Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Real Actual Arguments

In 2002, the US District Court for the District of Columbia heard the case of Center for Biological Diversity v. Robert Pirie, Acting Secretary of the Navy (191 F. Supp. 2d. 161). The case involved a Migratoy Bird Treaty Act challenge to the US Navy's bombing of a small island near Guam for training purposes. Here are two real actual arguments employed by the Navy:

1. "[The] use of the area as a live fire range has the beneficial effect of reducing the negative impacts of human intrusion.” *167

In other words, the bombing of this island will benefit birds because no humans won't come to the island for other reasons. The court called this argument "surprising."

2. "[B]ird watchers get more enjoyment spotting a rare bird than they do spotting a common one.” *173

That's right. The more birds killed by Navy bombs, the more rare those birds become and, therefore, the more enjoyment birders get from finding them. The Judge replies, "The Court hopes that the federal government will refrain from making or adopting such frivolous arguments in the future."

Quick News: Piping Plover Protection in Maine

Quick bit of news: Piping Plovers, which have not been doing well in my homestate this year, may get increasted protection on some beaches.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Hiatus and Quote

To Whom it May Concern-

I will be very busy for the next two weeks working full-time in Augusta during the day and full-time on a law journal write-on competition at night, and will therefore not likely be able to post much. I just wanted to make it official so it doesn't look like I'm just lazy. I'll be back sometime soon after August 11 with posts about: Birds and Cape Wind, John Xantus and, hell, maybe and interview or two if people will friggin' respond to my inquests.

Anyway, thanks for understanding.

Love, Nick

P.S. I'll leave you with this nice quote (which is related to the journal writing I'll be doing) taken from testimony before the House Committee on Government Reform, May 16, 2002, from Representative Bob Barr (R-GA):

"We need some tough leadership from the Department of Defense. We need hard decisions that, while perhaps not politically correct, are correct when it comes to doing what is right for our men and women in combat. What is right is what will better prepare our warriors to win and survive on the battlefield, not limiting training so we don't run a risk of trampling blades of grass or upsetting the nesting habits of a cockamamie warbler. When things go wrong on the battlefield, people, and the importance of the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act or the Noise Control Act pale in comparison."

Agree or disagree? I want an answer by the time I get back.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

I and the Bird #80

Browse the best in birding blogs.

IATB #80 at the Hawk Owl's Nest.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Birds and Other Types of Turbines

Traditional propellor turbines are not the only possibile solution for harnessing energy from wind. Here are a couple more designs, along with my unscientific musings on how they will effect bird strikes.


The WindWing was developed by W2 Energy Corporation in California. Wind pushes two sets of wings (it looks like the Wright Brothers' plane) up and down and...well...just read the diagram.

How will it affect birds? Well the real question, when thinking about a traditional turbine, is: Do the blades kill the birds or does the tower? As far as I can tell, it's the tower (and the lights associated with it) that's the most dangerous part. However, I think it's safe to work with the assumption that bird strikes are roughly proportionate to the amount of surface area on a structure.

How does that bode for the WindWing? Well the surface area of the blades has been consolidated into the wings, and so overall the total surface area of a WingWing is probably at least the same as a traditional turbine. If lights are mounted atop the tower, bird strikes may increase as birds are attracted to those lights because more of the structure exists closer to the tower than on a traditional turbine.

Completely unscientific conclusion: At least the same amount of strikes.


FloDesign "is a Contract Engineering Corporation built around the application of aerospace technology to new product development." I'd tell you more, but I don't have the login to get into their super exclusive website. Their efficient turbine design just won a prize from MIT.

Birds? Hmm. Well the blades are gone, and now the majority of the surface area is placed at the very top of the tower. My worry about this design is that aviation lights are also usually placed at the top of the tower, depending on what the FAA decides. If birds are attracted to your lights, and there's a lot of mass around the lights, there may be more collisions.

Completely unscientific conclusion: Probably about the same number of strikes.

Selsam Superturbine

Holy cow look at that thing! California-based Selsam is a small company with big dreams. That website has a lot more photos, but the basic idea is to replace large, single turbines with a whole bunch of little ones. They can be put in the water, they can be put on top of buildings, and, as seen above, they can be attached to bimps.

Operating from my "strikes = surface area" theory, the Selsam turbine would have about the same number of strikes as a traditional turbine. The surface area of the two styles is (roughly) the same, it's just broken into smaller bits on the Selsam turbine. I gotta think, though, that it would be easier to devise a system to repel birds from a relatively contained rope of turbines than from one with a wider reach.

Completely unscientific conclusion: Slightly fewer strikes.

M.A.R.S. (Magenn Power Air Rotor System)

Magenn Power Inc. wants to float lighter-than-air balloon turbines up to 1000 feet in the air, where wind speeds are stronger and more consistant.

According to The Always-Reliable Awesome EverythingSite, Wikipedia, most birds migrate at altitudes between 500 and 2000 feet. If this is correct, the Mangenn turbine may just float right smack into the middle of the majority of migrating birds. This factor, combined with the consolidation of the mass around aviation lights may have the effect of increasing bird strikes.

Completely unscientific conclusion: More bird strikes.

So, there you have it. Any other turbine designs out there? Disagree with my off-the-cuff reasonings? Let me know.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Birds and Offshore Wind Energy II

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory has recently released this map showing global wind energy potential. I didn't realize how much of a difference there was between summer and winter winds.

Looking quickly, it appears that the best sites in terms of sustained yearly wind speeds are: off the coast of Northern California, around Australia and New Zealand, Southern Chile, Somalia, Southern Vietnam, and the Caribbean.

How does this affect birds? Well I think that's still kind of up in the air. Offshore (in federal waters, more than 3 miles from land) wind development would avoid many of the problems usually attributed to migrating birds (especially raptors, which don't migrate over water at all), but could still pose problems for birds that do migrate or travel well offshore.

Here is a satellite tracking map showing a Black-Footed Albatross meandering off the coast of Northern California, one of the areas I mentioned above as having sustained yearly wind speeds and a possible area for deepwater wind farms:

Similarly, some of the migrations shown on this Alaskan USGS site - a really fantastic website - show Brant and Red-Throated Loons migrating well off the coast of California, likewise for Short-Tailed Shearwater and Arctic Terns on the map below (not sure how precise it is).

How would deepwater offshore wind farms affect seabirds? No idea. The only study I know of focuses on wintering Common Eiders. The birds were lured through the turbines using decoys set deeper and deeper into the farm. The fact that these birds were overwintering is important, I think, because their flight patterns are different than birds that are migrating (like the Brant) or foraging (like the Albatross).

For example, most birds - except raptors - migrate at night. Though it is likely that nocturnal migrants fly high enough to avoid rotating blades, lights placed atop turbines for navigational purposes may prove to be a much bigger problem ("In the Gulf of Mexico, a 2005 showed that 300,000 birds die in collisions with pipes and wires each year"). Technological developments in lighting may help.

Birds that feed at sea, storm-petrels, albatross, shearwaters, etc., may also be at risk of hitting turbines. These birds don't generally fly at night, but birds on the lookout for food are not on the lookout for structures. This reasoning has been used to help explain the large numbers of raptor mortality from the Altamont Pass wind farm. It's unclear if there will be a similar effect among seabirds (most sea foragers rely on their noses rather their their eyes), but the topic certainly needs to be studied.

The effects of offshore turbines on seabirds - and maybe more importantly on marine mammals, who may be seriously affected by increased underwater noise and vibration - needs to continue to be explored. I still believe that large offshore wind farms will, in the long run, be easily more environmentally sound than our current sources of electricity, but finding sites that minimize impacts while maximizing energy is key.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Tropicbird Pics

Wanna see a better picture of the Matinicus Rock Red-Billed Tropicbird? Check here.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Interview with Myself, Matinicus Rock Trip Participant

Nick Lund was a part of the memorable July 12, 2008 Maine Audubon pelagic trip to Matinicus Rock. After much prodding, Nick agreed to discuss the trip with The Birdist, and even offered to share some of his photographs! Oh boy!

Birdist: Good evening, Mr. Lund. Gosh you're looking handsome this evening. Have you been working out?

NL: No, not at all.

I see. Well, whatever you're doing, keep doing it! So, I understand you took a trip to Matinicus Rock. How'd it go?

NL: Well it was outstanding, really. The weather was very cooperative; no clouds, and very little wind resulted in glassy seas and limitless visibility for the entire 25 miles. We left from the Todd Audubon Sanctuary in Bremen, Maine and stopped at Eastern Egg Rock before motoring out to Matinicus Rock. The two rocks are nesting colonies for puffins, razorbills, common murres and several species of terns, and there were chances at shearwaters, storm-petrels and phalaropes, but the bird we were all (quietly) seeking was the red-billed tropicbird that has summered on Matinicus for the past two summers.

Did you find it?

NL: Let's just go to the pictures. Here's looking out from the Todd Sanctuary towards the ocean. Notice how calm everything was! As far as I could tell, no one got seasick the whole time.

Laughing Gull at Eastern Egg


The lighthouse on Matinicus Rock

Razorbill rafts off Matinicus Rock

Arctic Tern (note the sharpness of the dark line on the primaries). Matinicus Rock is one of the few places where arctic terns outnumber common terns, here by about 3 to 1.

Common Tern (see how the dark line on the primaries spreads to the rest of the wing?)

Wow look at all those common murres!

NL: Actually, those are all decoys placed as part of a social attraction program. There are only a handful of common murres on the island, our group saw about four.

immature great cormorants

atlantic puffin, a fan favorite

Look, these are all great, but did you see the tropicbird?

NL: OK, well let me just say that I was too busy being a helpful, ocean-scanning birder to be a photographer. Aside from one or two pictures at the start, I wasn't taking any photos at Matinicus. The fact that it seemed unlikely that we would see the tropicbird didn't help. A pair of biologists rowed out to meet us when we reached the Rock, and when one of them announced over the ship's loudspeaker that the tropicbird hadn't been seen for 10 days, there was a noticeable deflation of many of the trip participants.

Imagine our elation, then, when a few minutes later the tropicbird appeared, in all it's brilliant glory, and soared just a few feet over the boat. It was incredible. The bird made several very close passes, and many close up photos were taken. Not by me, though. Like I said, I had put away my camera to focus on seawatching and only remembered to grab it after the tropicbird's interest in the boat had worn off. I managed to grab a couple awful pictures:

Are you joking me? God I'm disappointed.

NL: Screw you, This interview's over.

new life birds from this trip: atlantic puffin, wilson's storm petrels (100+ seen on the trip back), common murre, razorbill, roseate tern (two on eastern egg rock), arctic tern. 422 world list

new ABA birds: the above, plus red-billed tropicbird (i've seen them before on Isla de la Plata, Ecuador. 377 ABA list.

new Maine birds: above plus greater shearwater (seen well, but the only shearwater on the trip [we were not chumming]) 213 Maine list.

Port Clyde, Maine

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Birds At Large IV: Brian Regan

I've been a fan of Brian Regan's stand-up since that first special of his was on TV a bunch of years ago (the one with the jokes about looking like an idiot when you walk into a spider web because no one else sees it but you...). Here's a bit from his most recent special where he talks about the fake bird noises pumped into golf telecasts. He busts us birders pretty good, but gets a Birds at Large tag for involving the Blue-Breasted Whipper-Willow.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Birds at Large III: Molson Canadian Commercial

Check out the woodpecker that cruises in at the 10 second mark of this commercial:

Black face, white belly, red crest? Clearly not a Pileated Woodpecker, the only Canadian species remotely like the one in the commercial. How aboot some background research, eh?


Anyway, I couldn't figure out what bird that is in the commercial. This is the best reference I could find. If anyone reads this and can figure out what species it is, I'll give you a prize.

About Us | Site Map | Privacy Policy | Contact Us | Blog Design | 2007 Company Name