I am privileged to share the logo that I created for the American Ornithological Society’s 2019 conference. The logo features three Bar-tailed Godwit (Limosa lapponica baueri), a flagship bird for Alaska and a focal species for some of Alaska’s most influential ornithologists.
I worked closely with the conference planning chair, Colleen Handel of the USGS Alaska Science Center. We created a logo that ties in closely with the theme of the meeting – Birds on the Edge: Dynamic Boundaries. Colleen is part of a team of researchers headed by her husband, Robert E. Gill (also of USGS), that are responsible for discovering the incredible, sometimes 9 day non-stop flight of Alaska’s Bar-tailed Godwits as they return to Alaska from their wintering grounds in southeast Australia and New Zealand (see Gill et al. 2008). As such, one can see why the species is a great choice to celebrate the AOS meeting being held in Anchorage.
Given that much of my career has been focused on the world’s largest falcon, the Gyrfalcon, I often get questions about their life history and Identification. A recurring question is the age of individuals that are observed in winter. Most often, folks ask about juvenile vs. adult, so I decided to make available a simple illustration with annotations as a reference for those with these questions.
What I’ve realized is that fleshy parts confuse a lot of people, since an adult should have yellow legs and cere, whereas a juvenile should have blue. However, it takes female birds much longer to change (well into their second year), and the coloration is also influenced by individual quality and hormones. Some adults, particularly females, tend to be quite dull in the winter (compare this with observations of gull legs in winter, e.g. California Gull). Adults that are likely three years or older (given presence of retained feathers in the upper wing, etc.) can have surprisingly dull legs that may appear blue under certain conditions. The key then is to take a step back and focus on the plumage, since in most cases it is quite straight forward.
The illustration above aims to highlight the key points for aging a Gyrfalcon between adult and juvenile. Eventually I’d like to visually describe more micro-aging factors, but for now I think this will be a helpful resource for those more unfamiliar with this species.
Please, feel free to send me feedback and suggestions. Constructive criticism is always welcome.
I had the privilege of designing a logo for a regional Partners in Flight working group, the Boreal Partners in Flight (BPIF). Members of this group span Alaska and western Canada, with work focused primarily on but not restricted to Boreal and Tundra dwelling taxa. To craft the design, I worked with members of the group and selected a few focal species to be featured. Carefully picked, the species also are aesthetically tied, and provide an appropriately cold image with some sharp red highlights. These species, the Willow Ptarmigan (Lagopus lagopus), Northern Goshawk (Accipiter gentilis), and McKay’s Bunting (Plectrophenax hyperboreus) all share some research focus from members of BPIF.
To find out more about the members of Boreal Partners in Flight, and the objectives of the working group, visit their website here.
Above is a short video that I produced to supplement a paper I, along with colleagues at US Fish and Wildlife Service and USGS, just published in the journal Marine Ornithology. The video shows behaviors that we describe in the paper, and will hopefully help the reader visualize what we experienced ourselves.
The Bering Sea region is changing in many ways, but among the most sobering are the mass die-off events that are impacting the regions birdlife. These die-offs continue into this year. Since we put together this publication of the observations that I and colleagues made in 2016 and 2017, the trend has continued and is likely to continue into the future. Furthermore, on my most recent trip to the region I documented further evidence of the ongoing change that is occurring across the bering sea ecosystem. There is and will continue to be more to report.
Some of the change, such as the evidence of starving and ill affected storm-petrels that are the subject of our publication, is sobering and concerning. It hits hard on the hearts of those of us who so passionately pay attention to bird life across the globe. We care deeply about the well being of these creatures that fascinate us so much.
Some of the change, such as some of my most recent observations in the region, are exciting and stoke curiosity, as the birdlife of the region responds to the impacts of ecosystem disruption.
Ultimately, there will be winners and losers as life navigates anthropogenic driven change throughout the world. Mass die-off events will become the norm for some species, until their populations can no longer sustain such losses and they are eventually lost to our world. Others will adapt in ways we cannot yet imagine. Such adaptations will undoubtedly open our minds to processes and function in ecosystems that we are yet to understand.
Yes, climate change is a problem. It is a problem that still is not unanimously recognized. It will change our world, our way of life, and probably not for the better. But, as we experience the change, we can document what is happening for the future inhabitants of our perturbed ecosystems. We can make record of the oddities, the aberrations, so that we leave a paper trail of first observations that will help us understand when things started, and how they developed. Hopefully, as these records build the evidence of change will become insurmountable to the point that the overwhelming majority of our society cannot and will not deny that the world is impacted by our daily choices and we ourselves need to change. And when we do, hopefully it will not be too late.
This is why I want to publish notes such as this, to make a record that will add to the evidence of an increasingly disrupted world. More to come…
You can find the paper detailing our observations of odd foraging behaviors here: