A studio for bird study

Tag: conservation

Black Hawk Eagle Painting for Belize Raptor Center

by Bryce W. Robinson

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Black Hawk Eagle (Spizaetus tyrannus). 11 x 15″ Gouache on paper.

My friend Aron came to me recently to ask for a favor; an illustration for a silent auction to benefit a small raptor education center in Belize. The Belize Raptor Center is an organization whose primary focus is to showcase indigenous Belizean species as the most ecologically and economically important class of wildlife in the country.

The benefit will be held in Salt Lake City on 8 October at Church and State from 7-10 PM. There will be a silent auction, live music, and best of all live birds. If you’re in Salt Lake City, be there.

Here are a few details about the Belize Raptor Center from their website:

MISSON: Educate and inspire conservation of birds of prey and their habitat, using permitted non releasable raptors. Rescue and rehabilitate injured and orphaned birds of prey.

SUMMARY: Our mission is important because in Belize, raptors are highly persecuted due to the many myths and misconceptions that surround them. Although they are protected in the United States, the vast majority of them migrate south for the winter and face dangers such as shooting, poisoning, and habitat loss…. Only though proper education can we hope to protect them.

GOAL: We are planning to construct a brand new facility that will serve as the Visitor Center for Belize Raptor Center. Currently the center houses 6 birds of prey that are taken off-site to educate schoolchildren about the importance of raptor conservation. There will be a museum and education center as well as an indoor flight space for a free-flighted bird show – the first of its kind in Belize.

THE FACILITY: The funding will go towards the costs of labor and materials for the Visitor Center. The entire establishment is completely off-grid; solar power and rain/well water keep expenses low. Income from the gift shop and paid programs will help keep our facility self sustaining after the initial costs of building the visitor center.

If you’re interested in the painting to help the Belize Raptor Center reach their goal, but can’t attend the benefit in Salt Lake City, feel free to contact the Belize Raptor Center or me.

Find them on Facebook

Contact: belizeraptorcenterATgmail.com

http://www.belizeraptorcenter.com/our-mission/

California Gnatcatcher – Polioptila californica

by Bryce W. Robinson

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This month I found myself fortunate to have the opportunity of illustrating a “Coastal” California Gnatcatcher (Polioptila californica californica). I was asked to do an illustration for Sea and Sage Audubon in southern California, and I decided to illustrate the California Gnatcatcher because it is perhaps the most pressing avian conservation issue facing southern California.

A few decades of rapid urban development in southern California’s coastal sage scrub habitat has left California Gnatcatcher’s with shrinking suitable habitat and a fragmented range. These pressures have taken their toll on the United State’s only California Gnatcatcher populations, to a point that in 1993 the gnatcatcher received threatened status.

Today it seems that the California Gnatcatcher’s presence and future in the coastal sage scrub is that of small fragmented populations. In essence, the damage has been done, and efforts now focus on preserving what quality habitat is left and ensuring that the small populations remain.

My choice to illustrate this bird was founded on 1. maintaining awareness for the plight of this incredible bird, 2. supporting a feeling of identity for those that live in the area and invoking the California Gnatcatcher as an important part of that identity, and 3. a reminder that these birds act as a symbol for the broad impacts human development has to the ecosystem, a symbol that goes well beyond single species conservation.

For more information on the history of the conservation effort for this species, and to stay updated on current action visit:

The USFWS’s Environmental Conservation Online System page for the Coastal California Gnatcatcher.

 

Rough-legged Hawk Nestlings

by Bryce W. Robinson

Rough-legged Hawk Nestlings

I was surprised the first time I saw the proximity of nesting Rough-legged Hawk and Gyrfalcon. It was my first summer in Alaska. I was along the Dalton Highway peering through a scope at an incubating white Gyrfalcon. Only 100 meters down the cliffside was an incubating Rough-legged Hawk. Now that I’ve gained an in depth experience with cliff nesting birds of the Arctic, I see why these birds tolerate one another. There simply aren’t enough locations to be choosy.

These eyes were watching me as I pulled out one of my Gyrfalcon nest cameras the other day. This is on the extreme end of Gyrfalcon – Rough-legged Hawk nest proximity. These nests are only about 10 meters apart, and given that these young Roughies are about to fledge, they will both be successful. Almost every cliff I’ve worked in this summer has had a nesting Rough-legged Hawk pair. Some cliffs have had two, along with nesting Raven and Cackling Goose (yes, they nest in cliff nests often). Real estate is limited, so all suitable sites are usually occupied given enough food in the area.

Rough-legged Hawks are a favorite. I gained a familiarity with them during past winters in Utah, and it was always a dream of mine to see them on their breeding grounds. Each time I’m around a nest, I remember my current place and business in life, something that is not to be taken for granted. I’m living a personal dream, and I’m happy.

Gyrfalcon Nest Observation

by Bryce W. Robinson

Somewhere between 45-50 days after hatching, young Gyrfalcons take a leap from their nest and fly for the first time. The clip above shows an angsty female preparing herself for that first jump. Her two siblings, both male, had already left the nest. This fact added to her anxiety as they called from outside of the nest.

Last year I put some effort into seeing a Gyrfalcon’s first flight, but was never in the right place at the right time. This year, I’m making another attempt. The clip above – as seen from a tent through our Zeiss Diascope – is as close as I’ve come to seeing a first flight. I spent hours with my field partner Ellen in a tent outside of the eyrie waiting for the bird to make the leap. The clip shows the closest she came. After this intense flapping bout, she sat down and went to sleep. We had to leave before the bird left the nest, but the time spent watching her was worthwhile.

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First hand study is invaluable. We live in an interesting world where technology gives us so much, so fast, so often. We are able to learn at such a high pace, and research is no exception. For instance, I’m gaining insight into multiple nests using motion-sensor cameras. This provides me an in-depth exposure to Gyrfalcon nests at a higher rate than ever before . This is all due to the camera technology. But I’m missing out on a slow pace digestion of first hand observation. I’m missing out on the whole picture. To get the full perspective, and truly see what it is like in the nest, I need to watch them myself.

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While I watched, I took notes on behaviors. I also did a bit of field sketching. Field sketches force you to focus, and digest very small details that can heighten your understanding of your subject, but also enhance your observation skills. Besides all that, it is an enjoyable way to pass the time while the nestlings sleep.

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Ellen and I took turns watching the nest. We were able to see two prey deliveries during our time watching. A male fledgling returned after one of the prey deliveries, hoping to get part of the meal. The female, however, would not oblige. I most enjoyed watching their behaviors. The birds interacted with one another in an endearing manner. They would pick at each other, as if preening. I wasn’t quite sure if this was curiosity, playful, or truly preening. They would also watch flies buzz around the nest, as if they were about to pounce. You could see the predator engineered mind in the way they followed the flies. They were figuring out what they needed to do to survive.

Male (R) and female (L) Gyrfalcon fledglings. Digiscoped with a Zeiss Diascope 65 T* FL

Male (L) and female (R) Gyrfalcon fledglings. Digiscoped with a Zeiss Diascope 65 T* FL

Although we missed the first flight of the female, we’ll have a few more opportunities to try with other nests. This means more hours behind the scope to watch, and more hours to learn.

To find out more about The Peregrine Fund’s Gyrfalcon Program, visit The Tundra Conservation Network and www.peregrinefund.org