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Updated: October 16, 2017.

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 JUNEAU AUDUBON SOCIETY

GENERAL MEETING

THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 9, 2017, 7:00 P.M.

University of Alaska Southeast Recreation Center, Room 116

Chasing Neotropical Migrants in the Lower Rio Grand Valley

by Bill Heard

UPCOMING MEETINGS:

December 14    Alaska Birds in Decline: Findings from the 2017 Alaska Watch List  by Dr. Nils Warnock, Executive Director of Audubon Alaska


 Saturday Wild Event:

 

For more info call 321-4739 or email  programs@juneau-aububon-society.org or visit http://www.juneau-audubon-society.org


Tips for Safe Bird-feeding
By Gwen Baluss


Feeding birds can be fun and increase our appreciation and awareness of them. However, it’s vital that in doing so we avoid creating problems. It’s also important to note that birds don’t need handouts from us. What they need most is wild habitat to survive.


When considering feeding, the first question is: is it a good idea to lure birds in? Unfortunately, if there are hazards nearby such as a loose cat, a dog that chases birds, a busy street, lots of windows, an electric fence, or any kind of pesticide use, etc. the answer is “no”.


If you do decide to feed birds, there are some other things to consider.


One is bears. They should be waking up and prowling around, right about now. Feeders need to be way up where bears can’t access them. Seeds on the ground should be sprinkled lightly preferably in a thick bushy area or up on a high porch so that it would not be efficient for a bear to lick them up. Alaska Department of Fish and Game recommends taking bird feeders down during the months that bears are at large.


Squirrels and other small mammals can be slowed down by sprinkling seeds (or suet) with hot chili pepper powder such cayenne. Birds are not affected by capsicum, the “hot” substance in chilies. Squirrels, while annoying, are not always a threat to birds. It depends on the squirrel. Studies have shown that some individual red squirrels are good at nest searching and have a taste for eggs. Others don’t. I’ve personally seen certain squirrels attempt to pounce on feeding juncos. All of them can eat a lot of expensive birdseed in a short time.


Sanitation is important. Feeders need to be cleaned consistently and frequently to make sure there is never any spoiled or moldy food, and to reduce the risk of disease being passed between birds. And watch out for sharp, dangling or catchy parts. There are lots of do-it-yourself feeder designs online and elsewhere. Take a close look at these, as they are not necessarily good designs for birds. Even some commercially available are dubious. Buying from a vender that specializes in bird supplies is usually a good bet. Seed feeders should be emptied at least once a week, washed with a nontoxic cleaner and dried before putting back out. Clean suet feeders once a month or whenever suet is replenished. Personally, I find a wide sprinkling of seeds in a patch of thick bushes to be a much easier option.


Placement in relation to windows is another consideration. Feeders should either be right next to a window, or far, as in more than 40 feet away. The concepts is that if something spooks a group of feeding birds, these options allow that either the bird has space to navigate around the window, or would not have started going fast enough to be hurt if it does hit. Of course, anything that makes windows more visible is a good idea too.

 

Hummingbird feeders should be changed twice a week. All surfaces should be scrubbed with a brush (you can buy small bottlebrushes online or try using pipe cleaners for the small holes). Soak first in vinegar if any mold has formed. Glass reservoirs can also be sanitized with very hot water. Avoid feeders with plastic storage reservoirs, and any surface that are not easy to clean. Feeders with holes that are on a flat platform should be drilled to make at least as big as a standard school pencil eraser; smaller holes on a flat plane can catch birds beaks or legs and cause serious injury if something startles them.


The best recipe for hummingbird food is one cup of white sugar to three cups of boiling water. Dyes are not necessary and may not be safe. Brown, raw or organic sugar contains iron which can be bad for the birds. Honey is dangerous too, as it may cause food poisoning.


Not sure you want to deal with cleaning a feeder or buying seeds? Birds are attracted to alternatives. Native plants, for example. Willows are one of the best for attracting a variety of species, but any native tree or shrub will have its fans. Around here most can either be grown from cuttings along a roadside, or will just sprout out of an untrammeled area. And the more you let them grow wild and unkempt the better. Any kind of shelter, even if it’s just a pile of boards or junk, sticks, etc. all are good for small Sbirds. What a great excuse to not clean up the yard! Avoid leaving out dead-ends like crab pots, loose fibers, or netting, and especially pipes left upright, that could trap a bird. Old dead branches, snags and logs may look a little unsightly, but if you can tolerate them, they are wonderful breeding grounds for beetles and other tasty invertebrates that nesting birds love. A simple source of shallow clean water can bring birds in to bathe, even in our wet environment.


Ornamental plants with fruit or flowers can be excellent for attracting showy birds like waxwings. But they come with another serious precaution: buy organically grown stock or get assurance that the plant has not been treated with systemic pesticides. These days, a lot of nursery plants are treated with neonicotinoid pesticides, some of which have been shown to be toxic or sickening agents to birds. All parts of treated plants, including nectar, carry the pesticide. These pesticides are also toxic to bees, flies, and other insects that local birds might be interested in eating.


Now here’s something you don’t have to worry about: cutting off the food supply. Wild birds are adaptable. If you go traveling and nobody can feed the birds, don’t fret too much. You might miss your birds when you get back because they’ve moved on, but they will move on. Ephemeral food sources are a natural reality for every species. You are not going to change a migratory bird’s pathway. It could be that on a long-term time scale, food available from humans does change distributional patterns, but migration is complex and instinctual, and not going to be influenced either way by a single food source.
 


Tree Swallow Nest Box Construction and Update April 2017

By Brenda Wright

Last year we put 40 tree swallow boxes up around Juneau and were happy to find we had 15 successful nests. This year we decided to spend a little more money and find out how many nest boxes could be built for ~$300.

After putting some information in our Raven newsletter, a person contacted me from the Juneau Community Charter School. The middle school students were looking for a construction project for February and March. I was very happy to supply them with most of the wood and hardware. The students seemed to enjoy this project and with the help of some parents, they were able to build 24 new nest boxes.

I can’t thank them all enough for completing this project.

In May, there will be an update on where all the boxes have been placed in 2017. Volunteers are needed to monitor the boxes. Please contact Brenda at programs@juneau-audubon-society.org


JAS Supporting Bird Research and Monitoring

by Gwen Baluss

As an organization JAS has historically been focused on environmental education and conservation in Southeast Alaska, with a focus on birds and wildlife.  This is still true, but we also recognize the importance of monitoring and research, especially of bird population for both our migratory and resident species. Here are a few ways we help.

Christmas Bird Countthis is a long-standing, wide range count that Audubon supports.  The data from the CBC is now being used to see how birds’ winter range, distribution and populations have changed over time. Comparing this with climate data we can see how some birds have shifted northwards in the winter.

Other citizen science efforts - we are always encouraging our members to use eBird so their data can be pooled with this great emerging database. Specifically, we try to publicize special count events such as the Great Backyard Bird Count, and the Global Big day. Even our field trips are usually entered in to eBird and make for several fairly consistent springtime “snap shots” of the bird life, with plenty of skilled observers.

Tree Swallow Nest Boxes – as a group aerial insectivores have declined.  It’s hard to believe, but the once common Barn Swallow has dwindled to the point that the species is listed as Threatened in Canada.  Tree swallows face similar feeding challenges to other insectivores. By getting a population occupying boxes annually near Juneau we can initiate further studies.

Arctic Tern Monitoring – New this year, JAS in partnership with US Forest Service plans to sponsor an Intern who will study and help protect Arctic Terns around Mendenhall Lake.

Text Box: Bob Armstrong
Supporting continental scale bird-banding studies – We donate up to $500 annually to the Institute for Bird Populations. The IBP maintains banding stations in both summer and winter throughout North America as well as Central America and the Caribbean. This is now a powerful large scale data set that checks the pulse of many bird species population fluxes, including some of our migratory songbirds.  (For more info see http://www.birdpop.org/)


UPDATE: Moose observed at Mendenhall Glacier Recreation Area beginning September 13, 2017.   View Facebook video: https://www.facebook.com/jos.bakker.543/videos/1708694369142029/

Moose in Juneau: sometimes it’s not so crazy to hope

By Gwen Baluss

I’ve hung my rain cap here in Juneau for most the time since 1998. Something I always pondered is, where are the moose? It didn’t seem fair that Gustavus and Petersburg would have them, and Juneau didn’t. They were up the Taku and Berners Rivers, but wouldn’t venture in between? I made it a point to bring up my inquiry in conversations with biologists, naturalists, and hunters. Sometimes the answer was "lack of habitat". I never bought this one, as I looked around at plenty of the plants that the browsers enjoy in other parts of Southeast: willow, highbush cranberry, even blueberry.

A more persuasive answer was simply "dispersal rate." According to ADF&G reports, moose only started appearing in Southeast Alaska in general in the early twentieth century. The moose simply hadn’t found this habitat that, on geologic terms, is new and still being uncovered as glaciers recede. And the fact that other communities were colonized first had to do with proximity to a direct river from interior Alaska-- and some luck.

There had been a few sightings over the years around Juneau though. I even saw the pellets of a cow that had been reported at, of all places, Moose Lake. I eagerly awaited the day when more moose would show up near the Juneau Road system.

Starting in fall 2013, I noticed tracks and browse around Point Bridget State Park, apparently of a cow and at least one calf. A Juneau Empire story reported sightings "out the road" as well that fall. The following year, I found more tracks and sign. But despite many hours devoted to sneaking around in the rain, never saw even a glimpse. Finally, in fall 2015, I had the incredible luck to see a cow, a grown bull and small bull, all together near Cowee Creek.

And the excitement builds as recently there has been solid evidence of a cow and bull in Mendenhall Valley; also, a cow in the Thunder Mountain bowl and a young bull at Boy Scout Beach.

Where did these moose come from? Perhaps some DNA work will tell us in the years to come. It seems most likely that the animals traveled from Berners Bay. That population there was introduced in 1958 and 1960 with 17 and 11 animals respectively, stock from the Mat-su Valleys. But of course, wildlife dispersal is not always as one would assume.

Moose dispersed into Southeast Alaska from British Columbia. The Anderson subspecies (Alces alces andersoni) colonized different areas in a complex pattern, sometimes established by only a few "founders", but with potential for mixing with subsequent incursions of the larger interior Alaska moose subspecies (Alces alces gigas), especially in the Haines and Yakutat areas. (An interesting write up about this can be found here: http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=wildlifenews.view_article&articles_id=602).

What’s going to happen next? A handful of animals is hardly a population yet, but at least we have the right elements to spur the imagination. Juneau will be different if moose become frequent denizens. I wonder about the human and wildlife interactions. Will drivers learn to slow down going out the road in the evenings? Will animals be shot by poachers? How many loose dogs will be stomped if there is a mom and calf roaming the Mendenhall Glacier Recreation area?

Nobody is more eager to see the moose than I, but cringe the community might love the animals to death: naming them, feeding them, approaching too close to get photos. ("Romeo" the wolf comes to mind here). Either way, it’s bound to make our fall walks around Juneau more exciting for a while.

 

Photo by G. Baluss (taken with a zoom lens while hiding, breathless, behind a log).

Moose at Cowee Creek, September 22, 2015.

 


Eagle Feather Collection Permits

To all volunteers who collect eagle feathers under the Juneau Audubon Society US Fish & Wildlife Service permit.  JAS has received a new feather collection permit.

The permits are available by e-mail and paper from Brenda Wright.   Each of our permits are good for three years.

Contact Brenda at: at-large_b@juneau-audubon-society.org


16TH ALASKA BIRD CONFERENCE

by Brenda Wright

The 16th Alaska Bird Conference was held in Juneau, December 9-11, 2014. There were over 40 scientific papers and 20 posters presented at the conference. The conference drew more than 100 students, scientists, educators, and researchers from across the state and the Pacific coast. Included in the conference sessions were climate change, breeding ecology, disease/contaminants, foraging ecology, movement ecology, and populations and distributions.

If you go to the web page:

 http://www.alaskabirdconference.org/Alaska_Bird_Conference/Home.html, you can see the full program and also get the abstracts.  A special fund raising event by Juneau Audubon, Audubon Anchorage, and ADF&G enabled us to film the keynote speaker, Gerrit Vyn, for 360 North. If you would like to see this presentation you can enjoy it online at http://www.360north.org/events/alaska-bird-conference-2014-keynote-address-gerrit-vyn/ (You may have to wait for an update on the site, the presentation would not open for me).

A special thanks to the local organizing committee: Anne Sutton, Kelly Nesvacil, Mike Goldstein, and Brenda Wright. The scientific committee reviewed all the abstract submissions and made the schedule of talks, ring leaders were John Pearce, Julie Hagelin, Abby Powell, Debbi Nigro, and Steve Lewis. And also a special thank you to the sponsors for the donations of time, money, and effort: US Forest Service, ADF&G, Audubon Alaska, North Pacific Research Board, Pacific Coast Joint Venture, Ducks Unlimited, ABR, Inc., Juneau Audubon Society, and St. Hubert Research Group


Natural History of Juneau Trails: A Watershed Approach
By Richard Carstensen

Richard Carstensen’s gorgeous new book explores the natural history of the Juneau trail system.  It makes a great gift, and for only a limited time your purchase will directly support Discovery Southeast and Audubon. 

Natural History of Juneau Trails will be available in stores in 2014, but is available now for a limited time as a fundraiser directly from Discovery Southeast.  The price is $24.00.  

To order directly from Discovery Southeast on-line click here.  Use the code “Audubon” and profits from your purchase will be split between Audubon and Discovery Southeast.

A treat for any outdoor enthusiast.  Buy it now to support Audubon and Discovery Southeast!

   
 

 

The Raven

Regional Birding Information 

 

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