Monday, August 15, 2016

When The Fog Lifted

We headed out for a walk at the marsh Sunday afternoon. The fog had burned off, giving us a few hours of beautiful warm sunshine on a calm, blue-sky day.
We didn't take our usual walk. Well actually we did, but in reverse. When were driving in toward the parking lot I had noticed a large group of shorebirds that looked rather photogenic. If we took our usual walk, these birds would have been at the end of the walk. It was unlikely that they would hang around waiting for us to come by in an hour or so to take their photos. So we headed in their direction right away.
There was something about that tall one that caught my attention. It had such a long-billed presence. I just had to zoom in to see who it was. Oh wow! It was a Long-billed Curlew! What a wonderful surprise. We don't see them very often.
When we got home from the walk, I thought I should read a bit about their habitat and life and found this disappointing bit of news:
Long-billed Curlews appear to be declining in eastern parts of their breeding range such as the Great Plains, while they are slightly increasing in some western areas. A 2012 study estimated a North American population of about 140,000 birds. Long-billed Curlew rates a 14 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score. It is on the 2016 State of North America's Birds Watch List, which lists species most in danger of extinction without significant conservation actions to reverse declines and reduce threats. The species was much more numerous in the nineteenth century, but numbers fell in response to hunting and conversion of their grassland breeding habitat to agriculture and housing. This is thought to be one reason why Long-billed Curlews are now scarce in winter along the Atlantic coast. The major continuing threat to Long-billed Curlews is habitat loss owing both to development and projected effects of climate change. For example, more than 75% of Canadian native grasslands are gone, and wintering habitat in California wetlands has declined by 90%. Pesticide spraying may harm curlews indirectly by reducing the birds' food supplies, particularly grasshoppers. According to NatureServe, breeding populations are of particular concern in Arizona and Kansas.
Well, that is not very good news at all. I can't imagine looking at a creature like this and then learning that it is on the list of species in most danger of extinction. I don't even know what to write about this. It's a heartbreak and one that I feel so powerless about.

I was going to post a few more photos of other things we saw at the marsh, but this news made me want to end the post here. Well, I will add, these birds were indeed gone when we passed by on the way out.


  1. May Long-billed Curlews find refuge in Humboldt Bay for a long time to come. Your photo and this post are quite moving. I'm awake again, way before morning. The night sky here is cloudless and bright with stars. I wish I had been awake the night of the Perseids.

  2. Of all the invasive species, humans are the worst.

  3. You know I thought that's what they were, nice find for you

  4. am-- I don't see them very often. This large flock of birds was mostly Marbled Godwits and Willets. I think there were only two Curlews here. I am quite envious of your clear night skies. It as been very foggy through the night here. Enjoy the stars, and get some sleep too!

    Colette-- I know. Me too.

    CCorax-- That's how I feel about it. We are the most successful failed species around. Our sheer numbers knock me out.

    Bill-- Thank you!

  5. "most successful failed species," you ain't whistlin' dixie, I'm sad to say.

    On the hopeful side, increasing awareness, and sensible preventions and interventions really can help, as evidenced by the increasing numbers of Piping Plover.

    Whenever I read your posts about birds not familiar to me, I always clickety-click away for a moment to hear their calls. I'm curious, did the Curlew call for you?

  6. I hate to read that any animal is in decline.

  7. We get these beauties at the Yolo By Pass and other marshes in the delta. So very sad they have been molested by man in such a dramatic fashion.

  8. Jennifer-- I would love to see a concerted effort to protect this species. It's a heartbreak that we've driven so many species to the brink like this. I did not hear this bird call. It just stood out among the rest because of how big it is and its rather pronounced long bill. Quite a beauty.

    kenju-- It is a heartbreak.

    Tara-- How cool that you get to see Curlews there. There were only two among this large flock of Godwits and Willets. What we have done to the planet just kills me, and literally them.

  9. About the only place I can count on seeing Curlews is Utah on the Bear River Refuge. Ironically, there's a valley called Curlew a few miles north but I've never seen a Curlew there, probably because it has been converted to hayfields.

  10. Loren-- They do seem to have a pretty small range, and it looks like it's getting smaller all the time. This is only the second time I've seen a curlew here, but now I'm hoping to see them more often.

  11. There's lots being done here to protect and conserve wetland habitats but that doesn't seem to be solving the problem as numbers of birds continue to decline. Loss of their breeding areas to agriculture is a major factor but it's increasingly being realised that increased numbers of predators, such as crows and foxes, are also havin a detrimental effect on nesting birds. No easy solutions then.

  12. John-- So true, there are no easy solutions. I so wish it were otherwise.

  13. So many people have no clue as to what is REALLY important.

    If some folks (developers) have their way, there won't be any natural places left. Especially so on, and near the coast.