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December, 2004 news about pelicans from around the world

Reward offered

Aransas | Arco "Bird Island" | Cape Cod 1, 2 | India 1, 2 | Romania | Bruce Tolski

Thrill of discovery for Audubon birdwatchers
By Daniel Moulthrop, IJ correspondent
Monday, December 27, 2004 -
Counts take place this year between Dec. 14, 2004, and Jan. 5, 2005. Yesterday, as they have for the past 30 years, about 100 volunteers in 22 groups spread out across Marin, hunkering down on hill tops and ambling across meadows to count every bird they could see, from turkey vultures to wild turkeys, and every warbler in between.
Last year, volunteers in southern Marin counted around 40,000 birds belonging to some 180 different species. Audubon organizer Bruce Bajema said yesterday's storm might have had an effect on their count, making birds more difficult to find.
"The birds were hunkered down," Bajema said. "I guess they had more sense than we did."
Comstock paused from his laundry list and looked up.
He had barely taken a breath before he had numbered the flock of seagulls flying southward overhead.
"That's a hundred Western Gulls," Comstock said. By 9:30, Weintraub had recorded more than 1,000 western and other species of gulls, several hundred brown pelicans and two northern fulmar, which ordinarily don't come within sight of the shore.
This winter tradition began over a century ago, when a group of conservationists organized a bird count as an alternative to the traditional Christmas Day "side hunt," in which groups of hunters competed to see who could shoot the most birds and small animals.
After that first year, the Audubon Society began to organize the count and compile the data every year. These 105 years of data, collected now by more than 50,000 volunteers in North and South America, the Caribbean, and the Pacific Islands every year, help scientists and the government to track bird population trends, as well as the trajectories of avian-borne illnesses. This year, the Audubon Society will use data from the 2004 Christmas Bird Count in a comprehensive report detailing trends over that last 39 years.
"You become aware of everything. Every noise, every flutter, every bit of movement might be a bird. When you've got a lot of worries and stress, you can come out here and look at the birds, and really, when you can come out here and do this, life can't be so bad," she said. "It's also a very interesting community, and it beats the conversation at a cocktail party."

Marin Independent Journal <http://www.marinij.com/Stories/0,1413,234~24407~2620498,00.html#>

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Long Road Back From a Near-Fatal Accident Leads to Dream Fulfilled

A year and a half after Bruce Toloski was gravely injured assisting a motorist, the wildlife agent is the proud father of healthy twins.
By Nancy Wride and David Pierson, LA Times Staff Writers
December 26, 2004
Nobody believed good Samaritan Bruce Toloski could survive, much less thrive.
A year and a half ago, the off-duty federal wildlife agent was helping a man in an overturned Jeep when another car grazed it, hurling a bumper into Toloski's head. He was comatose for six weeks, and doctors had to restore the missing right side of his skull.
But on Christmas Day at the family's Torrance home, Toloski said he was grateful for more than his own life. After a stunning recovery, he fulfilled a longtime dream of having children when his wife, Lisa, gave birth to healthy twins Monday.
"They're a Christmas gift
"It's so peaceful to hold them. They make me and Lisa feel so great," he said.
Toloski was driving home one April night in 2003 after spending the day investigating the maiming of more than a dozen endangered California brown pelicans around San Pedro and Cabrillo Beach.
On the Long Beach Freeway, he spotted a man who had rolled his Jeep. He pulled over to see if the driver was injured. Moments later, another car hit the Jeep's fender, which struck Toloski's head.
"After the accident, a CHP officer told Bruce's captain that he had two hours to live," said Lisa Toloski, who organized a prayer vigil the next day. She said it was her faith in God that helped her through the ordeal.
When Toloski was released from Long Beach Memorial Hospital on July 30 of last year, he still faced months of physical and vocational therapy. In August, the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Assn. honored Toloski with its annual Heroism Award. He accepted it with what friends, family and co-workers said was typical humility.
He spent many months relearning to eat, talk and walk. Seizures dogged him as recently as this summer.
It was difficult for Toloski to not work because of his commitment to the pelican case, which was assigned to another agent. The birds were found with snapped wings, which Toloski and forensic examinations concluded were highly unlikely to have occurred naturally or accidentally (by getting tangled in fishing line, for example). The team of bird rescuers, mostly volunteers, did not forget Toloski's efforts.
Last summer, Toloski's church paid for the rehabilitation of two pelicans that were named in his honor. A third bird, also named after Toloski, was funded by the volunteers.

With the recovery and the births, the Toloskis said they have come to believe that good fortune is never out of reach, no matter the odds against it.
"There's a lot of miracles in this house," Lisa said. "Bruce and the two babies."

Copyright 2004 Los Angeles Times

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Good News in India with checkdam construction

Guess who’s paying a flying visit to wetlands in State?
Bashir Pathan
Gandhinagar, December 18:
Bird watchers will have a lot to watch this winter. For the first time, over 7,000 demoiselle cranes and other migratory birds have descended on Kaj and Karli wetlands in coastal Kodinar and Porbandar for nesting.
Other birds sighted at these water bodies — formed after construction of earthen checkdams — include ospreys flying in from Europe and pelicans.
The checkdams were built for scarcity relief last summer to prevent salinity ingress and conserve fresh water. The Kaj wetland near coastal Kodinar in Amreli district has been formed by the 9-km-long reclamation bund (checkdam) while the Karli waterbody near Porbandar has been created due to a 14-km-long bund.These shallow wetlands provide an excellent habitat for thousands of migratory birds, some of them rare species.

Deputy Conservator of Forest (DCF) Uday Vora, who visited the wetlands on Friday said the phenomenon was “amazing and unprecedented”.
“The musical high-pitched trumpet call of demoiselle cranes in varying notes can be aptly likened to the distant roaring of the sea,” he said.
Vora said the demoiselle cranes arrive from South Europe, North Africa and North-Central Asia to winter mainly in the Saurashtra region. A census conducted by the International Waterfowl and Wetland Research Bureau (IWRB) indicated that 53 per cent of these migratory cranes in India are found in the State. The roost in Saurashtra for about 170 days.

The Velavadar National Park in Bhavnagar district too has attracted a large number of migratory birds this year like pelicans, flamingoes, ducks, waders, coots, white and painted storks. The park provides one of the world’s best roosting sites to thousands of harriers which arrive from Central Europe, he said.
The number of harriers visiting the park has increased over the decade. A recent study by the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) showed that their numbers have swelled from 1,500 in 1991 to over 3,000 in 2004. Four harrier species — Montagu’s, pallid, marsh And Hen — can be found in the area. The visiting harriers are a blessing in disguise for farmers in the region as they feast mainly on locusts, rodents and small reptiles saving crop from destruction.
According to another study, “about 60 per cent of harrier pellets contained locusts remains, and the migratory birds consume over 1.5 million locusts each winter”.
© 2004: Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd. All rights reserved throughout the world.

Romania's pelican island saved

The island nesting place of Europe’s third largest colony of Dalmatian Pelicans has been saved. Ceaplace Island on Romania’s Lake Sinoe, in the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve, was being rapidly eroded by waves and ice, losing three-quarters of its area in the last two years.

The total European breeding population of Dalmatian Pelican Pelecanus crispus is fewer than 1,500 pairs and the species has recently been upgraded to Vulnerable following declines across most of its range. 84 pairs bred on the island in 2004, but a further 70-80 nests were swept away.

Now, thanks to funding from the Disney Wildlife Conservation Fund (DWCF), the RSPB and private donations, a wooden wall has been built which will enable the island to recover.



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More on the Cape Cod white pelicans

The pelicans, briefly
Friday, December 17, 2004
Dear Bird Folks,
      I heard about a flock of white pelicans that was seen in Provincetown last week. I would like to see them. Are they still around? Why are they so far out of their normal range? And will they be in trouble when the weather gets colder?
     -Scott, Eastham

     You know, Scott,
     One of the nice things about watching birds is that every once in a while a rare bird arrives that is so distinct that all of us can actually identify it. All too often the rare birds that mistakenly visit here look so similar to the native birds that you need a police lab to identify them. Only the eggheads have the skills needed to identify most of our rare visitors while the rest of us must take their word for it. But then, just when we think watching birds is too difficult, along comes a bird that is so unmistakable that even the guy working in the pit at Jiffy Lube can identify it. The American white pelican is just that kind of bird. It is massive, majestic and unique in every way. It is brilliant white, with a huge bill and a wingspan of more than 9 feet.

The white pelican is indeed rare here in the East, but every few years they make a cameo appearance. It seems to me that four or five years ago a small flock visited the Mid-Cape area, or at least I think they did. Suddenly I'm not sure if I dreamt it or not. I'll have to look it up. Most white pelicans breed in the western-central section of North America and then head to the southern U.S. coast for the winter. For whatever reason, a few of the fall migrants occasionally take the long route south and that's when we get to see them.
White pelicans are considerably different from those prehistoric looking brown pelicans that hang around the boats in Florida. White pelicans are very elegant looking birds, almost swanlike. They ride very high and stately in the water and soar gracefully in flight. White pelicans don't make those crazy plunge dives like their brown cousins. They hunt by forming a synchronized semicircle. With their bills lowered into the water they "herd" the fish toward the shores. Once the fish are in the shallow water the scooping begins. If there is only a pair of pelicans, the two birds will face off and herd the fish toward each other. And if a pelican is all alone, it will often hire a border collie to help herd the fish toward its mouth.
  White pelicans love each other's company. They nest together, they roost together, they feed together and apparently, since you saw five of them in Provincetown, they get lost together. ...

 The good news for the birds is that they are strong fliers and I'm sure that it will be only a matter of time before they safely work their way south. ...

Information for this column is provided by the staff at Bird Watcher's General Store in Orleans. Original artwork is supplied by Cathy Clark. If you have a question for the bird experts, please e-mail it to bwgs.capecod@verizon.net or call 508-255-6974.


More unusual white pelicans sitings in the northeast:

Cape Cod Wildlife Sightings
Friday, December 17, 2004
The following sightings were reported to Mass Audubon between Dec. 9 and Dec. 14. If you have questions about these sightings, or want to report a sighting, call the Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary at 508-349-2615 or send e-mail to sightings@massaudubon.org.
     An American white pelican was seen for several hours at Nauset Marsh in Eastham on Dec. 12 and then later spotted flying over Route 6 from Hemenway Landing. On Dec. 13 a white pelican was spotted at the Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary near Goose Pond. During the week there were also sightings of American white pelicans in several western suburbs of Boston.


And in New Jersey
Friday, December 17, 2004

 There was an interesting sighting along the Cranbury Brook Eagle Trail this week. No, it wasn't an eagle; it was four white pelicans.
   These very large birds are quite rare in New Jersey, especially during the winter.
   The pelicans made a brief appearance late last week and had moved on by Sunday afternoon. Kathy Easton, Cranbury's veteran birder, was lucky enough to learn about the birds' visit and got a good look at them on Saturday.
* * *


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Arco "Bird Island" roosting site offer rejected 
December 16, 2004
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. (AP) - An oil company proposal to transform remnants of an old Ellwood Beach oil pier into a "Bird Island" perch for California brown pelicans has gotten a poor reception so far.
The Goleta City Council and Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors this week voted against the Arco plan.
The oil company wants to topple the concrete columns off Ellwood, dump big rocks on top of the underwater debris, and erect four concrete pilings, or poles, with platforms for birds to roost.
The platforms would stand 40 feet above the water, twice as high as the junk that's there now.

Backed by the state Department of Fish and Game and state Lands Commission, Arco argued the new roosting platforms would attract colonies of seabirds. Fish and Game said the remnants of the pier, which have been dubbed "Bird Island," are the only nighttime safe haven for the endangered California brown pelican along a 75-mile stretch of coast.

Local governments, however, are more concerned about precedent than plumage.
"This should not become a precedent-setting action," said Luis Perez, the county energy specialist who drafted the county's letter opposing Arco's request. "It really sends the wrong message.
"It becomes a reward for not doing your abandonment properly at the end of the life of the project."
The state Lands Commission considers the proposal at its meeting in Long Beach next month. The Goleta City Council and county board are sending letters to the agency urging a "no" vote.
The city of Goleta letter said the new platforms would "substantially detract from the quality of recreational experience" by visitors to Ellwood Mesa, a scenic blufftop property that the community is trying to preserve.
In their letter, county supervisors reminded commissioners that Santa Barbara County historically has required oil companies to remove all structures offshore once a project is abandoned.
"If approved, Arco's current proposal would be an exception to this long-held standard," the letter said.
Additionally, the city and county letters said, there is no evidence that the pelicans are using the old pier at night, and no way of knowing if any birds will return to nest on the new platforms after the old pier is demolished.


Also: http://news.newspress.com/topsports/121604bird.htm?now=24615&tref=1— with a photograph; the Santa Barbara News-Press requires payment for non-subscribers to access their stories.

PS: on a 9-3 vote, the California Coastal Commission accepted on February 16, Arco's plan to construct a "bird island" off Goleta, CA, for roosting pelicans, cormorants and others that increasingly have few safe coastal roosting sites.For the plan in pdf, go to <http://www.coastal.ca.gov/meetings/mtg-mm5-2.html>
b. Application No. E-04-10 (ARCO, Santa Barbara Co.) Application of Atlantic-Richfield Company to remove remnant oil & gas pier structure, install four bird roost platforms, and construct artificial reef along Santa Barbara Channel, near Goleta, Santa Barbara County. (ALM-SF) [APPROVED WITH CONDITIONS]

Hopefully, they were heading south....

Cape Cod Wildlife Sightings
Friday, December 10, 2004
The following sightings were reported to Mass Audubon between Dec. 1 and Dec. 8. If you have questions about these sightings, or want to report a sighting, call the Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary at 508-349-2615 or send an e-mail to sightings@massaudubon.org
     A most unusual sighting of five white pelicans flying over Provincetown Harbor was reported Dec. 5. On that same date, 13 eastern bluebirds near the police station in Harwich and an immature bald eagle at Blackfish Creek in South Wellfleet were sighted.
     The biggest day this year for cold-stunned sea turtles occurred Dec. 5. Four Kemp's ridleys and a hybrid were found on bay beaches between South Eastham and North Truro. All were alive and sent to New England Aquarium.
     The Cape Cod Natural History Hotline is sponsored by the Bird Watcher's General Store in Orleans and Mass Audubon's Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary. You may reach the hotline directly by phone at 1-888-224-6444 or at the website www.massaudubon.org/wellfleetbay

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Refuge whoops it up over crane milestone
Web Posted: 12/07/2004 12:00 AM CST
John MacCormackExpress-News Staff Writer

When the annual whooping crane count at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge passed 100 back in 1986, the celebration was muted by the fatal heart attack of a refuge manager.
When the count broke 200 this year, there was no holding back.
"This was a banner year. It's like the stock market hitting 15,000. I've been waiting for this for 18 years," said federal biologist Tom Stehn, who began doing the crane fly-over counts in 1982.
The previous record of 194 was set last year, but in a recent seven-hour low-altitude survey of some 350 square miles of Coastal Bend marshland, Stehn counted 213 cranes among the thousands of white egrets and pelicans. Three more cranes later arrived.
The surveys are done each winter after most of the cranes have completed their 2,500-mile migration from Wood Buffalo National Park in Canada.
Driven nearly to the point of extinction by plume hunters early last century, the crane population had dipped to an all-time low by 1941. Only 15 were known to exist. Now, more than 300 are found in three wild populations and about 150 more are in captivity.
"This is the highest number of endangered whooping cranes wintering in Texas in the last 100 years," said Stehn, 55, who said several more late arrivals might appear in upcoming surveys.
"We still have one bird in Kansas. He's just slow in his migration. And we had a report of a single bird up by Amarillo," he said.
Two other cranes shot in Kansas last month never made it to Texas. One died after its leg was amputated and the second is recuperating from shotgun wounds at a federal facility in Maryland.*
Killing a whooping crane carries a federal sentence of up to a year in jail and a $100,000 fine.
Federal authorities are still investigating the incident.
Hunters who have admitted to firing at the birds said they thought they were sandhill cranes, a smaller game species.
Biologist Stehn said another noteworthy aspect of this year's migration was the appearance of two sets of new crane twins among the 33 chicks to make the journey, a first in his 22 years of doing surveys.
And although there is no guarantee the crane population will make another sizeable jump next year, the long-term trend is highly encouraging, Stehn said.
"It's been like a stock market situation, up and down and up again. But really, overall, the situation is great," he said.
jmaccormack@express-news.net Online at: http://www.mysanantonio.com/news/metro/stories/MYSA120704.01B.big_whoop.cac3731e.html


* 12/10/2004 Whooping crane dies at Maryland recovery center

Glenn Olsen, a veterinarian Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Laurel, Md, said the bird being treated in Maryland had improved and had been able to eat on its own. But then it developed a serious respiratory problem and died overnight.

The bird's carcass will be sent to the National Forensics Laboratory in Ashland, Ore., for tests, Olsen said.
The crane had a broken wing and shotgun pellet wounds. Olsen said wings and the respiratory system are closely linked, and the infection was a secondary result of the gunshot wounds.

Central Kansas is a stopover point for whooping cranes on annual migrations between nesting grounds in northern Canada and wintering grounds in Texas. Only about 300 of the endangered birds remain in the wild.
The hunters who shot the two cranes about three miles east of the wildlife refuge told investigators they mistook them for sandhill cranes, which are not protected.

Ken Kessler of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said no charges have been filed. Agents were preparing a report for federal prosecutors. Punishment for shooting whooping cranes can range to up to a year in prison and a fine of up to $100,000.


Ahmedabad Newsline
cities.expressindia.com, Thursday , December 02, 2004

Eight pelicans were electrocuted by a live wire in Vaghasia village of Wankaner taluka. Since then, a mass exodus has been reported from the village which is visited by migratory birds each winter. Locals said birds were flying away after the eight pelicans were electrocuted near Vaghasia pond on Saturday.
They say after the incident, there has been a drastic decline in the number of birds sighted in the area. According to some, the number has come down to 100 from 1,000 in three days after the birds died.
Range Forest Officer DN Raval said, “We have recovered the dead birds. The department came to know about the incident only on Wednesday.” One of the bodies has been eaten at, maybe by some scavenger.
Raval added, “We are waiting for post-mortem report although preliminary investigation says that the pelicans were electrocuted after coming in
contact with the 1.32KV line near the pond.”
Forest officials were however, skeptical about linking the exodus to the deaths. Officials said they have no idea how many birds visited Vaghasia pond this season.
“We do not have official figures regarding the number of migratory birds before and after the incident. We don’t think the exodus, if any, was following the incident,” said Raval.
Villagers said that there was a blast at a nearby transformer followed by a power failure for a few hours.
Sambunath, the village’s former sarpanch said, “Many birds have left the place after the incident. Earlier, the pond used to be full of pelicans.”
Bird-watcher and wildlife photographer N Bhatti said, “Usually there would be around 1,000 pelicans at the pond. It seems the birds have been shocked. Now, less than 100 pelicans can be seen here.”’

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Visitors to South Puget Sound
OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — At least two brown pelicans, a bird listed on state and federal endangered species lists, have been seen around Budd Inlet since late June.
The large-beaked birds are often found on the Washington coast, but are rarely spotted in south Puget Sound. It's possible that Puget Sound could become home to more brown pelicans in years to come, said Eric Cummins of the state Fish and Wildlife Department.
The pelicans appear to be roosting near Capitol Lake and foraging in Budd Inlet during the day, state biologist Kelly McAllister said.
The federal government listed them as an endangered species in 1970, and the state followed suit in 1980.
With the Environmental Protection Agency's ban on DDT in 1972, there has been less chemical contamination in pelican eggs and the brown pelican population has slowly increased.

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