Thursday, November 20, 2008

Western Grebe at Fellows Lake?

Ok, I know very well the role that anticipation plays in birding...... Once I was sure that a stick was a Belted Kingfisher at Fellows Lake on a pre-dawn CBC morning..... And, the thought of a life bird (or an Ivory-billed :) ........) literally changes what you "see" in the field. But I confess here. I'm second guessing this bird. I know the default is a Western, but this black cap seems to run very high, above the eye even, and that bill..... it sure is yellow.

I thought I had the Clark's Grebe, and from what I've read, some individuals are indistinguishable from Western. Better safe than sorry, I conclude. But why is this a distinguishable Western Grebe? I'd really like to know for some reason other than the 90% Redtail Rule in the Ozarks. And, I may just have to go back to try for a closer look. But here's 4 crummy pictures of a bird waaaaaayyyyyyyyy out there, two from Charley and 2 from me.

Any insight would be great!

Charley's photo: To me, the verdict is out. Just what is it: Clark's or Western?
My photo: The black cap seems to intersect with the bill at the top of the culmen

Charley's photo: Most convincing evidence of Western, thick black on back of neck. But still, note the pale plumage on the back.

Ok, I know that white "bleeds" in photos, but again the black cap intersects at the culmen.

And so, I make my case, tenuous as it is. But, I'd like to learn......... And, I hope the bird sticks around a while, and decides to come closer to shore when I am there.....

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Green Leadership Academy for Diverse Ecosystems (GLADE)

I promised in my last blog entry to elaborate on a brand new environmental education project that my colleagues and I have been developing. The best way to describe the whole exciting project is to share the press release with you, incorporating a few green partner logos* and pictures along the way. So, here's our new project, the collective brainchild of GOAS environmental activist Lisa Berger, MSU Biology professor Dr. Janice Greene, field station manager Celeste Prussia, and environmental educator, me!

If you are currently in the 10th or 11th grade in Southwest Missouri and have a strong interest in ecology and environmental issues, the Greater Ozarks Audubon Society Green Leadership Academy for Diverse Ecosystems is looking for you!The Greater Ozarks Audubon Society is pleased to announce that it is the recipient of a TogetherGreen Innovation grant to help fund a Green Leadership Academy for teens. The seven day residential academy is a joint project of GOAS and Missouri State University, and will be held June 21-27, 2009. GOAS is one of 41 newly-announced TogetherGreen national innovation grants that will help change the lives of some local young people and help them to shape a better environment.
Teens working with entomologist at recent TogetherGreen Volunteer Day.

A $26,000 one-year grant will allow the Greater Ozarks Audubon Society and Missouri State University to join forces to create a seven-day teen leadership skills academy, building on previous educational collaborations to bring new environmental skills and restoration opportunities to local students.

Participants in the GLADE project, located at MSU’s Bull Shoals Field station, will learn about local species and habitats, endangered species, riparian corridors and water quality. They will participate in hands-on habitat restoration and will design environmental programs.

Organizers expect the program will equip academy attendees with a green skills toolbox for initiating conservation projects in their schools, homes, and communities.

"Each teen participating in the academy with develop the leadership skills and ecological knowledge to reach others and to make a positive difference in our natural environment," said Greg Swick, Director of GLADE.

“Our long-term goals are to build a network of young conservation leaders and to develop a working model for youth conservation leadership development. We are excited about the possibilities.” “We hope to build an enthusiasm for the natural world that will continue to grow as participants return to their communities, and we hope that each will gain the confidence to know that they can make a difference,” added Janice Greene, Director of the Bull Shoals Field Station.

The solar powered renovated Drury House at the Bull Shoals Field Station.

The Bull Shoals Field Station is located within the White River Glades and Woodlands Important Bird Area and the Drury-Mincy Conservation Area, managed by the Missouri Department of Conservation. This area was historically characterized by abundant hill-top gladed areas mixed with savanna and woodland and streams lined with giant cane. Today, many of the glades are overgrown with eastern red cedar. Encroaching commercial development from nearby Branson and Table Rock Lake resort districts poses a threat to habitat coverage, continuity, and management.

TogetherGreen is a National Audubon Society program funded by Toyota Motors.

For more information, go to the official GLADE website.

*logos of Missouri Department of Conservation, Missouri State University, Greater Ozarks Audubon, and TogetherGreen used with permission only.

Envisioning a World of Change

Being a science educator for 31 years, I often advocated for alternative energy use and habitat restoration/preservation in the biology classroom. As evidence of human-induced climate change mounted, I also incorporated this knowledge into the curriculum.

Since everyone I know is excited about the election results and is talking "change" these days, I thought I'd add my $.02. On that note, the interaction on ecological and energy related issues within the public school system is simply not enough to enact the scope of changes that we need in this area of public debate. We need hands on, experiential learning environments and resources for our brightest students so that they can develop the ecological ideas and technology that will lead us into an environmentally sustainable future.

Working specifically with identified populations of gifted students, as I still do, has allowed me to touch the future in many ways that are undetectable during the students' years in my classroom. I try to plant seeds, but it's these students' ideas and dreams have the potential to become the cornerstone of American ideals and to make indelible, positive marks on the world of the future.

The magnitude of human environmental impact is upon us. In this time of change, I envision the proliferation of green leadership academies that select enthusiastic, community minded young people from all over the United States and the world to participate in experiences designed to develop within them a deep ecological awareness and an equally in-depth awareness of leadership skills that can rally people to take actions that ultimately lead to a ecologically sustainable planet.

Awareness of environmental and energy issues among our very brightest can unleash a myriad of possible solutions. Ecological awareness, combined with training in leadership, conflict resolution, and group interaction will ensure that each of these young people returns to his/her community as an activist in the areas of environmental public policy, including, but not limited to, alternative energy sources, climate change issues, and habitat preservation/restoration projects.

I am excited to share that I am a green partner and the director of one such prototypic model of a habitat restoration based green leadership academy which will be launched next summer. More on that in my next post.

For a preview, go to our website,

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Bois D'Arc Boids

The advantage of semi-retirement is the fact that it provides opportunities for spontaneous birding with my retired friends. Realizing that I would be finished with my day's work at 8:30 Thursday, I e-mail Charley early to see if he was into slipping out into the field for a few hours. It wasn't long before my cell phone rang, and by 9:00 am, we met on the banks of Lake Springfield. After a suggestion from Charley's wife Lisa, we headed to Bois D'Arc Conservation Area to scout it out for Spraque's Pipit.

Well, that seemed like a long shot, but even a Sedge Wren would be a lifer for me, and both species were definitely possibilities in Bois D'Arc habitat.

The Missouri Department of Conservation is primarily an agency that serves hunters, in spite of the fact that all Missourians pay a 1/8 cent sales tax for conservation. Bois D'Arc Conservation Area is clearly designed and managed for hunters. An extensive shooting range lays in the middle of acres of brushland, largely choked with autumn olive and other non native and native shrubs, specifically managed to increase the carrying capacity of White tailed Deer, Wild Turkey, Bobwhite, and Eastern Cottontail.

For we birders, the small amount of the CA left in native grassland still attracts one of my favorite sparrow species, the LeConte's. Usually best viewed when a large group of birders circles around the ground dweller and "pens" it in, we managed to get excellent views with only two of us closing in on the bird.
You can clearly see the bird in the lower right corner, and Charley very nearby!
A very cooperative bird!
After our sparrow encounter, we went to a mudflat on the reserve. There we were delighted to find several shorebirds and others still hanging around on this November day. Highlights were Wilson's Snipe, Least Sandpiper, Dunlin, Greater Yellowlegs, and American Pipits.

One of many Wilson's Snipe and one of 3 Least Sandpipers in the flooded field.

A single Dunlin remained in the area.

One of the two Greater Yellowlegs we spotted.

American Pipits were plentiful on the flats.