Keeping Bexar Audubon Society members informed of activities, issues, policies, and proposals
that affect us all is important to us. We’ll post articles to ensure you’re up to date and
aware of the latest conservation news, projects, and research, as well as offering suggestions on ways you can help, including taking action in your own backyard.
“If you really think the environment is less important than economy, try holding your breath while you count your money.” [by Dr. Guy McPherson, environmental, health and industry activist]
Do You Know Where
Caracaras Are Nesting?
Bexar Audubon recently received a request from UTSA Graduate Student Alexis Baum. Alexis is embarking on a project involving the Crested Caracara and is looking for help locating nesting sites and/or breeding pairs. Here is what she says about her graduate project:
“My research is examining microplastic consumption in terrestrial birds and I'm using Crested Caracaras as my research model. I plan to collect regurgitated pellets on the ground beneath caracara nesting sites during the breeding season. This is a non-invasive way to examine microplastic consumption in Crested Caracaras. No birds will be handled during this research. Currently, I am collecting information on the locations of caracara nests within San Antonio and the surrounding rural areas."
Please email email@example.com if you have information on nesting Crested Caracaras in our area. We will forward the information to Alexis.
Opinion: A woodpecker is officially declared extinct. Why should we care?
Opinion Piece by Bruce Beehler. Published in the Washington Post: October 1, 2021
Bruce Beehler is a local naturalist and author of 12 books, including “Natural Encounters” and “Birds of Maryland, Delaware, and the District of Columbia.”
On April 28, 2005, conservationists and government officials held a press conference that made headlines across the world. Their bombshell announcement: the ivory-billed woodpecker, long thought extinct, had been rediscovered in bottomland forest in Arkansas. The bird had last been seen in 1944. Here was an example of the phoenix-like rebirth of a “lost” species—an icon of the great old-growth forests of the Deep South and a species that had charmed the imaginations of great American naturalists from John James Audubon to Roger Tory Peterson. There are very few natural history stories over the last century that equal this one for the excitement, joy, and amazement it generated.
Now, fifteen years later, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) has issued another announcement, formally declaring the ivory-billed woodpecker to be extinct. Most of those in the know will not be surprised, though the finality of the story is causing sadness. Read the rest of the article here.
Speak Up for Texas Wildlife!
The bipartisan Recovering America’s Wildlife Act is gaining attention in the U.S. Senate and building momentum. We need ALL TEXANS to help our fish and wildlife by contacting our U.S. Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz to ask that they cosponsor the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act, S.2372 (see contact info and sample message below).
Recovering America’s Wildlife Act would be a game changer for Texas’ at-risk fish and wildlife and their habitats. You can learn more by watching this video or visiting this website. In addition, please read the following:
Decline of North American Avifauna. Rosenberg et al. 2019. Science 365(6461)
Direct Mortality of Birds from Anthropogenic Causes. Loss, Will, Marra. 2015. Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics Vol. 46:99-120.
Three Billion Birds Report: Cornell Lab of Ornithology
3 Billion Birds Gone: American Bird Conservancy
Phone calls and messages from Texans to our Senators would go a long way to encourage their support for protecting fish and wildlife.
Senator John Cornyn:
Call D.C. Office: 202-224-2934
Send a message through his website.
Senator Ted Cruz
Call D.C. Office: 202-224-5922
Send a message through his website.
Sample message/call script:
As a Texas constituent, I would like to ask that Senator _______ please cosponsor the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act, S.2372. This bipartisan legislation is a common-sense conservation approach that is good for fish and wildlife, good for business, good for working lands, and good for Texans. Thank you!
New Conservation License Plate
A new conservation license plate designed by Houston Audubon and sponsored by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is now available. The new plate is dedicated to protecting birds and their habitat and features an Eastern Meadowlark, an iconic prairie species commonly found throughout Texas. This species was chosen because it is in need of conservation action and the habitat is one that Houston Audubon is deeply committed to restoring. For each license plate, $22 of the annual $30 fee will be used toward Houston Audubon’s bird conservation efforts. For more information and to order, visit the Conservation License Plate page on Houston Audubon’s website.
Click here for a list of products that can help you reduce the use of plastic in your everyday life.
From retailers that ship all over the nation to local butchers and shops, here is a guide to the ranches and retailers that sell products raised on Audubon-certified bird-friendly land.
Keep your cat safely enclosed in an outdoor space while protecting birds and other wildlife. Catio Spaces offers DIY plans for building any one of a variety of cat patio (catio) designs. Use the promo code BirdsRus at checkout and BAS will receive a 10% donation.
Bird netting, which is commonly used in gardens to keep birds and other wildlife from getting to your fruits and veggies, can also be dangerous to animals. Watch this brief video to find out why you should not use netting in your garden. Alternatives are shown that are safer and less likely to harm wildlife that may get tangled in netting.
Changes in SA Materials Accepted for Recycling
The City of San Antonio has updated their website to show you what's acceptable for recycling in the way of paper, plastic, metal, and glass. The San Antonio Report offers an in-depth article about recycling locally and elsewhere.
Take Action to Support Texas Wildlife
The Recovering America's Wildlife Act has now passed out of committee in both the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives. In the coming weeks, this groundbreaking legislation is expected to move to the House and Senate floor for full chamber votes. Reach out to your U.S. House Representative from Texas and our U.S. Senators on the contact pages of their website. Ask them to vote YES for the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act. Click HERE for guidance.
Solar Panel Recycling
In order to avoid an onslaught of e-waste accompanying our rapid solar development, scientists are developing ways to recycle solar panels, minimizing their environmental impact. Entrepreneurs and economists alike are also eyeing the huge financial value that a practical recycling method would offer.
So, can solar panels be recycled? The short answer is yes, but the process needs refining. Here’s what we know.
MBTA Bird Protections Restored!
Letter from Marshall Johnson, Acting Chief Conservation Officer, National Audubon Society
Dear Bexar Audubon Society Members:
I’m thrilled to report that the Biden-Harris administration has repealed a rule that severely limited bird protections under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA)—one of the nation’s first environmental laws, which Audubon played a lead role in creating. The rule, established by the previous administration, eliminated the incentive to protect birds and gave businesses a free pass for bird deaths, even those that are avoidable. The Biden administration will now work to strengthen the rules under the MBTA to advance and clarify the law’s protections.
Thanks to generous supporters like you, Audubon has been defending the MBTA from unprecedented efforts to gut it for four years. The administration’s announcement on Wednesday is a milestone accomplishment and reminder of how vital the Audubon movement is for birds. But with three billion birds lost and climate change threatening the future of those that remain, there’s no time to rest. That’s why we’re also working with Congress to pass the Migratory Bird Protection Act, which will safeguard the MBTA for the future. We’ll keep you apprised of our efforts as we move forward.
Thank you for all that you do. Together, we’re shaping a brighter future for birds.
Acting Chief Conservation Officer
Fun Family Activity—Attracting Hummingbirds
by Julio Cardona (Porch.com)
Hummingbirds are the smallest birds in the world, and they’re quite an impressive sight when they flock to your backyard. If you’re looking for ways to get your children, nephews, or grandchildren interested in learning more about these birds, it’s easy to attract them to your own yard for a fun family activity. With the right food, feeder, and setup, attracting hummingbirds is easy. Let’s discover together some awesome tips that will make your family activity fun and successful. We will also learn some basic information about these incredibly fascinating birds and how to attract them. Before you know it, you’ll have a fabulous flock that will make bird watching a favorite pastime for the entire family. Click here to read the entire article.
Audubon for Kids
Which Matters More to Sea-Level Rise:
Glaciers or Icebergs?
In this experiment, kids test whether land ice or sea ice causes oceans to rise as the planet warms.
What is Plirding?
In Sweden a few years ago, a movement called “plogging” sprang up, encouraging runners to pick up trash along their run. Plogging (a combination of Swedish plocka upp —“picking up”— plus “jogging”) took off in popularity, and runners around the world now turning every run into a treasure hunt, picking up any trash they find.
Inspired by plogging, “plirding” is picking up trash while birding! Picking up even a couple of pieces of trash while we’re out on the trail or in a park can help make a difference. And as others see our example, they might be encouraged to pick up trash too—or perhaps even not throw it on the ground in the first place.
A quick note in these times of COVID-19: please continue to maintain the recommended 6’/1.5m of social distancing while out plirding, and do not pick up anything you do not feel comfortable picking up. The CDC recommends the use of face masks and hand sanitizer, and we think wearing gloves while plirding is always a good idea!
New iNaturalist Project: Bird Window Strikes in 9 Central Texas Counties
SAVE BIRDS FROM GLASS COLLISIONS! Birds can’t see glass. As a result, up to one billion birds hit glass and are killed each year in the U.S. alone as they try to navigate around houses, office buildings, and other obstacles.
This iNaturalist project seeks to document window strikes that result in bird mortality by collecting data on such strikes in the nine-county area served by Bexar Audubon Society. This data will be used to EDUCATE people about the danger that glass poses to birds and to INFORM individual and city decisions on building practices and bird conservation (bird-friendly glass and strike prevention methods).
If you find a deceased bird whose death was caused by flying into a window, please take a photo of the bird and upload it in iNat to this project. We need the specific location where each photo was taken (name of building, street address, GPS coordinators, or other locators). We are collecting data to document where the strikes are occurring so we can address the underlying causes (glass type, lighting, feeder position, plantings that attract birds, etc.)
IF YOU FIND AN INJURED BIRD that has obviously hit a window, please call Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation EMERGENCY NUMBER 830.336.2725; their staff will advise you.
WARBLER WOODS CAN TRANSFER DECEASED BIRDS TO TEXAS A&M: Warbler Woods Bird Sanctuary in Cibolo, just northeast of San Antonio, is licensed to hold the birds that will then be transferred to Texas A&M. If you find a deceased bird, even a common one:
1. Put deceased bird in a plastic freezer bag and include a note with county in which the bird was found, reason for death if known, species if known, date if known
2. Remove air from plastic bag and store in freezer
3. Make arrangements to bring bird to Warbler Woods Bird Sanctuary by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
4. Place the bird in the garage freezer at Warbler Woods and email Warbler Woods to let them know you have dropped off the bird
By Allison Hayne
June 4, 2021 Update: The Purple Martin house at the Alamo Heights Little League ball fields has been a huge success this year. Next year I hope to add some hanging gourds to the bottom. I suspect we will have a full house next year. So far out of 14 compartments, we have 8 nesting pair! Today I did a nest check and we have 22 eggs and 14 babies! The pair with 6 babies has their hands full!!! The other house still has no takers. We will relocate it next year, as it’s just too close to nearby trees.
April 2020: One of the important migratory bird species in Texas is the Purple Martin, North America’s largest swallow. Purple Martins winter in South America, primarily in Brazil. In mid-January, Purple Martins begin showing up along the Gulf Coast of North America. Their breeding range in Texas includes most of the state except the Trans Pecos region.
East of the Rocky Mountains, Purple Martins nest exclusively in human-supplied housing because of loss of habitat and competition. To ensure successful nesting, housing must not be impeded by tall trees within 30 to 40 feet with wide-open flyways. Entry holes must be resistant to European Starlings and houses must be accessible for regular inspection to help control competition from introduced species such as the House Sparrow and European Starling. For housing located in the country, a predator guard is a must to keep snakes from climbing poles and eating whatever they find inside.
Thanks to many generous donors, my husband, Elliott, and I purchased a 12-gourd rack and installed it close to St. David’s Church in Terrell Hills. With permission from the City of Alamo Heights, we have assumed responsibility for the two Purple Martin houses on Viesca St. at the Judson Nature Trails and at the Alamo Heights Little League fields. We received financial backing from local residents as well as support from Bexar Audubon Society to make necessary repairs to the existing T-14 Purple Martin houses at those locations. We have observed successful nesting pairs at all of these sites.
If you need assistance with mapping out a Purple Mountain house location, maximizing its effectiveness, or are interested in donating an unused house to the PurpleMartins78209 Project, please contact me at email@example.com or text 210/289-6477. Monetary donations can be made by Venmo @Allison-Hayne.
When It's Okay (or Not) to Feed Birds
Providing food—for photography or simple enjoyment—can be a thorny issue. For guidance, ask yourself these three questions: Is this species at risk? Is the food appropriate and safely provided? Is feeding this bird likely to change its behavior in harmful ways? Read more in this thought-provoking article from National Audubon.
Seven Things Every Nature Lover Should Know
Understanding bird etiquette and obeying the law are common threads that unite us in our hobby and experience. The welfare of birds must come first. Here are seven of the most important things to remember to protect yourself and birds. Adapted from Birds and Blooms (Dec. 2019/Jan. 2020) article by Kenn and Kimberly Kaufman. Read more.
What are the Best Native Plants for Your Yard?
Search the National Audubon Society's Native Plant Database by zip code
to find the best native plants for birds in your area.
Do you Have Old Bird Lists But No Time to Enter in eBird?
Allan Seils, Travis Audubon Society Member, has a passion for preserving historic bird records. He has digitized and uploaded to eBird thousands of bird sighting records that otherwise would be lost—a hobby he does for free. If you have old field notes/checklists you want to have digitized and possibly uploaded into eBird or other databases, please contact Allan by email.