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Birders on a Cruise Discover New Bird Species

Storm PetrelThe American Bird Conservancy reports that many cruises provide memories of good times, good food and, of course, good drinks, but for two birders from Portland, Oregon, a February 2009 trip appears headed towards an outcome that is memorable in quite a different way.

Based on two years of follow-up research, scientists have concluded that the birds Jeff Gilligan, Gerard Lillie, and four Irish friends saw from the deck of their cruise ship off the coast of Chile are likely members of a new species of storm-petrel. The men, who are all serious birders, spotted what they thought were Wilson’s Storm-Petrels. On closer inspection, however, they noticed several features not consistent with that species, such as bellies that were too white and distinctive whitish wing bars.

After taking pictures and comparing them with various birding books and online reference materials, it began to look increasingly like they had found an unknown species. Upon returning home, they consulted with different experts and kept coming up with the same feedback, a new species may have been discovered.

The next step was to enlist the services of some experts to capture some birds. Funding such an undertaking, however, is not inexpensive. Ironically, the person who came to the rescue was Peter Harrison, a recognized international expert on seabirds, who, 20 years earlier, had documented seeing a bird that may have been the same species in the same area. Owing to poor visibility, however, he discounted the sighting.

Harrison sought the help of two New Zealanders, Chris Gaskin and Karen Baird, who had been involved in searches for breeding sites of the recently rediscovered New Zealand Storm-Petrel, a bird that was thought to be extinct for over 100 years. He also recruited one of Chile's leading ornithologists, Dr. Michel Sallaberry Ayerza with the University of Chile-Santiago.

In February 2011, the team set sail from Puerto Montt, Chile in the Gulf of Ancud.  After chumming the water with fish scraps, they spotted some of the unknown petrels.  However, due to rough waters, they had to return to port. 

Over the next several days, the seas calmed and the team was able to return to the water and was able to capture 12 birds.  They took blood and feather samples as well as a variety of measurements of weight, wings, bills, toes, etc. One bird was accidentally killed in the capture net and was retained as a specimen.

Harrison is now working on a peer-reviewed paper officially describing the new species.  If accepted for publication, it will mark the first new seabird species in 55 years, and the first new storm-petrel in nearly 90.
Presently, there are 23 species of storm-petrels that vary from five to ten inches long. All are dark gray or brown, sometimes lighter below, often with a white rump. Their relatively short wings are rounded at the tips; the tail can be square, forked, or wedge-shaped.

The name petrel is thought by some to refer to St. Peter because when feeding, they face into the wind with wings extended, and appear to be walking on water.  The word “storm” was added for this group because the early sailors often reported seeing these little birds just before a storm.

American Bird Conservancy (ABC) is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit membership organization which conserves native birds and their habitats throughout the Americas by safeguarding the rarest species, conserving and restoring habitats, and reducing threats while building capacity in the bird conservation movement.

   

SustainAbility Newsletter Archive Article (random)

Planning a Sustainable Franklin Tennessee

Central Franklin PlanningIn early June 2009, through a series of daylong charrettes culminating in a public meeting, Audubon Lifestyles assisted LandDesign, city stakeholders and the Steering Committee for Franklin, Tennessee to develop a  plan that is intended to serve as a unified guide, and central coordinating mechanism for the future of Central Franklin that:

  • emphasizes the interrelated nature of Central Franklin’s diverse neighborhoods and its historic commercial core as a key to its long-term success and vitality;
  • synthesizes and builds upon the previous work efforts and successes of the City, the stakeholders and numerous organizations already active in Central Franklin;
  • complements the citywide recommendations of the Central Franklin Area Plan;
  • focuses on broad issues as they pertain to all of Central Franklin, not just specific geographic areas within it; and
  • perhaps most importantly, identifies the necessary “next steps” the community must take in order to achieve the implementation of its goals for Central Franklin

The Central Franklin planning area encompasses nearly 4,000 of the City of Franklin’s 18,726 acres and includes the downtown, or 15- Block Area, as well as many of the City’s historic residential neighborhoods. The importance of the Central Franklin as the “core” of the community was recognized as most important, and the character of Central Franklin is what was used as the model that should affect and influence the vision of the citywide plan, and upon which Franklin’s future as a city should be based upon. 
 
The Audubon Lifestyles team is proud to have been apart of this process, and is excited to continue to work with the City of Franklin, Tennessee as they move towards becoming more sustainable. 
    


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References and Sources used in this issue of SustainAbility Newsletter Include:

Audubon Lifestyles
www.audubonlifestyles.com
 
The International Sustainability Council
www.thesustainabilitycouncil.org 

O'Connor Signature at the Oaks
www.theoakslakecity.com

The City of Franklin, Tennessee
www.franklin-gov.com

LandDesign
www.landdesign.com

American Society of Golf Course Architects
www.asgca.org

Sustainability Campaign
sustainabilitycampaign.blogspot.com

Green Living Tips
www.greenlivingtips.com

The Daily Green
www.thedailygreen.com

Energy Star
www.energystar.gov 

Bird City, Kansas
www.birdcity.com

Urbana University
www.urbana.edu

 

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