great looks at Blackburnians before I took up photography, so I’m still hoping for a killer shot like yours. I’m all for alternative energy, but placing those turbines smack in the flight path of migrants descending into the marsh is unacceptable. Mary Lou and I sent our e-mails. Thanks for visiting my blog!

  3. littlesundog says:

    Awesome post, Kim! I had no clue about this. Thank you for bringing this to our attention and for providing the links and pertinent information to make it easier for us to get involved. Our feathered friends need our help!!

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