Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Important Bird Areas and more

The ever-so-fleeting greens of early spring along a property boundary at West Campus.

This time of year, we used to say "our breeding birds are coming back"... our birds. Now we call them neotropical migrants, an acknowledgement that warblers, tanagers, orioles, birds of prey, shorebirds and many others are of course, not our birds, but denizens of the greater planet.
Removing personal ownership from the picture, however intangible it was, opens up new and improved ways of thinking about wildlife conservation. In the Americas, habitat preservation efforts now exist from the Arctic Circle to Tierra del Fuego.

From Alaska's Attu Island at the tip of the Aleutian chain to Nova Scotia's Cape Breton Highlands National Park to Brazil's protected coastal areas in its eastern state of Pernambuco and south to Argentina's Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego, the entire American continent, east to west, north to south, is dotted with IBA's. Important Bird Areas.

To quote directly from BirdLife International's web page: "IBAs are priority areas for the conservation of globally threatened, range restricted and congregatory birds." In addition to this worldwide scope, there are numerous local programs which raise awareness of the shared nature of habitat protection along migratory routes.

Rio de Rapaces (River of Raptors) in Veracruz Mexico is now celebrating 25 years of raptor study. Shorebird Sister Schools, a program developed by educators throughout the Americas in conjunction with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, is another longstanding organization dedicated to migratory bird awareness. Also read Connecticut Audubon's recent blog post about one individual shorebird, Hope, a Whimbrel.

The Smithsonian Institution's Migratory Bird Center, among many others, has raised awareness of the importance of protecting tropical habitats through its championing of shade-grown coffee plantations.

And now back to Connecticut. Thanks to scientists and citizens throughout the state, we can boast twenty seven of our own Important Bird Areas - protected for very specific reasons, as per IBA protocol. Frequently cited are the following: Connecticut endangered and threatened species; rare, unique or representative habitat; exceptional concentrations of migratory landbirds.

The nearest one is right here in West Haven, at Sandy Point. It's a tiny piece of land that somebody cared about because it was important habitat for a few rare birds. I don't know about you, but I think that's what it's all about - thinking globally and acting locally.
Now, the fishermen who go for blues in New Haven harbor rub shoulders with the birders who go for Piping Plovers and Least Terns.
Yeah, that's what it's all about.

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