Assemblyman Cymbrowitz' Mute Swan Bill Signed into Law by Gov. Cuomo

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Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz·
Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Noting that the third time was the charm, Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz (D-Brooklyn) announced tonight that his legislation (A.9289) saving the state's mute swans from a government-sanctioned death sentence – vetoed twice previously despite igniting the collective passions of thousands of animal-loving New Yorkers and wildlife advocacy groups -- has been signed into law by Governor Cuomo.

"The people have spoken and I'm pleased that the Governor has listened," Assemblyman Cymbrowitz said.
"Tens of thousands of New Yorkers signed petitions, sent letters and emails to the Governor's office, and, in my community, called my office to tell me how much they enjoy watching the swans in Sheepshead Bay and Manhattan Beach. People were very vocal about their support of this bill, and I have to believe it made all the difference," he said.

The new law will establish a two-year moratorium on the Department of Environmental Conservation's controversial plan to exterminate New York's mute swans by 2025 and declare the birds a "prohibited species." The law also requires DEC to demonstrate that the swans have caused actual damage to the environment or to other species, including humans.
In its most recent swan management plan released in March 2015, DEC unearthed a lone 1970 swan-on-human attack as evidence of the birds' aggressive tendencies. In the 1960s, world scientists declared the mute swan the international symbol of world peace.

The signing of this legislation serves as a major victory for the animal rights and environmental protection groups that joined Assemblyman Cymbrowitz in fighting DEC's plan, including the League of Humane Voters, GooseWatch NYC, the Regal Swan Foundation and Save Our Swans.
Sen. Tony Avella was the bill's Senate sponsor.

Group Warns of Saltmarsh Sparrow's Possible Extinction

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HARTFORD, Conn. — Nov 27, 2016, 11:08 AM ET

Many birds in Connecticut are suffering slow, steady population declines because of a loss of nesting areas, and scientists say the saltmarsh sparrow could be extinct in 50 years, becoming the first avian extinction in the continental U.S. since 1931, the Connecticut Audubon Society reports.

The group released a sharply worded report recently, warning of the threat of the loss of coastal habitat from rising sea levels and urging state officials to take action to protect endangered bird species, including setting aside funds needed to address the rising waters.

The organization reported that many birds are suffering population declines with the loss of large grasslands, shrubby areas, beaches, and tidal wetlands. The saltmarsh sparrow, which weighs about a half-ounce, is particularly at risk.

"It would be the first avian extinction in the continental U.S. since the Heath Hen in 1931," Milan Bull, the Connecticut Audubon Society's senior director of science and conservation, wrote in the annual Connecticut State of Birds Report. "There's no way to characterize that as anything but a disaster."

Saltmarsh sparrows, which live in coastal areas from Maine to Virginia during the breeding season and migrate farther south in the winter, are disappearing on the East Coast. University of Maine professor Brian Olsen, one of the researchers studying the bird, said the population has dropped about 9 percent annually since 1998. Besides sea-level rise, he blames structures such as roads and railways, which restrict the flow of tides to salt marshes and interfere with the sparrows' habitat.

In Connecticut, the Audubon Society is recommending the state's Department of Energy and Environmental Protection receive enough funding to plan for sufficient landscapes to allow the migration of tidal marshes inland as sea levels rise. The group also is calling on land-use officials, private landowners, and conservation groups to find opportunities to maintain or expand shrub-scrub habitat within existing forests or newly created or restored habitats.

The report also recommends the Connecticut Audubon Society work with the department, the separate organization Audubon Connecticut, the Connecticut Ornithological Association and academic ornithologists on planning and funding a statewide survey of where birds breed. It notes how New York completed its first breeding bird atlas project three decades ago.

"Connecticut still lacks this basic and indispensable inventory and data source," the report notes.

Other recommendations include increasing land acquisition to meet the goal of protecting 21 percent of the state's land by 2023 and 10 percent for state parks, forests and wildlife management areas, as well as finding new ways to fund those purchases.

The report found several examples of bird species in Connecticut doing surprisingly well. The authors of six articles which make up the Connecticut Audubon Society report note how a region-wide effort to create and expand habitat for the New England cottontail rabbit has improved chances for birds that nest in the same area. However, it notes that Piping Plovers remain highly vulnerable.

"Despite some improvements, most of the trends aren't good," Bull said.

The Ethical Flap Over Birdsong Apps

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birding apps

I have been fooled many times by birders/photographers playing birdsongs on their smartphones in Central Park. I imagine, for those who bird by ear, this can be frustrating. National Geographic's Mel White explores both sides of the subject in this article on the National Geographic Web site.

Mel White

for National Geographic

Last April I was leading a group of beginning birders along a trail beside the Arkansas River, helping them learn to spot and identify some of the dozens of species present on this beautiful spring morning. At one point I heard a distinctive song coming from a thicket: the wichity-wichity-wichity of a male common yellowthroat.

Now, common yellowthroats are indeed common where I live, not to say abundant—but that doesn't mean they're easy to see. These little wood-warblers prefer to stay hidden in dense vegetation, and if they perch within view it's usually for only a couple of seconds before disappearing again.

I pulled out my mobile phone, told the group to gather around, and played a recording of the common yellowthroat song from a bird-watching application I'd downloaded. The male almost immediately hopped up to the limb of a shrub and posed for us, to the accompaniment of oohs and aahs from viewers admiring its bright-yellow breast and black "bandit" mask. Most of the people in the group had never seen a common yellowthroat before, and in fact didn't even know the species existed.

Read the rest of the article.