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Pelican News is gathered from around the world from online newspapers, magazines and plain old word of mouth. There's an emphasis on those pelicans in the western US, the California Brown Pelican and the American White Pelican. The purpose is to inform and educate. The hope is also for support for the "Santa Barbara 12": by appreciating pelicans world-wide, we can appreciate and support even more those healthy but unable to be free.

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August-September-October 2004 Pelican News

Ariz-Son. Desert Museum 1, 2-sets record | Australia | Chase Lake | Die-off "natural" | Grey Pelicans | Heermann's Gull | Humboldt Bay | hurricane damage | Marcos Island | NWT | Pelican Migration | Ukraine-Danube 1, US warning | Whooping Cranes | West Nile Virus |

A symbiotic relationship, Heerman's Gull and Brown Pelican
Culling gulls
One stands out from the flock

Thursday, September 30, 2004, BILL MONROE

The gull held back a little, as if the unruly melee of raucous glaucous, herring and California gulls was just, well, undignified.
We were tossing unused herring to birds that perch on the Hammond Harbor walls like antagonists in an Alfred Hitchcock movie, waiting for just this treat from boats returning to port after a day's fishing on the lower Columbia River.
But while the Heermann's gull seems above the pack-frenzy mentality of its cousins, this single bird did come after a few solitary baits I tossed its way when the others were busy fighting each other.

I'm not a big gull fan, but I do relish the sight of a Heermann's gull, perhaps because they're so easy to recognize. Heermann's gulls are almost regal, with deep, rich gray feathers over nearly the entire body instead of the standard (and kind of boring, really) gray/white of the more ubiquitous gull species.
Their distinction, though, is a bright orange -- there's that color again, Beaver fans -- bill tipped in black. The color combination is as refreshing to see on the water as a bright wood duck in the marsh or a brilliant goldfinch at the feeder.
Better hurry, though, if you want to see them this year.

Heermann's gulls -- named for Adolphus Heermann, a doctor and Army officer who first described them during a railroad survey -- follow the unusual behavior of brown pelicans that breed along the California coast (and farther south), then move north through the summer to feed.
By the end of October, most will head back south to wait for the next breeding season.
In fact, according to Kathy Merrifield in Birds of Oregon: A General Reference, Heermann's gulls may not be in the unruly gang following boats, but there is a reason they come north with the pelicans.
"Often steal food from brown pelicans. May take fish directly from the pelicans' bills immediately after a dive or claim food that pelicans have located, discarded or disturbed," read her field notes about Heermann's gulls. One study in the Gulf of California measured a 13 percent rate of attempted theft by Heermann's gulls following pelican dives.

Heermann's stick close to the coast and lower bays, jetties and beaches, the reference guide says.
Which is just fine with me, too.
All the more reason for me to go fishing.
And to not catch anything and have leftover bait.
Bill Monroe: 503-221-8231; billmonroe@news.oregonian.com

Copyright 2004 Oregon Live. http://www.oregonlive.com/gardencenter/oregonian/bill_monroe/index.ssf?/base/homes_gardens/1096458938252200.xml

No whooping cranes confirmed yet

Bismarck, ND  •  September 29, 2004  •  12:38 p.m.  •  
By RICHARD HINTON, Bismarck Tribune
Two whooping cranes have been reported so far in North Dakota during the endangered birds' fall migration, but neither sighting could be confirmed.
That bird was "quite a ways east" of whooping cranes' usual migration corridor, which is "approximately 100 miles either side of the Missouri River," added Knutsen, who is the state's whooping crane coordinator.
Knutsen expects to receive more reports of sightings in the coming weeks.
"We'll just have that many more people out there looking when the nonresident waterfowl season opener rolls around," he said. "There definitely will be more people with eyes looking around." The nonresident waterfowl season opens Saturday.

An estimated 234 rare whoopers, including 41 juveniles, are making their annual migration from their summer breeding grounds at Wood Buffalo National Park in Canada's Northwest Territories to their winter home in the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge and surrounding marshes on the Texas Gulf Coast. The journey is approximately 2,500 miles.
Wally Jobman, a USFWS biologist in Grand Island, Neb., and the coordinator of the migration monitoring project for the Wood Buffalo-Aransas flock, guesses the whoopers are still in Canada.
Whooping cranes, the tallest birds in North America at nearly 5 feet, are white with black wingtips that are visible only when they fly.
In flight, their long necks stretch straight forward, and their legs extend past their tails. They usually migrate in flocks of two to seven, and they sometimes are mixed in with sandhill cranes.
Pelicans, snow geese, swans, herons and egrets often can be mistaken for whooping cranes.

Grey Pelicans, Adjutant storks sighted in Bhitarkanika

Kendrapara, Sept 25. (PTI):

Grey Pelicans and Lesser Adjutant Storks - two of highly threatened species of birds - have been sighted by wildlife personnel in Orissa's Bhitarkanika national park. (See http://www.indianjungles.com/170703c.htm for the troubles facing the park, one of the finest mangrove eco-systems in India.)

The birds, sighted in the park's Bagagahan heronry, are listed among the hightly extinct species in the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)'s red book data. On rare occasions, these birds were sighted at the Chilika lake in the past.

The enumerators in Bhitarkanika spotted hardly five Adjutant Storks and 22 Grey Pelicans recently.
However, not a single nest of these threatened birds had been sighted so far despite a thorough search during the last one month, the sources said.
Sproadic sighting of Grey Pelicans in Bhitarkanika had been reported in 2001.

Meanwhile, the chirpy cacophony of the avian species has yet against taken centrestage in the park with an estimated 25,000 local migrant birds arriving in the Bagagahana heronry during the monsoon. About 13,000 nests had been counted this time.


White Pelicans preparing for migration

Published - Thursday, September 23, 2004

White pelicans and cormorants are staging for pre-migration, according to Bill Thrune, Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge assistant manager.
"Many of the smaller bird species have left the area, including orioles, and I've seen peregrine falcons over the river. We usually don't see many unless they're migrating," Thrune said.
The refuge service will begin their fall waterfowl flight counts next week, in time to get information to Wisconsin hunters for the Oct. 2 duck season opener.
The first bull elk bugling was heard two weeks ago near Clam Lake, in Ashland County, an indication of pre-rut activity in the experimental elk gang that was released in Wisconsin in 1995.


In Australia, Pelicans Are Part of The Picture

by Eric Wiseman
Wednesday, 22 September 2004
SEABIRDS, and in particular pelicans, are integral parts of the coastal image to tourists and shouldn't be prevented from landing on streetlights, according to Country Energy.

And last week's meeting of Eurobodalla Shire Council's Works Committee was told by Community Works director Guy Brantingham that seemed to be a reasonable position. Country Energy had indicated it would not provide further deterrents on street lights, unless formally asked to by Council.

Mr Brantingham said Country Energy had advised that customers saw pelicans sitting on Beach Road streetlights in Batemans Bay as a traffic hazard.

"Country Energy noted that while there are some deterrents available to discourage bird landings the installation had caused some negative publicity due to injuries being sustained by the birds attempting to land on the lights," Mr Brantingham told councillors.

He said Council had previously installed bird spikes on walkway lights on the Bay's Promenade, and that Waterways used deterrents on navigation lights to prevent damage to solar panels.

"Country Energy has indicated that the pelicans are not presenting any threat, either mechanically or electrically, to the power lines or their fittings," Mr Brantingham said.

"While Council has received some complaints in relation to bird droppings on the footpath below the street lights in Beach Road the problem is not considered a hazard to pedestrians or motorists."
Councillors decided to take no action about the pelicans using the Beach Road traffic lights despite a warning by Cr Allan Brown of the possibility of pelican poo landing on a windscreen, causing a motorist to swerve onto the footpath and killing pedestrians.


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Good advice from Marcos Island, FL

The Goodland Life:
By EVANGELYNE GREENE, Special to the Eagle
September 22, 2004

...Pelicans are capturing my attention more frequently as I wander around the canal-lined streets of Goodland.
They observe our lives patiently as they rest and wait for the next fishing expedition. Tourists, especially, seem to love to watch the pelicans as they "mooch" from anglers at the end of the day.

This generosity, however, can kill brown pelicans. Inexperienced fishermen don't realize that pelicans can't digest the bones of larger fish, such as grouper. The large bone pieces tear the stomach and lead to a slow death.

Big morsels are harmful also. Please put big-boned fish in a secure plastic container. Share scraps of fish or bone from small mullet, pinfish or grunts if you feel you must. Leave the big bones safely stored for the trash collectors to dispose of, please!



See also this 1999 news release from the University of Florida: Fishermen killing Brown Pelicans with Kindness <http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1999/04/990426062257.htm>

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Unusual sight in Alamogordo, NM!

Man finds dead pelican in yard

Alice Wagoner
Sep 14, 2004, 11:05 am
In the early morning sunlight, Bob Foree thought the bright, white form on the ground was a sheepskin that his neighbor had dropped while loading his trailer.
He was shocked to discover a dead pelican at 23 Cotton Ave. The large, white bird with a long, orange bill, lay on gravel near the trailer.
“I have cats,” Foree said, “and they’re probably intimidated right now. But once they see it’s not moving at all, they’ll come over.”
According to Steve Diehl, Alameda Park Zoo director, the dead bird was a California Pelican.

He said the fowl could have come from the West or Gulf coasts, but that it was “definitely lost.” From his initial examination, he found no obvious gunshot wounds, he said, but that it was “low on weight” so it may have been sick or just blown off course. A necropsy would determine the cause of death, but with no one paying for the procedure, the bird would be taken to the Humane Society for disposal, he said.

Pelicans can have wing spans up to six feet long and generally weigh up to 25 to 30 pounds, Diehl said. The zoo no longer has pelicans, he said, because they have a bad habit of drowning other animals, like ducks. (sic!)


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Pelicans flood bay: Heavy clutch sends birds seeking food

By John Driscoll
Eureka Times-Standard; Monday, September 13, 2004

In a year when California brown pelicans have bred themselves into starvation in some areas, the North Coast's abundant anchovies and sardines have provided a culinary haven for the hungry birds.

The pelicans are everywhere they usually aren't this year.
More than two dozen have shown up in the Arizona desert. Hundreds marauded docks in Mexico demanding handouts from fish vendors.

Here, they've packed into Humboldt Bay and have been roosting in significant numbers in unusual spots like Big Lagoon and Stone Lagoon.
"They're just cramming themselves into places we've never seen them," said Redwood National and State Parks fish and wildlife biologist Keith Bensen.

This breeding year's story begins in early November 2003 on West Anacapa Island off the coast of Southern California. It was the earliest onset of breeding ever known. And biologists were discovering large numbers of new nests through mid-June. In all, at least 6,000 pairs nested during the season, perhaps the largest on record for the island.

In some islands off Mexico, breeding was occurring where it hadn't since the 1920s.
When Frank Gress, a researcher with the University of California at Davis visited Ensenda, Mexico, this summer, he saw young pelicans making a nuisance of themselves, hitting up vendors and tourists for food. One vendor tried to shoo them off with a high-pressure hose.

"This scene, to say the least, was very bizarre," Gress wrote in an e-mail to pelican watchers in July.
Breeding was also heavy in the Gulf of California in May.
Once pelicans are on their nests, local food supplies become increasingly important, Gress wrote. When the fish stocks around nesting areas vanish, the breeding pelicans often abandon their nests, often to the demise of their young.
The California brown pelicans' desperate search for food may be why more of them have shown up off the North Coast than is usual.
Typically, pelicans show up in the summer following the food-chain kick-start event called upwelling. Northwest winds stir up nutrient rich waters from the bottom of the ocean, which begins the plankton-fish-pelican cycle.
Anchovies and sardines are the favored target for brown pelicans, and the fish are generally abundant in years when El Niño doesn't set in.

"You can track anchovy abundance and plot them with the number of birds," said U.S. Fish and Wildlife biologist David Pereksta.
The rocks off the coast from Trinidad north are important resting areas for pelicans, where they are safe from predators. They roost most numerously on White Rock, just south of the Klamath River's mouth.

Since biologists aren't noticing dead or starving pelicans, Bensen theorized they haven't maxed out the area's food supply. "I think there are enough resources here to absorb it," Bensen said.

That's amazing for the simple fact that pelicans are voracious feeders. Adults weigh 9 pounds and have a wingspan of 6 feet. Their long bills with the trademark pouch make them look hungry. But while hunger can get the best of the birds in a booming breeding season, the now-populous birds were once nearly done in by something unnatural: DDT.

In 1970, the brown pelican was placed on the endangered species list. A DDT pesticide plant in Los Angeles sent its effluent into the sea around the pelican's breeding islands.
The chemical builds up as it climbs the food chain, and by the time it reached the pelican, it had disastrous effects. DDT prevents female pelicans from forming a solid egg shell, dooming countless chicks before they ever hatched. The bald eagle and the peregrine falcon were also severely affected.

With the banning of DDT, the eggs are most often solid these days, and the population of pelicans -- though it ebbs and flows significantly -- is growing, despite some residual DDT contamination.
"It's a marvelous conservation success story which the world doesn't get a lot of," Bensen said.

The brown pelican is most numerous in this area in September and October, and will begin heading south to breed in November.
It's hard to miss them.
Pelicans are just flat out goofy. Bensen thinks it's because of their "big, stupid feet," visible while they're out of the water.
But their unquenchable appetite also prompts them to do silly things. Bensen has watched young birds power-diving into schools of fish in too-shallow water. Presumably they ended up seeing stars.
The grace of the pelican is in flight. They can travel long distances without flapping their wings, riding cushions of air generated by ocean surf.
Called dynamic soaring, the birds will catch the front end of a wave, ride the current of air being pushed ahead of the wave, until the water breaks. The pelican rises up and catches the next wave.
Bensen swears he saw one bird get "tubed," surfer speak for being inside the curl of a breaking wave. He admits no one believes him, but it's hardly impossible.

The brown pelicans will be here perhaps a couple more months before heading back south to try again at balancing chicks and food.
If history is any indicator, it's unlikely they'll get it right.


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Pelicans returned to West Coast after desert detour

Arthur H. Rotstein' Associated Press
Sept. 11, 2004 12:00 AM
TUCSON - The Arizona- Sonora Desert Museum, noted for its collections of desert species ranging from bighorn sheep to Mexican wolves to ocelots, has been playing host to some seafaring critters this summer: brown pelicans.

Twenty-six of the birds that favor Pacific Ocean waters got marooned in the desert during the monsoon season, which brings heavy winds and wetter weather to the Southwest.

The museum fed and cared for the birds and worked with Sea World in San Diego to get them back to the Pacific Coast. All were deemed healthy and set free.

"They came to us in really good condition from the Arizona-Sonora Museum," said Stephanie Costelow, Sea World's assistant curator for birds.

The high-flying juveniles got lost while fishing off the Mexican coast and carried a couple of hundred miles into Arizona by monsoon winds.

Most of those found and caught were injured or debilitated, said Shawnee Riplog- Peterson, the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum's curator for mammalogy and ornithology.

They likely were badly confused, too.

"It's been a banner year this year for pelicans" for the museum, she said, with a record 26 found and turned over to it by individuals or the Arizona Game and Fish Department. The previous high was 18 strays in 2002.

But the phenomenon of directionally challenged birds isn't new. Riplog-Peterson said pelicans apparently have been blown off course into Arizona for hundreds of years. She said depictions of them can be found in some American Indian petroglyphs dating back at least 800 years.

"We ascertain these are youngsters," she said. "They haven't honed their navigational skills completely."

Brown pelicans have been recorded flying at up to 3,000 meters - nearly two miles - Riplog-Peterson said. That likely makes them susceptible to being carried by large storms into Arizona, she said.

Another factor in the high number of Arizona pelicans this year was an abundance of new births, making it likely that some birds had to move further out of normal range to find fish, she added.

Brown pelicans are the only true plunge-divers among seven species of the bird, and some were victims of a mirage effect, mistaking shimmering highway asphalt for water. As a result, some birds were found with broken wings or legs, and four pelicans had to be euthanized, Riplog-Peterson said.

The museum provided veterinary and nutritional care, checked electrolyte levels and kept the birds in a large enclosure with two stock tanks for bathing and fishing and a sprinkler to mimic rain at sea.

The 8- to 10-pound birds, with 7-foot wingspans, each ate up to 2 1/2 pounds of fish daily.
All but two birds were trucked to Yuma, where museum workers met counterparts from Sea World. The other two were air-shipped to San Diego.

At Sea World, they were kept from three to seven days in a large flight cage with a pool to make sure they flew correctly and could fish, then released over a good supply of fish amid adult pelicans to mimic, Costelow said.


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Signs to warn off paddlers, pilots from pelican areas

Last Updated: Sep 10 2004 10:35 AM CDT
FORT SMITH, N.W.T. - A group in Fort Smith plans to take steps to protect the pelicans that summer in the rapids near the community.
The breeding success rate was better this year, but pelican lovers don't think the birds are out of the rough water yet.Observers are still worried about the large white birds despite an increase in the chick survival this season. Last year less than one per cent lived to migrate.

The nesting islands are in the midst of these turbulent rapids about 10 kilometres from Fort Smith on the Slave River.
Despite their location, biologists say the pelicans are vulnerable.
Adults will abandon their chicks if there's intrusion by humans, predators, boats or low flying aircraft.

Now the Pelican Advisory Circle, a group made up of Alberta and Northwest Territories' biologists, the airport manager, paddlers and pilots, plan to take steps to protect the birds.

Jack Van Pelt, who's been keeping his eye on the pelicans for 30 years, believes awareness is critical.
"There are making signage... big signs that can be seen also from the air and the water as one comes upstream and downstream from the islands," says Van Pelt, who's advising the group. "They're better than maps!. No kayaker or pilot coming in for a landing is going to look at a map and say what's cooking here?"
According to Van Pelt signs will be erected in the winter on the islands and at the trailhead.
They'll warn travellers to avoid the nesting sights.
A public meeting is planned for later this fall.
Copyright © 2004 Canadian Broadcasting Corporation - All Rights Reserved
http://north.cbc.ca/regional/servlet/PrintStory?filename=sep10pelicangrp10092004&region=North (for picture)

Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum pelican rescues set record

ARIZONA DAILY STAR, Published: 09.10.2004
The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum has rescued 26 California brown pelicans this summer, exceeding the previous record of 18 saved in 2002.
The birds usually arrive in the Tucson area because high monsoon winds throw the young pelicans off course. The birds are cared for here before being taken to Sea World in San Diego to be released into the wild, according to a museum news release.
"It has been very rewarding to save so many birds, but it has basically blown our budget in this area for the next five years," said Mary Powell-McConnell, who is responsible for records and quarantine in the museum's Mammalogy and Ornithology Department. "We have been serving up to 36 pounds of smelt a day to feed them."
California brown pelicans live along the Pacific Coast. They have been listed as an endangered species since 1985. (sic: since 1970)
Contributions to help the museum cover the cost of caring for the birds can be made at www.desertmuseum.org online. Click on the box "Support Our Animal Care Fund" at the top of the page.


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Iowa Outdoors: Birds of a feather
By:Todd Burras, Outdoors Writer September 03, 2004

Pelican migration a good reason to flock to Saylorville Lake

SAYLORVILLE LAKE - Whether you're a professional ornithologist like Jim Dinsmore, or an amateur backyard birder like myself, make it a point to visit Jester Park this weekend or the next. You won't be disappointed if you do.
      This time of year Saylorville Lake is a staging area for thousands of waterfowl and shore birds heading south on their annual migrations from northern breeding grounds. While large numbers of ducks, geese, gulls and other birds can be seen resting their wings and filling their bellies at Saylorville, it's the rare opportunity to see American white pelicans spilling from the heavens that is of particular interest to Dinsmore.
      "The pelicans are certainly a spectacle because of the vast number of birds that can be seen there," said Dinsmore, a retired professor of animal ecology from Iowa State University. "When you see these small white dots dropping out of a blue sky and realize, 'Oh, these are pelicans,' it's a pretty spectacular sight."
      One afternoon earlier this week, Dinsmore estimated some 14,000 pelicans could be seen on the mud islands northeast of the Jester Park lodge. The following day he guessed there were roughly 12,000.
      While extensive research doesn't exist to identify exactly where the pelicans are migrating from, Dinsmore says the majority likely are coming from North Dakota and Manitoba, Canada. All are on their way to the Gulf Coast, from Texas to Florida.
      "I don't know for sure how long individual birds are staying," Dinsmore says. "Most are going to move through pretty fast. If they can find enough fish, I wouldn't be surprised if they're spending at least a day before moving on."
      The pelicans feast on minnows, gizzard shad and other small fish. They aren't, however, a threat to game fish coveted by anglers.
      "They don't eat walleyes or bass," Dinsmore said. "They're not fast enough to catch them."
      American white pelicans occasionally stop at Ada Hayden Heritage Park in Ames, but Dinsmore said the former quarry isn't the best location to see large numbers of them.
      "We've seen them there at times, but the water is so deep that there isn't much vegetation for them," he said. "They might land and spend a couple hours there, but then they'll probably be on their way and not spend the night there."
      Besides seeing pelicans, Dinsmore says now is also a good time at Saylorville to spot double-crested cormorants, ring-billed gulls, sandpipers, Caspian terns and great egrets.
      "I've seen four ospreys, and the other day I saw a merlin," Dinsmore said. "I'm expecting we'll also be seeing peregrine falcons starting to show up any time soon."
      Blue-winged teal, a favorite early target of waterfowl hunters, already are migrating through central Iowa, too.
      "I saw a flock of about 500 of them the other day," Dinsmore said.
      The pelicans, meanwhile, have become such an attraction that the Polk County Conservation Board hosts an annual Pelican Festival. Last year, 4,500 people attended. This year's event will be Sunday, Sept. 12, at Jester Park. Besides youth activities, telescope viewing areas, guest speakers and a live birds of prey exhibit, several programs celebrating the adventures of Lewis and Clark are planned.
      "Most people in Iowa don't even realize we have pelicans," Dinsmore said. "This is a good chance to see them."
      Todd Burras is an outdoors writer and copy editor for The Tribune. E-mail him at tburras@amestrib.com©Ames Tribune 2004


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Wildlife refuge takes hit

By KEVIN LOLLAR, klollar@news-press.com
 Published by news-press.com on August 25, 2004
While Hurricane Charley was tearing the roofs off area homes, it was also tearing the roofs off the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge’s mangrove forests, leaving hundreds of birds looking for temporary roosting quarters.

About 70 percent of the refuge’s mangroves were damaged — mostly red mangroves, but also white and black mangroves and buttonwood, refuge ranger Kevin Godsea said.
“Some of the canopy was completely taken out,” Godsea said. “Most of the root structures are intact.
“The rookery islands really took a hit: About all of them snapped off somewhere up the trunk. Another area hit hard was the Shell Mound Trail area. There used to be a nice wall of green and a nice canopy. Now, there’s a lot of sun and no green.”
Of great interest to refuge officials are Patricio and Chino islands in Pine Island Sound, which are important rookery islands for brown pelicans, double crested cormorants, great blue herons, snowy egrets and great egrets.
Because those islands no longer have canopy — the layer of branches and leaves at the top of a forest — the birds must look elsewhere for a place to roost.
“We don’t know where they dispersed to, but we know they will be dispersed,” Godsea said. “They will find areas where there are still relatively undamaged mangrove trees up.
“There is precedent for birds leaving a nest site and coming back in a few years once it is regrown. When the Pelican Island refuge was hit by a hurricane in the 1920s, there was no vegetation left, so the birds moved to another island, then came back when Pelican Island recovered.”



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EU condemns Danube ship canal

Brussels has voiced its "deep regret" that Ukraine opened a ship canal in the Danube delta nature reserve, defying EU calls to halt construction until an environmental assessment has been carried out.
The European Commission has repeatedly called on Kiev to stop work on the 3 km Bystroye canal, which links the River Danube and the Black Sea, over fears that it could harm the delicate ecosystem. 
The issue was also raised at the EU-Ukraine summit in July where Brussels urged Ukrainian authorities not to go ahead with the project until an environmental impact assessment had been carried out.
"The European Commission deeply regrets the reported opening to navigation of the initial part of the Bystroye canal," Brussels said in a statement on Wednesday.
"The canal route goes through a specially protected UNESCO World Heritage area in the Danube Delta which is also subject to the International Ramsar Convention on the protection of wetlands."
"The Commission...would welcome receiving reassurances from the Ukrainian government confirming its intention not to proceed further with this project pending preparation of a proper Environmental Impact Assessment to international standards."
The Danube delta is a wetland with a fragile ecosystem, home to around 90 species of fish and 300 bird varieties including 70 percent of the world's white pelicans and 50 per cent of pygmy cormorants, according to the Worldwide Fund for Nature.
Neighbouring Romania has also expressed its concern over the project which straddles its boarder, and on Tuesday hundreds of Romanians marched through Bucharest demanding a halt to construction work.
The first section of the canal is due to opened on Thursday at a special ceremony attended by Ukranian president Leonid Kuchma, AFP reports.

Published: Wed, 25 Aug 2004 18:10:10 GMT+02
Author: Henrietta Billings

Romanians urge Ukraine to halt Danube canal plan

24 Aug 2004 15:51:07 GMT
Source: Reuters; By Antonia Oprita
BUCHAREST, Aug 24 (Reuters) - More than 500 protesters, some carrying models of pelicans or sturgeon, marched in Romania's capital on Tuesday demanding a stop to Ukraine's plan to build a controversial canal they say will harm the environment.
The European Union has repeatedly asked Ukraine to halt work at the Bastroe canal, which would provide a waterway between the Black Sea and the Ukrainian section of the Danube river delta, due to fears it could harm the unique ecosystem, a UNESCO world heritage site since 1991.
Marchers at the demonstration, organised by around 140 non-profit organisations and trade unions, submitted an open letter at the Ukrainian embassy in Bucharest saying the project may endanger more than 280 bird species living in the delta.
"If Ukraine goes ahead with its plan ... the delta will become a fetid swamp," said a statement by one of the unions.
Romania has repeatedly complained the canal, situated in the north-east of the delta, would cause water levels to change.
Ukrainian officials have said the plan, which consists of enlarging and deepening the Bastroe canal to allow ships to travel, would provide better access to the Black Sea and would help create jobs in an impoverished region in the country.
The Worldwide Fund for Nature has said the canal threatens the delta's most important wetland, where 70 percent of the world's white pelicans and 50 percent of pygmy cormorants live.
Environment protection experts say work on the Bastroe canal has already started to cause damages to the environment.
Romanian authorities say the project is due to be finished in 2008 and that work has now started on enlarging the beginning of the Bastroe canal, at the border with Romania, and the end, where it flows into the Black Sea on Ukraine's territory.
"They haven't started digging in the middle, it isn't too late to stop them," one official said.

For the action campaign to stop the Ukrainian canal: http://passport.panda.org/campaigns/action_ecard.cfm?uNC=22704540&uCampaignId=601&uActionId=1282

See also a feature article in Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, with a photo of the delta
Analysis: Serpents Island, Bystraya Canal, And Ukrainian-Romanian Relations

The Danube River Delta is home to over 300 species of birds and 90 secies of fish.Relations between Bucharest and Kyiv have been strained for some time over their inability to reach an agreement concerning the delimitation of the continental shelf around Serpents Island (Zmiyinyy Ostrov) in the Black Sea, and that dispute is likely to end before the International Court of Justice in The Hague. Relations have deteriorated further recently over Ukraine's construction of a canal that will facilitate access to and from the Black Sea via the Danube River, but at the same time, Romania claims, would destroy the Danube Delta's unique ecosystem. Inauguration of the Bystraya Canal is scheduled for 24 August -- Ukraine's Independence Day -- according to Romanian media reports. At stake are two elements of strategic importance: the discovery of oil and gas reserves surrounding the island and the location of the planned canal, which would facilitate control of the Danube's mouth by a non-NATO member/

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US Warns of Environmental Harm from Ukraine Canal Project
David Gollust
State Department
24 Aug 2004, 00:30 UTC

The United States renewed its concern Monday about a controversial Ukrainian canal project in the Danube delta. Environmentalists say the canal will cause irreparable harm to important bird breeding areas.
The United States is joining the European Union and major environmental groups in expressing concern about the project by Ukraine, which is digging a three-kilometer long, deep water channel through an internationally-protected part of the Danube delta.

The dredging project began in May despite international protests including an earlier critical statement by the United States. Opponents of the canal say it will destroy the nesting areas of thousands of endangered birds, in an area described as the most important breeding ground for birds in all of Europe.

At a news briefing, State Department Deputy Spokesman Adam Ereli said construction on the canal has continued "unabated" despite the U.S. appeal in May that Ukraine conduct an impact assessment of the project and consider an alternate route that would minimize the destructive impact on the environment.

He said the European Union and the governments of Germany and Ukraine's neighbor Romania as well as key advocacy groups including the World Wildlife Fund and the World Conservation Union all have registered complaints, but that the Kiev government has been unresponsive.

"We remain deeply concerned about the environmental impact of this construction project, and by the lack of action by the government of Ukraine to be responsive to its treaty obligations, and to the positions stated by other countries and the international organizations," he said. "And we urge it, continue to urge it, to insure that this very important wetland area and ecologically-sensitive resource be fully protected and preserved."

Ukraine has said the canal is merely the reopening of a project begun during the Soviet era and would provide better access to the Black Sea for an economically poor region of the country.

Kiev officials say there are three deep waterways in the Danube delta, but none in Ukraine and that the country has a right to develop its part of the area.

The affected section of the delta is nominally protected under the 1971 Ramsar international convention on wetlands, a bilateral Ukraine-Romania agreement, and by its designation as a UNESCO "Man and the Biosphere" site.

Nature groups say it is home to 280 bird species including critical populations of pelicans and cormorants, and that the Ukraine project risks bringing oil pollution to the area.


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Grand Forks Herald -Posted on Sat, Aug. 21, 2004
EDITORIAL: Biologists deserve accolades
OUR VIEW: North Dakota biologists are on the correct track in finding answers about the AWOL Chase Lake pelicans.
Kudos to the U. S. Geological Survey's Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center in Jamestown, N.D.
The research center is looking for answers to the disappearing and dying pelicans.
Biologists are requesting funding for tracking devices to try to solve the mystery of why thousands of pelicans have left or are leaving North Dakota.
These birds are an important part of our state's bird population. We recommend that $70,000 for researching the mystery be approved and expedited.
Funding will allow the bird sleuths to purchase backpacklike satellite tracking devices. The pelicans, like children heading off to school with backpacks full of books and lunch, will have packs filled with tracking devices that will signal biologists their location. More important, biologists say, is the devices could tell them why the birds left Chase Lake.
Chase Lake, a pothole lake in central North Dakota, is the largest nesting site for white pelicans in North America. It is a 4,385-acre refuge where these birds nested, laid eggs and then abandoned their chicks and eggs last spring.
North Dakota is a state where bird watching is a growing tourist industry. Nesting white pelicans 28,000 of them leaving our state is a depopulation phenomena that we can't afford. Will other birds follow the abandonment behavior? Where have the pelicans gone? Will they return next year in the same numbers? But the most important question is: Why did they abandon their chicks to die, then leave the area?
It is important that biologists from wildlife refuges in Jamestown and the research center near Medina, N.D. are responding quickly and working full throttle on the mystery.
Dorreen Yellow Bird for the Herald

Biologists still baffled by pelicans' disappearance
By JAMES MacPHERSON Associated Press Writer
The Associated Press - Wednesday, August 18, 2004
Federal biologists want to attach backpack-like satellite tracking devices on pelicans as they try to solve the mystery of why the big birds left a North Dakota refuge.
That's if the pelicans return next year to the Chase Lake National Wildlife Refuge near Medina.
Biologists are seeking $70,000 in federal money to purchase the electronic tracking equipment that would be harnessed to pelicans, said Dennis Jorde, with the U.S. Geological Survey's Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center in Jamestown.
"The satellite transmitters will hopefully address why these pelicans abandoned their breeding grounds this year," Jorde said.
Nearly 28,000 birds showed up to nest at the refuge in early April but took off in late May and early June, abandoning their chicks and eggs. The 4,385-acre refuge in central North Dakota had been the site of the largest nesting colony of white pelicans in North America.
The exodus has wildlife experts stumped.
"There aren't any answers, so far," said Ken Torkelson, a spokesman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Bismarck.
Torkelson said wildlife officials have checked air, water and soil quality at the site. They have also checked for diseases, food supply, predators and other possible factors.
The only thing biologists know for sure is that the pelicans are still gone, Torkelson said.
Pam Pietz, a biologist at the research center in Jamestown, said wildlife officials hope to attach 15 of the electronic tracking devices on the birds next year.
Biologists captured four adult pelicans this year at the refuge and attached the signaling devices to track them. The birds took separate paths when they left Chase Lake on June 2, flying throughout North Dakota, Minnesota, South Dakota and Montana.
Pietz said finding out where the thousands of pelicans have gone is only part of the equation.
"For me, it's not where they are, but why they left," she said.
Torkelson said wildlife officials believe the pelicans will return next year, like they have for at least a century.
"They may come back in fewer numbers, or in more numbers or exactly the same numbers. But we're assuming that they're going to be back," Torkelson said.

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First equine case of West Nile reported
By ALLISON FARRELL - IR State Bureau - 08/18/04
HELENA — The first equine case of West Nile virus of the year in Montana was confirmed in a horse in Yellowstone County, state veterinarian Tom Linfield said late Tuesday.
While the horse marks the first equine case of the virus, state health officials discovered the first case of West Nile virus this year on Aug. 4 when six pelicans nesting at a waterfowl refuge in northeastern Montana tested positive for the virus. Since then, another seven pelicans at the refuge and a blackbird in Richland have tested positive for the virus. Mosquitoes have tested positive from samples taken in Custer County.
State officials say the virus may be here to stay. The disease surfaced in eastern Montana in August 2002.
‘‘We may always see a few cases of it because it's in the bird population,'' said Karen Cooper, spokeswoman for the Department of Livestock.


Pelicans first case of West Nile in Montana this year
Associated Press
HELENA (AP) -- Six pelicans have tested positive for West Nile virus, the first confirmed cases of the disease in the state this year, Montana health officials said Wednesday.
The birds, which were nesting at a waterfowl refuge in northeastern Montana, were found dead July 19. Employees of the Medicine Lake National Wildlife Refuge sent them for testing, the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services said.
All six birds were born this summer, said Kathryn Converse, a federal wildlife disease specialist. She said 2,000 pelicans at the refuge were diagnosed with West Nile last year.
The virus is carried primarily by birds but can be transmitted to humans by mosquitoes. The first two documented human cases of the virus in Montana occurred in 2002, in Yellowstone and Rosebud Counties. Health officials reported 228 human cases last year, including four deaths.
State health officials expect the disease to hit western Montana for the first time this summer. All human cases thus far have been east of the Continental Divide.
<http://www.billingsgazette.com/index.php?id=1&display=rednews/2004/08/04/build/state/33-westnile.inc> (dead link)

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Cause of pelican die-off deemed natural
Spate of juvenile deaths follows breeding success

August 1, 2004

Wildlife rescuers knew something bizarre was happening earlier this summer when weak and malnourished pelicans began to appear not only along the beaches in San Diego but as far inland as Arizona.

The stories were heartbreaking.Young pelicans desperate for nourishment were diving to their deaths in the desert after mistaking heat-shimmering pavement for water.Between mid-June and mid-July, hundreds of emaciated pelicans died in Northern Baja California, Mexico, and Southern California.

Now that the death rate has abated, seabird experts at the University of California Davis say the pelican die-off appears to be completely natural and not the fault of pollution or human interference. "They are a victim of their own success," said UC Davis researcher Frank Gress.

What happened to juvenile California brown pelicans this summer is still unusual. "I'd say this is a once-in-a-35-year event," said Gress, who has been studying pelicans about that long. As a young scientist, Gress was among the researchers who unlocked the mystery of how the pesticide DDT had infiltrated the marine food chain. The poison, which accumulated in small fish that are the birds' prey, caused the pelicans to produce eggs with shells that were too thin. Pushed to the edge of extinction, the birds were placed on the Endangered Species List in 1973.

That environmental calamity a generation ago remains embedded in Southern California's collective memory, making it easy to understand why unexplained pelican deaths in 2004 would be cause for alarm. "Pelicans are such lovely birds to watch," said Christina Johnson of California SeaGrant, a federal agency that promotes marine research. "It's really easy to love them."
In San Diego, SeaWorld's wildlife recovery center has taken in 180 juvenile pelicans since mid-June. Nearly half have died.

The situation has been equally grim in Baja California, where scores of young pelicans have turned up in villages and cities, begging for handouts from humans. "There isn't a lot that can be done," said pelican researcher Dan Anderson of UC Davis. "It's better not to feed the birds. It just creates more problems." Months ago, Gress and Anderson were among an elite group of field biologists able to foresee how nature would deal with this year's bumper crop of young pelicans.
"This has happened before in the past, all in exceptional – not problematic – years of production," Anderson said.

While conducting field studies at the Channel Islands, researchers noticed the birds were starting to breed in November, a month earlier than had ever been observed. With anchovies and other prey fish in abundance, pelican parents were having astounding success at hatching and fledging their young. The result was the largest breeding effort on record – an estimated 6,000 pairs – at Anacapa Island, the northernmost nesting site for brown pelicans. "Nests were built all over the island, including places where nesting had not occurred before," Gress said.

In the Gulf of California, where 70 percent of brown pelicans breed, and along Baja California's Pacific coast, the story was much the same. At Isla Todos Santos off Ensenada, pelicans successfully nested for the first time since 1923. By late spring, the bulk of the species' 15,000 breeding pairs were having extraordinary success. The subsequent spate of deaths among juvenile pelicans was essentially inevitable, the UC Davis researchers said.

In any given year, 50 percent to 75 percent of all young pelicans die in their first year. One reason for the high mortality rate is because their method of feeding, called plunge diving, is so difficult to master. Young pelicans are fed by their parents during their first 13 weeks of life. After that, they are on their own.

Typically, pelicans require two to three years to become efficient at plunge diving for small fish near the surface. Their diet is 90 percent northern anchovy.For newly fledged pelicans still learning to feed, even a brief scarcity in food supply can have dramatic effects.

The problem this summer was not with the supply but the availability of anchovies and sardines. Seine-net surveys conducted this spring of sardine and anchovy eggs floating near the surface off Southern California showed normal abundance, said Kevin Hill, a fisheries biologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in La Jolla. "All indications are that these (bait) fish are still around, but they may be deeper and not as easy to catch," Hill said.

Commercial bait fish operators in San Pedro and San Diego confirmed they had problems finding sardines and anchovies earlier this summer. "For a while there, the fish were out in deeper water and harder to catch," said Buck Everingham of Everingham Bros., one of three commercial bait suppliers in San Diego. "They're hard to catch once they're below 10 fathoms, or 60 feet."

Everingham said he also noticed an increase in juvenile pelicans begging for food at his floating bait pens in San Diego Bay and Mission Bay. "The first year pelicans will hang out and dive – learning how to fish – next to our bait barge," he said.
Last week, commercial seiners were having no problems catching bait fish, mostly sardines, Everingham said.
Some scientists speculate that higher surface ocean temperatures may have caused anchovies to seek refuge in colder, deeper waters.

Forty years ago, the deaths of California brown pelicans signaled an ecosystem knocked out of balance by mankind's ignorance. This year, the numerous pelican deaths are a lesson of nature achieving equilibrium.

"What we're seeing is perfectly natural," Gress said. "We're having normal mortality rates. But what's freaking people out is that, because there are so many more birds, it's a lot more noticeable."

Terry Rodgers: (619) 542-4566; terry.rodgers@uniontrib.com

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