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Monday, November 30, 2009

10,000 Birds Conservation Club

I started out as a birder, chasing birds, always looking for rare birds. Birdwatching was not cool. Bird conservation wasn't a priority.

Then I chased the last of the California Condors back in 1985. I saw three of the last nine wild condors soar close overhead, wind whistling through their wings. I was never the same again.

After college I decided birding wasn't enough, I wanted to help birds. I went back to grad school. Got a couple more degrees. Started a nonprofit to study and help birds in Austin. Worked for another one. Spent almost five years working for National Audubon.

Now I'm proud to support a new effort to help birds, the 10,000 Birds Conservation Club set up by my buddies over at the 10,000 Birds blog. For just $25 a year you can support bird conservation causes around the world. With almost no overhead. That's not something you can say about your membership in other organizations that have big fund raising staff budgets and accounting departments.

So by all means support the big NGOs if you want. But support the lean and mean (OK, not so mean, they're really nice guys) 10,000 Birds Conservation Club. And do it for the birds, not just the chance to win some nice prizes!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Dutch Urban Birding

What better way to celebrate my 1,000 Birdchaser post (yeah!) than a recap of a day of urban birding in Holland!

On Saturday 20 of us from the first meeting of the BirdLife International Group on Urban Birds spent a very wet and rainy day visiting urban bird project sites in The Netherlands.

Here's our group with our local leader in a city park in Leiden.

Lots of good birds in the trees, including Short-toed Treecreeper and Firecrest. Redwings were migrating and flying over, as well as hanging out in fruiting trees. Rose-ringed Parakeets flew through frequently. Lots of fun, but wet!

The park has a little visitors center (behind us here) with lots of info on local birds.

A poster of local park birds in Leiden.

Part of the urban birds campaign info that won Leiden the annual award at this year's Dutch Urban Bird Conference (Stadsvogelconferentie) for best urban bird project.

After an hour birding and visiting this park, we took off to tour a new development where the planners are working to create habitat for 50 breeding species in the 4 square kilometers of the project.

Here's the group looking over the plans.

The long gray things between the windows on the upper floor of this building are boxes for nesting Swifts.

The developers are leaving the reeds in the canal here, not a common sight in Holland, where most of the canals are mowed to the edges. This can provide habitat for reedlings and other birds.

After a very wet and rainy hike through this housing and commercial development, we headed in the bus to visit a project in Amsterdam where they are building floating planter boxes to provide habitat for nesting coots, grebes, moorehens and other birds in the canals.

A skittish moorhen, not used to so much attention.

Of course, being that this is Amsterdam, the new habitat is floating in a canal right in front of a red light district. Coots and prostitutes. Only in Amsterdam!

After this eye-opening excursion, we headed out to another urban site, where a toxic dump has been capped and now forms part of a wetland greenway complex on the outskirts of Amsterdam. Lots of gulls, grebes, waterfowl, and other birds in the river and canals. It started raining again, so we ended the day quite wet, but with over 50 species of birds seen in and around several Dutch cities.

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